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History of British Columbia Gold Rush 1885
BANCROFT’S WORKS, VOL.XXXII.
British Columbia was earliest known as part of the Northwest Coast; it’s mountain were sometimes called New Caledonia; it’s rivers and bays were called after the Scotch and English explorers who first visited them, some retaining the names of yet earlier Spanish navigators.
This whole vast region, its claimants desired as long as possible to keep as a game preserve. In the great and universal wiping out of savagism by civilization, the occupation of this country by Europeans stands out as an anomaly. The lords aboriginal were treated with marked consideration. The white man wanted them for hunters. The land was deemed valueless for tillage; at all events, pelties were profitable so long as the red man could be prevailed upon to bring them in for a few beads and bullets.
At length, the population encroaching, the fur magnates were crowded to the wall; gold was discovered, and the miners rushed in, then came agriculturists and stock-raisers, with towns and the paraphernalia of progress.
In common with the other volumes of this series, most of the facts and incidents herein presented are absolutely new, never before having appeared in print, while no writer has had access to the many volumes of manuscript and documentary matter.
In the opening charter are describe the physical features of the country, with its snow-clad mountains and gloomy forests, beyond which are glacier gorges, sublime in their lone-grandeur; while from the overhanging cliffs descend majestic waterfalls, whose ceaseless roar is lost amid the unpeopled solitudes of space. The following chapters relate partly to the establishment and progress of the various settlements, from the founding of Fort Camosun or Victoria, to the close of the Hudson’s Bay Company regime. They contain also an account of the operations of the company’s factors, their business methods, their dealings with the natives, their lives, their hazards, and their character, together with some of mention of the generous hospitalities for which its servants were noted for. Then follow the colonial period and the inauguration of responsible government, with James Douglas as the First Governor of Vancouver Island and British Columbia..
In 1858 came the first rush of gold-seekers, valuable deposits being discovered in the bed of the Fraser River and elsewhere, thousands who preferred taking their chances at the mine to the more certain gains of patient industry, hastening each year to this new Eldorado. To gold-mining with its attendant vicissitudes, hardships, and adventures, several chapters are devoted, followed by one on coal mining, for the coal measures of the province extend at intervals over the entire Eastern Coast of Vancouver Island, and from the mines on the Nichola River, about one hundred and fifty miles inland, more than fifty thousand tons were exported to Mexico and the United States as early as 1874.
So begins the story
Fraser River Mining and Settlement
New Developments In The History Of Mining-Character of the Mines-Mining Towns-Sluicing at Hope and Yale-Routes to the Diggings-Steam on the Fraser-Boats Ascend to Hope and Yale-Extension of Mining Area-Rush to Lytton-Roads-Prospectors Push Northward-Bars Named-Field-Region Round Lillooet-Fountain-Canoe-Quesnel-and Thompson River Mines-Quartz on Cherry Creek-The Mines of the Fraser River Valley-Character of the Dry Diggings-Terrace Composition-Gold Disposition and Yield.
IT is as necessary to tell what the Californians who sought gold on the Fraser River did not find, as to tell what they did find; that is to say, what failed them in their expectations, and what they found new which will profitably illustrate the mining history of the coast. First of all, then, the forbidding grandeur of the Fraser canon overwhelmed them, and drove thousands of them southward no richer than they came. Nevertheless, despite this reaction, the country was settled; towns were built; and in the course of several years after the Fraser excitement, mineral resources and lines of transportation were developed in the great northern interior of the Pacific slope, which were destined to assume a national and continental significance. The temporary drawbacks were due to the physical features with which the advancing tide of population had to grapple. No road or trail practicable for animals existed along the Fraser canon during the early stages of the gold excitement, so that it was quite impossible to follow up and to support any large number. Hence all but a few fell back until the completion of the road, which Douglas caused to be opened through the western rim of the high plateau.
The twenty thousand who went to Fraser River from California in 1858 were warned that the bars where gold was reported would remain inaccessible on account of the high water until after midsummer, and that to wait for the opportunity to mine in that wilderness would be costly, to say the least, and might be death.1 But reasoning from their experience in California, too little importance was attached to this feature of the new mines, as it was concluded that in the mean time the ravines and the smaller tributaries could be more or less profitably worked. But here arose the first and most grievous disappointment. They found no ravine diggings like those in the mountain counties of California, with gold lying in a concentrated form on the bed-rock, and the latter exposed by the eroding streams. Such of the higher bars of the Fraser as were accessible, including the fiats occasionally forming the banks of the river, and prospected in the early stage of the mining excitement, failed even to yield the prospects of the American and Yuba rivers. It was almost entirely fine gold distributed in thin streaks of gravel and sand, and through the benches and terraces of the hills and valleys running back often far from the river. That fine gold was also found concentrated in really rich deposits in some of these bars is beyond a doubt, but it consisted of thin layers or lenticular patches, covered
Fraser River is at flood height annually iu June and July. Arrowsmith, Map of B. C., London, 1869. Its gold bearing bars are really accessible to advantage only for a few months in the autumn. After November the frosts set in, and mining can be followed at intervals during the winter. After the severe weather and before the snows are melted, between February and April, there are two months of favourable seasons. Although there is low water about the1st of January, both the climate where quicksilver is used, the amalgamating conditions are unfavourable at that time. Simple and well known as were these facts by the settlers, the miners of 1858 paid dearly before they became acquainted with them...
frequently by very heavy masses of barren ground. In this respect it was comparable to the higher ground deposit of the ancient rivers of \California, the profitable handing of which reddened indispensable an outlet grade and the use of the hydraulic pipe. On the Harrison and other tributaries, coarse gold was to be found.
Before the river fell, thousands had left the country under the conviction that the water would never fall sufficiently, or that they had seen enough; yet diggings were overcrowded when this event took place, notwithstanding the fact, that the size of the claims was limited to twenty five feet square. Those who had no claims, or whose claims were worked out, advanced up the river, clambering over rocks of the canyon in the direction of the fork of the Thompson, where there was room enough for all who could obtain supplies.
The greatest number were employed between Hope and Yale, but among the best diggings were those at the Fountain, six miles above the great falls, and for some time the northern limit of mining. From Murderer or Cornish Bar, four miles below Hope, innumerable bars, signifying simply accessible river-bottom formed by angles in the current, were prospected, and most of them worked, for a distance of 140 miles along the Fraser, and along the Thompson to a point fifteen miles above the mouth of the Nicola. Nearly all of these were wiped out of memory as the inhabitants migrated and the traces of their existence were washed away by the recurring floods of the rivers, so that only a few found a permanent place in the geography of the country.
The first place above Langley which contained gold in appreciable quantity was the Maria Bar, between the Sumas and Harrison, followed by the Murdered bar, four miles below Hope, and subsequently known as Cornish Bar. Between these existed other bars which were disregarded at first, owing to the fineness of their gold. The localities above Hope are giving a mosquito, or Poverty, fifty-four Forty, Union, Canadian, Santa Clara, Deadwood, Express, American, Puget Sound, Victoria, Yankee Doodle, Eagle, Alfred, Sacramento, Texas Hunter, Emory, Rocky, Trinity, Hill, Casey, Yale.
It was observed by Douglas that the bars grew richer in ascending order, Hills Bar being the best, and appearing to bear a resemblance to some of the river bars of California. Discovered early in 1858 by Hill, an American, it progressed so rapidly that in September Douglas laid out a town here on the system followed at Hope. Two months later the bar proper being worked out, the bench’s were resorted to, in 1859 a ditch was constructed at a cost of twelve thousand dollars, which yielded a monthly profit of fifty percent. This ground also declined, and the population was transferred to Yale.
In June 1858, the miners were distributed between Langley and the canyon thirty or forty miles above Yale, and advancing in successive stages toward the Forks, where is was known that the authors of the Fraser excitement had been mining successfully during the winter and spring, till scarcity of supplies and high water obliged them to retreat. By October, according to official estimates, a population of ten thousand was distributed along the river. The number between Cornish Bar and Yale, in November, was four thousand; Hope contained four hundred more, and Yale thirteen hundred. In Hope district an ounce a day was common wages, while some miners earned two or more ounce for weeks together; so most of those who had been engaged with rockers on these bars up to Yale, returned at the close of the season of 1858, with from two to four thousand dollars clear of expenses.
Toward Yale sluicing entered largely into mining operations, and the yield rose as high as twenty-five dollars a day to the man, although the general average was considerably lower. Occasionally rich strikes were made and created more or less wide spread excitement. In October 1858 the benches of Yale developed some coarse gold, and the miners were with difficulty restrained from digging away the town.
Sluicing yielded about twice the return obtained with rockers, but as this method involved considerable preliminary and often costly labour, the wooden pail, pan, and rocker retained the favour of majority. Many places, particularly the benches and higher ground, could not, however, be worked advantageously without ditches, and these came into use quite early in the season of 1858. Between Cornish Bar and Hope alone there where thirteen ditches in operation in November, and more in the process of construction. The yield of forty sluice-heads in April 1859 was six thousand dollars a day, and the ditch company at Hill Bar received five dollars a day from forty claims.
In the spring of 1860, the Hope district was still occupied by over two hundred miners, who were making an average of six dollars a day on old ground!' This rate was approximately maintained for a long time, chiefly by means of sluices, since the ground all along the river was in a sense inexhaustible. The winter of 1876-7 was particularly favourable for sluicing. The operations were desultory, however, and the field was left more open for Chinese and Indians, who followed improved methods, and continued year after year to dig up the bars and enter into the benches. Already in 1851 two thousand Chinese were digging around Yale.
During the first half of 1858, Langley was regarded as the head of steam navigation,. and consequently as the centre of Fraser traffic, to which the Otter and the Sea Bird were making regular trips from, Victoria. Deterred by the passage rate of twenty dollars, canoes ventured also to cross from Victoria and other points, and proceeded up the Fraser direct to Hope and Yale, while steamer passengers were often detained at Langley for want of boats. This inconvenience induced the steamer Surprise to try the current above, and on June 4th she reached Hope without difficulty, transferring by this coup the head of steamboat navigation to the latter place. But this was only for a while, since the feat or the Surprise was surpassed on July 21st, when the American boat Umatilla succeeded, in reaching Yale, and made this the steamer terminus.
In announcing this triumph, Douglas informed the colonial office that he had licensed two American vessels to ply on the. Fraser. He claimed the merit on behalf of the Hudson's Bay Company of having laid in large supplies and tools for the miners, and of selling them at barely remunerative prices; and yet, a month later, the papers were complaining of the monopoly in Fraser trade and navigation in the interest of the Hudson's Bay Company. .
Canoes could readily come up to Yale near the falls, but beyond this the difficulty and danger of the journey were appalling, even at low water. The obstacle consisted in the rapids of the lower canon, four miles above Yale, and in those of the great canyon, eighteen miles below the Forks. The route by land along the Fraser, from Yale to Quayome, afterward Boston Bar, was a mere goat-track with inclines of thirty to thirty-six degrees, and with yawning precipices. So long as the miners had to carry everything on their back through these canyons, partly for want of horses, mining was necessarily retarded; for travelling to and fro with heavy loads was - a severe task on energy, time, and labour, and this was besides interrupted by the snow and cold which set in with December.
At Spuzzum, six miles above the Fraser falls and ten miles above Yale, an old horse-trail formerly reached the river from the Similkameen on the plateau, and followed the Kequeloose River for six miles. It had been opened in 1847-8, but was abandoned as impracticable, chiefly on account of the break caused by the falls. When the miners came first into the field, the route up the Fraser first used by them, followed the old Kequeloose horse-trail away from the river some distance, and then descended along Anderson River to the Fraser at Boston Bar. From five to eight days were usually expended between Langley and the falls, and thence onward, according to the load.
Another route for which great advantages were claimed was by the Whatcom and Smess trail, continuing along the Fraser to Hope, and thence across the mountains and along the plateau to Thompson River, by which it was possible to reach the mines above the canyon independently of canoe navigation and canons.
The achievement of the Umatilla decided the question in favour of the more direct road along the west side of the Fraser, and the marches then on the Hope and plateau trails were transferred to it, when the part between Yale and Spuzzum was opened for pack-trains in August 1,858. At Spuzzum a bridge had been constructed by Frank Way, and a mile above he conducted the ferry which could carry ten loaded animals.
Although the road was not yet quite clear, five hundred mules were on the way, and the first train reached the Forks September 10th. Pedestrians’ still preferred the foot-trail along the bluffs, and in 1859 a ferry was established at Boston Bar, which enabled them to pass by Spuzzum. This trail had the .disadvantage of being blocked by snow early in the winter, a difficulty averted by the opening in November of the Harrison-Lillooet road.
Another route to the upper country in 1858 was the McLaughlin trial by way of Priest Rapids, followed by the regular Oregon packers. It was more direct than the Palmer branch, and ascended the Similkameen to Red Earth Fork, whence it struck across a divide to Nicola Valley, reaching the Thompson at Nicaomeen, thirteen miles above its mouth.
The oldest travelled route on the plateau beyond this was the brigade trail of the Hudson's Bay Company, which connected at the Forks with the Hope-Spuzzum trail, and passed northward by way of the Fountain. It had been brought into use on the abandonment in 1847 of the Columbia River route.
The land and water route opened between Harrison River and Lillooet by October 1858 became for a considerable time the main line for traffic with the upper country. By October 1860, a new and easier road, practicable during winter, was opened between Yale and Lytton, and it needed only the Cariboo excitement to set in motion the transformation of the trail into a wagon-road, the cutting and blasting for which began at Yale in 1862. The road was gradually extended under different contracts, and by 1864 the era of freight-wagons had set in.
Above the little canyon at Yale, mining was prosecuted to a considerable extent even in 1858, notwithstanding the difficulty of transporting supplies; and Boston Bar and Lytton rose to be geographical points of note. Boston Bar lay at the mouth of the Anderson River, midway between Yale and Lytton, and was the representative camp of the unnavigable portion of the canon. It was often referred to by its Indian name of Anayome. The buildings were pleasantly situated on a low flat, and a ferry connected with the rich island bar on the opposite side. Between Yale and Spuzzum, known also as Rancheria, were named Wellington, Sailor, Pike, Madison, Steamboat, , Humbug, Surprise, Washington, and Kelly bars; and between Spuzzum and Boston Bar, the ferry, Chetman or Chapman, Steamboat, Cross, and Nicaragua bars.
At all of these places mining was at first almost entirely confined to the river-bed, and within six inches of the surface" so that the deposit did not last long. Similar strata existed beneath, but they were not so readily found, nor so accessible on account of the water, combined with much barren ground.
Most claims yielded early in 1858 twelve dollars to the man, but Sailor diggings were reported in June as the richest, and 'averaging one ounce, though four ounces were not uncommon. Before the completion of the mule-trail above Yale, mining was necessarily interrupted by intervening journeys for supplies, and in August the Indian campaign brought it to a standstill for a short time. In November 1858, the population of the district was three hundred, who carried on their mining throughout the winter, and made good wages, although the ground had frequently to thawed by fires.
The prevalent impression that the country at and beyond the confluence of the Thompson was rich and contained coarser gold, had attracted many to Lytton. A party of miners returning from the Forks reached Victoria in April 1858, and reported one hundred and fifty men at work there, while as many more were on the way to the place. The mule-trail from Yale not being opened yet, the Forks were precariously situated from want of supplies, and seventy miners returned to Yale empty-handed in consequence, though they were believed to be rich. The Hudson’s Bay station at the Forks being the objective point of all those who advanced beyond Boston Bar, and the depot for the miners who reached the Forks, was itself so far reduced in June and July 1858, that the company's men were glad to avail themselves of berries for food, while the miners all along the river above Boston Bar were reported to be actually starving.
The transportation difficulty was overcome in September, when the mule-trains and express companies poured into the camps, and mining was entered upon with spirit, chiefly within a circuit of six miles from Lytton. Before the close of the year some of the high branches were prospected, and found to yield coarse gold up to five dollar lumps. In January 1859 a hundred men were digging around Lytton, and averaging eight dollars a day. Favourable reports were freely circulated by traders and others, and early in 1859 the influx from the lower country began on a large scale. By March 24th it was reported that three hundred boats, carrying an average of five miners each, had passed Yale, and were trying to work over the rapids during the low water.
A still larger number proceeded by land, so that upward of three thousand persons had entered the Cascade region before the end of the month. Many of these remained round Lytton, which, in October 1858, had already attained to fifty houses or tent-dwellings, and promised to advance rapidly.
Determined to further its prospects, Douglas, in September 1860, despatched a party to seek a route in the direction of Van Winkle Bar and Lillooet, and granted twenty-five hundred dollars for opening the road to Bonaparte River by way of Hat Creek. His object was afterward attained in a more decisive manner by the construction of the wagon-road along the Thompson to Cache Creek, which branched to Cariboo, and commanded the entire area between Kamloops and Okanagan Lake. In September 1860, Douglas found two hundred white and five hundred Chinese miners in Lytton district, yielding a license revenue of four thousand dollars. In 1864 several companies were still taking out considerable sums from the river-bed at Kanaka Creek, twelve miles below Lytton, and at other points, the dirt being secured while accessible, and washed afterwards.
We have now ascended the Fraser to the borders of the region referred to by Douglas, in his despatches at the beginning of the gold excitement in British Columbia, as the Couteau mining country. At Lytton the Fraser receives the waters of the Thompson, a large river, which after draining the southern sides of some of the Cariboo parallels of the Rocky Mountains, traverses the northern plateau, containing the earliest found placers in the Fraser River basin. Here the stream of prospectors pressing inland in the spring of 1858 divided; but owing to the larger extent of the river bars, and profitable ground on the Fraser, the great majority continued up the main artery. In April 1858, both bank and river mining were in progress between the forks of
the Thompson and the Fountain, and miners were reported to be making from eight to one hundred dollars a day, the average being from nine to ten dollars.
So by November the number of those engaged in mining between this point and the Fountain had greatly increased. Mormon Bar, Spindulen Flat, Cameron Bar, McGoffey Dry-diggings, Foster Bar, Willow Bank, and the great falls were localities in order between the Forks and Cayoosh, afterward known as Lillooet, at the junction of the Harrison River route with the Fraser. Robinson's Bar and French Bar were between Lillooet and Bridge River, and a few miles above that were upper Mormon Bar and the Fountain, the limit of extensive or profitable mining in 1858. Wing-damming was tried at Mormon Bar, and succeeded well, even after the bed had been worked for some time. Ditches were also introduced at several bars with success, particularly at McGoffey Dry-diggings, where the benches were reported very rich. Lumps were .obtained here weighing from fifty cents to twelve dollars, and at the falls coarse gold was found in considerable quantity up to six-ounce pieces.
Foster Bar was one of the earliest and best known localities. Here Cornwallis and his party in July 1858 washed out with rockers, in six hours, from three to five ounces of gold each: and the Indians at the same time were carrying in skin pouches from $100 to $500 worth of gold-dust. In May 1865 there were still some sixty miners at this place, working chiefly with rockers, and making from $3 to $8 a day, while a sluice company was averaging $8 to the man. This bar was noted for the only case of open resistance to the authorities that took place during the whole of the Fraser excitement in 1858.
A man named D. Brown being charged with some criminal offence, some of the miners posted themselves in a log-house and undertook to defend their companion against arrest. A severe fight ensued, in which Brown was shot, and the party was forced to surrender.
Some distance above Foster Bar lay the Indian village of Cayoosh, where miners had been occupied long before the Harrison River route transformed the place into the trading town of Lilloet, which by May 1859 boasted of several houses and a number of tent-buildings. With the opening of this route mining sprung up at several points along its course, for the loam on Lilloet River covered a bed of clay which was associated with placers; while quartz veins cropped out along the banks of Lillooet Lake, and extended through the entire ridge to the Fraser at Lytton. The yield on Lilloet River was not very alluring, however, and varied in March 1859 from $2.00. to $4.00 with the rocker, and '5 to 8 with the sluice. These rates were still obtainable in 1867, when sluicing was carried on by several parties.
Some of the most successful mining operations on the Fraser from June 1858, and throughout 1859, were witnessed between the great falls and the Fountain, including the Bridge River, which entered the Fraser a little above Lillooet. At Robinson Bar, near Lillooet, about one hundred miners were engaged in June 1858, making from $80 to $90 a day each during the first four or five days, after which the yield fell to $5 or $6.
At French Bar, close above Lillooet, the prospects justified the construction of two ditches, each a mile in length, which were worked in the beginning of 1859, a dozen miners. Their receipts in May were from eight dollars to twelve dollars, while rockers made about half of this amount to the man. Here a ferry crossed the Fraser to Fort Behrens, and connected with a trail to the Fountain. Bridge River, so named from the bridges constructed by Indians as well as white men, became popular in 1858 from the discovery of some coarse gold, not exceeding one and a half ounces in size; but it was soon found that the chief yield was scale gold, which required great care and much quicksilver. The river was prospected to the Cascade Mountains, wing-dammed, flumed, and mined in the bed as well as in the bank; and although the diggings were shallow, the prospect, as reported by Bishop Hill and others, was so encouraging that the faith in their productiveness became abiding. Nugent estimated that it possessed suitable placers for fifteen hundred miners. A little town was founded here by Fraser and Davis, which in May 1859 contained seven business houses and several tents.
Impressed with the common belief that richer placers might be found farther up the river, the government fitted out a prospecting expedition under Andrew J. Jamieson, which started from Lillooet August 7th, and ascended the south fork of Bridge River for seventy miles above its junction with the main stream. Here was found a slate much resembling that of Williams Creek in Cariboo, with stream placers.
The pay dirt was from three to five feet deep, and resembled the deposits of so many other places already described in not occurring on the bed-rock. Quartz veins and indications of silver were found everywhere, and on Gun Creek, a tributary of Bridge River, fifty miles by the trail from Lillooet, fine gold placers were discovered, yielding from six to fifteen dollars a day. One feature of the entire region was the abundance of black sand in the bed of the river. A map of the country explored was made, and exhibited at Victoria..
The Chinese formed a large portion of the influx to the new field, and soon became the chief holders of claims, carrying on quite extensive dam operations. One of their Wingdam claims yielded in 1866 $55,000 to a party of twelve. Ten years later the Indians were in almost exclusive possession, and still securing fair returns.
The Fountain, or Fountains, a few miles above Bridge River, at the mouth of Fountain Creek, on the left bank of the Fraser, was so named by the French Canadians on account of some natural features of the vicinity. It was the ultimate camp of the mining emigration of 1858, and had in 1859 become a village of half a dozen log-huts and two or three large stores scattered over the lower of two vast terraces that swept around the base of the mountain behind. Its mining consisted in 1858 of dry-diggings, thirty yards from the bed of the river, which yielded remarkably well. The auriferous deposit came evidently from the hills, for a party of eight persons averaged two ounces a day to the hand with rockers, thirty feet above the highest water level in the river, and finding the ground rich from the level of the stream to an altitude of eight or nine hundred feet, they threw up a ditch seven miles in length, which was completed before the coming of frost in the autumn of 1858. In the first five days' washing, before they were interrupted by the frost, the company took out of the sluices one thousand one hundred and ninety-eight dollars.
In 1876 the placers were still yielding a little gold, and the sixty Chinese then engaged on the river banks were making about two dollars and a half a day. One of them had just constructed a ten-mile ditch from the Fountain Creek, one third flumed, at a cost of fourteen thousand dollars, and was delivering five hundred inches of water along the left bank of the Fraser. Above the Fountain on the Fraser were Day Bar, Haskell Bar, Big Bar, and Island Bar in the Canoe country, and British Bar and Ferguson Bar,
extending for over one hundred and fifty miles to the mouth of Quesnelle River and into the Canoe country, and forming the stepping-stones to Cariboo. The Canoe country so designated from Canoe Creek in 51° 30', is described as beginning fifty miles above the Fountain, and extending indefinitely to the north, over the undulating plateau, through which the Fraser cuts a deep channel.
The Chilcotin and Cariboo Country
In 1858 this region was scarcely touched except by prospectors. In May and June 1858, Aaron Post, a miner from EI Dorado County. California. penetrated alone to near Chilcotin River, one hundred and sixty miles above the mouth of the Thompson, prospecting on every bar, and finding plenty of gold. His provisions giving out he had recourse to berries, and occasionally to horse-flesh, obtained from the Indians, though he reported them as generally hostile.
Several prospectors followed in the footsteps of Post, and although none were able to remain for want of provisions, yet all brought gold and good reports. The opening of the southern roads brought to this region a fresh influx of permanent diggers, who made from five to sixteen dollars with rockers on the various bars, with occasional rich discoveries. It was not rare to find places above high water which yielded better than those below it, but the bars remained the chief resort during 1859 and 1860. At Island Bar. so named from the island formed here at high water, were several parties who in December 1858 had each from eight hundred to three thousand dollars' worth of dust, yet this autumn had proved a hard time, for want of supplies, and numbers had been compelled to depart.
The bars above Alexandria, as far as the mouth of the Quesnelle, and also those of Quesnelle River, were first occupied in the spring of 1859 by the advancing prospectors, who wandered restlessly from bar to bar, looking further all the while for coarser gold and more of it. .As early as May 1859, rumours began to reach Bridge River of rich discoveries in this direction; vague as they were, they travelled fast, and attracted enough attention to induce many persons who were arriving at Bridge River en route for the lower Fraser to hesitate and turn back.
Late in the season of 1859 definite reports came that the search for gold had proved successful on the Quesnelle; and in 1860, by the time the pioneers of the column reached Antler Creek, six hundred white miners were said to be engaged on this river, making from ten to twenty-five dollars per day, and occasionally turning up nuggets weighing from six to eight ounces. Simultaneously with these developments, several bars above Alexandria were brought into prominence, and mining advanced so rapidly that this very year a gold commissioner was appointed, who stationed himself at Williams Lake.
At British Bar, about fifty miles above Alexandria, the yield was so promising as to induce six Cornishmen, in November 1860, to open a ditch five miles in length. At Ferguson Bar, three miles higher, sixty dollars to the man were made for some time, and the sand overlying the pay streak was' found sufficiently rich to justify the construction of a four-mile ditch, at a cost of $12,000. This region continued for years to give employment to miners, and occasional rich strikes served to keep up the interest of prospectors.
Thompson River, the principal tributary of the Fraser, and the first to disclose its auriferous ground after the announcement of the discoveries on the Columbia, had a comparatively insignificant mining record after 1858. Early in the Fraser excitement the small nuggets at Nicaomeen, ten miles from the mouth, attracted much attention; but the supply appears to have been soon exhausted.
The whole course of the stream lay in a gold-bearing formation, but the yield never equalled that of the Fraser, nor was the mining population ever extensive, and the towns of Cache Creek, Kamloops, and Seymour grew up rather as transportation depots than as mining villages. In 1858, Tranquille River, on the north-shore of Kamloops Lake, was prospected for some forty miles, and found to promise from five to six dollars to the man with sluices. Mining here attained a greater degree of permanency than elsewhere along the Thompson, and 'cradling and hill-digging 'were for several more years carried on by whites, Chinese, or Indians.
The discovery of coarse gold in pieces up to three quarters of an ounce in weight, and of a layer of pay dirt three or four feet in thickness, above the level of' the river-bed, caused an increased activity in 1861, with a larger yield. Several other parts of the Thompson, though less permanent, yielded good returns. At one place five men were in 1859 making nearly three hundred dollars a day with the sluice, while others obtained ten to twelve dollars with rockers. In September 1860, two hundred Chinese were digging near the mouth of the river, and in the autumn of 1861, one hundred and fifty miners were reported at work not far from Tranquille River, making sixteen dollars a day.
The deposits on the north branch of the Thompson came first into notice in 1861, when a tributary from the east, twenty miles above its mouth, was mined to a small extent and yielded eight to ten dollars a day. At the same time the Indians found coarse gold above the junction of the Clearwater, and on the Barriere River a community of French Canadians was making as high as $30 to the man a day.
To be continued
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