Home Visitor Info Park Features Park Events Park History Blackberry Kitchen Other Sites  

We regret that as of January 1 2016, management of the Fraser River Heritage Park has moved from the Mission Heritage Association to the District of Mission's Parks and Recreation department.

S T . M A R Y ' S   M I S S I O N   S C H O O L

I came up from Queensborough with 12 native paddlers in a war canoe, and, as we rounded the bend in the Fraser, I made up my mind that I would build my mission on this beautiful hillside.

I inspected it and made sure there was a nice creek for water and a level spot for buildings and I and the natives cooked our dinner on the beach at the mouth of the creek (D'Herbomez Creek).

I told the natives that I was going to take this place and build a school for them, and also a church.

Leon Fouquet, O.M.I.
Summer, 1861.

The Fraser River Heritage Park is located on the former grounds of St. Mary's Mission and Residential School, which was established in 1861. The Mission was founded by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (O.M.I), a Catholic order from France with a doctrine of educating the poor. The Oblates believed that the First Nations people were being adversely influenced by the influx of white settlers coming to B.C. for the gold rush. In creating the mission, they aimed to offer a more positive Christian influence to the local people of the Fraser Valley.

Thus in 1861, Father Leon Fouquet of the O.M.I. began building St. Mary's as a centre for educating First Nations children. He chose the name St. Mary's not in recognition of the Virgin Mary, but rather to honour Saint Mary of Egypt, who was saved from prostitution and did penance in the desert for 47 years.

When Father Fouquet chose the original site for St. Mary's, it was further south down the hill from the current remains of the school. The school became functional in 1863 when 42 native boys became students. The number of students increased throughout the years and doubled when the Sisters of St. Ann were invited to begin a convent school for girls at the Mission in 1868.

For nearly 20 years the school operated on this location next to the Fraser River, but in 1882 the school was moved further up the hill to accommodate the building of the CPR. The move to the new site was a laborious task that took over 2 years to complete. In 1885 most of the new buildings, whose remains are still visible today, were completed. Mail arrived marked to "The Mission" and it is this that gives our town our name. Mission City was also used to help distinguish us from another Mission school in the Okanagan.

St. Mary's Mission and Residential School remained open and operating until 1961. It was at this time that its students were moved to the new government-run St. Mary's residential school adjoining the eastern edge of the old Mission Property. In 1965, all of the buildings of the Mission were demolished due to deterioration. Today the only physical remaining traces of St. Mary's existence are some cement foundations scattered throughout Fraser River Heritage Park.

To see where the St. Mary's buildings were in the park in relation to the current park features, click on the map to the right.

The story of St. Mary's is one of the earliest settlement stories of Mission, and it is the first part of the story of Heritage Park. Next to come was the Mission Heritage Association.