Oliver and District Museum

Osoyoos & District Museum and Archives
Customs Houses Online Exhibit

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What Crossed the Border?

American settlement of the Oregon country in the 1840s had resulted in a surplus of cattle in the region. The gold rushes to the Fraser and Thompson rivers in 1858, to Rock Creek and the Similkameen in 1859, and to the Cariboo after 1860 brought thousands of miners and cattle drovers northward along the early fur brigade trails.

The incursion of miners and cattle drovers prompted the colonial government of B.C. to establish customs officers to intercept livestock and merchandise and charge appropriate duties. A duty of one dollar per head and a "drover's fee" of $50 for six months was established for anyone driving cattle into B.C.

In 1862, it was recorded that 9,285 head of horses, cattle and sheep entered B.C. at Osoyoos, and over $2,200 in revenues was collected. During the years from 1859 until 1870, over 22,000 head of cattle crossed the border at Osoyoos and were driven up the brigade trail into the B.C. Interior.


A sketch map by Gold Commissioner W.G. Cox, c. 1861 showing the new customs house at the head of Osoyoos Lake where John C. Haynes was posted, replacing the customs house on the Similkameen River dating from 1860. Note the trails on both sides of Osoyoos Lake and the crossing place at the narrows (before a bridge was built). Other buildings south of the border are also shown.