Pay Dirt! The Search for Gold in British Columbia

Orca Book Publishers -

They came from China and Australia, from Scotland, England and Wales, from across Canada and the United States. They came for one thing: Gold! Some struck it rich; many more did not. This is their story.

Our Choice, Canadian Children’s Book Centre
Nominated for the Red Cedar Award
Shortlisted for the Silver Birch Award

What People Are Saying

Langston writes a vivid account of the gold rush, a period packed with colorful characters of either gender. This is a very readable history for young people.
– Vancouver Sun

Teachers in B.C. will realize they have hit pay dirt when they examine Laura Langston’s account of the search for gold in British Columbia. Langston’s extensive research reveals many aspects of the Gold Rush. Her appealing book, written in simple narrative style, is interspersed with journal entries.
– Resource Links


Frank Laumeister figured if there was good money in packing freight into the camps, he could make even more money by finding animals that could carry heavier loads.

One animal that was sure-footed (a must for the treacherous Cariboo trails) and could also carry up to 800 pounds on its back was the camel.

In 1862, Laumeister bought twenty-three camels from the U.S. army. He paid $300 for each of them, a small fortune in those days. They came up the Fraser by boat and as they were unloaded at Port Douglas, storekeepers and bystanders stared at the humpbacked animals in disbelief.

The camels quickly adjusted to the Canadian climate. Just as quickly, they put the mules to shame. As well as carrying the expected 800 pounds, they could travel thirty-five miles a day.

But there were problems. For one thing, their hooves were designed for sand, not rock. When some of the animals went lame, Laumeister fitted them with rawhide boots. That helped. But he couldn’t do anything about the way the animals smelled.

And they smelled terrible – especially to the packhorses and mules. Everywhere the camels went, the mules and horses bolted. Valuables were strewn all over the trails. Laumeister dosed the camels with perfumed water. That didn’t help. Worst of all, other drivers began suing Laumeister.

In the end, Laumeister turned the camels loose on the Thompson River flats. Some died from the bitter winter cold. Others spent years wandering in the wilderness.