Wild Horse Creek Chinese Burial Ground
Griffith's Cabin and Chinatown
Wildhorse Creek Historic Site
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
Wildhorse Creek Historic Site is the former gold rush town located on a forested bench on the northwest side of the Wildhorse River, approximately 5.5 km northeast of Fort Steele and northeast of Cranbrook in the Kootenay Land District, British Columbia. The historic place consists of the remains of the original town of Fisherville, including building remains, cemetery, Chinese burial ground and apple orchard, along with traces of the final section of the Dewdney Trail. There are numerous landscape scars and manipulations from previous mining activity. Site features are connected by an interpretive trail. The site is bounded by the Wildhorse River, the Wildhorse River Forest Service Road and private property.
Wildhorse Creek Historic Site is of historical, cultural, scientific, spiritual, and social significance, particularly for its connection to gold mining in the East Kootenay region, its association with Chinese settlement and as the eastern terminus of the Dewdney Trail.
The historic site is important as the destination terminus of the Dewdney Trail, the first all-Canadian route across southern British Columbia, completed in 1865 to access the goldfields on the Wildhorse River. Remnants of the Trail are still perceptible on site.
Wildhorse Creek Historic Site has historical importance as the site of the first gold rush in the East Kootenay region. While gold was discovered in the Wildhorse Creek area in 1857, the gold rush did not begin until the spring of 1864. With a population of almost 5,000 in 1865, the substantial mining town of Fisherville offered services including a post office, Gold Commissioner’s office, general stores, saloons, brewery, restaurants and miners’ dwellings. The various remaining features of the site, such as building remains, cemetery, Chinese burial ground and orchard reflect the extent and activities of the original town.
The site is significant as a good example of the history of Chinese settlement across the province and particularly in the West Kootenay region. The Chinese arrived, possibly after working on the Dewdney Trail, after the initial gold rush waned, establishing a Chinatown within the original townsite.
The Chinese burial grounds at Wildhorse Creek Historic Site are valued because of their contribution to an understanding of Chinese overseas burial practices including the siting of the burial ground on a slope above the river, fengshui principles, and interred and non-interred grave sites.
The site has scientific value as an illustration of the changes in mining technology that occurred over time, from gold panning and pick-and-shovel work to early hydraulic placer mining techniques. This activity resulted in the transformation of the landscape seen in the disturbed topography, displaced rock, eroded canyon slopes and the remains of a three-mile-long aqueduct, the Victoria Ditch, which provided water to hydraulically mine the creek bench.
The site has aesthetic value for its wooded landscape of Ponderosa pine, fir, juniper, red-osier dogwood and grasses; scenic trails; views over the Wildhorse River, and its natural mountainous setting that creates a strong sense of place.
The Wildhorse Creek Historic Site reflects the early involvement of the East Kootenay Historical Society in the protection of the place, through its request in 1958 that an area be reserved as a historic site. Wildhorse Creek Historic Site was formally designated as a provincial heritage site in 1996.
The site has further social value for its current use as a recreation destination, its interpretation by the East Kootenay Historical Society, and its physical and thematic connection to nearby Fort Steele Heritage Town.
Source: BC Heritage Branch, Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations
Key character-defining elements of Wildhorse Creek Historic Site include:
- Location on the Wildhorse River
- Siting above a deep canyon in the East Kootenay region
- Expansive views across the Wildhorse River
- Native conifers and other vegetation
- Remnants of the 1865 Dewdney Trail
- Walking trails, paths and stairs
- Lookout over old hydraulic workings
- Boulder pile remains and disturbed topography from hydraulic workings in the townsite
- Remains of the Victoria Ditch and associated berm
- Remains of apple orchard
- European cemetery
- Chinese burial ground
- Stone fireplace
- Collapsed building remains
- Interpretation of the historic site
Province of British Columbia
Heritage Conservation Act, s.9, s.13(1)(a)
Provincial Heritage Site (Designated)
1864/01/01 to 1958/01/01
Theme - Category and Type
- Developing Economies
- Extraction and Production
- Peopling the Land
Function - Category and Type
- Historic or Interpretive Site
- Natural Resource Extraction Facility or Site
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
BC Heritage Branch
Cross-Reference to Collection
Fort Steele Historic