The Cascadiens arrived at Barkerville Historic Town and Park last week (Aug. 8-11) and quickly set about making music, wooden toys and clothing for the prospectors who were trying to strike it rich along William’s Creek.
The Cascadiens Living History Reenactment Society is a troupe of friends from Washington, Vancouver and Quesnel who love history and come together to travel together and do re-enactments, mostly at historic Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) sites, explained member Patrick Haas from Tacoma, Wash., who acts as a carver and musician with the group. His wife, Karen, does weaving, spinning and knitting.
This intrepid group of HBC employees arrived in Barkerville after travelling north along the newly-constructed Cariboo Waggon Road, hoping to see the sites of “the big city” and check it out for possible gainful employment.
In Barkerville, Karen was busy weaving shawls for the miners and their families, using goat, sheep and rabbit fibre.
“We came up the Cariboo Waggon Road,” she explained. “My husband worked for the HBC and heard about the Cariboo gold rush.”
Karen says the way to make money is “to mine the miners,” by making and selling items that will make their lives more comfortable. She had quite a bit of success selling items to the Cariboo miners, and she says they plan to return with more goods to sell next year.
“We live near Fort Langley, and I will spend all winter knitting and weaving,” she said.
In the group, Parker McIntosh from Vancouver is a tailor, and he was making a blanket coat out of a well-worn HBC bay blanket.
“When it’s work out and used, it’s still very valuable,” he said, pointing out many small patches of wool blanket that have been sewn together. “By the time I’m done, I will have used the entire blanket, save for a few threads.”
The blanket coat has a hood and collar and pockets in the back, and it is quite tailored.
“The style is copied from the European fashions, including the pockets in the back,” explained McIntosh.
Their trip to Barkerville was the third week of reenactments for the Cascadiens, and they had been in Fort Langley the previous weekend. From here, they were headed to Fort St. James to see how they fit in there, explained Patrick.