Other names: Salmon River
From the earliest records, this was Salmon River. So established was the name that, even after it was officially changed, “Salmon River” continued to be used.
Templeton River, which flows into the Columbia River between Brisco and Spillimacheen, is the name adopted by the Geographic Board of Canada in 1915 to replace the long standing name “Salmon River”. I don’t often question naming decisions, but after spending months unsuccessfully trying to determine why the name “Templeton” was chosen, be warned that this post is more argumentative than most.
As an interesting fact, Templeton River is one of only two tributaries to the Columbia River in the Windermere Valley that are classified as “rivers” instead of “creeks” (the other being Spillimacheen River). The reason for calling it a river is likely a hold-over from it being called “Salmon River”.
A Perfectly Sensible Name
The original name, “Salmon River”, is an English translation reflecting the traditional significance of the tributary. The river, particularly Salmon Falls (Pellsqlelten or Pesqlélten, now Templeton Falls), is a sacred site of the Kenpesq’t (Shuswap Indian Band) of the Secwépemc Nation, and food pits and fish drying racks were visible along the river at Brisco until quite recently.1
The Ktunaxa also highly valued the river for salmon fishing, with recollections of its use stretching back earlier than 1880 all the way up to the present, making it one of the areas in the valley with the most continuous record of use.2 I have not been able to find the Ktunaxa name to refer to this important cultural location.
Given the very long and established tradition of the river being associated with salmon fishing, it is not surprising that the name “Salmon River” was used by incoming settlers as well. Unlike other large tributaries of the Columbia River, Salmon River was never given a number (Horsethief creek as No 1 creek, Forster as No 2, and Frances as No 3). From the earliest records, this was Salmon River. So established was the name that, even after it was officially changed, “Salmon River” continued to be used (we’ll get to that).
So Why Re-name At All?
I have been unable to find much information about the actual re-naming of Salmon River. The change itself was announced in the Canada Gazette as part of the decisions made by the Geographic Board of Canada in January and February 1915 (the Geographic Board was the national authority, established in 1897, tasked with standardizing the naming of geographical features in Canada).3 This was at the same time as the names Dunbar and Frances Creeks were changed (previously the South Fork of Salmon River and No 3 Creek respectively), and shortly before the decision to rename No 2 Creek to Forster Creek.4
The announcement of the change from Salmon River to Templeton River was unexpected. Even in official government reports, the original name was well established. For example, “Salmon River” is used in the 1913 report from the Minister of Lands, both on maps and in describing the geography of the area.5 That 1913 report, combined with the Geographic Board’s early 1915 decision, suggests that the decision to change the name was comparatively sudden.
From what I can tell, changing the name itself was a pragmatic decision. During 1914 the Department of Lands in British Columbia was working on an updated map of the Windermere area, which was published in early 1915 (BC map 1EM, 1915).6 Reading between the lines, provincial geographers were unhappy with the number of “Salmon Rivers” in the Province and so, to avoid confusion, decided that this Salmon River (and its tributaries) needed a different name on this new map.
(There were a large number of Salmon Rivers in the province in 1915, including at least one – Beaton Creek in the West Kootenay – that was also re-named in 1915. There are five Salmon Rivers remaining in B.C. including one near Salmon Arm, two on Vancouver Island, one just north of Prince George, and one in the far northwest, north of Stewart).
So Why Templeton?
If the logic behind changing the name of Salmon River makes some sort of broad-scale geographical sense, so far it remains a mystery in terms of historical logic. Where “Salmon River” is an English translation referring to its traditional use, the relevance of the name “Templeton” is entirely unknown. I have a couple of weak theories, but have been unable to track down enough supporting evidence to prove anything (or even to do much supporting).
Theory 1: An Otherwise Insignificant Land Purchase
The first theory comes from a January 1907 application, made by William A Templeton, to purchase what became Lot 8233.7 This application fits the time frame of being before the decision to re-name the river (likely sometime in 1914), but is entirely out of scale both with regards to its location and the identity of the applicant.
In terms of location, Lot 8233 is situated behind Steamboat Mountain on Frances Creek, not on Salmon River. It is also not a particularly large or notable piece of land: being more or less 160 acres in area.Templeton himself purchased the land through a local agent, William Henry Moore, and his notice of intent to purchase was made the same day by the same agent as five other parcels of land, all located in the same general area of Frances Creek and Steamboat Mountain.8 These land sales were prompted by the building of the first road up No 3 (Frances) Creek, which was begun in 1906.9
Of these six land purchase applications, Templeton’s was the second smallest in terms of area, and there is no evidence that Templeton’s purchase had any greater importance or significance than the others made at the same time. In 1927, Templeton’s Lot 8233, along with one and one half lot of the original six lots, went up for a tax sale. At that time, in 1927, they and a number of other lots in the area were owned by C.P. Moore (likely a relative to land agent W.H. Moore).10
A Brief Biography of William A Templeton
In addition to the location of Templeton’s lot not fitting well with the location of Salmon River, there is also no indication that Templeton himself held any strong ties to the Windermere Valley.
William Arthur Templeton was born 10 August 1880 in Ontario and arrived in British Columbia with his family in 1886. His father, William Templeton, ran a grocery store, and, in 1897, was elected Mayor of Vancouver. The elder Templeton lost that position in January 1898, following a very closely contested election, to James Garden. That election loss was quickly followed by Templeton’s unexpected death, generally thought to be by suicide, but at the time attributed to an apoplexy (a cerebral hemorrhage or stroke) caused by “insomnia and the excitement of a hot political fight.”11
William A Templeton, in comparison, led a relatively unassuming life. In late 1897 he wrote and successfully passed the preliminary, or lower grade, civil service examination at Vancouver.12 The following year, in the lead up to the hotly contested election, then Mayor Templeton was accused of appointing his son to a position in the Inland Revenue Department (the younger Templeton was confirmed to have a position with the department, but its unclear how his appointment came about).13
Templeton wrote, but did not pass, the qualifying, or higher grade, civil service examination in November 1899.14 Instead, on the 1901 census, he is listed as working in the Customs Office in Vancouver.15 In 1909 he was appointed to acting assistant inspector of gas and electricity in Vancouver,16 and he remained in that department (albeit later as just an electrical inspector) until his death on 8 August 1946.17
Templeton never married, and remained living with his family (his mother, stepfather, and brother) at least through the census of 1921.18 There is no evidence that William A Templeton ever visited the Windermere Valley: I was able to find only one mention of his name in local records, and that was in a 1906 report about the large number of land lots being sold due to the building of the No 3 Creek Road.19
Theory 2: An Inside Job
If Theory 1 is tenuous, Theory 2 is even more so. As the name “Templeton” appears out of the blue for the new 1915 map of the area, it is possible that it was chosen in recognition of someone working in either the surveying or geographical departments themselves.
In the years before the new map was issued, there was something of a flurry of surveying done in the area. With ongoing construction of the Kootenay Central Railway and the start of construction on the Banff-Windermere Highway, interest was high in mapping out the district.
In 1912, a report on survey work in the Upper Columbia Watershed was printed by the engineer of the Water Rights Branch,20 with a follow-up survey on the same topic published the following year.21 Surveying work was also done in the Kootenay Valley, with a 1913 report from James Brady and his son, J.C. Brady,22 and a 1914 report, continuing that survey, by J.C. Brady alone.23
There is nothing in any of these reports to suggest a motivation for the use of the name “Templeton”, but they do indicate an attempt to establish some greater level of intellectual control over the area. It’s clear that geographers thought a new name for Salmon River was necessary, and as there doesn’t seem to have been much consideration as to local relevance in choosing one, the new name may have come internally.
Is There an Answer?
That being said, it does seem incredibly unlikely that the name “Templeton” was chosen completely at random. After all, the name of Templeton River’s tributary, Dunbar Creek, seems to have been chosen based on at least some tie (however vague) to a real estate investor in the valley. Still, if Charles Trott Dunbar had a delicate connection to the Windermere Valley, then whichever Templeton the river was named after is so far invisible from a historic perspective.
This is frustrating as, if Salmon River had to be re-named, it’s not as if there were no other reasonable options. The river flows into the Columbia River via what was, even then, known as Bott’s Channel, named for settler William Bott at the mouth of the river. Expanding the name to the river (Bott River) would have made sense.
As an even more obvious solution, it’s not as if the river didn’t already have a name in 1914. Indigenous peoples had long referred to the river in association with salmon, and for decades that connection was recognized by the settler name as well. The re-naming of the anglicized “Salmon River” must have made some sense to the powers that be, but among the locals there was no need for it. Permit me to take out my soapbox for a moment: even today, a traditional indigenous name for the river would make a lot more local and historical sense than the current choice seems to.
When Decisions Are Made Top-Down
Given how inscrutable the decision was to use the name “Templeton”, it is perhaps not surprising that it took some time for it to be adopted, even after appearing on the shiny new 1915 map of the area.
For example, there is a meticulous report on mines in the area written by the Provincial Mineralogist, J.D. Galloway, who visited the entire Windermere District in the summer of 1915. Galloway is otherwise very careful in using accurate descriptions for the geography of the area, but he still uses the name Salmon River.24
Almost a decade later, mining reporter E.A. Haggen, having written about mining in the Windermere Valley for decades, also continued to use the old name “Salmon River”. It is possible that he was unaware of the official name change or, as he was writing for a general newspaper audience, that he used the name he knew would be recognized.25 Haggen continues to use “Salmon River” for years – as late as 1927 – and of the many articles he writes about mining in the area not once does he use the name “Templeton”.26
There also continued to be some amount of official opposition to the new name. Over a decade after the official name change, a 1927 map produced by Arthur O Wheeler for the Canadian Pacific Railway still uses the name “Salmon River”. Curiously, this map includes the new names for both No 2 and No 3 Creeks (Forster and Frances), but Wheeler remains steadfast to Salmon River.
This oddity is likely due to Wheeler himself. As a founding member of the Canadian Alpine Club, and co-writer of one of the earliest guidebooks to mountaineering in the Purcell Mountains,27 he was personally familiar with naming nomenclature in the Windermere Valley. While he was willing to include revised names for No 2 and No 3 Creeks, he either was unaware that Salmon River had officially changed names, or he saw no need for the change.The name Templeton does eventually come into greater use. It appears in the Minister of Mines report in 1927 (as Templeton creek),28 and again in 1947 in sales of timber lots on the creek.29 In 1954 it is finally listed in a Government report as “Templeton River.”30
Given both local and broader disinterest in embracing the name change, it is unlikely that the name Templeton would have ever have become accepted without such official government sanction. The trend towards adopting the change seems to be more generational than voluntary: anyone who was familiar with the original name saw no reason to use a different one, and it is only with new generations consulting official maps that it has gained hold.
Even now, the name change is not entirely complete. I was recently told that there’s still a sign with the name “Salmon” on a bridge over the river, and I suspect that there are some people up Brisco way who still prefer, or at least recognize, the earlier name (anyone able to confirm this?).
This isn’t the first time on this blog that the “local” name has clashed with the “official” name (Body Creek – Dead Mans Creek, and Wilmer Lake – Munn Lake) come to mind). It’s not unprecedented, but with such an inscrutable origin for the name “Templeton”, and such a long standing, multi-cultural tradition for the name “Salmon”, this decision seems particularly non-nonsensical. Taking out that soapbox again, I would argue that there has to be a more appropriate name for Templeton River that would better recognize its indigenous (and yes, settler) heritage.
And with that, I’ll put my soapbox back in the closet.