Tag Archives: Barkerville

Barkerville – the Cariboo gold rush town

Barkerville Exhibit in China

Barkerville exhibit in China

Barkerville exhibit in China

The Governor General of Canada opened the Barkerville exhibit in China last week. Who Am I? Bridging the Pacific: From Guangdong to Barkerville and Back, gives us a glimpse into the lives of Chinese gold rush seekers.

The exhibit has travelled to many places so far including the Hong Kong Museum of History, Guangdong Overseas Chinese Museum, the Wuyi Museum at Wu Yi University and the Taishan Museum.

This exhibit also allows for the collection of even more stories and information of Canada and China’s past, becoming an evolving record of our shared history.

Chinese gold seekers played a big role in the Cariboo gold rush. Towns such as  Yale, Quesnel Forks and Stanley all had large Chinese populations. Check out some of my previous posts such as the Kwong Lee merchants and Chinese names in the gold rush.

Louis Blanc: photographer of the BC gold rush

Early photographers of the BC gold rush were an adventurous people; often travelling from town to town, following the hoardes of miners to ply their trade. Some of them combined their talents. Louis Blanc was a watchmaker and jeweller as well as a photographer.

Photography in the 1850s was relatively new. “Cartes de Visite” were pictures mounted to the backs of calling cards that visitors would leave behind if no one was home, with room for a message. Ambrotypes were photographs taken on glass plates. The photographer had to prepare the plates, expose them while the emulsion was still wet, and then return to the darkroom to develop the image. The glass negative that resulted could be used again for prints.

Louis Blanc: Photographer of the BC gold rush

Louis Blanc: Photographer of the BC gold rush

Louis A. Blanc was a watchmaker and jeweller in Olympia, Washington Territory, from 1859 to 1860, after which he moved to Victoria. He had a photographic
gallery on Government Street, opposite the St. Nicholas Hotel. In late June 1867, Blanc opened a gallery in Richfield, making him the first photographer in the area. In the advertisement, Blanc offered several services including “Cartes de Visite”, Timbre de Poste (stamps) Ambrotypes and Milanotypes. Italy was the birthplace of photograpy which could explain the last term.

Well known people of the Cariboo gold rush including John Bowron, William Pattullo, Stephen Tingley, and William Luce all had their portraits taken by Louis Blanc.

In May 1868, just months before the Great Fire of Barkerville, Blanc opened a studio in that town, using proceeds from the sale of his jewellery. Two months later he was back in business and today his photographic studio is a highlight for tourists. He remained in business until August 1872 when he auctioned off his photography and supplies and left Barkerville September 29th, never to return.

Catherine Parker: boarding house keeper of Barkerville

Catherine Parker - Barkerville boarding house keeper

Catherine Parker – Barkerville boarding house keeper

Catherine Parker was a boarding house keeper and saloon keeper in Barkerville during the Cariboo gold rush.  Born in Ireland to the Dunn family in 1841, Catherine was a young woman when she moved to England and married Samuel Parker. In 1861, the Parkers and their two daughters emigrated to British Columbia where they set up a trading post at Port Douglas at the head of Harrison Lake.

In May, 1867, the Cariboo Sentinel reported that “Mr. Parker is fitting up a very comfortable dwelling to be used as a boarding house” along with King’s blacksmith shop, Kerr’s Brewery and another dwelling house “all of which are nearly finished” in a building owned by Mr. Fulton.

Mrs. Parker's Boarding House

Mrs. Parker’s Boarding House

The Parkers kept up with their business until the Great Fire of Barkerville just over a year later. Just two weeks later, Catherine gave birth to a son. Determined to get back into business, the Parkers rebuilt and established a new boarding house with 10 bedrooms, a parlour, a bar room and a kitchen. While most other boarding houses only furnished their rooms with cots, Mrs. Parker advertised “Beds Beds Beds.”

After the death of her husband in 1873, Catherine married a Cornish miner named John Austin. She sold the hotel in Barkerville and together they moved to Lightning Creek where they ran the Stanley Hotel. Catherine arranged for ‘hurdy gurdy girls’ (dancers) to come to the Stanley Hotel and also scheduled their appearances at various other venues in Barkerville.

Later, they sold the Stanley Hotel and established the Austin Hotel in Richfield. In 1881, they sold their hotel and took over a large saloon in Barkerville previously owned by John Knott. This is now known as the Barkerville Hotel.

In the late 1880s, the Austins left the Cariboo for good and moved to Vancouver.

George Wallace – Cariboo Sentinel newspaper

George Wallace - founder of the Cariboo Sentinel

George Wallace – founder of the Cariboo Sentinel

Barkerville’s longest running gold rush newspaper, the Cariboo Sentinel, was first published in June 1865 under the watchful eye of its owner and editor, George Wallace. Each issue was about four letter-sized pages, printed on a well-travelled French press that Wallace had brought with him to Barkerville. The Cariboo Sentinel proved to be both popular and profitable for Wallace.

George Wallace was born in Boston in 1833 and it is believed that he was a newspaper correspondent for the Toronto Globe before he came to British Columbia with a group of Overlanders in 1862. Upon arriving, Wallace went to Victoria where he worked as a correspondent for the British Colonist.

The early gold rush years in British Columbia were a boon time for newspapers. Between 1858 and 1864, ten newspapers were started in Victoria, half of them dailies.

In 1863, Wallace and Charles Allan (who had also worked for the Colonist) established a newspaper in New Westminster, The Daily Evening Express, which ran from April, 1863 to February, 1865.

After earning a profit of $3,500, Wallace sold the Cariboo Sentinel in 1866 and he left Barkerville to start another newspaper, The Tribune, in Yale.

The Cariboo Sentinel was published for another ten years, until 1875.

Kwong Lee Company: gold rush merchants

Kwong Lee Company

Kwong Lee Company

Kwong Lee Company was established in Victoria in 1858 by Lee Chang. The company advertised itself as importers and dealers in “all kinds of Chinese goods, rice, sugar, tea, provisions, etc.”

The store on Cormorant Street in Victoria  became something of an institution for Chinese gold seekers and it was often compared to the Hudson’s Bay Company as they carried such a complete range of food and goods.

As the gold rush progressed, Kwong Lee and Company established locations in Yale, Lytton, Clinton, Lillooet, Quesnel (known then as Quesnel Mouth), Quesnel Forks,  Stanley and Barkerville.

 In 1865 Lee Chang, resigned and sold his interest to Loo Chuck Fan.

Barnard’s Express

Barnard's Express

Barnard’s Express to the Cariboo and Big Bend -1866

Francis Jones Barnard’s stagecoach express provided an important mode of transportation and communication during the Cariboo gold rush. Barnard, who first started carrying mail in 1858, soon acquired horse drawn wagons and expanded his business north as the Cariboo Wagon Road was built.

Hugh Nelson and George Dietz purchased the Fraser River Express from William “Billy” Ballou in September of 1858. Dietz and Nelson’s British Columbia Express linked up with Barnard’s Express to the north and Well’s Fargo Express in Victoria. As the advertisement says, a gold miner’s “treasure, letters and valuables” could be conveyed from Barkerville for all parts of the world.

The Kellys: Barkerville Pioneers

Andrew and Genevieve Kelly of Barkerville

Andrew and Genevieve Kelly of Barkerville

Andrew Kelly, originally from Ireland, came to British Columbia in 1862, after spending time in the  goldfields of Australia and California.

At first Kelly came to the Cariboo with the intention of staking a claim, but he soon realized that his occupation might be more valuable. Kelly was a baker and from his experience, he knew that gold miners wanted fresh bread and baked goods.

By 1863, Kelly was the owner of a claim in Barkerville and right next door was his own bakeshop which he named the Wake-Up Jake Bakery and Coffee Saloon. A sign indicated that he also served lunch. For the next two years, both the claim and the saloon were very successful.

In 1866, Kelly married Genevieve Lipsett-Skinner in Victoria. Shortly afterward, they travelled to the Cariboo where Kelly sold the Wake-Up Jake and built a boarding house and a bakeshop at Grouse Creek.

It was said that Kelly built his large brick oven using clay and rocks in a manner which was common during that time. Flagstones or bricks were placed on the floor and the sides and top were formed with rocks and clay to form an oval. The back of the oven was built up to form a chimney. A door of tin or rock was made to fit tightly into the oven. The whole oven was encased in firm earth.

Andrew Kelly’s oven could handle dozens of loaves of bread, pies, cakes or cookies at a time. To bake the bread, a fire was lighted in the oven and the door closed. When the bricks were sufficiently hot, the ashes were removed, the chimney blocked, and the bread put in.

In 1870, the Kellys returned to Barkerville where they established the Kelly Hotel which they operated for many years before turning it over to their children to carry on the family business.

Barkerville Brewmaster – Nicolas Cunio

Barkerville Brewery

Barkerville Brewery

Nicolas Cunio was known as the brewmaster of Barkerville. In June, 1865, Cunio and Chancellier established a saloon where they also sold Cunio’s beer and porter. 

“Pronounced by the best judges to be of the Finest Quality; it is sold at the following rates: Wholesale, per gallon, $3; Retail, per gallon, $4; half gallon, $2; quart, $1.”

Unfortunately, Cunio and Chancellier’s saloon developed a reputation as a place of disreputable characters. W.G. Cox, who presided over the Cariboo Police Court remarked that “he regretted to say that rows were of frequent occurrence in Barkerville, especially in the house of Chancellier and Cunio, and he was determined to stop them…by withdrawing their license and shutting the house up…”

Eventually, Cox got his wish and on May 23, 1866 a notice appeared in the Cariboo Sentinel:

“The co-partnership heretofore existing between Messrs. J.B. Chancellier and N. Cunio has been dissolved today by mutual agreement. Mr. Cunio remains sole proprietor of the Barkerville Brewery.”

In September of the same year, Cunio joined forces with Thomas Barry, owner of the Gazelle Billiard Saloon in Camerontown. Together they purchased the “Fashion Saloon” where they sold liquor and cigars and hosted “first class music and dancing every evening.”

On December 12, 1866, Cunio and Barry dissolved their partnership. Barry assumed ownership of the Fashion Saloon with Sam Addler.  This was the site of the great Barkerville Fire less than two years later.

Early Log Buildings of the BC gold rush

log cabin

a gold miner’s log cabin

From the 1820s to 1860s, the most common form of log construction in British Columbia was the “pièce sur pièce” style which the Hudson’s Bay Company used. All the HBC forts were constructed in this way. Considering the vast area controlled by the HBC, it helps to explain how the pièce sur pièce method was largely spread throughout the west.

Prior to the Fraser River gold rush, the first St. Ann’s schoolhouse, built in the mid-1840s, and the John S. Helmcken House, built in 1852, were both constructed in this style and covered with shingle siding to add a veneer of “refinement.”

The pièce sur pièce style also influenced the construction of roadhouses in the Cariboo during the gold rush. First nation pit houses with their sod roof design was another influence. Sod roofs were characteristic of Cariboo log buildings and served to keep out heat in the summer and prevent heat loss in the winter. The roofs were gently pitched to avoid erosion. Examples of sod-roofed buildings can be found at Hat Creek Ranch Historic Site, including a root cellar and two poultry houses, built during the 1860s.

The log buildings constructed by early settlers can be further divided into “permanent” and “temporary” structures. Permanent log buildings often have squared logs with tight-fitting dovetailed or lap-jointed corners, while temporary log structures often have round logs with simple saddle-notched corners.

Donovan Clemson’s book Living with Logs: British Columbia’s Log Buildings and Rail Fences (1974) remains the only published source entirely devoted to the subject.

Homes built by Chinese gold miners used a combination of construction styles. The Chee Kung Tong building in Barkerville, consists of a central frame building with two later log additions. Both log additions have round logs with squared dovetailed corners, a feature shared by a number of other log buildings in Barkerville.

Sam Adler: Barkerville Saloon owner

Sam Adler - Barkerville Saloon owner

Sam Adler – Barkerville Saloon owner

Thomas Barry and Sam Adler established a saloon in Barkerville just prior to the Great Barkerville Fire of 1868. Unfortunately, the Barry and Adler Saloon was the site of the fire which destroyed much of the town. The saloon was burned to the ground.

Check out the link to see the notice Sam Adler put in the Cariboo Sentinel shortly afterward.

After this financial disaster, Barry and Adler bought 150 Mile Roadhouse in 1869. In the fall of that year, word came of a new gold strike in the Omineca region. By the following year, traffic increased considerably to 150 Mile House.