At the height of the Cariboo Gold Rush, Barkerville was the largest settlement north and west of Chicago. Estimates put the population there as high as 10,000. Now what’s surprising to me about that is that even today, with the advent of paved all weather roads, motor vehicles and air travel, Barkerville is remote. It’s situated in central British Columbia between two major inland centres, Kamloops and Prince George. Once you reach Quesnel,(about halfway between those two) it’s still an hour’s drive east to reach the ghost town. Vancouver at that time had only a few thousand residents so picture how uninhabited the western part of Canada really was compared to now.
Imagine thousands of men and women traveling by paddle wheeler, stage coach, horseback, wagon, on foot, whatever means they had up the Fraser River and east into the mountains to reach a gold rush town in the middle of nowhere. The lure of gold was such that the Royal Engineers built the Cariboo Road, which some considered at that time to be the 8th wonder of the world. I posted a picture of it in my post last month but I'm posting it again - so much traffic traveled this road that today, 150 years later, you can still see signs of it.
Another interesting fact I unearthed is that the men (mostly) and women who peopled the area were law abiding, peaceful citizens. They wanted law and order, they wanted a hospital and doctors. They wanted services such as restaurants, theatres, dancing halls and stores. At the end of the day, it was the merchants who provided these services that made the money, not the gold miners.
If you're interested in learning more about the Cariboo Gold Rush, this is a terrific website:
Barkerville Beginnings is Book 4 in the Canadian Historical Brides Collection. You can find it HERE at your favourite online store.
Find all the Canadian Historical Brides Books HERE at your favourite online store.