Considering Gum Shan

Document 2: Hazlitt, The Great Gold Fields of Cariboo

Source: William Carew Hazlitt, The Great Gold Fields of Cariboo, (London: Routledge, Warne, & Routledge, 1862), 158-161.

We conclude with a few selected extracts from the Journal of the Bishop of Columbia…

June, 1860. — One of the most interesting things in connexion [sic.] with gold-mining is the courage and enterprise of the miner. Water is absolutely necessary for two purposes : washing away the earth above the gold, and washing the earth or ‘pay dirt’ which contains the gold. For the former work an immense power of water is frequently necessary; this is brought from a distance in wooden canals, aqueducts, and courses excavated in the soil or rock, and this is made to descend upon the workings, and applied by a hose to wash away vast masses of earth.

At Hill’s Bar I visited to-day an aqueduct two miles long, which had cost $12,000, or2400l.; a company accomplished it in twelye shares, eight of which were held by one man. The miners of the various claims pay for a head of water five dollars a day. Sometimes there will be forty claims and this flume will be making to the proprietors 200 dollars, or 40l. a day. We visited spots where, by working without the sluicing power, Chinese were making five dollars a day. The sluice is where the water is brought in a body from the flume, and continual shovelling of earth into the sluice boxes produces a large return of gold, because more earth can be washed, and the more earth washed in a given time, the greater the yield. The rocker is by the river-side. It is a sort of wheelbarrow on rollers, with a scuttle front; within is a sieve, beneath which are two blankets, and at the bottom is a copper plate with quicksilver ; the ‘pay earth ‘ is cast into the sieve, and the machine rocked with one hand while the other hand keeps pouring in water ; the earth and water pass through the sieve and blankets; the sieve stops the stones and larger particles, the blanket catches other atoms of gold, &c., and the quicksilver retains the golden dust.

June 5. — I heard a strange noise in passing near an Indian hut; when I approached I found it to be that of Skiyon, the Indian bear-hunter. His wife had her sick child in her lap. Before her was the medicine man practising enchantments upon the child. He was a strong-featured man of about forty. He repeated over and over a few words with considerable gesture. Occasionally he would stroke the breast and stomach of the child. Beside him was a basin of water with some whitening mixture in it ; this he would take and rub upon his hands, or he would blow into his hands and upon the child, then burst forth again into his lament and incantation. The mother held the infant towards him, and evidently felt considerable faith in the enchanter.

Overtook a miner from California, with a revolver on one side and a bowie-knife on the other. I spoke about the former; he said they were needed in California, but not here.

I have met very few miners with their weapons; once none went without. Things are now as quiet and orderly as possible. All classes are well treated. Chinamen, Indians, and Blacks, have justice equal with others. Indeed it is evident that what the Californian looked upon as a sign of high spirit and courage he now thinks little of, and these terrible weapons are put away.

June 7. — I took a walk with Mr. Pringle along a beautiful and romantic trail, following a stream and glen to Lake Dallas, and then through a gorge into a valley on its northern side, where was a stream wending its way to the Frazer. I visited some of the Indian potato grounds in that valley; the soil is very rich. The rows of potatoes were laid with great regularity, indeed in figures and patterns such as you see on their basket-work. They also ‘earth up’ at the proper time, which shows a more advanced state than I expected. We ascended a height, and upon a rocky, mossy knoll, shaded by pines, we had an extensive view of mountain and river scenery. I could have sat there for hours, impressed with the grandeur of the works of God. How insignificant the most gigantic accomplishments of man! We were then on the east side of the Quequealla. A canoe, paddled by an Indian and his squaw [sic], brought us quickly down the rapid, rolling, swelling Frazer, to Hope, for which we paid the sum of a dollar, 4s. 2d., for half an hour’s paddle. These Indians are well paid.