For the moment, they had this spot to themselves. It was only a matter of time before others arrived at the site because secrets never stayed secret in the Cariboo. They were each entitled to one claim, as well as a second 30 x 30 metre claim as the discoverers of the site. They decided to survey the area for the best sites, stake their eight claims, and then work the other areas until they began to run short of supplies.
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Keithley and Weaver were selected to head back to Keithley Town to gather winter supplies. They had to be very careful though. If word slipped out about the new discovery, they would be inundated with gold-hungry greenhorns all looking to strike it rich. The gold from this new creek had a definitely reddish colour, so they would use gold leftover from Keithley Creek to buy the supplies. They put on their best poker faces and headed to Keithley Town.
Unfortunately, they were too well known. Heading back to a town named after you it turned out was a poor way to remain unnoticed. A large group of men already kitted out and wearing snowshoes was waiting for them as they tried to sneak out of town. At the same time, fresh snow had made sure that it would be easy for scads of miners to follow their fresh tracks in the snow and so it was that the Antler Creek discovery became known far and wide.
By June of , Antlertown had 60 buildings including a sawmill, saloons, stores, homes and many tents. A slight stabbing affair is also noted.
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Hopeful miners continued to arrive, and as Antler Creek became claimed out, many fanned out to other creeks. Antlertown became the service centre for these new sites. During the winter of , there was a party of six miners sharing a single camp. They included Murtz j. Costello, Burns and Dietz had wandered off to prospect and suddenly returned wide-eyed to report a new discovery in a creek not too far distant.
Brown, Dietz and Costello headed back to the creek. On the following morning we separated to prospect the stream, agreeing to meet again at night to report progress.
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Costello and I had done pretty well, finding dirt worth a dollar or so a pan. I shall not forget the discussion that took place as to the name to be given to the creek. I was quite agreeable, but I stipulated that Mr. William [sic] Dietz should buy the first basket of champagne that reached the creek. In a story reminiscent of so many before them, as they tried to secretly record their claims, and purchase supplies, the news leaked out and the tracks in the snow once again led a pilgrimage of panners to their diggings. Thousands came to the Cariboo with the hope of easy wealth, most left broken and broke…and some never left at all, but were buried in lonely graves in places long forgotten.
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As they explored upstream of Williams Creek and descended into a valley where they came across a lake that they named Jack of Clubs Lake. From Jack of Clubs Lake, they found a stream that flowed through a narrow canyon and almost immediately they came across promising gravels. They decided to take as much time as it required to find the very best gravels. This was a canny plan for, as had happened so often in the past, when they did finally head back to civilization for supplies, the multitudes followed them back to the Lowhee.
Lowhee was not only incredibly gold rich, but it was an easy creek to work. It represented the start of hard rock mining as the gravels, rather than being panned, were removed to expose the bedrock little more than a metre below. In the bedrock were embedded huge nuggets of gold.
George Weaver and William Keithley also joined the miners at this site and had to build a 6 km long flume in order to carry water to their site, but the gold was far richer than any expense.
Ranald MacDonald also walked away with a fortune before selling his claim to John Rose for a ounce poke of gold. As the stories began to spread, miners that had been working played out creeks further downstream on the Fraser and Thompson Rivers abandoned them and headed to the Cariboo. Of all the creeks thought, Williams Creek was the richest.
Towns began to spring up along its length with names like Richfield, Barkerville and, dear to my heart, Camerontown.
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As the miners began to look deeper into the gravels of Williams Creek, they began to find the real paydirt. Above the Williams Creek Canyon, the gravels were shallow, usually less than metres before the miners would reach a layer of hard blue clay. This was where the gold nuggets lay. On one claim, owned by two men named Abbot and Jourdan, Abbot managed to find 48 ounces in just 36 hours. Further downstream, deep shafts of up to 24 metres along with dense cribwork were required.
Isaiah Diller, an American found vast wealth in his claim after reaching bedrock. His crew sook somewhere in the neighbourhood of Perhaps the most well-known name in the Cariboo is that of William or Billy Barker. Hailing from Norfolk, England, Barker had abandoned his wife and daughter in order to follow the siren song of easy riches in the California gold fields.
While he was in the States, his wife passed away and so he followed the news of new discoveries in the Cariboo. His first claim provided enough gold to allow him to buy several others by selling shares in his mine. As winter arrived, he left the frigid shores of Williams Creek for the more gentle climates of Victoria B. People will not think of or talk about anything else, even the battles of the Rebellion are forgotten or cease to interest them, so engrossing is the subject of the new mines.
Everybody talks of going to the Cariboo diggings in the spring. Barker partnered with 6 other miners and headed back to the Cariboo to found the Barker Company. They staked 7 claims further downriver, despite ridicule from other miners who thought their decision folly, thinking he would have to go impossibly deep before finding paydirt. Barker did have to go deep — almost 16 metres before hitting bedrock. By the end of the season, Barker had found clays that gave them an ounce for every three pans. As they went even deeper, they found a small crevice that gave them 60 oz of gold.
He headed back to Victoria and married Elizabeth Collyer. She would be his undoing. The wealth of the area led to a townsite rising from the muds that was known as Barkerville. Before long, it claimed to be the largest city west of Chicago and north of San Francisco.
Elizabeth was in her element and enjoyed the attentions of all the men much younger than Billy. Elizabeth was allowed to spend freely and became a regular at the saloons. Stevenson was taken by Cameron and they headed to the gold fields along Williams Creek. Along the way, Stevenson bought supplies and hired packers to ferry them to the gold fields where they could be sold for a tidy profit.
Stevenson, along with Cameron and 6 other partners claimed an area below Billy Barkers claim. Next to this claim, Henry Beatty and John Wilson staked a claim that brought them a fortune. Beatty invested in shipbuilding. Stevenson later related:. I laid down on the platform and peered into the shaft.
I could see the gold standing out on the rock as he held it. He sent a piece up and I got one ounce of gold. You can easily use a mix of apples and berries or […]. Regina is a holistic nutritional therapist and holds a bachelor in Health Science complementary Medicine from Charles Sturt University, Australia. She also completed training as a nutritional therapist in Sydney, at the Australasian College of Natural Therapies, and has worked in the field as a nutritionist for over 10 years.
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