Lebahdo, or Lebahdo Flats, just south of Winlaw in the Slocan Valley, is interesting for a few reasons.
The name comes from Chinook jargon, a pidgin trade language of the 19th century that borrowed from English, French, and First Nations languages. Lebahdo means ‘shingle’ and is derived from the French le bardeau.
It was so named because John Bell and A.C. Lambert built a mill there in 1905, which presumably made shingles. After a couple of years, they moved to Taghum — another Chinook word, which means six. Bell (1858-1932), who served as Nelson’s mayor in1925, was probably responsible for naming both.
In 1895, Bell pre-empted land at Sitkum Creek — another Chinook name, which means middle or half. However, nothing in his background explains his knowledge of or fondess for Chinook jargon, nor is he known to have taken credit for the names.
Lebahdo was added to the CPR timetable on May 6, 1906. The Henderson’s 1910 directory of BC described it as “A flag station on the Nelson, Slocan City and Sandon branch of the CPR, 29 miles from Nelson.” However, it was misspelled Lebadho — just one of many misspellings that also include Labahdo, Leabado, Labadie, and Lebhado. The latter is how it appears on the sign for Lebahdo Road, the chief way the name has been perpetuated.
Oddly, Lebadho has the same pronunciation as the Doukhobor surname Lebedow, which means swan, but the former predates the 1908 arrival of the Doukhobors in BC.
Lebahdo was previously called Watson Siding (or Watson Spur, or just Watsons) and was first mentioned in the Slocan Drill ofSept. 23, 1904: “The plans for building the new sawmill at Watsons is hanging fire on account of a hitch in the deal for the plant.” The same paper added on April 14, 1905: “A new sawmill is being erected at Watson siding 16 miles below town by Lambert and Bell.”
Watson’s was named for a family who pre-empted land on the west side of the Slocan River. It appears in the 1910 directory as Watson Spur, “a siding on the Columbia and Kootenay railway, 20 miles from Nelson.” The only listing was for the A.G. Lambert sawmill.
In his 1947 memoir, Alfred Gillingham Watson (1879-1949) explained that he was born in Belper, Derbyshire, England but before his second birthday, his father closed his nail manufacturing business and moved the family to Manitoba, where they homesteaded at Lake Francis during the Riel Rebellion.
Later Alfred and a brother tried ranching in Alberta, and the rest of the family joined them. They are now regarded as pioneers of Innisfail.
Tragedy befell them repeatedly: two of Alfred’s siblings died in a diphtheria outbreak and a sister died in Sandon of postpartum psychosis in 1897, leaving two young daughters. Alfred and two other siblings went to BC to help raise them.
“In March 1900, three or four of us went down to what is now Lebahdo and built a log bridge of the Slocan River to our new ranch and a log shack and cleared and drained two acres of good land,” he wrote.
The Watson family lived there until 1912, when they sold the ranch to the Doukhobors. Alfred served in the First World War and survived, but was stricken with crippling arthritis the rest of his life. He lived in Appledale until his house burned in 1942 and then moved to Nelson. Three of his children are alive, two of whom, Patricia Waters and Faye Watson, still live in Nelson. His son Adrian kindly provided a copy of the memoir quoted above.