PLACE NAMES: Naming Rivers and Mountains

Coleman and his various teams were exploring uncharted land in the Rockies. When he reached rivers, creeks, mountains and glaciers that had not been previously drawn onto maps, he would name them. Coleman was keen to use Cree names if places had already been identified and named by the Stonies. In a number of cases he named places after guides and first nations leaders; other sites were named for their atmosphere, (Misty mountain), family members (Mount Quincy), architectural likeness (Fortress Lake) or expedition association (Pinto Lake). Coleman’s names for places appear in his notebooks, on his maps, and in his publications.

Individuals naming previously uncharted land formations was not unusual. It was, however, problematic for the government of Canada and could lead to much confusion. The Geographic Board of Canada was established in 1899 in order to bring order to the map of Canada, and create nationally accepted place names The members representing federal and provincial ministries and departments, were a cross-section of surveyors, geologists, mineralogists, engineers and geographers. They held regular meetings, and submitted an annual report to the Department of the Interior. Decisions were published in the Canada Gazette, and the Sessional Papers of the House of Commons. Not all of Coleman’s place names made it through the vetting process.

Notebook. A.P. Coleman. Cover, Notebook 17 1893 (No. 4)
Notebook. A.P. Coleman. Sunday 3 September 1893 in Notebook 17 1893 (No. 4), [page 93 ]


Place-Names in the Rocky Mountains attributed to A.P. Coleman

This list is based on an article by James White that was published in the Royal Society of Canada’s Transactions for 1916. Most of the place names come from the area between the Saskatchewan and Athabaskan Rivers. Coleman’s field notebooks and sketchbooks give names to the rivers, creeks, and mountains that he encountered in his explorations in the 1890s. It is likely that White based his attributions on Coleman’s published articles, supplementary names mentioned in the archive have been added to White’s list. Many of these do not have a designated attributor in White’s listing, they might not have been named by Coleman but they were used by Coleman in his expeditions. It should be noted that many place names did not make it through the Geographic Board of Canada vetting system and consequently we will not find Coleman’s names for places on current maps of Alberta and British Columbia. A name contributed by Lucius Coleman has also been included in this list.

There are a number of land forms in Alberta's National Parks that were likely named for A.P. Coleman and his relatives including: Coleman Glacier , Quincy Creek , Quincy Mountain (Jasper National Park); Mount Coleman, Helena Ridge (Banff National Park)

Source: White, James, F.R.S.C. Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada. “Place-Names in the Rocky Mountains between the 49th Parallel and the Athabaska River”. Section II, 1916, 501-535.

For current place names in the Candian Rockies see:

James L. Swanson’s website, (2002) Place Names in the Canadian Rockies
Accessed July 29, 2008

The Geographic Board of Canada published their Decisions on Names in Annual Reports to the Canadian Parliament.
The Geographic Names Board of Canada has a website which describes its history, has a searchable place names (toponymic) database and provides links to provincial names boards and organizations that are interested in Canadian place names and their associations.
Accessed: July 29, 2008

Peak Finder, David Birrell’s website is a useful source on the Rocky Mountains.
"This collection of databases presents comprehensive information about each of the 1560 mountains in the Canadian Rockies. As well, information may be found regarding almost 200 passes and over sixty mountain ranges in the Rockies. Biographies of over 100 individuals who are part of the history of the Canadian Rockies are also available as is a chronology of the history of the Canadian Rockies."
Accessed: July 29, 2008

I am sorry I did not meet Job last year. He was a true leader & explorer. We have followed his trails for many miles. He was enterprising enough to strike out new lines for himself cutting his way thro’ difficulties with an axe sharper than our own. His eldest son, who traveled with us last year on our homeward journey died of that scourge of the Stonies, consumption, and it is said the father in his grief committed suicide. The Indians say little about it except that he was wrong in his head before he died. However his death

Field Notebook No. 17 Rockies 1893 (no. 4) Sunday Sept 3, Camp 40 page 93

he was a notable man in the tribe & deserves to have his name remembered.

We have had 3½ perfect days except for the smoke, holidays; the last two esp., Sat. & Sunday, have been real rest days, nothing done at all but a little mending & washing. This is certainly a lovely spot for a holiday. No sound but the ripple of small waves & the faint distant roar of the torrent on Mt. Quincy. Now & then the rumble of falling ice or rock from the same quarter.

Field Notebook No. 17 Rockies 1893 (no. 4) Sunday Sept 3, Camp 40 page 95