Golden Dreams and Boom Towns
People love the idea that they can just go to a special place, do a bit of work, and suddenly become rich. It is an urge that has existed for a long time, and today some folk prey upon it using “get rich quick” ads. However small the chance of success, the possibility of instant wealth is something few can deny, and it is so powerful that entire towns and cities have been built upon the hope of easy riches,
Out of all sources of “instant wealth,” few are as famous as the age old favorite, gold. For thousands of years, this heavy, soft metal has been an icon of power and property for people around the globe. With its yellowish color and shiny surface, it is pleasant on the eye and rare enough that much work is devoted to gathering it. Gold, the mark of the rich, has tipped civilization on its head and again as people rush off with those words in their heads: “Gold to be found!” Along with its counterpart, silver, the discovery of gold has led to the overnight development of towns, knows as boom-towns, as well as their eventual abandonment
One perfect example is the formation of Leechtown, a fair sized boom town located where the Leech River meets the Sooke River. After the discovery of gold by the Vancouver Island Exploring Expedition on July 18th, 1864, hundreds of gold-hungry miners moved into the area. By August 14th, over two hundred mining licenses had been issued and by November 9th, Leechtown contained six general stores, three hotels, thirty saloons and bars, and over 1,200 mines at work in the region! At its peak, Leechtown and the nearby Boulder City had together over four thousand inhabitants, but by 1865, the gold was running out and the towns began a swift decline. Although hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of gold was removed during the town’s lifespan, Leechtown was only kept barely alive by minor mining and lumber operations until the fifties, although the last inhabitant remained there until his death in 1999.
Since its fall, only a few scattered individuals have called the once great town home, and since that final death, none have lived there since. Yet the lure of gold, and easy riches, remains.
The Lure of Gold essay contest sponsored by the Sooke Region Museum, Vancouver Island Placer Mining Association, Sooke Lions Club, Sooke Community Association and the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #54 drew more than 100 entries. The students won cash prizes for their essays.
Some of the winning entries will be printed in the Sooke News Mirror up until the celebration of the Leechtown 150th Anniversary on July 19. The Honourable Lieutenant Governor for British Columbia Judith Guichon will be in attendance at Leechtown.