It's been said that British Columbia has around 1500 old ghost towns. That would mean there would be roughly half that many being old mining towns. Some of these towns were big towns back in there day while others were just around for a few years at best. One of the more prominent old mining towns in British Columbia today is Barkerville. Not allowing it to totaly die off the town has been transformed into a tourist town that offers visitors a glimpse of the past of what life was really like over a century ago.
It was in 1861 during the Cariboo Gold rush that a prospector named Bill Barker was out high up in the Cariboo Plateau near Stouts Gulch in the Cariboo Mountain range stuck gold. He dug down to a bedrock layer about 50 feet and his first haul of gold was about 60 ounces. Like every other gold discovery word traveled fast and soon other prospectors and miners from the Fraser Valley gold rush started to work there way over over into the Cariboo Plateau region. There were no roads at the time so all goods were brought in by pack trains of horses or mules or on a persons back. It wasn't long though that a wagon road would be built to bring supplies in a bit quicker and a bit cheaper also.
At first Barkerville was just a few shacks and tents but as time went on and supplies were easier to come by, the town became more modern. By 1865 just four years after the discovery, the town had close to 5000 residents. At it's peak Barkerville was the largest city north of San Francisco and west of Chicago and had several stores, saloons, cafes and hotels. As with a lot of British Columbia towns back in those days there was also a large chinese community of miners and also trades and business owners. As with most old mining towns back then supplies were very expensive. It is said that a pound of flour cost $1.25 and was the same for a pound of dried beans. Cattle were herded up to the town for meat.
On September 16 of 1868, most of Barkerville was destroyed by a fire. Rebuilding began immediately, and at an impressive pace. Within six weeks, ninety buildings had been rebuilt. An amazing feat by even todays sandards of building things on time. By 1880 they opened the Barkerville School even though there was only thirteen students. In a few short years following, the gold was starting to run out and peope started to move on. Most of the stores and shops started to close up as well however the Chinese run business's stayed on as the Chinese miners would then take over the ground that was left by the European man.
Billy Barkers claim in Barkerville was by far the best claim in the area. Over a few years he mined out out roughly 37,500 oz of gold. He was by far the wealthiest man in the area, however he was penniless when he died in 1894 in a nursing home. It is said his second wife Elizabeth Collyer had rich taste and was quite unfaithful and left him in 1865 after a very short two years of marriage.
If you are traveling through British Columbia you can get to Barkerville as it is a paved road just 50 miles east of Quesnel. Well worth the visit as you can also see placer mining operations along the way and you can also tour a bit around the next closest town of Wells which is also an old gold town.