This week’s column focuses on the long and rich history of our area, thanks in part to the efforts of current or past active members of the Nakusp and District Chamber of Commerce. As the Seniors’ Column editor, I am keeping in mind that numerous visitors who normally reside in other parts of the country, would like to know more about the history of the Nakusp region as a basic introduction to our extraordinary community.
As a collector by nature, I’ve frequently had the opportunity to retrieve what is current as well as out-of-print publications in addition to many humorous snatches of wisdom along with colourful bits and pieces reflecting on times gone by.
To begin this week’s column, I hope readers will enjoy some interesting details concerning our small, and to some, what is viewed as the laid-back village of Nakusp and area. From these notes one may review its long and bustling history, which lies hidden behind the quiet streets and storefronts of today.
This area was first used as a seasonal fishing and hunting camp, intended for First Nations people who travelled up the Columbia River from what is now the state of Washington. The place name Nakusp is derived from a native term meaning “bay of quiet waters” and is rumoured to have come about when an early fishing party arrived at this site following a journey through a particularly challenging storm.
Upon achieving landfall in the sheltered bay, their Chief was noted to have uttered the word “Nequ’sp” — interpreted to mean the party would be kept safe from the storm.
Historians tell us David Thompson was the first European to arrive in this area, journeying along the Columbia River, in search of its source. It was he who was generally credited to have named the Arrow Lakes. Since this was known to be a traditional First Nations hunting ground, numerous arrows could be found in various locations along the lakeshores.
It is believed Thompson named the lakes following the discovery of a number of arrows, which had been shot near a cliff, with only the arrowheads remaining. This display is thought to be the result of an early Native archery competition, amongst other possibilities.
In 1891 the development of the Slocan Valley’s discovery of zinc, lead and silver was to take place. Although Nakusp appeared to be considered outside the mineral belt, the mining boom brought prosperity to the region as well. We evolved into becoming the transportation hub, destined to serve this newly bustling area.
A large shipyard, as depicted in a magnificent detailed painting, which told the story, now mounted on the walls of Nakusp’s Halcyon House retirement facility, illustrates the story. The shipyard was built in order to service the numerous sternwheelers, which transported ore, produce, livestock and people as well as meeting the additional transportation needs of society as they arose. The mining boom soon brought about other forms of transportation, however, with the coming of roads and railways, the passage of time dictated the majestic sternwheelers were eventually phased out.
Next week’s column will focus on the early days of Nakusp as a thriving community which quickly began to develop starting in the year 1892.
Note the Nakusp and District Chamber of Commerce operates a well organized visitor centre located downtown next to the public library and just adjacent to the giant blue paddle wheeler stationed on the grounds. Staff and volunteers will be pleased to respond to your questions. Don’t forget to sign the guest book!