I recall the summer our family went to Barkerville, the big Gold Rush city in northern BC. I was about 13 years old and I loved it. Period costumes. Real stage coaches. The shoot-out on main street. Can-can girls. The saloon with the swinging doors. Well, if you’re traveling through California there’s a lot of gold rush towns you could checkout, but I’d highly recommend you check out Old Town Columbia. Here you get the real authentic original buildings with people still running businesses out of them. This is the real deal, but in 2017.
History & Business
Columbia was a boomtown once upon a time. Money changed everything back then, as it still does today. When gold was discovered in 1850 it attracted thousands of miners from around the world. With the arrival of more people came the demand for goods, services and entertainment.
Old Town Columbia stores and other businesses thrived. The town served people from around the world: South & Central America, Mexico, Europe, Asia and Australia. They brought along with them their unique energies, skills, cuisine and cultural flare.
With all that gold came the need for banks, and big safes to keep it, well….safe. Here’s the Big Safe, manufactured in the early 1800’s by the Diebold Lock & Safe Co in Canton, Ohio. It weighs 7,500 pounds…too heavy to easily wander off with. The walls were filled with clay for fire protection.
Our kids love hanging out in Blacksmith Shops. Here at Parrot’s they figured out a whole bunch of the “puzzles” and Everette bought one to try out on people when they come visit us. Be prepared to be stumped!!
I just didn’t imagine there would be a bowling alley in this old town but there sure was! The kids got to test out their skill here and watch gravity do its job.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!
My favourite store was the Candy Kitchen. The moment my nose poked through the door I could smell the blend of chocolate and peppermint…they were making candies for something special on the weekend. This is a working candy kitchen…fourth generation here in Columbia. A treasure trove of candies!
The Johnson’s Livery looks like a good business for the Johnson’s here. What pioneer didn’t need Feed Seed & Tack
along with use of a hearse once in a while!!
We had to walk a ways up the hill and out of town a bit to find the old school house. I wasn’t expecting a two storey building, but there it was. Dunce cap and all.
The schoolhouse was built in 1860 at a total cost of $4898. It was renovated a couple of times and eventually closed in 1937 because it did not meet earthquake standards.
The school house is right beside the cemetery. I thought some wicked school teacher could threaten the kids with a “resting place” for poor behaviour! This is the cemetery as seen from the school back steps.
The cemetery has a marble memorial for the Chinese Pioneers who were both miners and merchants of Columbia. There remains aren’t here, but there legacy remains. The vast majority of the Chinese that came to California were from the province of Canton. They worked for one of the six companies which paid for their passage to California. Mostly men they were related to inferior mining areas and lived with few comforts. They had a limited diet of rice, dried fish and tea. Pork and chicken were luxuries.
In Columbia the rules of the mining district didn’t allow the Chinese miners to own their own claims. They could operate businesses in town, though. After a fire in 1857 the Chinese settlers were forced to leave town for many years. Years later they returned and eventually Chinese merchants owned four mercantile houses, a Joss House WHAT IS THAT??? a barbershop, a cheater, and a gambling house. There is still a portion of the Ling Sing and Co which reminds us of the part the Chinese played in Columbia’s history.
Our Take On It
Our kids thoroughly enjoyed our self-guided walking tour through Columbia’s Gold Rush town. We could imagine ourselves running around the schoolhouse teasing the boys, or popping into the candy store to drool over a sweet we hoped to get for Christmas.
If you’re west of the Sierra-Nevada Mountains and want to checkout something that seems far more authentic than the usual gold-rush town, be sure to stop in at Columbia. You shan’t be disappointed.
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