Kilby General Store Museum

Experience a fascinating look at BC rural life and history, plus a refreshing step back in time!

Opening Easter 2023

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The Original Kilby General Store

The Kilby General Store was officially opened on August 14th, 1906 by Thomas and Eliza Kilby. Their son Acton and his wife Jessie operated the Store from 1922 until 1977. General stores of this era were the centre of their communities, being a place to shop and gather news of the area. This was true of Kilby General Store, which served the people of Harrison Mills and surrounding areas and as far away as Chilliwack.

The General Store Museum

Step back in time with us!

Today, stepping through the front door of the general store will transport you back in time to Harrison Mills in the early 1900s as you are surrounded by original merchandise and greeted by costumed interpreters. The Kilby General Store was officially opened on August 14th, 1906, by Thomas and Eliza Kilby. The general store became the heart of the bustling mill town of Harrison Mills, supporting a lively population of mill workers, rail workers, and their families during the community’s heyday. Thomas and Eliza’s son, Acton, took over store operations in 1922 and ran it with his wife, Jessie, until 1972 when it was purchased by the Province of British Columbia as a historic site. Acton and Jessie were the museum’s first curators. The general store still bears the effects of their hard work and maintains its original character. The main floor of the museum also features the community post office and the family’s living area.

Rail Road and Flood Plain

The rail lines that are visible from the front veranda of the store are part of the Canadian Pacific Railway’s main cross-Canada system. While the conjunction of the Harrison and Fraser Rivers made the surrounding area ideal for the lumber industry, the completion of the railroad in 1888 made Harrison Mills the perfect location for a mill community (hence the name). A thriving community grew up around the railway and nearby lumber mills—an entire town built off the ground, connected by boardwalks to deal with yearly flooding. At the turn of the century, people from neighbouring communities could come to Harrison Mills by ferry or train.

Post Office at the Kilby General Store Museum

This post office served the community from 1906, when Thomas Kilby became postmaster, until 1968 when his son Acton retired from the same position. Thomas Kilby also used the office for his duties as Justice of the Peace, and Acton used it in his role as Notary Public. Here the men advised the community on business matters and oversaw the operations of the general store and farm.

The Kilby Family Living Quarters

This was the domain of Eliza Kilby. The living quarters functioned both as a family home and space for hotel operations. The pantry is conveniently located next to the kitchen and is the only place in the building that features running water. The residents of Harrison Mills were fortunate enough to have water piped directly into their homes from the CPR water system. In the kitchen, a wood stove was used to cook meals for family and hotel guests. Clothes were hung above the stove to dry. Hotel guests would enjoy a lovely home-cooked meal in the dining room. Prior to 1950 (when electricity was finally installed), the building was lit using oil lamps.

Manchester House Hotel

Visitors to the General Store Museum are welcome to head up the creaking staircase to hotel rooms that reveal clues about life in the 1920s. Eliza Kilby opened the Hotel in 1908 and named it after her hometown, Manchester, England. For the next two years, guests of the Manchester House Hotel included travelling salesmen, railroad crews, farm hands, school teachers, mill hands, store clerks, new settlers and surveyors.

Galleries and Exhibits

The upstairs of the museum features Eliza’s Manchester House Hotel, which operated from 1908-1911. It served as a resting place for travellers passing through from Chilliwack to Vancouver or on to the rest of Canada. Here you will also find other displays including the Product Package Gallery which exhibits a large collection of tins and other twentieth-century merchandising material. Down the hallway, stories of community members unfold. Learn about Sts’ailes and Sq’éwlets weavers; John Green (1927-2016), the owner of the Agassiz-Harrison Advance newspaper, and renowned sasquatch hunter; and the incredible Maud Menten (1879-1960) who spent her childhood at Harrison Mills and went on in 1911 to be one of the first women to receive a Medical Doctorate from the University of Toronto.