Barkerville, Williams Creek, Cariboo

In 1865, George Wallace, founding editor of The Cariboo Sentinel wrote an address to his reading audience which declared his intentions and that of the new rag. It was not the first paper Wallace had edited nor even the first he had founded, and it is interesting to trace his motivations and hopes for the new enterprise. By reading this, and other editorial pieces, the discerning reader can see past the bare facts of an event... to emotional renderings of those forces in black and white. - J. M. Young

The First Effort - George Wallace, 1865
Questions, Questions, Questions - J. Young, 1994
To Know The Future - J. Young, 1995


There is a feeling about making a first effort which brings but anxiety to the actor and suspense to the audience. The young barrister's first attempt at a brief, or the politician delivering his maiden speech, marks a period in the lives of both never to be forgotten; but they soon come to know that the effect of spoken words, even when adorned by all the graces of gesture and of rhetoric, fall upon the ear but for a moment and are gone forever. Not so with him who essays for the first time to wield the editorial "we." He knows that words which are written may be perused and perused over again in the stillness of the night and of the closet, so that when he errs he is condemned by a "multitude of witnesses." But the cares that such general reflections as the foregoing bring, are but increased, when we think of the first effort to conduct an all but isolated paper during the dreary months of a Cariboo winter.

We wish our patrons to consider our appearance in this place as an expression of the interest we take in this institution. We shall be glad if a good word or friendly effort on our part can serve any of you in the least, and shall be agreeably disappointed if the financial proceeds shall be a 'remuneration' for the labor done.

We shall write what we think courteously but uncompromisingly - we desire to wound no man's prejudices or feelings, but our first duty is to truth, and we put confidence in our readers that the tone of manly sincerity will be responded to with candor and goodwill; yet we anticipate many errors during our incumbency, but hope that none of them shall be found contrary to rectitude of intention and true independence of spirit.

A new form of government has been suddenly ushered in upon us, and we may safely say it is generally well received. Our anticipation's of it, as compared with our knowledge of the last one, are hopeful in the extreme, and whatever objections we may have to make to its form or conduct, we shall never expect of it either miracles or perfection; nor shall we advocate those reforms that we may think it should grant, in any other than a peaceful and lawful manner.

We shall also turn our attention to Mining Law Reform, and strive to discover how many of the grievances complained of have arisen from the existence of bad laws, and how many from the bad Administration of good laws.

All mining interest are entitled to and shall receive our first consideration, after which we shall endeavour to instruct and please by writing on such subjects and making such "selections" as we shall think may best suit the majority of our readers.

The Cariboo Sentinel
Thursday, November 15, 1866

Questions, Questions, Questions...

In coming before the public with this, the first number of our third volume, I feel it incumbent upon me, as much from established custom as from a lively sense of duty, to explain my views as briefly as possible on a few leading questions that engage a great many of our readers. This year I have compiled a set of five frequently asked questions for your perusal. (I won't go so far as to call this a FAQ... we didn't have those in 1870).

Where do you live?

Barkervillians (not to be confused with a Barkervillan, which would be a bad guy from Barkerville) come from all over British Columbia and some from further afield. During the summer almost everyone lives in Wells but some also commute from Cottonwood or Quesnel. The last permanent resident of Barkerville was Wilf Thompson who passed away in 1979; since that time, staff have lived in Barkerville for short periods, but several years ago Administration decided that people living in the townsite constituted a fire hazard. An important note is that Barker ville is protected by security 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and is therefore never truly deserted.

When is Barkerville open?

Barkerville is open year-round; you can come here any day during the year between dawn and dusk and explore to your heart's content. However, most businesses are only open from around mid-May to the end of September and some from June to Labour Day. The Theatre Royal opens it's doors in June to present the annual spring show and then runs the main season show from its' official 'open ing day' near the end of June until Labour Day. It is best to call ahead or pick up a schedule for specific dates. (We will endeavour to post the correct dates here on the website in the Upcoming Events Section, as soon as they are finalized.)

Who owns Barkerville?

Barkerville Historic Town is owned by the people of the Province of British Columbia. It is a classified as an historic townsite within the Heritage Properties Branch of the Ministry of Small Business, Tourism & Culture.

However, the private sector does play an important role in the operation of Barkerville. All business establishments situated within the town are 'leased' out to private in dividuals under the terms of a park use permit. Other services, from mail delivery to mining demonstrations are administered by contract. Hence, there exist three main groups involved in Barkerville; merchants, contractors and government.

What do you do in the off-season?

Good question. We all do different things, and, of course, it would depend on who you were talking to. A great many of the people who are employed in Barkerville are students who return to their studies in the fall. Another large portion of the 'population' consists of actors, who continue to practise their profession during the off-season in other venues on the 'outside'. Some people own businesses outside of Barkerville, others are professionals. The permanent staff of the Historic Town maintain the townsite, repair damage wreaked by Acts of God and Marauding Visitors and are continually researching Barkerville's hidden past and exposing it to the reflections of the present.

How often are we asked these questions?

Quite often! Each season Barkerville welcomes over eighty thousand visitors from around the world. A big part of our job is answering your questions and we are happy and priveledged to do so. Enjoy your visit, bring your questions...and bring your friends!

Jason M. Young, Editor Barkerville, June 18, 1994

To Know The Future...

If a man could pass through paradise in a dream, and have a flower presented to him as a pledge that his soul had really been there, and if he found that flower in his hand when he awoke-Ay! What then? -Samuel Taylor Coleridge 1895

What then indeed? The chance to view paradise and know for true its existence. The chance to verily glimpse future prospects. How would you feel? Imagine sitting down to a game of cards, pile of chips beside, knowing that no matter how you played you were bound to win...

Some might take this win-win opportunity to play harder and faster for the biggest pile they could get; whilst others would choose a different tack, losing interest in the cards-expanding upon other pursuits (becoming beer nut aficionados perhaps).

Would you feel lackadaisical, in knowledge that, regardless of choices you made in this life it didn't matter-you'd get another shot in El Paradiso? Would you take more risks? More time off your work? Stop and smell the roses? Eat the donuts? Pan for gold? Would you quit your mining for the physical comforts of the saloon, brothel or library? Remember, whichever way...paradise awaits. Why bother carving a niche in this world?

Then there are those others, 'spurred on' by the prospect of a better place, who would choose Toil, for the sake of occupation, irregardless of the colour in their claim. Digging hell-bent for the cursed yellow gold-ever secure in the knowledge that they were killing themselves (as so many did) but that it didn't matter. Not any more.

But is it mere Lust or Greed that drives our lives, motivates and governs our actions? Was it these two demons that led Barkervillians to lead lives so harsh the average age in the cemetery is but 32 or thereabouts?

To answer, we have to make some assumptions about inspiration. What was it that made these men and women to leave their families and homes, and suffer hardships in journey for a chance to scrape at the cold Cariboo ground? Many would say gold, but gold it was not. Or at least not solely. It was the hope of something better; 'castles in the air' as Barkerville bard, James Andersen once put it. To accomplish something and to make a name for oneself.

Ask anyone on the streets of Barkerville today, be they from Germany or Quesnel, Timmins or Georgia and they will reply that they too wish to be accomplished in their chosen endeavours. Only a loser would say otherwise.

A fact often overlooked was that not a few of these miners came from good society and, at the very least, were comfortably off back home. They had little need for just more wealth.

Today we can see castle building elsewhere...the software industry, Hong Kong, movie-making and in people like Issy Sharp, Margaret Atwood, David Suzuki, and Roberta Bondar. Things haven't changed. There is continuity in history. Those people who seem like their not playing the same game as the rest of us...they know something we don't but don't ask me what that might be.

As you thread the weathered buildings, take time to reflect on the life these pioneers shared and on your own. What choices would you have made in their place? Are you a castle-builder? Stand in the ancient shadows of those that were and I often do.

Oh...and please, don't pick the flowers.

Return to top of page | Return to Archive

©Contents Copyright Ron Young