Miners clearing bedrock in Stout’s Gulch near Barkerville, B.C. in 1870. (B.C. Archives Collection photo)

Miners clearing bedrock in Stout’s Gulch near Barkerville, B.C. in 1870. (B.C. Archives Collection photo)

HAPHAZARD HISTORY: The story of Ned Stout

Bavaria to B.C., a miner’s life of adventure

Many of the gold seekers who came to British Columbia during the first years of the gold rush had some hair-raising adventures, but few can compare with those experienced by Edward (Ned) Stout.

Born in Bavaria, Germany in 1827, he emigrated to New York at the age of 19.

From there, he moved on to Milwaukee and worked on a schooner hauling freight to ports on Lake Michigan.

When news of the big California gold rush reached him, Ned joined up with a cattle drover and made his way across the American plains.

He arrived in Hogtown, now called Placerville, in November of 1849, making him a California “Forty-Niner.”

Stout worked the California goldfields until 1857 until the easy pickings were gone.

When he heard the rumours of the rich diggings to the north, his gold fever became stronger.

He made his way to San Francisco, where he and 25 other miners formed a cooperative.

They pooled their resources and paid $2,000 to a shipowner to transport them, their supplies, and enough timber to build two large boats.

The ship dropped off these men and the cargo in Bellingham Bay in March of 1858.

Using the lumber they had brought with them, the men built two flat-bottomed scows and headed north for the Fraser River.

They arrived at its mouth on May 2, 1858.

Eighteen days later, after struggling upriver against the current, they arrived at Yale, which at the time was a large tent city.

READ MORE:LISTEN: A Haphazard History of the Fraser River Bridge

The men worked the crowded bars around Yale for three weeks and then decided to move upriver.

The gold they had been finding was fine and powdery.

They reasoned that further upriver, the gold would become coarser and larger, and, if they were lucky, they might locate its source.

So leaving two men at Yale in charge of the boats and supplies, the other 24 on June 2, and with great effort made their way up to the confluence of the Fraser and Thompson Rivers.

At the junction, they decided to leave the Fraser canyon and prospect their way up the Thompson.

When they reached what would later be called the Nicomen River, they found a little gold, but not enough to keep them there.

They worked their way up to the mouth of the Nicola River, but found no more gold, so they returned to the where they worked its gravel until mid-July.

One night, when they were gathered around the campfire, a young indigenous woman, who had been helping out by packing and cooking for the men, suddenly appeared and warned them that the local First Nation bands had come together and decided to rid the country of white men.

They were angry at the arrogance of prospectors, the slaughter of local wildlife, the attitude, especially among Americans, that indigenous people were no more than savages and should be exterminated, and the raids on their villages where young women and girls were kidnapped into virtual slavery.

Stout’s group heeded the warning and broke camp immediately starting their trip back to Yale.

This return journey saw one man per day killed, including the group’s leader, James McLennan.

On this perilous trek, the party was faced with a deluge of poison arrows, frequent musket fire, and intentional rock falls.

They found that they had to travel at night since the daylight was just too dangerous.

For protection during the days, they constructed crude barricades.

Between Boston Bar and Jackass Mountain, they lost six men.

That area is still called Slaughter Bar to this day.

By the time the group reached China Bar, only five men were still alive, and all were badly wounded.

Ned Stout had gunshot wounds to the arm and the chest and seven arrow wounds.

The party was virtually out of ammunition and huddled behind a makeshift barricade, they resolved to fight by hand to the bitter end.

The following morning, when everything seemed hopeless, Captain Sneider from the Royal Engineers appeared, leading a large and well-armed rescue party.

Ned Stout spent that winter in Victoria recovering from his wounds.

He resumed mining on the Fraser, working Yankee Bar in 1859, but his gold fever remained strong.

He made the long, difficult trek up to the Cariboo goldfields, and by the fall of 1860, he was working the Quesnel River and Keithley Creek areas.

In 1861, he joined up with Bill Dietz, Michael Burns, and M. C. Brown.

These four partners made their way up over Yank’s Peak to the headwaters of Antler Creek, then over Bald Mountain and down into a different watershed, previously undiscovered by gold seekers.

In an unnamed creek, they found promising amounts of gold.

That creek became known as Williams Creek, and it would become the richest gold-bearing creek for its length in the world.

Of course, a discovery of this magnitude did not remain secret for long, and the Cariboo gold rush reached a fever pitch.

Lower down on Williams Creek, below what became known to the prospectors as “the canyon,” the water slows down to a trickle.

The miners at the time believed that all the gold would have been deposited at or above the slowing of the creek, and never could have made it to the lower reaches of the stream.

In the summer of 1862, Ned Stout had extracted as much gold as he could from his claim.

All of the ground above the canyon was already staked, so on a hunch, Ned decided to check out the small gulch of a tributary stream flowing into Williams Creek below the canyon.

He found some smooth water-worn nuggets almost immediately.

When he dug deeper, he found a great deal of coarse gold.

Soon, he was recovering over $1,000 in gold per day ($25,500 in today’s value).

The place became known as Stout’s Gulch and it produced gold for 60 years, eventually yielding over $200 million in today’s prices.

Ned worked his gulch for two years, then sold his claim and moved over to Lowhee Creek where he mined some more.

He stayed in the Cariboo until 1870, when he returned to Yale, but he continue to keep up his gold claims and he came back every summer to prospect.

In Yale, he built a house and continued to prospect on the creeks around that area.

In 1873, at the age of 46, he married Mary Thorpe, a woman from Yakima, Washington.

They had three children.

Ned Stout died in 1924 at the age of 97.

He remained active right up to the time of his death, and he attributed his good health to never having taken a drink of alcohol in his life.

He was buried in the historic Yale cemetery, but unfortunately that part of the cemetery was damaged by floodwaters, and his grave is now unmarked.

Ned Stout was one of the first discoveries of gold at Williams Creek, but what he went through to become a successful prospector and miner is nothing short of remarkable.

READ MORE: HAPHAZARD HISTORY: Family connection to history of Springhouse school

Sources: Canadian West Magazine, the writings of F. W. Lindsay, and the Internet.

Barry Sale is a retired teacher and local historian.

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