It was September 16th of the year 1868, and a long hot Summer day in the gold rush town of Barkerville. According to the story passed from one generation to the next, that afternoon saw a man make an unwanted move on a woman at the back of Adler and Berry’s New Fashion Saloon. A scuffle ensued and a stovepipe was knocked over, resulting in a fire. Within minutes the town of Barkerville was in flames.
Growing up in Canada, we didn’t have televisions or radios. News came by way of dogsled. The only way to know the weather was to stick your head outside. If you got wet then it was a sure sign it was raining.
Because the old Gold Rush town of Barkerville was so remote, its residents struggled to keep correspondence up with loved ones back home. Initially letters were sent with friends traveling between Victoria and nearby Quesnel. It wasn’t very reliable, and I imagine it didn’t help with feelings of homesickness.
Not unlike modern times, the buildings and properties of Barkerville were regularly bought and sold taking on different forms. The history of a single building can often make you dizzy with its twists and turns.
Before visiting Barkerville, I naively thought the town was full of hairy unsavoury types who worked all day and drank all night. Hygiene and keeping up appearances never crossed my mind. So it was interesting to learn about the town’s barbershop owned by Mr. Wellington Delaney Moses.
Let’s take a closer look at the sign..
Sorry it’s blurry. It reads, “If your hair is falling call and have it restored before you are bald headed.”. Mr. Moses promoted his Hair Invigorator, which supposedly could restore thinning hair – as well as relieving headaches, and changing the colour and richness of your hair. Basically, a big fat lie that I’m sure insecure locals lapped up while handing over their hard-earned cash.
But aside from questionable business practices, Mr. Moses also made a name for himself by solving a murder. Yep, that’s right. To read more about his impressive sleuthing skills, check out the Royal BC Museum‘s article here.
Here’s my newest favourite creature – the Columbian Ground Squirrel. They look like the squirrels I’m used to seeing here in Vancouver, just bigger. Much bigger.
Columbian Ground Squirrels have been known to hibernate for up to 220 days (!), waking every few weeks to eat some of the food they’d previously stockpiled – as well as going to the bathroom.
They’re inquisitive and quite chatty, making little chirpy noises while standing on their hind legs looking around. They run rampant in Barkerville and are the bane of existence of anyone working there. It’s not uncommon to see them trying to sneak through the open door of the town’s candy shop, and hear the staff shouting as the squirrels were chased back out. But to a city dweller like me, I wanted to catch them all to bring home as pets.
Because Barkerville is so remote (even today the nearest city is over an hour’s drive away), much of the necessary supplies were produced onsite. A real community was built by craftsmen looking for a way to create a living for themselves while providing the products and services the citizens would need for their daily lives.
At its peak during the mid 1860’s, the town of Barkerville was home to approximately 5000 people. Much of its population was in town temporarily, hoping to get rich quick before leaving with pockets full of gold.
The historic gold rush town of Barkerville consists of a main road and a secondary road. It’s on that secondary road that James and I noticed a collection of old pieces of machinery lying out in the elements.