Category Archives: Gold Rush Notes

Brief history facts explained about the BC gold rush

Edward Mallandaine’s night school for miners

Heading back to school? If you were in Victoria in 1859, chances are you would have seen a ‘notice’ (advertisements were called notices back then) for a day school run by J. Silversmith:Select Day School 1859

Select Day School. J. Silversmith, Principal. Corner of Broadway and Yates streets, Victoria. Parents and Guardians are advised that in this Institute, children of both sexes, from the age of five years and upwards are successfully instructed in the elementary branches of an English education – and free from Sectarianism. Private Tuition in the French, German, Spanish and English Languages. Music: Piano, Violin, Guitar and Singing.

School for Young LadiesAs soon as the Fraser River gold rush began, Bishop Demers, who was already running several schools for boys, sent word out to the Sisters of St. Ann to come and teach girls. In June 1858, four sisters arrived from eastern Canada after a lengthy journey by ship via Panama and San Francisco. In December 1859, the Sisters of St. Ann opened a school for ‘young ladies’.

What about the miners? It wasn’t just young people who needed an education. If you were going to strike it rich, you needed to know basic math.

The winter months were a time when a lot of miners returned to Victoria from ‘the diggings’ with gold dust and time on their hands.

Edward Mallandaine

Edward Mallandaine – architect, teacher, school principal

Edward Mallandaine saw an opportunity. He was trained as an architect but had caught the gold fever himself and wound up in Victoria like so many others. In December 1859 he started teaching miners at night at J. Silversmith’s select school.Evening Tuition - Select School

To All Persons Wishing to Profit by the Winter Season, the undersigned, E. Mallandaine, at the above central establishment, offers evening instruction at moderate charges, in Reading, Writing and Ciphering. To more advanced learners, thorough tuition in the English and French Languages, Grammar and Composition, Arithmetic, Geometry, Elementary Algebra, Drawing, and Line Drawing, the principles of Architecture and Design. Apply at the “Select School,” Broad Street to E. Mallandaine.

At first he saw this as a way to make extra money while he furthered his career as an architect but he wound up buying the school from J. Silversmith and it operated for many years.


Notes:

The school where the Sisters of St. Anne taught was constructed in 1848 by the Hudson’s Bay Company’s expert post-and-sill builder Jacques Laquechier. It was sold and moved several times before Bishop Demers bought it and moved it yet again. This school was later bought by the provincial museum and moved to its present location on the museum grounds.

Ciphering was an old method for solving proportions. It predated algebra. Here is an example via mathforum.org.

To cipher to the rule of three for 3, 9, and 2 
is to complete the phrase "3 is to 9 as 2 is to ___," with the answer 
being the quantity 6.

The Importance of the Columbia River

The Columbia River was the breadbasket of the Northwest. For thousands of years, the Columbia River was an important fishing and trade route for Native Americans. They traded with other tribes who lived along the Columbia River and along its tributaries all the way up the Okanagan River. Before the international boundary was drawn up at the 49th parallel, the Okanagan people (north and south) were considered as one.  Thousands more came from the Plateau region to trade their horses for salmon pemmican, root vegetables, berries and other necessary articles such as hemp.

When Alexander Mackenzie published his account of travelling to the Pacific Ocean in 1801, fur trading companies took note. After reading Mackenzie’s book, John Jacob Astor decided to set up the Pacific Fur Company and ‘cherry-picked’ seasoned voyageurs and traders from the North West Company to start its business.

The newly formed group had just started building ‘Fort Astoria’ when David Thompson came down the Columbia River. Not long later, John Stuart, who had paddled down that first trip with Simon Fraser, started the very first brigade trip from New Caledonia all the way to Fort Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia River. Unlike Fraser’s trip, Stuart’s group made part of the journey with horses.

The voyageurs coming from New Caledonia would set out from from an ice-covered Stuart’s Lake in April and by the end of June would reach the mouth of the Columbia River in time to meet the yearly ship coming from London with their supplies. At Fort Astoria, bundles of furs that had been carefully wrapped in buffalo hides were readied to be shipped to China. (The North West Company had a license from the East India Company which allowed them to send their furs there).

When the Hudson’s Bay Company merged with the North West Company in 1821, they took over their forts. The HBC built Fort Vancouver and that became the main fort.  Fort Nez Percés was renamed Fort Walla Walla although most people still called it by its old name. The HBC decided not to use the Fraser-Columbia route to supply its forts in New Caledonia, but the alternative route via the Peace River was used. This northerly route required a dangerous and lengthy (12 mile) portage. After losing canoes full of men and valuable furs, Governor Simpson decided that the Fraser-Columbia route was the better option after all.

From 1826 to 1847 the Fraser River – Columbia River route was used by the Hudson’s Bay Company. The overland brigade trail through the Okanagan served as a vital link in that route. The signing of the Oregon Treaty in 1846 which established the international boundary at the 49th parallel put a stop to that. The Hudson’s Bay Company left its forts below the line to the Americans.

The Fraser River – Columbia River route was used again by gold seekers during the Fraser River gold rush.

Note: Fort Astoria was captured by the British during the war of 1812 and renamed Fort George. Its ownership was in question for many years. In later years, the American government began to establish several military forts (in gold) including Fort Walla Walla (near the site of the old fur trading fort Nez Perces).

Here is a map from the 1970s showing the hydro-electric dams on the Columbia River:

 

Faro: The gambling card game of the BC gold rush

Among the first to arrive at a mining camp on the heels of the gold seekers were saloon keepers and faro bankers. In the mid 1800s, the gambling card game of Faro was very popular because it was simple, fast-paced, and the odds were good that a player would win if the game was played honestly.

James Anderson, known as the bard of Barkerville, didn’t have many kind words to say about gamblers and their game of faro. He wrote a song called “Come Back Faro” in which he describes the faro dealer:

I’ll sing you now a mournful song,
All of a fine old man,
Who liv’d some years in Cariboo,
All by his sleight of han’

I’ve often watched his little game,
And even been case-keeper;
And tho’ his eyes were pretty sharp,
I’ve sometimes nailed a sleeper.

Some say old Faro was a rogue,
Tho’ tis not my belief;
But if he were—then I’m sure
Young Lansquenet’s a thief.

The roots of faro can be traced back to the game of ‘Landsquenet’ played by Teutonic foot soldiers in the 1400s. The game was eventually called ‘Pharaoh’, because some of the playing cards used had an Egyptian king’s face on the backs of the cards. This was then simplified to ‘Faro’.

The game was also referred to as ‘Bucking the Tiger’ because in earlier times, many faro boards folded up into a wooden box which featured a Bengal tiger on the back.

How To Play Faro

Professional gamblers would set up their faro boards and case keepers at a saloon and wait for miners to bet their hard-earned gold dust. Faro was a fast game so it was necessary for a faro banker to have two assistants; one to watch the crowd for cheaters and one to keep track of the cards that had been dealt by moving the discs in the case-keeper.

faro board

faro board

A faro board was simply a board covered with a cloth and on it were pasted (or painted) 13 cards of one suit, usually spades. Across the top, nearest the dealer, was printed the words, ‘High Card’.

Players or ‘punters’ as they were referred to, would purchase chips called ‘counters’ from the ‘banker’ who ran the game.

Players would choose which of the 13 cards they wanted to bet on and lay their chips on them, or if they wanted to place their bet on two or more they would place their chips in between or at the corner. Players who placed wagers on the high-card bar were betting that the winning card (the second card drawn) would be higher than the losing card (the first card drawn). High cards were ranked from Ace (the lowest) to highest.

faro case-keeper

faro case-keeper

Playing cards in the mid 1800s didn’t have any numbers or letters on them.

When all the bets were placed, the banker would shuffle and cut the pack of playing cards, then place them face up in a dealing box. The first card was set aside.

The faro banker took out the next two cards from the deck.

Bets matching the first card lost. Bets matching the second card face up on the deck, won. Whether the card was in the same suite (diamonds, spades, hearts, clubs) didn’t matter.

Each pair of cards was called a ‘turn’. There were 25 ‘turns’ to a game. The first and last cards in the deck weren’t played.

If a player put a ‘copper’ (a token) on top of his or her bet, that was betting a card would lose instead of win.

Whenever there were two of kind in a turn, (two kings, two kings etc) then the dealer took half the chips staked on them. In an honest game, this could occur about three times in two deals, however, some dealers were often accused of stacking the deck in their favour.

Cheating at Faro

A dealer could tamper with the cards beforehand. Often times the dealer could tell what cards would be next because the dealing boxes were rigged with special levers or plates that would allow two cards to be taken out at the same time. With a sleight of hand, the dealer could change the sequence of a deck. Because of the game of Faro was so fast some of these tricky moves would have been hard to catch.

Players could cheat as well and some of them had creative ways of moving their chips around before anyone could notice.

Bucking The Tiger

The British Colonist published a letter to the editor on February 4, 1862 about a ‘Faro Bank’ in Victoria:

…six more non-professional gamblers…have been among the constant feeders of this Royal Bengal Tiger and…several more of the regular hangers-on or “ropes”.

I heard a great many strange statements from one and another of the “sports” – but the strangest of all was that “‘the Police were all right'”. In other words, that the force had been bribed not to interfere with the game…several of the victims have declared their intention to feed the tiger no more. They have suffered greatly, and assert openly that they have been “hogged.”

I hear that the next steamer will bring us some more sporting gents, fully prepared to open business at an hour’s notice.

The term ‘sporting gentlemen’ was often used when referring to professional gamblers.

How E. B. Lytton changed the course of BC history

In 1858, gold miners swarmed to the Fraser River. It was also the year that the longstanding Palmerston government was defeated and E. B. Lytton became the Colonial Secretary, responsible for overseeing the Hudson’s Bay Company.

In the past, there had been a push to settle Vancouver Island and the British Parliament had gone so far as to make it a colony, but the mainland was strictly under HBC’s monopoly. There were no settlers there and they liked it that way. As one member of parliament put it, “The Hudson’s Bay Company is by its very existence and its character the enemy of colonization” whose main purpose was to extract the resources of the land and not cater to the whims and needs of the populace.

Until 1858, the Hudson’s Bay Company had an ally in Parliament — the Colonial Secretary Henry Labouchere. That was about to change under Edward Bulwer Lytton.

E. B. Lytton - Colonial Secretary

E. B. Lytton – Colonial Secretary

The new Parliament made its mandate clear that it wanted to colonize the lands that the Hudson’s Bay Company possessed. The first step was to not renew their license which was slated for renewal May 30, 1859. In addition, the government aimed to bring into question the legality of the original Hudson’s Bay Company charter of 1670, this having been assigned to lands which were then under France’s control.

There was no instant communications in those days. It took many months for a ship to arrive with the mail and when it did reach the office of the Colonial Secretary, it took weeks on end for clerks to hand write copies for officials to read and comment on.

While he was waiting to receive an answer, Douglas made decisions as he saw fit. As the head of the HBC’s Columbia Department which oversaw New Caledonia, Douglas took it upon himself to establish mining fees and pricing controls. He also sought to uphold the Company’s monopoly and did his best to keep out the competition. To this end, he used the survey ships that were based in Esquimalt but most of the miners and merchants slipped in without notice.

Trading Rights

E. B. Lytton soon made it clear that the Company’s monopoly only went so far as exclusive trading rights with the Indigenous people and that it could not be the sole provider of provisions, even though Douglas had pointed out all the efforts they had made to accommodate the gold seekers.

Lytton also organized a contingent of Royal Engineers to come to New Caledonia to help build roads and plan towns, to be paid from the colony’s revenue. The other bit of bad news for Douglas came when he received word that Lytton wished to have future administrative appointments come from ‘home’ rather than someone from the Company.

He chose Chartres Brew to be the head of the colony’s civilian police force and Matthew Begbie, a lawyer, was selected to be the judge.

On the day that Begbie was to sail from England, E.B. Lytton boarded the ship to personally hand over the documents to establish the new colony of British Columbia and the appointments of James Douglas as Governor, and Begbie as its Judge. Each document had been signed by Queen Victoria.

British Columbia

Begbie arrived at Esquimalt November 16, 1858. Three days later, on November 19, 1858 the swearing in ceremony and declaration of British Columbia took place at Fort Langley. This marked the end of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s control of New Caledonia.

The following year, Lord Palmerston’s government returned and Lytton was replaced by the Duke of Newcastle as Colonial Secretary.

Although the legality of HBC’s charter wasn’t settled for another 10 years, E. B. Lytton did succeed in terminating their monopoly of New Caledonia and establishing British Columbia.

Had Labouchere still been the Colonial Secretary when the gold rush broke out, things could have turned out much differently.

Captain John and the Alexandra Bridge

If it weren’t for Captain John Swalis, the Alexandra Bridge would have never been built.

‘Captain John’ as he was known, was an enterprising Stó:lō from the Fraser Valley. Having spent his summers on the gravel bars and islands in the Fraser River, Captain John was familiar with the area. So, he set up his own ferry service helping gold seekers cross the Fraser River at Yale.

At first he didn’t accept money as payment and instead asked for a hat or a shirt. Captain John began to see that money could allow him to purchase the things he needed, so he adapted to this new economy and started accepting coins and gold as payment.

The missing link on the Cariboo Wagon Road

By the end of 1862, the Cariboo Wagon Road through the Fraser Canyon was almost complete, running from Yale to Spuzzum on the west bank of the canyon, and from a point almost opposite on the east bank, up the river as far as Lytton. There remained now the important task of linking the two sections with a bridge two miles above Spuzzum.

On February 2, 1863, Joseph Trutch agreed to take on the bridge project and in return he would collect tolls on the bridge for the next five years. Considering the volume of people going back and forth, it was a lucrative deal.

Alexandra Bridge

Alexandra Bridge

Halliday & Company of San Francisco was given the job of building the suspension bridge with a span of a little over three hundred feet using two suspending cables. Spools of cable were carried by mules up the road but how to get the spools of cable across to the other side of the Fraser River?

Captain John told Trutch that he could get the cables across the Fraser River, and Trutch awarded him a subcontract. Captain John assembled a group of his relatives and they unwound cable from each spool and carried it on their shoulders as they made their way along the precipitous cliffs and slippery rocks. Each cable was four inches wide.

There isn’t a description of the event, but to bring back the words of Simon Fraser:

“In these places we were under the necessity of trusting all our things to the Indians, even our guns…Yet they thought nothing of these difficulties, but went up and down these wild places with the same agility as sailors do on a ship.”

What’s the hold up?

The Alexandra Bridge was completed by September 1, 1863. Trutch invited prominent dignitaries for the official opening planned for the following week. In the meantime, Admiral Kingcome of the Royal Navy made a special trip by steamer to Yale just to ride up the Cariboo Road and see the new bridge. Governor Douglas was not eager to see Alexandra Bridge, however, and the official opening was delayed several weeks until finally near the end of September, Douglas made the trip to Yale with Colonel Moody. On Friday, September 25, 1863, Alexandra Bridge was officially proclaimed open by Colonel Moody—Douglas stayed behind in Yale.

Captain John rose to prominence among his people and gained the name ‘Swalis’ which meant “getting rich”. At one point he was earning more than double the annual salary of Governor James Douglas. When Trutch became  Commissioner of Lands and Works, Captain John was elected as the Chief of Soowahlie.

In later years Captain John ran a ferry across the Vedder River (Th’ewálmel) to Cultus Lake and across to Vedder Crossing. In 1891, he helped with the construction of the Vedder Bridge.

Billiard Saloons: a barometer of the gold rush

When he was in Victoria awaiting a steamer to take him south — after a fruitless trip to the Fraser River gold diggings — Herman Reinhart noticed that there was no shortage of billiard saloons including one with six tables kept by a California gambler named Boston. “Here I saw the first 15-ball pool.” Fifteen-Ball Pool was the predecessor of modern pocket billiards.

On September 15, 1858 the Daily Alta California printed an article called “Stagnation in Victoria” which was submitted by their correspondent:

Everything has flattened out – subsided – wilted. We have a town of stores filled with goods, and few to buy…Houses and tents could be bought at almost any price. A large pavilion tent which had been used as a billiard saloon, having room for two billiard tables and seats for spectators, sold for $13…

Billiard Saloons and Fifteen-Ball Pool

In October 1859 it was reported that Fort Hope was flourishing. One of the indicators was that

Billiard Factory

Billiard Factory

billiard saloons “appear well supported.”

Playing billiards was a popular pastime in the 1850s, especially American Four-Ball Billiards, usually played on a large (11 or 12-foot), four-pocket table with four balls – two white and two red. Billiard balls were made from ivory tusks. Even cabinet makers made billiard tables.

Not quite as common as billiards was the game of bagatelle which was played by European miners. Considering there was a large number of French diaspora living in San Francisco, a good many of them probably succeeded in bringing the game up north to British Columbia.

 

In his book, Cariboo Yarns, F.W. Lindsay wrote that the well-known Cariboo packer known as Cataline, ran mule trains to Barkerville, taking a month to get there. Among the items they carried north were billiard tables. How did one pack a billiard table?

Searching for Gold in the New El Dorado

When gold was ‘discovered’ in the Fraser River, a promotional machine kicked in and British Columbia was touted as the “New El Dorado” (after the El Dorado of South America). Soon, all the newspapers began referring to British Columbia as the New El Dorado.

Gold rushes wherever they occurred were almost always promoted. Books were immediately printed, articles were published and even in the case of the Australian gold rush, a board game called ‘Race to the gold diggings’ was created to get young people excited about seeking gold.

Searching for Gold

Herman Reinhart - American prospector

Herman Reinhart – American prospector

Timing was everything, as Californian miner Herman Reinhart remembered. In July 1858, after months of travelling on foot, Reinhart arrived when the Fraser River was high:

“…boats got swamped and whole boat-loads of men were drowned, and many never knew what became of them.”

At Fort Hope he ran into an old friend James Daniels who had just sold his claim at Hill’s Bar and was leaving for San Francisco after having made $3,500.

“He left Sucker Creek in March, only two months ahead of me; he went by water to Victoria, and a little steamer clear to where he now was, and no hardships or danger like me…”

By the time Reinhart arrived at Yale, he didn’t bother going to Hill’s Bar:

“We saw some old acquaintances at Yale, but we were anxious to get down to Victoria, so we did not look around much. We were in a hurry to get back to California before we would get broke or out of money, so we did not go over to Hill’s Bar to see it.”

At Victoria, Reinhart met many gold seekers he knew from California and Oregon who were in a similar situation:

“…Many had no money and made application to our consul (agent for British Columbia) Edward Nugent. He said he would try and make some arrangements with the company of the steamer Pacific to take a lot of American subjects to San Francisco, who had not the money to pay their own fare. It was the duty of the government to take its people to their homes if they were in a destitute condition on a foreign shore or land, and there were over one thousand men in that condition.

“Just when the Californian newspapers were reporting the Fraser River gold diggings were ‘humbug’, in November 1858, Alfred Waddington published a book called “The Fraser Mines Vindicated” which spoke of the gold diggings in glowing terms.

Strapped gold seekers in Victoria

“The perils of searching for gold” – a lecture given January 29, 1860

When 1860 rolled around, the Fraser River gold rush was all but over. Yet young men, many of whom were well-educated, were still arriving in Victoria. Amor De Cosmos, the fiery publisher of the Daily Colonist, sounded the alarm on January 28th of that year:

“From exaggerated and too sanguine accounts they were led to believe that they had only to get here, to begin coining of money without delay. Almost their little all was spent in accomplishing a long and expensive voyage. And so it has come to pass, that some of these enterprising young men have found themselves “strapped.” Instances have occurred in which they have resorted to teaming, carpentering, and even baking bread…”

One can imagine Mr. Cosmos’ reaction when he read the London Times newspaper of January 30, 1860, which included the following report from their correspondent who was said to be in Victoria:

All accounts agree that the individual earnings of the miners are much larger than in California or Australia. It is very common to light upon a man going to San Francisco with several thousand dollars…

In March 1860 a handbook to British Columbia was published to lure Welsh men to leave for the goldfields. Emigration agents in Liverpool were kept busy—by July it was estimated that one in three of the working population in Wales was willing to emigrate.


Note: I have noticed a few maps that show Yale and Hill’s Bar on the same side of the Fraser River, however, I have since verified that Hill’s Bar was approximately a mile and a half south of Yale and on the other side of the river. The Fraser River gold rush historian, Daniel Marshall, mapped out the location of the gold rush bars in his recently published book, Claiming the Land.

Types of gold pans and spoons used in the BC gold rush

Before the Fraser River gold rush got off to a flying start in 1858, Nlaka’pamux who lived by the Thompson River were bringing gold nuggets and gold dust to the Hudson’s Bay Company at Fort Kamloops.

When news reached Fort Victoria, the officers of the Hudson’s Bay Company decided to send them some spoons. What did the spoons look like? What were they made of? For many years, this remained a mystery to me.

The other mystery which has perplexed me for years was the paintings by William Hind which show miners wearing a object tucked into their sash next to a mug.

In the course of digging up information for this blog post on gold pans, these two mysteries have been solved.

horn spoon

horn spoon

In the early days of the California gold rush, prospectors used ‘spoons’ made from cattle horns that were steamed and pressed to allow a person to use them as a scoop. The juvenile fiction book, “By the Great Horn Spoon” describes a horn spoon as half a bullock horn, from 6 to 8 inches long and up to 3 inches wide.

‘spoon’ gold pan made from mountain goat horn

This was copied and revised by the Natives further north who used the horns of mountain goats and shaped them into a shape that resembled a pinched frying pan.

So when the Hudson’s Bay Company met in Fort Victoria and talked of sending more ‘spoons’ to Fort Kamloops which the Natives to use for gold panning – they were referring to iron ‘spoons’ forged by their blacksmith.

blacksmith forged ‘spoon’

The blacksmith forged ‘spoon’ could have been similar to the type of one that was sent by the HBC to their fort.

iron spoon with long handle

iron spoon with long handle

Another example of an iron spoon is one that was typically used in the 19th century. Some people referred to it as a tasting spoon or a ladle. It was often found in pioneer cabins near the hearth and what could be more handier?

Consider this description of a Californian miner from G.A. Fleming’s book “California, its past history, its present position and future prospects” published in 1850:

“Occasionally, he dug the dust out of crevices with his long iron spoon and trowel, and found eight or nine dollars’ worth in a place not larger than one’s finger…a sheath-knife…was always worn in the belt used instead of suspenders, and to which was often attached that very useful article in the “diggings,” a long iron spoon, employed both to cook and mine with…”

Now, look at William Hind’s painting titled “Miner, Rocky Mountains” and you will see what definitely looks like an iron spoon tucked into his belt.

Gold pans are the most basic of mining equipment and there are almost as many types of gold pans as hats.

batea

batea

For thousands of years, people in South America have used a cone-shaped wooden bowl called a batea to wash the gravel. They vary in size but typically are wider than American-style gold pans and because of the wood, fine grains of gold are easily captured by it.

The batea is challenging to work with, but the idea of taking in a larger amount of gravel at a time soon caught on. The early gold pans were simply known as ‘washing pans’ because that is what a prospector did with them – they would gather up some gravel and water and swirl it around, literally washing the gravel.

1850s gold washing pan made from tin

Tinsmiths made gold pans that were tapered at the bottom like this one.

Inspired by the size of the batea, people starting making gold pans of a bigger size. The one I drew is based on a 19th century gold pan measuring 55 cm by 12.5 cm. The gold pans were made from steel. Oil was added in the manufacturing process to prevent the pan from rusting.

19th century gold pan made from steel

In the 1860s, Dickson, Campbell & Co. made galvanized steel “gold washing machines, different sizes” in Victoria at the corner of Johnson and Wharf Streets.

Many prospectors took their new ‘gold washing machine’ otherwise known as a gold pan and cured it over a campfire. This did two things – remove any oils which would cause fine gold to float out of the pan and also give the pan a bluish tinge which provided a greater contrast when gold appeared.

What style of hats did BC gold rush miners wear?

What style of hats did BC gold rush miners wear in the 1850s and 1860s?

In the Victorian era, everyone wore hats. It was unheard of for people to go outside without a hat. To go out ‘baldheaded’ meant also to be unprepared. There were hats for almost every occasion.

Considering that the vast majority of gold seekers who came to British Columbia during the Fraser River gold rush were from California, it is helpful to look at what hats they wore.

Vaquero's hat

Vaquero’s hat

By the mid 1850s, Californians had copied and adapted the Mexican ‘vaqueros’ hats which had a very wide brim and a soft crown.

From these, came the wide brim hats made of felt or straw. The Placer Herald newspaper related a story from the Fraser River — two miners lost their mining utensils so they used their hats to pan for gold! They must’ve been wearing very wide brimmed hats.

broad brimmed hat

broad brimmed hat

Paintings by Edward Richardson and William Hind show miners wearing soft crowned hats with wide brims that could be turned up or down to shield out the sun or rain if needed. Hats, like the rest of a miner’s clothing had to be durable.

In England, a broad-brimmed hat was known as the ‘wideawake’ hat so called because it had no fuzzy surface or ‘nap’. Interestingly, I couldn’t find any reference to it by name until the late 1800s. Perhaps there is a hat story behind the coffee saloon at Barkerville known as ‘Wake Up’ Jake.

One of the best descriptions of gold rush miners in the 1860s comes from the recollections of artist Eleanor Fellows:

“Sombrero on head, bowie-knife in small back trouser pocket, revolvers in broad sash or ample waist-belt, the loose blouse we used to call a “garibaldi” clothing the upper person, the long “gum” boots reaching to the knees which enabled their wearer to work with impunity in water for hours, the tightly-rolled blanket and gold mining implements upon the back and shoulders…”

sugar loaf hat

sugar loaf hat

The sombrero or ‘California hat’ was adapted into other shaped hats. From the sombrero came ‘Sugar loaf’ felt hats. They got that name because sugar was sold in tall cone-shaped loaves. Sugar loaf hats were often seen worn by teamsters who had to walk behind oxen and mules laden with tons of provisions.

Teamsters often wore handkerchiefs to stop the sweat from trickling into their eyes or over their mouths to stop from inhaling dust kicked up by the oxen.

Panama hat

Panama hat

The paja toquilla hat or Panama hat which originally came from Ecuador and had been worn for hundreds of years was also popular with gold miners. These were made from straw. J.A. McCrea listed “genuine Panama hats” for sale on August 3, 1863 in an ad which appeared in the Daily Colonist newspaper.

Chinese straw hat

Chinese straw hat

Many Chinese miners wore woven hats made of reeds. The hat itself had a shape similar to an inverted basket. It was perched on top of the head.

Chinese gold seekers who came here to British Columbia were known in Chinese as gum saan haak.

bowler hat

bowler hat

Bowler hats came into production in England in 1850 and eventually  were sold here. If you look through pictures of Barkerville or other Cariboo gold rush towns in the 1860s, you will see dignified suited men wearing bowler hats. A bowler hat was durable and hard like a helmet.

1860: How to make butter without a churn

New bread and fresh butter was something worth travelling for in the Fraser River gold rush. How rare was butter?

On July 3, 1858 the Daily Alta California reported:

“At Fort Yale there is little or nothing to be had for love or money. Mining and cooking utensils are very scarce, and enormous prices are obtained for them. The Hudson’s Bay Company had seized the mining implements of some miners on Hill’s Bar, for violating the law in regard to trafficking, which excited considerable indignation among the miners.”

For those who could afford the luxury of butter it was imported by ship in cases from California and Minnesota.

By the time gold miners were heading north to the Cariboo, roadhouses began advertising butter.

Peter Dunlevy and Jim Sellers bought a roadhouse in 1861 from two packers who had built it a year before near Horsefly. Generous meals of fresh beef, mutton, lake trout, churned butter, and locally grown vegetables earned their roadhouse a reputation as the best stopping house in the Cariboo.

Many gold miners made their own bread and some even attempted to make their own butter. When they got together many discussed bush cookery and shared tips with each other.

Occasionally, the British Colonist printed “receipts” based on the old French word for recipes.

Here is one printed in February 1860 on how to make butter without a churn:

How to make butter

How to make butter

“After straining the milk, set it away for about twelve hours, for the cream to rise. (Milk dishes ought to have good strong handles to lift them by.) After standing as above, set the milk without disturbing it, on the stove, let it remain until you observe the coating of cream on the surface assume a wrinkled appearance, but be careful it does not boil, as should this be the case, the cream will mix with the milk and cannot again be collected.”

“Now set it away till quite cold, and then skim off the cream, mixing it with as little milk as possible. When sufficient cream is collected proceed to make it into butter as follows:

Take a wooden bowl or any suitable vessel, and having first scalded and then rinsed it with cold spring water, place the cream into it.

Now let the operator hold his hand in water as hot as can be borne for a few seconds, then plunge it into cold water for about a minute, and at once commence to agitate the cream by a gentle circular motion.In five minutes, or less, the butter will have come, when of course, it must be washed and salted according to taste, and our correspondent guarantees that no better butter can be made by the best churn invented.”

George Blair wrote in his diary that his friend “Bill rolled up his sleeves and went at making bread and Kelsie Oregon Butter which I mean to teach the Canadian Ladies to make when I go home as it tasted first rate.”