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Here's how Vancouver's Yaletown got its name from the 'wickedest little settlement in B.C.'

No, it wasn't named after the university, but the two share a source.
Yaletown and neighbouring areas as seen from Fairview in 1893. Reference code: AM54-S4-: Dist P33City of Vancouver Archives

While some Vancouver neighbourhood names have obvious origins - the West End is in the western end of the city, Chinatown is where Chinese immigrants historically lived and Coal Harbour had low-grade coal - others aren't so clear-cut.

Yaletown is one such less-obvious neighbourhood name, though it makes sense when looking at its history. The easiest point to start at is B.C.'s gold rush period, when the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) essentially ran the region, as far as European settlers were concerned.

Fort Langley was the main HBC base in the region, and James Murray Yale was the chief trader there. When the town of Yale was founded, as a fort in 1848, it was named Fort Yale, in his honour (by one of his underlings, so if you think sucking up to your boss is new...).

Yale peaked during the gold rush in the Fraser Canyon, which started in 1858, with a population of up to 15,000 at one point.

For reference, it still exists as an unincorporated community of about 186. And at the time, 15,000 people in western Canada made it a major city; at the time it may have been the largest town north of San Francisco and West of Chicago (there were a few Indigenous settlements in Vancouver at the time and Victoria started the year with 300 settlers but ballooned to 6,000).

With the...let's call it rowdy nature of the gold miners, Yale became known as the "wickedest little settlement in B.C."

Thanks to its population and location on the best route (at the time) to get through B.C.'s interior, when the Canadian Pacific Railway (the railway that was built so B.C. would join Canada) set a route, Yale was chosen as a major station and site for maintenance.

However, Yale's role in the province waned, and with Vancouver set as the terminus for the CPR line, the maintenance yard was moved to Vancouver.

That yard was built in Yaletown, and many of the workers moved from Yale to Vancouver, and the name came with them. For decades the area remained a mostly industrial part of the city until the 1980s and Expo 86 stirred interest in redeveloping the neighbourhood.

But where does the name Yale come from?

James Murray Yale is one of the many notable folks who are part of the Yale family, which includes the guy that gave his name to Yale University and the founder of the Yale lock company.

That name can be traced back to Wales, where there was a region during the medieval ages called 'Ial.' 

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