Port Essington, Skeena River

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Port Essington is now a ghost town on the south bank of the Skeena River estuary but was once the largest coastal settlement in the region, similar to Butedale, in northwestern British Columbia, Canada.

The town was founded by Robert Cunningham and Thomas Hankin who acquired the land in 1871. They set aside a portion of the property for use by the Tsimshians First Nations, and subdividing the rest into lots that were sold to settlers. In 1876 the first salmon cannery was built and by the turn of the century there were seven canneries near the estuary employing an ethnic mix of European-Canadians, Japanese-Canadians, and Tsimshians. The Hudson's Bay Company built a store in 1891 that became known as the Skeena Post and operated a succession of steamboats between Port Essington and Hazelton for the next two decades.

The Grand Trunk Pacific Railway was built along the Skeena in 1914, but bypassed Port Essington and instead terminated at Prince Rupert. The rail supplanted riverboat commerce and the town quickly declined. At the beginning of World War II the Japanese-Canadians were forcibly removed to internment camps and by 1950 all the canneries had closed. What remained of the town succumbed to fires in 1961 and 1965. Read more here and here. Click here to download the CoastView app and explore more of Port Essington and the Skeena River.

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