21 May

Prospectors going in; gold coming out

"Overlanders" Begin Quest

One of the most amazing stories in Canadian history came from the gold rush to the Cariboo in 1862. It began with an advertisement in London, England newspapers: "The British Columbia Transit Company will punctually despatch on May 21 at 12 noon from Glasgow, a party of first and second class passengers for Quebec, Canada, and over the Grand Trunk Railway to Chicago and St. Paul and via the Red River settlements, in covered wagons to British Columbia. This is the speediest, safest and most economical route to the gold diggings. The land transit is through a lovely country unequalled for its beauty and salubrity of climate."

The adventures of the "Overlanders" as they came to be known, began when they arrived at Fort Garry, after coming down the Red River on a steamboat. They were greeted by the cannons of the Hudson Bay fort, and treated to dinners and dancing. All that remained for them now was to buy Red River carts and journey to the Cariboo.

One of the largest groups started with 150 people, including Mrs. August Schubert, who had three children with her and was expecting her fourth. There was a great deal of rain that summer, carts bogged down to their wheel hubs while the oxen sank to their bellies in "muskeg." Members of the party who had never handled axes had to build bridges across the swollen rivers. By July 21, they had finally reached Edmonton. Now they only had to cross the Rockies!

The Hudson's Bay men at Edmonton persuaded them to exchange their Red River carts for pack horses. They pressed on, and by August 2 had reached Cowdung Lake, the Great Divide, where the water began to flow to the west. By this time, they had eaten practically all their food and were living on skunks and porcupines, and even horses. Occasionally they got salmon from the Indians. The fish had come 700 miles from the Pacific and were half-rotten.

It was October 13 before one party reached Fort Kamloops. Many had died through drowning or other accidents. Among the survivors were Mrs. Schubert and her three children. The new baby was born the following day, the first white girl born in the interior of British Columbia.

Few, if any, of the "Overlanders" found gold.


21 May

-1690    Sir William Phips captured Port Royal, Nova Scotia.

-1765    The first agricultural fair in Canada was held at Windsor, Nova Scotia.

-1784    A large party of Loyalists left Sorel, Quebec, to settle at Kingston, Ontario.

-1901    Captain John C. Voss sailed from Victoria, British Columbia, to Britain, in an Indian canoe Tilikum. He went via Australia and arrived September 2, 1904 (see July 6).

-1914    Gurdit Singh and 396 Hindus were forbidden to land at Vancouver.

-1939    King George VI unveiled the National War Memorial at Ottawa.