Quesnel Forks: Cariboo gold rush town

Quesnel Forks was a thriving town during the Cariboo gold rush. Located at the junction of the Cariboo and Quesnel Rivers, it was the ideal location for trade.

Established in 1859, when gold was discovered nearby, Quesnel Forks quickly grew to include boarding houses, saloons, stores, over twenty houses, and many tents. Pack trains entered town along a narrow trail above the river.

In September 1860, gold commissioner Philip H. Nind travelled north along the HBC brigade trail with Constable Pinchbeck to oversee the the new gold diggings.

Most of the gold seekers left Quesnel Forks soon after striking it rich; many left to avoid the winters and headed south.

In March, 1861, a bridge was constructed over the South Fork and another bridge over the North Fork was completed in 1864.

A visitor to Quesnel Forks in 1862 wrote:

Quesnelle City, consisting of some 30 or 40 houses and shanties and 70 or 80 tents, stands on a small flat at the junction of the south and north Forks of the Quesnelle. It is surrounded by lofty thickly wooded mountains. A small space has been chopped and burnt off. The south fork is crossed by a very good wooden bridge. It is the depot where the Cariboo mines are supplied.

By 1863, Quesnel Forks had a large Chinatown and its population increased to over 3,000 by 1869. Stores including the Kwong Lee (referred to as the Chinese Hudson’s Bay Company) were established here.

The creeks a few miles north of Quesnel Forks were panned for gold and even as late as 1866, there were reports that mostly Chinese miners were recovering gold that was “very rough and of superior quality.”

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