In '63 I left my hame,
Cameronton, Williams Creek, Cariboo
TRAGEDY & RICHES:
The Story of John 'Cariboo' Cameron
In that same year I bought a claim
Frae Cameron Jock o' Canada -
As smart a lad's ye ever saw,
Wha's greatest faut was nane uncommon,
A gae strong likin' for a woman.
James Anderson, 1866
Perhaps one of the most pathetic love
stories in the early history of British Columbia is the woeful saga of John
Angus 'Cariboo' Cameron whose wife had four funerals, two caskets and three
Cameron was born in Charlottenburgh in 1820
and raised on the family farm in Glengarry County, Canada West, a United
Empire Loyalist settlement to which his family had retreated during the
American War of Independence.
In 1852, his eyes set on the western horizon,
John set out with his brothers, Allan and Daniel for California and the
gold rush there. They were lucky and stayed six years making a respectable
sum. In 1858 they heard of gold on Fraser's River and headed north to mine.
Once again luck was on their side and the three brothers returned to Cornwall
with some $20,000 in gold.
It was here in Cornwall that John Angus
Cameron married his childhood sweetheart Margaret Sophia Groves, a farmer's
daughter twelve years his junior. It was soon after their marriage that
news began filtering east of the rich diggings in 'Cariboo' and of the fabulous
fortunes being made in the interior of British Columbia. Cameron, not one
to be left behind, struck west again, this time with his new bride and their
4 month old baby girl, Alice.
The trip from Canada West to the Fort Victoria
via Panama was a long and arduous journey. Alice became sick; less than
a week after stepping off the Brother John in Victoria she died.
The Camerons were heartbroken but determined to press on to the goldfields.
Robert Stevenson, an old friend of John's
from Glengarry County, managed to set up credit for the Camerons at the
Hudson's Bay Co. to the tune of $2000. John used the $2000 dollars to stock
up on candles which he brought with him to Barkerville and later sold for
a profit of $10,000!
Much like Billy Barker, Cameron first staked
a claim on upper Williams Creek but encouraged by the success of Ned
Stout's claim lower in the valley he staked another claim half a mile
below Barker's shaft with his wife, Richard Rivers, Allan MacDonald, James
and Charles Glendenning and Robert Stevenson. It is interesting to note
that Mrs. Cameron was the holder of Miner's Licence No. 7598 and was probably
the only woman in the Cariboo at that time to hold such a document.
A short three weeks later, however, Stevenson
had transferred to Sophia his entire interest in the Cameron claims "below
the canon". Chas. Glendenning had sold out his interests to Cameron
for $2,000 leaving the Camerons a majority interest in the claim. Later
records indicate that R. Stevenson purchased "one full share"
for $5000 and "one-eighth of 700 feet" for $15,000,. on August
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