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History of Prince Rupert, BC

Early History

Located on the picturesque shores of British Columbia on a secluded Island, the city of Prince Rupert embodies the history of the Pacific Northwest. The history of Prince Rupert spans thousands of years. About 5,000 years ago, this area was occupied by the Tsimshian people and several other First Nations. Early inhabitants of the area relied heavily on fishing and farming, complimenting their diet by berries.

The 19th century saw the loss of the Tsimshian people’s influence in the area around present-day Prince Rupert. The soon-to-be-named Prince Rupert became the western terminus for the GTP — the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, Canada’s historic transcontinental railway that stretched from Prince Rupert to Winnipeg. The town’s development as a terminus for the GTP sparked interest in surveying the area.

The name for the town was selected in 1906 — after Rupert of the Rhine, the first governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company (although he himself never visited Canada). Between 1906 and 1910, the first infrastructure of the new town was developed, including a wharf, roads, and residential buildings. In May 1909, there was a public action to sell 2,400 lots in Prince Rupert, which tripled the population of the town. One year later, in 1910, Prince Rupert was incorporated and the first election was held, with Alfred Stork elected as the first mayor of the city.

During the Second World War, Prince Rupert was home to U.S. and Canadian troops, with the town’s population reaching 21,000. Predictably, with the departure of military personnel after the war ended, Prince Rupert saw a significant decline in population. In the 1950s, fishing became Prince Rupert’s main industry. The construction of a pulp mill, as well as the development of city infrastructure, helped to keep the city afloat. Between the 1960s and 1980s, a civic center, a public library, a swimming pool, and an arts center were built in Prince Rupert.

Lucy Island Lighthouse in Prince_Rupert, BC
Lucy Island Lighthouse in Prince_Rupert, BC

Late History

The 1990s were not easy for Prince Rupert, with fishing and forestry experiencing a serious setback. Many people lost their jobs and equipment was left unused. At that time, many residents decided to leave the city in search of jobs. However, the new millennium brought a ray of hope for Prince Rupert, with the construction of a container terminal and a new dock, as well as the expansion of tourism in the area.

In 2020, Prince Rupert is a promising city on the Canadian map with considerable expansions planned for the forthcoming decades.