83 Mile House
83 Mile House
Original barn, still in use for their Belgian horses, sleigh wagons and carriages.

83 Mile House

by Lauren Ledig Klingbiel of Sointula, BC

My husband and I exchange trips instead of “things” for birthday presents; memories will go with us everywhere and it has been said that “things” usually end up in a yard sale or dump.

This October we headed up the Fraser River on Highway 97 to 83 Mile House. Visitors will find comfortable accommodations and restaurants in nearby 100 Mile House, as well as a great Information Center with a friendly helpful staff.

First timers up this route may wonder just what the term “Mile Houses” mean. When gold was discovered on the Fraser River in 1858, the influx of miners made it necessary to establish a short route from Garrison River and Lake up to Lillooet and to historic Barkerville.

A wagon road was quickly roughed out to haul equipment and goods to the mines. The Royal Engineers established Lillooet as “Mile 0.” Settlers saw business opportunities and established convenient stopping places along the route. As the traveling was slow in those days, travelers by foot, oxen and horse-drawn freight wagons, could stop for meals or sleep at the conveniently placed “Mile Houses.” The B.X. Stagecoach stopped overnight for their passengers to rest and to exchange their horses here.

The Mile Houses from Clinton up the Cariboo are original and have existed from Lillooet to 150 Mile House since 1863.

83 Mile House
Ray and Vi Young.

Our journey took us to 83 Mile House Farm Equipment Museum, owned by Ray and Vi Young. Ray and Vi have lived in the 100 Mile House area for the last 46 years. They were married at Canim Lake, British Columbia.

They moved into a nearby subdivision after selling their ranch, but soon found it difficult to drive their Clydesdale team because of the traffic.

They were again looking for another place. They drove past 83 Mile House and saw a “for sale” sign. It was just what they were looking for. It had 25 acres with 83 Mile Creek running along one boundary and a big log barn built in the 1860’s on the property that was in extremely good shape. They are surrounded by forest with deer and moose for neighbours along with several varieties of wild birds that visit them in the summer and winter. They have jack pine, poplar and spruce trees here with willows along the creek edge. Because of the large rocks, their gardening is done in raised beds.

The original 83 Mile House burned down as did many of the places of that era, but it was rebuilt and served as a café and rest stop until the highway was relocated in 1948.

Ray and Vi began collecting horse drawn equipment from local people about 30 years ago. They were interested in preserving this heritage that was so rapidly disappearing. Besides British Columbia, they have traveled throughout the western part of Canada, including Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, collecting their treasures of the past.

83 Mile House
83 Mile House antique horse drawn equipment.

As we wandered through the rows of equipment, Ray pointed out some of their oldest pieces. He showed us a Gilpin Moore Sulky Plow, built in 1875, for Deere & Co., Moline, Illinois. He also had another sulky plow built in 1885 and a Hay Press, New Model Steel Beauty, Whitman Agricultural Co., St. Louis, Missouri built in 1870 to 1890.

As we entered their largest 1860’s barn, we saw it was packed full of buggies, some with European origins. From Canada, they had doctors buggies, vis-à-vis, cutters, democrats, and a rare caboose complete with a stove for use of the prairies for going to school and town in the winter. They had a hunting cart and a ladies Phateon from England, a mountain wagon from Switzerland, and from Sweden, a 1912 carriage and another wagon.

83 Mile House

Going out into the breezeway, we saw 4 huge wagons stored for the winter. The first was a tank wagon. Next to this were two grain wagons and the last one was a three tier wagon whose top two tiers could be removed to make a shorter sided wagon.

Vi showed us the treasures in their other outbuildings. The bunkhouse is basically set up as it would have been back in the 1860’s. It also contains a beautiful old dentist’s chair and a rare optometrist’s chair as well.

Another cabin contained some old furniture of the 1840’s period and various sewing machines.

The next cabin housed a wide collection of items having to do with milk and butter production: churns, separators, water-cooled milk coolers, milk and cream cans and bottles, and even old milking machines of different eras, complete with compressors.

They have a cabin that displays various types of saws used in logging and for home use, traps of all sizes and kinds, wash boards (zinc as well as green glass), and an array of tubs all used by pioneers and miners.

The large cabin was our favourite. Both Ray and Vi delight themselves by having visitors guess what certain things are in here. We were right in guessing the uses of many of the items, but were stumped on the machine that pressed the metal to be used in making the blinders for the work horse bridles.

Visitors find themselves being transported back in time looking at all kinds of old tools, lanterns, horse bells, clothing and irons. They even had scales for weighing gold complete with weights in a glass cabinet.

They have a pair of Clydesdale mares that they use on their own wagon and bobsleigh. This year they were loaned to the restored gold town of Barkerville to haul freight and mail into the town as no motorized vehicles are allowed in the town.

Barkerville, Richfield, and Wells were the main sites of the Cariboo gold rush of the 1880’s.

I asked Ray and Vi what they enjoyed the most in their museum and they replied the pleasure they get showing everyone their collection. They agreed that the worst thing was not being able to travel and find new items to add to their collection while the weather is good in the summer, as everyone expects them to be open during this time.

Their future plans consist of restoring the property as close as possible to the original layout.

They have had people wanting to buy various items they have and they stated that they won’t sell anything, but, will trade a piece that they have two of for something they don’t have.

83 Mile House

People find their museum by seeing the equipment from the highway and noticing their sign. The visitor Information Centre in 100 Mile House also sends them many people. Another way, of course, is by word of mouth. Ray and Vi’s son is having some serious discussion with them trying to get them to go on line with a website and computer. Some things you just don’t rush into!

Traveling North up Highway 97 to 83 Mile House is not only a beautiful scenic trip, but the bonus is meeting wonderful people like Ray and Vi Young, where you can also see and experience their view of the past.