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Episode 6 The Pathfinders
In 1858, prospectors - among them Billy Barker, a Cornish sailor - found gold in the Fraser River and instantly, the rush was on. In the mid-1860's, an access road to the river was built - the Caribou Road leading to Barkerville, a city whose population increased by several thousand every summer.
The dream of striking it rich attracted thousands of Canadians and Americans. Natives and Chinese found work as labourers in the mines, prospecting, and in the service industry.
In the era of the telegraph and popular newspapers, word spread quickly. It was also the era of steamboats, enabling the flood of prospectors to arrive quickly. Conflict erupted between Native and non-Native population. The influx of newcomers compromised the region's demographic balance.
The local administrator for the Hudson's Bay Company, James Douglas, felt that Britain's sovereignty over the area was threatened. He proclaimed himself governor, and decreed a series of laws regulating the extraction of gold. He imposed a tax on all prospecting revenues to be paid to the British Government. Douglas' intercessions to London led to the Imperial decision to create a new western colony on the Pacific coast - British Columbia.
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