Dunbar Creek, Dunbar Lake (local name for Big Fish Lake)

Other names: South Fork of Salmon River

Dunbar’s real estate dealings in the Windermere Valley are rather murky, and it is unknown how or why his attention was drawn to the area.

Dunbar Creek, flowing into Templeton River to the west of Brisco, was named after Charles Trott Dunbar, a Vancouver based land and timber speculator, “who held land interests here in the 1910s.”1 Dunbar’s connection with the area is somewhat tenuous, and questions remain as to why his name was chosen for the creek.

Brief Biography

Charles Trott Dunbar was born in Rhode Island, U.S. in about 1862.2 By 1885 he was living in the city of St Paul’s, Minnesota,3 where he worked initially for the National German American Bank, and later as a general agent for the Union Land Company, a real estate company later described as “one of the largest in the country.”4

This was the beginning of Trott’s long and varied career centered around land and real estate speculation, in which he made numerous investments in a variety of companies. In Saint Paul, under the name Chas T Dunbar & Co, he acted as an investment broker,5 with a large portion of business going towards sales of Union Land Company stock.6

Dunbar was also elected to the governing committee of the newly formed St Paul Stock Exchange in May 1887.7 At the end of that year he was on the first board of directors of the Grand Marais and Vermillion Iron & Land Company,8 and a few months later (in May 1888) was one of the incorporators of a land syndicate company based in St Paul named the Burlington Heights Improvement Company.9

Vancouver Interests

Dunbar’s eagerness to invest in real estate and other ventures brought him to Vancouver B.C. in either 1888 or 1889,10 where he “invested largely in real estate”, purchasing property in the West End including a large portion extending from Burrard Street to the edge of Stanley Park.11 He also promoted and was a large stock holder in the then-new townsite of North Vancouver.

Vancouver in the late 1880s was something of a real estate speculator’s paradise, and in 1891 Dunbar was described as “one of the most successful real estate men in the city,” with, “the most abiding faith in the future of Vancouver as a great commercial, shipping, railway and manufacturing centre.”12

Through the 1890s, Dunbar continued to take on new investments. In 1895 he is listed as a director and mine owner of the newly formed Lillooet Fraser River and Cariboo Gold Fields Company Ltd, formed to acquire and work gold claims in and about Lillooet, and promoted for investment in London.13 He also purchased an option in 1896 on a mining claim near Trail,14 and was vice president of a mining company formed near Springer Creek in the New Denver area called the Bondholder Mining Co Ltd.15 This company may have been re-consolidated into the Two Friends Mine Ltd shortly after (both companies were on Springer Creek – it’s unclear if they were separate or different iterations of the same).16

Dunbar Leaves and Returns

News of gold found in the Yukon prompted Dunbar to join the early rush up north in 1897, and he spent the next decade in Dawson City engaging in mining and real estate.17

By 1907 Dunbar had returned to Vancouver, where he began to apply for timber licenses up the Mamquam River near New Westminster.18 This resulted in his holding extensive timber rights.19

Dunabr’s investment ventures continued, including with applying for a charter for the Vancouver & Northern Railway in February 1909 to construct a line from Vancouver north to Pemberton Meadows, likely to aid access to his timber properties up Mamquam River.20 A year later the Port Moody, Indian River & Northern Railway company was incorporated with Dunbar as a promoter (both railways were proposed along similar routes, but it is unclear if these were the same company).21 Announcements were made in May 1910 that construction was beginning on the Port Moody line, but nothing more is heard about the project.22 Dunbar is later reported to have leveraged this charter for a significant payout from the CPR.23

At around this time, Dunbar also purchased additional land on Granville Street and in the Point Grey district of Vancouver.24 He also became a director of a real estate, loans and shipping company out of Vancouver known as Lefurgey & Company Ltd,25 the president of the Mayflower Consolidated Mining Company in Rhyolite, Nevada,26 and an early investor and director in a California oil drilling company (Maricopa 36) that, for a time, seemed to have struck it rich.27 Dunbar also purchased land in New Orleans, Louisiana, and proposed construction of an electric railway (this proposal was turned down by residents).28

Charles Trott Dunbar passed away 5 April 1927 in Vancouver at the age of 65. In his obituary, it is noted that Dunbar Heights, Dunbar Street, and Dunbar Park, all located in Vancouver, were named in his honor.29

Investment in the Windermere Valley

Dunbar’s real estate dealings in the Windermere Valley are rather murky, and it is unknown how or why his attention was drawn to the area.

The first mention found of Dunbar is in September 1909, when it was reported that James Johnston and Peter Michselsen had sold their ranches, “to an agent named Dunbar.”30 Dunbar’s name again pops up in 1913 with a legal action by him against the Kootenay Central Railway, protesting against a right of way being cut through his property (this was likely Lot 107).31

Dunbar had other dealings in the valley as well, and these likely include many that I have been unable to trace. A legal action against Dunbar by a man named Cowdry in February 1921 resulted in the sale of of a number of the properties in which Dunbar seems to have had an interest.32 The lots that Dunbar had some interest in that I was able to uncover are recorded on the map at the top of the page.

Why Dunbar Creek?

The properties mentioned above are all located around Windermere Lake, and do not explain how Dunbar’s name got attached to what was then known as the South Fork of the Salmon River. To explain this, it is necessary to consult the paperwork for certain land grants in the northern area.

In 1911, applications for at least five parcels of land, including three in close proximity to what would become Dunbar Creek, were filed by local residents with Dunbar’s name included on the receipt. Perhaps there’s someone out there with experience in property law to help explain the relevance: Dunbar’s signature appears below that of the applicant’s with the word “per” before it.

Receipt for Crown Grant No 1993/286, with signatures of Marguerite Barbour and Chas T Dunbar. British Columbia. Crown Land Registry and the Office of the Surveyor General. Crown Grant No 1993/286 (Marguerite Barbour, 9 Aug 1911), British Columbia Crown Land Grants Vol 286 (no 1901/0286-1996/0286), 1911, img 887.

Nearly all of these properties went on to be put up for sale for unpaid taxes in 1921, with two of them being in the care of Dunbar Investment Co,33 a real estate firm owned by Chas T Dunbar.34 By 1925 all five were owned outright by Dunbar Investment Co (and were again up for taxes).35

Dunbar’s co-signature on a handful of real estate grant applications does not fully explain why or how Dunbar Creek came to be named after him. Although his name appeared on the receipts issued, he did not own any of the land himself in 1914 when the creek itself was named. It is possible that he had other real estate connections in the area that we do not know about. Regardless, the motivations of whomever it was that decided on the name “Dunbar Creek” remain very unclear, particularly as to why the name of a land speculator was chosen in preference to some other person who lived or worked in the area.

The re-naming of the South Fork of Salmon River to Dunbar Creek was made official in January 1915, at the same time as the abrupt re-naming of Salmon River to Templeton River.36 The reason for that latter name change is even more obscure, and we’ll get to that chestnut in next post. For now, it seems likely that surveyors were desperate for new names, and were perhaps only tangentially concerned about local relevance when choosing them.

What was then known as Salmon River, flowing close to Big Fish Lake, on a 1911 survey. Survey of Lot 9458 for John S Barbour. British Columbia. Crown Land Registry and the Office of the Surveyor General. Crown Grant No 1992/286 (John S Barbour, 9 Aug 1911), British Columbia Crown Land Grants Vol 286 (no 1901/0286-1996/0286), 1911, img 876.

Big Fish Lake

Although not actually connected with Dunbar Creek, since at least 1949 Big Fish Lake has been known by locals as Dunbar Lake.37 Land lots adjoining the lake had been purchased in 1908/1909, with John Hopkins Taynton and his wife, Lydia Taynton, applying to purchase one lot each on the east of the lake in December 1908, and John Smith Barbour and wife, Marguerite Barbour, each applying to purchase a lot to the west in March 1909 (Dunbar’s name appears on the receipts for the lots purchased by the Barbours).38 As best as I can tell, all of this land eventually reverted to the Crown.

In 1946, a tract of land alongside the lake (in Lydia Taynton’s lot) was set aside by the Provincial Government as a recreational park, recognizing its long popularity as a fishing spot.39 Leases to, “certain Crown lands” at the lake were also given in 1966 by public auction (I assume these resulted in the cabin lots up there today).40 A resort, the Westmorland Resort, was also present alongside the lake at around the same time.41 I would bet there are some locals that know more about all of this – please share!

An Early Description

As a final, more esoteric point, Dunbar Creek and Dunbar Lake are interesting in that they have widely different reputations among the locals. On one hand, Dunbar Lake is viewed as a peaceful and enjoyable retreat, whereas the ascent of Dunbar Creek has an extremely unfavourable reputation in hiking circles. Both of these perspectives are captured in a 1915 article in the Canadian Alpine Club Journal describing the first ascent of Mount Ethelbert. Note that, although the name for Dunbar Creek had officially been set at the beginning of 1915, this name change had clearly not yet become common knowledge.

The climbing party established a base camp at “Deep Lake [Big Fish Lake]… and for a week enjoyed the peculiar beauty of this solitary spot. The lake is separated from the mountain range by wooded foothills beyond which the higher peaks rise and are mirrored in its clear waters. Save for the early morning cries of a family of loons, no sound disturbed the quiet of this lovely lake. …
“On the morning of July 25th a party of six consisting of four men and two ladies, carrying on their backs supplies for four days… followed the winding course of the stream up the valley. For a time the going was easy through open, level places between clumps of trees… [then we passed] into the narrow jaws of the valley where soon we were forced to clamber high above the boisterous stream [Dunbar Creek] in order to make our way.
“The day was hot; the steep slopes and rocky ridges were scattered with brush and fallen timber, and our slow progress was toilsome and disagreeable. From the stream, which was often dammed by the debris of avalanches, both sides of the valley rose in steep “slides” alternating with timbered slopes. At noonday someone ventured the guess that it would require about an hour more… to reach the camp at the foot of [Mount] Ethelbert. In actual fact it took six hours of strenuous effort under conditions which became constantly more difficult.”42

See Also

Mount Ethelbert For those not on the mailing list, this post has just been completely rewritten based on further research – check it out
The Taynton Family


1. BC Geographical Names, “Dunbar Creek,” (Accessed 1 June 2021). https://apps.gov.bc.ca/pub/bcgnws/names/15593.html
2. Fourth Census of Canada, 1901. The Territories; District No 206, Unorganized Territories; Sub District F, Yukon; Division No 28; Page 6, Family No 80 (Chas T Dunbar). https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?app=Census1901&op=&img&id=z000185255
3. Minnesota State Census, 1885. St Paul Ward 02, County of Ramsay (17-18 June 1885), page 7, line 34 (Chas T Dunbar). IN Family Search database. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MQXL-VGB
4. “Chas T Dunbar,” The Vancouver Daily World: illustrated souvenir publication (Vancouver: McLagen and Co, 1891), p 12.
5. [Advertisement] “Chas T Dunbar & Co,” The Saint Paul Globe (Saint Paul, Minnesota), 19 May 1887, p 6. https://www.newspapers.com/image/92629900
6. “St Paul Real Estate : Samples of Sales,” The Saint Paul Globe (Saint Paul, Minnesota), 29 May 1887, p 13. https://www.newspapers.com/image/92630078
7. “Stock Exchange Election,” The Saint Paul Globe (Saint Paul, Minnesota), 3 May 1887, p 2. https://www.newspapers.com/image/92629510
8. “Articles of Incorporation,” The Saint Paul Globe (Saint Paul, Minnesota), 24 December 1887, p 12. https://www.newspapers.com/image/92636432
9. “Real Estate Notes,” The Saint Paul Globe (Saint Paul, Minnesota), 20 May 1888, p 14. https://www.newspapers.com/image/87821599
“New Corporations,” The Saint Paul Globe (Saint Paul, Minnesota), 23 May 1888, p 2. https://www.newspapers.com/image/87822362
10. Robert A.J. McDonald, “Business Leaders in Early Vancouver, 1886-1914,” Doctoral Thesis, University of British Columbia, April 1977, p 466. https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0094222
Fourth Census of Canada, 1901. The Territories; District No 206, Unorganized Territories; Sub District F, Yukon; Division No 28; Page 6, Family No 80 (Chas T Dunbar). https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?app=Census1901&op=&img&id=z000185255
11. “Chas T Dunbar,” The Vancouver Daily World: illustrated souvenir publication (Vancouver: McLagen and Co, 1891), p 12.
12. “Chas T Dunbar,” The Vancouver Daily World: illustrated souvenir publication (Vancouver: McLagen and Co, 1891), p 12.
13. “Notes and Comments,” The Miner (Nelson B.C.), 2 March 1895, p 3. https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0182911
“No Bones About It,” The Miner (Nelson B.C.), 7 December 1895, p 3. https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0182959
14. “Mining Notes,” The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Washington), 28 April 1896, p 8. https://www.newspapers.com/image/566375607
15. “Memorandum of Association of the Bondholder Mining Company,” The British Columbia Gazette, Vol 36, no 32 (6 August 1896), p 1023. https://archive.org/embed/governmentgazett36nogove_y9t1
Henderson’s British Columbia gazetteer and directory and mining encyclopedia for 1897, Vol 4 (Vancouver: Henderson Publishing Company, 1897), p 594.
16. ““Companies’ Act, 1890,” and Amending Acts,” The British Columbia Gazette, Vol 36, no 46 (12 November 1896), p 1840. https://archive.org/embed/governmentgazett36nogove_u7m1
[Advertisement], The Miner (Nelson B.C.), 2 January 1897, p 3. https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0183012
17. “Latest from Dawson,” Vancouver Daily World, 18 July 1898, p 7. https://www.newspapers.com/image/62953566
“Personals,” The Daily Province (Vancouver B.C.), 26 February 1904, p 3. https://www.newspapers.com/image/497925792
18. “Timber Licenses : New Westminster Land District,” The British Columbia Gazette, Vol 47, no 32 (8 August 1907), p 5037.
19. “Quarter of Million Dollars Involved,” The Victoria Daily Times, 2 April 1909, p 13. https://www.newspapers.com/image/505206991
20. “Railway to Open Fine Country,” The Province (Vancouver B.C.), 9 February 1909, p 1. https://www.newspapers.com/image/497978347
21. “Approve Line to Moody,” The Province (Vancouver B.C.), 3 February 1910, p 1. https://www.newspapers.com/image/497991799
22. “To Build Railway Around Head of Inlet,” The Province (Vancouver B.C.), 4 April 1910, p 1. https://www.newspapers.com/image/497979379
“Start Port Moody Line This Week,” The Province (Vancouver B.C.), 12 May 1910, p 1. https://www.newspapers.com/image/497965386
23. Bruce Ramsey, “A Smart Railway Deal : Trains, bands, and sabre scars at Wigwam Inn,” The Province (Vancouver B.C.), 27 January 1964, p 4. https://www.newspapers.com/image/501056656
24. “Lot Adjoining the New Post Office Sold to C.T. Dunbar,” The Province (Vancouver B.C.), 9 February 1909, p 5. https://www.newspapers.com/image/497978351
25. Henderson’s City of Vancouver Directory 1909, Vol 16 (Vancouver: Henderson Publishing Company Ltd, 1909), p 45.
26. “Mayflower Mine is Leased,” The Los Angeles Times, 7 February 1910, p 3. https://www.newspapers.com/image/380296826
27. “Vancouver Monday Getting Oil in South,” The Province (Vancouver B.C.), 21 June 1910, p 1. https://www.newspapers.com/image/497968646
“Oil Stocks,” Vancouver Daily World, 4 March 1911, p 21. https://www.newspapers.com/image/64062545
“Maricopa 36,” The Province (Vancouver B.C.), 18 August 1911, p 2. https://www.newspapers.com/image/497962380
By September 1912 $2,283.70 worth of delinquent stock in the Maricopa Oil Company owned by Dunbar was set to be sold at public auction: “Delinquent Sale Notice,” The Recorder (San Francisco), 14 September 1912, p 6. https://www.newspapers.com/image/610509330
28. “Proposed Road Along the River,” The Times-Democrat (New Orleans, Louisiana), 11 February 1913, p 7. https://www.newspapers.com/image/183349257
29. “Last Rites for Charles T Dunbar,” The Province (Vancouver B.C.), 16 April 1927, p 2. https://www.newspapers.com/image/499270813
Death Certificate, Charles Trott Dunbar, 5 April 1927 (Vancouver). Registration Number: 1927-09-381095, BC Archives.
30. “Additional Locals,” Cranbrook Herald, 2 September 1909, p 4. https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0070407
31. “Kootenay Central Will be Enjoined,” The Golden Star, 18 October 1913, p 1.
32. “To be Sold Pursuant to an Order of the Supreme Court of BC,” The Province (Vancouver), 5 Oct 1921, p 21. https://www.newspapers.com/image/500472483
33. “Tax Sales : Golden Assessment District,” The British Columbia Gazette, Vol 61, no 40 (6 October 1921), p 3453. https://archive.org/embed/governmentgazett61nogove_i5p0
34. Henderson’s Greater Vancouver, New Westminster and Fraser Valley Directory 1912, Vol 19 (Vancouver: Henderson Publishing Company Ltd, 1912), p 726. https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0366242
35. “Tax Sales : Golden Assessment District,” The British Columbia Gazette, Vol 65, no 47 (19 November 1925), p 3558. https://archive.org/embed/governmentgazett65nogove_u1u6
37. “Forest Tract to Become Park,” Calgary Herald, 11 April 1949, p 9. https://www.newspapers.com/image/480541238
38. “East Kootenay District,” The British Columbia Gazette, Vol 49, no 36 (9 September 1909), p 4231. https://archive.org/embed/governmentgazett49nogove_p2c4
39. “Department of Lands and Forests,” The British Columbia Gazette, Vol 86, no 43 (24 October 1946), p 3174. https://archive.org/embed/governmentgazett86nogove_c7a4
40. “Notice of Lease by Auction,” The Golden Star, 19 October 1966, p 3. https://www.newspapers.com/image/560906099
41. “Edgewater Notes,” The Golden Star, 10 march 1966, p 1. https://www.newspapers.com/image/560895681
42. W.E. Stone, “Climbs and Explorations in The Purcell Range in 1915: Mt Ethelbert and the Region on the South Fork of the Salmon River,” The Canadian Alpine Journal Vol 7 (1916), p 19. http://library.alpineclubofcanada.ca:8009/book-acc.php?id=CAJ007-1-1916


Other Resources

BC Geographical Names, “Dunbar Creek,” (flowing into Templeton River), Accessed 10 February 2021. https://apps.gov.bc.ca/pub/bcgnws/names/15593.html
BC Geographical Names, “Big Fish Lake,” Accessed 10 February 2021. https://apps.gov.bc.ca/pub/bcgnws/names/15593.html

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