Barkerville in British Columbia, Canada was once a bustling town, the centre of the Cariboo Gold Rush in which settlers rushed westwards to seek their fortune but today, the town is empty, abandoned after the miners moved on to seek their fortune elsewhere leaving behind a typical Canadian gold rush town which has become a historic site and tourist attraction. Gold Rush ghost towns are common in the western United States and Canada. As soon as the gold was gone, so were the people.
In it’s heyday, Barkerville was a bustling town, full of the excitement of new discoveries in the west. It was even the biggest city north of San Francisco and west of Chicago and the pride of British Columbia.
Gold was first struck in the area in 1861 and word spread like wildfire. The town of Barkerville appeared almost out of nowhere with a large number of settlers arriving on a daily basis chasing their fortune. It wasn’t an easy place to get to so settlers had to carry their belongings on their backs or in packs initially. The Cariboo Road made access easier and the growth of the town accelerated. By the mid 1860s, 5000 people were residents of Barkerville and shops, saloons and even a theatre were built. St. Saviour’s Anglican Church came along soon after. Goods were hard to come by as a result of the difficulties in getting to the town and so prices were high and continued to grow with shopkeepers making exuberant amounts of money. Of course, when the gold rush ended, they were left bankrupt.
Barkerville boasted a large Chinese community who were important to the economy of the town. The Kwong Lee Company was a general store selling groceries, clothing and other items. They also built dormitories for transient miners and a nursing home for the elderly.
A great fire ripped through the town in 1868 destroying many of the wooden buildings however life went on in the town and ninety buildings were rebuilt in six weeks. The town also took the opportunity to improve infrastructure which hadn’t been planned upon the town’s creation earlier in the decade. The schoolhouse opened in 1880 however by the turn of the century, the gold rush had ended and people began to leave. There was a brief revival in the 1930s when the price of gold went up during the Great Depression but that was short lived.
The government of British Columbia bought out the remaining residents in 1958 and turned the town into a tourist attraction which is open to the public to visit to this day.
Location: Barkerville, British Columbia, Canada
Category: Ghost Town