Billy Barker came to British Columbia during the Fraser River gold rush in 1858 from Cornwall, England. Barker went north to the Cariboo when he heard about “Dutch” Bill Dietz’s discovery in Williams Creek in 1861.
It was relatively expensive to dig a shaft at the time, and Barker got together with six other English miners, each holding a full interest of 100 feet. They erected the first building – a rough, log-walled shafthouse – on Williams Creek below the canyon. Prior to the Barker claim, all of the other gold discoveries were confined to the upper part of Williams creek, north of the canyon which separated the upper portion of the creek Williams Creek and the town of Richfield.
Barker and co. did not strike paydirt immediately and many say that it was because of Judge Begbie’s financial assistance, that Barker was able to pay his creditors and continue sinking the shaft.
On August 22, 1862 came the news that Barker had struck gold at fifty-five feet. They consistently brought up gold valued at five dollars a pan. The good news became even better when they reached bedrock at eighty feet and extracted a thousand dollars worth of gold in less than two days.
Within a year of the gold strike, 10,000 people settled around Barker’s shaft house and the town of Barkerville was established.
While Barker was known to be generous with helping other miners, his company employed a guard to watch over the shaft. Fred Littler was a boxer and later express man whose cabin served as a landmark, southeast of Barkerville.