Catherine Parker was a boarding house keeper and saloon keeper in Barkerville during the Cariboo gold rush. Born in Ireland to the Dunn family in 1841, Catherine was a young woman when she moved to England and married Samuel Parker. In 1861, the Parkers and their two daughters emigrated to British Columbia where they set up a trading post at Port Douglas at the head of Harrison Lake.
In May, 1867, the Cariboo Sentinel reported that “Mr. Parker is fitting up a very comfortable dwelling to be used as a boarding house” along with King’s blacksmith shop, Kerr’s Brewery and another dwelling house “all of which are nearly finished” in a building owned by Mr. Fulton.
The Parkers kept up with their business until the Great Fire of Barkerville just over a year later. Just two weeks later, Catherine gave birth to a son. Determined to get back into business, the Parkers rebuilt and established a new boarding house with 10 bedrooms, a parlour, a bar room and a kitchen. While most other boarding houses only furnished their rooms with cots, Mrs. Parker advertised “Beds Beds Beds.”
After the death of her husband in 1873, Catherine married a Cornish miner named John Austin. She sold the hotel in Barkerville and together they moved to Lightning Creek where they ran the Stanley Hotel. Catherine arranged for ‘hurdy gurdy girls’ (dancers) to come to the Stanley Hotel and also scheduled their appearances at various other venues in Barkerville.
Later, they sold the Stanley Hotel and established the Austin Hotel in Richfield. In 1881, they sold their hotel and took over a large saloon in Barkerville previously owned by John Knott. This is now known as the Barkerville Hotel.
In the late 1880s, the Austins left the Cariboo for good and moved to Vancouver.