The Journey: The Overlander’s quest for gold
by Bill Gallaher
Touch Wood Editions
As I have mentioned in earlier posts, gold was found early on in the fur trade days of what is now
west coast. However the first publicized “discovery” was in 1850 on Haida Gwaii
and that on the lower
in 1858. By the time the Cariboo Country was producing (Williams Creek or
Barkerville discovery, spring 1861) those in Upper and Fraser River Lower Canada
( Ontario and Quebec
respectively) had already given some consideration to expending effort toward a
new future. Since those areas and most of the world where suffering what we
call today, “a serious depression” many of those with an adventurous bent
thought nothing could be worse than what they where going through.
The next problem was how to get to the gold fields. Those already involved in prospecting and mining, primarily from the
Western US, Australia
and South Africa,
if they had a few ounces from their existing claim, bought passage by ship to Victoria.
Those in Europe who might have Pounds or Deutschmarks
and a reason to leave home might also sail to . Very few if any of those in British
Columbia Eastern Canada had such an
option so they faced the prospect of crossing more than three thousand miles of
country of which they knew nothing.
Those three thousand miles were not the whole trip. First they had to get to
( Fort Garry ). Winnipeg
Thus became the “Overlanders”.
Bill Gallaher’s novel “The Journey” does a marvelous entertaining job of following the largest of these groups. Through extensive research from diaries and publications he has been able to show some of the trials they suffered from the land, the climate and personal differences. There where those who left the group along the way and some who died. He even included some of the problems suffered by the lone woman, Catherine Shubert (a real Overlander) and the birth of her fourth child, Rosa while on the journey.
Catherine Shubert in later life
Actor and educator Christine Pilgrim has represented Mrs. Shubert and recounted her life story. More information can be found at www.christinepilgrim.com
A few of the Overlanders returned to their lives in the East, some stayed in Fort Edmonton, a few went south to Calgary and Montana but about a hundred stayed and became developing pioneers in the building of British Columbia. John Pinkerton, Sam Rogers, William Rennie and John Bowen operated businesses in the Barkerville area. John Jessup founded the New Westminster Times and was the first superintendent of education. Robert McMicking was instrumental in the development of the BC Telephone Co. Overlanders where involved in many businesses throughout the province and in the legislature.
Altogether an interesting piece of history.
At the end of my novel "Partners" the main characters are in Barkerville and their past catches up with them. I'm working on a continuation of these characters' story and intend to include some of the less than uplifting aspects of human character and pioneer development.