Gold Rush to Boom TownBook - 2002
Fort Steele began in 1864 as the site of John Galbraith's ferry, which transported eager gold seekers across the Kootenay River to nearby Wild Horse Creek. Major Sam Steele's "D" Division of the North West Mounted Police built Kootenay Post here in 1887 and helped alleviate tensions between white settlers and the Native Ktunaxa people. With all disputes settled peacefully and Steele recalled to Alberta to take on a new challenge, the appreciative residents renamed the town in 1888 to honour the highly regarded Mountie.
As more settlers came, trails became roads. In summer, riverboats ran north and south to link with railways. Government offices made Fort Steele the administrative centre for East Kootenay. A bustling business community developed, and a newspaper was born. A school, three churches, an Opera House, and a hospital soon followed. Fort Steele boomed until the BC Southern Railway bypassed it. Naomi Miller, a local resident and interpreter at Fort Steele Heritage Town, provides many insights into the lives of the citizens of the town and district.