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PLACE NAMES: Sanca and Schroeder Creek

Sanca comes from a Ktunaxa word
Senator W.R. Ramsdell, seen here in The Montana Blue Book (1891) was the Sanca townsite manager.

Two hundred thirty-second in a series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names

Sanca, on the East Shore of Kootenay Lake, got its start thanks to a short-lived mining rush. It was first mentioned in an ad in the Nelson Miner of June 27, 1896 for the SS Angerona, which made bi-weekly trips “between Pilot Bay, Davie and Sanca (Granite Creek).”

The same newspaper on July 11 elaborated that Sanca was “the new town on Kootenay lake through which lies the road to the White Grouse mountain … The name of the new townsite, which is at the mouth of Granite Creek, is said to be an Indian word signifying ‘all the Kootenays.’ It is a good name for a town and a great improvement on the Jonesville style.”

It was a rare instance of a 19th century newspaper admiring an indigenous word. It’s derived from san’ka or ksanka, which the Ktunaxa used either to describe themselves as a whole or those who lived in Montana. The online Ktunaxa dictionary favours the latter. Other sources suggest ksanka means “standing arrow” and is derived from ksahans ʔaǩis, referring to good marksmanship.

Sanca was the headquarters of the Copper King Co. of Montana, which had claims in the area. The town’s first appearance in the BC directory in 1897 listed two hotels, operated by Joseph Blanchard and Emma Turner (the future Mrs. Emma Ginol) and a general store operated by George Nowell.

Also in residence were “capitalist” L.B. Merrimac and contractors John R. Patton and W.R. Ramsdell. The latter, a former Montana senator, was general manager of both the mining company and townsite company.

According to The Kootenaian of July 18, 1896, John Hirsch platted part of the townsite, although the plan isn’t known to survive and no ads for it ever appeared. However, the same issue said “$2,950 worth of lots were sold to passengers on the Angerona while that boat lay at the dock.”

A week later, the Miner added that “rows of pegs indicate the course of streets already springing into existence. Small boards with names on them show that a thriving business in town lots has been done.” We only know that Sanca had a Main St., plus a 2nd St. and presumably a 1st St.

Sanca’s initial boom died quickly, but the Spence family planted an orchard there in 1913. A post office operated from 1929 to 1956, after which mail was sent to Boswell. Sanca is still on the map and there’s a Sanca Park Road.

Granite Creek was renamed Sanca Creek, first mentioned in the Nelson Daily Miner, on Feb. 26, 1902: “[W]ithin a day’s journey many first class hunting resorts may be reached. Among these might be mentioned the head of Sanca creek, where caribou are quite plentiful …”


Schroeder Creek, on the west side of Kootenay Lake, 15 km north of Kaslo, was first mentioned in the Nelson Miner of Aug. 22, 1891: “The discovery of good ore on the headwaters of Kaslo creek has created something like an old-time stampede … A trail is being cut from the mouth of Schroder creek, thence up the creek by a moderate grade and straight course to the Beaver, one of the first claims located … It is reported that townsites have already been taken up at the mouths of both creeks.” (The creek was often spelled Schroder in those days.)

Frederick Laing’s notes held by the BC Archives state: “A family by that name located in the vicinity of this creek; they had come to here from Spokane.”

The Miner of Dec. 6, 1890 mentioned the Old Timer claim, somewhere in the Ainsworth mining camp, owned by Ernest and Schroeder. On July 4, 1891, the newspaper added: “The Puritan, a fractional claim lying between the United and Mountain Maid, was sold this week by Frank Ernest and George Schroder to E.C. Carpenter …”

On the 1891 census, George, 44, is shown living somewhere in West Kootenay (probably Ainsworth). He was a miner, born in Germany. Nothing else is known about him.

The only other mention of the Schroeder Creek townsite was in the Spokane Review of Sept. 4, 1891. Randall H. Kemp wrote: “As usual the townsite operator is early on the ground and two embryo cities have been staked on the shores of the lake, one at the mouth of Schroeder creek, 16 miles north of Ainsworth, and the other at the mouth of Kaslo, eight miles beyond.”

However, it’s unclear who staked the townsite; it was never mentioned again.

The area came to the fore that fall as numerous mineral claims were discovered on the divide between Schroeder and Kaslo creeks. The Helena, Montana Independent Record of Nov. 30, 1891 quoted assayer A.E. Bryan:

“Then there is another camp which has been overlooked in the Slocan excitement. That is the one discovered by Jack McDonald on Schroeder creek, which comes into Kootenay Lake about four miles north of Kaslo City. The government has put a good trail in there and in the spring will extend it over the divide to Brennan’s camp on the north side of Kaslo creek.”

Schroeder Creek, by that spelling, appears on Perry’s Mining Map of 1893.

In addition to the creek, there’s also Mount Schroeder and Schroeder Point. The community is not recognized by the BC Geographic Names system, but the Schroeder Point Subdivision Society was created in 1999 and later became the Schroeder Point Home Owners Society. The name is also perpetuated in Schroeder Creek Resort, which opened in the 1950s.

— With thanks to Kay Devine

This letter on stationery for the Kootenay Bond and Investment Compnay of Trail was postmarked at Sanca in 1933, with the curious slogan “Wasn’t the depression terrible.” By most reckonings, it wasn’t over.
Schroeder Point. (Dave Smith photo)
Schroeder Point. (Dave Smith photo)
Schroeder Point. (Dave Smith photo)
Schroeder Point. (Dave Smith photo)
Schroeder Creek Resort was founded in the 1950s. (Kay Devine photo)
The beacon at Schroeder Point on Kootenay Lake. (Kay Devine photo)