Lytton’s former mayor Joe Chute (left) and museum curator Dorothy Dodge (rt.) discuss plans for the Chinese Joss House site with Lorna Fandrich.

Lytton’s former mayor Joe Chute (left) and museum curator Dorothy Dodge (rt.) discuss plans for the Chinese Joss House site with Lorna Fandrich.

Lytton sites receive Chinese Heritage designation

The Lytton Joss House and the Rip Van Winkle's Flats & Browning Flats receive recognition from the province.

  • Feb. 2, 2016 8:00 a.m.

by Bernie Fandrich

There is no disputing the important role that the Chinese have played in Lytton’s past.

Heritage BC just announced that the Chinese Historic Places Recognition Project has announced special recognition for two Lytton sites: the Lytton Joss House site and Rip Van Winkle’s Flats & Brownings Flats, (Chinese placer mining sites along the Fraser River), have been selected from 77 distinct Chinese sites from all over BC. Ten sites were recognized throughout the province.

The Lytton Joss House – or Joss Temple – is probably the site of the oldest Chinese Joss House in BC. It was located in the heart of Lytton for half a century. Dorothy Dodge, curator of the Lytton Archives and Museum for many years, is excited about the special designation.

“Lytton has such a rich past and has played a very important role in the early days of our province,” she says. “The Chinese were a very important part of Lytton’s history.”

The multi-purpose building was officially opened with much fanfare in 1883. Chinese visitors from Victoria and New Westminster steamed to Yale on the sternwheeler Reliance, then by rail and stagecoach to Lytton. It was quite a celebration with balloons, music and firecrackers.

The Joss House housed two deities and provided spiritual, emotional, and physical support to the Chinese railway workers, gold rush mining labourers, local merchants and farmers.

It represented hope during a time often filled with suffering and despair for the Chinese.

One of the purposes of the Joss House was to take care of sick and injured workers. When Chinese Work Camp 37 was attacked by a gang just south of Lytton in 1883, resulting in the murder of one worker and injury to seven or eight others, one of the injured was carried three miles to the Joss House so other Chinese could care for him.

The structure remained under Chinese control from 1878 until 1928. From 1901 until 1928 it became a matter of national importance involving the Dominion of Canada, the Chinese Consulate General, Chinese businessmen, and local residents.

In 1933, a fascinating account of the earlier turmoil surrounding the potential sale of the Joss House property to a neighbor was written in the Vancouver Province newspaper.

A copy of the intriguing news story – “Gods in a Lytton Woodshed” – was in the possession of Joe Chute, a teacher, principal, and former Lytton mayor. He gave a copy of the story to Lorna and Bernie Fandrich who, in 1980, had purchased the vacant lot that had once housed the Joss House.

Although intrigued by the mystery surrounding the lot after reading the Province story, it took until now for circumstances to allow them to develop of the lot. Lorna has plans to build a replica of the original structure and operate it as the Lytton Chinese History Museum.

The Chinese community in BC is fascinated by the project and has provided support and publicity.

“The special designation by Heritage BC and the media coverage that the project has already received in Canada’s largest Chinese newspaper, Ming Pao, has further stimulated interest in the Chinese community,” Lorna said.

Fandrich has been invited to speak at the Historic Temple Conference, an international conference held in Marysville, California in March.

“I’m honored to be a speaker at the conference,” she says. “Sharing ideas with those who are already successfully operating Chinese Museums and Temples will benefit my project.

“Completion of the Museum should attract many Chinese tourists to Lytton,” she added.

Look for details about the Browning’s Flat and Rip Van Winkle Flats Gold Rush Landscapes in an upcoming story.

Site preparation and construction of the building is scheduled to begin early in March.

Just Posted

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

Okanagan Lake (File photo)
Thompson-Okanagan ready to welcome back tourists

The Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association expects this summer to be a busy one

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

The Sacred Hearts church on PIB land burned Monday morning. (Theresa May Jack/Facebook)
Two churches on First Nation land in South Okanagan burn to the ground

Sacred Hearts church on Penticton Indian Band land was reduced to rubble

Tl’etinqox-lead ceremony at the site of the former St. Joseph’s Mission in Williams Lake, B.C., June 18, 2021. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
‘We are all one people’: Honouring residential school victims and survivors

Love, support and curiousity: Canadians urged to learn about residential schools and their impact

Indigenous rights and climate activists gathered outside Liberty Mutual’s office in Vancouver to pressure the insurance giant to stop covering Trans Mountain. (Photo by Andrew Larigakis)
Activists work to ensure Trans Mountain won’t get insurance

Global campaign urging insurance providers to stay away from Canadian pipeline project

In the first election with public money replacing corporate or union donations, B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau and B.C. NDP leader John Horgan take part in election debate at the University of B.C., Oct. 13, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. MLAs ponder 2022 ‘sunset’ of subsidy for political parties

NDP, B.C. Fed call for increase, B.C. Liberals have no comment

Investigators use a bucket to help recover human remains at a home burned in the Camp fire, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, in Magalia, Calif. Many of the missing in the deadly Northern California wildfire are elderly residents in Magalia, a forested town of about 11,000 north of the destroyed town of Paradise. (AP Photo/John Locher)
‘Forever War’ with fire has California battling forests instead

Five of the state’s largest-ever blazes seared California last year, as authorities tackle prevention

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto and IOC President Thomas Bach, on a screen, speak during a five=party online meeting at Harumi Island Triton Square Tower Y in Tokyo Monday, June 21, 2021. The Tokyo Olympics will allow some local fans to attend when the games open in just over a month, Tokyo organizing committee officials and the IOC said on Monday. (Rodrigo Reyes Marin/Pool Photo via AP)
Tokyo Olympics to allow Japanese fans only, with strict limits

Organizers set a limit of 50% capacity — up to a maximum of 10,000 fans

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Most Read