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Connecting curious minds with uncommon, undeniably Northwest reads

Unsettled Boundaries

Fraser Gold and the British-American Northwest

Robert E. Ficken


Gold fever reached the Pacific Northwest in 1858 as thousands of optimistic prospectors crossed the 49th parallel into British territory, passing through “where no man should venture,” and hoping to strike it rich. Faced with brutal weather and a lack of supplies, most returned later that same year. Even so, mining continued until simple fur trading posts were transformed into settlements, and finally, into civilization, making the Fraser River experience one of the major developments in Pacific Northwest history.


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Responding to reports of gold discoveries on the Fraser River, thousands of prospectors from California and other points on the Pacific coast crossed the 49th parallel into British territory in 1858. Most returned to San Francisco and Puget Sound later in the same year, blaming their failure to find wealth in the river canyons on uncooperative officials of the Hudson’s Bay Company and the English government. Viewing events from the perspective of California, American historians have generally considered the gold rush a failure. In reality, the Fraser River experience was a sustained success, continuing beyond 1858, embracing the vast interior of British Columbia, and becoming one of the major developments in Pacific Northwest history. Although the artificial boundary line bisected identical forest, mountain, and prairie terrain, the 49th parallel separated distinct regions of law and custom, explaining why Americans were unable to comprehend the true nature of their adventures in British North America.

Illustrations / photographs / maps / bibliography / index / 208 pages

Additional information

Weight 0.74 oz
Dimensions 9 x 6 in