Compiled by Mark Forsythe
There was a time when the Similkameen gold rush town of Granite Creek was the third largest centre in British Columbia. Two thousand people streamed in after John Chance discovered gold in 1885 — only Victoria and New Westminster had more people.
Chance hit the jackpot while resting beside Granite Creek. By 1886 a town was taking shape with stores, hotels, saloons (eventually 17 of them) post office and a jailhouse. Europeans, Americans and Chinese miners all tried their luck. After fire destroyed much of the town in 1907 it was partially rebuilt, but by 1918 the gold was played out. Granite Creek entered the history books as a ghost town.
Diane Sterne and her husband Bob live at the nearby mining village of Coalmont. While exploring their local mountainside they stumbled upon an overgrown cemetery. After realizing it was part of Granite Creek’s history they decided to restore it and formed the Granite Creek Preservation Society in 2013.
Then came a lot of hard work — from clearing fallen trees to repairing headstones and fences. They searched out genealogical records of people buried there, and located original documents that help tell the town’s story. The Society was successful at securing a BC/Canada 150 Grant which allowed them to complete the self-guided walking tour in 2018. They’d love you to visit and soak up some rich B.C. gold rush history.
Granite Creek’s short-lived boom spurred more interest and development in the Similkameen Valley. Some people living in the Valley still trace their family history to this almost forgotten part of B.C.’s gold rush history.
How to get there: From Princeton proceed west to Coalmont (19 km). In Coalmont turn left at the stop sign onto Main Street. Take the first right onto Bettes Avenue, cross the bridge over the Tulameen River, turn left and proceed ¾ km. At the intersection of of Blakeburn Road and Rice Road, bear right between them into the Granite Creek Town Site. The Walking Tour begins at the Cairn that was created during B.C.’s centennial year in 1958.
More information: Granite Creek Preservation Society http://www.granitecreekbc.ca