The Supreme Court of the
Colony of British Columbia
During the years after the grant of Vancouver Island to the Company in 1849, the area lying between the Rocky Mountains and the coast remained remote and mysterious. Victoria sheltered its fur trade from the approach of traders by sea, and Fort Langley on the Fraser River had succeeded in preventing even British vessels from using the river for trading or fishing within the three-mile limit. But the winds of change had begun to blow. Gold and rumours of gold brought seekers into the Kootenays in 1856 and to the rocky banks of the Thompson River by mid 1857. And the arrival of four hundred ounces of gold dust found on the Fraser River at the San Francisco mint in early 1858 caused a rush that would bring a second colony, British Columbia, into existence.
The gold-seekers followed various routes into the territory, but most of those from California came by way of Victoria. The vanguard arrived there on 25 April 1858. The astounded residents saw the American steamer Commodore berth with her decks crowded with about 450 passengers, some British, some American, but for the most part German and Italian. All were well behaved. A few chose to remain in Victoria, but the greater number refused to be intimidated by the dangers of crossing the gulf and moving up the Fraser River. Using all means available, they pressed on past Fort Langley, and, when news of the returns yielded from the sandbars between Fort Hope and Fort Yale got out, other fortune- seekers soon followed. By year's end an estimated twenty-five thousand eager miners had arrived on the Fraser to search for gold.