Horsefly – the first Cariboo gold rush town

Before Barkerville was founded in 1862, the first Cariboo gold rush town was Horsefly.

Peter Dunlevy, an American from Pennsylvania, came to British Columbia at the onset of the Fraser River gold rush in 1858. After panning for gold up the Fraser River, he headed north and prospected along the Quesnelle River.

One day, he met Tomaah, son of Chief Lolos of Fort Kamloops who was also a runner for the Hudson’s Bay Company. Dunlevy invited Tomaah to dinner and from him he learned that there was gold further north.

Tomaah had to run a message for the HBC, but he told Dunlevy to meet him 16 days later on the fur brigade trail at the southeast end of Lac La Hache.

On the 16th day, the prospectors were  at the appointed spot. As the story goes, Dunlevy was sitting there when Tomaah arrived with legendary guide John Baptiste and welcomed Dunlevy in Chinook,

“Kla-how-eya Dunlevy”

Baptiste guided the prospectors north to the Horsefly River and down the river to a bench that slopes off to Quesnel Lake. There they found coarse gold the size of wheat kernels. It was the middle of June, 1859.

Many miners soon arrived and a small village was built including several hotels, store, post office and even a Chinatown.

For a long time, the village was called Harper’s Camp until the name Horsefly was adopted in the 1920s.

Check out the Horsefly Historical Society website for interesting historical anecdotes and photos.