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History of Downtown Quesnel

Over the coming months, we will be researching and posting facts and interesting tidbits of historical information on the downtown core of Quesnel. 

We will be starting with the namesakes of our streets. Unlike other downtown cores, our streets are not numbered, but named for historical figures who were instrumental in the development of Quesnel as a town.

More links will be added as time goes on. Please come back and check it out.

If you have any information you would like to add, please feel free to contact us at the QDA at qdaevents@gmail.com

History of our Downtown Street Names

James ReidReid Street

James Reid (October 2, 1839 – May 5, 1904) was a Canadian entrepreneur and parliamentarian from British Columbia.

Reid was born in Wakefield, Lower Canada, (Wakefield is one of many villages of the Municipality La Pêche, with the village centre on the western shore of the Gatineau River, at the confluence of the La Pêche River in the Outaouais region of the province of Quebec in Canada. It is thirty-five kilometres northwest of Ottawa, Ontario.)

The son of James Reid and Ann Maxwell, and was educated in Hull, Quebec and Ottawa. He moved to British Columbia in 1862, with a cousin, nearly perishing on the trip to the northern Cariboo region. Reid eventually prospered as a miner and established his own business empire in Quesnellemouth (now Quesnel). In 1883, he married Charlotte Clarke. Reid’s business included saw and flour mills, mining operations, riverboat construction and the main general store in Quesnel. Reid owned his own riverboat, the Charlotte which was one of the main supply vessels into the area.

Reid was elected to Member of Parliament for Cariboo as a Liberal-Conservative in an 1881 by-election on the death of incumbent MP Joshua Spencer Thompson. He was acclaimed in the following federal election and re-elected in 1887. Prime Minister Macdonald appointed Reid to the Senate in 1888. He held that office until his death in Vancouver in 1904.

* Source: Wikipedia

Following his death, a nephew, George Cowan, purchased the Reid store, and operated it as Cowan's Hardware. The building was one of many to perish in the disastrous fire of 1916, but was quickly rebuilt by Cowan, this time with clay bricks, made by the Quesnel Brick Company.

* Source: Cariboo Treasures: Perspectives on a Cariboo Civilization

James Reid General Store   
James Reid General Store
Built in the early 1870s and was a large, fully stocked general store.
Built where today would be the corner of Front St and Carson Ave
Reid had been a successful miner of the 1860s, and invested his wealth in the community of Quesnel.


James Reid Flour Mill

James Reid Flour Mill

A famous local farm was called the Johnston Farm. It had gone through several names and owners over the years.

The farm is named for William and Roxalena Johnston who came to Quesnel from Quebec in the late 1880s. William was a business associate of James Reid who sold his interests in the Reid Estate in 1892 to purchase ‘Fernbrook Farm’ from Thaddeus Harper. He renamed the property ‘Johnston Farm’. The homestead was the social center for Quesnel. Roxalena was known locally as ‘Roxie’. She was a nurse and midwife who hosted many social events at the family home. William became involved in mining, a Justice of the Peace, and a Notary Public.

* Source: City of Quesnel, Heritage page

Quesnel Downtown Association
Walk! Talk! Shop!
246 St. Laurent Ave
Quesnel V2J 2C9

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