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.



Not the Booze!!! Prohibition in British Columbia

In 1916 a referendum was released in the province which asked for the opinion of British Colombians on two important questions:

  1. Should women be allowed to vote?
  2. Should alcohol be illegal in the province of British Columbia?

I think that in the opinion of today’s society the answers to those two questions would be a resounding ‘yes’ and ‘no’ respectively but, back in 1916, the result wasn’t quite so clear.  In regards to the question of selling alcohol, those in favor of prohibition won by a margin of 56.5% to 43.5% but, unlike the referendums that took place across the rest of the country, British Columbia gave the 20,000 soldiers of the province serving overseas the chance to vote and these weren’t calculated until months after the initial results were tallied from within B.C..  Now, this in itself wasn’t really a problem aside from dragging the process out for longer than was probably necessary; no, the problem was that the man who was given charge of counting the votes of these soldier was one Richard McBride who was a highly outspoken opponent of prohibition. Therefore, it was absolutely no surprise that the soldier votes were tallied strongly in opposition to the province going dry, however, to bow to this new development would mean that B.C. would go against the national trend and be the only province remaining ‘wet’.  Potentially due to McBride’s personal beliefs, this development was viewed with suspicion by the government, especially in light of the fact that soldiers stationed within the province had voted roughly 50-50 with their vote; could their overseas contemporaries really have such a different view?  Once this was investigated more thoroughly, it was determined that many of the overseas votes were invalid as some individuals had voted multiple times while other votes had been cast by ‘voters’ who were actually deceased, in prison camps, or not actually residents of B.C. at all.

Prepare for Prohibition! Image from www.herbmuseum.ca

Prepare for Prohibition! Image from http://www.herbmuseum.ca

The political scandal which followed this investigation saw the referendum overturned and prohibition was brought into effect.  However, this was to be short lived as a thriving black market, arbitrary enforcement, and rampant corruption rapidly became the norm. Within just four short year, in place of this total ban, the government unveiled a plan which would regulated and tax alcohol (the same as we know it today) and this was enforced instead.

They look far calmer about this than I would. Image from www.mhs.mb.ca

They look far calmer about this than I would. Image from http://www.mhs.mb.ca

Following this, in the 1920’s and 1930’s, when the United States began its own era of prohibition, a thriving business erupted in British Columbia as the production and smuggling of alcohol into the U.S. became a prominent economic activity.  In fact, many of the province’s richest families (particularly in Vancouver) obtained a significant amount of their wealth through their positions as rum-runners for their southern neighbour and there are some who compare the actions of this period to the cannabis growing and selling activities of the province today.

*Fun fact; although most Canadian provinces realized that prohibition wasn’t working within a few years, PEI remained a ‘dry’ province until 1948.


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.

B.C. History Pt. 4/4 – Joining the Confederation of Canada

British Columbia's coat of arms.

British Columbia’s coat of arms.

By the early 1870’s, the colony of British Columbia had, physically, reached the general look of the province as it is known today but, although this region contained a fantastic supply of natural resources, it continued to be relatively sparse in population.  In 1871, the population estimates were listed as approximately 11,000 Europeans and 26,000 First Nations which, even considering the far lower world population of that time, still meant that there was an awful lot of uninhabited space.

A British map made in 1873 showing the province's natural resources.

A British map made in 1873 showing the province’s natural resources.

However, despite these minimal population numbers, those that were there were able to create an enormous amount of public pressure from within the province for British Columbia to join the Canadian Confederation which had been formed in 1867.  At the time there were two main factors that lead the province’s population to push for the removal of British authority in order to become the seventh province of Canada:

  1. A desire for the establishment of a more representative government
  2. A poor economic situation that resulted due to the collapse of the gold rushes in the B.C. interior
A map showing the regions of the province as they existed in 1896.

A map showing the regions of the province as they existed in 1896.

Finally, on July 20, 1871, B.C. officially joined the confederation although, at that time, none of the regions surrounding the province were a part of Canada which resulted in British Columbia being so remote from the rest of the country that mail traveling east had to have an American stamp and be carried through San Francisco in order for it to reach its destination.

In return for joining the confederation, Canada absorbed B.C.’s debts (which were, reportedly, massive) and agreed to build a railroad from Montreal to the Pacific which was scheduled to be completed within the next ten years.  While the railroad would quickly become British Columbia’s largest incentive for remaining within the confederation it was, by comparison, opposed quite sensationally in the east.  To the minds of those on that side of the country it was a massive undertaking that would be very expensive (they weren’t wrong) and, seeing as most of the land between B.C. and Ontario was barely inhabited, hardly seemed worth it.

The final spike of the Trans-Canada railroad being hammered in at Craigellachie.

The final spike of the Trans-Canada railroad being hammered in at Craigellachie.

Despite its detractors, however, the railroad was completed, British Columbia remained in the confederation, and the greater ability to travel across the expanse of the country helped to further populate the middle and northern parts of the country, resulting in the Canada that we have today.

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.