The boomtown of Barkerville sprang up around the Barker claim. It was a jumble of log and false-fronted shanties perched on stilts along a narrow, muddy street, with businesses of every description providing for the needs of miners and profiting from their earnings. Hotels, restaurants, stores, dance halls, saloons, billiard rooms, bowling alleys and gambling houses dotted Williams Creek. Church, theatre and library groups and others such as the Cambrian Hall, Chee Kung Tong (its building was designated a national historic site in 2008), Mechanics Institute, and Williams Creek Fire Brigade were formed to meet the needs of residents. Barkerville burned to the ground on 16 Sept 1868, and was quickly rebuilt in a more orderly fashion and with a wider street.
People from all over the world converged on the creek. The initial flood of miners, mainly from California, was balanced by the presence of the British constabulary and justice system and people from eastern Canada. CHINESE from Guangdong, China found their way to the goldfields and by the 1880s constituted half of the area's population of 5000. First Nations people (eg, Tsimshian, Haida, Lillooet Interior Salish and Carrier) worked in the region. BLACKS seeking freedom and a new life, and people from Mexico, Australia and Europe also travelled to Barkerville, making it a cosmopolitan town throughout its history.
Gold Mining Legacy
After the initial rush, mostly placer in nature, fluctuations in mining activities affected Barkerville's population levels. A lack of capital and technical difficulties dashed a lode-mining gold rush in the 1870s. The 1890s saw new activity associated with the large hydraulic mining operations but this activity ebbed during World War I. Renewed quests for placer deposits in the late 1920s were eclipsed by lode mining in the 1930s, when the local population (including Barkerville, Wells and Stanley) reached its zenith of 5800 people. Mining gold in Canada waned as a result of World War II, with a subsequent drop in the local population that continued well into the 1990s when it levelled out to around 250. The last full-time resident of Barkerville died in 1979 and today year-round staff are active in the preservation, development and presentation of this major historical site. Both placer and lode mining continues to this day in the region and Barkerville remains as a testament to both the past and the future.
Author WILLIAM G. QUACKENBUSH
Art Downs, Wagon Road North (1960); Gordon R. Elliott, Barkerville, Quesnel and the Cariboo Gold Rush (1978); Marie Elliott, Gold and Grand Dreams: Cariboo East in the Early Years (2000); W. Howard Harris, Ten Golden Years: Barkerville-Wells, 1932-1942 (1984); W.M. Hong, And So... That's How It Happened: Recollections of Stanley-Barkerville, 1900-1975 (1978); Anne Laing, The Traveller's Site Guide to Barkerville Historic Town (2009); Faith Moosang, First Son: Portraits by C.D. Hoy (1999); Branwen Patenaude, Trails to Gold, Volume 1 (1995) and Trails to Gold Volume 2: Roadhouses of the Cariboo (1996); Mark S. Wade, The Overlanders of '62 (1981); Richard Thomas Wright, Barkerville (1993).
Links to Other Sites
This website is dedicated to the gold rush town of Barkerville, BC. Features information about the local attractions and stage shows that reenact the colourful history of the region.
Encyclopedia of British Columbia
Fast facts and a timeline of the history of British Columbia from the website for the "Encyclopedia of British Columbia." Most of the website content, including articles, photos, and graphics, is available through subscription.
The Colonial Despatches
View digitized copies of correspondence (dated 1846 - 1859) between the British Colonial Office and the "colonies" of Vancouver Island and British Columbia. Search or browse this site for references to specific individuals, communities, companies, or industries in the province. Also includes digitized images of maps of various locations. From the website for the University of Victoria.
The Edge of the World: BC's Early Years
Watch a series of short films about the events, people, and places that shaped British Columbia's early history. Features a wealth of archival photographs. From knowledge.ca.
See maps and statistical data for regions and communities throughout British Columbia. A Government of British Columbia website.
BC Geographical Names
Search the BC Geographical Names Information System for historical and geographical data about specific locations in British Columbia.
Gold Rush Trail Sled Dog Mail Run
This site traces the route of the Gold Rush Trail Sled Dog Mail Run and offers photos of sled dog teams.
Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History
Solve some the "Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History." Learn about investigative techniques and Canadian history. From the University of Victoria.
British Columbia Archives
Explore the fascinating history of BC through online digitized copies of selected government documents, manuscripts, maps, architectural plans, photographs, illustrations, audio and video files, newspapers and much more.
One of Canada's earliest roads: the Cariboo
A CBC Radio audio clip about the history of the harrowing Cariboo Wagon Road in BC.
Miners at Work
An informative site about the life and times of the miners seeking their fortune in British Columbia in the gold rushes of 1858 through the 1860's. A Government of British Columbia website.
Heritage BC Stops
Click on the tabs at the top of the page to access interactive maps and virtual tours of unique heritage sites located throughout British Columbia. Features points of interest, archival illustrations and photographs, personal anecdotes, and much more. From Heritage BC. Note: try various web browsers for the best display of website pages.
In the Colonies of Tang
View the full text of an archaeological study of early Chinese communities in British Columbia's North Cariboo District. From the Library and Archives Canada website.
From C to C: Chinese Canadian Stories of Migration
Explore an interactive timeline that chronicles the multidimensional history of Chinese immigration to Canada. View archival documents, photographs, and videos that focus on the legal and societal obstacles encountered by migrating Chinese, as well as the substantial achievements of Chinese-Canadians through the generations. From Simon Fraser University and S.U.C.C.E.S.S. (a Vancouver multicultural organization).
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