Place Names

St. Nicholas Peak

You better watch out
You better not cry
You better not pout
I’m telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town.

He sees you when you’re sleeping,
He knows when you’re awake,
He knows when you’ve been bad or good,
So be good for goodness sake!
(J.F. Coots & H. Gillespie, 1934, © EMI Feist Catalog Inc; Haven Gillespie Music)

How can Santa Claus see all of this? How can he know what we are doing all of the time? Where exactly does he get his information? While some more imaginative people believe that Santa Claus must have magical, all-knowing, all-seeing powers. Other, more practical-minded folk, insist that he must have a vast network of elfin spies keeping tabs on every boy and girl in his domain. However, here in Alberta we know better. Santa Claus obviously does his recon from his lofty vantage point in the Canadian Rockies from which he can see great distances – perhaps even into your own home (and isn’t that just a little bit creepy?).

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St. Nicholas Peak, North elevation as seen from the Wapta Icefield, 1903. Photograph taken by Arthur Oliver Wheeler. The “Santa Claus” gendarme is the small rocky projection on the right side of the peak. Image Source: Source: Mountain Legacy Project, 85.

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The Battle of Jutland, First World War Commemoration and Alberta Place Names

No single event has had such a dramatic impact on place names in Alberta than the First World War Battle of Jutland. Deep in the heart of Kananaskis Country can be found a series of mountains bearing the names of the ships and naval commanders of this naval battle. At least twenty-six mountains bear names commemorating the Battle of Jutland – sixteen of them are named for Royal Navy vessels that took part in the battle and ten are named for the Admirals, ship captains and seamen that lead and fought at Jutland. Additionally, many features associated with the mountains (glaciers, lakes and creeks) have subsequently been given Jutland names. The great number of Jutland-related geographical names in Alberta is curious. While there is no questioning the significance of the Battle of Jutland – it was the only major sea battle of the First World War, one of the few times in which dreadnought battleships fought directly against each other and its results affected strategy and tactics on both sides and altered the course of the war – it was also a battle in which there was no significant Canadian presence; no Canadian ships were involved and only one Canadian casualty has ever been confirmed. So, how did so many of these mountains along the Alberta-British Columbia boundary end up being named to commemorate this battle?

Mount Engadine (left), The Tower (middle) and Mount Galatea (right), taken in 1916 by the Interprovincial Boundary Survey. Mount Engadine and Mount Galatea are named for Royal Navy vessels that fought at the Battle of Jutland, the seaplane carrier HMS Engadine and the light cruiser HMS Galatea.

Mount Engadine (left), The Tower (middle) and Mount Galatea (right), taken in 1916 by the Interprovincial Boundary Survey. Mount Engadine and Mount Galatea are named for Royal Navy vessels that fought at the Battle of Jutland, the seaplane carrier HMS Engadine and the light cruiser HMS Galatea. Image Source: Mountain Legacy Project, IMG_3320. The Mountain Legacy Project is based at the School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC. For more information, go to mountainlegacy.ca, or email mntnlgcy@uvic.ca.

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Mount Lougheed and Wind Mountain

One of the most recognizable mountains in the Canadian Rockies is Mount Lougheed. Located approximately 15 kilometres southeast of Canmore, this majestic 3,150 metre (10,335 ft.) mountain is named for Sir James Alexander Lougheed. However, Lougheed is not the only name the mountain has had. In fact, it is not even the first mountain in the area to bear the name Lougheed. The story of how the mountain became known as Mount Lougheed is interesting.

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Mount Lougheed from the Trans-Canada Highway, August 2011. The entire massif is known as Mount Lougheed. The large, central peak is likely the feature named “Windy Mountain” by Eugene Bourgeau in 1858. The prominent peak furthest to the right is Windtower Mountain. The peak known today as Wind Mountain is the distinctly pointed peak visible on the horizon at left side of the photograph.
Source: Larry Pearson, Historic Places Stewardship Section, Alberta Culture and Tourism.

In 1858, Eugène Bourgeau (sometimes spelled Bourgeaux), a botanist with the Palliser Expedition, accompanied James Hector up the Bow Valley towards what is now Canmore. Bourgeau named many of the mountains and lakes along the way. Bourgeau was struck by the way the clouds swirled around one particular peak. James Hector, in his account of August 11, 1858, noted that (more…)

Mount Edith Cavell

Located between the Astoria and the Whirlpool rivers is a mountain considered by many to be the most majestic in Jasper National Park, if not the entire Canadian Rocky Mountains. At an impressive altitude of about 3,300 metres, the mountain has been known by a number of names. French Canadian voyageurs using the Athabasca Pass referred to the notable landmark as La Montagne de la Grand Traverse (Mountain of the Great Pass). Dr. James Hector of the Palliser Expedition referred to it as Le Duc, probably after a Metis member of his party. In 1912, Arthur O. Wheeler of the Alpine Club of Canada and the Interprovincial Boundary Survey named it Fitzhugh Mountain, after the townsite of Fitzhugh, which was named for E. L. Fitzhugh, a director of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (the townsite of Fitzhugh was later renamed Jasper). It had also been periodically, and incorrectly, referred to as Mount Geikie. Today, and since 1916, the mountain is named Mount Edith Cavell, named for a British nurse who never set foot in Canada, let alone within Jasper National Park or on the mountain itself. How this mountain became a commemoration to Edith Cavell is an interesting lesson in Canada’s role in the First World War, its place in the Empire and the importance of wartime symbolism and the values of myth and memorialization.

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North face of Mount Edith Cavell with Lake Cavell in the foreground, ca. 1945.
Provincial Archives of Alberta, PA354.1

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Naming and Renaming: The Place Names of John Ware

Alberta’s history is rife with many stories of interesting and fascinating cowboys and ranchers. High in this company stands John Ware, a black cowboy and rancher of near-mythic standing in Alberta’s history. John Ware has become almost an unofficial emblem of Alberta and western Canada, featuring prominently in centennial exhibits, in books and even on a Canada Post stamp. He is often portrayed as an embodiment of western Canadian values and as a demonstration of the levelling effect of the pioneer period and the cultural tolerance that was only possible on the Canadian prairies. There is little doubt that John Ware truly did enjoy the respect of his fellow ranchers and cowboys and his story, even if exaggerated, is an inspiring one. Yet, despite this outpouring of goodwill, respect and admiration, for many years John Ware was commemorated by a racially derogatory name prominently displayed on maps.

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John Ware with his wife Mildred and two of their children, Robert and Nettie, ca. 1896.
Glenbow Archives: NA-263-1

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The Victoria Cross Ranges (Part 2)

In a previous post, we looked at the naming of five mountains in Jasper National Park after First World War Victoria Cross recipients. It took a number of years and some persistence from the Geographic Board of Alberta to achieve this natural war monument for the service of five soldiers to the British Commonwealth in the First World War. In addition to naming the mountains, the negotiations between provincial and federal naming authorities resulted in the naming of the Victoria Cross Ranges in Jasper National Park to serve as a long-standing tribute to all recipients of the Victoria Cross. This naming decision created a naming policy that is still honoured today.

Looking west to the Victoria Cross Ranges (Image courtesy of Mountain Nerd on Summit Search)

Looking west to the Victoria Cross Ranges
(Image courtesy of Mountain Nerd on Summit Search)

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The Lost Islands of Upper Kananaskis Lake

In 1917, surveyor and mountaineer Arthur O. Wheeler of the Interprovincial Boundary Survey wrote that “in a valley surrounded by towering peaks, lies Upper Kananaskis Lake, a large sheet of deep-blue water of irregular shape, dotted with heavily-timbered islands.” The lake, as described by Wheeler, no longer exists, its shape has changed and its islands are mostly gone.

1914 photograph of Upper Kananaskis Lake

Upper Kananaskis Lake, 1914, showing the islands (LtoR) Cressy, Pegasus, Hawke, Hogue, Schooner and Aboukir. To compare this photograph alongside a 2007 photograph, go to http://explore.mountainlegacy.ca/historic_captures/1880/comparisons.
Mountain Legacy Project, WHE14-6. The Mountain Legacy Project is based at the School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC. For more information, go to mountainlegacy.ca, or email mntnlgcy@uvic.ca.

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