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PLACE NAMES: Spencer City, Sproule’s

One hundred eighty-fifth in an alphabetical series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names

The extremely remote townsite of Spencer City was first mentioned in the Lardeau Eagle on Sept. 19, 1901: “There are 15 men engaged in the [Old Gold] camp at present … five on the trail from the mines to Spencer City, which will soon be completed.”

The Rev. Dr. Daniel Spencer (1851-1920) came to Canada from England in 1891 and settled at St. Thomas, Ont. and then Brantford, Ont., where he was hailed as “Ontario’s Revivalist.” He moved to BC in 1898 to become superintendent of the Baptist home missions and took an interest in mining in West Kootenay. Virtually everything we know about his namesake townsite comes from an article in the Eagle of Jan. 2, 1902 entitled “Spencer City, a new town”:

“The townsite known by the above name is situated on the west fork of the Duncan at the junction of the little west fork. It was located over a year ago by Dr. Spencer’s agent, since which a crown grant has been issued and is in the hands of the London and Canadian Development company, of which Dr. Spencer is president. There are several holders of the shares and it is the intention of the owners to open a supply store, put up a saw mill, put in a livery, pack, and a large boarding house, as early in 1902 as possible. The surveyors have laid out several streets, and there is abundance of water for all purposes. The government trail is nearly finished from Hall’s creek to the townsite … Negotiations are on for erecting a smelter there, and with the dozen gold properties surrounding it, as well as the enterprising company pushing it ahead, a town should soon be in existence.”

Surveyor O.B.N. Wilkie laid out the townsite, but it didn’t amount to anything. It was only mentioned once more in 1902 before falling off the map. However, the name survived, judging from this late example in The Kootenaian of June 10, 1926: “Maitland Harrison and T. Ainsworth have returned from a bear hunting trip up at Spencer City.”

Rev. Spencer died in Thunder Bay.

SPROULE’S

This stop on the Kaslo and Slocan Railway, 23.6 km west of Kaslo, had several different names.

According to Don Blake in Valley of the Ghosts, “It was originally known as MacDonald Brothers Halfway House in 1893, and shortly afterwards as Fifteen Mile House and/or Sproules.” However, Neil and Robert MacDonald actually ran the Ten Mile House (and later operated the Hotel Balmoral in Sandon).

Fifteen Mile House was first mentioned in the Nelson Miner of May 13, 1893: “[T]he trail … is already in good shape from Kaslo to the Fifteen Mile House.” The first use of Sproule’s was in the Victoria Daily Colonist of June 20, 1893: “The wagon road is in good condition for 15 miles, as far as Sproule’s …”

Newspaper publisher Robert Lowery also wrote in the Nakusp Ledge of Oct. 26, 1893: “The Fifteen Mile house, kept by Willis &Sproule is a comfortable tavern and was filled with guests when we were there.”

The namesake was James Sproule, about whom little is known. In 1898 he advertised his services as a packer. The 1902 Henderson’s directory listed him as the only resident at Sproule’s. The last sign of him is in Morrissey in the East Kootenay in 1903.

Mrs. D. Bruce acquired the Fifteen Mile House in April 1894 and by January 1895, William Mack and J.W. Seaman were the proprietors. It’s not clear when it went out of business.

Sproule’s was included on the first K&S timetable that the railway issued on Nov. 20, 1895. In 1914, the CPR changed the name to Blaylock, presumably after Selwyn Gwillym Blaylock (1879-1945) of the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Co.

Don Blake adds: “At one time this point was referred to as Rossiter (after Charles Rossiter, one of the original discoverers of the Montezuma Mine in 1891). In the ‘50s it was known as McCready’s after G.E. McCready, the owner-operator of the nearby Caledonia mine. Through all these name changes, it still retained its positional name of 15 Mile.” In addition to a long mining career, George Eaton McCready (1885-1960) was also a K&S station agent.

The creek at this point also had an identity crisis. Originally it was Bear Creek and today it’s Blaylock Creek, but a 1927 map labelled it “Rossiter (Blaylock) (Cooper) (Bear) Creek.” Rossiter Creek is now the name of another creek a little further west.

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