Category Archives: Place Names

Aaron Arrowsmith’s 1795 map

British possessions in America. Arrowsmith, Aaron Lowry Cadell. Library and Archives Canada

British possessions in America. Arrowsmith, Aaron Lowry Cadell. Library and Archives Canada
Historical Atlas of Canada


Arrowsmith, detail (redrawn)

Arrowsmith, detail (redrawn)
Historical Atlas of Canada

This remarkable map, on which Arrowsmith incorporated information from HBC manuscript maps and journals, Mackenzie’s explorations, and Vancouver’s meticulous survey of the northwest coast, represents a huge advance in geographic understanding. Although innumerable details remained to be filled in, henceforth the general shape of northwestern North America south of the Arctic was known.
References:

Also see:

Cook’s 1784 map

Map of the world in Cook’s “Third Voyage,” 1784. By Henry Roberts, Lieutenant in His Majesty’s Navy

Map of the world in Cook’s “Third Voyage,” 1784. By Henry Roberts, Lieutenant in His Majesty’s Navy
Princeton University Library


Detail of map of the world in Cook’s “Third Voyage,” 1784. By Henry Roberts, Lieutenant in His Majesty’s Navy

Detail of map of the world in Cook’s “Third Voyage,” 1784. By Henry Roberts, Lieutenant in His Majesty’s Navy
UBC Library Digital Collections

According to the Champlain Society edition of Samuel Hearne’s journeys, this map was the first to show his route.
References:

  • Roberts, Henry (Lieutenant in His Majesty’s Navy). London: A General Chart exhibiting the Discoveries made by Capn. James Cook in this and his two preceeding Voyages; with the Tracks of the Ships under his Command (1784). Princeton Library
  • Cook, James [1728–1779]. A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean. Undertaken, by the Command of His Majesty, for Making Discoveries in the Northern Hemisphere, to Determine the Position and Extent of the West Side of North America; Its Distance from Asia; and the Practicability of a Northern Passage to Europe. Performed under the Direction of Captains Cook, Clerke, and Gore, in His Majesty’s Ships the Resolution and Discovery, in the Years 1776, 1777, 1778, 1779, and 1780.. London: G. Nicol, & T. Cadell, 1784. Internet Archive
  • Hearne, Samuel [1745–1792]. A journey from Prince of Wales’s Fort in Hudson’s Bay to the Northern Ocean, in the years 1769, 1770, 1771, and 1772. Totonto: Champlain Society, 1911. Internet Archive
Also see:

Mackenzie’s 1803 map

Map of Mackenzie’s 1789 and 1973 expeditions

Map of Mackenzie’s 1789 and 1973 expeditions
Internet Archive


Map of Mackenzie’s 1789 and 1973 expeditions (detail)

Map of Mackenzie’s 1789 and 1973 expeditions (detail)
Internet Archive

References:

  • Mackenzie, Alexander [1764–1820]. Voyages from Montreal on the River St. Lawrence through the Continent of North America to the Frozen and Pacific Oceans in the years 1789 and 1793. London: T. Cadell, Jun., and W. Davies, 1803. Internet Archive
  • Mackenzie, Alexander [1764–1820]. A map of America, between latitudes 40 and 70 North, and longitudes 45 and 180 West, exhibiting Mackenzie’s Track from Montreal to Fort Chipewyan and from thence to the North Sea in 1789 & to the West Pacific Ocean in 1793. London: T. Cadell, Jun., and W. Davies, 1803. facing page 1. Internet Archive

South Fork Fraser River

Former name. British Columbia: Yellowhead Lake to Prince George

The name Fraser River was formally adopted by the Geographic Board of Canada in 1910, as long-identified on maps and in journals.

The name was reapproved in 1915 to specifically identify as the main source the channel sometimes known as the South Fork Fraser River (the portion between Yellowhead Lake and Prince George).

References:

  • British Columbia Geographical Names. Government of BC. Fraser River. BCGN
Also see:

Columbia River

River. British Columbia: Headwaters are Columbia Lake at Canal Flats
48°59’59” N 117°37’56” W — Map 82F/4 — Google
Earliest known reference to this name is 1795.
Name officially adopted in 1910. Official in BCCanada
Elevation: 3747 m

Adopted in the 9th Report of the Geographic Board of Canada, 30 June 1910, as named on maps and charts since 1795

Called Oregon River, by Jonathan Carver, 1766. Called Rio de San Roque by Bruno Heceta, who discovered the river’s mouth in 1775, and so-labelled on Spanish charts.

Named Columbia River in 1792, by Captain Robert Gray of Boston, after his ship Columbia, which entered the mouth of the river in May of that year. In turn, the name of Gray’s vessel honours Christopher Columbus, who “discovered” America in 1492.

References:

  • Columbia River. Wikipedia
  • British Columbia Geographical Names. Government of BC. Columbia River. BCGN

Athabasca River

River. Alberta: Flows 1,290 kilometres from Columbia Icefield to Lake Athabasca
58° 40′ 0″ N 110° 50′ 0″ W — Map 74L10 — Google
Earliest known reference to this name is 1800 (David Thompson).
Name officially adopted in 1948

“Athabasca” is from the Cree language and is said to mean “an area of grass or reeds.” The name likely refers to the muddy delta of the river where it flows into Lake Athabasca.

In 1790, the name of the river was recorded as “Great Arabuska.” In 1801 it was labelled “Athapasco.” The Arrowsmith map of 1802 shows a slight variation as “Arthapescow.” In the late eighteenth century, the Dunne-za people who lived along its banks called it the “Elk River,” and it appears as “Elk River” on Alexander Mackenzie’s map dated 1801.

David Thompson and Peter Fidler, who explored the middle section of the river in 1799–1800, both referred to it in their journals as the “Athabasca.”

In 1820, George Simpson, the governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company, referred to it as the “Athabasca or Elk River.” Today, local residents also refer to the feature as “Big River,” the Cree version of which was in use in 1880 when George Mercer Dawson labelled it as “Athabasca River or Mus-ta-hi-sî-pî.”

References:

  • Thompson, David. David Thompson’s Narrative of His Explorations in Western America, 1784-1812. Toronto: Champlain Society, 1916. University of British Columbia
  • Simpson, George [1786 or 1787–1860]. Fur trade and empire. George Simpson’s journal entitled Remarks connected with fur trade in consequence of a voyage from York Factory to Fort George and back to York Factory 1824-25. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1931. UBC Library
  • Aubrey, Merrily K. Place Names of Alberta. Volume IV: Northern Alberta. University of Calgary Press, 1996
  • Aubrey, Merrily K. Concise Place Names of Alberta. University of Calgary Press, 2006
  • Athabasca River. Wikipedia

Athabasca, Lake

Lake. Alberta: NW corner of Saskatchewan and NE corner of Alberta between 58° and 60° N.
59° 05′ N 110° 10′ W — Map 74 M/1 — GoogleGeoHack
Earliest known reference to this name is 1784 (Cook).
Name officially adopted in 1983
Detail of map of the world in Cook’s “Third Voyage,” 1784. By Henry Roberts, Lieutenant in His Majesty’s Navy

Detail of map of the world in Cook’s “Third Voyage,” 1784. By Henry Roberts, Lieutenant in His Majesty’s Navy
UBC Library Digital Collections

The lake appears as “Arathapescow Lake” on the chart accompanying James Cook’s A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean, published in 1784. The chart displays the voyages of Captain Cook; the details about the interior of North America came from fur trade sources.

Alexander Mackenzie, starting his voyage from Fort Chepewyan on Lake Athabasca to the Pacific Ocean in October 1792, wrote:

We entered the Peace River at seven in the morning of the 12th, taking a Westerly course. It is evident, that all the land between it and the Lake of the Hills, as far as the Elk River, is formed by the quantity of earth and mud, which is carried down by the streams of those two great rivers. In this space there are several lakes. The lake, Clear Water, which is the deepest, Lake Vassieu, and the Athabasca Lake, which is the largest of the three, and whose denomination in the Knistineaux language, implies, a flat low, swampy country, subject to inundations.

On the Mackenzie’s 1803 map, the lake appears as “Lake of the Hills.” On Aaron Arrowsmith’s 1795 map the lake is called “Athapescow Lake.”

The word Athabaskan is an anglicized version of a Cree language name for Lake Athabasca (Cree: Āðapāskāw “[where] there are reeds one after another”). Cree is one of the Algonquian languages and therefore not itself an Athabaskan language.

In the 18th century the territory around the lake was occupied by indigenous Dane-zaa (historically referred to as the Beaver tribe by Europeans) and Chipewyan people. Both are of the Athabaskan language family.

In Albert Lacombe’s Dictionnaire de la langue des Cris (1874), the lake and river are called “Athabaskaw” in the accompanying map, but there is not an entry for that specific word. Lacombe does cite as an unspecified place name “Ayabaskaw” or “Arabaskaw,” meaning “il y a des joncs ou du foin ça et là” [There are rushes and hay here and there] (p. 705).

In 1790, it was referred to as “Lake of the Hills,” and the river, the Great Arabuska. Lake of the Hills may have been a more genteel translation of the name for the lake at the time. Peter Fidler recorded the Cree name as Too-toos Sack-a-ha-gan, and the Chipewyan name as Thew Too-ak. The literal translation of the Cree name is “breast” lake, referring to the north-west shore, which according to Philip Turnor in 1791, came “from their appearing high and rounded at a distance.”

However, the most commonly accepted version of the origin of the name is from the Cree, where it is said to mean “where there are reeds,” referring to the muddy delta of the river where it falls into Lake Athabasca. Of this portion of it, Turner wrote “low swampy ground on the South side with a few willows growing upon it, from which the Lake in general takes its name Athapison in the Southern [Cree] tongue [which] signifies open country such as lakes with willows and grass growing about them.” In 1820, George Simpson of the Hudson’s Bay Company referred to it as the “Athabasca or Elk River.”

References:

  • Roberts, Henry (Lieutenant in His Majesty’s Navy). London: A General Chart exhibiting the Discoveries made by Capn. James Cook in this and his two preceeding Voyages; with the Tracks of the Ships under his Command (1784). Princeton Library
  • Hearne, Samuel, and Turnor, Phillip. Journals of Samuel Hearne and Philip Turnor between the years 1774 and 1792. Champlain Society, 1934. Internet Archive
  • Arrowsmith, Aaron [1750–1823]. A Map Exhibiting All the New Discoveries in the Interior Parts of North America. 1795
  • Mackenzie, Alexander [1764–1820]. A map of America, between latitudes 40 and 70 North, and longitudes 45 and 180 West, exhibiting Mackenzie’s Track from Montreal to Fort Chipewyan and from thence to the North Sea in 1789 & to the West Pacific Ocean in 1793. London: T. Cadell, Jun., and W. Davies, 1803. Internet Archive
  • Mackenzie, Alexander [1764–1820]. Voyages from Montreal on the River St. Lawrence through the Continent of North America to the Frozen and Pacific Oceans in the years 1789 and 1793. London: T. Cadell, Jun., and W. Davies, 1803. Internet Archive
  • Simpson, George [1786 or 1787–1860]. Fur trade and empire. George Simpson’s journal entitled Remarks connected with fur trade in consequence of a voyage from York Factory to Fort George and back to York Factory 1824-25. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1931. UBC Library
  • Dictionnaire de la langue des Cris. Montréal: C. O. Beauchemin & Valois, 1874. Internet Archive
  • Aubrey, Merrily K. Place Names of Alberta. Volume IV: Northern Alberta. University of Calgary Press, 1996
  • Aubrey, Merrily K. Concise Place Names of Alberta. University of Calgary Press, 2006
  • Lake Athabasca. Wikipedia

Thompson River

River. British Columbia: Flows W from Kamloops, then S and W into Fraser River at Lytton
50°14’07” N 121°34’57 W — Map 92I/4 — Google
Earliest known reference to this name is 1808.
Name officially adopted in 1925. Official in BCCanada

The source of the Thompson River is the junction of the North Thompson River and the South Thompson River, at Kamloops.

“Named in 1808 by Simon Fraser, North West Company, during his descent of the Fraser River to its mouth; after geographer David Thompson. A charity pupil at Grey Coat School, London, he was apprenticed to the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1784; joined the North West Company in 1797; explored the length of Columbia River, 1811; British-American Boundary survey, 1815-24. Died of poverty at Longuineil, Quebec, in 1857, age 87. Thompson himself was never on any of the three Thompson Rivers.”

The name appears on B.C. Surveyor General Joseph William Trutch’s 1871 “Map of British Columbia to the 56th Parallel North Latitude.”

References:

  • Fraser, Simon [1776–1862]. The letters and journals of Simon Fraser, 1806-1808. Toronto: MacMillan, 1960. Internet Archive
  • Trutch, Joseph William [1826–1904]. Map of British Columbia to the 56th Parallel North Latitude. Victoria, B.C.: Lands and Works Office, 1871. University of Victoria
  • British Columbia Geographical Names. Government of BC. Thompson River. BCGN

Monashee Mountains

Mountains. British Columbia: A division of the Columbia Mountains, extending N from Washington on the W side of the Arrow Lakes, Columbia River and Canoe Reach Kinbasket Lake
51° 0′ 0″ N 119° 0′ 0″ W — Map 82L/15 — Google
Name officially adopted in 1918. Official in BCCanada
Monashee Mountains

Monashee Mountains

From the Gaelic, monadh-sith, “mountain of peace.” Mountain named c. 1881 by Donald McIntyre, a High-lander who first staked the Monashee Mines. (Ok. 6:156-157). A somewhat similar name is Monadhliath, mountain in Inverness-shire, “grey or light blue mountain or moor” (12th Report of the Okanagan Historical Society, 1948).

Adopted 2 April 1918 on Ottawa file OBF 0248, to include all the mountains in the southern interior, from Upper and Lower Arrow Lakes and Columbia River west to the valleys of the Okanagan and Spallumcheen Rivers and Shuswap Lake, and from the US border north to the Canoe River. Application confined 10 July 1963 on 82L; the mountains of the Shuswap and Quesnel Highlands are now included in the Interior Plateau rather than within the Monashee Mountains.

References:

  • British Columbia Geographical Names. Government of BC. Monashee Mountains. BCGN

Boat Encampment

Locality. British Columbia: Confluence of Canoe River and Columbia River
52° 7′ 0″ N 118° 26′ 0″ W — Map 83D01 — Google
Earliest known reference to this name is 1811 (David Thompson).

David Thompson’s “Boat Encampment” was submerged by Kinbasket Lake, the reservoir created by Mica Dam, completed in 1973. Previously an official name, it was cancelled in 1974.

This name appears on B.C. Surveyor General Joseph William Trutch’s 1871 “Map of British Columbia to the 56th Parallel North Latitude.”

References:

  • Thompson, David. David Thompson’s Narrative of His Explorations in Western America, 1784-1812. Toronto: Champlain Society, 1916. University of British Columbia
  • Trutch, Joseph William [1826–1904]. Map of British Columbia to the 56th Parallel North Latitude. Victoria, B.C.: Lands and Works Office, 1871. University of Victoria
  • Boat Encampment. Wikipedia