Victoria History - Gold Rush Years

Interior of BC along the Thompson River In 1845, the Americans push for annexation of the Hudsonís Bay lands on the West Coast, under the slogan "54-40 or Fight". The next year, the Treaty of Washington establishes the international boundary at the 49th Parallel, and down the middle of the Juan de Fuca Strait. The Royal Navy settles into Esquimalt Bay.

In 1849 the settlement around Okanagan officially became a British Colony, the same year as the California Gold Rush. Fort Victoria becomes the HBCís western headquarters. In 1850 Robert Blanshard sails over to become the first governor of Vancouver Island, and is later superseded by James Douglas. Douglas begins buying native land for the Crown under "treaties" with the natives in 1852. In 1856, Vancouver islandís first legislature meets, with HBC doctor J.S. Helmcken as speaker.

In 1858, gold was discovered in the lower Fraser River, bringing more than 25,000 prospectors (including many who gave up after the California Gold Rush of '49) who managed to find over $500,000 in gold. Those diggings were then left to the harder working Chinese in 1859. Gold in the Caribou attracted many to that area, but was too deep and expensive to recover. In 1865 more gold was found on the Columbia River's Big Bend, near Revelstoke, but this gold rush fizzled out in a year.

In 1859, the Hudsonís Bay Companyís trading monopoly on Vancouver Island was rescinded, and by 1865, Fort Vancouver was torn down. Unfortunately in 1862 a smallpox epidemic wipes out one-third of the settlementís population. By 1864, the first version of the legislative buildings was completed.

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