Born and raised in the southern Gulf Islands of British Columbia, Marie is the great great granddaughter of one of the earliest settlers on Sumas Prairie and his wife, from the Stolo Nation. Marie has worked in the central interior of British Columbia for five years and graduated with an MA in History from University of Victoria. An editor of B.C. Historical News (now BC History), she wrote numerous articles and four books. Her interests are the fur trade, gold rushes and the settlement history of British Columbia, especially governance and social development. Other interests are hiking historical trails; exploring British Columbia, geology and photography. She received a British Columbia Historical Federation Certificate of Honour, 2000, for Gold and Grand Dreams which covers the eastern Cariboo history from the discovery of gold on the Quesnel River in 1859 to the closure of Quesnel Forks around 1916. The main towns were Quesnel Forks, Keithley Creek, Antler and Horsefly.

Author's City: Victoria, B.C.
Date Of Birth: 1938
Place Of Birth: Vancouver, B.C.

Gold in British Columbia: Discovery to Confederation
by Marie Elliott (Ronsdale Press $24.95)

Review by Mike Selby

Many remarkable as well as discreditable characters from British Columbia's past are to be found in Marie Elliott's Gold in British Columbia: Discovery to Confederation. It's a thick, exhaustively researched, yet quite readable and oftentimes fun look at how the Fraser River and Cariboo gold rushes created our province.

One of the early settlers to British Columbia was Fanny Bendixen, originally from France via the United States. Bendixen (her married name) was expelled from France in the 1850s as part of Napoleon III's purge of his country's undesirables. She arrived with thousands of others in San Francisco, making a home in that city's growing French District. She quickly became a mistress to a county judge named Ned McGowan, whose jealousy of her resulted in a failed bombing attempt of her house. She fled to New Orleans, where she met and married her husband, only to have the American Civil War break out. The newlyweds left New Orleans (which was now part of the Confederacy) and arrived in the small city of Victoria in 1862 where they opened a high-end hotel named the St. George.

History doesn't record her reasons, but in 1865 Fanny leaves the St. George and her husband, making her way towards the gritty town of Barkerville in the interior.

It wasn't an easy journey as described by Elliott and included: "travelling by steamer to Yale, stagecoach to Soda Creek, steamer to Quesnelmouth, stagecoach again to Cottonwood and saddlehorse the last forty miles to Williams Creek."

Once in Barkerville, Bendixen was one of the first and only women to operate a business. She opened a variety of saloons, invested in numerous mining claims, and appeared unfazed by lawsuits, robberies and fires. She earned enough money to spend her downtime crisscrossing the United States as a tourist.

Bendixen accomplished all this while never learning to speak much English.

While many new to B.C., like Bendixen, came from the U.S., there is a good argument to be made, and Elliott alludes to this quite well in the book's first part, that British Columbia was formed as a way to keep Americans out of it.

News of gold rushes in the Fraser and Cariboo brought tens of thousands of Americans into what is now known as B.C., but which at the time was divided into two separate colonies. This "American aggression" was foremost on the mind of B.C.'s first governor, James Douglas. He had already successfully quelled it on the Queen Charlotte Islands (now called Haida Gwaii) by declaring "Crown ownership."

As thousands more began to pour in again, he sought the same solution to protect the future province's gold resources from the American invaders.

Speaking of invaders, Elliott shines an historian's light on what she calls the "Tsilhqot'in Uprising." Sometime in the late spring of 1864, conflict erupted between a road crew and the Tsilhqot'in people, resulting in the deaths of 21 road workers. After a large manhunt, six Tsilhqot'in chiefs were arrested and executed. Elliot is one of the first to explore events from the Tsilhqot'in people's side, who -- already decimated by smallpox -- had sought to defend themselves from a hostile nation of invaders. (Both Justin Trudeau's and Christy Clark's governments have offered apologies and pardons to the Tsilhqot'in.)

There is frustratingly little judgement in Elliott's writings on this topic -- just a factual account of one of the darkest events in British Columbia's history.

Besides keeping Americans out, the other challenge was attempting to police those Americans who were already in. After (wrongly) believing some Yale miners had been decapitated by Indigenous people, an American named Snyder rounded up a large group of miners to confront the local Indigenous people. News of a Fraser Canyon War with deaths on both sides reached Douglas, and he marched with a host of Royal Marines to Yale, to find that only two of Snyder's men had been killed -- not by Indigenous people but accidentally shot by fellow miners.

Also in Yale was San Francisco judge and would-be bombmaker Ned McGowan. Believing B.C. to be another Wild West, McGowan was setting himself up as the law: challenging legal claims, remanding prisoners and trying to assert a United States claim on B.C.

When news of McGowan's War reached Douglas, he again showed up at Yale with the Royal Marines to show McGowan "clear and visible proof of British law and order."

Elliott has taken by far the most tediously boring facts from social studies classes and turned them into a complex story filled with high drama and gripping immediacy. None of the hundreds of individuals she profiles had any idea how their actions would turn out; or that their choices would continue to have far-reaching implications for all Canadians. That the pull of gold birthed British Columbia is an amazing story. Gold in British Columbia: Discovery to Confederation is an insightful and valuable contribution to an understanding of it. 9781553805175 [BCBW 2021]

Cranbrook public librarian, Mike Selby's Freedom Libraries: The Untold Story of Libraries for African Americans in the South won Outstanding Academic Title of the Year by the Association of College and Research Libraries in the United States, which represents more than 10,000 individuals and libraries.

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
Fort St. James and New Caledonia: Where British Columbia Began
Mayne Island and the Outer Gulf Islands: A History


Gold in British Columbia: Discovery to Confederation (Ronsdale Press, 2019) $24.95 9781553805175
Fort St James and New Caledonia: Where British Columbia Began (Harbour Publishing, 2009)
Gold and Grand Dreams: Cariboo East in the Early Years (Horsdal & Schubart, 2000)
Winifred Grey: A Gentlewoman's Remembrances of Life in England and the Gulf Islands of British Columbia, 1871-1910 (Gulf Islands Press, 1995). Editor.
Mayne Island and the Outer Gulf Islands, A History (Gulf Islands Press, 1984)

[BCBW 2019] "Women" "Local History" "Cariboo" "Gold"