The first settlers in Sicamous were from Finland. Sicamous (meaning narrow or squeezed in the middle) has a history that consists of many interesting subjects, native heritage, Columbia gold discovery, paddle wheelers and construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR.)
In the 1800’s this area was inhabited by a semi-nomadic Indian group called the Shuswaps. They crossed the Rockies to hunt buffalo on the plains. In this area they were called the “Schickamoos”. In 1871 a Provincial Map shows Schickamoos Narrows which in early history was known as a “meeting place of Indians”.
In 1864 gold was discovered on the Columbia. Seymour Arm became a supply centre in the Big Bend gold rush. The Hudson’s Bay Company built the first steamer, others were built, some privately, some by the CPR. However, after the completion of the CPR, the steamers were doomed to extinction. Rail transport was faster and after the 1920’s the steamers were used mostly for pleasure.
In 1885 permanent settlers arrived after the driving of the Last Spike at Craigellachie which linked Canada sea to sea. Old Town (or Eagle Pass Landing) became an instant town in 1871. It was the central supply centre for railway construction. Today it is used for recreational purposes for the public.
Later in the early 1900’s CPR hill became a residential development. Finlayson’s store and a jail was built in 1892 adding a post office in 1904. Also, the first school was opened around the years of 1908 and 1910. In 1949 the bridge was built across the channel, having previously been just a ferry crossing. Several hotels were opened over the years. In the early 1900’s the well known Sicamous Hotel was built. it was Tudor style with 75 rooms and a large elegant dining room. The dances were well attended being dressy and posh affairs. It was demolished in 1964 and today there are still many inquiries about the hotel.
Eagle Valley became the home of many settlers. They came and farmed the land putting up with forests, deep snow and hordes of mosquitoes. Then the well known D Dutchmen Dairy was built. The first newspaper in Sicamous was the Eagle Valley News, it was printed for the first time on October 22, 1958. It continues to print today.
Sicamous certainly has an interesting past with its many houseboats and beautiful countryside it surely has a bright future. With incorporation in 1989, Sicamous is a vibrant, growing community.
- Sicamous-From the Shuswap Indian term meaning “narrow,” or “squeezed in the middle.” This is a good description of this area where the growing delta of the Eagle River has progressively narrowed what once was another arm of Shuswap Lake and formed Mara Lake and Mara Channel (into Shuswap Lake).
- Shuswap Lake-Named after the Shuswap Indians, an Interior Salish tribe who ranged from west of the Fraser River east to the Columbia River, and fro north of McBride to south of Kamloops. Shuswap my be derived from sixwt, meaning “downriver”.
- Solsqua-On C.P.R., N.E. of Sicamous. Solsqua is an anglicization of the Shuswap Indian word meaning “water”.
- Eagle Pass-Walter Moberly, who “rediscovered” this pass, has left us with the story of his naming of it: In the summer of 1865, I was exploring the Gold range of the mountains for the Government of British Columbia, to see if there was any pass through them. I arrived at the Eagle River, and on top of a tree near it’s mouth I saw a nest full of eaglets, and the two old birds on a limb of the same tree. I had nothing but a small revolver in the shape of firearms; this I discharged eight or ten times at the nest, but could not knock it down. The two old birds, after circling around the nest, flew up the valley of the river; it struck me then, if I followed them, I might find the much wished-for pass. I explored the valley two or three weeks afterwards, and having been successful in finding a good pass, I thought the most appropriate name I could ever give it was the “Eagle Pass.”
- Craigellachie-It was here that the last spike of the C.P.R. transcontinental line was driven in 1885. Craigellachie is the name of a high rock in Morayshire, Scotland. Here in olden days the beacon fire was lit that summoned Clan Grant in time of battle. The battle cry of the Grants was “Stand fast, Craigellachie!” In 1884 when the finances of the C.P.R. were desperate, George Stephen (later lord Mount Stephen” raised 50.000 pounds by guaranteeing that he Donald Smith (later lord Strathcona), and R.B. Angus would be personally responsible if the railway defaulted. Stephen and Smith, who were cousins, had grown up close to the crag of Craigellachie and know the old war cry. After completion of the loan, Stephen’s message cabled from London to Smith in Montreal read, “Stand fast, Craigellachie.”
- Cambie-Henry J. Cambie (1836-1928) deserves more than this whistle stop on the C.P.R. Born in County Tipperary, Ireland, he came to Canada while still a boy and learned surveying and railway construction on the Grand Trunk and Intercontinential railways. He came to B.C. in 1874 expecting to build the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway but, when this project was shelved, he was placed in charge, from 1876 to 1878 of all the surveys between Burrard Inlet and Yellowhead Pass for possible routes for the C.P.R. he was in charge of the Fraser Canyon stretch, and that between Savona and Shuswap Lake. The transcontinential like completed, Cambie became the engineer in charge of the Pacific Division and built the New Westminster and Nicola extensions. He was a fine man, and the men who worked for him always remembered the care he took to see that they were properly fed and housed. Cambie Street in Vancouver is also named after him.
- Anstey Arm– The son of a master at Rugby, the famous English public school, Francis Senior Anstey became, during the building of the C.P.R., the first large-scale lumberman on Shuswap Lake. He had a logging camp on Anstey Arm as early as 1882.
- Mara Lake-After John Andrew Mara, one of the Overlanders of 1862. After his epic journey west he became a merchant, blossomed as a capitalist entrepreneur, presided as Speaker over the B.C. Legislature, and went on to become an M.P. in Ottawa.