A gold miner panning near Yale, an old prospecting town on the Fraser River, about 25 kilometres north of Hope. Within a year of the word getting out about the discovery of gold, some 30,000 gold-seekers arrived in Victoria on their way to the Fraser's goldfields.

Date: 1870

Author: Unknown

Source: Royal BC Museum / BC Archives, A-01958

In the early 1850s, the Nlaka’pamux people found gold along the Fraser River. Word spread to the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) and then, for several years, stopped there. Thanks to a tight-lipped policy, the company was able to mine the river in secret.

That all changed in 1857 when HBC sent 800 ounces of gold to San Francisco to be refined. The secret was out.

The next year, thousands of miners and would-be gold seekers from San Francisco began descending on Fort Victoria, then a small HBC outpost. Ships arriving with hundreds of passengers became a daily occurrence. Most were American, but many hailed from as far away as China, all on their way to the Fraser Canyon. Within the year, some 30,000 individuals made the trip with their sights on mining gold.

“Fraser River Fever” was so fervent among Americans that U.S. President James Buchanan took the unprecedented step of appointing an emissary to the region to represent and protect American interests. Vancouver Island Governor James Douglas saw a profitable opportunity in this, as well as a means to assert order in the now-bustling Fraser Canyon. He stationed a British navy ship at the mouth of the Fraser River and began charging incoming miners a 10-shilling mining license. Douglas also single-handedly declared the mainland a British colony, thereby affirming British claim to the resource-rich land.

Ultimately, the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush heralded a new era for British Columbia: one less tied to the fur trade, with an influx of settlers.


1. Gough, Barry Morton. Crown, Company and Charter: Founding Vancouver Island Colony, a Chapter in Victorian Empire Making. BC Studies: The British Columbian Quarterly, Winter 2012/13, ojs.library.ubc.ca/index.php/bcstudies/article/view/182691. 

2. Mackie, Richard. The Colonization of Vancouver Island, 1849-1858. BC Studies: The British Columbia Quarterly, Winter 1992/93, ojs.library.ubc.ca/index.php/bcstudies/article/download/1441/1485/. 

3. Reid, Bob. “‘The Colony of Vancouver Island: 1849 to 1855’, The Scrivener, Volume 12 Number 3 October 2003 by Bob Reid. Pg 69-72.” The Scrivener, vol. 12, no. 3, Oct. 2003, mrnagra.files.wordpress.com/2016/05/12_3_31.pdf.