Grand Forks would be called Miner today if not for a campaign by the board of trade in 1902. This postcard was mailed to Nelson in 1909 with the message “The X is over the hotel I stay at.”

Renaming Grand forks proved impossible

Seventy-sixth in an alphabetical series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names

GREG NESTEROFF

Arrow Lakes News

Seventy-sixth in an alphabetical series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names

Last week we looked at how Grand Forks got its name. In 1901, it was expected to be changed after Grand Forks and Columbia, its rival city to the west, agreed to amalgamate.

“The citizens of Grand Forks felt that life would be burdensome if the consolidated town’s name was made Columbia, and Columbia residents would prefer to remain in single blessedness to residing in a municipality called Grand Forks,” the Nelson Miner wrote.

The Grand Forks Gazette, naturally, wanted to keep it as Grand Forks and said so. This brought an anonymous letter from someone who had given the matter much thought. The writer agreed the name should not be changed, as it was “well grounded.”

“It has required a great deal of effort to make the city well known, and that effort should not be wasted, if the waste can be avoided. Moreover, the use of the word ‘Grand’ gives a dignity to the name, which is wanting in the names of many places. Also, the name is descriptive of the place, and very appropriate on that account.”

However, if a name change was unavoidable, the writer had a few suggestions: Piedmont, Toyebee (supposedly a First Nations name for the Kettle River), Rocklyn, Scardale, Belleview, Bona Vista, Belvedere, Monte Carlo, Melrose, Wawaosh, Wascana, Henselwood, Colonna, Granby (after the company that built the smelter), Grandola, Goldalia, and Ystradyfodwg (after a Welsh parish).

None of those ideas made the final cut, however. When a vote was held that August, the choices were Miner, Empire, and Amalga. The results revealed a further split between Grand Forks and Columbia residents: Grand Forks voted 81 for Miner, 58 for Empire, and 23 for Amalga, while Columbia had the opposite feelings: 27 for Amalga, 24 for Empire, and 10 for Miner.

Because the winner was determined by overall vote, Miner prevailed with a majority of nine. (Miner wasn’t chosen for the profession, but rather for Granby company president S.H. Miner.)

Yet that still didn’t settle matters.

In February 1902, a delegation from the Grand Forks board of trade appeared before city council, imploring them to keep the name Grand Forks. William Spier made a short speech, declaring himself “heartily in favour” of the idea, while an alderman started a petition to stick with Grand Forks, “which promises to be the most liberally signed petition that was ever circulated in our city.”

The last-minute lobbying worked. When amalgamation took effect January 1, 1903, the new city was called Grand Forks.

• A clarification and correction to an earlier installment about Gloster City: the north fork of the Kettle River is much better known as the Granby River, after the above-mentioned Granby company of Granby, Que. In any case, Gloster was actually on Burrell Creek.

 

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