The summer of 1865 marked the height of the gold rush at Wild Horse Creek. Over 1,500 goldseekers travelled to Wild Horse Creek in the Spring to seek their fortune from the “shallow diggings”; however, many were prevented from panning for gold until the high water level receded.
Food and wage costs at Fisherville (Wild Horse Creek)1865
Peter O’Reilly, gold commissioner for Wild Horse Creek, made note of the prices of food and supplies compared to wages. There were numerous reports that there was a scarcity of provisions and the miners were idle, restless and broke. As one gold seeker put it:
“The season was very late here, and when grub came in the camp was in a starving condition and everybody in debt (claim holders in particular), and are still so; the water is so high that the creek claims are laid over until August; some of the bar claims pay very well, that is for this country, but they are all owned by men that came in last fall, and all strangers to me.”
Fresh Pork and Green Apple Sauce Dinner (July 22,1865)
Did you know that applesauce was common fare during the Cariboo Gold Rush? Applesauce was usually made using dried apples. In the notice above, printed in the Cariboo Sentinel, Cameron’s Pioneer Hotel advertised “Green Apple Sauce” – whether this was from fresh apples or green ones, we will never know. My guess is that they are referring to fresh apples, as another of the Hotel’s advertisements described a dinner with “plum pudding and green rhubarb.”
Apple trees were grown on Salt Spring Island as early as 1863.
Here is a recipe for applesauce from the “Canadian Housewife’s Manual for Cookery” printed in 1861:
Apple Sauce for Goose and roast Pork
“Pare, core, and slice, some apples; and put them in a stone jar, into a saucepan
of water, or on a hot stove. If on a stove, let a spoonful or two of water be put
in to hinder them from burning. When they are done, bruise them to a mash, and put to them a bit of butter the size of a nutmeg, and a little brown sugar. Serve it in a sauce-tureen.”
What was the cost of food at the beginning of the Cariboo gold rush (or the tail end of the Fraser River gold rush)? How much did workers earn? Here is a list of prices and wages published in the British Columbian newspaper June 6, 1861:
Potatoes 2 cents (per lb)
Onions 6 cts (per dozen)
turnips 4 cts
carrots 4 cts
parsnips 4 cts
beets 4 cts
cabbage 4 cts
Cranberries 75 cents (per gallon)
eggs 50-75 cents (per dozen)
chickens $10-12 (per dozen)
fresh salmon 10 cents (per lb)
other fish 8-10 cents (per lb)
salt 2 cents (per lb)
wild geese 75 cents to $1 each
ducks 50 cents to $1 per pair
grouse 50-75 cents per pair
snipe $1 per dozen
Wages per day:
Carpenters and joiners $3.50 to $4.50
*Compositors (per 1000 ems) $1
Wages per month:
Merchants clerks $100-150
*Before typesetting machines, workers known as ‘compositors’ manually set type for newspapers and were paid according to the number of characters placed. The total width was measured against 1,000 of the letter ‘m’.
Many say it was the discovery of gold at Antler Creek in 1860 that started the Cariboo Gold Rush.
Just a few weeks previous, “Doc” Keithley and his friends had found gold in the creek that bears his name. Eager to explore the area, they climbed the mountain range and stumbled onto Antler Creek whereupon they made the richest strike up to that time.
A staggering $75 worth of gold nuggets were found in their gold pans. They ventured back to Keithley Creek and kept their discovery secret. Somehow, word leaked out.
Not surprisingly, there were gold seekers who felt left out, as this story from April 6, 1861 relates:
“It appears that Martin, who had been in partnership with the original explorers, having come to loggerheads with his company during the winter, thought his partners were trying to deprive him of his interest in the diggings by keeping the location secret.”
“Being something of a pioneer and a prospector himself, he finally purchased a pair of snowshoes and started out, in mid-winter, in quest of gold. Having travelled over the deep snow for several weeks, he came at last on [Antler] creek, where he saw several notices posted up, a large number of claims staked off, and holes sunk for the purpose of prospecting.”
“Upon examining the dirt that had been thrown up, he discovered that it was gold-bearing, and succeeded in picking out several pieces weighing from a dollar upwards. Having satisfied himself that this was the place he was in pursuit of, he started back immediately in order to communicate to his friends the discoveries he had made.”
“So eager were the people to reach Antler Creek that the natives were busily employed in making snowshoes for the miners at $20 and $30 a pair; and when the news first reached the Forks the natives were awoke at the rancherias [villages] at midnight and set to work making the snowshoes.”
“The diggings were first struck by a prospector late last fall, who from prudential reasons filled the hole up again and kept his discovery a secret. He told Mr. Beedy, in November last on meeting him in Victoria, that he had obtained over $100 in a few minutes from the bed-rock and that he had filled it up again because he had occasion to go to San Francisco and did not wish the discovery to be made before the Spring.”
The term ‘jumpers’ referred to goldseekers who seized gold claims from their rightful owners. In his poem about gold rush gamblers, James Anderson writes: “it’s my belief that jumper is Chinook for thief.”
A story printed in the Cariboo Sentinel on May 14, 1863, showed just how competitive it was to stake a claim.
“Messrs. Levi and Boas, who were packing to Richfield by natives, had been stopped, in consequence of the streams having swollen from the melting snow. The Gold Commissioners had not arrived. Jumpers were causing much annoyance.”
“When the crowd from this place arrived at the diggings and read the notices that were posted up, they discovered that the original locators had more ground staked off, than they were entitled to according to the Gold Fields’ Act and hence “jumping” commenced right off.”
“This would have led to serious difficulties had not the stronger party gave way and concluded to have it settled in the legitimate way. A courier was immediately dispatched for the Gold Commissioner who resides somewhere near Mission Ranch, in a farming community, several miles from any mining camp. What a ridiculous location!
He came plodding along on snowshoes after several days’ delay, and I hear, has at length succeeded in reaching the field of gold and “jumpers,” and will no doubt, endeavor to settle matters. As soon as the snow melts off and the miners get operating, I will write you again..”
Lumley Franklin was an auctioneer, commission dealer and a real estate agent.
Born in Liverpool, England in 1820, Lumley spent 13 years in the United States before emigrating to Victoria in August 1858 with his younger brother, Selim. With his help, Lumley opened an auctioneer and land agent store.
“…He has taken the Fireproof Brick Building in Yates Street, nearly opposite Messrs. Wells, Fargo & Co.’s Express office. Having had eleven years’ experience in the Auction business, he respectfully solicits a renewal of public support.”
Franklin held weekly auctions of clothing, footwear, groceries and damaged goods as well as anything ordered from the ‘High Sherriff’ of British Columbia.
He even sold town property in south Seattle, near the terminus of the North Pacific Railway.
Both Lumley and Selim helped create the Victoria Philharmonic Society and performed in numerous musical performances. This hobby undoubtedly helped Lumley’s political career. In 1865, Lumley Franklin became the second mayor of Victoria.
early map of Victoria Harbour and Hudson Bay Company Fort Victoria (site of Empress Hotel for reference)
On June 4, 1861, the site of the Hudson’s Bay Fort Victoria and adjoining lots were scheduled to be sold by auction.
At the eleventh hour, the citizens of Victoria rallied when they discovered that the Hudson Bay Company was planning to sell over 3,000 acres of land including the fort site, property at Beacon Hill, and much of the town site.
Just days before the auction was to take place, a court injunction was filed.
“The sale of the property of the Hudson Bay Company Fort Site and adjoining lots is postponed! until further notice” read an announcement from the auctioneer.
A few weeks later, on June 19, 1861, Judge Cameron (brother-in-law of Governor James Douglas) decided that the injunction to prevent the HBC from selling the land was not valid and should not have been granted. His reason was the land was in litigation before the Privy Council and the court should not interfere.
“So far as the sale of the waterfront is concerned, the injunction is refused till interrogatories are answered by the Company as to the parties to whom they sold the lots.”
As the land was assessed at $500,000, citizens requested the elected officials hand over the funds of any such sale to the Colony:
“Their constituents may struggle along under the heavy taxes laid upon them; and every year to come many find their taxes increased to a point barely endurable…enough funds could be had from the settlement of the Hudson Bay Company affairs to exempt the colony from taxes for the next five years.”
As the debate wore on, more fingers were pointed at the elected officials and the influence of the Hudson Bay Company over the town’s affairs. The Company was accused of previously selling a public square and pocketing the profit.
At the close of 1861, the issue showed no signs of abating. If anything, the citizens were becoming increasingly riled up by newspaper accounts of election fraud and the ‘plundering of the Treasury’.
If you were on the Cariboo Road during the time of the gold rush, chances are you would have seen a few freight wagons and their crews of swampers and skinners.
Swampers were apprentices in the teaming business and they were responsible for looking after the horses, including rounding them up early in the morning. They did other chores as well to assist the freight driver, known as a teamster.
Teamsters, or ‘skinners’ as they were known, had the job of driving teams of horses. They wore a stiff-brimmed hat, similar to a cowboy hat, but with a narrower brim. Their boots were high-topped calfskin with low flat heels. Their pants were worn over their boots.
“If you drove two horses, you turned the bottoms of your pants up one roll, if you drove four horses you were entitled to two rolls…”
Teamsters would often drive teams of six horses. In this case a “jerk-line” was used. This was a single line connected to the bridles of the lead horses. The leading horses would turn left or right according to the number of jerks on the line.
One of the most important pieces of equipment freight wagons carried was a single piece of board called a “jack”. It was used to help unload heavy objects and for getting wagons out of mudholes.
Freight wagons travelled north on the Cariboo Road as late as 1915, with Ashcroft serving as the supply depot.