The incredible yield of gold on Williams Creek

A letter written June 15, 1862 by Assistant Gold Commissioner Thomas Elwyn to the Colonial Secretary at Victoria gives some idea of the immense activity going in the Cariboo:

At Antler five hundred men are preparing to mine but only a few companies are actually at work. There will be, I am satisfied, over one thousand men employed on the creek, and the yield of gold for this season will nearly equal the yield of the whole of the Cariboo last summer. Claims have been taken up both on the creek and on the banks for a distance of two miles which will pay $40 to $100 a day to the hand.

I paid five shillings per pound for flour and six shillings per pound for bacon at the town of Antler (considered of very little importance last year)….

On my way from Antler to this place I passed within two and a half miles from the mouth of Grouse Creek, but my presence was so urgently required here [at Williams Creek] that fearing a delay of some days I did not go up this creek.

The yield of gold on Williams Creek is something almost incredible and the rich claims have risen to three times their market value of last winter. Only six companies are at present taking out gold but there are between five and six hundred men on the creek, sinking shafts and getting their claims into working order. Cunningham & Company have been working their claims for the past six weeks, and for the last thirty days have been taking out gold at the rate of three thousand dollars every twenty-four hours. In the tunnel owned by this company the average prospect is thirty-five ounces to the set. Messrs. Steele & Company have been engaged for the past ten days in making a flume but during the previous three weeks their claims yielded two hundred ounces a day.

These figures are so startling that I should be afraid to put them on paper in a report for His Excellency’s information were I not on the spot and know them to be the exact truth.

There is every possibility that before the end of this season there will be fifteen to twenty companies on this creek, the yield of whose claims will equal those above mentioned.

There are at present no provisions for sale here; but the prices hitherto have been about the same as at Antler Creek.

I expect to be detained here for five or six days settling mining disputes, after which I shall go to Lightning Creek…

A great many men, principally Canadians are returning below. They are as a rule entirely ignorant of mining and came up here with a few pounds of provisions on their backs and hardly any money.

Considering the exorbitant prices…I hope that His Excellency will give his consent to Mr. Hankis and my constable receiving some extra allowance, or an increase in salary.