Category Archives: Gold Rush Notes

Brief history facts explained about the BC gold rush

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.”

Ship stories: how passengers travelled to BC in the gold rush

How did most people come to British Columbia during the gold rush? They came by ship.

Tynemouth 1862

In 1862, Charles Redfern, a passenger on the Tynemouth wrote about some of the problems on board the 1500 ton steamship. They ran into a storm not long after they left England which saw  a cow and several pigs get washed overboard by a big wave. Then the coal passers who had been complaining of bad conditions stopped working altogether. The ship’s captain put them in irons and instructed the travellers to fuel the engines. For an entire month, the male passengers took turns filling wheelbarrows with coal, pushing them to the bunkers while another mutiny erupted and more were put in irons. By this time the ship was in the South Pacific with good trade winds. The steam was shut off and volunteers were called to man the sails.

Just before the ship sailed into the Falkland Islands, she ran into another storm and several large stacks of railway ties and iron tanks broke free of their moorings.

The Tynemouth docked at Esquimalt on September 17, 1862.

Passenger Contract

Everyone on board the Tynemouth was given a ‘passenger contract’ which said that each passenger would be given three quarts of water daily and a weekly allowance of provisions:

5 ¼ lb. Biscuit
½ lb. Soup
1 lb. Preserved Meat
1 ½ lb. Indian beef
½ lb. Preserved & Salt Fish
2 lb. Flour
1 lb. Oatmeal
6 oz. Suet
½ lb. Rice
½ lb. Raisins & Currants
2/3 pint Peas
½ lb. Preserved Potato
1 lb. Raw sugar
1 3/4 lb. Tea
3 ½ lb. Coffee
6 oz. butter
2 oz. salt
½ oz. mustard
¼ oz. pepper
1 gill vinegar*
6 oz. lime juice
21 qts. water

“When Fresh Beef is issued, 1 lb. to each Adult per day will be allowed; there will be no Flour, Raisins, Peas, Suet or Vinegar, during the issue of Fresh Meat. 1 lb. of Fresh Potatoes may be substituted for ¼ lb. Preserved Potatoes.”

Third class passengers were given rations and they were expected to prepare their own meals. They were allowed to cook their meal in the galley. The cook supplied hot water for tea, coffee, or drinking purposes.

Thames City 1858

The clipper ship, Thames City, carried 118 Sappers (Royal Engineers), 31 women and 34 children on board. The Thames City had a better voyage (no mutinies and no one in irons) but it was still arduous. This group of Royal Engineers and their families left England on October 10, 1858 and arrived in Esquimalt via Cape Horn on April 12, 1859 after a voyage lasting 187 days. They formed a band and held plays on board. They also brought with them a printing press used to produce a weekly publication, “The Emigrant Soldier’s Gazette and Cape Horn Chronicle” read aloud each Saturday evening.

The final edition of the Gazette included a “Farewell Ditty” that described conditions on board:

Farewell thick biscuits and thin pea soup,
Farewell the suet, grog, and junk,
One was weak, the other stunk.
Farewell to the hen coop, and lonely duck,
Farewell to Longboat Square and muck,
Farewell to Laundry Lane and Galleys,
We’ll cook our grub in glades and valleys…

Farewell to hammocks, farewell to the clews,
Farewell to the would-be Irish stews,
Farewell to the cockroaches and thieving cats,
And a long farewell to those horrible rats.


Note: a “gill” (pronounced jill) is a quarter of a pint. See my post on grog (a mixture of rum and water). “Junk” refers to salt beef or meat. “Clews” are the cords by which hammocks are suspended.

How Mifflin Gibbs made his fortune in gold rush Victoria

Mifflin Gibbs was one of the most successful black merchants in Victoria. Gibbs had a partnership with Peter Lester and their firm ‘Lester & Gibbs’ had everything a miner could want. Some say it was the first provision store in Victoria to rival that of the Hudson’s Bay Company.

Born in Philadelphia in 1823, Gibbs was eight years old when his father Reverend Gibbs died. One of three sons, Gibbs helped out with odd jobs while his mother Maria worked cleaning laundry. When they were teenagers, Mifflin and his brother Jonathan apprenticed as carpenters. Eventually, the brothers became active in the anti-slavery movement; a time which marked the beginning of their political lives.

Mifflin Gibbs

Mifflin Gibbs

In 1850, Mifflin Gibbs went to the gold rush town of San Francisco and found work as a carpenter. Two years later, he entered into partnership with Peter Lester and together they ran the ‘Clay Street Pioneer Shoe & Boot Emporium’. Their business was prosperous but it didn’t take long before anti-black sentiment to take its toll. Discrimination supported by increasingly restrictive immigration policies prompted many members of San Francisco’s black community to leave.

As soon as he heard about the Fraser River gold rush, Gibbs headed north to Victoria.
Gibbs arrived in June, 1858 with provisions including flour, bacon, blankets, picks and shovels. Miners bought everything he had and Gibbs ordered more with the help of Lester who was still in San Francisco. Within a few weeks, Gibbs set up the store of ‘Lester & Gibbs’ in one half of a house; the other half, he rented out for $500 a month.

After a successful year, Gibbs travelled to the eastern United States for a lengthy visit. During that time he married Maria Alexander, who had been a student at Oberlin College in Ohio. The couple returned to Victoria to his five acre lot in the James Bay district. Gibbs became a British subject in 1861.

Life in Victoria was not without its challenges. There was still prejudice against blacks; however, at least they could rely on British law for protection. Determined to change the status quo, Gibbs ran for election as city councillor for the new municipality of Victoria in August 1862. Voting was done by a show of hands in public and the results were very close; Gibbs lost the election by only four votes. Despite this setback, Gibbs continued to be politically engaged and frequently made his points of view known.

After seven years of marriage, his wife left him and returned to the United States with their five children. Meanwhile, Gibbs committed himself to expanding his business interests. In 1864, he ended the partnership with Lester and moved on to earn his living from real estate, construction and mining investments.

In November 1866, Mifflin Gibbs ran again for Victoria city council, representing the district of James Bay where he lived and this time, he won. Re-elected the following term, Gibbs was so preoccupied with a coal mining venture in the Queen Charlotte Islands that his seat was declared vacant.

In 1869, Gibbs returned to the United States where he obtained a law degree and became a judge.

Victoria’s first volunteer fire companies

Selim Franklin had endured substantial losses in the 5th of the ‘Great Fires’ of San Francisco. Six times San Francisco had been torched to the ground by an arsonist. Lives and buildings were destroyed. People lost their savings while gangs looted. So when Franklin set foot on Vancouver Island in 1858 and saw all those wood shanties and tents around Fort Victoria, he shuddered to think of what could happen.

Franklin and a few other businessmen convinced Governor Douglas of the need for volunteer fire companies. They purchased fire engines at a cost of just over $5,000. Volunteers, many of whom had served in the fire brigades in San Francisco, were familiar with these heavy machines, tested them out the day they arrived on July 28, 1858.

early fire engines had to pulled by ropes

It was challenging to keep volunteers in Victoria as many left to go to the mainland to search for gold. Interest was revived in January 1859, however, and officers were appointed for two fire companies, and two cisterns (where water could be stored and used in case of a fire) were built  without government help. These cisterns were located on Store Street and on Government Street. Back then it was customary to use gunpowder to blow up buildings to stop fires from spreading. Hooks were used to tear down wooden structures.

The first major fire in Victoria

The first major fire in Victoria occurred on October 18, 1859:

Yesterday morning between four and five o’clock the town was alarmed by the cry of fire. On arriving at the scene of alarm, the flames were bursting from the east end of the large two-story wooden building on the corner of Government and Johnson streets owned by Thos. Pattrick & Co. In a short time it was entirely enveloped in fire, rendering all efforts to save it from destruction futile, and within an hour it was a smouldering ruin.

$8000 worth of liquor stored in the warehouse helped to ignite the flames which burnt one side of the Union Hotel nearby. To prevent the fire from spreading, a house was torn down as well as several small sheds. Three people who had been living in the top floor of the warehouse barely escaped. One threw himself out the window and another managed to get down the stairs just as they collapsed.

The total loss to property was estimated at $13,350. It was believed that the fire was largely stopped by the Marines stationed at James Bay. The fire engine didn’t arrive until later, being under the direction of the police magistrate.

Hook and Ladder

The next day, the Daily Colonist newspaper voiced the opinion that something must be done to set up a permanent fire department. The government was reluctant to spend the money, however, and it was left up to the business community to raise $1,500 for an alarm bell and a hook and ladder rig to be shipped from San Francisco.

On November 22nd, the Union Hook and Ladder Company was formally organized with members given red shirts, black trousers, wide leather belt and cap, similar to the uniforms worn by one of the well known San Francisco fire companies.

the machinery arrived in January, 1860

Contracts went out for a two story building to house a “Hook & Ladder Truck, Fire Engine and Hose Carriage, with Cupola for Alarm Bell.” The first fire hall was built at Bastion and Wharf Streets.

The two original companies were reorganized into the Deluge Engine Company No. 1 and Tiger Engine Company No. 2.

Deluge housed themselves in a rented building on Government between Yates and Johnson, while the Tiger Company leased premises around the corner, on Johnson Street between Government and Broad. Eventually Tiger Company moved into its own hall.

The companies raced each other to the fires and sometimes battled with each other for the sake of being first.  Two men with the Tiger Company fell beneath the wheels of their hand-drawn engine while racing to a false alarm. Their injuries were “painful” but apparently not serious.

Membership in all three companies (Tiger, Deluge and Union Hook and Ladder) was limited to about 70. Applicants were carefully screened and voted on by ball ballot (three black balls and the man was “out”). Benefactors were rewarded with honorary memberships.

Political Clout of Volunteer Fire Companies

It wasn’t long before the volunteer fire companies made their mark on the City’s politics. This came as no surprise to some because in the United States, where many had come from, fire companies had a long history of political influence. Many who wanted to enter into politics first started in a volunteer fire company.

During a debate on the Fireman’s Protection Act, Dr. John Sebastian Helmcken said, “There is no doubt but these fire companies will end in political societies but at present they are the most useful organization in the colony.”

Victoria continued to rely on its volunteer fire companies throughout the gold rush years all the way until 1886 when the City established a paid fire department.

Manifest Destiny and Self-government at Hill’s Bar

Down the Fraser River from Fort Yale, deposits of sand and gravel accumulated over the years.  In the Halkomelem language this low bank was known amongst the Stó:lō as Hemhemetheqw, meaning a “good place to make sockeye salmon oil.” Californian miners called these low banks ‘bars’ and based on experience, knew they were good places to find gold.

A group of California prospectors started for the ‘New Eldorado’ in March, 1858. Edward Hill was the first goldseeker of his group to stake a claim there and so this low bank was named Hill’s Bar.

In March 1858, James Moore, a friend of Hill, reported that the “whole tribe of Yale Indians moved down from Yale and camped on Hill’s Bar, about three hundred men, women and children, and they also commenced to wash for gold.”

A goldseeker named Furness made $750 in gold dust in four weeks and Hill himself averaged $50 a day.

As more and more people arrived every day, conflicts arose between the Natives and the miners, mostly American.

Before James Douglas had a chance to reach Hill’s Bar at the end of May, 1858, American miners imposed their own self-government. On May 21st, they posted laws regulating mining claims on that bar, according to what they had learned in California.

Manifest Destiny

Many Americans believed that it was their republic’s “Manifest Destiny” to expand its rule over the whole of the North American continent. American expansionists demanded all of the Pacific Slope lying south of the Russian Possessions (Alaska). Within ten years, they were engaged in wars with both Britain and Mexico to achieve their goals.

When the border was settled at the 49th parallel and not at the 54th as they had hoped, expansionists consoled themselves that there was nothing of any value in New Caledonia, the area where the Fraser River lay.

However, as soon as gold was discovered on the Fraser River, once again the slogan of “54-40 or Fight” was raised throughout the land.

When James Douglas came to Fort Yale, he warned the American miners that the Americans in arming themselves and going out against the Indians were guilty of treason.

He also warned the miners that “the Indians of Washington Territory have sent couriers all through the Fraser river territory, calling on the Indians to unite and drive out the whites. In consequence, the Indians heretofore hunting for the Hudson’s Bay Company have applied for early and increased supplies of ammunition, which was refused to them.” The HBC didn’t want to arm the Natives in their conflict against the miners.

Some miners such as Lucius Edelbute, who had been in involved in conflicts with Native peoples in California, thought it would be better for his group to identify themselves as ‘King George Men’ (British) rather than ‘Boston Men’ (Americans) when they came to the Fraser River. With the use of a Chinook jargon dictionary, they were able to talk their way out of a difficult situation when a group of Natives surrounded them and demanded that they return their salmon to the river which they did so immediately.

This poem printed in the Pioneer and Democrat newspaper (Washington) on November 5, 1858 shows that Manifest Destiny was still alive and well.

Frazer River

Now, hurrah, for up the Frazer,
Where the gold is without measure;
Where the bars and banks are gleaming,
And the floods with gold are streaming.

Now hurrah, nor wait for calling,
For the Frazer river’s falling.

Every day the sun is shining,
Men by thousands come here mining,
And, by rocker, pick and shovel,
Swear among the sand and gravel.

Now hurrah, nor wait for calling,
For the Frazer river’s falling.

Tis a rapid, foaming river,
And the heart will often quiver
When canoes go downward, splashing,
Whirling, spinning, leaping, crashing.

Mind your “p’s” don’t make a blunder,
If you do, you’ll go to thunder.

Up above, among the mountains,
Men have found the golden fountains;
Seen where they flow! Oh joy transcendent!
Down, down, in noiseless stream transplendent,

Then, hurrah, and set your riggings—
Sail above, to richer diggings.

When news gets where Buch and Cass is,
Johnny Bull can go where grass is,
He may rave and rant to foaming,
It will never stop our coming.

Then, hurrah, nor wait for papers,
The license men may cut their capers.

Soon our banner will be streaming,
Soon the eagle will be screaming,
And the lion – see it cowers,
Hurrah, boys, the river’s ours.

Then, hurrah, nor wait for calling,
For the Frazer’s river’s falling.

I’ll scrape the mountains clean, my boys,
I’ll drain the rivers dry,
A pocket full of rocks bring home,
So brother don’t you cry,
O’ California, That’s the land for me,
I’m bound for San Francisco with a wash bowl on my knee.


‘Buch and Cass’ refers to U.S. President James Buchanan and Secretary of State Lewis Cass. ‘Johnny Bull’ refers to the people of England

How the gold rush town of Richfield nearly became Elwyntown

It was bitterly cold in the winter of 1861 and William ‘Dutch Bill’ Dietz only had time to stake a claim at an unnamed creek before being forced to turn back. He named the creek after himself as a way of marking the claim. Sensing that Dutch Bill had found something big, Ned Stout and three others travelled by snowshoe to ‘William’s Creek’ and they too found gold.

Word soon got out and by the first week of March 1862 many more prospectors soon arrived at Williams Creek. They built shafts on the hillsides and as the ice retreated from the creek itself, it became possible for all claims to be worked. Shacks and business establishments were built close by and a town emerged with stores, restaurants and saloons.

Assistant Gold Commissioner Nind based in Williams Lake was overworked with covering the entire Cariboo district as more mining claims were being registered and disputes needed to be resolved. Nind’s health began to suffer and he requested a leave of absence in early May.

Thomas Elwyn

Thomas Elwyn, the former magistrate for Lillooet, was named Nind’s replacement and upon seeing the amount of work to be done, recommended that the Cariboo be divided into two districts. Peter O’Reilly was assigned the western district while Elwyn was appointed head of the eastern section which included the area of Williams Creek.

By the end of May, 1862 more than twenty businesses were established to serve the needs of the prospectors who numbered over five hundred. Soon though, the deplorable state of the trails made it nearly impossible to bring supplies.

High food prices proved to be too much of a hardship for many miners who had arrived with a small amount of provisions on their backs and little money. Many left the Cariboo altogether.

Those miners who pooled their resources were able to stay and reap the profits of their claims. In one month, Cunningham & Company took out gold at the rate of three thousand dollars every twenty-four hours. Steele & Company’s claims yielded two hundred ounces a day.

On the last day of August, Judge Begbie arrived and the first Grand Jury was assembled in the newly constructed courthouse. Among the topics discussed was a name for the town.  The jury recommended it be called ‘Elwyntown’ after Thomas Elwyn.

‘Elwyntown’ didn’t make it on the map. Instead, Lieutenant Palmer, in his role as Deputy Commissioner of Lands and Works, decided upon the name Richfield.

Richfield retained its significance even as Barkerville grew and the neighbouring towns of Cameronton and Marysville were established in 1863 and 1864.

Richfield

Richfield

They rested their heads on Pulu mattresses in the BC Gold Rush

How did gold rush miners get a good night’s rest? If they were lucky, a roadhouse or inn had beds with Pulu mattresses.

The early roadhouses had either cots or if they had ‘mattresses’, they were stuffed with straw or dried moss and sometimes feathers or curled hair.  These were expensive to import because of the tariffs.

An entrepreneur got the idea that Pulu would make a great substitute because there was no import levy on it and also it was soft and cheap. Pulu was from a tree fern known as the hapu’u pulu in Hawaii. The young fronds (fiddleheads) of these tree ferns are covered with a bronze-coloured silky floss called “pulu”. Ancient Hawaiians had long used pulu.

From the late 1850s to the 1880s over 4 million pounds of pulu were shipped in bales, to be used primarily for stuffing mattresses, pillows, and upholstery. Fortunately, this stopped when people realized that over time pulu breaks down into a fine powder. The hapu’u pulu tree fern can reach a large height but it is very slow growing at only half an inch per year.

At Pierce & Seymour’s furniture store at the corner of Yates and Douglas Streets, pulu mattresses were advertised as a popular material for bedding:

“It [pulu] is universally conceded to be equal to feathers and better than curled hair for this climate, at half the price of either.”

Pierce & Seymour also made mattresses made of straw or curled hair.

J. Ducie Cusheon placed the following advertisement in the Daily Colonist June 27, 1859:

Pulu Mattresses

Pulu Mattresses at the Union Hotel in Victoria

100 Additional Men Can be accommodated with Board and Lodgings at the UNION HOTEL, Government Street, VICTORIA, V.I.

Which house is now conducted on the same principle as the WHAT CHEER HOUSE of San Francisco.

The table which speaks for itself will be supplied with every delicacy.

Board per day  $1.00

New Beds, Pulu Mattresses, single and double rooms at $1.00 and $2.00 per week.

The NEW WING to the above House has been most tastefully fitted up with WASH AND BATH ROOM.  Also, a select private READING ROOM, with a Library of choice books, Atlantic, European and California newspapers.

J. Ducie Cusheon, Agent.

Occupations of the 1860s – Assayer to Water Carrier

What occupations were there during the BC Gold Rush? People did many different kinds of jobs.  The colonial government of Vancouver Island printed a notice January 1, 1861 with a list of trade license fees in Victoria. Some occupations are still around such as bakers, carpenters, confectioners, hair dressers, tailors, and insurance agents. As you can see from the list, some vocations are rarely heard of anymore and others have disappeared altogether.

This list of construction trades also shows that people were constructing solid buildings in Victoria – those rough wood shanties were a thing of the past.

Assayer – tested gold for purity (read the story about Marchand’s assay office)
Blacksmith – made farm tools, cooking tools, and sometimes shoed horses and oxen as well
Boarding-house Keeper – rented rooms usually for a week or more and one meal a day was provided. Check out this ad for Mike Cohen’s Red House in Victoria.
Bootmaker – wellington boots, and work boots were in demand during the gold rush.
Brickmaker – prepared the bricks and then fired them in a kiln
Camphene Dealer – camphene oil was used to light lamps
Carman – delivered goods on a horse-drawn wagon
Clothier –  made suits and sometimes drapes
Coach Builder – coaches was a shortened word for stagecoaches
Confectioner – made candy, cough drops (back then sugar was considered medicinal)
Cooper – made wooden barrels
Corn Dealer –  agents who bought grain from farmers and sold it either for feed or seed
Hosier – sold socks and undergarments (see my post on Hardy Gillard – Hoser, Glover & Outfitter)
Indian Trader – would’ve bought items directly from Natives such as furs, baskets, fish
Ironmonger – sold guns and hardware
Jobber – a wholesale merchant
Lime-burner – burning lime in a kiln was a dangerous job because of the toxic fumes. Lime was turned into powder – an essential ingredient for mortar
Livery stablekeeper – housed and fed horses (a hotel for horses)
Mason – a stone worker
Paper hanger – someone who ‘hangs’ wallpaper
Peddler – sold wares directly from a wagon to passersby – often at the edges of town
Plasterer – applies plaster (there was no stucco or drywall in those early days)
Saddler – a maker of riding saddles
Sailmaker – made sails out of canvas for scows, canoes
Saloonkeeper – typically refers to someone who dispensed liquor, although there were coffee saloons and shaving saloons as well
Scourer – this could refer to someone who washed wool or most likely, washed clothes
Scrivener – a professional writer (good for responding to legal documents)
Shipwright – they made ships
Soda water manufacturer –  water was mixed with various compounds and/or flavoring, and of course, carbonation
Syrup manufacturer – syrup was used by confectioners and saloon keepers
Teamster – driver of a team of horses or oxen
Tentmaker – one of the first commercial users of sewing machines was a tentmaker
Tinsmith – maker of stoves, stovepipes and even gold pans (see The Tinsmith of Barkerville for more)
Water Carrier – water was brought to Victoria in wooden barrels carried on horse-drawn wagons.

In the early days of the Fraser River gold rush, water was expensive. Every saloon charged “one bit” (12 cents and one half penny) for a glass of water. Some even charged as much as 15 cents! Cocktails were “two bits” (25 cents) in comparison.

Children worked in various trades, even at saloons where they washed glasses and swept the floor. Women worked as well, primarily as domestics or garment workers.

Clement Cornwall and the roadhouse named Ashcroft

Clement Cornwall, owner of the Ashcroft roadhouse on the Cariboo Wagon Road, was also a politician.

Cornwall was one of fourteen children born to Reverend Alan Gardner Cornwall and Caroline Kingscote in Gloucestershire, England. When Clement was just an infant, the woollen cloth trade had collapsed and the town’s only employer went bankrupt. Faced with an uncertain future, Cornwall’s father sought help from his wife’s relatives.

Clement Cornwall

Eventually the family built a home, ‘Ashcroft House’ next to the Kingscote estate in England. Clement and his brother Henry were educated at private schools and earned degrees from Cambridge. Afterward, Clement went on to article in law and was admitted to the Inner Temple in 1862.

On April 17, 1862, the Cornwall brothers waved goodbye to their family and set sail from Southampton, England bound for Victoria by way of Panama and San Francisco. They stayed in San Francisco for a few days where they purchased a packhorse for $75 dollars. Their ship docked at Esquimalt on June 2, 1862 and within a few days they travelled by steamship to Port Douglas. With their packhorse they hiked up the Douglas-Lillooet trail averaging thirteen miles a day. Arriving in Lillooet on June 20th, they heard that the prospects of finding gold weren’t as great as had been reported.

On the Cariboo Wagon Road

Considering the time was favourable for acquiring land they scouted around and settled on a strategic place on the packhorse trail in the Bonaparte River Valley that they heard was going to be widened into the Cariboo Wagon Road. On this spot the brothers hired two men to whipsaw timber into useable planks for a roadhouse. It took the workers five months to carry out this gruelling task from January to June of 1863 for four cents per foot plus their food.

On September 24, 1863, the Royal Engineers completed the Cariboo Road past the newly completed roadhouse, named ‘Ashcroft’.

As the ranch and roadhouse prospered, Clement Cornwall’s influence grew. Well-known government officials stayed there including Judge Begbie, Walter Moberly, and Gold Commissioner Peter O’Reilly.

Cornwall was elected in 1864 as the representative for the Hope-Yale-Lytton District—one of five members representing the colony of British Columbia. They met in the Legislative Hall, formerly the main barracks of the Royal Engineers’ camp in New Westminster. The following year Cornwall was awarded the role of postmaster and then as magistrate of Thompson River District in 1867.

Three years later Clement married Charlotte Pemberton of Kensal Green, London, England. Shortly thereafter, Clement was elected to the 8th Legislative Council in 1871.  This was an exciting time when the politicians were working out the details of joining Canada. In the summer of 1871, British Columbia joined Confederation and became a province.

Clement Cornwall left his position in the Senate to become Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia in 1881.