John May was among the prospectors who first discovered gold in the Cariboo in 1860. These gold miners included George Weaver, John Rose, Benjamin MacDonald, Fred Black and W.R. “Doc” Keithley.
Anticipating an influx of gold miners, May and his friend George Weaver purchased land at the junction of the old Hudson’s Bay Brigade Trail and Palmer’s route to Beaver Lake.
Mud Lake was originally called ‘Lac de Terre Claire’ by the Hudson’s Bay Company fur traders, referring to the white clay that was found there. Mud Lake itself was described by a traveller in 1863 as:
” a fine sheet of water, about 5 miles in length, winding like a broad river, clear, deep and calm; the slopes along its banks rather resemble a gentleman’s grounds than uncultivated wastes.”
May and Weaver pre-empted 160 acres each on the southeastern end of Mud Lake. In 1862, they sold the properties to James Sellers and Peter Dunlevy who developed a farm and roadhouse. This roadhouse became known as Mud Lake House and was strategically located on the route to the Quesnel River. Mud Lake later became known as McLeese Lake.