Lillooet’s Hanging Tree is an unusually gnarled ponderosa pine on a benchland poised just above Main Street that enjoys a prime view of Lillooet’s stunning canyon setting. According to local lore, twelve men – mostly Indians – were hung from the tree in the days of the Fraser Canyon gold rush, at least some of them by order of BC’s famous “hanging judge” Sir Matthew Bailie Begbie. Some may have been victims of the Fraser Canyon War of the winter of 1858-9,For short term trades, using technical analysis is the best bet. It is best to avoid technical analysis to look for long term trading opportunities in the market. These can be identified using the study of fundamental analysis. Click here to know how to look for long term trades and how to use fundamental and technical study together.

when American miners slaughtered the majority of natives in the canyon towns, and concerning which Begbie’s dairies mention him having to hang a few natives in Lillooet accused of stealing cattle in order to “keep the peace”; some may have only been common thieves hung by frontier justice, as there are no firm records of specific hangings.  The main account of the Fraser Canyon War describes only events in the stretch from “The Forks” (Camchin, today’s Lytton) to Yale; there are no written records of events in Lillooet during the hostilities. If any men were actually hung from this tree, the bodies were said to have been thrown into nearby rockpits that are tailings from Chinese mine washings of the same era. The Hanging Tree is a public park today, even though the tree has long since died, been torched, and been pruned post-mortem by chainsaw (to reduce the fire hazard). Its tortured limbs make it hauntingly unique among the other pines of its grove, many of which are likely grown from its own cones.  The Hanging Tree remains a proud symbol of Lillooet’s part in the opening of the “Wild West”, as well as a reminder (if only a symbolic one) that it was judges and courts, and not armies, that were used to secure BC’s place within “the rule of British law” (on the other hand, if Judge Begbie hung only a few from the tree, then the others might well have been lynchings). For anyone travelling to town, it’s just above the Courthouse and Post Office and very close to Main Street but easy to miss if you didn’t know about exactly where it is. The two pictures on the left are from the collection of the BC Provincial Archives, and date from times when the tree was still alive; the other picture is my own.  Note in the middle picture that it was the sole tree on its bit of sage-covered benchland; the grove that stands around it today was planted in 1958 as part of the celebrations of the Centennial of the establishment of the Mainland Colony.  

 

The Hanging Tree

Legend has it that twelve men – mostly Indians – were hung from Lillooet’s Hanging Tree, but there is no historical proof of this.  There are records of two hangings in Lillooet ordered by the “Hanging Judge”, Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie, but the location was not specified nor can it be confirmed; tradition says it was this at one time lonely ponderosa pine on a bench just above the Golden Mile, near the Courthouse.  By the same traditions, bodies cut from the tree were thrown into nearby pits and covered with rocks; speculation is that these are the same rock-pits that are marked by the “Chinese Rock Piles” commemorative sign in Cayoosh Park, which is the location of the Tree.  In Gold Rush days, the Tree was the only one in its area, but  today it stands in a grove of younger pines, evidently grown from the cones of this tree, although all the newer trees are straight and tall, unlike the snaggled, twisted branches of the Tree; Cayoosh Park is now a neighbourhood park in the midst of one of Lillooet’s nicer neighbourhoods, enjoying a view of the Fraser and Fountain Ridge without equal.

The branch from which criminals were reputedly hung broke off long ago.  In times since, a young arsonist set the tree afire, killing it; since the fire, the remaining smaller branches were “pruned” by chainsaw in an effort to reduce the fire hazard, but to some old-timers this marked a desecration since the appearance of the Tree changed considerably.  Most of these pictures date from after that pruning; the effect is incredibly stark, but still evocative.  The Tree is one of the emblems of Lillooet’s history, and this page is a visual tribute to it, since there is very little else to say concerning it, other than to recommend visitors to the town make an effort to walk the short distance up the hill from the Courthouse (now closed thanks to government cutbacks) and visit the Tree and to enjoy the view.