The Fraser Canyon Gold Rush
No history of British Columbia could ever be complete without some mention of the gold rush. One of the men credited with the first gold discoveries in British Columbia was afterwards a farmer just outside the walls of Fort Langley. Another took up a pre-emption across the river from the fort at Albion. One man credited with the gold discovery which resulted in 30,000 miners swarming into New Caledonia in 1858 was James Huston.
The gold, the Indians brought to McLean was sent to the Company’s headquarters at Fort Victoria, and James Douglas, Chief Factor in charge of the Western Department of the Company, forwarded it to the San Francisco mint. It was the arrival of this small pocket of gold which started the stampede of miners, 30,000 of them, to Forts Victoria and Langley in the spring of 1858. Fort Langley no longer bothered with the trading furs or curing salmon. It was much more profitable outfitting miners in food and clothing. For the first of half of 1858 Fort Langley did a roaring business- as much as $1,500 in a single day. Miners, bound for the goldfields, were forced by the scarcity of canoes to linger about the stockade and buy provisions in its shop. Miner’s tents covered the shoreline west of the fort walls.
On July 4 the Surprise, an American Stermwheeler, reached the fort and its captain asked for a pilot to Fort Hope. An Indian named Speel-set volunteered and the vessel reached Hope in safety making it the new head of navigation. Later that same, the Umatilia, passed beyond Hope to Fort Yale. These events reduced Fort Langley’s importance but gave Fort Yale a new lease on life. Allard was sent there to charge for the duration of the gold rush.
Earlier, Douglas, realizing the impact the sudden influx of miners would have on the country, wrote to the Home Government in England imploring them to act quickly. They did. Douglas at the same time suggested a military force be sent out to police in the...
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