A Brief History of Sicamous and the Eagle Valley

 For many thousands of years prior to the arrival of the white man, the present Sicamous area was occupied perhaps by several bands of natives, who were part of a much larger group, the Shuswaps.

This particular area had many advantages, easily reached by water and by ancient trail giving access to distant hunting and trading destinations. Of prime importance was a close food supply augmented substantially by the annual salmon migrations.

 

With the arrival of fur traders in the early 1800's the old way of life began to change. The discovery of gold on the Columbia River in the 1860's sped up the process and with the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885, life in the Eagle Valley and Sicamous changed forever.

Up to the time the C.P. Railway was built through the Eagle Pass which had been discovered by Walter Moberly in 1865 few settlers had ventured to live along this densely forested valley, but in 1883, two years prior to the advent of the railway, the Provincial  Government built a wagon road from Eagle Pass Landing (Old Town) to what is now Revelstoke. This road gave gold seekers an all Canadian route through a relatively low pass to the Columbia gold fields. The eventual route of the railway in 1885 destroyed a good part of this road, but there was now a reliable route not only between Sicamous and Revelstoke but also to markets both East and West.  While this was the first Provincial road in the area and was eventually rebuilt as the Southerland  Highway in 1922, a second wagon road joining Sicamous to the Okanagan Valley was built along the west side of Mara Lake in 1891, and again was mostly destroyed by the building of the Shuswap and Okanagan railway in 1893. A road joining Sicamous to Canoe was not built until 1932-1934.

The building of the railway required a large amount of timber for bridges, railway ties and necessary buildings and gave a boost to a growing lumber industry. Regular train service also opened up outside markets. This led to the establishment of large sawmills in the area, one large complex was at the west end of Three Valley Lake. About same time at Malakwa a large farm developed providing  railway car loads of early potatoes, celery and lettuce for Calgary markets. With jobs and more available land, the valley became more attractive to settlers, a growing number of whom came from Finland, drawn especially to the Cambie, Malakwa area.

With settlers came children and also the necessity of schools. Craigallachie-Malakwa 1902, Three Valley 1908, Sicamous 1910, Solsqua 1912, Taft 1914 and Eagle Valley School 1921.  Before and during construction of the CPR  a fleet of paddlewheel steamers travelling between Savona, Kamloops, Chase, Seymour Arm, Salmon Arm, Eagle Pass Landing, Sicamous  and Enderby provided most of the transportation for people and freight. But with the completion of the Railway and the building of the roads virtually all of the Paddle-wheelers disappeared.

 

With its proximity to the roads, railway and its deep and protected waterways, Sicamous was for many years the main distribution point for inaccessible areas of Shuswap

Lake. As development occurred along the new railway line, at Sicamous, the CPR was steadily expanding their infrastructure. Adding in the late 1890's and the early 1900's necessary junction equipment, a world class hotel with water and electricity, which was also supplied to all their facilities plus homes on what is now CPR Hill. They remained the largest employer in Sicamous  1950's.

From the early 1920's to the late 1940's, the R.W. Bruhn Company with its head office on CPR Hill, railway tie loading at Sicamous, pole yard at Pole Yard Point on Mara Lake and sawmill at Old Town (Eagle Pass Landing) was a large and influential employer.

 

From the 1890's 'til the mid 1950's the M.J. Finlayson family was a generous and integral part of the development of Sicamous, operating the post office for 60 years and a general store in the community from 1895 to the mid 1950's.

By the early 1960's and with improvements to the highway system, Tourism began to play an increasingly important part in the economy of Sicamous.

The Houseboat Industry starting in the late 1960's led the way followed by snowmobiling in the early 1990's. Sicamous incorporated in 1989 and became the District of Sicamous in December of that year.

 

 

 

 

 

©2017 by Sicamous Museum.