The rise of Antler: Cariboo gold rush town

After discovering the creek which bears his name, W.R. “Doc” Keithley and George Weaver decided to look for gold in the creeks beyond in the late fall of 1860.

Americans John Rose and Ben Macdonald joined Keithley and Weaver in their search and came upon a creek which had a number of cast antlers there, and so named it Antler Creek.

They filled their gold pans with gold lightn1ngs from both sides of the creek; just two pans retrieved $175 worth of gold. Realizing they had found a major opportunity, the group staked out areas on the creek for themselves. After several days when their food supplies were dwindling, they headed back to the town of Keithley.

Despite their best intentions to keep Antler Creek a secret, the rumour leaked out. It wasn’t long before other goldseekers followed despite the heavy snow, necessitating the use of snowshoes. Dozens of parties set out from Keithley, trekking over five and six feet of snow to Antler to stake claims which led to much dispute. Many lived in snow caves by the creek and some even managed to retrieve gold in the early months of 1861 despite four feet of snow on the ground.

By the Spring of 1861, there was much activity along Antler Creek fueled by reports such as $900 for two days’ work. One claim brought $300 a day per goldseeker. A sawmill and ten cabins were built by June. Within two months, there were 60 buildings, including saloons, stores, residences, and numerous tents.

On August 17, 1861, a correspondent for the British Colonist newspaper wrote:

“Robberies are not infrequent in Antler. Recently, $130 in gold dust and two pistols were taken from Cameron’s Golden Age Saloon. A slight stabbing affair is also noted. Watson and Taylor’s Minstrels are still performing at Antler.”