The Monashee Almanac is an online journal that shares history, mysteries and stories about early British Columbia and in particular the Monashee, Okanagan and Shuswap.
Celebrating History, Mysteries & Stories
At Rock Creek In 1860, trouble broke out between American and Chinese miners, and the efforts of the colony's Gold Commissioner Peter O'Reilly to end the disturbances, as well as to collect the Queen's mining licenses, resulted in him being driven from the mining camp by a hail of stones in what became dubbed at the time by the Victoria newspapers as the Rock Creek War...
In March 1861, Governor Douglas gave R.C. Moody, the Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works (CCLW), responsibility for marking out all the proposed towns and Indian reserves in the colony. He also directed Moody to give instructions to the newly appointed Assistant Commissioner of Lands and Works (ACLW), William George Cox, who was to carry out this work in the Rock Creek District.
Cox regularly provided the governor with official reports that included details of operating his Rock Creek office, and his expeditions throughout the district. Historical accounts have Cox in Kamloops during the summer of 1862 as well; however there are also accounts that in March 11, 1862 he is transferred to the Cariboo. J.C. Haynes then becomes the Gold Commissioner and Customs Officer in the Okanagan which may have included Rock Creek. There’s a possibility that Cox’s assignment from the governor was carried out as he was heading to the Cariboo.
But with growing activity at mining sites, trails, communities and Indian settlements, why would Cox and Douglas treat the Cherry Creek trail with such a high priority in 1862? Answers to this question might be found by examining the events that were unfolding in the colony of British Columbia. There’s a strong possibility that the colony was trying to keep discoveries quiet until it could better manage the influx of miners. In fact, Russian Alaska which had its own gold discoveries, had laws that stated that any discovery of gold was to be retained as a state secret.
In 1859, gold was discovered on the banks of the Kettle River which has its source in the same proximity as Cherry Creek. The discovery was made when two US soldiers were driven across the border to escape pursuing Indians and chanced on gold only three miles into British territory, on the banks of the Kettle River where it is met by Rock Creek. The first claim was filed by an Adam Beam (or Beame) in 1860, and the rush was on, composed mostly of Americans and some Chinese, all of whom had come overland from other workings, either at Colville or Oregon or all the way from California. Prospectors emerged up and down the Kettle River and the Granby River to what is know known as Grand Forks.
Called the Rock Creek Gold Rush, the event lured an estimated 5,000 men that now included the new town of Rock Creek which had grown to a population of about 300.
In 1860, when trouble broke out between American and Chinese miners, and the efforts of the colony's Gold Commissioner Peter O'Reilly to end the disturbances, as well as to collect the Queen's mining licenses, resulted in him being driven from the mining camp by a hail of stones in what became dubbed at the time by the Victoria newspapers as the Rock Creek War.
O'Reilly fled to Victoria and reported to Governor Douglas, who personally reponded to the crises leaving for Lillooet via Port Douglas and the Lakes Route, then moving on to Princeton and then Rock Creek. Douglas, accompanied by W.G. Cox, who he had appointed as the new Gold Commissioner as of October 26, 1860, and Arthur Bushby, most well-known for being clerk and companion to Judge Begbie. Once the group arrived, Douglas admonished a meeting of 200 miners and told them if they didn't follow his orders, he would come back with 500 marines. As he had at Yale two seasons earlier, he also instructed them the Chinese had the same rights to the gold workings as any other, and further molestation of them would not be permitted. At the end of the meeting, he insisted on shaking each man's hand and looking them in the eye as they left the tent as a way of ingraining his personal expectations on each of them.
The workings on Rock Creek did not last many years, and when the Colville Gold Rush began soon after, many Americans went on to the new diggings and Rock Creek's gold-mining heyday became a memory. The troubles of this goldfield were a critical demonstration of Douglas' awareness communication between the Coast and the Interior was vital to the security of the colony, underscoring his contracting of Edgar Dewdney to build a trail from Fort Hope to the East Kootenay (where similar troubles had broken out). The purpose of the Dewdney Trail was to prevent draining the Interior's gold and other resources from the colony to the United States, as well as to be able to deploy troops should trouble break out and either Indian war or outright annexationist uprising should arise in areas where access to and through the United States was far easier than from the Coast.
So there is no doubt that that establishing roads to crisscross the colony were very important, but there is also a real possibility that new gold discoveries were a potential risk as swarms of prospectors moved en masse from one big strike to another. Cherry Creek was up river from the original Rock Creek strike, Both the Kettle, the Granby and Cherry Creek shared the same headwaters range which by then, was known as the Gold Range - and it would make sense that miners would make there way north farther into the mountains to find the source of the placer gold.
A summary of prospecting history in BC by the famous surveyor G.M. Dawson (Dawson City and Dawson Creek were named after G.M.Dawson) appeared in the BC Department of Mines, Placer Mining Bulletin in 1931. In the summary which he had written many years earlier, he states:
“Cox relates how the ‘Southern Boundary Act’ stopped actively building operations at Rock Creek, as it forced the collection of customs upon the traders from the south. Gold was discovered then in 1861, on a creek called Riviere de L’Anse du Sable, which is now Mission creek, at Kelowna, and Mr. Cox regretted this, as it made more trails to guard.”
Was the gold discovery at Cherry Creek kept under wraps until W.G. Cox, the Gold Commissioner had a chance to look at the landscape and examine road access issues? Who was François Duchoquette, and who was the other man in the top hat in the original drawing? Perhaps someday we will know these answers along with who was the first to discover gold in Cherry Creek?
A Mysterious Discovery
of Gold in Cherry Creek
Why would Governor Douglas
commission a road to be built?
The fur trade in the northwest from Oregon north to Russian Alaska was dominated by the Hudson's Bay Company, operating as a private monopoly supported by the British government. Headed by Chief Factor John McLoughlin and located at Fort Vancouver at the mouth of the Columbia River, the company exercised nearly total control over the fur trade in a region that was called the Columbia District. It region was explored by the North West Company between 1793 and 1811, and established as an operating fur district around 1810. The North West Company was absorbed into the Hudson's Bay Company in 1821, under which the Columbia District became known as the Columbia Department. The Oregon Treaty of 1846 marked the effective end of the Hudson's Bay Company's Columbia Department, however the company continued to operate its forts and trading business long after.
An American attempt to compete with the British was launched in 1810, when John J. Astor organized the Pacific Fur Company and sent two expeditions to establish a trading post at the mouth of the Columbia River near modern Astoria. One of the expeditions traveled overland, led by Wilson Price Hunt; while the ship Tonquin, captained by Jonathan Thorn, was commissioned to sail to the Northwest Coast and establish trade with the Indian tribes. History indicates that two black men, Edward Rose and Francoise Duchouquette, were associated with Hunt's overland expedition.
Francoise Duchouquette was a Canadian trapper whose mother was a midwife of French and black ancestry, at the time the only woman at Prairie Du Chien (located in what is now Wisconsin) who had any knowledge of medicine. He served Hunt's expedition as a blacksmith, and remained at Fort George (formerly Fort Astoria) until 1814, when the company left for Fort Williams, near Lake Superior. While in the Northwest he fathered a son, also named Francoise Duchouquette who grew up to be the man who would accompany W.G. Cox on the scouting mission to Cherry Creek in 1862. His mother was an Okanogan Indian, he learned to read and write, and was a storekeeper for the Hudson's Bay Company at Fort Okanogan from 1853 to 1860.
Duchoquette roots were deep into the Columbia region because he was born here. He married Marie Marguerite of the Okanogon Nation. He served off and on as postmaster at Fort Okanogan, and ran the fort before it was finally closed which would have been just before the discovery of gold at Rock Creek. He was said to be an intelligent man, was able to read and write and was a "pretty good bookkeeper". His connections with First Nations families would have gained him access to geographical knowledge particularly in the Okanagan traditional territory.
Duchoquette died in 1863 at the age of 44 only a year after his journey to Cherry Creek was offically recorded by the colonial government.
Early Exploration and François Duchoquette
Was François Duchoquette one of the prospectors who made his way up the Kettle River, could he have been the first to discover gold on Cherry Creek?