Building the Hope-Princeton Highway

I recently bought two related covers for my Similkameen Valley collection. They are concerned with the building of the Hope – Princeton Highway during World War II.

This highway – opened on November 2, 1949 – became a direct route to the Similkameen region, through an undeveloped and isolated area. The first cover, posted in Princeton on October 7, 1943, bears a map showing a 12-mile gap in the road to Hope and the message to COMPLETE THE HOPE-PRINCETON ROAD.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, all Japanese nationals and Japanese Canadian citizens naturalized after 1922 were required to leave the Pacific coast. For the next three years, work on the Hope-Princeton road was done by Japanese and Japanese-Canadian men who had been excluded from the coastal area of British Columbia. These men were assigned road work – especially that involving hand labour – in several parts of British Columbia. The evacuation from the coast for federal road projects started in February 1942. The first workers to the Hope-Princeton area arrived in mid March 1942. By September 1942, an internment camp called Tashme was established, which enabled the men to visit their families on weekends.

As shown on the map, there were six road camps along the 89-mile Hope Princeton project – all isolated. Initially, all work was done manually using picks and shovels. Later, a few bulldozers were used. In October 1943, the two sections of the Hope-Princeton road were linked at Skagit Bluffs (Mile 26 from Hope). The road then was only 8 to 12 feet wide in some places. Slowly, improvements were made until this phase of the project was closed down in September 1945.

Tashme was an isolated and self-sufficient family internment camp, located 14 miles southeast of Hope in the Cascade Mountains at what is now called Sunshine Valley.

Over 2,000 Japanese and Japanese-Canadians were removed from the coast and taken to Tashme, the first arriving in September 1942. Tashme was planned to house families of men who were sent to work – separated from their families – on the Hope-Princeton highway. The men were then able to visit their families or eventually to live there. A Tashme post office opened August 16, 1943 and closed August 31, 1946. The cover shown below was mailed to Vancouver at Tashme on September 25, 1944. Its contents were censored in Vancouver (Censor 260). Mail from Tashme went by truck to Hope.

Tashme was like an isolated company town. The residents provided the necessities of life, such as schooling and farming. The government operated a general store.

The residents had their own hospital. There was a bakery and a butcher shop, and there were many recreational activities. As my cover shows, there were named streets in Tashme. When the camp was no longer needed, it was demolished. All I can remember seeing in the summer of 1950 when I first traveled the Hope-Princeton was a cluster of pre-war farm buildings.

Originally published in The Guideline, Journal of the VIPS, December 2017
by Gray Scrimgeour

  1. Y. Shimizu, Exiles: An Archival History of the World War II Japanese Road Camps in British Columbia and Ontario, Chapter 4, University of Windsor, Southwest Ontario Digital Archive (1993).
  2. Tashme Historical Project,
  3. Brian Plain, “Tashme, B.C.”, Post West, Vol. 2, No. 1 (1975) pp. 26–28.
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