Lemon Creek honours pioneer merchant

One hundred sixteenth in a semi-alphabetical series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names

Lemon Creek is a prominent Slocan Valley waterway and community named for pioneer merchant Robert E. Lemon (1855-1907).That’s despite a sign along the rail trail that claims “Lemon Creek was so named because of the colour of the gold that wasextracted from it.”

According to his biography in R.E. Gosnell’s History of British Columbia (1906), Lemon was born in Paris, Kentucky but as ayoung boy, his family moved to Wisconsin where he grew up on a farm.

Before arriving in West Kootenay, he had a peripatetic life that saw him teach school in Wisconsin and Colorado, work in ageneral store in Alabama, and run restaurants in New Mexico and Arizona.

He went to Puget Sound in 1884 and then came to BC and worked as a purser on the steamer Lady Dufferin, which plied theShuswap River. The following year he opened a general store at Eagle Pass Landing, near Sicamous, and later moved to RogersPass Village and then Revelstoke.

In 1888, he ran the first flat boat down the Columbia River to Sproat’s Landing (near Robson) and built another store. He wasalso in business in Nelson, at first in partnership with J. Fred Hume, and later in Rossland, where he was the original owner ofthe Josie mine, named after his sister.

Lemon was appointed warden of the provincial jail in Nelson in 1901 and held the position until just before his death. Oddly, nophotos of him are known to exist, although there are historical pictures of his stores at Rogers Pass Village and Rossland, thelatter of which is still standing.

The earliest mention of the creek that bears his name is in the Nelson Miner of May 7, 1892: “A bridge over Lemon’s creek hasbeen started and the trail will be completed to the lake within a week or two.”

Presumably the name acknowledged the fact Lemon was among the Nelson merchants who put up money to build the trail. Butthere was uncertainty whether it was a creek or a river. The BC government’s public works report for 1892 said: “The bridge overLemon River is a substantial structure …” Perry’s Mining Map of 1893, however, called it Lemon Creek.

The area was home to a bewildering number of place names, including Summit, Lemonton, Lemon City, Lemon Creek Crossing,Lemon Creek Siding, Del Monte, and Oro although those names actually applied to just three places. Next week we’ll startsorting them out.

 

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