Lillooet has perhaps experienced more "boom and bust" periods than any other in BC. This is traditional St'at'imc territory (an large area from Pemberton to Lillooet and from Harison Lake to Bridge River). The St'at'imc name for the Lillooet area was Tl'itl'kt which means "white" because of nearby limestone deposits. When gold miners during the 1858 Fraser River Gold Rush reached here they named the place Cayoosh Flats because it is where Cayoosh Creek runs into the Fraser River.
In 1860 the name was changed to Lillooet because that is where the trail from Lillooet lake reached the Fraser River. Lillooet is the name of the First Nations who live at what is now known as Mount Curie on the lillooet River. The St'at'imc were displaced and moved to a bench overlooking the gold-rush townsite. The Department of Indian Affairs later called the First Nations here Lillooet after the name of the gold-rush town.
Lillooet was the end of the Harrison-Lillooet route that was created in 1858. It followed Harrison Lake and a series of portages and smaller waterways such as Anderson and Seton Lakes until Lillooet was reached on the Fraser River. From there in 1862 Sergeant McMurphy of the Royal Engineers began supervising construction of a road northwards along the Fraser River, up and over Pavillion Mountain to Clinton, then northwards into the Cariboo. Gustavus Blin Wright was the contractor for a 224-mile stretch of this route from Lillooet to Fort Alexandria. Parsonville (on the east bank of the Fraser River across from Lillooet) was designated Mile “0” on this new road and stops along the way were named based on the number of miles they were from Lillooet. This original route to the Cariboo was difficult (especially the climb over Pavillion Mountain) and time-consuming.
A different Cariboo Wagon Road was started in 1862 from Yale. It folowed the Fraser and Thompson rivers and by-passed Lilloet. When the other route was completed in 1864 the route through Lillooet was redundant, except for local travel, Lillooet became a ghost town.
During the 1880s, Chinese men, thrown out of work by the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway, mined the tailings along the Fraser and found rich Cayoosh Creek from which they took seven million dollars worth of gold. By 1886, these people were gone and Lillooet was a ghost town for the second time.
In 1896, the Golden Cache Mine was discovered on a mountain near Lillooet by a hunter. Lillooet boomed briefly, but became a ghost town for the third time when the mine's rich ore was depleted.
The Pacific Great Eastern Railway at the beginning of the World War I revitalized the town and resulted in the sale of considerable land in the area. The depression almost brought about Lillooet's fourth decline, but the discovery of the Bridge River mines saved the town. Mining, logging,farming (particularly for ginseng, one of the newst cash crops in the area) and tourism are important economic factors in Lillooet today.
Mark Forsythe and Greg Dickson, The Trail of 1958: British Columbia’s Gold Rush Past, Harbour Publishing, 2008.
Cheryl Coull, A Traveller's Guide to Aboriginal BC, Whitecap Books, 1996.
Irene Edwards, Short Portage to Lillooet & Other Trails and Tales, Irene Edwards, 1978.