Where was the first BC gold rush? The very first documented gold rush in British Columbia took place at Haida Gwaii (formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands) in 1852.
In 1850, specimens of gold ore from the Queen Charlottes were traded at the Hudson’s Bay Company Fort Simpson. Chief Trader John Work ordered test blasts at Englefield Bay and a lot of gold was found.
In October 1851, the Hudson’s Bay Company sent Captain William Mitchell, however, the natives opposed the idea of the harbour being blown apart and seeing gold being taken away in large quantities. They wanted to retain gold for their own trading purposes.
James Douglas, then chief factor of HBC on the Pacific Coast and Governor of Vancouver Island, proposed the idea of setting aside Gold (Mitchell) Harbour for a trading post with the order:
Should any other party be employed on the vein when you reach Gold Harbour, you will require them to remove from the spot, as the place belongs to the Hudson’s Bay Company by discovery and prior occupation, as well as by Her Majesty’s exclusive license of trade granted to the company.
Within six months, news of gold spread to the United States and small ships of gold seekers set out from San Francisco.
“In the spring of 1852, an expedition was fitted out from San Francisco, lured by the accounts received from that island, to the effect that gold had been discovered there. The schooner Susan Sturgis, Capt. Rooney, with thirty-five adventurers arrived at Mitchell’s Harbor on the western coast of the island.”
The gold seekers didn’t have much luck finding gold themselves, but the Haida did trade gold with them for a price.
Captain Baker, at Olympia, sent a letter to the Oregonian newspaper in the spring of 1852:
We were wrongly informed, but did not give up till we found the place. We were several times for weeks wind-bound in different harbors… There are eleven tribes on the Island… those at Gold Harbor … have been spoiled by the HBC Co. and want to barter more than twice the value of their gold.