Murder Gulch is located on the banks of the Cariboo River about 9.6 kilometres upstream from Quesnel Forks, 5 kilometres north of Likely. Work has been done in this area since the turn of the century during the Cariboo gold rush.
The auriferous gravels of the Murder Gulch deposit contain particles ranging from clay to boulder size. The gold is usually found in the top part of the gravel mixture. The richest gold concentrations are generally found on top of blue glacial clay, bedrock or in a rusty clay gravel boulder mixture. The gold is often quite rough with quartz fragments still attached indicating a nearby source and a short transportation distance. The upper layer has been exposed for 75 metres and is 1 to 4 metres thick.
Production from the upper bench in 1976 was 4118 cubic metres resulting in 3497 grams of gold. A 36-day production period in 1976 recovered 3508.8 grams of gold from 4046 cubic metres of gravel. Historic production from 1876-1945 for the Cariboo River has been combined with the Murder Gulch deposit and totalled 258,037 grams of gold.
How Murder Gulch Received It’s Name
This is where the story starts to get interesting. The story begins with a man named Boone Helm (Levi Boone Helm), a notorious criminal who frequented the gold fields in 1862, and was responsible for three murders on the trail between Keithley Creek and Quesnel Forks.
Boone Helm was born in Kentucky in 1828, and moved to a border settlement in Missouri at an early age. He grew to be a real juvenile delinquent, often fighting and brawling, and had a real liking for alcohol, which in turn, made him even more meaner.
Burning all his bridges in his home town, Helm decided to head for the California gold fields, accompanied by his neighbour and friend, who in a drinking session indicated he would go with Helm. When Helm found out his friend had no intention of going with him, he stabbed him with a bowie knife, killing him instantly, and fled out west.
The friend’s brother and some of his friends pursued Helm and tracked him down. He was brought back for trial and convicted of murder. After his trial, on the advice of physicians, he was committed to a lunatic asylum, from which he escaped and fled to California. There, in 1858 and early 1859 he killed several men, but before being arrested, fled to the Oregon Territory.
In the winter months Helm was not above resorting to cannibalism for a meat supply, and soon became known as the “Kentucky Cannibal.” Making his way to Salt Lake City, he was once again driven out of town, murdering two more men in cold blood.
By July of 1862, Helm had made his way to the Cariboo gold fields. He was in Antler Creek, where he and another shady character, were in want for some easy money. They followed a fellow named Sokolosky and two French Canadian associates, who were carrying $32,000 in coarse gold and heading towards Quesnel Forks. The men stopped at Keithley Creek where they had dinner before setting out on the trail again.
Helm and his partner lay in wait. They shot and killed all three men, buried most of the gold, and left the bodies at the side of the trail. They headed quickly into Quesnel Forks, intending to retrieve the gold when things calmed down. However, the bodies were soon discovered, and it didn’t take long for the people of Quesnel Forks to figure out who was responsible.
Helm beat a hasty retreat from the goldfields with a posse hot on his trail. Somehow eluding capture, he reappeared in mid-October in Victoria. Helm was taken into custody and brought before the Police Magistrate. He was ordered to post a $90 security bond, but defaulted and spent month building and repairing the streets of Victoria.
Yet again, Helm fled and was arrested in 1863 at Fort Yale in the Fraser Canyon, where he was apparently on his way back to retrieve his buried gold. Upon being asked what had happened to his companion, Helm replied: “Why, do you suppose that I’m fool enough to starve to death when I can help it? I ate him up, of course.”
The man who accompanied him was never seen or heard from since.
Helm was transported to Victoria, and from there a jail at Port Townsend where he dug out under the wall and escaped to the Bannock, Montana area. Teaming up with another well-known thief and murderer, Henry Plummer, they were tried in secret. Boone Helm and 12 others were hanged at Bannock Mines.
If you visit the graveyard at Quesnel Forks, you can still see the headboard for Sokolosky. It lies just outside the cemetery fence line, since because he was Jewish, he could not be buried in the cemetery proper.
As for the gold that Helm buried – it was never recovered.
Here is an interesting video relating the story of Boone Helm. Check it out HERE …