Oliver and District Museum

Osoyoos & District Museum and Archives
Customs Houses Online Exhibit

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Customs Comes to B.C.

The discovery of gold in 1857 along the Fraser and Thompson rivers proved to be a major incentive for Americans to venture north. In 1858, more than 30,000 miners came north from California to the Fraser gold fields. Seeing the risk posed by such an influx of Americans in the region, James Douglas, governor of Vancouver Island, declared the mainland a British colony in November 1858. Just a year after Governor Douglas made Britain's claim on the mainland, gold was discovered at Rock Creek. The discovery led to the need for a customs office to deal with the vast number of Americans soon to swarm to the South Okanagan. At the same time, the boundary was being formally surveyed along the 49th parallel.

A group of miners stop for a photo along the Similkameen River.

A group of miners takes a moment to stop for a photo along the Similkameen River, c. 1930. Prospectors are still active along the river today.

Until the Southern Boundary Act of 1860, New Westminster was the main port of entry for the Columbia District. Introduced by Governor Douglas, the act permitted any "goods, wares, animals or merchandise" to be imported anywhere along the 49th parallel as long as a qualified customs officer was paid the appropriate duties. The Act was a huge advantage in dealing with the increased miner presence in places along the 49th parallel.