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PLACE NAMES: Shenango Canyon, Sheep Creek City, Beaverville

John G. Devlin envisioned a city on his mining claim, but it didn’t work out
Charles B. Dunning, seen here in An Illustrated History of Spokane County (1900), staked the Chenango mineral claim on the Salmo River, naming it after the county in New York where he was born.

Three hundred sixteenth in a series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names

The Shanango Canyon on the Salmo River, east of Wallack Creek, took its name from a nearby mine located by Judge Charles Burgis Dunning (1840-1923) of Spokane on Nov. 23, 1894.

While many geographic features exist named Chanango or Shenango — mostly in the eastern U.S. — ours owes its name to Chenango County, New York, where Dunning was born. The name is a Oneida word meaning “large bull-thistle.”

The Chenango Mining Co. was registered in BC in 1897 with a head office at Spokane and registered office at Waneta, but didn’t amount to much.

A mine known as Shenango Canyon was first mentioned in the 1929 BC Minister of Mines report. The name of the canyon was officially adopted with that spelling in 1959.

The name was further perpetuated in the 2000s by the Shenango women’s choir, an ensemble led by Allison Girvan, whose members came from Salmo, Ymir, and Nelson.


The Sheep Creek townsite south of Salmo was established in 1910-11 following a burst of gold fever. But it wasn’t the only real estate scheme in the area at the time.

The Nelson Daily News of May 2, 1911 quoted John G. Devlin — a well-known Kootenay figure nicknamed the Gunner of Galway — as stating “that the townsite of ‘Sheep Creek City’ has been registered by himself and Vancouver parties and covers the site of the present settlement at the halfway house and that he and his associates are making application for a crown grant …”

The following day the newspaper ran a front-page story about the Sheep Creek townsite being placed on the market and clarified: “This townsite has no connection with that of ‘Sheep Creek City’ further down the creek, to which reference was made yesterday.”

Sheep Creek City was intended to be be built on the Camp View claim, on Lot 10019. On Nov. 30, 1911, Deviln received a crown grant for this claim, in partnership with James S.B. O’Brien, Albert E. Duschesnay and Charles H. Gore, all of Vancouver.

It was also on this lot that Michael Crilly ran the aforementioned halfway house. When he applied for a liquor license on Nov. 24, 1910, he further described its location as “on the Sheep Creek wagon road, about one mile south of the Queen mine.”

The 1911 census found Crilly still in the neighbourhood, but then working as a blacksmith at one of the mines. Nothing much seems to have come of Sheep Creek City or the Camp View. As of 1913, Devlin and partners were $13 in arrears in taxes on the claim and by 1918, they owed $65.


Where the heck was Beaverville?

The only reference to this place appeared in the Nelson Daily News of May 20, 1914, under a Fruitvale dateline: “A. Larsen, government road foreman, moved a road crew in from the government trunk road at Beaverville Monday to widen out the bridle path at the end of the Fruitvale trail cutoff, as it was very dangerous for teams …”

Fruitvale itself was formerly known as Beaver Siding while Beaver Falls was established as a community in 1938. But this was apparently someplace else.

The earliest use of the name Beaver Valley was in the Daily News of March 23, 1909: “It was in the spring of 1907 that the Kootenay Orchard Association acquired 7,000 acres of land in Beaver valley, saw that it was good and named the tract Fruitvale.”


We’ve previously studied the phantom townsite of Falls City, at the confluence of the Salmo and Pend d’Oreille rivers, named for promoter John Wesley (Jack) Falls (1876-1952).

The earliest mention was in the Nelson Daily News of April 20, 1911: “It is named Falls City townsite and has already been subdivided and placed on the market.”

“The location of the new city is particularly favorable,” said agent E.R. Barnett. “It is right at the junction of the two rivers and is only three miles from the international boundary line. In a short time it will be a station on the new railway line, which is already built to Metaline, 11 miles south of the boundary …”

Barnett further pointed out the Pacific Exploration Co. planned to build a large power plant there. But neither it nor the railway came to fruition. Falls City was false advertising.