Eighty-second in an alphabetical series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names
Halcyon Hot Springs, or just Halcyon, was previously known as Arrow Lake hot springs and Sanderson’s hot springs, the latter after steamboat captain Robert Waldron Sanderson (1848-1924) who built the original spa there.
The earliest known reference is in the Nelson Tribune of August 10, 1893: “Judge A.M. Wilson of Lardo, S.S. Bailey of the Payne group of claims and Fred Richardson of Nelson have all gone to Sanderson’s hot springs on Upper Arrow lake for recuperation.”
Frederick Laing wrote in the September 1893 edition of Knox College Monthly: “The morning broke clear and after an early breakfast we pulled for Sanderson’s Hot Springs, which are 15 miles distant … Sanderson’s Hot Springs was a stopping place for four days.”
The Tribune wrote on February 3, 1894: “John McMillan, who is putting in the winter at Sanderson’s hot springs on Upper Arrow Lake, writes to a friend at Nelson that Bob Sanderson has his new hotel well underway …”
Beginning October 12, 1893, the Tribune included a travelers guide that mentioned “A train connecting at Robson with the steamer Columbia bound north for Fire Valley, Nakusp, Arrow Lake hot springs …”
A letter in the Nakusp Ledge of April 19, 1894 said: “The Arrow Lake Hot Springs are becoming quite famous for their medicinal properties …”
There are further references to Sanderson’s hot springs through August 1894. According to Milton Parent in Halcyon: The Captain’s Paradise, the hotel opened on September 10.
The first mention of the current name was from an anonymous correspondent in Revelstoke’s Kootenay Mail of November 24, 1894: “At 10 p.m. we arrived at the Halcyon Hot Springs, which is the new name given by Capt. Sanderson to his pleasure and sanitary resort on the Upper Arrow Lake.”
Halcyon is a fabled bird, identified with the kingfisher, that had the power to calm the wind and waves while it nested on the sea during the winter solstice, hence the term “halcyon days.” In Greek myth, Alcyone was the daughter of Aeolus, who drowned herself in grief at the death of her husband Ceyx. She was transformed into a kingfisher. As an adjective, halcyon means peaceful, tranquil, prosperous, or golden.
The Halcyon Hot Springs post office operated from 1898 to 1950.
When James White of the Canadian Geographical Survey inquired about the name’s origin in 1905, he received an unsigned reply, probably from postmaster Harry McIntosh: “1) Stated by parties who were here many years ago that a Scotchman called the place ‘Halcyon’ after a stream called Halcyon in Scotland. Others say it was named Halycon by the early prospectors meaning ‘Pleasant or blissful waters.’ Capt. Sanderson, who is still in the neighborhood, says he called it Halcyon on account of the restful surroundings and the waterfalls. 2) Capt. Sanderson, a Scotchman, now lives near Halcyon.”
Sanderson, born in Kingston, Ont., had an especially diverse career before coming to West Kootenay: he studied mechanical engineering and medicine, ran a music store, supervised logging crews in Minnesota, sailed on the Mississippi and contracted malaria.
When the Canadian Pacific Railway was built across Canada, he got a job supervising bridge construction. By 1888, he was captain of a small catamaran on the Arrow Lakes called the Despatch and two years later became a partner in the Columbia and Kootenay Steam Navigation Co.
Sanderson died at Pingston at age 76 and was buried at Halcyon. His hotel went through several owners before it burned in 1955, taking the life of its last proprietor, Dr. Frederick Burnham. The current resort opened in 1999.
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