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Kamloops, BC

History of Kamloops

The first Canadians of the Kamloops district were the 3000 or so members of the widespread Shuswap tribe of the Interior Salish Nation. During most of the year, they were nomadic, traveling wherever the hunting, berrypicking, or - most particularly - fishing, was good, but in winter they settled in pit - house villages. There was a large one at Tranquille, named for their chief, another on the present Reserve site, and a series of smaller ones on both sides of the South Thompson River.

A party of three fur traders came up the Columbia and Okanagan valley to Thompson's River in 1811, finding friendly Indians eager to trade plentiful beaver pelts. Consequently, they returned the next year to set up the first small post for the Astorians, promptly followed by the Nor'westers, who came across the Rockies, and who, in 1813, bought out the American company.

In 1821, the North West Company amalgamated with the Hudson's Bay Company, using the latter name. Trade continued to be active at Thompson's River Post, then situated northeast of the river junction. In 1843, they moved to a site near the point in North Kamloops - very convenient for fine horse range and hay meadows, but subject to frequent flooding. This was the era of large fur brigades from New Caledonia in the north, and the climate and bunch grass of our district provided excellent breeding and wintering ground for the horses.

The discovery of gold brought many adventurers into the country in the late 1850's; the majority came from the United States and China. Some miners worked Tranquille Creek, others explored the North Thompson and Shuswap districts, while many more passed through Kamloops on their way to Cariboo riches. The first farms were established in response to the demand for beef, pork, vegetables and grain, and soon became very productive.

This was the beginning of ranching, still a vital facet of our economy.

When British Columbia became part of Canada in 1871, a trans continental railroad was promised. Surveys started promptly, and this provided employment for local settlers, and a market for their produce. There were many political problems and delays, but construction reached this area in 1883, and a small village grew on the south shore of the Thompson.

When the C.P.R. was completed three years later, the community mushroomed, with hotels, stores, churches, schools and a hospital. In 1893, the population of about 500 decided to incorporate as a City, complete with fire department, telephone, water works and electrical light systems, bought from previous private enterprises.

The first South Thompson bridge was built in 1887, to be followed by one to North Kamloops in 1901. The first lumber was cut in 1865 to build the first of many paddlewheel steamers, and this was soon followed by lumber mills at Tranquille and what is now Riverside Park. In later years, the lumber industry became of prime importance.

From 1886, C.P.R. men constituted much of the work force, and in 1915 the Canadian Northern Railway was completed, adding its quota. The modern Trans Canada Highway was opened in 1962, and the Yellowhead Highway in 1970. Kamloops, at the junction of these four transportation systems, has been justifiably called the "Hub City".

In the 1920's, after recovery from war losses and vicious influenza epidemics, growth was rapid until slowed by the Depression and World War II. Since then, the pace has accelerated, and the old orchard, farming and market gardening center has been engulfed by suburban developments and industry.

The Royalite Refinery, now Gulf Oil, opened in 1955, and the Natural Gas pipeline soon afterwards, Kamloops Pulp and Paper Mill, now Domtar, was established in 1964, with a massive expansion in 1971. In 1977, Afton Mines and Smelter commenced operations.

In June, 1967, North Kamloops was amalgamated with the older south shore Kamloops, and in May, 1973, the municipalities of Valleyview, Brocklehurst, Rayleigh, Barnharvale and Dufferin, as well as a large unincorporated area, were also added.

Kamloops Museum & Archives
207 Seymour Street
Kamloops, BC V2C 2E7
ph 250-828-3576
fx 250-828-3760

Kamloops, The Hunter's Paradise (pdf)

Ten Things to do in Kamloops

Kamloops pow wow grand entry 2013

2011 Kamloopa Powwow Mens Traditional Special

Return to our History of British Columbia Page

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