70 Mile House was a popular stop over the years for travellers. This photo is believed to have been taken around 1929. (

70 Mile House still a popular stopping place

When Dennis Huber wanted to semi-retire, he chose 70 Mile House

By Kelly Sinoski and Fiona Grisswell

When Dennis Huber wanted to semi-retire, he chose 70 Mile House.

That was 18 years ago. He and his brothers bought a farm across from the 70 Mile General Store and immersed themselves in the community – from the community hall and fire department to providing poker rides and carriage-driving competitions with the Cariboo Country Carriage Club.

“70 Mile House is a semi-retirement community,” Huber says. “That’s basically why we came here.”

It seems others have the same idea: the majority of properties sold in the area in recent years are often to people in the 40-50 age range. Most come from the Lower Mainland. Many are carpenters and tradespeople who just want to work part-time.

But it wasn’t always that way in the small community, located roughly halfway between Clinton and 100 Mile.

70 Mile House was the first roadhouse built on the Old Cariboo Highway after Charles Adrian pre-empted the route in 1862. The roadhouse changed hands several times over the years before Stallard McConnell’s grandfather, Matt Porter, purchased it in 1922.

McConnell, born in 1927, would play a pivotal role in the development of the community, which became a regular stop on the stagecoach route in the 1860s. Around this time, land was being settled along the North Bonaparte River. With the addition of a post office in 1908 and telephone service a year later, the area also became a social centre for families living in the area.

Isobella Porter, better known as Ma Porter, was running the roadhouse in the 1940s while Matt operated the post office and ran the mail route. Ma was famous for being the best cook anywhere between Cache Creek and Williams Lake. When Matt died in 1954 she retired, renting the roadhouse out to Jack Parrot. But with 70 Mile House booming, McConnell knew he couldn’t sit idle.

He built the 70 Mile Cafe in the summer of 1949, running it with his sister, Marie.

“We had more business than we could handle. The road was paved in 1952 by the cafe and it was busy,” Stallard was quoted in the Free Press on July 28, 2011.

The following year, he built a service station, which still stands today. The roadhouse burned down in 1956 but the following year, McConnell built the motel across the highway. He pushed to modernize 70 Mile with electrical power, which only went as far as Clinton in those days, by marking where the power poles should be placed.

The community continued to grow, populated mostly by ranchers and millworkers, who worked at the sawmill at the Chasm – the main employer for the area until it permanently closed in 2019.

“When Chasm shut down, that was hard,” Huber says.

Yet today, people are still stopping in 70 Mile, with many staying in the roadside community.

AJ Singh and his family came to the area two years ago. His father started Singh Towing, a heavy truck towing service. Singh says the central location along Highway 97 is ideal as it’s accessible to the Lower Mainland for trucks needing service.

He says 70 Mile House also has the same peaceful, close-knit community feeling of Vancouver Island, something his family has appreciated since immigrating to B.C.

Life is different here, he says. He misses the services in the city but doesn’t miss the traffic. He is adjusting to the mosquitoes.

He expects others will come, drawn by the area’s affordable housing, nearby Green Lake, its resorts and horseback riding and small-town amenities.

The community hall is always busy. 70 Mile has its own independent fire department, General Store and the Seventy-Mile Access Centre, which is a huge draw to second-hand treasure seekers across the region.

When businesses go up for sale, they get snapped up. The 70 Mile General Store was purchased last May by Inderjit Nijjar from the Lower Mainland, while another businessman from the Coast took over the 70 Mile Motel and the Corral Restaurant.

Huber says there is potential for growing the community.

There are copper and uranium deposits in the area, he says.

However, extracting them presents a significant environmental concern to the surrounding water in the area. Plus, the area’s Official Community Plan (OCP) makes it clear that residents want to protect the environmental qualities and integrate residential, commercial, tourist, agricultural and industrial land uses in a sustainable manner.

Unless a way can be found to remove the deposits without having an environmental impact, Huber suspects they will remain in the ground.

Other alternatives have been proposed over the years. Some have suggested a corrections facility for an abandoned mill site about a kilometre south of town, Huber says.

The B.C. government is also investigating an application to consider the feasibility of developing a solar power production farm in the Chasm area. The application relates to 4,777 hectares of Crown land in Electoral Area E – five kilometres south of 70 Mile House and 17 km northeast of Clinton, along Highway 97 and Chasm Road.

But not everybody is looking for progress. While he has only lived in the area for two years, Singh says he sees 70 Mile as a stable community.

“The people who call 70 Mile home will continue to live there as they enjoy the lifestyle.”


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70 MIle House General Store. (Fiona Grisswell photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Marion Roman, of 70 Mile, participated last weekend in a poker ride, hosted by the Cariboo Country Carriage Club. (Kelly Sinoski photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

70 Mile General Store is the place to stock up before hitting the lakes. (Kelly SInoski photo - 100 Mile Free Press)