If they had access to capital, women could carve a niche for themselves in the Cariboo gold rush. This was not done without its challenges as the case of Roddy v. Orr relates:
Richard Cameron purchased a half interest in a mining claim on behalf of his wife’s sister, Elizabeth Roddy on September 14, 1862 from a gold miner named Perry for $1,500, of which sum Cameron paid $10 to bind the bargain. A bill of sale was prepared from Perry to Elizabeth Roddy.
On the same day Greenwood offered Roddy $300 for her half claim, which she refused.
Perry had Roddy destroy the first bill of sale and drew up a new joint note for $1,000. This new joint note was signed by Roddy and a miner named Greenwood who agreed to pay Perry $500.
Cameron took this latest bill of sale to the office of the Gold Commissioner to be recorded and saw that the register showed that on that day a claim to one half interest in the Caledonia Company was recorded in favor of Elizabeth Roddy and the name of Greenwood was omitted, owing to the fact that he did not know the number of Greenwood’s mining certificate.
Greenwood deposed that on the day in question he was drunk at Cameron’s Saloon and claimed he had no recollection of what took place, until he found the bill of sale in his pocket the next day.
He went to Elizabeth Roddy and said he didn’t want the joint arrangement and instead offered to buy the half claim outright or for her to buy his share. She refused.
Greenwood went to Parry, paid him $1,500 and obtained a bill of sale of the half interest to him and then sold it to Orr for the same amount. Orr had no knowledge of the previous deal between Perry, Greenwood and Roddy.
This last bill of sale was the only one produced; the others being lost or destroyed. The gold commissioner ruled in favour of Orr.
Roddy appealed the case to the Supreme Court of Civil Justice, British Columbia.
Mr. Cary, for the apellant, Roddy, contended that the record of the half interest in the name of Elizabeth Roddy was a sufficient record of the bill of sale to her and Greenwood. He also said that the recording officer at the gold commissioner’s office should have recorded the claim as a transfer.
The lawyer for Orr argued that the Gold Fields Act declared that titles should be recognized according to priority of registration.
Judge Begbie said Roddy was without the legal documents to establish her title. He also acknowledged that Orr was a bona-fide purchaser without notice of adverse claims at the time of his purchase. Begbie ruled that possession is of itself a prima facie title – sufficient until a better legal title is shown.
At the Richfield Courthouse on July 3, 1863, “His honor therefore held that the Commissioner’s decision must be affirmed, and the register could not under the circumstances be so reformed as to affect the respondent’s title.”
Elizabeth Roddy was not discouraged, however, and went on to form a partnership in another company, the New Richfield Company.