By Eric Andersen
Published: July 8, 2013
Neither gold nor mining is commonly thought of as significant for the development of Squamish. Here it was the Green Gold. Mining was at Britannia. Or, so we think.
Yet, it was during the Gold Rush years 1858-1860s that the Squamish and Cheakamus valleys were first visited and explored by white people (with aboriginal guides) – in search of gold, and a more convenient route to Interior gold fields.
Several reports of Squamish River gold discoveries began to appear during this period – in newspapers in New Westminster, Victoria, San Francisco, and even in Australia.
In the earlier accounts, the gold is brought by Squamish Chiefs to the attention of trusted trading contacts– in the Hudson’s Bay Company, or at New Westminster.
The later Cassiar and Klondyke stampedes bypassed Squamish, although some who did well in these places came to settle here – including William Mashiter and ‘Gold Nugget Charlie’ Masson (who sold movie rights to his life story as gold prospector).
Eventually, along the route explored during the Fraser River Gold Rush, a railway was built, between Squamish and Quesnel. This railway would bring people and supplies to the numerous mines established during another great B.C. gold mining era – the 1930s.
When artist Emily Carr visited here in 1933, she found Squamish dock swarming with gold miner heading to the Bridge River and Cariboo districts.
From the mid to late 1930s, the PGE railway on a regular basis was carrying more gold bullion than any other railway in the world. Gold worth many millions was handled here at its Squamish terminus.
The Ashlu gold mine was in production during the 1930s, and again in the 1980s. Northair Mines in the Callaghan was established in the 1970s, while the Maggie Mine was being worked just east of Squamish.
Gold seekers work the Upper Squamish and its tributaries still today. It is perhaps quite likely another gold mine will one day be developed in the Squamish area.