Not far from Wells is famous ‘Blessing’s Grave’. In 1866, New Westminster (my current home town) resident Charles Blessing grabbed a friend, W.D Moses and decided to head north to Barkerville. The men were separated en route and Charles ended up travelling with an unsavoury character named James Barry.
Barry shot Blessing in the head at the spot marked, and stole his gold pin and all his money – $60. Barry was arrested and tried by infamous Judge Begbie and sentenced to hang, which he did, in 1867 at Richfield – just outside Barkerville.
Photos from findagrave.com.
The grave site stands exactly as it did in 1866. Preserved but unchanged.
There is also the ‘Robbers Roost‘, an area once reported to have been chosen by the darker element of the time, for ambushing wagoneers who may have had gold.
Though there are plenty of legendary tales about this location, there does not seem to be any fact to support any of the ambush claims.
Perhaps the legends were created as a warning to travellers about potential difficulties along the gold rush route – or perhaps by the local banks who wanted you to store your gold with them – or even by the miners themselves who would have preferred less competition on their claims.
Either way, the location of the ‘Robbers Roost’ has been marked and recorded, now a part of BC history, true or not.
The B.X. stage coaches used to run through this region, serving the Cariboo for more than 50 years. The terminus, originally in Yale, was moved to Ashcroft after C.P.R construction destroyed the Fraser Canyon wagon route.
The red and yellow coaches left Ashcroft at 4am, and four days later reached their Barkerville destination.
Even now the road is littered with avalanche areas, dangerous passes and old settlements. One in particular, Alexandra Lodge, was available for purchase when we passed.
There is much controversy about the Lodge, and after gaining its historic status in the 1970’s, it was later revoked.
Though the site seems to have existed since the mid 1800’s, the current building may only be from the 1920’s. There is a photo from the 1880’s of a building on the same site that bears a strong resemblance to the one currently standing, but it cannot be proven to be the original structure.
An adjacent cemetery houses 100 year old graves, and at one time, the lodge was famous in the area for its fancy style and home cooked meals. In its heyday, it had a gas station and multiple cabins scattered throughout the property.
Even the King of Siam stopped by for an extended stay in 1931.
Certainly if I had half a million dollars, I know where I would be living. Even in its current state of disrepair, the lodge is charming and located in an incredible serene location, with a remarkable view – and it isn’t too far from other serviced towns.
Even though we had taken the long way home – avoiding the main highway and choosing instead to travel along the old wagon route – Highway 1, our tour was almost over. The Alexandra Lodge was not far from Hope, and only an hour and a half from our neighbourhood.
Inevitably we will make another tour to Barkerville, there is still so much more to see.
For now though, our tour was over – until the next trip north.
- The Fraser Canyon (travelthecanyon.com)
- Alexandra Lodge (vanishingbc.com)
- Charles Blessing (findagrave.com)