During the winter of 1861, “Dutch Bill” Dietz and several companions travelled to the headwaters of Antler Creek and across the Bald Mountain plateau where they came down on a north-flowing stream later called Williams Creek. Dietz tested the gravels recovering gold worth about $1.25 per pan.
Word spread quickly of the strike and over 1,000 miners flocked to the narrow valley. The paystreak consisted of shallow gravels on top of a hard layer known as “blue clay”. The miners initially mistook the blue clay for bedrock and did not penetrate below this layer.
In late 1862, miners on the Abbott and Jourdan claim, penetrated below the “blue clay” recovering 50 ounces of gold. The town of Richfield developed along Williams Creek. In August 1862, Billy Barker and seven English partners, staked 800 feet of ground, sinking a deep shaft. At 15 metres they found paying gravels, taking out 62 ounces of gold in the first 48 hours. History was made, and a four-kilometre-long body along Williams Creek produced an astonishing amount of gold. “By linear foot Williams Creek is the richest gold-bearing creek in the world in history to this day. Five million ounces of gold are believed to have come out of the Cariboo, which would be worth $8 billion today.
Williams Creek was diverted several times during the gold rush, and now is east of the townsite. The valley where Barkerville sits is also wider than it was in 1860, because the sides of the valley were eroded through hydraulic mining, where jets of water were used to loosen the earth or gravel.