With the California and Klondike gold rush, the Barkerville gold rush was one of the great frenzied events in North American history. The 1849 gold rush in California had drawn people from every corner of the world to what was portrayed as and easy way of getting rich. As with all gold rushes, a few became very rich, many got by, and the vast majority found little or no gold. Once the mines had been claimed and worked out, the boom towns died down, and the fever of the rush subsided. In most, there was still that dedicate core of prospectors who wandered off up new river valleys, into unexplored mountain ranges, along unsettled coastlines and into the unknown.
The 1850's saw a moderate gold rush along the Fraser River with Americans, the British, Chinese and many other people working the gravel bars and banks or the Fraser for a few specks of gold. Governor Douglas initiate the building or a road system into the area and in 1858 British Columbia became a Crown Colony.
By 1861 rumours about gold discoveries, along the Williams River in the interior of British territory along the Northern Pacific, had begun to leak out to many of the minors working the Fraser River and other area of the Pacific Northwest. One of the prospectors who migrated towards the area was Billy Barker. He had worked the California fields and the Fraser river and come up relatively empty handed. He travelled inland and on a small plot in Stouts Gulch on the Williams River, he sank a mining shaft straight down which was about 50 feet deep. He struck a rich vein and started the gold rush.
Barker was to die poor but while mining he pulled out over $500,000 worth of gold which was a large fortune at that time. The word Gold once again spread out across North America and the majority of those who flooded into the area were Americans from the U.S.. Barkerville quickly grew to 10,000 people, many of who made a tidy living by catering and selling to the miners.
This influx of Americans forced Governor Douglas in Victoria to take the mainland colony under his protection and he ordered the establishment of law and order through the area by British troops and constables. In 1866 the two colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia were united to save costs and simplify administration with Victoria being designated as the capital.
By 1868 the gold rush was beginning to die down and a fire in that year destroyed most of the city. The next day the people of the town began the rebuilding process but many began to leave looking for new sources of gold and a new area to explore. Baskerville shrank and by the turn of the century only a few hundred people claimed occupancy in Barkerville.
The Barkerville gold rush was an important event in the consolidation of British Columbia as a single Crown colony and then as a province in Canada.