Hazelton is a small village (population 300) located at the junction of the Bulkley and Skeena Rivers in northwestern British Columbia. The town lies on the main CN Rail line to Prince Rupert and on the Yellowhead Route #16 of the Trans Canada Highway about 70 km west of Smithers.
The “Hazeltons” (Hazelton, New Hazelton and South Hazelton) were named after the hazel bushes covering the region’s river-carved terraces. Nearby Mount Rocher DeBoule dominates the landscape with cliffs that tower 1,000m (3,300ft) over the Hazelton communities.
Hazelton celebrates its rich cultural and historical heritage. The Gitxsan and Wetsuweten First Nations peoples continue to play an important role in the community, and their rich cultural heritage is celebrated throughout the year. The town is home to a number of museums and cultural centres that showcase the history of the area, including the Hazelton Pioneer Museum, the ‘Ksan Historical Village and Museum, and the Gitanmaax Band Council Museum and Gallery. The area has four First Nations’ Villages (Gitanmaax, Hagwilget, Glen Vowell and Kispiox).
The town has a rich and diverse history dating back over 5,000 years with the presence of the Gitxsan and Wetsuweten First Nations peoples. European settlement in the area began in the 1860s with the discovery of gold in the nearby area.
From 1886 to 1913, Hazelton was the upriver terminus for a fleet of sternwheelers that plied the wild rapids of the Skeena. When the people and supplies reaching Hazelton, they dispersed inland to mines, farms, and far-flung settlements.
The construction of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway in the early 1900s (announced in 1905 and completed in 1912) brought growth to the community and better market access for the area’s mines. In anticipation of a boom from the railroad, New Hazelton and South Hazelton were established. The railway settled on South Hazelton, though Hazelton (sometimes called “Old Hazelton”) on the Skeena River was the established community at that time.
During the early 1900s, Hazelton was a booming hub for transportation and agriculture, and played an important role in the development of the region. The town was a regional trading hub. Local entrepreneurs built businesses that catered to the needs of the miners, loggers, and farmers who lived in the area.
During World War I (:”The Great War” at the time), Hazelton was home to the Hazelton Internment Camp during World War I, for detaining German prisoners of war. In the 1920s, Hazelton became a regional centre for education with the opening of a high school that served students from surrounding communities.