Detailed map of the Northwest Cariboo District, in British Columbia, drawn on a scale of 3 Miles = 1 inch.
The legend shows main roads, old and second class roads and trails.
The map focuses on the region between the Fraser River to the west and Barkerville and Quesnel Forks in the east, with Quesnel River running diagonally across the map.
The map's primary focus is the hydrographical details of the region, including noting an Old Hydraulic Pit, Hell Dredger, Lower Dredger, Reed Dredger? and Sunker Dredger.
Several towns and Post Offices are noted, including
- Beaver Pass Ho.
- Quesnell Forks
The map covers the region which was the scene of the Cariboo Gold Rush of 1861-67. By 1860, there were gold discoveries in the middle basin of the Quesnel River around Keithley Creek and Quesnel Forks, just below and west of Quesnel Lake. Exploration of the region intensified as news of the discoveries got out.
Because of the distances and times involved in communications and travel in those times and the remoteness of the country, the Cariboo Rush did not begin in earnest until 1862 after the discovery of Williams Creek in 1861 and the relocation of the focus of the rush to the creek valleys in the northern Cariboo Plateau forming the headwaters of the Willow River and the north slope of the basin of the Quesnel.
The rush, though initially discovered by American-based parties, became notably Canadian, Maritimer and British in character, with those who became established in the Cariboo among the vanguard of the movement to join Canada as the 1860s progressed. Many Americans returned to the United States at the opening of the Civil War. Others went on to the Fort Colville, Idaho and Colorado Gold Rush. Some went elsewhere in the Intermontane West, including other parts of British Columbia, in addition to those who had come and gone during the advent and wane of the Cariboo rush.
To preserve British authority and retain control over the traffic of gold out of the region, the Governor commissioned the building of the Cariboo Road, a.k.a. the Queen's Highway. A route from Lillooet and the Gold Escort was established, although that government agency never proved viable, as private expressmen dominated the shipment of goods and mail into and out of the gold fields (see Francis Jones Barnard and B.X. Express). Among other events associated with the Cariboo Gold Rush was the Chilcotin War of 1864, provoked by an attempt to build a wagon road from Bute Inlet to Cariboo via the Homathko River. In addition to the gold rush's capital and destination of the Cariboo Road Barkerville, dozens of small towns and mining camps sprang up across the rainy, swampy hills of the Cariboo, some such as Bullion and Antler Creek attaining mining fame in their own right.
The Cariboo gold fields have remained active to this day and have also yielded other boomtowns, such as Wells, a one-time company town of 3,000 in the 1920s just a few kilometres west of Barkerville, which today is a museum town and one of the larger deep-rock mines in the Cariboo mining district. The city of Quesnel remained important after the wane of the rush as the jumping-off point for other goldfields discovered yet farther and farther north in the Omineca and Peace River Country to the north of Fort George (today's city of Prince George), then only a small fur post and Indian reserve.
The towns of Quensel and Quesnel Forks are derived from Jules Maurice Quesnel, who accompanied Simon Fraser on his journey to the Pacific Ocean. Quesnel came to be called 'Quesnellemouth' to distinguish it from 'Quesnel Forks', 60 miles up river. In 1870, it had been shortened to Quesnelle and by 1900 it was spelled Quesnel. Quesnel is located along the gold mining trail known as the Cariboo Wagon Road and was the commercial center of the Cariboo Gold Rush. It also marks one end of the Alexander MacKenzie Heritage Trail. Due to its location on the Fraser River it was also an important landing for sternwheelers during 1862 until 1886 and then from 1909 until 1921. The last sternwheeler on the upper Fraser was Quesnel's own namesake craft and home town product, the Quesnel. Quesnel was officially incorporated in 1928.
Barkerville, once the largest city north of San Francisco and west of Chicago, was situated on the western edge of the Cariboo Mountains. It was named after Billy Barker from Cambridgeshire, England, who was among those who first struck gold at the location in 1861 and whose claim was the richest and the most famous.
Before the construction of the Cariboo Wagon Road, people hauled their own supplies to Barkerville, either on their backs or in a pack train. Because supplies were scarce, the prices of even the most everyday items were extremely high. High prices for goods in Barkerville did not ease up until the Cariboo Road had been finished, when goods could be transported by huge freight wagons. Soon, movers of freight boasted that they could pack and carry a set of champagne glasses without any breakage - for a price, of course. More women also came to Barkerville after the construction of the Cariboo Road.
At first, the town consisted only of makeshift cabins and tents. By the mid-1860s, however, Barkerville had a population of approximately 5,000. Even though its population was transient and largely dependent on mining, Barkerville was becoming less of a service town and more of a real community. It had several general stores and boarding houses, a drugstore that also sold newspapers and cigars, a barbershop that cut women's as well as men's hair, the "Wake-Up Jake Restaurant and Coffee Salon", a theatre (the Theatre Royal) and a literary society (the Cariboo Literary Society).
Chinese were an important part of Barkerville life for almost a hundred years. They established a number of businesses, including the Kwong Lee Company, a general store that sold groceries, clothing, hardware and mining tools. The company had stores in other parts of British Columbia but the Barkerville store was one of the most impressive in town. The Chinese community also built cabins (for Chinese miners, who saved money by sharing four or five to a cabin) and Tai Ping (the "Peace Room"), the equivalent of a modern nursing home. Chinese benevolent associations provided social services to the Chinese community and also resolved disputes within the Chinese community without the use of BC courts.
On September 16, 1868, Barkerville was destroyed by a fire that spread quickly through the wooden buildings. Rebuilding began immediately and at an impressive pace. Within six weeks, ninety buildings had been rebuilt. Boardwalks were improved and the narrow and winding main street was widened and straightened.
Barkerville's population was declining by the end of the century and it eventually only had a few residents. It did, however, have a revival in the 1930s, when the Great Depression caused widespread unemployment and the price of gold skyrocketed. But, as the depression turned for the better, Barkerville declined to a very small village.