Barkerville, B.C.

Introduction

Barkerville, British-Columbia, is the main town of the former Cariboo Gold Rush which occurred in 1861 following gold discoveries in the area that date back to 1858-1859. This town is another example of a historic site which, at one point in time, was a mining hub that exploded in size by way of word-of-mouth. The town is soaked with a rich mining history which serves as a reference point that helps outline the evolution of the mining industry. This article will briefly outline the key points of Barkerville’s rich history and showcase what has become of the town today.

History

The main rush of miner’s to British-Columbia began sometime during 1858. Stories spread quickly throughout the United-States and other countries that easy gold could be found on the Fraser River. These stories were particularly appealing to many hopefuls who had flocked to the Western United-States around the same time, only to find that they were too late and many of the gold booms in these areas, such as California, were over (A Concise History of Barkerville, 2011).

Photo of Barkerville (possibly 1940’s) (A Concise History of Barkerville, 2011)

Many began to travel north without hesitation, large groups at a time. One of the first prospectors to arrive in the area was William “Dutch Bill” Dietz. A small town grew shortly after, around the area where Mr. Dietz had begun mining. The town was fittingly named Richfield. William’s Creek, a creek that still flows through Barkerville today, was named after this very gentleman. Billy Barker, a working class Brit, was one of many people who settled in Richfield and began searching for gold. He was one of many who had been unsuccessful in California. Eventually, Mr. Barker moved downstream in an attempt to find a rich strike, a move that many thought was crazy. Much to their dismay, Mr. Barker discovered a rich strike on August 17th 1862 after digging and cutting through a dry hard layer of clay 42 feet below ground (Histroy-Barkerville, 2011). This was the richest strike found to date in the area. A subsequent town was built in the aftermath of this discovery to service the miners who were now flocking downstream.

The town was named Barkerville and grew steadily in the following years. The population peaked around 4600 sometime between 1864 and 1866. Furthermore, the Cariboo wagon road was built between Barkerville and Yale which made the young mining town much more accessible. Unfortunately, a major catastrophe struck the town in September, 1868. A massive fired burnt much of the town to the ground (A Concise History of Barkerville, 2011). That being said, there was a good side to this horrible incident. Firstly, nobody died as a result of the fire. Furthermore, it allowed the people of Barkerville to build a new town which was much more organized than the original “make-shift” town. Some of the results of this rebuild are still present today. Shortly after the rebuild process was completed, mining in the Barkerville town began to dwindle. The “easy-gold” in the area had been mined out and people began to seek opportunities elsewhere. The town managed to survive, largely due to the organized rebuilding efforts and the Caribou Wagon Road which made Barkerville a great location for families to settle. Despite this, the population declined steadily for the next 20 years or so.

The only mining activities that continued in the area during this time were largely carried out by Chinese immigrants (A Concise History of Barkerville, 2011). The area experienced a first mining resurgence around 1895 when Chinese labourers began successfully mining certain areas using a Hydraulic mining method. This involved carving elaborate ditches along the mountain hillsides. These ditches would collect water which would be used to blast away the hillside, carrying large amounts of dirt through gold collection devices below. Finally, Barkerville would experience a final boom in the 1930’s. During this time, a developer named Fred Wells began mining underground successfully. Mining would continue until the second world war. Today, Barkerville survives as a tourist destination. In 1958, Barkerville was designated as a Heritage Site.

More Modern Photo of Barkerville (A Concise History of Barkerville, 2011)

References

  • Barkerville Historic Town, “A Concise History of Barkerville”, available @ <http://www.barkerville.ca/history.htm>, viewed @ <03/25/2011>
  • B.C.’s Must See, “History-Barkerville”, available @ <http://www.wellsbc.com/History1/barkerville.htm>, viewed @ <03/25/2011>

 

 

 



Back to News