Golden Miles of History

The Story of Miyazaki Heritage House

In 1877, Irish immigrant Caspar Phair hiked the Cariboo Road from Yale to accept the position of schoolteacher in Lillooet. The same year, Cerise Armit Eyre graduated from finishing school in England and arrived to join her mother & stepfather on a farm near Pavilion Lake that is still a working cattle ranch today.

Caspar & Cerise were married in 1879 and the following year, the first of their two sons, Arthur William Armit "Artie" Phair, was born. Casper came to hold almost every official position in the area including Government Agent, Gold Commissioner, Magistrate, Chief Constable, Coroner, Fire Chief and Game Warden.

Caspar hired master builder William Duguid to build his family a fine home in the Second Empire Style featuring a mansard roof, bell-cast eaves and four unique mansard-roofed dormer windows. They named their home Longford House. In 1887, Cerise bought a general store on Main Street and the Phairs settled into a prosperous and refined lifestyle in the heart of a wild, frontier town.

By age eighteen, Artie was running the family store but the Phair family fortunes rose and fell with the boom and bust economy of Lillooet.

Caspar & Cerise passed three months apart in 1933. Like his father, Artie came to fill many of the town's official positions including Coroner but scandalized the townsfolk by letting the manicured gardens of Longford House become overgrown and unkempt while he roamed the rugged mountains surrounding Lillooet taking photographs and collecting butterflies and curios. Without him, much of the area's history would not have been recorded.

In 1944, Artie was taking pictures in Bridge River when he met Dr. Masajiro Miyazaki who was interned there with his family as the result of WWII policies that removed Japanese Canadians from the west coast. The town was without a doctor at the time so Artie drafted a petition signed by many of the town's leading citizens that allowed them to move into Lillooet.

Artie moved upstairs so the Miyazakis could move into the ground floor of Longford House and set up a medical office in one of the front rooms. After the war, Artie moved to living quarters behind the family store and Dr. Miyazaki became the legal owner of Longford House in 1947.

With a practice covering over 4000 square miles of some of the most rugged country on earth, Dr. Miyazaki was known for his optimism and sunny personality. He was a true country doctor who also acted as a dentist, veterinarian & mortician.

To reach accident scenes, attend illnesses and deliver babies he waded through snowdrifts, travelled on horseback, by train and speedboat, dug his way through slides, chopped fallen trees, attached ice hooks to his vehicle to crawl up wintery hills and crossed the Fraser in a cable car. His efforts to get to remote reserves to attend First Nations patients were often heroic and he is credited with saving many lives.

As Police Doctor and Coroner, he and Artie Phair often travelled by train and Miyazaki recorded their adventures together in his autobiography, My Sixty Years in Canada.

During his time in Lillooet, Dr. Miyazaki contributed greatly to the community including garaging and dispatching its first ambulance service, serving three terms on the town council (the first Japanese Canadian to do so), founding and being an active member of the Volunteer Fire Department, keeping the town's meteorological records, serving as President of the Historical Society and being a charter member of the Lillooet Elks. He was a devout member of the United Church and active with the Boy Scouts who met in his home, used his garage for bottle drives and sold Christmas Trees in the yard.

For his public service, Dr. Miyazaki was made Freeman of the Village and awarded the Order of Canada.

In 1983, recurrent health problems forced Dr. Miyazaki to move to Kamloops to live with his daughter. Before he left, he donated his home to the Village of Lillooet and his office remains as he left it.

Want to learn more of the epic history of British Columbia? Pick up a map of Lillooet's Golden Miles of History Tour at the Lillooet Museum & Visitor Centre or at participating merchants.