Neave Creek (flowing from Lake Lillian into Toby Creek), Neave Road (Invermere)
Neave’s proposed town on the shores of what would become Lake Lillian was never more than an idea. Nonetheless he maintained ownership of that land, and had it surveyed a couple of years later to start a ranch.6 Neave Creek likely ran through the property.
Henry Edward Neave was born in Lincolnshire England on 5 May 1867. He was married in Transvaal, South Africa to Mary Jane Harris on 8 August 1893. At that time, Neave was the manager of Lionsdale Estates Limited in Carolina, Transvaal, South Africa, and was later elected as an associated member of the Federated Institute of Mining Engineers.1
It’s unclear exactly when or why Neave left South Africa. By 1898, Neave was living in Rossland and, like many in that city, he had mining interests in the Toby Creek area.2 Neave’s involvement in the Windermere Valley quickly escalated into something more substantial. In December of that year he, along with Robert Randolph Bruce and William Gilbert Mitchell-Innes, became the owners of what they hoped would be the next great townsite in the area. They staked out land midway between Toby and Horsethief Creeks for a town they then called Columbia City (later Peterborough, still later Wilmer).3 By the following summer, their new town had become “undoubtedly the liveliest burg in the district. Buildings are springing up in all directions. Manager Neave is a hustler.”4
Neave must have liked the idea of starting a town. In the summer of 1899, before Peterborough had really taken off as a happening place, Neave proposed yet another townsite, this one located “on the terrace near the little lake on the Toby Creek trail.”5 Neave’s proposed town on the shores of what would become Lake Lillian was never more than an idea. Nonetheless he maintained ownership of that land and had it surveyed a couple of years later to start a ranch.6 Neave Creek likely ran through the property.
Mining Interests in the Valley
As a mining engineer, Neave continued to invest in various mining ventures in the district. Representing English capital, Neave bonded some promising looking properties on Toby and Horsethief Creeks, as well as one up Dutch Creek. 7
On a somewhat more curious note, Neave became interested in prospecting another kind of mineral during his time in the Valley. At the beginning of the century, many prospectors believed that there were diamonds to be found in the area, and as Neave was involved in diamond mines in Kimberly, South Africa, he prospected extensively for them.8
Neave later said that, although he never actually found a diamond, “he always expressed his belief that, sooner, or later, he would run them down,” particularly in the area drained by Toby and Horsethief Creeks.9 Neave had been consulted after some promising samples were taken out of McDonald Creek basin in 1905, “of a somewhat brown color, extremely hard, and perfectly translucent.”10 Unfortunately these were determined not to be diamonds but perhaps garnets.
Neave and his family only spent a couple of years living in the Windermere Valley. They moved to Victoria in early autumn of 1901, likely to facilitate the education of their two oldest children (then aged 4 and 7).11
Neave disappears somewhat from the record at this point. It is likely that he continued to work in mining in some capacity as, in about 1911, he got the idea to go looking for radium ore. At the time, the recently discovered radium element was the most precious mineral in the world. A flood of experimentation had begun in medicine and science for uses of the “wonder working radium,” and Neave decided to start a systematic search for areas where the ore might be found.12
The quest proved somewhat more difficult than Neave had anticipated. He spent the next nine years alternating between searching for radium and supporting his family through working small gold claims or as a mining engineer. His radium search started in South Africa before moving on to Idaho, Montana, Washington, Rossland, Fort Steele, Slocan, and the west coast of Vancouver Island. He even spent two years on Cook Peninsula off Ellesmere Island, “a desolate and uninhabited region.”13
When Neave eventually found promising ore it was surprisingly close to home. In autumn 1920 he located ore in Tahsish Inlet on Vancouver Island, with similar outcrops being uncovered in August 1921 on Valdez Island (Quadra Island) in the Strait of Georgia near Campbell River. The discovery prompted a rush on Quadra Island as people competed to stake a claim that they hoped would contain radium ore, which was then selling at three and a half million dollars an ounce.15
Neave had his samples from Quadra Island confirmed by Sir Ernest Rutherford, and further development work was considered.14 Ultimately, however, not much seems to have come from Neave’s radium quest. Today the discovery of radium on Quadra Island does not appear to be more than a footnote on the island’s history.
Neave passed away at the Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria on 12 December 1940 at the age of 76. He was survived by his widow, two daughters, and three sons.16 Henry Neave’s fleeting stay in the Valley is commemorated with the name of Neave Creek in association with his short-lived townsite proposal and quickly abandoned ranch. Although it is unclear when the name was officially adopted, it likely came about as the popular local name for the creek.