The historical stories about the origins of Chase are filled with culture, opportunity, and a bit of spice here and there.
The town was named after a flamboyant character named Whitfield Chase, an American from New York State. After originally coming to Canada during the 1858 gold rush, he eventually settled in this area in 1865. He was the first non-native settler to farm and raise a family in what was then called the Shuswap Prairie.
Whitfield Chase was born in 1820 to the famous Chase Family. He left Otego, New York on March 25, 1852 and arrived at Port Townsend, WA, on September 24, 1852. After Chase’s sailing partner drowned in 1853, he moved to Victoria to ply his trade as a carpenter. In 1859, Whitfield Chase wrote home, “I may visit California or I may return to the States or I may go to the gold diggings towards the head waters of those streams which flow into the Fraser’s River.” By 1862, Whitfield was prospecting up the South Thompson River.
He returned to Kamloops, after a stint in Barkerville, in the fall of 1864. He was determined to go farming and thus the legend was born. Whitfield married the eldest daughter, Per-soons Tolvinek (renamed Elizabeth), of the Neskonlith Indian Band Chief. Together, Elizabeth and Whitfield Chase raised ten children; 4 sons and 6 daughters. Although the community did not exist until more than 10 years after his death, the town was named in his honour.
An American logging company first came to the area in 1907 and purchased what became the original townsite from Whitfield’s eldest son Marcus. They subdivided the land into lots, installed water and electricity and sold lots to workers and business people. For the location of the mill, the company leased approximately 70 acres of land from the Chase family. This bordered the Thompson River near Little Shuswap Lake.
The Chase mill became known as the Adams River Lumber Company. The company was formed July 2, 1907 by J.P. McGoldrick, president of the McGoldrick Lumber Company of Spokane, Washington along with A.J. Lammers, a well known Minnesota lumberman. The mill started up in 1908. The first lot sold in the townsite of Chase on May 5, 1908 was purchased by George Price.
The mill was considered the largest in the interior of British Columbia and the 3rd largest in the province. The mill ran from 1908 to 1925 cutting 30 million board feet in 1910. This averaged 175,000 board feet in a ten hour shift. They employed over 300 men at the time and boasted the highest stack in British Columbia, holy smokes! After the big mill closed, a number of smaller mills ran in the former location up until the 2005.
Chase grew slowly over the next few decades with a core of permanent residents. It was not until incorporation in 1969 that the community began to grow and market itself to the region and province as a tourist destination. Soon people began to explore the area.
Origin of the word ‘Shuswap’
Shuswap is the European version of a local First Nations word “Secwepemc”, which refers to the people of the Secwepemc Nation. The Shuswap/Secwepemc Nations covers an area of 145,040 square kilometers in the British Columbia Interior. Before the town of Chase existed (pre 1908) the main town centre was called Shuswap and was located approximately five kilometers west of the current site.
Beauty All Around You
A song about Chase and the Shuswap, written and performed by Gord Yellich, a local artist. You can listen to the full version of this song by clicking on the link below.