One-hundred ninety-third in a semi-alphabetical series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names
Tarrys, on Highway 3A between Nelson and Castlegar, is named for the Tarry family: James (1840-1917), his wife Lydia (1841-1945), and their six children.
In 1889, Lydia’s failing health convinced the family to immigrate to Canada from Berkshire, England. They homesteaded near Saltcoats, Sask, then moved to Kamloops, where James was a wine merchant. In March 1896, they settled along the Kootenay River and planted an orchard called Riverview ranch.
The Nelson Daily Miner of Sept. 5, 1901 reported: “Mr. James Tarry was in Nelson yesterday superintending the handling of a shipment of watermelons, muskmellons, and citrons grown on his ranch near Slocan Junction. Mr. Tarry has nearly 800 acres in his ranch, which is one of the best in the Kootenays … There are 500 fruit trees, most of which are bearing. Half of these trees are apple trees and the rest cherry, plum, pear, and peach. Mr. Tarry regards the land that is fit for cultivation along the river as presenting ideal conditions for fruit culture …”
A Nelson Daily News story of Sept. 30, 1944 recalled that the family “cleared the land and built a spacious log house. They shipped cord wood to the Hall Mines smelter in Nelson and also sold wood to the CPR, as the engines were wood burners in those days … The first church services were held in the Tarry home, with Mrs. Tarry as organist.”
Among other things, James was a justice of the peace and president of the West Kootenay Farmers’ Institute.
Tarry Station — also known as Tarry Siding, Tarry’s Siding, and Tarry’s — was added to the CPR timetable on May 6, 1906 and a post office opened later that year called Tarrys. James was postmaster from 1907-11 and when the Geographic Survey of Canada asked whether the office was named after him, he replied: “Yes … I might mention that my name is Tarry. The S was added when naming the post office.”
The post office closed in 1932 due to “limited usefulness.” The railway siding name remained Tarry Station at least through 1915.
After James died, Lydia moved to England to live with a daughter, but came back to Canada about a decade later and settled in Vernon. She lived to 103.
Tarrys Creek, which flows into the Kootenay River, is also named for the family, as is Tarrys Road.
However, today there’s some confusion over the demarcation between Tarrys and Thrums (which we’ll get to in a few weeks). The Tarrys fire hall sits opposite Kalesnikoff Lumber, whose trucks are marked “Thrums, BC.” Originally, Tarrys was four miles north of Thrums.
This unusual name was applied to a siding between Bridesville and Myncaster on the Vancouver, Victoria, and Eastern Railway. It was first mentioned in the Hedley Gazette of Oct. 10, 1907.
It shared its name with a nearby mineral claim; the latter appears to have come first. The etymology is unknown, but on some maps it’s spelled Shackan. It may be coincidental (or not), but the Shackan band is part of the Nlaka’pamux First Nation, whose traditional territory is around Merritt. Shackan is adapted from sxe’xn’x, which means “little rocks” in the Nlaka’pamuctsin language.
Coincidentally again (or not), Syackan gave rise to a scientific term: shackanite, a type of volcanic rock found in the Boundary. The word was coined by Harvard University geologist Reginald A. Daly in 1912. In a 1935 article for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, he explained: “the spelling of ‘shackanite’ was derived from the name of a flag station on the Great Northern Railway, as drafted on the original manuscript map supplied to the writer for use in the field. The correct name for this station, obtained from the railway company after the writer’s memoir was published, is ‘Syackan.’”
By then the siding was abandoned. Syackan is no longer an official place name by any spelling.
Historian Jan Jonker has visited the site but says there’s not much to see except some mine workings below the rail grade and the decaying remains of a few log buildings.
SUMMIT CITY, REVISITED AGAIN
A recent installment in this series claimed the ghost town of Summit City had 488 people, based on the 1901 census. However, Jonker says this is misleading:
“The 488 includes enumerations along the west side of the North Fork in the vicinity of Lime Creek and Fisherman Creek, Denoro townsite, the BC mine, Eholt, and outlying areas including upper Boundary Creek. There were only 49 residents occupying 12 dwellings in Summit City during April of 1901, including 11 at the Copper Plate Hotel (the only hotel then in operation) and 20 at the Summit Lumber and Timber Company boarding house.”
Another recent installment said Syringa Creek was named because it was “home to lilacs, the common name for syringa, the flowering woody plant.”
Although syringa is the generic name for lilacs, Castlegar historian and columnist Walter Volovsek notes the creek’s name actually “originated with the native mock orange, also known as syringa, which blooms so profusely around here in late spring. I can’t imagine too many lilacs growing in the area until they were introduced.”