Timeline of Significant Events in Mission’s History

8000-2000 BCE          Carbon-dating from 4,000 to 10,000 years ago, documents the Sto:lo people as having lived on the land we now call Mission City or the District of Mission.

1780-81                       Sto:lo in the area experience first contact through small pox, which travels up the Fraser River through the Puget Sound and the Columbia River. The disease spreads quickly through established trade routes in heavily populated areas. 80% of the native population dies from initial contact (direct deaths from disease at 40-45%, the rest die from starvation).

1781-1800                   13 to 14 non- indigenous diseases (other than smallpox) sweep through the area, each one decimating an additional 20% of the remaining population.  During this time, the Hatzic tribe becomes extinct (the few remaining members joining extended family groups in other tribes in the area).

1808                            Simon Fraser paddles past what is now Mission and stops just below New Westminster.  He and his crew become involved in an argument with the local tribe and are chased back up the Fraser River.

1823                            The Hudson’s Bay Company sends men to scout for a location to build a fort.  They eventually settle at Fort Langley, but cattle are grazed on islands just off where Mission is to be established.

1856                            Gold found near Hope.

1858                            Gold is discovered on the Fraser River and the area is flooded by miners coming up from the California Gold Rush. Sternwheelers are the only mode of transportation up the Fraser and Harrison Rivers.  Earliest settlers make a living by supplying cordwood to the sternwheelers.  At this time, there are more paddlewheelers on the Fraser than the Mississippi River.  The gold rush brought settlers who claimed Sto:lo land and thereby changed the power structure of who governed the Valley.

1861                            Father Fouquet of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) arrives and establishes a Roman Catholic Residential School and Mission just east of where Mission is to be established.  Nicomen Island is homesteaded. Most of the free 160 acre plots are at right angles to the Fraser River and have their own landings.

1863                            The OMI open a school for First Nations Boys.

1864                            The Federal Government sets aside 27,000 acres in the Mission/Matsqui area as reserve land.

1865                            The Federal Government reduced the reserve area to less than 5,000 acres, choosing to recognize illegal and irregular pre-emptions rather than compensate settlers or Sto:lo groups.

1868                            The OMI open a school for First Nations Girls.

1869                            The linking of the Union and Pacific Railways.

1875                            First Post Office opened in a location that is uncertain.

1882                            First school built at Burton Prairie, now Hatzic.

1882                            Mission’s first railway station is built on the original St. Mary’s Mission site.  St Mary’s moves onto the hillside above the station.

1882 -85                      Construction of the railway begins using Native, Chinese, and White Labourers.  It is said that one Chinese Labourer died for each mile of railway track laid in the Fraser Canyon.  Lumber becomes a prosperous industry as ties for the railway are supplied locally, while the steel used came up to the area by sternwheeler.

1883                            James Trethewey  “bought an acre of land just below the mission, built there a house and store, and this gave promise of the founding of Mission City.”  Gibbard, Ibid.

1884                            Mission is known as St. Mary’s Mission.

1885                            Construction of Mission Junction Station.

1887                            First Transcontinental train from Montreal to Vancouver.

1889                            Mission is known as Mission Junction.

1889                            Mission is seen as a boomtown, as a railway link to the United States nears completion.  Land Speculators such as James Welton Horne arrived to buy up the land around Mission.

1891                            The Fraser River Railway Bridge officially opens.

1891                            Townsite of Mission is laid out and ’The Great Land Sale’ takes place on May 19th.  About 1000 people are brought into Mission by rail and paddle wheeler from as far away as Victoria. At the height of the auction, a lot was being sold at a rate of one every two minutes. By the end of the day, 150 lots had been sold.

1892                            Mission’s second railway station is built in the “Y” of the tracks in the town. Very few buildings are built on the Hillside to the North of the Tracks.

1892                            Corporation of the District of Mission is formed, surrounding Townsite.

1893                            Mission City News begins publishing.

1894                            First recorded flooding of the Fraser River.  Water level is recorded at 25.75 feet.  Mission City, originally beside the river, now moves up the hill to its present location.  A Chinatown developes in the abandoned buildings on the flats.

1894                            First Mission Agricultural Fair held.

1899                            CPR [Canadian Pacific Railway] opens a branch line crossing the Fraser from Mission to Huntington on the U.S. border to provide an interchange with American railroads.

1904                            Canada’s first Train Robbery occurs near Silverdale by the Kentucky Stage Coach Bandit, Billy Miner. Despite a reward for $15.000 being posted, Miner is not captured until 1905, following another robbery near Kamloops.

1907                            Telephone service from Mission to Hatzic established.

1907                            The Canadian Bank of Commerce Building comes to town as part of a twenty four boxcar train of Bank buildings and is assembled on First Avenue.

1908                            The Fraser Valley Record and its building are established.

1909                            Mission becomes known as the “Land of the Big Red Strawberry”. Berries become the main cash crop.

1909                            Mission’s third railway station is built.

1910-17                       Expanded transportation routes such as the B.C. Electric Railway, the Canadian Northern and finally Canadian National on the south side of the river take away some of the prospects for the District.

1911-29                       Mission’s “golden years”.  Most of Mission’s heritage buildings were built during this time.

1911                            Kootenay Jam Factory (later King Beach) opens.

1912                            Stave Falls Power Plant and Dam are built.  It is second in size only to the dam at Niagara Falls, Ontario when it is completed. It supplied power to Mission and down into Sumas, Washington.

1912                            Mission’s first movie theatre opens.

1914-18                       World War I.  270 Mission men serve overseas.

After the war, Japanese farmers arrive and settle in the area.

1915                            Fruit canning plants are established.

1920                            Driving changes from the left hand to the right hand side of the road.

1922                            The Townsite of Mission becomes the Village of Mission and is run by a Board of Commissioners.

1923                            The original Mission Secondary School opens.  It was Mission first designated high school and was located on Welton and Fourth Ave.

1925                            Mission Memorial Hospital opens at Fifth Ave. and James St.

1927                            The population of the Townsite is now estimated at 1,000 and that of the whole Municipality at 5,000.

1927                            C.P. Railway Bridge is planked to allow motor vehicles to cross the Fraser.  The Ferry across the Fraser River at Mission is discontinued as a result.

1929                            Municipal Hall on First Ave. built.

1930                            Ruskin Dam is built.

1936                            A small flood in Mission.

1939 – 45                    World War II.  Many Mission people served in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Merchant Marine.  “C” Company of Westminster Regiment, a Machine Gun Regiment, served overseas in Italy and Northwestern Europe.

1942                            Japanese-Canadians are sent to internment camps.

1946                            Mission stages the first Strawberry Festival with the Soapbox Derby as one of its events.

1947                            The Mission Soapbox Derby becomes part of the American Soapbox Association meaning the winner from Mission would go on to compete at the All-American Soapbox Derby Championships in Akron Ohio.

1947                            The Canadian Bank of Commerce building is moved onto its present-day site on 2nd Ave. and becomes the Library.

1947                            The Eddy Match Factory opens.

1947                            Mission’s first officially sanctioned Western Canada Soapbox Derby is conducted. (Winner went on to compete in the All-American Soapbox Derby in Akron, Ohio.)

1948                            The “Great Flood” in Mission City.  The second major flood of the Fraser River is recorded as water levels reach 24.73 feet.

1949                            The Mission Soapbox Derby separates from the Strawberry Festival and remains on First Ave. while the rest of the festivities move to the Fairgrounds (present day Leisure Centre).

1950                            The Village of Mission changes its name to the Village of Mission City.

1953                            Benedictine monks establish Westminster Abbey.

1956                            The Strawberry Festival ends due to the increasing popularity of the Soapbox Derby, which continues to run.

1958                            B.C.’s first municipal forest is established in the Mission area.

1958                            Due to an increase in population, the Village of Mission City becomes the first in BC to change to Town status.  At this time, a council and a Mayor are elected to run the Town of Mission City.

1959                            Mission Plaza Shopping Centre opens on First Ave.

1961                            The Federal Government builds a new Native Residential School, which now houses the Native Tribal Police Program.

1962                            Historical OMI School buildings destroyed.

1965                            The Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes is demolished.

1965                            The new Mission Hospital is built on Hurd Street.

1965                            Mission Raceway opens.

1968                            The skating arena opens.

1969                            The Corporation of the District of Mission City and Town of Mission City amalgamate to become the District of Mission.

1969                            St. Mary’s (the third residential school) closes as a segregated school, but continues to operate as a dormitory for rural Native children attending Mission Secondary School.

1972                            New Centennial Library opens on the corner of Second and James.

1972                            The Mission District Historical Society is incorporated and establishes a Museum and Archives in the former Bank of Commerce/Library Building.

1973                            The new Highway Bridge is opened across the Fraser for road traffic.

1973                            The Indian Friendship Centre is established.

1974                            The new Municipal Hall is built on Stave Lake Road replacing the one on First Avenue.

1974                            The Soapbox Derby is cancelled due to withdrawal of a major sponsor and lack of funding.

1977                            The Mission Leisure Centre is built at Taulbut St. and Seventh Ave.

1979                            Mission Hills Shopping Centre built.

1980                            Mission Heritage Association is formed to preserve the second site of St. Mary’s Mission within the grounds of Fraser River Heritage Park.

1986                            Fraser River Heritage Park opens.

1989                            Mission Community Archives is established.

1990                            Developers with the help of archaeologist Gordon Mohs, find hundreds of Sto:lo artefacts at the Hatzic Rock now known as  Xá:ytem Longhouse Interpretive Centre. Through the efforts of the Friends of the Hatzic Rock Society, this ancient site was saved and is officially recognized as a National Heritage site, to be preserved in perpetuity. The developer was given another site by the City of Mission.

1990                            Mission third railway station closes.

1992                            The Museum Building is restored to its original 1907 finish.

1994                            The Mission Community Archives and the Mission Library are moved into their new building on Second Ave. and Murray.

1995                            The West Coast Express commuter train begins service directly linking Mission to Vancouver and the municipalities in between.

1997                            Hatzic Rock (Xa:ytem) plaqued a National Heritage Site.

1999                            Mission third railway station burns to the ground after an accidentally-lit fire.

1999                            The Soapbox Derby is re-established as an annual event.