A gold rush is a period of feverish migration of workers into the area of dramatic discovery of gold. Major gold rushes took place in the 19th century in Oceania, Brazil, Canada (especially the Yukon), South Africa, and the United States (especially Georgia, California, and western states), while smaller gold rushes took place elsewhere.
On the west coast the first gold rush happened between 1848-1852 in California. It was followed by a gold rush in the Fraser Canyon, the Cariboo, and the Klondike in the Yukon Territories which ended in 1899.
The growth of Barkerville was part of the Cariboo Gold Rush.
Divide a piece of paper into three sections. Write these topics - one for each section:
- Economic growth,
- Population growth,
- Development of Transportation
Watch the following videos and take notes in each of the columns.
Cariboo Gold Rush
- The search for gold was a major force in opening British Columbia for settlement and in shaping our landscape, our government and laws.
- British Columbia had two big gold rushes, one in 1858 on the Fraser River and the other in 1862 in the Cariboo district.
- Everyone heard of the discovery of gold along the Fraser River in the Cariboo after the Hudson's Bay Company shipped 800 ounces of gold to the Federal Mint in San Francisco on the steamship Otter in February 1858.
- The gold was sent south because gold was of little use to gold-seekers in its raw state and the nearest mint was in San Francisco.
- Since the California gold rush had taken place only a few years earlier, San Francisco was very gold conscious and the Cariboo sounded like the next great "discovery".
- In 1858, word of the discovery of gold on the Fraser River reached the outside world. The small community of Fort Victoria on the south end of Vancouver's Island became the destination of goldseekers.
- The first major influx of people heading to the Cariboo region was on April 25th, 1858, when the steamer Commodore docked at Victoria with 450 men, 60 of whom where British and the remainder Americans, Germans, Italians, Chinese and a variety of other nationalities.
- Doctor J.S. Helmcken recalls the events of April 25th, 1858:One sunday morning we were astonished to find a steamer entering the Harbour from San Francisco....(the miners)...built tents of grey cotton: hundreds of these tents dotted the land from Government Street almost as far as Spring Ridge.... The town thus grew and grew...Everyone wanted to get to Frazer's River." (BC Archives Add Mss 505 Helmcken Papers)
- More than 30,000 prospectors sailed north during the summer of 1858, and most of these men reached the gold-fields via Victoria.
- The miners came first to Victoria to obtain a valid "mining license" which permitted them to prospect for gold.
- Almost overnight, the population in Victoria grew to over 20,000 people as miners camped while they purchased their mining licenses, and all the supplies - equipment, food, clothing, they would need for their journey to the gold-fields.
- The sand bars of the Fraser River were a disappointment to many miners. The miners who did not return to California in disgust, slowly worked their way up the Fraser River.
- By 1862 these prospectors had reached the Cariboo in the southern interior.
- There, on Williams Creek early in 1862, Billy Barker struck gold.
- Less than a year later Barkerville, which had grown around Barker's claim, had a population of 10,000 people.
- Placer Gold - These are deposits of sand or gravel which contain particles of gold or other valuable or heavy minerals.Gold was and still is, the most important mineral found in placers. This word was probably derived from a Spanish word meaning "sand bank".
- Cariboo Road - this was a wagon road built through difficult and treacherous terrain to take prospectors and traders to the mining areas in the Cariboo. It was not until rich strikes were made on the upper Fraser River and in the Cariboo that better routes to the gold-fields became a priority. In May 1862, the Royal Engineers commenced construction of the Cariboo Wagon Road. The Royal Engineers completed the 365-mile long Cariboo Wagon Road in 1865. What had been a long hard trip to the Cariboo gold-fields was now relatively fast and easy. A passenger could now travel from Victoria to Yale by steamship, and from Yale to Barkerville by stagecoach.
- Road Houses - These were small houses that were built along the Fraser and Thompson Rivers. Roadhouses were generally built in areas where grass and water were plentiful and vegetables and crops could be grown. Those who were unsuccessful in mining often stayed in the Cariboo in the roadhouse business to become the first pioneers in the new agriculture and business communities. Many of the houses gained their names from mile posts along the Wagon Road. The roadhouses took their names from mileage measured from Lillooet, which was the point of departure on the first Cariboo Road of 1859. Some of these communities still exist today, i.e. 100 Mile House.
- Cariboo - The name Cariboo, was first given to the region around Quesnel and Barkerville during the Gold Rush, and has since been extended to identify the region between Prince George and Cache Creek. The spelling is traced to an 1861 dispatch from colonial governor Sir James Douglas where he mentions the popular term for the area which should, he said, be properly written "carboeuf." Caribou, part of the reindeer family, were plentiful in the northern part of the region at the time and recieved that name from French interpretations of the Algonguin word "xalibu," for pawer or scratcher.