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History of Barkerville

Images of Barkerville


Barkerville Essays

History of Barkerville

In 1858, word of the discovery of gold on the Fraser River reached the outside world and resulted in an influx of gold seekers from all corners of the globe.
General view of Barkerville

As the gold in the gravel bars of the lower Fraser declined, prospectors followed the river north, eventually reaching the rich gold-bearing creeks of the Cariboo. In 1861, a party led by William "Dutch Bill" Dietz, found gold in a stream they named Williams Creek in Dutch Bill's honor.

At first, most of the mining activity was confined to the portion of the creek above the canyon where gold was found at a shallow depth. Amid the clutter of flumes and sluice boxes, the town of Richfield sprang up in 1861.
Billy Barker

William "Billy" Barker was an Englishman who arrived in Victoria in 1858. After two unsuccessful attempts to find gold above the canyon, he decided to try his luck downstream. Forming the Barker Company with seven other Englishmen in 1862, Barker sank a shaft below the canyon at Williams Creek where the depth of the overburden made people believe that gold would never be found. At a depth of forty feet, Barker and company struck pay dirt.

News of the Barker strike spread rapidly. Soon, the town of Barkerville, named after Billy Barker, was born.

Barkerville grew alongside the Barker claims. Rude cabins and tents of the miners made way for more permanent log and frame buildings which housed a variety of businesses.
Barkerville sidewalks
Saloons, dancehalls, general stores and boarding houses all served the needs of the miners. These buildings were raised on posts to avoid the mud, and wooden plank sidewalks were built.

In the early 1860's, food and supplies were carried to the Cariboo on miners' backs or by packtrains. The completion of the Cariboo Wagon Road to Barkerville in 1865 eased this problem greatly.
F.J. Barnard Express Office

Several stage companies ran from Barkerville. The most famous and longest was established by F.J. Barnard. His B.X. Express, later called the B.C. Express, ran all the way from Barkerville to Yale.

The social life in Barkerville was exciting. Hurdy Gurdy dancing girls charged the miners a dollar a dance. Gambling and drinking were accepted and horse races and prize fights were common. There were also church services, the Cariboo Literary society and the Theatre Royal.
Hurdy Gurdy Girls

On September 16, 1868, Barkerville was engulfed by fire which spread through all the dry-as-tinder wooden buildings. Within two and a half hours, only a handful of buildings were left standing. Winter was approaching, so they had to rebuild fast.

Within six weeks, over ninety percent of the building were rebuilt.
BC Archives C-05929
The only house left in Barkerville
after the great fire of 1868

Barkerville continued to be a thriving little town until the turn of the century, and in the 1930's it was soon eclipsed by the new mining town of Wells.

Last updated Febuary 28, 1999.
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