Theatre to Cornish wheels – Barkerville 10th June 2013
We had only explored a little more than half of Barkerville and we had plenty more to see. This time round we were recognised by some of the ‘locals’ and we were able to engage with them and exchange pleasantries. We passed the bed and breakfast, a local jewelers and the school-house on our route up main street.
The houses became less opulent and more functional the further up main street we travelled.
The gold fever bought out boat loads of Chinese too and Barkerville had its own Chinatown, one end of the town was exclusively Chinese. It was the opium wars in 1840-1860 that allowed the Chinese to leave their homeland, prior to this laws prohibited emigration of people from the empire. It would have been mainly men in Barkerville as the laws were still stringent for women.
The Chinese had their own medicine stores filled with herbs, plants and spices and even grew some plants in terraced gardens here at Barkerville. They also had their own restaurants and shops.
They were mostly from a poverty ridden area and were willing to work for $4 a day when the white men could earn $7. The Chinese shared as many as six to a cabin and by mining carefully took over worthless claims and recovered enough gold to profit.
At the other end of town there were theatres and entertainment. This building had many uses and was once the fire station but is now the theatre. We went to a show in the Theatre Royal and Kev even got pulled up on stage to join in a song.
A great fire swept through Barkerville in 1868, it was thought to have begun when a miner knocked over the stove-pipe in the saloon in pursuit of a kiss from a lady. The fire destroyed 116 buildings in an hour and a half. Rebuilding began in earnest the next morning, this fire hall was probably one of the first buildings that they finished.
This carpenters shop was in high demand for repairs on the local buildings. There is also a picture of a trappers cabin below.
Sawmills like this one were widely in use in north America, it’s likely Barkerville had one for use in building and mining.
This stamp mill came from somewhere else and was re erected here. Their purpose is to smash gold-bearing rock to powder to allow the gold to be extracted. We have seen one running and they are incredibly noisy.
This overshot waterwheel is 16ft in diameter and modeled after wheels and pumps used in Cornish tin mines (in England). The early miners often found the paydirt lay 40 – 100 ft under the surface. The wheels were used to pump water from the shafts and lift the gravel to the surface.
Here we had a most entertaining demonstration on its workings from these two Barkerville residents.
Barkerville is a credit to the Canadian parks authority well preserved but not over restored, the living aspect brings the town alive with the colourful characters, actors and the store keepers. If you have the time it is well worth taking the detour to visit it. We loved it.
Next up – Fort St James