Current News – We are in Yellowstone NP, having explored a small portion of this magnificent park we are waiting a weather window to traverse the passes whilst dodging the snow falls to try to see some more of the park before we continue our journey south towards the Salt lake city area. Meanwhile back to the blogs and the start of spring.
Blog 268 Barkerville
When we met Steve in Sooke he told us not to miss the town of Barkerville so we made sure we took the detour to go up there. I say up there as it is at 4,200 ft and we could feel the temperature dropping as we climbed. There was still the last remnants of winter snow in the car park when we arrived. We heard that spring had started late in the north this year and there was four feet of snow in Barkerville in the middle of May when the staff arrived to open it for the summer season so it’s a good job we didn’t get here any earlier.
Barkerville was a historic gold rush town. Named after Billy Barker an Englishman who travelled to North America chasing the California gold rush in 1850. By 1861 he and his partners staked a claim here in Barkerville and in 1862 they found gold-bearing gravel or pay dirt as it was known then. News of the find spread like wildfire. Barkerville grew up almost overnight and the Cariboo gold rush was on, initially the town consisted of tents and makeshift cabins but by the mid 1860′s it started to look like a real community with permanent buildings and a population of 5000 souls.
Between 1862 and the early 1900′s over $600’000 worth of gold was mined from here and in its heyday it was the biggest city north of San Francisco and east of Chicago. Sadly Barker didn’t do so well himself, he sold his share in the initial claim in 1864 as he had two claims running which was not allowed. His subsequent claim amounted to nothing and he died a pauper in Victoria (Vancouver Island) in 1894. The Assay office was where the gold was tested for purity.
By the 1900′s the gold was mined out and Barkerville became a ghost town. In 1958 the British Columbian government decided the site should be preserved as a tourist attraction and a memorial to the gold rush days. It is now a living breathing summer town again with a working hotel, bakery, forge, saloon, photography studio, churches and restaurants.
Let us show you around starting with the Anglican church. The land was acquired in the spring of 1869 but work did not commence until November this meant the walls had been erected but the roof was not yet fitted before the snows. The minister is pointing to the line on the wall 12ft up where the snow lay inside the building bearing in mind the walls are 18ft high.
The other amazing thing we found was the newspapers lining the walls for insulation were from the UK Church Times (which was founded in Feb 1856 and is still being printed today). These newspaper were probably being read on the boat over from England dated 1869 with adverts from the home counties (regions where we lived in the UK) for nurses and nannies. There was also a great example of an early manual vacuum cleaner.
Barkerville is a working town during May to September, its main purpose is that of a living museum and to that end there are characters wandering around town dressed in clothes of the period and in character. Most of these work in the various establishment that are open including the post office which has official staff who work the season.
Some are just employed as characters that do little impromptu talks or displays on the streets.
Many of the cabins and houses are fitted out to the era and people are busy cleaning their houses or making bread.
Here are some more pictures of the 120 buildings that are now preserved in town. You will notice the main street is still dirt just as it would have been.
Here are some more of the interiors, the hardware store supplied everything from guns to snowshoes.
We enjoyed watching the blacksmith work his wood powered forge..
Some of the work he was doing was making shoes for the working horses, this was an important job as from 1859 – 1865 all supplies required for this district had to carried in by mules or horses or on foot. In 1866 the Cariboo wagon road was completed improving access to the area.
As the light fell and people started to leave the native animals started to come out here are some ground squirrels and an arctic fox.
There was so much more to explore so lucky for us we had a two-day pass and a campsite for the night.
Next up – More from Barkerville the theatre, the Chinese and Cornish wheels.