Genelle or China Creek? One place, two names
Sixty-seventh in a roughly alphabetical series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names
Genelle and China Creek are essentially the same place, although China Creek is the older name.
The earliest reference is in the Victoria Daily Colonist of August 30, 1896, quoting the Spokane Spokesman Review of a few days earlier: “Advices received at Rossland from the outlying districts of Murphy, Sullivan, and China creeks are that numerous prospects upon which development work is being done are showing up wonderfully well.”
George Melvin wrote in The Post Offices of British Columbia that the name was “after the Chinese who gold panned there.” The Rossland Museum’s website suggests Chinese labourers on the Dewdney Trail had a camp at the creek’s mouth in the 1860s.
It’s one of six China Creeks in BC, and according to the BC Geographical Names database, to avoid confusion with the others, surveyor W.S. Drewry renamed it Popoure Creek after railway contractor James Poupore. It appeared that way on a 1915 map, but residents continued to call it China Creek.
(In 1974, the Genelle Improvement District was allowed to divert water from what the government called Poupore Creek, although the name is not officially recognized today. Poupore is also the name of a railway siding that we’ll get to later in this series.)
China Creek was a polling station for the federal election of 1904, but only one ballot was cast. It might have belonged to James Fielding (1840-1913), listed on the 1898 BC voters list as a farmer at China Creek.
Clara Graham wrote in Kootenay Yesterdays that in the early 20th century, “Each summer we had a picnic, generally at Fielding’s Landing, at the mouth of China Creek.”
The China Creek post office opened in 1906 and operated until 1909. A directory listing the following year reveals the China Creek Lumber Co. had established a sawmill there. The same directory contained the notation “Genelle – See China Creek.”
The Canadian Pacific Railway had by this time named its siding after the Genelle family (sometime spelled Janelle or Jenelle), who came to BC from Thessalon, Ont. in 1884. They operated sawmills at Nakusp, Wesley, and throughout the Boundary, and supplied railway ties. Brothers Peter (1856-1939), Joseph (1857-1913), and John (1866-1904) were all actively involved in the business.
Why this point was chosen to honour them is unclear; the Encyclopedia of British Columbia claims Peter Genelle established a sawmill there to supply lumber to the Trail smelter, but there isn’t much evidence of this.
The development of Genelle as a community is similarly murky. The first death recorded there was in May 1910, but the second wasn’t until 1959. Genelle was on the CPR timetable as of 1913, but by 1918 the civic directory noted it had “few local residents.”
The China Creek post office reopened in 1946 and was renamed Genelle in 1974. The two names, however, are still used interchangeably.
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