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Old And New Days In British Columbia
by [?]

The whole of this vast country–this sea of mountains, as it has very appropriately been called–used practically to belong to the Hudson’s Bay Trading Company, and they made more than enough money out of it and its inhabitants. The Indians, though never quite to be trusted, were, and are, not so warlike as their neighbours far to the south of the forty-ninth parallel, such as the Sioux and Apaches, and naturally were so innocent of the value of the furs and skins they brought into the trading ports and forts as to be vilely cheated, in accordance with all the best traditions of white men dealing with ignorant and commercially unsophisticated savages. Guns and rifles being the objects most desired by the Indian, he was made to pay for them, and to pay an almost incredible price, as it seems to us now, for the company made sure of three or four hundred per cent, at the very least, and occasionally more; so that a ten shilling Birmingham musket brought in several pounds when the pelts for which it was exchanged were sold in the London market.

Their dominion of exclusion passed away with the discovery of gold in Cariboo, and the consequent assumption of direct rule by the Government. The palmy days of mining are looked back on with great regret by the old miners, and many are the stories I have heard by the camp fire or the hotel bar, which explained how it was that the narrator was still poor, and how So-and-so became rich. There were few men who were successful in keeping what they had made by luck or hard work, yet gold dust flew round freely, and provisions were at famine prices. I knew one man who said he had paid forty-two dollars (or nearly nine pounds) for six pills. They were dear but necessary; and as the man who possessed them had a corner in drugs, he was able to name his price. At that time, too, some men made large sums of money by mere physical labour, and for packing food on their backs to the mines they received a dollar for every pound weight they brought in.

An acquaintance of mine, who is now an hotel-keeper at Kamloops, was a living example of the strange freaks fortune played men in Cariboo. He was offered a share in a mine for nothing, but refused it, and bought into another. Gold was taken out of the first one to the tune of 50,000 dollars, and the other took all the money invested in it and never returned a cent. He was in despair about one mine, and tried to sell out in vain. He was thinking of giving up his share for nothing, when gold was found in quantities. I think he makes more out of whisky, however, than he ever did at Cariboo, though he still hankers after the old exciting times and the prospects of the gold-miner’s toast, “Here’s a dollar to the pan, the bed-rock pitching, and the gravel turning blue.”

Nowadays there are still plenty of men who traverse the country in all directions looking for new finds. They are called “prospectors,” and go about with a pony packed with a pick, a shovel, and a few necessaries, hunting chiefly for quartz veins, and they talk of nothing but “quartz,” “bed-rock,” “leads,” gold and silver, and so many ounces to the ton. It is now many years ago since I was working on a small cattle ranch in the Kamloops district, when one of these men, a tall, grey-haired old fellow named Patterson, came by. My employer knew him, and asked him to stay. He bored us to death the whole evening, and showed innumerable specimens, which truly were not very promising, as it seemed to us. His great contempt for farming was very characteristic of the species. “What’s a few head of rowdy steers?” asked Mr Patterson; “why, any day I might strike ten thousand dollars.” “Yes,” I answered mischievously; “and any day you mightn’t.” He turned and glared at me, demanding what I knew about mining. “Not a great deal,” said I; “but I have seen mining here and in Australia, and for one that makes anything a hundred die dead broke.” “Well,” he replied, scornfully “I’d rather die that way than go ploughing, and I tell you I know where there is money to be made. Just wait till I can get hold of a capitalist.”