Area History E-mail

 Centuries before European settlers arrived, the Nicola Valley was inhabited by the Interior Salish First Nations people who used the area for their winter encampment.  The area was discovered by pioneers searching for a trading route between the Coast and the Interior.  In the mid 1850’s, the Nicola Valley became home to ranchers attracted to the area because of its rich grasslands that were ideally suited for livestock. 

Established in 1882, the community of Nicola Lake was the government and commercial center for the Nicola Valley.  The Nicola Courthouse was built in 1886, and this charming heritage building is still used today for private gatherings.  Nicola Lake was slated to become BC’s capital city at the turn of the century, and in 1905 the community’s name was officially shortened to Nicola.   

With the completion of the railway in 1885 and the discovery of coal at the convergence of the Nicola and Coldwater River, the area’s commercial center shifted to what is now the City of Merritt.  Over the years, the local economy diversified to include ranching, mining and forestry.  1986 marked the completion of the Coquihalla highway which provided a direct link from Merritt to the Lower Mainland.  The completion of all three phases of the Coquihalla highway has established Merritt as a transportation hub and the gateway to the Southern Interior.