1858 Fraser River Gold Rush by Gerald Wellburn

See the Wellburn Album pages offered so far in our Auctions

Gerald Wellburn’s 45 page 1858 Fraser River Gold Rush collection is featuring in All Nations’ auctions 2019

“First there were natives trading furs with the Hudson’s Bay Company. Then gold flakes starting changing hands for trade goods at Fort Kamloops. Governor James Douglas knew that gold could transform Vancouver’s Island and British Columbia as it did California. When the Hudson’s Bay Company sent 200 ounces of gold to San Francisco for minting into trade tokens, the California gold seekers raced northward and overran Victoria and the Fraser River canyon.

“The Gerald Wellburn Fraser River Gold Rush collection tells the story of the transformation of the twin colonies of Vancouver’s Island and British Columbia, as American gold miners clashed with natives and colonial authorities, through original documents, contemporary ephemera, and postal history, never before offered at public auction. Starting 10 November here at All Nations

Brian Grant Duff with poster for Orestes

Brian Grant Duff holds up a unique ‘broadsheet’ from 1858 advertising a ship travelling from Australia to the ‘new gold region’ on ‘Vancouver’s Island.’ FRANCIS GEORGIAN / PNG

“1858 There’s gold in this collection of early B.C. ephemera! Gerald Wellburn, legendary collector, put together 45 pages of letters, posters, maps and illustrations of B.C.’s gold rush period in the 1850s and 1860s.” 

Vancouver Sun 50 John Mackie has written a detailed article in the Vancouver Sun read here

Gerald Wellburn died in 1992, and most of his collection was auctioned off for $1 million. But his family held onto his Fraser gold rush collection, including the Cooke letter. Finally the gold rush collection is being sold as well.

Wellburn put the collection into a 45-page booklet, which Brian Grant Duff of All Nations Stamp and Coin is selling one page at a time through his weekly online auction.”

“It’s almost like he was making it to exhibit, so you could show it somewhere, show the history” said Grant Duff.

Flipping through the booklet is like taking a crash course in early B.C. history. Wellburn annotated the collection with historical notes that puts them in context. On the Cooke letter page, for example, he writes “gold was first discovered at Fort Colville on the Columbia River in 1855.”

“The Fort Colville discovery didn’t set off a gold rush. But when gold was discovered on the banks of the Fraser and Thompson rivers in 1858, an estimated 25,000-30,000 miners came to B.C. to try their luck. Alarmed at the prospect of so many Americans flooding into New Caledonia, the mainland region controlled by the Hudson’s Bay Company, the HBC’s James Douglas created the Crown colony of B.C. on Aug. 2, 1858. (Vancouver Island was a separate colony until they were joined in 1866; Douglas was governor of both.)” ~John Mackie, Vancouver Sun article


Brian Grant Duff of All Nations Stamp and Coin with a Royal Engineers map of Fort Hope from 1860.

Brian Grant Duff of All Nations Stamp and Coin with a Royal Engineers map of Fort Hope from 1860. JOHN MACKIE / PNG


Closeup of an 1862 letter to James Cooke in Fort Shepherd, an old Hudson’s Bay Company outpost. PNG “Fort Shepherd, near the mouth of the Pend Orielle River, in Vicinity of Colville Mines on Columbia River, British Columbia, North America.”

Bear attack booklet

Page from Gerald Wellburn’s Fraser Gold Rush collection featuring a letter about the death of a prospector from a bear attack, dated Oct. 23, 1859. PNG

Letter about the death of a prospector from a bear attack, dated Oct. 22, 1859.

Letter about the death of a prospector from a bear attack, dated Oct. 22, 1859 PNG

The bear attack letter reads: “1859 Portage Oct 22nd. Half way house twenty four mile. To the resident magistrate at Port Douglas; Sir, Mr G. M Montanys of the Lillooet Meadows arrived at & stopped at this place on his return from Anderson Lake on the evening of the twentieth & left for home on the morning of the twenty-first. About one hour after an Indian arrived & informed us that a man had been killed on the trail below. We hastened to the place about one mile from this & found the above person dead beside the trail. We examined the body & found it badly bitten in the right thigh, one wound having cut the artery which had caused his death. His hands were also scratched as well as two wounds lower on the right leg. On examination we found the tracks of three bares (sic), also where they had twice attacked him, the tracks of one of them were covered with blood after leaving the man. We found upon the body one five dollar coin, one twenty franc coin & a one dollar & twenty five cents silver coin & one pocket memorandum book, pencil case, also a pocket knife. About two hundred yards from the body we found a rubber coat. The above articles have been delivered to his partner Mr Jones who arrived this evening from the Meadows. We buried the body near where it was found as well as the circumstances would permit. There was a party of fourteen Chinamen on the ground at the time of our arrival on their way to Port Douglas whose testimony could be procured should it be required. Yours respectfully CA Yurby John Priety Robert Blair William Herdson.”



Page from Gerald Wellburn’s Fraser Gold Rush collection featuring James Murray Yale, whose name inspired Yaletown. PNG

B.C. Gov. James Douglas’s signature on an 1861 real estate document. PNG

B.C. Gov. James Douglas’s signature on an 1861 real estate document. PNG

1859 British Columbia Proclamation revoking Hudson Bay Company’s trading rights, one of the highlights of the Gerald Wellburn Fraser River Gold Rush collection >

“A modest postal service was introduced which allowed express companies to carry mail to the mining camps” >

1858 Fraser River Gold Rush postal service

Gerald Wellburn

Gerald E Wellburn was a collector and a person who collected because he was deeply interested in history and wanted to preserve historical things. Spending days researching such things as who was that unknown young fellow in the famous picture of the CPR’s driving of the last spike. He wanted to know the people behind the history and to tell their stories, that was Gerald E Wellburn.. visit our Gerald Wellburn page here

Gerald Wellburn

February 10, 1988. The late B.C. collector Gerald Wellburn holds a magnifier to a stamp postmarked 1866 Victoria Vancouver Island. John Yanyshyn/Province John Yanyshyn / PNG

Cover of the 45 page Album

Binding of Wellburn album

Page 1 Frontispiece of the album

“In 1858 the discovery of gold on bars of the Fraser River led to the founding of the Colony of British Columbia..

1858 Fraser River Gold Rush Gerald Wellburn Frontispiece

Page 1 of the Gerald Wellburn Fraser River Gold Rush collection (lot 91) sold for $700 in our 10th November 2018 auction

Gerald Wellburn

Gerald Wellburn

Gerald E. Wellburn Gerald Wellburn was a legendary collector of British Columbia Stamps, Postal History, B.C. history through all kinds of documents, and locomotives. Wellburn's San Juan Islands collection (including letter from John A. Macdonald) is in our milestone...

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