Learn about the History of Golden, BC
It was adventure that brought the first explorers over the Rocky Mountains. But it was the treasures of Golden that made them stay. The area still exudes the same feeling of discovery and exploration the first pioneers felt.
In 1807, David Thompson first crossed over the Rocky Mountains and traveled along the Blaeberry River to the future site of Golden. In search of the Columbia River and, ultimately, a passage to the Pacific Ocean, it was Thompson’s sense of exploration that led him here. Thompson’s travels took him to the junction of the legendary Columbia and Kicking Horse Rivers.
It took 75 years of men with visions of homes, families and prosperity to come along.
The first settlement of just one building was established in 1882 and was simply called “McMillians Camp”. The site was previously used by Major A.B. Rogers as a food cache for his survey crew who were searching for a route through the Selkirk Mountains for the Canadian Pacific Railway’s (CPR) transcontinental railway. The name "Golden City" was chosen to replace “McMillians Camp” in response to a nearby lumber camp naming itself 'Silver City'. Soon the term "City" became a little too pretentious for most and the town became known simply as Golden.
Canadian Pacific Railway
Golden would simply not exist without the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR). In fact, the railway’s presence helped establish Golden’s place in Canada. As the CPR constructed its cross-country network of rails, it used Golden as a base camp as it extended further into the western part of B.C.
The railway was completed in 1885 and Golden soon became a prominent stop on the line. The CPR also paved the way for the Trans-Canada Highway, which helped to transform the area from a forest outpost to a true community.
On May 8, 1886, Captain Frank P Armstrong, launched the steamboat "The Duchess” at Golden. Departing from the Columbia Lake she was charged with transporting supplies for Golden and the never-ending appetites of the busy CPR crew.
However exciting, it was a short lived era, for the construction of the southbound CPR tracks in 1914 executed the quick demise of the romantic era of steamboat transportation.
The CPR recognized that many travellers through Golden would want to stay, explore and discover the incredible area for themselves. To this end, the CPR hired professional Swiss guides to assist in providing connections to this compelling yet rugged landscape. In 1899, Eduard Feuz Sr. and Christian Haesler came to Canada from Switzerland to serve as mountain guides. In 1911, the CPR built homes in Golden for their sons, Edward Feuz Jr. and Christian Haesler Jr., and their fellow guides, naming it the ‘Swiss Village’, or ‘Edelweiss.’
Mountaineering activity in the region attracted international visitors, including Alpine Club of Canada members, who based their mountain explorations from Golden.
The Swiss Village still exists today and is situated 1.5 kilometres west of Golden.
Read Swiss Guides Shaping Mountain Culture by Ilona Spaar. courtesy of the Consulate General of Switzerland Vancouver
For well over a century, Golden’s fortunes have been linked with the forestry industry; sawmills have come and gone, been burned down and rebuilt and are wrapped in a list of owners as long as a Douglas Fir log - where the health of the industry went, so went Golden’s well being.
The forest industry was initiated with the building of the CPR Railroads, which required 3000 railroad ties per mile. There was also demand for buildings, bridges, trestles and snowsheds, some of which took huge quantities of large timber.
Kicking Horse's Origins
In 1858, the Imperial Government sent John Palliser out to find a feasible route from the Prairies through the mountains so it could extend the railway. A geologist, named Sir James Hector, was among those on the expedition team. Following a string of bad events, Hector ended up stumbling upon the Kicking Horse Pass. As the story goes, he was camped out at the Great Divide when one of the team's pack horses got loose and crossed the river. Sir James jumped into the water and swam after it, eventually rounding the horse up. While trying to tie it to a tree near his horse, the two animals became enraged and started fighting. During the ruckus, Sir James suffered a vicious kick from his own steed. The sheer force broke three of his ribs and knocked him out. In fact, he was unconscious for so long, his three Native guides were convinced he was dead and decided to bury him. As they were carrying Sir James's lifeless body to a grave some distance away, he suddenly came to. When he was well enough to move around, he explored the valley and eventually discovered the pass that became the route through the mountains. The pass and the river were dubbed "Kicking Horse" in his honour.
While in Golden, visit the Golden Museum’s permanent and new exhibits. Call 250.344.5169 or visit www.goldenbcmuseum.com.
Key Historical Dates for Golden, BC
- 1807 - David Thompson crossed the Rocky Mountains and spent the summer surveying the Columbia River.
- 1858 - The Palliser Expedition was sent out by the Imperial Government and led by John Palliser to find a possible route through the mountains for a roadway.
- 1858 - Sir James Hector was kicked in the chest by his horse, which let to the naming of the Kicking Horse River.
- 1871 - Walter Moberly was sent out by the government to inspect Howse Pass and the Blaeberry for suitability for the railroad.
- 1882 - While working for the Canadian Pacific Railway and using information gathered by Walter Moberly, A.B. Rogers found the pass for the railroad.
- 1882 - Golden's first name was "McMillian's camp".
- 1883 - Baptiste Morigeau became the first merchant in Golden.
- 1885 - The last spike was driven on the Transcontinental Railway that would like Canada from ocean to ocean.
- 1886 - The first riverboat "Duchess" operates on the Columbia River.
- 1886 - Mike Carlin changed the name of his lumber camp from Carlin's Camp to "Silver City." Not to be outdone local citizens changed the name of "The Cache" to "Golden City."
- 1893 - The first hospital was built in Golden.
- 1899 - Canadian Pacific Railway brought the first Swiss Mountain Guides to Golden.
- 1899 - CPR moves its divisional headquarters from Donald to Revelstoke, which resulted in the demise of the once thriving metropolis of Donald.
- 1920 - Captain Armstrong piloted the last riverboat, "Nowitka," on the Columbia River.
- 1927 - Columbia River Lumber Company goes out of business as the result of a forest fire in 1926 that burned up their timber limits.
- 1927 - The Kicking Horse Trail is completed between Golden and Calgary.
- 1929 - Construction begins on the Big Bend Highway, which would finally be completed in 1940.
- 1948 - Golden Civic Centre opened on New Years Eve.
- 1957 - The Town of Golden is incorporated.
- 1962 - Trans Canada Highway is opened.
- 2000 - Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is opened.
- 2012 - Golden Civic Centre renovated and reopened on New Years Eve.