A Brief History of Sicamous & the Eagle Valley

March 28, 2017

 

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 trails 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 the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885, life in the Eagle Valley and Sicamous was 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 the 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 to the Columbian 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, an again was mostly destroyed by the building of the Shuswap and Okanagan railway in 1893. A road joining Sicamous to the Okanagan was finally built along the east side of Mara Lake by Ukrainian internees 1917-1919. A road joining Sicamous to Canoe was not built until 1932-1934.

 

The building of the railway required large amounts 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 a number of large sawmills in the area, one large complex was at the west end of Three Valley Lake. About the 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 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-Malaqwa 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 traveling 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 roads virtually all of the Paddlewheelers disappeared.

 

With its proximity to the railway, roads and its deep and protected waterways, Sicamous was for many years the main distribution point for inaccessible areas of the 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 early 1900's necessary junction equipment, a world class hotel with water and electricity was supplied to all their facilities and homes on what is now called CPR hill. They remained the largest employer in Sicamous until the 1950's.

 

From the 1890's until 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 'til 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.

 

 

Be sure to visit our harbour at the foot (west end) of Finalyson Street which gives you a closer view of Shuswap Lake marine traffic including houseboats, small crafts and one of the few bridge swing spans on the Canadian Pacific Railway main line. You will also find along the walkway a number of pictures showing historic views of the waterway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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