Cariboo and Klondike: The Gold Miners in Western Canada

George Woodcock compares Canada's two famous gold rushes and their differing economic and social effects on the Pacific West.

One day in 1849 a strange craft rode into the harbour of the Hudson’s Bay post of Fort Victoria on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. Its crew were dressed in red flannel shirts, and Chief Trader Finlayson concluded that they were pirates who had come to sack the post; he ordered the gates closed and the bastions manned. But his visitors were something even more unexpected than pirates, for during that year the rush to the Californian goldfields was at its height, and these men were the first miners to reach the British territories on the Pacific coast. They did not come for gold, but for food; San Francisco was still hardly established, and to supplement the scanty supplies there a group of Forty-niners had decided to sail to the nearest large trading post—almost a thousand miles away—to offer their gold in exchange for supplies. Finlayson drove a sharp bargain, and watched the miners depart without a thought that they were the forerunners of the men who would bring the day of the fur traders to an end.

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