Barkerville—a historic gold rush town

The road east from Quesnel to Barkerville was deserted except for a few deer and grazing cattle. The town had been named after a miner who discovered the richest deposit of gold back in 1861, nevertheless, he died penniless. At the peak of Barkerville’s gold mining days the population swelled to 5 000—the majority of the people being Chinese. 

During the town’s heyday, a fire broke out burning most of the wooden buildings, but they were quickly rebuilt and many still stand today. Because of the declining gold deposits, the population began to drop like most gold rush towns until few people remained by the end of the century.

I arrived early to the stench of horses along the dirt road through the town. Two Drysdale pulled a wagon, depositing a trail of manure. The town had been turned into a historic park, but because of its location—far from a major city—there weren’t many visitors like me. Half the buildings in Barkerville were locked. Others offered only a glimpse of their interior through locked cage like doors. Some, like the brothel, I was able to walk through. Only businesses such as the bakery, post office and Chinese general store were actually open. There was a Chinese museum/house with its prayer altar, and a display of clothes and photographs. Upstairs was a residence with a simple kitchen, tiny bedrooms, and a sitting room like any other from that era. 

According to workers in the souvenir shop, funds had been slashed which might explain why I felt Barkerville’s potential had not been utilized. And after the well-maintained buildings, actors playing historical characters, and tour of an underground mine in Australia’s Ballarat, Barkerville was a disappointment.