The first gold found in the Cariboo is verified as being in the Horsefly River in 1859. But there is a question as to which party was the first to arrive at the river in that important summer. One record says a party consisting of H.O. Bowe and others made a discovery of gold about 10 miles above the mouth of the Horsefly River in April 1859. The following month (whether it was May is uncertain) another party, including John McLean, also found gold at the same point. Mr. McLean may be the same man who joined Peter Curran Dunlevey’s party and discovered gold on the river with him.
The Placer gold that occurs in the Horsefly River drainage is significantly different than that of the other Cariboo gold fields. The major significant point is that the gold placers predate the Cariboo placers by about 14 million years. The Cariboo placers represent a reworking of older placers and/or erosion of original lode gold deposits. The Horsefly placers are contained in Miocene fluvial gravels and have an undetermined source to the east. The source of the gold in the Miocene channel is not local. The gold is coarse to fine in size, well beaten, flattened and slightly oxidized, indicating the gold has travelled a long distance. The abundance of bull quartz pebbles and the lack of heavy minerals and pyroxene indicates that the local volcanic terrane is not the source of the gold.
Horsefly Area Placer Deposits
The village of Horsefly was the the centre of a small placer mining community through the height of the Cariboo gold rush into the early 1900’s. It was first known as Harper’s Camp from 1859 through 1921 when its name was officially changed to Horsefly. In more recent times, Horsefly has supported a small community around logging and recreation. The Horsefly River is a salmon river and as such is presently excluded from placer staking. However, Antoine Lake and Beaver Valley still remain in the placer reserve. The initial placer mine is immediately east of the town and was known as the Ward’s Horsefly Mine.
Initial work at the site of Ward’s was in the Holocene reconstructed placer at the margin of the Miocene channel. The ground was stated as being very rich with quartz gravels holding the rich pay. Holland (1950) has indicated that a total of 15,216 ounces of gold were reported recovered. However, earlier authors have estimated that between 29,000 to 59,000 ounces of gold were recovered during the life of the mine.
As reported by resident mining engineer Douglas Lay, the Ward’s Horsefly operation worked the right edge of the Miocene channel. At this point, the channel is 500 feet deep and approximately 2,000 feet wide. The stratigraphy at Ward’s consists of a thin cover of Quaternary sediment over 20 to 80 feet of white quartz pebble conglomerate. The bottom 5 to 20 feet of this was the “Blue Gravel” pay layer.
Initially, the placer gold was recovered by normal mining methods, but as the pay streaks were mined deeper, the workings progressed below the grade of the Horsefly River making normal mining methods difficult. In the late 1880’s, drift mining was being done. In 1896, J. Ward installed two hydraulic elevators and a major hydraulic operation began. Water for the monitors were diverted from Mussel and Moffat Creeks. A large pit, several hundred feet across and up to 60 feet deep was made. Gold recovery was considered good and the operation continued through to 1904.
Other Areas Of Interest
The reported production of the Hobson Pit was 7,637 ounces of gold for the years 1894 to 1898 and 1912. As the mine operated for a greater length of time this possibly represents only half of the total amount of gold recovered.
Black Creek, Antoine Creek, China Cabin Creek, Choate Creek, Big Lake Creek, and Starlike and Triplet Lakes also produced small quantities of gold.