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A Step Back In Time

September 19, 2011

We needed to go somewhere around 100 miles from Prince George in order to give the engine a run and test out the fix for the fuel leak. After a quick trip to the visitor centre, the most helpful we’ve ever been too, we decided to head to Barkerville.

Barkerville was one of the key gold mining towns in Canada in the 1800’s and in its day much bigger than Vancouver. In fact at one time it was the biggest city North of San Francisco and West of Chicago. These days it has been restored and is now one of the hidden jewels in the crown of BC tourism.  A number of actors breathe life into the town providing both set presentations to visitors but also ad hoc street scenes depicting life back when the town was a busy gold mining centre.

The town is named after the first guy to discover gold here, Billy Barker, who hit paydirt in 1861. In the late 1860’s the population of Barkerville hit its highest point of 5000 people.

One of the first buildings we came to was the school house where the school mistress was preparing to give a “Lesson”. Well Sarah thought this would be fun so dragged me in. We started off by lining up in height order outside in two lines (boys and girls). We went into the building and sat down at the tiny desks – boys on the left and girls on the right. The girls had to cover their heads before the lesson could begin.  We then had a series of lessons – an object lesson where we were taught about some words and what the objects they referred to were (eg. Hemp  and Fool’s Gold). Then we had a lesson on writing using slates and copper plate writing. We finished up with a spelling test.  Then the final thing was to be shown what they did for fun in schools back then – which was singing “She’ll be coming round the mountain”. This was all done in character and we were told off for things like deportment and not addressing the teacher as Ma’am.  Not really my cup of tea but Sarah enjoyed it until she was told she had to do all the writing and spelling exercises with her right hand as being left handed was a sign of the devil.

We explored the buildings. Perhaps the most surprising bit was the substantial Chinatown.  We also went to a talk by another actor about the darker side of the town. We learnt about massacres by Indians and cannibalism by stranded miners on their way to the town. The last thing we did before leaving was to go to the courthouse where another two actors gave us the history of justice in the town. A judge from the UK appointed by the Queen (Victoria) was a circuit judge in the area and was known as “the Hanging Judge” because of his tough justice.

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