An Overview of Yale's Historic Past

Aboriginal History

Yale has been a place where people have lived for over 8,000 to 10,000 years. Archaeologists have found many places near Yale where stone tools and other objects were used by the First Nations people. First Nations people still live here in a small village near the Fraser River. They call the river "Sto:lo" [pronounced Stah-low] and the First Nations people who live along the Fraser River in Yale call themselves Tait People. The First nations who lived along the Fraser River used the plentiful salmon as their main source of food. Today if you look down at the rocks below the highway you can still see some of the wooden racks used for drying fish that are still used by the First Nations people.

Fur Traders

Fur traders from England and other European countries started coming to British Columbia (used to be known as New Caledonia) about 200 years ago. They traded manufactured goods (such as iron pots and blankets) for furs which they took to Europe for making hats. Simon Fraser was the first fur trader to travel down the river which now bears his name. He came past Yale in 1808, but the river is very rough and dangerous here and most fur traders preferred to use other routes for traveling. In 1848 an English fur trading company called the Hudson's Bay Company ( or H.B.C. for short) established a small wooden fort here and called it Fort Yale. Yale was named after James Murray Yale who was once the chief factor for Fort Langley.

The Gold Rush

In 1858 gold was discovered on a gravel bar just 2 miles south of Yale on the Fraser River. This place was soon known as Hill's Bar named after the prospector who found gold there. The discovery of gold caused a massive influx of people to pour into the region from all over the world, the majority of which came from the California Gold Rush of 1849. Yale suddenly became a very large city with many stores, restaurants and hotels along the river. Houses and churches were built on the hill overlooking the river. Yale once was known as the biggest city west of Chicago and north of San Francisco.

Steamboats and Paddlewheelers

Steamboats could come up the Fraser River from Vancouver only as far as Yale, because the river above Yale is too rough for boats to navigate through. This is why Yale became such a busy town. All the miners and all the supplies they needed had to pass through Yale. From here they were transferred to horses and wagons and taken to places farther north by road.

Cariboo Wagon Road

In 1862 the government paid for a road that started in Yale and went for 400 miles to gold mining town called Barkerville in part of northern British Columbia called "the Cariboo". The narrow, steep, rocky road was called the Cariboo Wagon Road. today's modern highway follows much of the old road.

The Railway

In 1871 British Columbia became part of Canada and the Canadian government promised to build a railway to connect the Atlantic coast of the country with the Pacific coast. During the period of railway construction in the 1880's Yale became a very busy place once again as the main supply centre for all the work in the Cascade Division of British Columbia. The railway that now passes right through the middle of Yale in front of the museum and church is the Canadian Pacific Railway and the trains that frequently pass travel thousands of miles across Canada.

Years of Decline

After railway construction was finished boat traffic to Yale stopped and Yale began to grow smaller. Unfortunately there have been many fires in Yale so most of the historic buildings have gone, but the stories of the Indians, the exciting days of the Gold Rush and the railway are all kept alive in the museum.

Yale Museum

The Museum is located in an old 1868 house in Yale. The items which will be of special interest are the Indian baskets, fishing dip nets, and stone tools found at Yale. The historical photographs of Yale will show you what the town was like from 1858 to the 1880's. Yale once had a large Chinese population and the exhibits show items from the early Chinese community.

St. John the Divine Church

Next door to the museum is the church. It was built by the Church of England (Anglican) in 1863 and it is one of the oldest churches still standing on it's original site in British Columbia. Regular services are no longer held here, but it is used for special ceremonies such as weddings. When you are inside, you are welcome to pull the rope and ring the bell in the tower.

Questions or comments: Jennifer Iredale, Curator -