I live in Wells/Barkerville British Columbia, the site of the great gold rush of 1863. By some strange coincidence the town of Eldorado Ontario, where I grew up, and Barkerville have a uniquely intertwined gold mining story that even touches the story of the great rebellion in 1870. You see Cariboo Cameron struck it rich here in Barkerville but shortly afterwards his wife took ill and died. Her last request was that she be buried by her home in eastern Ontario. So Cariboo Cameron put her in a box filled with alcohol, dragged her to the coast, got on a ship and proceeded to sail around the America’s to bring her home.
He stuck around Ontario for a few years when news of a gold strike on the Richardson farm attracted him to go to the boomtown of Eldorado Ontario. It turned out to be the first Ontario gold strike at a time where there was little understanding of lode gold leaving many prospectors with nothing to show. The gold was in the bed rock but the rushers began to talk amongst themselves that Richardson and his Chicago backers were involved in some sort of property scam. Eventually this came to a boil and as close to a lynch posse as Canada has ever had stormed up to the Richardson claim intending to get some answers or some justice.
It was agreed upon by the two parties that the prospectors could pick two reputable men to go underground and see the gold deposit for themselves in the bed rock. After some deliberation Cariboo Cameron was chosen as he was well known for his great successes near Barkerville, he even had his own town called Camerontown which no longer exists. The second person chosen to go underground was a strange character named Thomas Scott.
Cariboo Cameron and Thomas Scott went down into the adit and eventually came to see the gleaming mineralization in the bed rock for themselves. They were absolutely stunned for no one understood at that time that they were in a very unique geological place. Cameron and Scott went back above ground and reported on the quartz veins and the spectacular array of mineralization which was like nothing they had seen. The prospectors were satisfied that day yet very few of them had any success. Even the Richardson mine itself was short lived as most the gold deposits in eastern Ontario were either too small or to difficult to extract the ore from the igneous rock.
Thomas Scott having failed in gold mining took the next opportunity that fell into his lap, he went to the territory now known as Manitoba believing that Ontario should expand westward. He took part in the controversial government surveys that led to such great consternation that Louis Riel himself had Thomas Scott executed. Make no mistake, Thomas Scott was not a gentleman by any means however he had many friends particularly in Hastings County where he had just been part of the gold rush.
A series of events led to a militia of men from Hastings and the surrounding counties joining up to go fight Louis Riel and his Metis. Louis Riel never lived down the execution of Thomas Scott, it kept him from being allowed in Parliament, sent him to exile and eventually landed him on the gallows after the failed second northwest rebellion of 1885.
Across entire continents these three famous characters share in a story that ties me to my old home in Ontario. When I see the quartz spread across the countryside in Wells it makes me feel like I am home, something about gold mining has always captivated my attention. The stories are so rich and the characters so human.
Coming next week, more about the geology of Hastings County.