Chilliwack Museum and ArchivesFlooding in Chilliwack

Chilliwack Flood of 1894

The Dewdney Report, 1876

About a decade after the first European settlers came to the Chilliwack area, the Chilliwack River flooded in 1875 and then the Fraser flooded in 1876.  After the floods of 1875 and 1876, the provincial government instructed a skilled civil engineer, Edgar Dewdney, to plan measures for avoiding another major flood. Dewdney’s report, dated November 27, 1876, made the observation that the recent flood had mainly been caused by waters of the Fraser forcing their way up one of its tributaries, the Sumas. Dewdney suggested that a series of levees and flood gates constructed at strategic locations would reduce the danger of flooding.  However, his plans were abandoned because of political and economical reasons.

Prior to the Big Flood

In 1894, no flood control measures existed except for a dam built across the Hope Slough at Rosedale in 1892.  The Province and the township were unable to raise funds for dykes but some farmers attempted to dyke their own lands. The waters began to rise on May 19th after a hot spell that occurred in interior British Columbia which caused the snow in the Rocky Mountains to rapidly melt.  In a Chilliwack Progress article on May 30, 1894, the public was assured that the worst had probably passed since flood water was within a few inches of their highest recorded measure and the rising water had slowed down. However, a lot of devastation had already occurred as C.P.R lines were down and fields had been flooded. 

The Climax

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. 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.

Memories of the 1894 Flood: Dan McIntosh

A farmer who narrowly survived the 1894 flood tells his daughter-in-law, Elizabeth McIntosh, how he tried to save his farm.  McIntosh had only been on his farm on the bank of the Fraser River for a year when the devastating flood occurred.  He did not dream of any danger when he considered the 24-foot bank that separated his land and the river.  When waters began to rise, McIntosh’s wife and son evacuated but he stayed behind.  He tried to reinforce the bank with cottonwoods but the bank gave way.  Since saving his fields were hopeless, he tried to save the house by moving things to the upper stories and then confined himself up there until he was picked up by the paddle-wheeler ‘Gladys.’  McIntosh and his family lost everything and did not return to the farm.

The Aftermath

As news of the devastation spread to Victoria, people were anxious to help those in need.  The Sumas Prairie was flooded to a height of over 15 feet which made it possible for steamers, such as the ‘Gladys,’ steam from Huntington to Chilliwack.  These steamers, along with people in canoes and other boats, brought provisions and rescued settlers and livestock.  Government and private sources provided relief for those in need.  There was no government compensation for lost crops and property but through neighbourly co-operation and good spirits, the community recovered.  The silt that the river deposited also became a positive aspect as it increased the fertility of the farm land.



Chilliwack Museum and Archives 45820 Spadina Avenue, Chilliwack, BC, Canada V20 1T3 [604.795.5210]