Fruitvale fruitful for realtors, less so for farmers
Sixty-sixth in an semi-alphabetical series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names
Despite its name, Fruitvale was never much of a fruit-growing settlement.
First known as Beaver Siding, it was one of eight original stations on the Nelson and Fort Sheppard Railway identified in the Nelson Tribune of December 14, 1893.
The siding was named for Beaver Creek, which was so labelled on George M. Dawson’s 1890 Reconnaissance Map of a Portion of the West Kootanie [sic] District.
The earliest mention of Fruitvale was in the Nelson Daily News of June 25, 1907 — the name simply appeared in a box without explanation. A week later, surveyor A.H. Green completed a plan entitled “Subdivision of part of Fruitvale, being part of the property of Frederick L. Hammond, situated west of the Nelson and Fort Sheppard Railway.”
By September, townsite ads began to appear, placed by Hammond’s Kootenay Orchard Association. The Fruitvale post office opened in December, although it’s unclear when the railway adopted the new name.
While much land was sold, little of it actually produced fruit. The name was chosen “more to advertise a potential than to express a reality,” Jack Greenwood wrote in Making History: An Anthology of British Columbia.
As retired Trail Times reporter Raymond Masleck put it, “Fruitvale is a lovely sounding name, but its origins are a bit of a laugher. The flim flam men flogging lots at the turn of the last century pitched it as fruit-growers paradise, much to the chagrin of the settlers who arrived to discover the exposure and climate ruled it out as a candidate for the new Garden of Eden.”
Nevertheless, Fruitvale prospered and was incorporated as a village in 1952.
This little-known railway stop was about 700 meters southwest of South Slocan.
According to the late Dave Macdonald, a longtime West Kootenay Power employee, the company used the spur for unloading sand and gravel during construction of its No. 3 plant between 1926 and 1929. The same siding was apparently used 20 years earlier when the CPR built Creel Lodge, but it wasn’t yet named Fraine.
John Denton Fraine (1881-1951) (pictured at left in the Winnipeg Tribune of February 2, 1946) spent most of his 42-year Canadian Pacific Railway career in Alberta and northwestern Ontario, but in 1916 was named assistant superintendent in Nelson, where he spent a year. He was also superintendent in Revelstoke from 1926-29.
He later lent his name to another railway siding outside the north boundary of Glacier National Park.
Previous installments in this series