The History Of 150 Mile House

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CraigBaird
Williams Lake Tribune

For centuries, before Europeans came to the area of 150 Mile House, the land was occupied by the Shuswap people, who had a large territory that covered most of the interior of the province. Their trading networks would extend far beyond their territory, reaching the coast of British Columbia and into the Canadian Prairies and the land of the Blackfoot.

The start of 150 Mile House begins with the building of the Cariboo Wagon Road, which was built in the 1860s and extended along the original Hudson’s Bay Company Harrison Trail, going from Lillooet, all the way up into northern British Columbia.

It was in 1856 when Thomas W. Davidson began transporting goods to Fort Alexandria. Along the way, he came across empty farmland near Williams Lake and Chief William, the local Indigenous leader, gave him permission to set up a farm on the land. He would set up a store and stopping house along the wagon road, and slowly a community grew up around the two buildings. This community would become known as 150 Mile House.

The community would have some brief boom years, but with the growth of Williams Lake, the community slowly saw its population decline until it was an unincorporated community.

Today, 150 Mile House is occupied mostly by farmland, but it has several interesting buildings that can be explored with a deep history that stretches back over a century. Many of the people who now live in 150 Mile House are commuters from Williams Lake.

In 1895, a small school house was built at 150 Mile House and the amazing thing about this building is that it not only still stands, but it is the oldest functional school building in the entire district. Constructed through the fall and winter of 1895 and 1896 along the Cariboo Wagon Road, the building is one of the few remaining historical buildings still in the community. It was also built using local lumber, local funding and volunteer labour. During its early years, the school saw children bring their horses to school, which were stabled at a nearby barn. Across the road, the doctor’s house could be found, and the courthouse I will mention later was also located close by. The school would operate from 1896 to 1958, serving as a school, meeting place and social centre for the community. It would be the centerpiece school of the original Williams Lake School District. The school would be used as a home from 1960 to 1978, and from 1980 to today it has served as a historic display building and heritage classroom. The school still contains its original porch, entranceway and cloakroom. Due to its heritage, the building was made a heritage building in 1987.

In 1909, an old fashioned stage coach robbery would occur outside of 150 Mile House. The robbery took place on Nov. 1 of that year, at a spot where the road was thick with underbrush. The two robbers were hidden behind a bush and as the stage coach approached, they sprang out and told the driver to give them the mail bags or they would kill him. The driver was Charles Westoby, who was deaf and did not hear what they said. He attempted to rush through the men but passenger Al Whiteside stopped him from doing so. The robbers then said quote:

“The mail sacks in two seconds or your life.”

Westoby then handed them a sack containing issues of the Cariboo Observer but they caught on and told him to hand over the three registered sacks and the locked sack from 150 Mile House. The men then ran off with their ill-gotten gains. It was dark and it was not possible to tell who the robbers were or see any distinguishing features of the men. The men were said to be middle aged based on the tone of their voices. It was believed that the robbery was committed by local men. The Cariboo Observer wrote quote:

“A very clean job was made of the opening of the letters which was done quite near the scene of the hold-up. The cheques which were enclosed in the letters were left there but quite a lot of money which was being send to the big mail order houses was missing.”

Police followed several clues and the mail sacks were recovered, where there were many untouched letters.

The robbers would never be found.

In 1913, the 150 Mile House Courthouse was built as a single-framed wood building during a time when 150 Mile House was an important centre in the region and handled many judicial affairs for the area. It also served as the residence of the BC Provincial Police Constable as he made his patrols through the region. As the importance 150 Mile House faded due to Williams Lake growing in population, the courthouse would stop being used by 1928. It would be saved twice from demolition by members of the community and today is the last evidence of the importance 150 Mile House had a century ago. Due to its heritage, the building was added to the Community Heritage Register in 2007.

On April 2, 1923, it was a momentous day when the first automobile arrived at 150 Mile House, having been driven over the mountains from Ashcroft. The automobile was owned by the Interior Transportation Company and it arrived with passengers. It was hoped that the company would make regular service possible between the two communities.

Today, the main attraction of 150 Mile House is 50 Centre, which is a mini-mall and gas station.

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