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Houston and Area Place Names


There are a great number of creeks, rivers and lakes draining the area surrounding Houston. In the very early days when trapping, prospecting and hunting contributed largely to the wealth of the area, Houston residents forged through a large territory. Early in the history of this area these lakes, rivers, and mountains received names, many of which were derived from Indian names or words. Many names also honour early pioneers.

Atna Lake, Atna River

Atna is a derivative of an Indian word that means "big waters."

Babine Lake

The longest and largest natural lake in B.C. bears the Carrier Indian name meaning "big lip," because the female members of their tribe inserted labrets (plugs or bone or wood) into their lower lips, making them large and pendulous.

Bulkley River

The name Bulkley was first introduced to this area when chief engineer Colonel Charles Bulkley, US Army, entered the area in the 1860s with a crew of men and orders to lay the Collins Overland Telegraph Trail. The naming of this valley and the river are testimony to his early presence here. The Bulkley River has its beginnings at Bulkley Lake east of the Houston area. It flows westward, is joined at Houston by the Buck Creek, and comprises the main drainage for the valley.

China Nose Mountain (China Knows Mountain)

This landmark east of Houston is said to bear resemblance to an Asian nose, but local old-timers claim there is another explanation for the naming of this area. It seems that at the end of the last century there were Chinese miners in the Bulkley Valley. Apparently they discovered gold in the area of this mountain, but wouldn't be specific about the location. All they would say was that only 'China Knows' where the gold was. And that's as far as anyone got with finding out about the gold in China Knows Mountain.

Cote Creek

In the Perow area is Cote Creek, named after French Canadian Paul Cote. He had never gone to school but served the wilderness country well as a riverman. He settled in a log cabin at Cote Creek.

Dungate Creek

Named after the George Dungate family who built their first home on the banks of this creek southeast of Houston. Dungate Creek enters Buck Creek a short distance before the Buck enters town.

Erikson Lake (or Erickson, or Silverthorne Lake)

This lake located up the Buck Flats Road. It was named after John Erikson, an eccentric Swede who operated a tie camp beside it. Erikson raised fine horses which he rode into Houston for supplies, and whenever he did he also liked to quench his thirst at the local beer parlour. On at least one occasion Erikson didn't bother getting off his steed to walk in but rode the big roan stallion through the door and right up to the bar, demanding beer for both himself and the horse, while at the same time whispering in the stallion's ear to behave himself, which the animal obediently did.

Francois Lake

To the south of Houston is Francois Lake, originally called French Lake by the early packers and "Nitpoen" by the Indians.

Helen Lake

Named after the wife of Charlie Barrett, this lake is located in the Hungry Hill/Summit Lake Road area.

Johnson Lake

Also known as Vallee Lake, this small body of water in the Summit Lake Road area on Hungry Hill was named after Frank Johnson, who once held a pre-emption on the west end of the lake.

Kidprice Lake

Kid Price was a colourful trapper and prospector with billy-goat whiskers who had come out from Idaho to explore the Bulkley Valley. The "Kid" was very tough, living outdoors in all kinds of weather, often sleeping just under a spruce tree even on cold, frosty nights with only the owls to keep him company. He made some of the early gold discoveries in the Sibola area.

McBride Lake, McBride Creek

These were presumably named after the Honourable Richard McBride, Premier of B.C. from 1903 to 1915.

Morice River

This river was named by and after Father Morice, the missionary turned explorer and cartographer, who, from the 1880s on, with the help of native guides, travelled into every nook and cranny of the northland and in many cases blazed the trails followed by succeeding map-makers. He explored most lakes and mountains in the area, naming many of them. Father Morice's maps, considering that he travelled by canoe and had limited equipment, were surprisingly accurate. Father Morice was extremely frustrated over the fact that many of the names he had assigned were changed by later governments. He was especially bitter that the Morice River came to an abrupt end when it joined the Bulkley at the Forks, when it was obvious, he said, that the Bulkley was but a mere tributary to the Morice.

Many names given by Father Morice, however, have been retained, such as Emerald, Loring, Dawson.

Morice Lake and Morice Mountain continue to bear tribute to the man who was probably the first to place them on a map.

Mount Harry Davis

This conical landmark on the north side of Houston is named for early settler and community builder Harry Davis, who arrived in Houston in 1904. He farmed all the area on the east side of Butler Avenue and north of Riverbank Drive. When other settlers arrived, Davis recognized the need for a school and donated two acres of land east of Butler Avenue, where the first school was built. He also donated two acres to the Anglican Church, and the Mission House (the Church of St. Clement, later) was built next to the school.

Nadina Lake, Nadina Mountain

This musical word is from an Indian language and means "Great Rock."

Owen Creek, Owen Flats, Owen Lake

Draining Owen Lake, this small creek honours the civil engineer by that name who served with the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway when it came into the valley around 1916. Mr. Owen later blazed out a better trail to Owen Lake (there had already been some mining activity there around 1912), which became an important connection with the Lakes District.

Telkwa Range

These picturesque mountains framing much of the Bulkley Valley are named after the Carrier Indian word meaning "frog."

Note: Many of the above are from Marks on the Forest Floor, originally written by Elnora Smith.

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