Friday, March 23, 2012

The Golden Path

When a person looks at Vancouver and its history we see that the Hastings sawmill was one of the first employers - it was here before the city was properly formed. Then we have Gassy Jack landing in his canoe on the shores and constructing a saloon. Another industry that helped form this city. The arrival of the railway was a big boon for our economic future as is the ocean and the ships from around the world that not only used Vancouver as a trading port but the travellers also came ashore and injected their money into our future.

But one thing that really helped our progression, one thing that may have started it all,  one thing that men have left their families to search for, have killed for, have sacrificed for and has made many a man wealthy is gold.

1858 saw the beginning of the Fraser Gold Rush when this treasured substance was found in the Thompson River. Word leaked out to gold hunters in San Francisco and area and within two months 30,000 California miners were converging on the Fraser River.

Soldiers were deserting from the US Army; sailors were jumping ship in Puget Sound; sawmills and logging camps in Oregon and Washington had no workers. Wives were left alone to manage the farm and children while their men went in search of gold.

It was a crazy scene. Imagine all these men travelling as fast as they could to get to the new source of wealth. Some had to fight their way through an Indian war in the interior of Washington State but most boarded overloaded steamships to Fort Victoria. On one day alone 1,800 passengers embarked in San Francisco.

But getting to Fort Victoria was only part of the problem. The miners had to wait for the Fraser's spring freshet to subside. Also there were no boats that went from the island to the mainland. So the frenzied men built their own out of whatever they could find. Apparently the boats were built in exactly the shape of coffins. They were frail and many were lost on the journey - either to the forces of nature or perhaps caught by Indians. Many of those who started out with such excitement and high hopes never made it to the gold fields.

From June to September the Fraser produced more gold than had come out of the California gold rush in 1848. This of course attracted more prospectors looking to make their fortune.

Not everyone who made a fortune in the Fraser River gold rush though made it from gold. All these men searching for that substance needed supplies. And they needed a place to get away sometimes as well. A few settlers decided to make a home at a tiny outpost on Burrard Inlet which became the Hastings Townsite and soon a thriving lumber industry began.

From 1858 until 1863 $10 million in gold poured out of the Fraser River watershed. During the 1860s, $30 million in gold came from the Cariboo. Those tiny outposts on the inlet boomed and merged to become a town. Which with the arrival of a transcontinental railway became a city and surpassed both New Westminster and Victoria as the commercial center of the province. It was only a year after Vancouver's incorporation - in 1887 - that the city was dubbed 'the Constantinople of the West' by London newspapers.

So in many ways 1858 - named "annus mirabilis" or the year of wonders - not only established the fortunes of the mining industry but it also paved the way for Vancouver to become Canada's third largest city. Follow that golden path.
Thanks to The Chuck Davis History of Metropolitan Vancouver for the above information.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

, , , , , ,

No comments:

Post a Comment