To celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary the Revelstoke Mountaineer has compiled some interesting facts about Revelstoke. From Indigenous peoples’ lives in the area, to a gold rush, a police war, a newspaper war, a feature movie being filmed here and more — there have been a lot of interesting things that have happened in Revelstoke over the past 150 years. Here is a list of highlights:
Prior to pioneers settling in the Revelstoke area, Indigenous peoples including the Sinixt, the Ktunaxa, the Secwepemc, and the Syilx use the Columbia River as a transportation route. They visit Revelstoke in the summers to harvest huckleberries, and again in the fall to catch salmon and Kokanee.
David Thompson completes his navigation of the Columbia River in 1811 and the fur trade opens up on the Columbia.
The Big Bend gold rush takes place in 1861. Gold commissioner W.G. Cox reports to Governor Douglas that the Kootenai (Ktunaxa) have told him of gold on the Columbia.
By 1865 a gold rush is well underway in the Big Bend area north of Revelstoke.
The townsite of Farwell is surveyed and Front Street becomes the centre of activity.
Revelstoke’s first fire brigade is formed in 1882.
Between 1880–1885 the Canadian Pacific Railway employs as many as 15,000 Chinese men as labourers. The work was difficult and dangerous. Later, many of these men chose to settle in Revelstoke.
In 1882, Major A.B. Rogers is paid $5,000 by the CPR for finding a feasible pass through the Selkirks. A year later he still hasn’t cashed the cheque. When asked why he responds: “I have had the cheque framed and it is hanging on the wall of my brother’s house where my nieces and nephews can see it.”
The driving of the Last Spike takes place at Craigellachie (west of Revelstoke) on November 7, 1885 completing construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The story goes that Donald Smith, who drove the last spike, bent the first spike. He managed to successfully hammer the second spike into place.
A camp is set up in an avalanche free area of Rogers Pass during the winter of 1885. Men stay there to study the paths of avalanches. This results in the construction of 31 snow sheds covering almost 9.6 km of railway track. Despite this avalanches still cause issues.
Mining is revived in Revelstoke during 1885 thanks to the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway.
The North West Mounted Police establish a barracks and jail at what is now Douglas Street Hill. They are withdrawn after a little more than a year when the Riel Uprising takes place on the Prairies.
A police riot breaks during 1885. NWMP attempt to enforce a federal law prohibiting the sale of alcohol, while magistrate Gilbert Sproat and Chief Const. John Kirkup try to withhold the sale of alcohol. Relations between the two police forces became strained, resulting in the ‘Farwell Police War.’
The town of Farwell is officially changed to Revelstoke on June 1, 1886.
CPR builds its first permanent station in Revelstoke in 1887. It’s located at the east end of the platform and east of Revelstoke.
In 1888, the S.S. Despatch, a 54-foot-long catamaran steamer is built by the Columbia Towing Transportation Company. The steamer is known for its unusual design with a bulky wooden cabin sitting on top of the steamer’s twin hull.
The S.S. Lytton is built in Revelstoke for $38,000 in 1890. It’s designed to be able to navigate the Columbia when waters are too shallow for other vessels.
Revelstoke’s first permanent school is opened in 1889.
In 1890 Swedish miner Ole Sandberg uses his ‘Norwegian Snowshoes’ (skis) to travel into Revelstoke from his claims in Albert Canyon.
The Canadian Pacific Railway starts construction on a branch line between Revelstoke and the end of Arrow Lakes during 1891.
In June of 1894 high flood waters take out the bridges on the CPR branch line between Revelstoke and the end of the Arrow Lakes. Many miles of track have to be rebuilt.
A 1894 report from the Kootenay Mail notes the Revelstoke Brewery is the largest of its kind in the Kootenays. The brewery ceased operation in 1900.
There is a newspaper war in Revelstoke in 1895. The editor apparently locked himself into his office to print a paper telling his side of the story. Eventually he had to go and eat. When he did this the owners of the newspaper locked him out of the building and published a version telling their side of the story.
Telephone service becomes available in Revelstoke in 1896.
Revelstoke’s first courthouse is built in 1897. The two storey structure features five rooms on the ground floor and a court room on the second floor.
A dam on the Illecillewaet River provides electric power to Revelstoke in 1898.
The Revelstoke Opera House opens in 1898.
Revelstoke is incorporated as a city on March 1, 1899.
Frank McCarty becomes the first Mayor of Revelstoke in 1889.
An avalanche demolishes Rogers Pass Station and seven people lose their lives in 1899.
The oldest identifiable headstones at the Mountain View Cemetery date back to the late 1880s.
Revelstoke’s first indoor skating and curling rink opens in the year 1900.
During the 1900s, many Norwegian and Swedish families settle in Revelstoke. They are instrumental in introducing skiing to the area.
As of 1900 Revelstoke’s Chinese community is concentrated to two blocks on Front Street and Benson and King. The Chinese community includes two grocery stores, a laundry and the Chinese Joss House.
The Revelstoke Cigar Manufacturing Company opens in 1901.
The Revelstoke Hospital Auxiliary Society is incorporated in 1901.
The original Queen Victoria Hospital opens (where Save-on-Foods is now) in 1902
The steamship SS Revelstoke is built for service on the Columbia River in 1902.
Central School opens (on far end of Mountain View playing field) in 1903.
Revelstoke’s first high school opens in 1904.
A YMCA is built in 1906. It includes a gymnasium, bowling alley and indoor pool.
A horseracing track is built in Columbia Park on what is now part of the Revelstoke Golf Course.
The first recorded ascent of Mount Begbie takes place in 1907 by Rev. Robert Robertson, Rupert Haggen, Rev. Dr. J. Herdman, and Swiss guide Edward Feuz.
By 1907 there are a total of 13 sawmills in and around Revelstoke.
The worst avalanche in Rogers Pass occurs on March 4, 1910. A total of 58 men are killed.
Selkirk School opens on Sixth Street East in 1911.
Agricultural Hall is built in Columbia Park in 1911. This is the current location of the Revelstoke Golf Club clubhouse.
In 1912 it is announced a new Revelstoke Courthouse is to be built. The laying of the cornerstone building is a gala event and many businesses close early so people can attend.
The brick Queen Victoria Hospital opens in 1913.
Charlie Sing moves to Revelstoke in 1913. He had a Chinese Market Garden and was popular with many children. During the summer and fall he drove his horse and cart through the back lanes of town selling produce. When school was out, he often had children tagging along for a ride.
Moving to Revelstoke in 1913 didn’t cost much by today’s standards. When Dan Gawuik’s grandparents immigrated here they could purchase 40 acres of land for between $15 and $25.
Over 600 men and about six women signed up for active service during World War I during 1914–1918. Over 100 of these men were killed.
Mount Revelstoke becomes a National Park in 1914.
New Revelstoke High School building opens (now part of Mountain View Elementary) in 1914.
Revelstoke’s first Winter Carnival is organized in 1915. It included ski jumping on Mount Revelstoke.
During the First World War there are 24 Interment Camps across Canada. More than 5,500 civilians from Eastern Europe are sent to these camps. A camp is set up on Mount Revelstoke between September and December 1915. At its height it had 200 internees and 75 guards.
Connaught Tunnel is built to reroute Canadian Pacific Railway line through the mountains in 1916, bypassing the worst avalanche areas of Rogers Pass.
Ski jumper Nels Nelson manages 183 feet after jumping off the newly built jump at Revelstoke National Park in 1916.
First Trans-Canada airplane flight forced down at Revelstoke during a snowstorm in 1920. The plane landed on a field that is the site of the present airport.
A 1921 census shows Revelstoke’s population to be 3,500.
Highway opens from Revelstoke to Sicamous in 1922.
Revelstoke female ski jumper Pat Coursier sets a world record on the Nels Nelson Ski Jump in 1922.
Current Big Eddy bridge was opens to traffic in 1924.
Revelstoke Golf Course opens in 1924.
Revelstoke’s second skating rink opens in 1925.
Post Office and Customs Office opens at the corner of First and Boyle (the current Revelstoke Museum & Archives building) in 1926.
The road to the summit of Mount Revelstoke National Park is completed in 1927.
In 1929 Sophie Atkinson is the first woman to hold a one-woman show at the Art Gallery of the Newcastle Exhibition. She is also sponsored by CPR to paint whatever scenes of Western Canada she likes. They are used by CPR as part of a marketing campaign to promote Canada overseas.
Revelstoke Rotary Club began improvements at Williamson’s Lake during 1930.
A Hollywood movie entitled ‘The Silent Barrier’ is filmed in Revelstoke in 1936.
King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) visit Revelstoke in 1939
Catherine (Bennet) Fraser cuts the ribbon for the opening ceremony of the Big Bend Highway in 1940, allowing cars on either side to proceed.
Big Bend Highway from Revelstoke to Golden was opens on June 30, 1940.
In 1949 the formerly named ‘Big Hill’ ski jump is rebuilt and renamed the Nels Nelson Ski Jump. At a prior competition visiting jumpers refuse to jump and a visiting judge deems the jump too dangerous, despite local jumpers making spectacular jumps off the original Big Hill jump.
Prior to the 1950s there were more than 200 farmsteads from Revelstoke to 12 Mile.
Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) visits in Revelstoke in 1951.
The Revelstoke & District Historical Association is formed in 1958 (now Revelstoke Museum & Archives Association).
Estelle Dickey (who is known along with her husband for taking many photographs of Revelstoke) becomes the first woman president of the Chamber of Commerce in Revelstoke in 1959.
Central School burns down in 1959.
Visit of Queen Elizabeth II visits again in 1959.
Operation Palaci starts to help mitigate avalanche threats in Rogers Pass. It is one of the longest running Canadian Forces operations, domestic or expeditionary in Canadian history.
Rogers Pass Highway opens from Revelstoke to Golden in 1962.
The current arena and curling rink opens in 1963. This is where you can go catch the Revelstoke Grizzlies Junior B hockey team.
Mount Mackenzie skill hill opens in 1964. This is the present day site of Revelstoke Mountain Resort.
The former location of Revelstoke Secondary School opens in 1965. Revelstoke Secondary School has since been moved to a location nearby, and Mount Begbie Elementary School has been built closer to the location of the old high school.
Centennial Pool opens in 1967.
Hugh Keenleyside dam is completed at Castlegar in 1968, flooding the valley as far north as Revelstoke.
The Revelstoke Snowmobile Club is established in 1968.
Cross country ski trails are built at the base of Mount Revelstoke during the late 1970s, bringing a renewed interest in Nordic skiing.
Present Queen Victoria Hospital opens in 1970.
Mica Dam opens in 1970.
In 1972, 2,447 centimetres (80 feet) of snow falls on Mount Copeland outside of Revelstoke. This is the Canadian record for snowiest single winter. Snow levels were higher than many roofs.
The old Queen Victoria Hospital (located where the current Save-on-Foods parking lot is), is demolished in 1972. The last patients leave in 1971.
Revelstoke Museum and Archives moves to its present location on First Street in 1974.
The last ski jump competition in Revelstoke is held in 1975. A decline in the sport and a lack of interest in the many hours to prepare the jumps are to blame.
The Revelstoke Theatre Company forms as a society.
Revelstoke Community Centre opens in 1979
The current fire hall opens in 1982.
Selkirk School is torn down in 1983.
Blanket Glacier Chalet is opened in 1983. It is the first self-catering backcountry lodge southwest of Revelstoke.
Revelstoke Dam is completed in 1984. ‘Project 5’ is expected to go ahead. It doesn’t and many workers are laid off.
The Revelstoke Downtown Revitalization project is completed in 1985. This includes Grizzly Plaza.
The first Farmers’ Market in Revelstoke is held in 1987.
Macdonald Tunnel in Rogers Pass is completed in 1988.
Revelstoke Railway Museum opens in 1993.
Revelstoke’s Centennial Year takes place in 1999.
Current RCMP Revelstoke Detachment opens in 2002.
The Canadian Avalanche Centre is created in 2004 to coordinate public avalanche forecasts and a safety programs.
Revelstoke Aquatic Centre opens in 2005.
Centennial of first ascent of Mount Begbie takes place in 2007 — a time capsule is planted.
Revelstoke Mountain Resort opens in December 2007.
The sixth Lord Baron of Revelstoke, Edward Charles Baron, visits Revelstoke during the 2009 homecoming. Revelstoke is named after Edward Charles Baring, First Baron of Revelstoke. The title of Lord Revelstoke is still in existence today.
In the fall of 2009, people in Japan create 1,000 cranes to commemorate the 1910 avalanche in Rogers Pass.
In 2013 local radio DJ Shaun Aquiline writes and produces a film about his father, and the men he’d worked along side for decades. It can be found on the National Screen Institute of Canada website (http://www.nsi-canada.ca).
In 2014 another motion picture, Mountain Men, is filmed in Revelstoke. It stars Chace Crawford and Tyler Labine. Numerous people from Revelstoke are involved in the film and many feature as extras.
The “pipe” a mountain roller coaster ride opens at Revelstoke Mountain Resort in 2016.
A 2016 census count places Revelstoke’s population at 6,719.
National Snowbike Motocross event takes place February 4 and 5, 2017. This is the first time the new sport has taken place in Revelstoke. It takes place at the Revy Riders Dirtbike track.
Kay Martin is Revelstoke’s oldest living resident. She turned 105 on June 17, 2017.