My Grandfather and his family migrated to Abbotsford from Manitoba in the early 1940’s, they had been a part of a Mennonite Colony that had fled Russia in 1925. Our history is rich in Abbotsford, and Abbotsford has a rich history. From its first mill and its ties to the CP Railway to being known as the Berry capital of Canada. A while back I wrote a couple of short posts about Abbotsford’s Mill Lake history, one of my most favorite places in Abbotsford, and I felt that it deserved its own blog post. So here it is.
In the late 1800's Mill Lake's first mill produced over 50,000 railway ties for the Canadian Pacific Railway, which was promised to British Columbia to get the colony to join the confederation in 1871, which they did (YEAH). The lake was originally named Bais Lake, after a pioneer farmer. Later it was named Abbotsford Lake due to the proximity of the small village of Abbotsford, however, that name did not last long and soon after it was named Mill Lake.
Did you know, the Japanese water lilies that float on the lake today were brought over from Japan by the homesick wives of the mill workers in the early 1900's? Many of the workers were Japanese, Chinese and South Asian during the late 1800’s and 1900’s. The Abbotsford Timber and Trading Company, that was established in 1912 nine years after the Tretheway brothers purchased the mill on Mill Lake, donated building materials for Abbotsford's first Sikh Temple. The lumber was carried by Sikh men, by hand, from the lake to the temple location on South Fraser Way where it still stands and is one of Canada’s oldest Sikh Temple.
The mill closed down in 1934 due to the Great Depression and a severe depletion of the forests in the area, which caused frequent flooding. The Abbotsford Lions Club purchased the site, and with the help of the District of Matsqui, they removed the old mill equipment and started to develop the park into what it is today.
Mill Lake is full of trout and is apart of the “fishing in the city” program designated by the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC, there is an outdoor pool, splash park, and some great playgrounds for the kids. The easy walking trails around the lake let you really take in the beauty of it. The lake is home of the Western Painted Turtle, which is an endangered list, a pair of resident bald eagles, cheeky squirrels, and ducks, lots of ducks.
· Most of this information was researched on http://boulevardgroup.ca
-Alyson Whittle UA
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