Gold fever comes to Victoria a.k.a. Tent Town

Outside the walls of the HBC Fort Victoria, a tent town sprang up. John Keast Lord of the Royal Engineers observed bartenders and monte-dealers plying their trade in large canvas shelters, “ablaze of light, redolent of cigars, smashes, cobblers, and cocktails.”

Tent town Victoria

Tent town Victoria

The Hudson’s Bay Company first took some gold dust and nuggets to be assayed at the San Francisco Mint in February 1858. By the end of April, ships were heading north to Victoria.

Steamers (sternwheelers or sidewheelers) began making round trips between San Francisco and Victoria in ten days, taking 500 passengers and full freights north each time.

From the Knickerbocker Magazine in New York:

Many of the steamers and vessels went up with men huddled like sheep — so full that all could not sit or lie down together…

The goldseekers arrived to find out there wasn’t any accommodation for them. So they pegged up wedge-shaped canvas tents, lean-tos and other make-shift shelters.

Lekwungen Territory

Across the way was a Songhees village. This was part of the larger Lekwungen Territory. The Songhees were comprised of several local groups who collectively referred to themselves as Lekwungen. They lived in houses with single-pitch shed roofs over horizontal plank walls parallel to the waterfront.

Monte: a card game that became popular during the California gold rush. It was originally played in Mexico and brought north after the Mexican War in 1847. Players bet on the turn of the card by the dealer.

Smash: gets its name from mint leaves which were ‘smashed up’ in the shaking of ice, whiskey and sugar. Goldseekers preferred to drink their smashes quickly; not sipped.

Cobbler: a cocktail made with either brandy or whiskey and slices of fruit, sugar, and ice. Cobblers were often served with a straw so one didn’t swallow any pits.

Here is my page from my graphic novel I’m working on, “Cartoon Introduction to the Fraser River Gold Rush.”

Can you spot the figure standing next to the San Francisco Mint?