PLACE NAMES: Phoenix

Phoenix turned out to be a prophetic name for the Boundary’s greatest ghost town.

Phoenix

One hundred forty-ninth in an alphabetical series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names

In Greek mythology, the phoenix is a bird that regenerates itself by rising from the ashes of its predecessor. It turned out to be a prophetic name for the Boundary’s greatest ghost town.

Phoenix was originally known as Greenwood Camp and first mentioned in an item in the Vernon News, reprinted in the Victoria Daily Colonist on Jan. 21, 1894: “It is reported that Eastern capitalists are negotiating for the … Knob Hill and Ironsides [mining claims] in Greenwood Camp.” (We’ve previously looked at how Greenwood got its name.)

Within Greenwood Camp was the Phoenix claim. The Boundary Creek Times of March 19, 1898 said it was located by Thomas McDonnell, Robert Denzler, and James Scofield in 1894, although its earliest mention wasn’t until the Nelson Miner of July 27, 1895: “The Greenwood claims lie in a narrow, timbered valley to the west of which lie the Nob [sic] Hill, Ironsides, Brooklyn, Phoenix, and Stemwinder …”

A few sources, including the Boundary Historical Society’s Eighth Report (1979), say the claim was originally called the Silver King, and that Denzler relocated it and renamed it the Phoenix, “perhaps envisioning its rebirth in a lucky future.”

Lois Haggen wrote in the Boundary Historical Society’s Sixth Report (1971): “Local people say it was named after Phoenix, Arizona. I notice [journalist] Bruce McKelvie claims it was named after the mythical phoenix of Egypt …  Mr. McKelvie is usually accurate when he records history … but I am of the opinion that our old timers, to many of whom I have spoken … will stick to their contention that it was named after the American city.”

Phoenix, Arizona in the mid-1890s was an important city but its population was less than 5,500. Did it merit a mining claim in its honour? Hard to say. Other Phoenix claims existed in neighbouring camps.

The Boundary Creek Times of June 25, 1898 reported: “A small town is springing up in Greenwood camp. A general store has been opened by Messrs. Winkop and Stevens and application has been made to the post office department for a post office to be known as Brooklyn.”

Brooklyn was the name of another promising mine in the camp. However, it was also the name of a railway boomtown on Lower Arrow Lake that had come to life only a few weeks earlier and survived just long enough to prevent the post office at Greenwood Camp from becoming known as Brooklyn (although it didn’t stop the Brooklyn Hotel from opening).

On July 30, 1898 the Times reported: “The [post office] department has granted a post office for Greenwood camp, calling it Greenwood Camp P.O. This name is not satisfactory as it is likely to conflict with Greenwood P.O. The department has been requested to change the name to Knob Hill or Phoenix.”

The same newspaper confirmed on Aug. 13: “The post office in Greenwood camp is to be called Phoenix.” However, it added on Sept. 3: “The post office department is exceedingly slow in establishing an office in Greenwood camp. Some two months ago the department decided to establish a post office there but the post office inspector has so far failed to make the necessary arrangement.”

On the same day the Victoria Daily Colonist wrote: “Sixteen miles from Grand Forks, on the government wagon road to Greenwood City and in the heart of Greenwood camp, is starting a new settlement known as Phoenix post office, that promises to become a lively little town in the near future.”

The Boundary Creek Times announced on Oct. 1: “Thomas Roderick has received a letter from post office inspector Fletcher to the effect that the necessary material for a post office has been shipped from Vancouver and that the Phoenix post office [is] to be opened.”

In fact, the office opened that day.

John Coryell surveyed the Phoenix townsite in June 1899. Phoenix was incorporated as a city in 1900 — it claimed to have the highest elevation of any city in Canada, at 1,412 m — and thrived for 20 years as a major copper camp until prices collapsed with the end of World War I. The Granby Company then closed its mines and focused operations on Anyox and Princeton, where many Phoenicians moved.

The Phoenix post office closed in 1920 and the city disincorporated the following year. But the mines re-opened in 1924, 1936-42, and 1959-78. The latter was an open pit operation that obliterated any sign of the old town, except for the cemetery and cenotaph.

Robert Denzler (1850-1944), the American prospector who may have named the Phoenix claim, is buried in Greenwood.

Previous installments in this series

Introduction

Ainsworth

Alamo

Anaconda

Annable, Apex, and Arrow Park

Annable, revisited

Appledale

Applegrove, Appleby, and Appledale revisited

Argenta and Arrowhead

Aylwin

Bakers, Birds, and Bosun Landing

Balfour

Bannock City, Basin City, and Bear Lake City

Beasley

Beaton

Bealby Point

Bealby Point (aka Florence Park) revisited

Belford and Blewett

Beaverdell and Billings

Birchbank and Birchdale

Blueberry and Bonnington

Boswell, Bosworth, Boulder Mill, and Broadwater

Brandon

Brilliant

Brooklyn, Brouse, and Burnt Flat

Burton

Camborne, Cariboo City, and Carrolls Landing

Carmi, Cedar Point, Circle City, and Clark’s Camp

Carson, Carstens, and Cascade City

Casino and Champion Creek

Castlegar, Part 1

Castlegar, Part 2

Castlegar, Part 3

Christina Lake

Christina City and Christian Valley

Clubb Landing and Coltern

Cody and Champion Creek revisited

Champion Creek revisited, again

Columbia

Columbia City, Columbia Gardens, and Columbia Park

Comaplix

Cooper Creek and Corra Linn

Crawford Bay and Comaplix revisited

Crescent Valley and Craigtown

Davenport

Dawson, Deadwood, and Deanshaven

Deer Park

East Arrow Park and Edgewood

Eholt

English Cove and English Point

Enterprise

Erie

Evans Creek and Evansport

Falls City

Farron

Fauquier

Ferguson

Ferguson, revisited

Fife

Forslund, Fosthall, and Fairview

Fort Shepherd vs. Fort Sheppard, Part 1

Fort Shepherd vs. Fort Sheppard, Part 2

Fort Sheppard, revisited

Fraser’s Landing and Franklin

Fredericton

Fruitvale and Fraine

Galena Bay

Genelle

Gerrard

Gilpin and Glade

Gladstone and Gerrard, revisited

Glendevon and Graham Landing

Gloster City

Goldfields and Gold Hill

Grand Forks, Part 1

Grand Forks, Part 2

Granite Siding and Granite City

Gray Creek, Part 1

Gray Creek, Part 2

Gray Creek, revisited

Green City

Greenwood

Halcyon Hot Springs

Hall Siding and Healy’s Landing

Harrop

Hartford Junction

Hills

Howser, Part 1

Howser, Part 2

Howser, Part 3

Howser, Part 4

Hudu Valley, Huntingtdon, and Healy’s Landing revisited

Inonoaklin Valley (aka Fire Valley)

Jersey, Johnsons Landing, and Jubilee Point

Kaslo, Part 1

Kaslo, Part 2

Kaslo, Part 3

Kaslo, Part 4

Kettle River, Part 1

Kettle River, Part 2

Kinnaird, Part 1

Kinnaird, Part 2

Kitto Landing

Koch Siding and Keen

Kokanee

Kootenay Bay, Kraft, and Krestova

Kuskonook, Part 1

Kuskonook, Part 2

Kuskonook (and Kuskanax), Part 3

Labarthe, Lafferty, and Longbeach

Lardeau, Part 1

Lardeau, Part 2

Lardeau, Part 3

Lardeau, Part 4

Lebahdo

Lemon Creek, Part 1

Lemon Creek, Part 2

Lemon Creek, Part 3

Makinsons Landing and Marblehead

McDonalds Landing, McGuigan, and Meadow Creek

Meadows, Melville, and Miles’ Ferry

Midway

Mineral City and Minton

Mirror Lake and Molly Gibson Landing

Montgomery and Monte Carlo, Part 1

Montgomery and Monte Carlo, Part 2

Montrose and Myncaster

Nakusp, Part 1

Nakusp, Part 2

Nashville

Needles

Nelson, Part 1

Nelson, Part 2

Nelson, Part 3

Nelson, Part 4

Nelson, Wash.

Nelway and New Galway

New Denver, Part 1

New Denver, Part 2

Niagara

Oasis and Oatescott

Ootischenia

Oro

Park Siding and Pass Creek

Passmore

Paterson

Paulson

Perry Siding