John ‘Cariboo’ Cameron was a clerk in Ontario when he heard of the gold rush in British Columbia. John, his wife Sophia and their baby daughter travelled to Halifax and then by sailing ship around South America to Victoria. They arrived in Victoria on February 27, 1862.
He was almost broke when his baby became ill and died. Fortunately, he met an old friend from Ontario, Robert Stevenson, who lent him $2,000 worth of supplies on credit. In the spring, Cameron and Sophia headed for the goldfields on Antler Creek.
On August 22, 1862 a company was formed consisting of Robert Stevenson, John and Sophia, Richard Rivers, Allen McDonald, Charles Clendening, and James Clendening. They staked an area on the left bank of Williams Creek and called it the Cameron Claim.
By early September, the miners began to build cabins for themselves and more claims were made adjacent to theirs. Soon the settlement became known as Cameron’s Town, shortened eventually to Cameronton.
In the summer of 1863, Dr. Chipp reported to the Cariboo Sentinel that there “were typhoid symptoms which were fatal to some.” Indeed, there were several outbreaks of this disease throughout the Cariboo.
In October when the weather was -30°F, Sophia Cameron contracted typhoid fever and died. One of her last requests was that she be buried back home in Ontario. John placed his wife in a casket in an abandoned cabin and carried on working. Shortly afterward, they struck gold.
In the new year, Cameron confided in Stevenson that he wanted to honour Sophia’s last request. At the end of January 1864, the two of them set out when it was -50°F and the snow was 7 feet deep with Sophia’s casket and 50lbs of gold borrowed from the Barker Company tied to a sleigh.
On their way to Victoria, Cameron and Stevenson came across another man who helped them to move the casket in the inclement weather. In return for his help, Cameron bought him a claim.
Later in 1863, Cameron returned from Ontario to Williams Creek. The large output of gold from his mine earned him the title of ‘Cariboo’ Cameron. In two years, he left for his home near Glengarry, Ontario and took with him an immense fortune in gold. After generously sharing his wealth with family and friends, Cameron married for a second time.
Unfortunately, Cameron lost most of his own fortune in unlucky investments and he returned with his wife to Barkerville in 1888. He died that same year in November and was buried in the cemetary above Cameronton.