“The gold will speak for itself.” The quote is typically attributed to Leech

“The gold will speak for itself.” The quote is typically attributed to Leech

Shifting the lens on Sooke’s gold rush: Part I

Part 1: New research shows 'real' discoverer of gold

In looking back into any historical event, the view can shift depending on the lens.

In considering the gold rush in Leechtown, a familiar lens is that which is seen when looking at events through the experiences of Peter Leech, the commander at the time of the discovery of gold.

Dr. Patrick Perry Lydon’s book, The Gold Will Speak For Itself, is a collection of documents that have appeared over time, with primary focus on the contributions of Peter Leech, after whom Leechtown and Leech River are named.

One of Sooke’s avid researchers is shifting the lens, turning the view away from Leech and towards John Foley, who was an expert gold panner on that expedition. Gold-panning hobbiest Bart van den Berk asserts that, beyond leading the expedition, Leech had very little to do with it. John Foley, on the other hand, had everything to do with it.

“I’m of the opinion that a lot that has been written about Leechtown over all these years — the history — that has a lot of misinformation in there,” said van den Berk. Some of this misinformation is tracked on his website (leechtownhistory.ca), under the Documents section on the Report page.

But first, let’s step back and review the story of the discovery of gold in them-thar hills of Sooke.

The basic story

Cast members included expedition Commander Robert Brown, expedition leader Peter John Leech, and expedition member John Foley (among others, but Foley will become a central character in the van den Berk’s version of events). Brown, Leech and Foley were all members of the Vancouver Island Exploring Expedition (VIEE). They, along with seven others, led to the finding of gold and the establishing of Leechtown.

On June 7, 1864, VIEE set out on a ship and sailed from Victoria to Cowichan Bay. There, the expedition members disembarked and began their quest. By July they had reached Sooke, and expedition leader Robert Brown went to Victoria to get supplies. Brown put Leech in charge. In July, the expedition was finding trace amounts of gold along the Sooke River and later found “payable” gold (amounts worth panning, enough to make a living) along what would be later known as Leech River.

Within a month, the boom was on. According to the Wikipedia page, “By August 14 of that same year, 227 mining licences had been issued and by the end of the year there were 6 general stores and 3 hotels in business along with 30 saloons.”

Within 10 years, the gold was extracted and the town residents had packed up and gone.  As Lydon records in his book, what was left of the town a decade after the initial discovery of gold, “fire swept the town…, levelling the rows of buildings.”

The famous BCHA speech: “The gold will speak for itself.”

Fast forward 64 years, and all the members of the expedition are deceased.

On October 1, 1928, there was an unveiling of a Memorial Cairn at Leechtown.

According to the 1929 BC Historical Association’s Fourth Report and Proceedings booklet, (which you can find at http://www.library.ubc.ca/archives/pdfs/bchf/4th_bcha.pdf), “[a]mong those present was Mrs. Fanny Faucault, of Walhachin, B.C., daughter of Peter Leech, after whom Leech River and Leechtown were named.”

Fanny Faucault was a public persona of sorts, described in Dr. Patrick Lydon’s book, The Gold Will Speak For Itself, as “a child prodigy [who] played at the local opera at the age of 12.” She was a well-liked artist, and van den Berk suggested that the 1928 speech of Leech at the unveiling may have hyped his involvement as his daughter was in attendance.

“My guess is that, because of that, Leech was very much glorified,” speculated van den Berk. “Not enough credit was given to the other members of the expedition.”

A part of that might be attributed to the fact that Leech was the only expedition member who continued to reside in Victoria.

In his speech at the unveiling of a commemorative cairn, BC Historical Association president John Hosie attributed the founding of Leechtown to Peter Leech. Later in his speech, Hosie quotes the now-infamous line, “The gold will speak for itself,” and referenced its source as a letter supposedly written by Leech.

Did those words, “The gold will speak for itself” really come from Leech?

“The fact is Leech never said those words. It was Commander Brown who said those words.” Van den Berk has the journals, the news article, and a copy of the original letter from Brown, showing, definitively, that those words came from Brown, not Leech.

“Since that speech has been put on record, it is one of the most … used and famous historical articles about Leechtown,” comments van den Berk. “It is also easily accessible for readers and researchers. … Researchers found that record and took the accuracy of that record pretty much for granted.”

That the document comes from the prestigious BCHA adds heavily to its credibility, along with the fact that the speech was given by the association’s president.

Part 2 next week.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The realignment of Highway 14 between Connie and Glinz Lake roads in Sooke will take more than a year to complete. (File - Sooke News Mirror)
The realignment of Highway 14 between Connie and Glinz Lake roads in Sooke will take more than a year to complete. (Kevin Laird - Sooke News Mirror)
Patience requested from drivers as work begins on realignment of Highway 14 in Sooke

Construction between Connie and Glinz Lake roads expected to take 1½ years

Island Health reported an exposure of COVID-19 at Sir James Douglas Elementary on Nov. 23. Those with high-risk exposures have been contacted directly, the health authority says. (Google maps)
Victoria elementary school added to list of COVID-19 exposures

Fairfield school is region’s third school listed with an exposure this month

Trinity Kettyls and Mackenzie Rigg start their 5.4km loop in Gordon Head on Sunday cheered on by members of the Vikes soccer team. Theirs was the last lap of the 270km relay that raised over $67,000 towards the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada. (Armando Tura Photo)
Vikes Kick Cancer fundraiser in Saanich surpasses $67,000

Around the world, athletes virtually join Gordon Head relay

Grade 3 student Nate Twaddle, who uses a walker for a rare neurological condition, has been zooming along a new accessible walkway since it was installed in early October at Willway Elementary in Langford. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
Langford mother thankful for accessible walkway that helps son connect with peers

Rare neurological condition means Grade 3 student uses wheelchair, walker to play

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry update the COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 887 new cases

Another 13 deaths, ties the highest three days ago

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Nov. 24

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

After twice have their wedding plans altered due to COVID-19 restrictions, Suzanne Schmidt and Andrew Sturgess got married in Bakerview Park last weekend, with the only guests being their two daughters, Zoey (foreground) and Tessa. (Darren Ripka photo)
From New Zealand to Bakerview Park, B.C. couple weds in ‘backyard’

Twice scaled-down wedding ‘proof that good things still happen during bad times’

Police in Nanaimo are looking for a suspect who wore a black-and-white striped hoodie and rode a yellow mountain bike when he allegedly stole three children’s backpacks from a daycare facility. (Photo submitted)
VIDEO: Thief steals children’s backpacks from daycare in Nanaimo

Suspect rode a yellow mountain bike and made off with backpacks hanging on fence

Arthur Topham has been sentenced to one month of house arrest and three years of probation after breaching the terms of his probation. Topham was convicted of promoting hate against Jewish people in 2015. (Photo submitted)
Quesnel man convicted for anti-Semitic website sentenced to house arrest for probation breach

Arthur Topham was convicted of breaching probation following his 2017 sentence for promoting hatred

Langley School District's board office. (Langley Advance Times files)
‘Sick Out’ aims to pressure B.C. schools over masks, class sizes

Parents from Langley and Surrey are worried about COVID safety in classrooms

The Klahoose First Nation village on Cortes Island is under lockdown until further notice due to a positive COVID-19 test. Photo courtesy Kevin Peacey.
Cortes Island First Nation community locked down due to positive COVID-19 test

Klahoose First Nation has had one positive test, one other potential case

Ladysmith’s 1st Avenue will be lit up until January 15. (Cole Schisler photo)
Light Up parade a no-go, but Ladysmith’s streets are still all aglow

Although the tradition Light Up this year was cancelled, folks can still enjoy the holiday lights

The baby boy born to Gillian and Dave McIntosh of Abbotsford was released from hospital on Wednesday (Nov. 25) while Gillian continues to fight for her life after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
B.C. mom with COVID-19 still fighting for life while newborn baby now at home

Son was delivered Nov. 10 while Gillian McIntosh was in an induced coma

Most Read