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St. John the Divine
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Front Street Saloons

Branch saloon
The Branch Saloon and hotel was a popular place for Yale pioneers. (BC Archives: g-04592)
There were thirteen saloons within 50 m on Yale Front street.

The Branch saloon and Bennett's saloon are only two of many that were constructed along busy Front street. They catered to the miners thirst, which was especially great on pay day. Gordon J. Smith, a journalist and historian, wrote on of his Historical Sketches on the subject of Yale. This scene may be what one would see along Yale's Front street:

Contemporary artists have left prints depicting Front street depicting a row of gabled log building with almost every alternate one labelled "saloon" - often it is also a gaming house. The ungraded street is shown as thronged with a heterogeneous collection of people - hoop-skirted women and flannel-shirted miners with long boots, some depicted as dancing a jig on the street or the rough board walk. The places of amusement never closed their doors, day or night. Bennett's ga[m]bling house, a large log structure where the roulette wheels were constantly turning, was the chief rendezvous, and here public gatherings took place. Panama Lil had her log hut ornately furnished, its trappings being brought from San Francisco, and the lamps with their clusters of dangling prisms were features. There were restaurants, saloons and more saloons. (BC Archives: MS-0383)

Saloons on Front Street
A likely scene on Front Street. St. John the Divine can be seen in the top left. (BC Archives: pdp00411)

Episodes at the saloon proved Yale to be a dangerous gold rush town.

Bennett's saloon was the setting for a grizzly story. D. W. Higgins, who was a resident of Yale in its early days, told the tale of probably the most senseless death witnessed in the town in his "Chasing the Golden Butterfly":

Man in street
How the outcome may have looked.
Two days after the ball a stalwart young Irishman named Barney Rice entered Bennett’s saloon and called for a drink. When served he refused to pay and walked out. The barkeeper, one Foster, followed him and as the miner moved off shot him dead. The body fell on the snow in the street and lay there for some hours. Foster fled and was seen no more at Yale, although several years later he was recognized in Arizona. This dreadful murder was the capsheaf of the judge pile of iniquity which the roughs had been heaping up for many months, and while a Vigilance Committee was forming to take charge of the town and drive the evil-doers out, Lieut.-Governor Moody, Chief Justice Begbie, and Attorney-General Cary, who had been quietly summoned from Victoria by Channell, arrived on the scene. They were accompanied by a detachment of sappers and marines, and I never felt happier in my life than when early one morning I saw the redcoats trekking along on the opposite side of the river toward the ferry crossing. (D. W. Higgins. "Chasing the Golden Butterfly")

The Yale Confederate League
Announcement about the Yale Convention. Click to view the full summary.

Supporters for British Columbia to join confederation with Canada met in Yale.

The Yale convention was a meeting held in the autumn of 1868 after the idea of British Columbia to enter Canada had been decided against in Victoria. Avid supporters met in Yale to discuss the idea, and their summary has been digitized. The convention may have been held in a saloon, since they were the only places with enough room to hold all the members of the confederation league.

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Last updated 31 August 1998.
This digital collection was produced under contract to the SchoolNet Digital Collections Program, Industry Canada.
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