In Search of Yellow Gold

When January rolls around and the Cariboo is covered with its perennial blanket of white and the ice and snow and crunching of felt packs is all too familiar, that’s when dreams of the coming mining season dance, like the proverbial sugar plumes, in the minds of the local miners held up in their snowy cabins.

It’s a time when we recall the past excitement of prospecting and digging in the unexplored regions of this bountiful earth in search of the yellow gold and the thrill of that final swirling of the pan when a nugget finally bursts forth into the clear light of day in all its resplendent beauty and magic!

The Cariboo has not only been traditionally rich in minerals but also in a wealth of individuals who, over the years, have contributed in one way or another to the creation of what is now a living legend – the Cariboo Goldfields along with its capital city, Barkerville.

One of those people was Betty McCrimmon of Wells, B.C. whose poetry about mining and life in the Cariboo and life in general is a living testimony to the talents of those who wended their way up to the goldfields in search of the yellow gold. Here, for your reading pleasure then, is one of Betty McCrimmon’s poems aptly titled: In Search of Yellow Gold.

In Search of Yellow Gold

I walked the streets of Barkerville
And paused along the way,
I marvelled at the ancient church
Left from that bygone day.
The rustic streets still echo strong
As in the days of old,
Where miners by the thousands came
In search of yellow gold.
I seemed to feel the presence yet
Of people long ago,
Still living in this modern age
In this place I craved to know.
Hollow footsteps turned my head
And yet, no one was there,
Mocking laughter, calls of gold,
Flowed gently on the air.
I walked upon the wooden walks
That stretched the one way street,
All around I felt at home
With folks I longed to meet.
Peace flowed strongly through my veins
But yet my blood ran cold,
Where miners by the thousands came
In search of yellow gold.
Billy Barker’s shaft is open wide
For tourists now to see,
Wake-Up Jake serves meals to all
Just like it used to be.
The bakery serves it’s sourdough
The stage runs as of old,
Where miners by the thousands came
In search of yellow gold.
The lifelike mannequins stand by
So still and yet so true,
Look real close, you’ll see them breathe
As they relate to you.
Stout hearts, strong men, and women
Are there just as I’ve told,
When miners by the thousands came
In search of yellow gold.
And somewhere in the mountains
In the streams and in the ground,
There’s gold, I’m oh so sure there’s gold,
That built up this great town.
And off in darkened shadows
A spectre stands so bold,
To yell Bonanza, when we search
And find the yellow gold. . . .

~ Betty McCrimmon
© Ray Blaine

 

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The Snow Miners – a Dedication By James Doody

Having just spent the day shoveling my long, and at spots, wide driveway, I got to thinking about snow shoveling and Barkerville the famous Cariboo Gold Rush town that sprang up along Williams Creek back in the 1860s. It brought to mind a small chapter from a book written by a friend of mine, James Doody, that is rather apropo for this time of the year.

James Doody walked into Barkerville in the fall of 1931 and ended up falling head over heels in love with the Post Mistress at the Barkerville post office, Violet Rankin who he soon married. Jim was a gold miner in the area and a writer and after marrying his sweetheart he proceeded to built a log cabin for their future home. The cabin is still standing in Barkerville today and is now known as the schoolhouse.

His first book, Romance of the Cariboo Proper was printed in Quesnel back in 1982 and is a wonderful collection of stories about life in and around Barkerville. The Snow Miners is a small chapter dedication to Jim and Violet’s only son who, unfortunately, died at an early age while still in Barkerville.

I first met James (Jim) back in 1987 while I was the Park Supervisor at 10 Mile Lake Provincial Park. After Jim and Violet had left Barkerville in their later years they purchased a large section of lake shore property on 10 Mile Lake just north of Quesnel and off Highway 97. He and Violet graciously donated the land to the provincial government for the park itself and they lived next door along the lake. Jim passed away in the early 90s after an unfortunate and fatal tractor accident.

The Snow Miners – a Dedication

By James Doody

From The Romance of the Cariboo Proper

Snow miner, I have not forgotten.

And then came the snow, the beautiful clean white snow, and it piled up and up and up.

Very early each morning as the dog star was on the wane, we could be seen with our lunch pails going to work in our snow mine.

Outside the wind blew, the snow drifted and it got colder and colder, but we continued working in our tunnels, cross cuts, drifts, raises and stopes, Then all too soon came a “you-who” from the mine portal. We would put on our jackets, pick up our lunch pails and make our way outside, there to be greeted by our loved ones. On our way home we could see the first quarter moon as it slanted up and over Greenberry Mountain.

While we were eating our evening meal Mother would say, “Are you kids quite sure that it is safe for you to work in your snow mine?”

“Mother dear,” we would reply, “do not concern yourself about our safety for we are professional snow miners!”

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A Farewell to Angus McTavish

Mining partners Ray (left), Angus (middle) and Arthur (right) at Langford’s Mining office

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Life has a way of tossing you rotten eggs when you least expect them and such was the case when we heard of Angus McTavish’s untimely death on October 16th, 2010 while on route from Alberta to Kamloops, B.C. Yet another fatality along the dangerous stretch of highway between Golden and Revelstoke.

It was not only tragic in the sense of losing a good friend and mining partner but also illustrative of one of the most common errors made in mining, that is, working on a project without clear guidelines in place such as a written contract.

After Angus’ death the joint venture that we were involved in suddenly collapsed due to the aforesaid problem of not having a signed contract. Family members and partners threw caution to the wind and in their reactionary and grieving process the once workable verbal agreement suddenly fell apart and ended up destroying what promised to be a viable mining operation.

It also played a part in explaining why this blog has been so post challenged of late. Along with the new year this situation will hopefully change for the better as we move on into new and exciting periods of planning for the upcoming season.

Gold is standing at around $1421.00 an ounce as of yesterday and that is good news for us placer miners. Even with the snow and ice and frozen creeks it’s enough to melt one’s worst feelings and bring hope for new beginnings.

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Is it safe to go placer mining?

Is it safe to go placer mining? The answer to that question is both yes and no.

Generally speaking placer mining occurs away from urban areas and in most cases far away in the wilderness. This in itself entails certain risks, one of which is the presence in such areas of other creatures who may or may not desire your person in their area or territory.

I found this out early in the spring when, after the snows had receded to the point where I could drive my truck into some of the claims that I had staked the previous fall, I decided to check out the terrain and see just exactly what the lay of the land was like and what areas were accessible.

I drove down an old logging road where the forest had been clear cut about five years previous and ended up at the bottom of the opening where the ground was still too wet to attempt going any further by vehicle. I decided to hoof it and walk the rest of the opening.

I had gone about fifty feet down the road when I suddenly realized that right in front of me were fresh tracks from a grizzly bear!

I wasn’t carrying a firearm for protection so it didn’t take too long to come to the reasonable conclusion that it might be a far better idea to simply turn around quietly and return to the relative safety of my truck. And of course that is just what I did.

Being spring and the bears just coming out of hibernation and most likely having those grumblies in their tumblies I didn’t want to end up being its first major meal of the spring.

As you can see from the photo above which I took of the track it wasn’t the sort of dinner engagement that I wished to be a part of.

So, yes, one does have to be careful when out in the wilderness areas. The lure of gold is often compelling but the lure of breathing and staying alive has to trump that first urge when necessary.

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You mean there’s still some gold left in them thar hills?

As this photo of my friend Klaus (a local Cariboo placer miner) shows there certainly is still some of that yellow metal lurking in the hidden gravels and bars of the Cariboo gold fields!

That’s a 7 ounce nugget taken out of Conklin Gulch, one of the many rich tributaries flowing down into William’s Creek where the famous historic town of Barkerville stands today. It’s not the only nugget of that size and recent workings in the Barkerville area, especially those occurring on the F Grants are yielding extremely sizable amounts of gold.

“F Grants”? What might they be you could be asking yourself. I’ll go in to that further in another post but for the moment they are special grants of mining property issued by Queen Victoria back in 1875 which bestowed certain legal rights upon the owners of said property.

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Greetings all you goldseekers. Welcome to the CaribooPlacerMiningBlog!

The photograph above was taken a few years ago on the Quesnel River about 30 km east of where it  joins the mighty Fraser at the city of Quesnel.

That’s my partner and buddy Ray on the left and myself. Ray had the sluice box set up along with an inch and a half hose to supply water. He was getting some fair sized flakes and a days hard shoveling would yield a nice accumulation of that fine yellow metal that so many folks find fascinating.

It’s a little example of what the average citizen can still do in B.C. without a major outlay in cost and equipment and still get outdoors and enjoy nature while earning a living.

The plan for this blog is to try and connect up with other small placer operators and interested people and share ideas and stories and the challenges of gold mining in today’s fast-paced world. I hope readers will join in and pass the word along to others.

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