Heart of the Nicola Valley, Country Music Capital of Canada
Merritt is located 271 Kilometres (168 miles) northeast of Vancouver in the heart of the Nicola Valley. With a population of approximately 8,000, and a trading area of approximately 15,000, Merritt is the commercial centre for the area.
The Nicola Valley has long been home to a number of First Nations who continue to call the area home. European pioneers searching for a trading route between the Coast and the Interior reached the area in the mid-1800s.
Right from the beginning, early settlers were attracted to the area because of its rich grasslands ideally suited for livestock (both forestry and ranching remains an important part of Merritt's economy).
Father of Merritt
In 1865, William Henry Voght, the father of Merritt, entered the valley and returned in 1872 to take up land at the forks, where the Nicola and Coldwater Rivers meet. This was the start of the development of Merritt. In 1906, the town was renamed Merritt, in honour of William Hamilton Merritt, a mining engineer and railway promoter.
Merritt was incorporated as a City in 1911, by this time the community's economy had diversified to include coal mining, which would continue to be a major industry up until the 1930s. In the 1930s the failure of a local mill precipitated the receivership Following the end of WWII several mills opened in the city and forestry became the new backbone of the economy.