Though small in population, Princeton has a large and fascinating history.
The land around Princeton was used by First Nations people as a source of red ochre, a valuable trading material. In 1846, fur traders, settlers, and miners established trade routes connecting the area - which was then known as "Vermillion Forks" - to the Pacific Coast of British Columbia. John Fall Allison was the first white settler to live in the region. To this day, the site of his home functions as a "kilometre zero," with creeks east of Princeton having names like "Five Mile" based on their distance from where Allison lived. The town he founded later became "Prince Town" in 1860 to commemorate a visit by Prince Edward.
The railways arrived between 1909–1915,. The Kettle Valley Railway (later Canadian Pacific) eventually connected Princeton to the Great Northern railway.
Joining the Canadian Board of Trade (later Chamber of Commerce) in 1913, Princeton incorporated as a village in 1951, and later as a town in 1978.
The Princeton and Similkameen area boasts a wide array of interesting historical landmarks and tales, some of which I've shared below.
The Princeton Brewery
Up until 1961, Princeton was home to a well-known brewery, the Princeton Brewing Company. My father-in-law, Gordon Currie, was a longtime Princeton resident who once worked as a delivery driver for the company. The brewery once used local caves to keep its beer cool. The Vermilion Cave - which could hold up to 24 freight loads of beer at a time - was ultimately demolished to make way for the Hope-Princeton Highway, and was located directly behind where the Princeton Bus Depot currently resides.
The Brown Bridge
The current brown bridge was built in the 1930's, so has been a part of Princeton longer than I have! I can't even begin to count the number of times I must have crossed this bridge over the years.
The bridge was featured in a Burt Reynold's movie which I also "starred" in as an extra. My scene was ultimately cut, but I still have some of Burt's specially made fake cigarettes!
Princeton and the iconic Brown Bridge as seen over the years.
The bridge as seen today.
Kit Summers was a long-time resident of the region in the late 1800's and early 1900's. He was very well-known in Princeton. He was also a relative of mine. He worked at the Similkameen Hotel and eventually became the sole proprietor of the Great Northern Hotel in Hedley.
One of our local creeks, Summers Creek, is named after Kit.
This incredible coat - made from a real Grizzly pelt - was originally owned and worn by Kit Summers. The coat was eventually handed down to my family. A few years ago, we donated the coat to the Princeton Museum where it can be seen today.
It wasn't the most comfortable coat I've ever worn, but it sure kept you warm!
One of the most famous and notorious train robbers in North American history, the legendary Bill Miner hid out in Princeton for a number of years in the early 1900's. Living under an assumed name, he would often disappeared from town for long periods. Years later, after his capture, people realized his frequent absences corresponded with a number of train robberies.
By all accounts, "George Edwards" was a well-liked and respected member of the community - active in church and public events. He would often MC village dances and festivals and kids loved him for the candies he would always hand out. He just happened to be a train robber.
- Bill Miner
Those who don't express their feelings and desires
shall remain in the shadows and pass out of sight.”