Streets Of Gold

It is well known that members of a chain-gang were employed in breaking stone on the Church Reserve. This stone was lately carted to the prison yard (in Bastion Square), and a number of the prisoners engaged in breaking it for macadam. A small piece of the rock, in which gold was plainly visible, was picked up in the yard and taken to Marchand & Co.’s Assay Office, where an ounce-and a-half of the stone yielded about five cents.

Four days later the Colonist remarked that “Victoria might yet turn out to be ‘a regular Cariboo, as far as regards hidden treasure,’ some workers employed in sinking a well on Collinson Street having made a second strike.”

In a layer of blue clay and gravel one of the more adventurous workmen had washed 30 cents’ worth of gold in a single pan, one tiny nugget was valued at 25 cents, and it was noted that miners normally considered 25 cents to the pan to be a better than promising prospect.

Even more intriguing was the fact that this discovery had been made in the immediate vicinity of the suspected source of gold-bearing quartz which had been quarried on the church hill and carted to Bastion Square. The well, it was noted, had been pushed to a depth of18 feet, when the workmen reached bedrock. The newspaper wondered who would take advantage of a day’s prospecting of the gravelly bottom before the well filled with water and the “mine” was lost to development.

Thirteen years after, Herman Tiedmann took time from his architectural practice to examine a quartz vein at the southern end of Menzies Street where, some time before, he had found a boulder containing gold. Alas, his freak find was not repeated and another Victoria goldrush was aborted.

When next gold was discovered in Victoria the man responsible was Alberni prospector William Miles. Miles’ momentous find was made during a visit to the city with a shipment of ore from his up-Island properties. Business attended to, he had decided to see the sights and was waiting for a streetcar at the corner of Government and Courtney Streets, when his miner’s eye spotted a glimmering of yellow in a rock outcropping beside the road. Curiosity aroused, he moved closer and noticed that the entire rock facing was flecked with tiny specks of yellow. Much to his amazement, he realized that the rock was mottled with gold.

The fact that the intersection of Government and Courtney was, even in 1897, a busy thoroughfare, did not daunt Miles for a moment; he immediately staked a claim and christened it The Douglas. That done, he faced the task of convincing the city fathers that his prospective gold mine outweighed the value of the busy intersection and adjacent real estate.

According to Charles Hayward, he originally told Miles of the ore, having noticed the “gold in the rock … as I was walking over it and having my (magnifying) glass in my pocket, I at once examined the stone carefully, the free gold being plainly visible. The ledge is too, a well defined and properly placed one, for it has been traced to the water’s edge, on Wharf Street, a distance of 200 feet from the discovery post.”

Among the primary considerations, thought Hayward, was the value of the real estate which squatted on the site: something in the neighborhood of $350,000. Needless to say, the city council shared Hayward’s reservations and William Miles’ hopes for a goldmine in the heart of Victoria, precisely beneath the brand new post office, was aborted.

During the next year or two other discoveries of reputedly rich ores were made in the city, on Broughton Street and in Beacon Hill Park. In the spring of 1899 yet another strike, of copper, was made near Rockland Avenue. In this case, a prospector located a body of ore that if mined would doubtless pay handsomely from the surface. W.F. Best, the assayer and chemist, has examined a piece of ore taken from the vein, and discovers it as very rich in copper.

Gold again made the news in 1907, when Mrs. Benjamin Gonnason found a tiny nugget in the crop of one of her hens. The bird in question, a black Minorca, had been hatched and raised on the Gonnason property, hence the thought that the nugget had been picked up on its mistress’ estate. When the hapless hen had stopped laying Mrs. Gonnason decided to convert it into a stew and, in the process of cleaning the bird, found the nugget (which was about the size of a small white bean).Mrs. Gonnason was said to be quite prepared to admit that there may be a gold mine about the property. Efforts have been made to locate the pay-streak, but so far without avail.

Beacon Hill Park

In 1912, during excavation operations on Herald Street, near the Hudson’s Bay Co. store, a gold-bearing vein was uncovered in a large rock formation. George Gilbert reported that an anonymous prospector had actually staked a claim. But, like all other city “mines”, it failed to enter production.

The Municipality of Saanich has also had a gold mine, at 4072 Wilkinson Road. For more than 30 years the late Hiram B. Cox had blasted out a tunnel on a hillside on his three-acre property, and within a hundred feet of his house. For Cox the quest that was to last until his death at the age of 83, in 1966, began in 1932 when he picked up a piece of gold-laced quartz in his garden. Convinced that he had a claim worth developing, he christened it Edith, after his wife, and set to work blasting a vertical shaft through solid rock to a depth of 27 feet.

Over the next three decades, in his spare time, Cox sought the Mother Lode, which, he was sure, was at the 50-foot level. At one time he computed that, if the tons of rock he had removed from the shaft had been assayed out, the total value of the gold (at $35 per ounce) would have been $1,200.

A discovery of gold in Victoria was reported when a 66-year-old retired logger and mill worker Robert (Bev) Hopton claimed to have found gold-bearing ore on city owned property, and within a stone’s throw of City Hall.

His discovery, said Hopton, was gold telluride, a combination of gold and tellurium, a crystalline element which most resembles copper pyrites. “I found a float (loose ore sample) two weeks ago, examined it under a microscope and said, This is it.” After further prospecting and studies he approached a Daily Times reporter. Although he would not reveal the location he described the area of his find as being “hundreds of feet long and wide.” The actual pay streak is about a foot wide. Aware that a full-scale mining operation in downtown Victoria is out of the question, he suggested a single shaft be sunk to a depth of 2,000 to 3,000 feet. If past discoveries are an indication, Mr. Hopton will have to seek his fortune farther afield.

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