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Quesnel Forks

Quesnel Forks, British Columbia, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2016/01/27

Quesnel Forks cemetery gate, 2000. Photographer: Marie Elliott; BC Heritage Branch, courtesy Marie Elliott
Quesnel Forks cemetery, 2000
Quesnel Forks sign, 2000. Photographer: Marie Elliott; BC Heritage Branch, courtesy Marie Elliott
Quesnel Forks sign, 2000
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Listed on the Canadian Register: 2017/06/02

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

Quesnel Forks is a gold mining ghost town on the north shore of the Quesnel River near the confluence of the Cariboo and Quesnel Rivers, in British Columbia. The site is 160 kilometres southeast of Quesnel and 140 kilometres south of Barkerville. The site is located on Crown land, with a BC Forest Service campsite nearby. It includes standing buildings, ruined building sites and a cemetery.

Heritage Value

Quesnel Forks has historical, cultural, social and spiritual value as evidence of Chinese Canadian participation in the very earliest development of British Columbia, for its long history of economic and cultural importance derived from Chinese Canadian industry, and for its continued importance to today’s local community.

Established in 1859, and originally known as Quesnelle Forks, Quesnel Forks is significant for being the original gateway to the rich Cariboo gold fields, and for its historical role as a major central supply site for both white and Chinese miners prior to Barkerville's dominance in the period after 1865. Surveyed by the Royal Engineers in 1861, the townsite reflects a history of settlement and gold mining in the area that predates the completion of the Cariboo Wagon Road which ultimately bypassed Quesnel Forks to terminate at Barkerville.

Quesnel Forks is important because it illustrates both the very early Chinese Canadian presence in the settlement and region, and the significant Chinese Canadian contribution to the supply of goods and services that supported the booming Cariboo gold rush economy. It was home for a stable and sizable Chinese Canadian population – only Victoria and Nanaimo were thought to be larger during the Cariboo’s gold mining years - and attracted labourers seeking new work opportunities in gold mining (including the Bullion Pit hydraulic mine), road building, dam construction and other occupations following their work on the Cariboo Wagon Road and the Canadian Pacific Railway.

Despite a population decline beginning in the late 1800s, there remained a number of merchants, farmers, tradesmen, laundrymen, cooks and other workers in Quesnel Forks who supported both the local Chinese Canadian population and the regional mining community. Chinese Canadians remained a vital presence in the Quesnel Forks area until the 1940s.

The townsite has cultural value because it included typical institutions and amenities found in most Chinese Canadian settlements, such as tong houses, shops, businesses, farms and gardens, and a cemetery. In the North Cariboo, Chinese Canadians actively reinforced their cultural identity, with Quesnel Forks having one of the oldest Chee Kung Tong buildings in Canada. This society of Chinese Freemasons welcomed newcomers, assisted them in finding work, engaged the Chinese community in annual festivals such as Five-ancestor and Wan Yun-long, and contributed funerary and other rituals in Quesnel Forks. Today, the place has spiritual value for many Chinese Canadians as an ancestral home.

Quesnel Forks has cultural and social significance as a relatively well-preserved abandoned gold rush townsite, with a local community that finds the place worth documenting and conserving. The buildings and site are cared for by residents of nearby Likely. It is important as a regional tourist destination where visitors can explore the preserved Chee Kung Tong, other pioneer buildings, and the historic cemetery.

Source: Province of British Columbia, Heritage Branch

Character-Defining Elements

Not applicable.



British Columbia

Recognition Authority

Province of British Columbia

Recognition Statute

Heritage Conservation Act, s.18

Recognition Type

Provincially Recognized Heritage Site (Recognized)

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1861/01/01 to 1861/01/01
1859/01/01 to 1865/01/01
1940/01/01 to 1940/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Developing Economies
Trade and Commerce
Peopling the Land
Peopling the Land
Migration and Immigration

Function - Category and Type



Religion, Ritual and Funeral
Mortuary Site, Cemetery or Enclosure

Architect / Designer




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Province of British Columbia, Heritage Branch

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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