1858 engraving of Victoria

Colonial History Vancouver Island

Maureen Duffus - Author and Historian

 

Reviews - Old Langford


The Gold River 1863
(Condensed from Old Langford: An Illustrated History 1850-1950)

Enthusiastic reports of gold finds in a river only 10 miles west of Victoria led to false hopes that Vancouver Island would see another Fraser River bonanza. The Evening Express published a reporter's on-the-spot story on October 19, 1863.

"Gold Stream presents all the appearance of a thorough mining locality, and possesses every facility for working. The claim taken up by the Governor's Party might be very easily sluiced, when it will not doubt be found to yield satisfactorily...

"We are satisfied that the new diggings will soon attract crowds of miners ... we cannot conclude without expressing how deeply the colonists are indebted to His Excellency Governor Douglas for the fitting out and supplying the successful prospectors in the expedition which is likely to lead to such great results ... shall we call it the Douglas Diggings?"

Eager entrepreneurs Joseph Spratt and John Kriemer were so impressed they built a steam-powered quartz crushing machine at the corner of Government and Broughton streets in January, 1864, to assay the ore from Goldstream. Another company proposed a quartz-crushing mill on site at Goldstream. By June the Kennedy Company was sinking a shaft [in the mountain] but it too filled with water. The Britannia was finding 'gold-looking stuff' in their 20 foot shaft. The Douglas Company with an open cut 50 feet long and a tunnel 27 feet deep (which may be the tunnel that still survives in the mountainside) was still trying. The Parmiter Company continued blasting and the American Company persevered. But most of the placer miners left Goldstream ... There was a small surge in April, 1864, when an assay reported that the Regina claim would yield gold at the astonishing rate of $10,000 a ton. Governor Arthur Edward Kennedy, Douglas's successor, rode out to bolster support for the mining companies, promising to consider improving the road to Goldstream, commented on the condition of the road, looked at most of the claims and was apparently impressed with the progress of the diggings.

Alas, the Goldstream diggings were already in decline. Investors decided it might be advisable to investigate the claims and prepare an independent report for the Governor and the House of Assembly. This report was not encouraging. The Goldstream diggings were abandoned ... The Goldstream Quartz Crushing Company was wound up in April 1865. ... mining was pretty well at an end in Langford until the late 1890s when ambitious copper mining operations began on [nearby] Mount Skirt.

Some good came from these years of activity. The government road over the mountains was improved, much to the relief of the farming and missionary families at Cowichan whose only land route to Victoria was this tortuous wagon road until the railway went though in 1886, and the Malahat Highway was built along the east side of the mountain above Saanich Inlet.

Goldstream shacks
Shacks at Goldstream Flats, 40 years later. (McTavish photo)


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