Galena Bay was once Thumb Bay
Sixty-eighth in a roughly alphabetical series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names
There are two Galena Bays in West Kootenay, one on Kootenay Lake at Riondel, and the other on the east side of Upper Arrow Lake, which we’ll discuss today.
The latter was first mentioned in the Kootenay Mail of Revelstoke on April 28, 1894: “Mr. Wm. Mackenzie is up on a visit after spending the last six months on his ranch at Galena Bay, Arrow Lake.”
Galena is the natural mineral form of lead sulphide, the principal source of lead, as well as silver. It was mined in abundance in this area.
This part of the lake was previously known as Thumb Bay. As Milton Parent writes in Silent Shores and Sunken Ships: “Because of the bay’s peculiar shape in relation to the Arrow Lakes, the early explorers, or more likely surveyors, noticed when the maps were drawn it had the appearance of a giant thumb. Consequently, even on our earliest map, the site was named Thumb Bay.”
The first mention of Thumb Bay is in George Dawson’s 1889 Report on a Portion of the West Kootanie [sic] District, British Columbia: “Thumb Bay … is an indentation in the east shore of the lake immediately south of the North-East Arm.”
An undated newspaper story titled “An outline of Galena Bay history” in the Arrow Lakes Historical Society archives claims the name was changed when a post office was applied for and another Thumb Bay was discovered.
However, no post office named Thumb Bay ever existed in Canada, and the Canadian Geographical Names Database doesn’t list a Thumb Bay (though there is one in Alaska). Furthermore, Galena Bay never did get a post office. However, a post office called Galena opened in 1889 southeast of Golden. It changed its name to Spillimacheen in 1946.
In 1897, the Lardeau Railway Co. was incorporated to build a railway from Galena Bay to Trout Lake and Camborne. They hired Victoria surveyor Thomas Harbridge Parr to lay out a townsite for a railway terminus at Galena Bay between Payne and Jennings creeks called Rosenheim, honouring Henri Rosenheim, a director of the Lillooet, Fraser River, and Cariboo Gold Fields Ltd. otherwise known as the Horne-Payne company, which invested in the railway.
The first mention of the townsite was an ad for the Rosenheim Hotel in the Kootenay Mail on November 21, 1896. By mid-1897, 40 acres had been cleared and crews were at work on an additional 40 acres. However, work on the railway was suspended in September and the hotel closed. Rosenheim faded from view and the community’s name reverted to Galena Bay.
In 1947, a post office was again proposed, and at a public meeting to decide on a name, Bay View won residents’ endorsement. But it was a moot point, for the office never opened.
Today Galena Bay is best known as the southern terminal of the Upper Arrow Lake ferry.
Previous installments in this series