December 1858 was so cold the Fraser River froze over. Many gold rush miners who hadn’t reached pay dirt were stuck where they were at camps and bars. A Fraser River correspondent to the Daily Alta California had this to say:
Many who have been at work here for months, are destitute of means not only to lay in their winter stores, but even to buy their daily food. I have never seen so many “strapped” men in any part of the world as here…
The steamer Enterprise left Fort Hope with 125 passengers and became stuck in the ice near the mouth of Harrison River and the passengers were forced to travel by foot. The Victoria Gazette reported that at least two passengers froze to death:
“There being no provisions or accommodations on board for so large a company for any length of time, about 100 of the passengers and one or two of the officers deserted the steamer, determined to make their way into Langley on foot through the woods. Without food – in many instances poorly clad – with snow and ice on the ground, these desperate men commenced their sad journey. For three days they wandered through the woods, shivering, foot-sore, and almost starving, in the rain and through the sleet and ice. In the meantime, the weather had moderated a little, and the rain had softened the ice in the river.
The Enterprise got free again, and ran up and down the river blowing her whistle and firing her guns to attract the attention of those on shore. Here and there she picked up a straggler, who had wandered to the river banks, perhaps to die. On the third day, when about five miles from Langley, she came upon the great majority of passengers, who, feeling it impossible to proceed further, had camped on the bank to wait assistance from the town for which they had sent by four of their hardiest men.
After taking up her passengers, the Enterprise continued on to Langley, where she arrived in a couple of hours…
For those people fortunate enough to make to Victoria with gold dust in their pockets, they could enjoy a nice meal. The Yates Street Chop House in Victoria advertised their “Christmas Bill of Fare”:
Soups: Oyster, Chicken, Gambo, Mutton Broth
Fish: Boiled Halibut, Boiled Flounder, with Oyster Sauce
Boiled: Ham, Tongue, Chicken, Turkey with butter sauce
Oyster pies, Lamb Cutlets, with green peas, Selmes of Ducks, Venison Pastry, Fricassed Chickens
Roasts: Beef, Pork, Mutton, Venison, Turkey, Geese, Chickens.
Vegetables of the season. Pastry and Desserts. Pies assorted. Cakes assorted.
Plum Pudding, Blanc Mange, and Jelly.