The Conditions

The Cariboo Gold Rush

“It was certainly not cheap to outfit yourself as a miner. To live out in the wild woods of the Cariboo, you had to be prepared for anything and everything – from rain and snow to bears, and especially for the really nasty mosquitoes!

Food was very limited and expensive in the goldfields because it had to be brought in by trail from Victoria. Most times you had nothing but beans and bread to eat! Here is a quote from a diary of a miner working on a claim:

Barkerville prospectors

“…the bill of fare which was for breakfast, beans, meat and tea and the same for dinner (lunch) – for supper little better bread would be on the table as well as butter and beans.”

Living conditions were rustic. Most miners lived in tents at first, although a log cabin was preferable, especially in the rain and cold. Log cabins were crude, one room houses. Nothing was fancy. The cabins were built out of rough-hewn (unfinished) logs without using nails, and generally lacked proper glass windows or wood-stoves.

Residence of Judge Begbie

Why, even the renowned Judge Begbie had to live in a one-room log cabin that he called home in Richfield.

As with other gold rushes, entrepreneurs followed the miners. Soon dance halls and saloons sprang up to help the miners forget the hardships they endured. In Barkerville, a troupe of Dutch and German dancing girls, the “Hurdy Gurdies”, came under chaperone, up to the Cariboo from the dance halls of San Francisco. They were featured as the main attraction in a saloon in Barkerville, where miners were charged one dollar to dance with them.  With so few women in the towns, the Anglican Minister in Lillooet, Robert C. Brown, initiated the Columbia Emigration Society. Its purpose was to arrange for young women from England to be sent to the Cariboo as potential brides for the miners, some of whom might become very rich!