As a colony of Britain, the monarchy held great influence over the people in British Columbia. Queen Victoria herself had named British Columbia and the town of New Westminster.
Albert Wharf in Victoria was named after Prince Albert. Approximately three miles south of Yale on the Fraser River were the prosperous gold diggings of Victoria Bar and Prince Albert Flat. In the spring of 1860, it was reported that Prince Albert Flat was paying from $8 to $14 “to the hand” with four companies working there.
News of Prince Albert’s untimely death on December 14, 1861 reached the town of Victoria the following year in February. The news came as a shock to Victorians whose town was named in honour of the Queen.
The confirmation of the…demise of Prince Albert was received throughout the length and breadth of the Old and New Worlds – with heartfelt sorrow. The flags of the Government Buildings and the of the Harbormaster’s Office were at half-mast during the day…His Excellency Governor Douglas has most appropriately issued a call to Her Majesty’s loving subjects resident to manifest their grief…
Citizens wore black crape hat bands or wore crape bands around their left arms as signs of mourning for a week after hearing the news.
It was not revealed at the time but Prince Albert died of typhoid fever; a disease that also affected the gold rush population in British Columbia at that time.
Before the Cariboo Wagon Road was built, the Fraser River gold rush was regarded as diggings for the well-to-do only; as the cost for pack-horses to bring supplies was at least 40cents per pound for food. Freight and mining supplies were even more costly.
Governor Douglas was proud of the Port Douglas to Lillooet trail, however many were critical that this road had cost the Colony a lot of money without providing a huge benefit to gold seekers wishing to make their way north.
What was really needed was a “good wagon road to Fort Yale…which could be kept open at all seasons could be made a moderate expense.”
The expense of building a wagon road was one that must have weighed heavily on the mind of Governor Douglas.
Shortly after James Douglas was named Governor of British Columbia (including the mainland) in 1860, he was granted powers to “raise further revenue for the purpose of opening and improving the communication and roads from Port Douglas and Yale with and to the mining regions beyond.”
“I do hereby declare…that from and after the 1st day of March 1860, every pack-horse, mule, or other quadruped, leaving Port Douglas or Yale for the purpose of carrying a load or burden towards the mining regions beyond…shall be charged with a toll of one pound sterling for each journey…”
“Any person wilfully evading or attempting to evade the toll aforesaid shall be fined treble the amount of the toll or any sum not exceeding £100 at the discretion of the Magistrate.”
By 1865, Richfield, Cameronton and Barkerville had grown from small mining camps to thriving gold rush communities. In July, 1865, a notice appeared in the Cariboo Sentinel from the gold commissioner, W. G. Cox to obtain proposals from interested parties to build the Richfield to Cameronton Wagon Road, twelve feet wide with pull-outs.
Founded by John “Cariboo” Cameron, the town of Cameronton had many businesses including:
The Pioneer Hotel, owned by Anne Cameron (no relation to John) which was the oldest established hotel on Williams Creek. In conjunction with the hotel was a bar and restaurant where “hot and cold suppers could be had at all hours.”
The Colonial Hotel and Restaurant owned by “Madame James James”
John Bowron operated the Reading Room which functioned as a private library for its members.
The Gazelle Saloon, owned by Adler and Barry, featured two large billiard tables and a bar with “Liquor and Segars of the finest quality.”
Prager & Brother’s store which sold groceries, provisions, liquors and “segars” (cigars)
Lions & Dodero owned a miners’ provisions store that sold liquors, provisions, groceries, clothing, hardware, medicines, drugs and miners tools “the cheapest prices on the [Williams] Creek”
Barnard’s Express to the Cariboo and Big Bend -1866
Francis Jones Barnard’s stagecoach express provided an important mode of transportation and communication during the Cariboo gold rush. Barnard, who first started carrying mail in 1858, soon acquired horse drawn wagons and expanded his business north as the Cariboo Wagon Road was built.
Hugh Nelson and George Dietz purchased the Fraser River Express from William “Billy” Ballou in September of 1858. Dietz and Nelson’s British Columbia Express linked up with Barnard’s Express to the north and Well’s Fargo Express in Victoria. As the advertisement says, a gold miner’s “treasure, letters and valuables” could be conveyed from Barkerville for all parts of the world.
There were two eventful court cases in the Cariboo in the summer of 1865.
John Perrin, a well-known gold miner from Richfield, was a defendant in a case regarding a disputed claim, Henness v. Perrin. Shortly after the case began, Perrin was approached by Deputy Sheriff Chisolm:
“I was standing by the Cariboo shaft when Daniel B. Chisolm, the Deputy Sheriff, came to me and said he wished to speak to me; he took me aside out of hearing of the men standing around and said if I had any doubts about the lawsuit pending he would put me on a safe track by summoning any jury I chose…in return for a quarter of an interest in the Cariboo claim. The next day I met Chisolm near Barkerville, when he asked me to go with him to the back room of the Spanish woman’s house at Barkerville, where he showed me a list of jurymen and asked me how I liked them; he said for a quarter of an interest in the Cariboo claim, he would summon those or any other that I wished; I told him I would not do it, and left the house.”
When Mr. Walker, counsel for the defence, read out Perrin’s affidavit in court, everyone was surprised including Judge Begbie and Deputy Sheriff Chisolm who was present in his official duty. The trial of Henness v. Perrin continued unimpeded, but it was followed afterward by the trial of Mr. Chisolm.
Dan B. Chisolm was arraigned and the indictment for unlawfully offering to take a bribe to pack a jury. Chisolm pleaded “not guilty.”
Mr. Perrin was cross-examined and gave the same account as in his affidavit. Jesse Pierce testified that he was in the house when he saw Mr. Perrin and Mr. Chisolm go into a back room.
Captain Henness testified:
“I have known Mr. Chisolm since the winter of 1862. The day before the trial of Henness v. Perrin, I called at Mr. Sutor’s office and found Mr. Chisolm there; I said to him have you summoned the jury for the Assizes? He said yes; I remarked that I wanted no favours but I hoped to have good, upright, honest men try the case. Mr. Chisolm said that was always his aim, and he would show me the list, which he then did.”
Messrs. Laumeister, Pearkes and Campbell all testified that they had known Chisolm for a considerable length of time and said he was of good character.
Chisolm testified that Perrin has anxious about the ‘big suit’ as the only person who could throw light on the matter [Cunningham] was dead.
“Here I asked him about the Cunningham estate, as I felt somewhat interested, holding Cunningham’s note for about $300…I told him that I thought a good deal of the claim at the time…I asked him then if he would not sell me a quarter interest, and he said no; this is all that ever passed between us…”
After deliberating for an hour, the jury returned a verdict of ‘not guilty’. Judge Begbie discharged Chisolm saying that he agreed with the verdict, but he censored Mr. Chisolm for his indiscretion in holding a private conference with a party in a lawsuit.
“Cast Iron Cooking Stoves” promised to be of first rate quality and guaranteed to “bake well” were advertised in the Cariboo Sentinel newspaper. These cast iron cooking ‘stoves’ were described as between 6 to 9 inches in diameter.
English dishes such as fried fish, doughnuts or fritters required “frying pans” as distinguished from other kinds of pots such as stewpans. Frying pans were manufactured in varying depths to suit the cook’s need of lard or butter.
A typical frying pan in the 1830s had a flat thick bottom, and was made into an oval shape – 12 inches long and 9 inches wide with perpendicular sides.
John Keast Lord, a member of the British North American Land Boundary Commission during 1858–62, wrote:
“I never carry more than a frying pan and a tin pannikin; the former I strap behind my saddle…It is wonderful what a man can do with a ‘frying pan,’ it is equal to any emergency. Why, it would make any civic dignitary’s mouth tingle with delight if his nose only sniffed the rich appetising odour that exhales from a moose steak…fried in its own fat. Then I can bake bread in my frying pan, make and fry pancakes, or ‘slap-jacks’ as trappers call them,roast my coffee, boil the salt out of my bacon before I fry it; I can also stew birds, or putting a crust over, produce a pie few would be disposed to turn away from…”
Amor de Cosmos was one of the most influential people of the Fraser River gold rush.
Born in Windsor, Nova Scotia on August 20, 1825, Amor de Cosmos changed his name from William Alexander Smith years later while living in California. Cosmos came to Victoria as soon as the Fraser River gold rush began in 1858.
At that time, there was only a pro-government publication located on the Hudson’s Bay Company Fort grounds called the Victoria Gazette, later known as the Daily Victoria Gazette, run by two publishers from California.
Cosmos started the British Colonist in December 1858 “to be published every Saturday.”
We intend…to make the “British Colonist” an independent paper, the organ of no clique nor party – a true index of public opinion.
Cosmos was very clear on his opinions and was critical of Governor Douglas’ administration and referred to the competing interests of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s dominance over Victoria as “exclusive”, “anti-British” and “belonging to a past age.” It wasn’t long before the opinions of the British Colonist gained interested readers. Six months later, the British Colonist was being printed three times a week.
Cosmos sold the newspaper to David Higgins in 1863 and campaigned unsuccessfully for a seat in the Legislature of Vancouver Island. Afterward, Cosmos lead the Confederation League which saw British Columbia become a province of the Dominion of Canada in 1871.
Cosmos served as the second premier of British Columbia from December 1872 until February 1874, when he was ousted after trying to change the terms of union. He continued as a Member of Legislative Assembly for Victoria until 1882.
Quesnel Forks was a thriving town during the Cariboo gold rush. Located at the junction of the Cariboo and Quesnel Rivers, it was the ideal location for trade.
Established in 1859, when gold was discovered nearby, Quesnel Forks quickly grew to include boarding houses, saloons, stores, over twenty houses, and many tents. Pack trains entered town along a narrow trail above the river.
In September 1860, gold commissioner Philip H. Nind travelled north along the HBC brigade trail with Constable Pinchbeck to oversee the the new gold diggings.
Most of the gold seekers left Quesnel Forks soon after striking it rich; many left to avoid the winters and headed south.
In March, 1861, a bridge was constructed over the South Fork and another bridge over the North Fork was completed in 1864.
A visitor to Quesnel Forks in 1862 wrote:
Quesnelle City, consisting of some 30 or 40 houses and shanties and 70 or 80 tents, stands on a small flat at the junction of the south and north Forks of the Quesnelle. It is surrounded by lofty thickly wooded mountains. A small space has been chopped and burnt off. The south fork is crossed by a very good wooden bridge. It is the depot where the Cariboo mines are supplied.
By 1863, Quesnel Forks had a large Chinatown and its population increased to over 3,000 by 1869. Stores including the Kwong Lee (referred to as the Chinese Hudson’s Bay Company) were established here.
The creeks a few miles north of Quesnel Forks were panned for gold and even as late as 1866, there were reports that mostly Chinese miners were recovering gold that was “very rough and of superior quality.”
Olympia oysters were a much sought after delicacy, starting from the California gold rush through the Fraser River gold rush and to the late 1860s.
Label on a can of oysters 1850s
Wild oysters were abundant in the San Francisco area but soon became depleted as demand outstripped supply. As a result, people looked for Olympia oysters further north. They became a lucrative source of trade for people living in the Puget Sound area. The town of Oysterville, Washington, sprung up directly because of the demand for oysters. Vancouver Island was another source for oysters.
Despite the fact that they were serving the same species of oyster, many saloons distinguished between the source of their oysters - either referring to them as Olympia oysters or Island oysters.
In Victoria, there were oyster saloons. Some oyster saloons were attached to another larger saloon as in the case of the Theatre Saloon, or they stood on their own. Here is a notice from June 27, 1859:
“Fire! Last evening the roof of Rudolf’s Oyster Saloon, Waddington street, was discovered in a blaze . Fortunately the rain prevented the shingles burning. Had it occurred a day or so ago when the roofs were dry and the wind blew furiously, no one could guess at the result…”
Oysters were eaten on the half shell, fried, or they were made into soup, sauce, patties and as a main ingredient in many other creations and combinations. Oysters were typically served with other types of seafood and meat. They were also served with welch rarebit (known today as welsh rarebit) and even ice cream.
The Occidental Hotel in Victoria had its own oyster stand where oysters were sold by the “bag, gallon, quart, etc.”