The Gold Rush
by Dorothy Fraser
In 1859 cries of “Gold!” could be heard echoing off the mountains in the Rock Creek area, sparking the largest gold rush in the history of British Columbia. A rush of over 500 prospectors from the United States and overseas flooded into the region to pan the many creeks and tributaries in the valley. In addition to establishing Rock Creek as the supply center for Boundary Country, the great influx of traffic in the area brought about many changes. It prompted the construction of the Dewdney Trail in 1865, which ran from Hope to Fort Steele. It also necessitated a rudimentary form of law and order.The first man responsible for the area was W.G. Cox, whose influence stretched as far as the Similkameen. However, as the population continued to mushroom, J.C. Haynes was sent in to assist in the district. Gold fever stretched outward from the Boundary Valley as mining began to replace panning. Camp McKinney between Rock Creek and Osoyoos was established, as was Camp Fairview above where Oliver stands now. Both of these camps flourished for a few years, yielding a considerable amount of precious ore.
Mining affected the Osoyoos district indirectly through the Rock Creek and Cariboo gold rushes and later through the provision of food for the frenzied activities in camps like Fairview and McKinney and the mines in the Boundary country to the east. The Dividend, an early mine above the present orchards on the west side, produced considerable gold from a mere pocket, and a modern operation started on the same hillside in 1935. It was closed in 1940, but its employment of up to 65 men helped to keep the little place of Osoyoos alive through the worst time of the depression.
Fairview began as a small claim staked by Fred Gwatkins and George Sheenan in 1887 about two miles west of the valley bottom where Oliver is now located.
Camp McKinney, like Camp Fairview, began as a single claim, in this case staked by Al McKinney and Fred Rice in 1888. This claim grew into the Cariboo Mine for which McKinney was renowned. At first known as Rock Creek Quartz Camp, McKinney was the first lode mining camp in B.C. to pay dividend.
One of the least known facts about the history of Osoyoos is that not too long ago a flourishing gold mine operation existed here. A 24-hour-a-day mining operation was carried on between 1937 and 1940. Its operation was located where today stands the Osoyoos Golf & Country clubhouse.