In the Windermere is a history blog about the stories that can be traced through the names given to the landscapes and features around us.
The Windermere Valley in the southeastern corner of British Columbia has had many different names. For some time it was called the Upper Columbia Valley, then shortened to just the Columbia Valley, and today is often just “the Valley.” As “The Columbia Valley” technically encompass a broader area than I want to cover, I’m taking my lead from the historic term for the region and sticking with the Windermere Valley (historically the Windermere Mining Division).
Where is “The Windermere Valley”?
The Windermere Valley is the portion of the Columbia River Valley stretching north from the source of the Columbia River at Canal Flats up to Spillimacheen; west to the height of land of the Purcell mountain range, and east to the Alberta border and the continental divide. It looks cleaner on paper than it is in practice, so you’ll likely find some flexibility on my self-imposed borders, particularly in the mountains.
Why do this blog?
Two reasons. The first is academic. There are a lot of stories told here, and most of them are just that: stories. It’s hard to trace precisely where they came from or how much of them are true. This project aims (as much as possible) to go back to the sources: newspapers, books, and reports from the time in order to get to the root of the history. In the process I hope to leave a bibliography to aid future researchers (there’s a lot out there, but in my experience it can be rather hard to find).
Second reason for this project is that I want to share a little bit about how I see the valley, and in the process to learn more about it myself. I’ve done a variety of projects researching local history, and as a result I seem to have a lot of names floating around in my head. Many of those names can be found in the mountains, lakes, and streets of the Valley. If these places are named to commemorate a person or event, I want to know exactly who or what they are commemorating.
What to expect
Each post will highlight the story behind a name. These stories are thorough but not exhaustive – there’s no way to know everything about a thing, but I will certainly be expanding on what can be found in your average place names book. Yes, I will absolutely take suggestions for topics, but no, there’s no guarantee I’ll be able to get to them right away or at all. Some stories are simply lost: others I don’t have access at the moment to find sources about them.
As far as what counts as a “place”, well, I’m flexible. You’ll see mountains, rivers, lakes, and towns to be sure, but there are also street names, local idioms, and perhaps some buildings (I haven’t quite decided on that one yet). As long as it’s within the geographic zone, it’s fair game.
As this blog was started at the beginning of 2020 I did one post per year. Going into 2021 my goal is for one post every two weeks, with some subjects broken up into parts. There is quite a bit of ground to cover for some of these topics, and I need time to research!
I’m well aware that the history of the Windermere Valley is a bit of a niche subject, so if this is an area you’re interested in and want to learn more about, please do follow, comment, and generally let me know what interests you.
Let’s see what we can learn about this place…
About the Author
In the Windermere is a project entirely created, researched, and written by me, Alex Weller. I’m an Invermere local, born and raised, although work and life have taken me away from the valley in the last number of years. I have a BA in History from the University of Alberta, and an MA in Public History from Western University. I’ve worked at the Windermere Valley Museum, and I’m responsible for a number of publications available through the museum including booklets providing an overview of Ranches, Mines, and First World War Veterans in the Windermere Valley, as well as the old Windermere Cemetery. Those can all be found on the Windermere Valley Museum website (and yes, I know that all of these need updating for various reasons).