Neighbourhood History Walk: Mill Lake Exploring Place Names in the Mill Lake Park Neighbourhood

Self-guided activity for students under adult supervision

Figure 1. Mill Lake Park Neighbourhood Memory: Participants in the Lions Club water sports day, August 1953. The boardwalk the swimmers are standing on was the perimeter of the first Mill Lake swimming pool; a section of lake sectioned off to keep swimmers out of the path of speedboats. In 1958, this pool was replaced by Centennial Pool, which is explored in this lesson. The Reach P4649.

PLEASE NOTE: For this activity, we recommend partnering an adult with a student from the same household that is already practicing social distancing together. When the City of Abbotsford Parks are open, public members using Parks are encouraged to follow safe health practices while using them including social distancing. For a full list of safe health practices and other resources please visit the Public Health Website.


Edukit Series: Neighbourhood History Walks

There’s literally history in the streets! Abbotsford’s streets, neighbourhoods, and place names are tied to history, linking community geography to the people and events that shaped Abbotsford. The Neighbourhood History Walks series provides interesting anecdotes and insights that make a stroll through your community a fascinating history lesson!

This Edukit: Exploring Place Names in the Mill Lake Park Neighbourhood

In this edukit, discover the history around the lake in the City of Abbotsford now known as Mill Lake, also known as Lekw’óqwem (pronounced Le kwa kwem) to the Stό:lō Nation. Its original Halq’eméylem name describes the lake’s tendency to “dry up at times but come back again.”* While this lesson focuses on places named by European settlers around the lake, it is important to remember the living history of the Halq’eméylem name which is still a part of the lake and its neighbourhood.

This lesson plan combines place-based learning methods with content from The Reach Gallery Museum archive and permanent museum exhibition Voices of the Valley. Participants are encouraged to expand their walking tour learning experience by creating a place name sign based on the locations explored in this lesson.

This Edukit uses Historical Thinking Concepts to encourage participants to use primary resources and to develop historical literacy.

While this activity is designed to appeal to the whole family, it fulfils Curricular Competencies for middle school students grade 6 – 8.


*“Lekw’óqwem,” in A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Historical Atlas edited by Keith Thor Carlson, Colin Duffield, Albert “Sonny” McHalsie, Leeanna Lynn Rhodes, David M. Schaepe, David A. Smith (Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre; Seattle: University of Washington Press; Chilliwack: St.:lō, 2001), 142.


This activity was designed with the Placed-Based Learning teaching methodology in mind and also fulfills Curricular Competencies in BC’s New Curriculum for the following subjects and classes:

  • Social Studies 6, 7, 8.

To see relevant connections between this activity and BC’s New Curriculum, see downloadable PDF “Place-Based Learning and Curricular Competencies Related to Neighbourhood History Walk: Mill Lake.”



Through this activity participants will:

  • Discover how place names teach us about the people who they were named in memory of; naming relates to what a person, business, or community values.
  • Identify important historical locations around the lake (Centennial Park and Centennial Pool, Trethewey House,
  • John Mahoney Park, Willband Creek, and Kariton House) in order to understand their significance in shaping Abbotsford as we know it today.
  • Connect with local history by taking a walking tour walking the 1.3 km Mill Lake Loop to integrate new knowledge with participants’ lived experience.



  • A PDF-viewing application, such as Adobe Acrobat, installed on your computer
  • A printed copy of “Self-guided tour for the edukit Neighbourhood History Walk: Mill Lake” or a downloaded copy onto your phone (for easy access while walking)
  • A map app, such as Google Maps, downloaded onto your phone (optional)




The Reach Gallery Museum acknowledges that the City of Abbotsford is located on S’olh Temexw. [pronounced: suh-oll TUMM ook]

S’olh Temexw is the unceded, traditional, ancestral shared territory of the Semá:th First Nation and Mathekwi First Nation. These two First Nations are part of the Stό:lō Nation, the People of the River. The Stό:lō people have occupied this territory for more than 10,000 years. It is for this reason that we acknowledge the traditional territory in which we reside.

What is Halq’eméylem, and why do we use Halq’eméylem names?

Halq’eméylem (anglicized to Halkomelem) is one of several related languages spoken by Coast Salish peoples.

We use Halq’em.ylem names as a way of paying tribute to the living history of the Stό:lō Nation and their relationship to the land that precedes the settlement of Europeans. For more information, check out



Forestry | Economy | Recreation | Place names

Figure 2. Voices of the Valley permanent museum exhibition.


Voices of the Valley is the permanent museum exhibition at The Reach Gallery Museum that illustrates aspects of Abbotsford’s history through the use of primary source materials to reflect interconnected themes that have impacted community development. The exhibition uses primary source documents to present information about the people, events, opinions, and viewpoints that have shaped our present-day community. It reflects broad themes that significantly impacted our community since the time of settler colonization.

Interconnected themes: First Nations, Survey and Settlement, Forestry, Brickmaking, Sumas Lake Drainage, Agriculture, Transportation and Economy history narratives presented through objects, photographs and oral history content identify important interconnected concepts, and remind us that multiple factors have influenced growth and change in our community as we see it today. This activity expands primarily on the Forestry and Economy sections of the exhibition.


The lake was an important site for many people throughout history. Learning about the history of the lake and surrounding area teaches meaningful lessons about how Abbotsford has grown and changed.

The English name of the lake (Mill Lake) is a tribute to Abbotsford’s forestry industry. The lumber mill known as the Abbotsford Lumber Company was located on the shores of the lake from 1903 to 1935. The Abbotsford Lumber Company employed men to log the vast forests that covered much of the District of Matsqui,* who then hauled the logs to the lake where they were milled into lumber and shingles. These products were marketed across Canada. At its peak of operations, the mill was the third largest employer in British Columbia, and the largest employer in this community making the mill important to Abbotsford’s early economy.

The mill closed in 1935 and the site was left empty until the 1940s when the Abbotsford Lions Club began work to transform it into a community recreation site. The name “Mill Lake” seems to have become permanent when it was being rehabilitated.

Now that you’ve learned about some of the background of the area, you’re ready to start the walking tour activity in order to discover how place names relate to what a person, business, or community values.


*The Tretheweys owned timber rights to most of the District of Matsqui, the western section of what is now the City of Abbotsford.


Before the walk (10 min)

On the walk (60 min of walking suggested)

  • Visit Mill Lake Park and walk the 1.3km Mill Lake Loop, while practicing social distancing from others. Adults and students taking part in this activity together should be in the same household. We suggest starting at the park entrance along Emerson Avenue and Peardonville Road, where there is free parking. There are five stops along this historical walking tour:
  1. Centennial Park and Centennial Pool
  2. Trethewey House
  3. John Mahoney Park
  4. Willband Creek
  5. Kariton House.



If you aren’t able to actually visit Mill Lake Park to participate in a self-guided walking tour right now, use Google Maps to discover the locations. View Mill Lake and the surrounding area virtually as a way of preparing for when you can actually visit in-person. Click on this link to view Mill Lake and Park map.


  1. If you live in the Fraser Valley, you probably recognize that some of the same names are used in different locations around the City of Abbotsford (e.g., the name Trethewey is repeated in Trethewey House and also Trethewey Street). Can you think of any other examples of these repeating names?

  2. Not all early residents have a location named for them. Can you think of a reason why some of Abbotsford’s early residents do?



After your self-guided walk, design a sign for one of the five places you’ve learned about on the walking tour. Base your sign on the historical information in downloadable PDF “Self-guided tour for the edukit Neighbourhood History Walk: Mill Lake” and what you saw when you visited the location. Challenge yourself to visually communicate an aspect of the history behind the name. Your sign should incorporate the place name in some way and include drawings or design elements that communicate the significance of the place you chose.

For example, if you decided to create a sign for Trethewey House, you might incorporate images of tall evergreen trees (like the ones you saw while walking around the lake) to communicate the Trethewey brothers’ contribution to the Forestry industry through the Abbotsford Lumber Company.




If you use this free resource with your students at school / at home, we’d love to hear from you! Send an email to Diana Hiebert (Curator of Learning and Community Engagement at The Reach) at, with your comments including the number and age range of participants. This statistical information is important to us as a not-for-profit organization and will allow us to continue offering this kind of content.