Okanagan Explosion

By Sarah Kushneryk, Block G

History of Mining in the Okanagan Valley

Origins/dates

1833: David Douglas found first gold in Okanagan Lake
1848: Gold is discovered in California
1855: Gold in California becomes hard to find, word spreads of gold in BC. Miners begin to go north in search of gold
1858: Over 30 000 miners have moved to BC. They fight with Aboriginals and each other for claims on gold
1860: Many wagons have come to BC from Oregon to sell things to the miners. Edgar Dewdney is commissioned to build a wagon road (called Dewdney Trail)

Importance

Mining is very important in Okanagan history because is has brought so many people to the valley. Without it, there would be a much lower population. Mining also opened up business opportunities to the valley. With the new Dewdney Trail, many more supplies could be brought to the Okanagan, allowing even more people to come here and introducing the valley to potential business partners.

Role of Okanagan Fur Brigade Trail

The Okanagan Fur Brigade Trail played an important role in Okanagan mining history. Miners travelled down the trail to come to the valley and find their fortune in gold. This trail provided access for many miners to come explore the valley and set up camp, and for some, to live here.

Early European Profile: David Douglas

Early History

David Douglas was a Scottish scientist and botanist. He worked for the Horticultural Society and the Hudson's Bay Company. He was quite talented in his fields, but the Okanagan Valley was where he found his fame.

Reasons for Settling in the Okanagan Valley

In 1824, The Horticultural Society needed someone to find specimens in the Okanagan Valley. Douglas was dispatched to the valley to do the job.

Early Accomplishments

Even before his Okanagan fame, Douglas was quite the accomplished botanist. In one famous trip to the northeast United States, not only did he discover many new specimens, but some believe that he became North America's first mountaineer in his search.

Accomplishments in Okanagan Valley

David Douglas' trip to the valley was more than a little successful - that quest set a record for the most species introduced to Britain by an individual. However, that is not the thing that made him the most famous in the Okanagan. Douglas' greatest discovery for the Okanagan happened in 1833, during just another day of exploring Okanagan Lake for specimens. Suddenly, he found something amazing - gold! It was the first gold found in the valley.

Legacy Today

The discovery of gold in the Okanagan Valley was at first covered up, as the HBC didn't want people to be distracted from the fur trade. However, the news eventually leaked, and when it did, the effect on the valley was immediate. Miners in California first heard the news in 1855, and many who were tired of the endless, fruitless search decided to head north in hopes of better luck. By 1858, over 30 000 miners have moved to BC, fighting for sought-after claims and bringing much business the the valley. In honour of Douglas bringing such prosperity to the valley, a tree commonly found in BC was named after him - the Douglas Fir.

Fun Facts!

  • David Douglas was very interested in pressing and drying plants.
  • He hated school, but was very intelligent (especially when it came to science and botany).
  • His death is a mystery. After his body was found in a pit with a bull, it became uncertain if this was a suicide, murder by his assistant, or simply an accident. This is still argued today.

Driving Question

What was the impact of the early Europeans on the growth and development of the Okanagan Valley?

The impact David Douglas had on the Okanagan Valley changed the valley forever - his discovery of gold improved the population, and brought more business. Many new people came to the valley in search of gold, and many wagons came from Oregon to sell things to the miners, further increasing its exposure. Eventually, a new wagon trail was built to support the new business coming into BC. This was amazing for Okanagan growth - more people were coming here than ever before due to the new trail and the promise of gold. The Okanagan gold rush boosted the valley's economy and population, which is why David Douglas is so important in our history.
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A map of areas in the Okanagan impacted by the gold rush in the early 1800s
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A map of those areas in the Okanagan today
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David Douglas, who discovered the first gold on Okanagan Lake