“Thousands came in pursuit of the Golden Butterfly… but many of its admirers and devotees found it elusive.”
—D.W. Higgins, The Mystic Spring
Follow in the footsteps of three travellers as they journey on these historic routes. Each in their own way is “chasing the Golden Butterfly” as they move through a landscape of mining claims, boomtowns, First Nations settlements and awe-inspiring wilderness. They are among the tens of thousands of people—newcomers and First Nations – caught up in the excitement of the Gold Rush era. But unlike many of their fellow travellers, our trio is not looking for literal gold: each of them has a different kind of Golden Butterfly to catch.
To the thousands of gold seekers, saloon keepers and card sharks roaming the banks of the Fraser River along Route One, “Harry” Collins appears to be a slightly-built, pleasant young man looking for his older brother, who has a claim somewhere on one of the many mining bars. But in fact, “Harry” is really Harriett Collins: a young, pregnant wife from San Francisco searching for her husband in the controlled chaos of the gold fields. Disguised as a man for safety, she looks for her husband, George, amidst the rowdy mining camps and instant towns between Hope and Barkerville. She is accompanied by her cousin, Mr. York. Along the way, Harriett provides a window into the life of women in what was an overwhelmingly masculine landscape. Can Harriett find George before she has their baby? Follow in her footsteps and find out.
A First Nations packer who has traversed the Gold Road up to Barkerville and back many times, Eppa is a young In-SHUCK-ch man with kinship ties to the Lil’watt and Shuswap. He’s agreed to get Dr. Rowbottom, an English doctor, and his goods from Port Douglas to Barkerville using Route Two. He has to return to home to his family before winter sets in—no mean feat because his passage is being slowed by endless delays and the Doctor’s clumsiness. But along the way, Eppa explains the Sacred Landscape they are moving through to the doctor and gives a First Nations perspective on the route. Will he make it to Barkerville and back on time. Trek along with Eppa and find out.
Nam Sing arrived in BC from China in 1858 and mined in Yale before moving on to Quesnel and Barkerville. He was part of the rich Chinese cultural heritage of early British Columbia. Often, these early Asian pioneers are portrayed as either miners or railway navvys. But they were also business people, photographers and adventurers. Nam Sing was much more than a miner and labourer: he eventually ran a pack train into Barkerville and was a rancher and cowboy. This year, he has a real challenge ahead of him: he has bet his friend and fellow packer, Mr. Barnes, that he can escort a couple departing the gold fields to Quilchena, pick up his herd and be back in Ashcroft before the end of summer. Find out if he wins his bet and makes it to Barkerville before the snow flies.