Reporting on the Fraser River gold rush

Newspapers in the United States published many stories about the vast quantities of gold waiting to be found along the Fraser River in the spring of 1858, fuelling the ambitions of thousands of gold seekers who came north:

During this brief period, ten steamers, making the round trip between San Francisco and Victoria in ten days, had been plying back and forth at their best speed taking five hundred passengers and full freights up, with only thirty passengers and no freights down. Clipper-ships, and ships that were not clipper built, in scores, were crowded alike – the Custom-House sometimes clearing seven in a day. Many of the steamers and vessels went up with men huddled like sheep – so full that all could not sit or lie down together.

With each departure of thousands for the new gold fields, businesses left behind were beginning to feel the pinch. Soon real estate prices plummeted throughout the state of California, and labour prices surged even higher.

Not surprisingly, it wasn’t long before newspapers began reporting of the difficulties being faced by miners in an effort to dissuade readers from joining the Fraser River gold rush.

Here is an article from the Daily Alta California newspaper dated October 14, 1858:

“There are now more than a thousand miners in Victoria intending to leave for California as soon as they can obtain a passage. Many of them are in want, and tell the gloomiest tales of the mines… It is one general complaint of a wild, dreary country, and only profitable for gold digging below and in the vicinity of Fort Yale.”

Mining licences paid to the colonial government of British Columbia were another source of complaint.

“About one hundred of the returned miners have applied to the authorities to have their license money (five dollars) refunded. It is said that this application has been made on the strength of a promise publicly made by the Governor at Fort Hope, that those who could show that they had not worked in the mines should have their money returned. The claims are first certified before a notary public and then presented to Mr. Nugent, the Commissioner, who will take what action is necessary in the matter.”