Leech River gold rush began 150 years ago with letter

"…The intelligence I have to communicate is of too important a nature to bear delay in forwarding to you, even for one hour…"-Robert Brown, Commander, Vancouver Island Exploring Expedition.

This past weekend, ceremonies in Sooke and at Ross Bay Cemetery marked the 150th anniversary of Vancouver Island’s first and greatest gold rush.

Here’s the historic dispatch that sparked a stampede; it was written by Robert Brown to his superiors from Clem-clemaluts, Indian Village, 27th July, 1864: Gentlemen: – I have the honour to announce for your satisfaction the safe arrival of both the detached parties which I sent from Sooke, across country, bringing intelligence the most satisfactory to me, and the results of which cannot fail to prove of the highest importance to the prosperity of the colony and the further up-building of the city of Victoria.

2. The formal reports of Lieutenant Leech I shall forward by the first opportunity after its completion, but the intelligence I have to communicate is of too important a nature to bear delay in forwarding to you, even for one hour. Accordingly, I have resolved to despatch a special messenger with this letter and the accompanying specimens, and after mature deliberation I have selected Corporal Buttle, R.E., as one on whose fidelity and prudence I can place the most implicit reliance. This will necessitate a delay of about three days, but this was rendered necessary at all events to recruit the party after their fatigue, and Mr. Leech, having severely burnt his foot, it will be fully that time before he is again able to take the field. To-day I will remove to a convenient place near the Quamichan Indian village, on the Nanaimo trail where wood and water is convenient and salmon are caught on the River weir.

3. The discovery which I have to communicate is the finding of gold on the banks of one of the Forks of the Sooke River, about 12 miles from the sea in a straight line, and in a locality never hitherto reached by white men, in all probability never even by natives. I forward an eighth of an ounce, or thereabouts, of the coarse scale gold, washed out of twelve pans of dirt, and with no tools but a shovel and a gold pan. The lowest prospect obtained was 3 cents to the pan, the highest $1 to the pan, and work like that with the rocker would yield what pay you can better calculate than I can, and the development of which, with what results to the Colony you can imagine. The diggings extend for fully 25 miles, and would give employment to more than 4,000 men. Many of the claims would take 8 to 10 men to work them. The diggings could be wrought with great facility by fluming the bed of the stream. The banks and benches can be sluiced or rocked. The timber on the banks will supply to the whipsaw all the timber that can ever be required for the miner’s purposes. The country abounds with game and the "honest miner" never need fear that he can find food enough without much trouble. A saw mill could be erected at the head waters (or say at the Forks of "Leech’s River,") and lumber for flumes, pumps, sluices, c., floated down to the miners, and on the whole the value of the digging cannot be easily overestimated.

I may add, that there is any amount of "five cent dirt," and with proper tools the average prospect is about one bit the pan. The gold will speak for itself. Corporal Buttle will return to Camp No. 24 immediately, and I trust that you will deal liberally with the men when the diggings employ the number of people they are calculated to support, and that the expedition will not be forgot in the Governor’s proclamation anent the discovery of gold-fields. I announce this event with the most lively satisfaction, and trust that our labours are meeting with the approval of the colony. I will communicate the discovery at greater length, as soon as possible. Lieut. Leech sent a letter to me with an Indian, and I have no doubt but that you have received before this. It announces the discovery, and closes a small prospect of gold taken further down the river.

I have the honour to be, Gentlemen, Your obedient servant, Robt. Brown Commander and Government Agent of the Expedition.

Although small-scale placer mining has continued unabated in the Leech River area for a century and a-half, the initial excitement was over within a year.

www.twpaterson.com

Just Posted

Karl McPherson, left, and Mary Morrice are the new head coach and general manager, respectively, at the Duncan Dynamics Gymnastics Club. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Manager charts a new course for Duncan Dynamics

More recreational programs to join competitive teams

Cute but fierce! Timber moonlights as an attack kitty. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Sarah Simpson Column: Beware of Mr. Bite, the midnight attacker

Last week, in the middle of the night, I was awoken by… Continue reading

The province has come through with funding for Duncan Manor’s renewal project. (File photo)
Funding comes through for Duncan Manor’s renewal project

Money will come from the province’s Community Housing Fund

The former St. Joseph’s School site will remain an art studio at least into early next year. It will take some time before being converted to an addictions recovery community. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Addiction recovery facility will be all about building community together

Society on a clear path with members’ experiences to provide valuable help

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system also takes Indigenous children from their families, communities and nations

Nathan Watts, a member of the Tseshaht First Nation near Port Alberni, shares his story of substance use, a perspective he said isn’t seen enough. (Photo courtesy of Nathan Watts)
Public shaming, hate perpetuates further substance use: UVic researcher

Longtime addict Nathan Watts offers a user’s perspective on substance use

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Her death is considered a homicide and connected to the slain brothers found on a Naramata forest road. (Submitted)
Condolences pour in for Kathy Richardson, Naramata’s 3rd homicide victim in recent weeks

Richardson was well liked in the community, a volunteer firefighter with a home-based salon

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
More than 75% of B.C. adults have 1st dose of COVID vaccine

The federal government has confirmed a boost in the Moderna vaccine will be coming later this month

Airport ground crew offload a plane carrying just under 300,000 doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine which is developed by the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
1st batch of Johnson & Johnson vaccines won’t be released in Canada over quality concerns

The vaccines were quarantined in April before they were distributed to provinces

The rainbow flag flies beside the Canadian flag outside the University of the Fraser Valley’s Chilliwack campus on June 26, 2020. Monday, June 14, 2021 is Flag Day, and also June is Pride Month. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of June 13 to 19

Flag Day, Garbage Man Day, International Panic Day all coming up this week

Most Read