10 Facts – Cascade City

The town of Cascade City was constructed as a Canadian Pacific Railway boom town located in the Boundary Country which was alternatively known as the ‘Gateway to the Boundary Country’ due to its close proximity to the Canada-U.S. border in the West Kootenay region.

The original site of the town of Cascade City.

The original site of the town of Cascade City.

On this day, in 1899, a fire swept through the area, destroying a large percentage of the town and so here are ten facts about Cascade City:

  1. It was founded in 1896 and named after the nearby Cascade Falls which occurred on the Kettle River.
  2. The property in this area was originally owned by Aaron Chandler, an American from North Dakota who, on seeing financial possibility in the area, began to divide the land and sell it off to businessmen.

    The tents used by inhabitants in the early years of the town.

    The tents used by inhabitants in the early years of the town. Image from Wikipedia.

  3. The original industries of the town were mining and the construction of rail in the region but the prosperity of the town was further elevated in 1897 when the Cascade Water and Power Company formed an electric dam on the Kettle River in 1897; this supplied electricity to Grand Forks, Phoenix, and Greenwood.
  4. In its early days, the town only had two buildings which were a general store and a restaurant while its inhabitants stayed in tents.
  5. However, by 1898, there were 15 hotels along with numerous brothels which were worked by women with remarkable names including ‘Scrap Iron Minnie’ and ‘Rough Lock Nell’.

    The Cascade Hotel; one of many that sprung up in the town. Image from wikipedia.

    The Cascade Hotel; one of many that sprung up in the town. Image from Wikipedia.

  6. It wasn’t until the Doon Gang Tobacco Robbery in 1897, when the gang broke into the general store and made off with 150 pounds of tobacco, that the need for a police force and a jail became evident. In this case, the shop book-keeper had to make the arrest himself and detain the leader in a local carpenter’s home.
  7. August 12, 1899; the CPR arrived in the town from the Kettle River Bridge to a town-wide celebration complete with $25 worth of refreshments for the railway laborours.
  8. Unfortunately, only 6 weeks after the arrival of the CPR, a fire swept through the town burning down 6 hotels and several other structures in under an hour.  At this time, the town had no fire department and so a firebreak was created by using dynamite on some of the threatened buildings.
  9. This bad luck continued in 1901 when the rebuilding of the town was disrupted by the outbreak of a second fire.
  10. After this, all but 75 inhabitants of the town moved on to other locations and the town quickly faded into obscurity.

    The town of Cascade at the height of its occupation before it was destroyed by fires. Image from Wikipedia.

    The town of Cascade at the height of its occupation before it was destroyed by fires. Image from Wikipedia.

The town , surprisingly, continued in its reduced capacity for a number of years where it was used as a customs port where, in 1920, it was inhabited by somewhere around 150 residents and consisted of one public building in the form of a store.  Today, much of the original town-site is covered by the Christina Lake Gold Club’s course and the only remaining memento of the town itself is the cemetery located on the opposite bank of the river.



10 Facts – 100 Mile House

Established in the 1800’s as a rest stop and supply station for miners heading to the Fraser Canyon gold rush, 100 Mile House obtained its name due to its distance from the town of Lillooet which was considered to be mile zero by the gold rushers. Here are ten additional facts about the town:


Map of the region. Image from cbc.ca

Map of the region. Image from cbc.ca

  1. It was originally named ‘Bridge Creek House’ after the creek which runs through the area.
  2. Its name changed to 100 Mile House during the Cariboo Gold rush during which time (in 1862) a roadhouse was built in the area to mark 100 miles up the Old Cariboo Road.

    100 Mile House during the Gold Rush. Image from bcheritage.ca

    100 Mile House during the Gold Rush. Image from bcheritage.ca

  3. During its original function at the time of the gold rush, it was really just a collection of buildings owned by a man named Thomas Miller rather than an actual town.
  4. In the 1900’s logging was introduced to the area which provided a more stable industry, allowing the town to begin taking form.
  5. Shortly after this, during the 1930’s, Lord Martin Cecil left England and arrived in 100 Mile House to manage the estate there which was owned by his father, the 5th Marquees of  Exter.

    Lord Martin in the 1930's. Image from www.bridgecreek.ca

    Lord Martin in the 1930’s. Image from http://www.bridgecreek.ca

  6. This estate was actually a short distance outside of the town itself and had its own train stop on the Pacific Great Eastern Railway which ran through the area.
  7. Even at this time, the ‘town’ as it was consisted of only 5 public buildings; a road house, a post office, a general store, a telegraph office, and a power plant with a total population of 12 people
  8. Reducing this even further, the original road house burnt down in 1937.
  9. Over time ranches were established on the plateau near the town center.
  10. One of these ranches, the Gang Ranch, is one of the largest ranches in the world.

Today, 100 Mile House has a population of approximately 2,000 people and is a retail and service center for the Southern Cariboo area.  In addition to the services this town provides to the surrounding area, it is also a popular tourist destination with people who enjoy the outdoors with swimming, fishing, horseback riding, bird watching skiing, and golfing all being available in the surrounding area.

The welcome sign today. Image from www.campscout.com

The welcome sign today. Image from http://www.campscout.com

For more information check out the official website of 100 Mile House or the Destination B.C. site for the town.

The Annexation Debate: How British Columbia Nearly Became a US State

In the final post of this blog’s breakdown of the general major sections of British Columbia’s history the transition of B.C from a colony of Britain to a province of the confederation of Canada was covered.  However, in 1867, there were actually three potential futures for the province:

  1. Remain a British colony
  2. Become a part of the confederation of Canada
  3. To be annexed and become part of the United States

In Britain, by many, it was actually hoped that the North American colonies would leave the British Empire including:

  • Admiral Joseph Denman who, when speaking to the Admiralty, stated that B.C. was undeserving of Royal Navy Protection
  • The Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord Granville, who said that he hoped that North America “would propose to be independent and annex themselves”
  • Finally, The Times which stated that “British Columbia is a long way off. . . . With the exception of a limited official class it receives few immigrants from England, and a large proportion of its inhabitants consist of citizens of the United States who have entered it from the south. Suppose that the colonists met together and came to the conclusion that every natural motive of contiguity, similarity of interests, and facility of administration induced them to think it more convenient to slip into the Union than into the Dominion. . . . We all know that we should not attempt to withstand them.”

In addition to this, there were several reasons why becoming an official part of the US made sense for the province of British Columbia:

  • Due to the gold rushes in the province, there were numerous American citizens who had made their way into BC and had settled in the area
  • With the purchase of Alaska made by the US in 1867, B.C. was now surrounded by American states along both the southern and northern boarders
  • Economically, British Columbia was essentially a satellite of the American west and the entire Pacific Northwest of North Vancouver, San Francisco with American currency in wide circulation throughout the province

Up until the purchase of Alaska, the British had, for the most part, been indifferent to the future of this colony.  However, at this point they began to pay attention and an increased focus was placed on the region as a base for imperial trade in the Pacific as well as the perceived need for a Royal Navy base in the area.  With the prevalent opinion being that British Columbia joining the confederation of Canada was preferable to British interests than an annexation to the Unites States and the majority of the British-born inhabitants of the province seeing confederacy as the better chance for maintaining ties to their native country, the general public opinion began to swing in this direction.  Opposing this move, however, was the Legislative Council of British Columbia which was made up almost entirely of annexationists including then governor of the province, Frederick Seymour.  It wasn’t until his death, when the confederation supporting Anthony Musgrave succeeded him to the position of governor, that the confederates received enough support to over-rule those in favour of annexation.

B.C. History Pt. 3/4 – A British Colony

With the pre-European history of British Columbia covered here and the early exploration of the province covered here; we have now arrived, this week, at part three of this site’s four part overview: British Columbia as a British colony.

As mentioned in the exploration post, there may have been a tiny bit of conflict between Spain and Britain over who had the better claim to the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America.  In the end, Britain managed to emerge the victor based pretty much entirely on the fact that they just wanted it more.  However, adding to this mess for control was the fact that treaties existed between Russia (who also had some claim to the region), Spain, and the United States; the latter of who were pressing for the complete annexation of most of what would become B.C.  This particular conflict was settled with the signing of the Oregon Treaty (more info on that coming in post form soon) in 1846 at which point the United States agreed to establish its most northern border with western British North America at the 49th parallel.

Despite all of this negotiation, it wasn’t until August 2, 1858 that the Crown colony of British Columbia was established and it took until 1866 for the mainland colony to be combined with the Colony of Vancouver Island to give us the province that we have today.

In fact, if it weren’t for gold, it’s entirely possible that the British Empire may not have ever actually formalized their claim to the west coast of Canada by making it a colony under their empire.  However, in 1857, both Americans and British were responding to word of mouth claims that gold had been found in the area around the Fraser River.

A View of the Fraser Canyon.

A View of the Fraser Canyon.

An illustrated look at the B.C. goldfields.

An illustrated look at the B.C. goldfields.

Yale, B.C. in 1882.

Yale, B.C. in 1882.

These rumors resulted in somewhere between ten and twenty thousand men moving into the region around what is presently Yale, B.C. which had the effect of officially launching the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush.  In response to this sudden spike in population (and what was likely a rather rowdy one at that), Governor James Douglas (who will be the focus of a biography post next week) was suddenly faced with the necessity of exerting British authority over a largely unknown and unexpected population.  The colony of mainland British Columbia was established in order to normalize its jurisdiction as well as to undercut any Hudson’s Bay Company claims to the resource wealth in the area.

James Douglas, the first governor of B.C.

James Douglas, the first governor of B.C.

Frederick Seymour, B.C.'s second governor.

Frederick Seymour, B.C.’s second governor.

During its time as a British colony, the region of British Columbia developed rapidly with a significant increase in inhabitants, the development of numerous towns and cities (as well as the expansion of those that already existed), and the establishment of the foundations that have resulted in the province we have today such as the establishment of Victoria as the provincial capital. Considering that Canada’s time as a British colony had a significant impact on the development and history of the country, it may be surprising to learn that he colony of British Columbia lasted for just slightly more than ten years, with B.C. officially  joining the confederation of Canada 1871 as its seventh province.

10 Facts – Fernie, B.C.

On the 28th of July, 1904 the southeastern town of Fernie was incorporated into the province of British Columbia.  Continuing on with this blog’s tradition for incorporation birthdays; here are 10, predominantly, historical facts about the city:

Fernie Location Map

  1. It is the only city in British Columbia that is completely surrounded by the Canadian Rockies.
  2. Prior to its development as a mining camp, the area was inhabited seasonally by First Nations groups.
  3. While the city was incorporated in 1904, it was founded six years earlier in 1898.
  4. Fernie is the largest and longest-established community between Cranbrook and Lethbridge.
  5. The city’s history is centered around coal mining which began with the founding of the Crows Nest Pass Coal Company in 1897.
  6. The following year, the year of Fernie’s founding, the CPR arrived in the area which allowed the town to begin emerging from the temporary camps that had been existing in the area.
  7. A fire swept through the town in 1904 destroying much of the downtown area.

    After the fire. Image from fernie.bclibrary.ca

    After the fire. Image from fernie.bclibrary.ca

  8. The most noticeable result of this fire was that, in the aftermath, it was ordered by the municipal government that all buildings be constructed out of fire-proof materials such as brick and stone which produced a city with a far more refined appearance then that which is seen in most mining towns.
  9. The city has some really cool legends such as the Legend of the Griz (about a baby born in a grizzly bear cave) or the Legend of the Ghostrider (claims that every evening a shadow of a horse and rider appears on the side of Mt. Hosmer).  Learn more about those here.
  10. Today the city, while still majorly dependent on the mining industry, is also prospering in the tourism industry due to the numerous ski hills in the area.
Downtown Fernie

Downtown Fernie

For more information check out the City of Fernie website or the Fernie Tourism site.