PLACE NAMES: McNeillie Siding

John Arrowsmith’s 1859 map of BC included a place near present-day Trail called Savalpee Port.

Two hundred sixtieth in a series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names

McNeillie Siding, a CPR stop about four miles east of Creston, was first mentioned in a legal ad in the Cranbrook Herald of Oct. 5, 1905. A small station was built there in 1910.

It was named after Ralph Gardiner McNeillie (1883-1980), who joined the CPR as a stenographer at Winnipeg in 1901 and was named chief clerk in 1905. He became acting district passenger agent in Nelson the same year, and agent at Calgary in 1910. He returned to Winnipeg in 1913 when he was promoted to assistant general passenger agent of western lines and became general agent in 1922. In 1930, he was named assistant passenger traffic manager of eastern lines with headquarters at Montreal. By 1938, he was general traffic manager.

His namesake siding was the site of a disaster in 1910. An engine backing on to the switch left the rails and fell about 50 feet down the side of a canyon. The train’s two firemen and engineer were killed. McNeillie Siding was last mentioned in 1919.

SAVALPEE PORT

John Arrowsmith’s 1859 map of BC contains a curious name on the east side of the Columbia River, roughly where Trail is today: Savalpee Port. This name doesn’t appear anywhere else and its derivation is a mystery. Arrowsmith may have been trying to transcribe an indigenous word — there were many others on the map — but if so, it’s not known which one.

ASTLEY LANDING AND ELFORD LANDING

The Nelson Daily News of Aug. 4, 1910 mentioned three obscure Kootenay Lake places in one sentence: “A fast launch to Ferndale from Astley or Elford’s landing every fine Sunday …”

Ferndale Park was the site of a dance pavillion on the North Shore from 1906-14, and is otherwise known as Shannon Point. Astley was presumably for Willoughby John Astley (1859-1948), who had a boathouse somewhere on the lake. Elford’s namesake isn’t clear.

CARSTENS, REVISITED

An earlier installment in this series looked at the townsite of Carstens, near Whatshan Lake, where six Mennonite families settled in 1911. It was named for Hugo Emil Carstens (1866-1941), president of the Columbia Valley Land Co., which sold them the property.

The Nelson Daily News of Sept. 30, 1912 reveals a post office application was filed under that name but rejected: “The new town of Carsten will have to look for a new name. An application was made for a post office some time ago and recently a reply has been received from Ottawa that owing to the fact of there being another town in BC by the name of Carson, the names being so near alike, another name must be secured for the new town in the Whatshan valley, therefore the post office will not be open for some time.” (Carson is a Grand Forks suburb.)

The post office opened instead in 1913 as Whatshan. It closed in 1917 and the settlement abandoned.

MUD LANDING, REVISITED

A previous installment puzzled over the location of Mud Landing on Slocan Lake. Gary Burns of Slocan provided the answer: it’s on the west side of the lake, 11 km north of Slocan City, and is now known as Ben Brown Beach, Spring Creek, or the second Valhalla Provincial Park beach — none of which are official names. Little is known of Brown himself, but Robert Fairhurst of Silverton once had a timber lease in the area.

NELWAY, REVISITED

A new earliest example of Nelway has been found. Previously the first known use was in the Nelson Daily News of Aug. 2, 1926. But it shows up in the 1925-26 Canadian customs report, as quoted in The Vancouver Sun of April 10, 1926. Nelway is a contraction of Nelson and Spokane Highway (now Highway 6) which officially opened on Aug. 29, 1923.

TRI-CITIES

When speaking of West Kootenay’s three largest cities, what order do you place them in? It might depend on where you live, but a Google search reveals a clear favourite for sequence.

“Nelson, Castlegar, and Trail” returns 3,570 hits. “Trail, Castlegar, and Nelson” returns 2,490 followed closely by “Castlegar, Nelson, and Trail,” with 2,400. Well behind are “Castlegar, Trail, and Nelson” at 1,020, “Nelson, Trail, and Castlegar” at 833, and “Trail, Nelson, and Castlegar” at 615.

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R.G. McNeillie is seen in a clipping from the Creston Review of May 16, 1930. He had a siding named after him four miles east of Creston, which was the site of a disaster in 1910 but the name has long since fallen out of use.

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