21 August

Gold Discovered in Barkerville

On August 21, 1860, gold .was discovered in the creeks running into the Quesnel River in British Columbia, and prospectors swarmed into the area later known as Barkerville. Billy Barker, from Cornwall, England, decided to sink a shaft rather than pan for gold. He tried Williams Creek, and by August, 1862, had sunk a crude shaft 40 feet into the bedrock. By this time Barker was almost broke, and other prospectors told him that he was crazy to go on. Determination paid off. Before the end of the month, Billy Barker struck rich pay dirt. His claim was only 600 feet long, but he took gold worth $600,000 from it.

Then Barkerville grew up almost overnight. It became a town of log shanties, saloons, and false-fronted stores built on stilts along narrow, muddy streets. People flocked there from all parts of the world. There were not only miners, but clerks and card-sharpers, bankers and barbers, poets and priests, dudes and dancing girls. There was real inflation in Barkerville; boots sold for $50 a pair, and soap for $1.25 a bar. Entertainers, including strolling Shakespearean players, were paid in gold dust!

Disaster came in 1868 when Barkerville was destroyed by fire. Fortunately, when the gold petered out, many Barkerville residents stayed in British Columbia to share the wealth of other, less fickle, natural resources. Billy Barker was one of the many, although he didn't benefit much. He married a very expensive girl who spent money as naturally as she breathed! Barker ended his days in the Old Men's Home in Victoria.

Barkerville was a ghost town for many years. but was rebuilt almost in its original form in 1938, when British Columbia celebrated its 100th anniversary. Now it is a historic park, and during. Barkerville Days in the summer, thousands of visitors enjoy the sights and entertainment of the gold rush days.


21 August

-1820    Robert Gourlay was banished from Canada.

-1847    The Canada Life Insurance Company was established.

-1860    Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) arrived at Montreal during a tour of British North American colonies.

-1872    Chebucto Head Lighthouse, Halifax, began operation.

-1902    Doukhobors in the Yorkton area of Saskatchewan turned horses and cattle loose on the prairies.

-1903    Croatian Fraternal Union of British Columbia was formed.