PHOTOS: Looking back at the floods of 1894 and 1948 in Chilliwack
Boys on homemade rafts and men in canoes on Mill Street during the flood of 1894. The photo was taken at the corner of Wellington looking north on Mill Street. Two houses in the background are the residences of W.A. Rose and G. Wilkinson, Victoria Ave. West. Benjamin Southwell Bradshaw sitting in canoe. Two of five boys on raft include Roy Chadsey and Alex Chadsey. Norm McGillivray visible on right with dog. Don McGillivray standing behind Norm. (Photograph courtesy of the Chilliwack Museum and Archives 682). An overhead view of the Chilliwack village site during the 1894 Fraser River flood. Image shows a view of the area south of Wellington Avenue, including what became Main Street and Yale Road West. The Chilliwack Methodist Church is visible on the Yale Road at centre left in image. (Photograph courtesy of the Chilliwack Museum and Archives P662). Overhead view of Chilliwack during the 1894 flood, looking east towards Little Mountain from the steeple of Cooke’s Prebyterian Church on Wellington Avenue. Image shows yards and houses inundated with flood waters up to the front door step on most houses. Presbyterian Church manse visible at bottom right of image (1894). (Photograph courtesy of the Chilliwack Museum and Archives P691). An overhead view of Wellington Avenue, as seen from the spire of Cooke’s Presbyterian Church, looking towards Five Corners and beyond (1894). Photograph courtesy of the Chilliwack Museum and Archives P693). Two men holding bow of row boat at the front porch of the Ronald W. and Dorothy Toop home during 1948 flood. One man is seen standing in the row boat with milk can. The Toop home was at 448 Trans Canada Highway (1948). (Photograph courtesy of the Chilliwack Museum and Archives P666). The Chinatown/Glendale area, looking south along Yale Road from the Chilliwack River dyke in the direction of Chinatown during the 1948 flood. Gardens, homes, Fraser Valley Frosted Food plant, garages and groceries were inundated. Debris of all kinds floated in the water. (The Chilliwack Progress, June 2, 1948, p.5; Photograph courtesy of the Chilliwack Museum and Archives P665). An aerial view, without horizon, of the Fraser River and part of Sumas Mountain, during the 1948 Fraser River flood. Nicomen Island is seen inundated with flood water at top centre in image. Chilliwack Mountain is visible at top right (1948). (Photograph courtesy of the Chilliwack Museum and Archives P669). Men and women standing on Atchelitz Bridge, looking east along a mile of the flooded Trans-Canada Highway (1948). (Photograph courtesy of the Chilliwack Museum and Archives 676). Distant view of people in canoes and rafts on the Hope River during the 1948 flood. A large, two-storey Tudor house is seen along river at top centre in image (1948). (Photograph courtesy of the Chilliwack Museum and Archives P661).
As Fraser River freshet waters recede, and the city saw some minor flooding along the Vedder River during recent rains, The Chilliwack Progress took a look back at some historical photographs of the large floods that devastated Chilliwack both in 1894 and again in 1948.
The images show aerial views of the high water in downtown Chilliwack and the Fraser River. Boys on homemade rafts can be seen in one image as a rowboat outside the front door of the Toop family house is shown in another photo. Debris is seen floating in the street in one of the historical shots, while in another the water is so high it comes right up to the base of Atchelitz Bridge.
The first major flood came in 1894.
“On June 6, 1894, the flood water reached its maximum height of 25.75 feet on the Mission gauge. The entire Chilliwack community was submerged in water and there was extensive damage to crops and livestock,” reads an article from the Chilliwack Museum and Archives. “The effect on farmers was devastating, especially since most were unable to replant that year. C.P.R lines were damaged and communication was interrupted for several days. The streets of Chilliwack became streams that were only passable by boat or raft. Boys provided ferry service for those needing to cross the streets with their homemade rafts.”
The water rose again in 1948.
“The deluge of water that rushed down the Fraser River in 1948 has yet to be surpassed,” wrote historian Sue Bryant in 2018, marking the 70 anniversary of the flood. “The statistics of that year were staggering, with more than 2,300 homes destroyed [from Chilliwack to Richmond], 16,000 people forced to evacuate and many livestock and crops lost in a time when the area relied heavily on agriculture. At its peak, the water level was measured at 7.6 metres.”
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