History of Chilliwack


Archeological records date the presence of Indigenous people in the area today known as Chilliwack and the Fraser Valley, to be approximately 10,000 years ago." At the time of first contact it is estimated that there may have been as many as 40,000 to 60,000 people living within Sto:lo territory. After contact with Europeans beginning in 1782, diseases were introduced and reduced this population by 90 to 95%.  When gold seekers first arrived in British Columbia in 1857 there were few aboriginal people left to meet the challenge of the changes brought by the newcomers.

By December, 1858 up to 30,000 miners were pouring into the area, with most travelling through the Chilliwack area.  By the mid-1860s a few of the gold seekers had established small farms to service this growing population. These farms were located near riverboat landings.  In Chilliwack, this meant that Miller's, Sumas and Chilliwack Landing became early population centres.

Township of Chilliwhack

The Township of Chilliwhack was incorporated in 1873, the third oldest municipality in British Columbia. Initially the settlement was concentrated along the Fraser River at Chilliwack Landing. Here the steamboats (the main mode of transportation between Chilliwack and New Westminster), arrived and departed goods and passengers.

Since the small community had little room for expansion along the river, the main commercial area of the town moved up the road to the junction of the New Westminster-Yale Wagon Road, Wellington Avenue and Young Road. The centre came to be called Five Corners.

In 1881 a large subdivision called Centreville was developed. In 1887 the name Centreville was replaced by a more popular name, Chilliwhack, and the area was incorporated in 1908 as a separate municipality, the City of Chilliwack. The City and the Township co-existed for 72 years, and finally in 1980 they merged to form the District of Chilliwack.  In 1999 the District of Chilliwack changed to the City of Chilliwack.

You may have noticed the slight variation in spelling of Chilliwack. It used to be spelled Chilliwhack and then was changed to Chilliwack.

Chilliwack, How did we get our name?

The City derives its name from the Halq’eméylem word “Ts’elxwéyeqw” which elder Albert Louie, of Yakweakwioose, talked about it meaning ‘as going as far as you can go upriver’ in reference to travelling by canoe up the Chilliwack River sloughs leading to Soowahlie. Halq’eméylem is the traditional language of the Stό:lō (People of the River).

For more information on Chilliwack's history or on the families that founded this community you can visit the Chilliwack Museum and Archives in this site.

Photo of Yale Road looking east from Five Corners, ca 1920   Photo No 576
Yale Road looking east from Five Corners, ca 1920
Chilliwack Archives (604.795.5210)
Photo No P580
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Photo of Wellington Avenue, 1910   Photo No 580
Wellington Avenue, 1910
Chilliwack Archives (604.795.5210)
Photo No P576
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Photo of The Vedder Bridge   Photo No 3504
The Vedder Bridge, ca 1896
Chilliwack Archives (604.795.5210)
Photo No P3504
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Photo of Sternwheeler on the Fraser   Photo No 3505
Sternwheeler on the Fraser
Chilliwack Archives (604.795.5210)
Photo No P3505
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