Miss Florence Wilson makes a point during a town meeting in Barkerville. An upcoming Bonepicker — Gold Rush Backstories film premiere Sept. 11 at 7 p.m. the Theatre Royal will explore Wilson’s life, and there will be a panel discussion and music. Lindsay Chung photo

Learn more about the life and times of ‘Barkerville’s enigma’ Sept. 11

Miss Florence Wilson’s great-great-great-great niece will be part of Bonepicker film premiere

If you’ve taken a town tour at Barkerville Historic Town and Park, you may have had Miss Florence Wilson as your tour guide.

Wilson came to Barkerville from England around 1860 and became a prominent member of the community, particularly in the arts.

Today, during the tours, actress Danette Boucher portrays Wilson and shares interesting stories, facts and information about the town and the Cariboo Gold Rush.

Now the tables are being turned, and Wilson’s story is the one being shared.

Wilson’s life piqued the interest of Richard Wright and Amy Newman, and a special event next week in Barkerville will share some of the interesting information they found out about her when they premiere their film Enigma — The Florence Wilson Story, which is part of their Bonepicker film series.

Wright and Newman have been operating the Theatre Royal in Barkerville for more than a decade as the Newman and Wright Theatre Company, and they have also begun producing and filming Bonepicker — Gold Rush Backstories, short films that tell the stories of the men and women who made the Cariboo Gold Rush their lives.

Wright and Newman will share Wilson’s story Wednesday, Sept. 11 at the Theatre Royal in Barkerville during a special evening of film and and discussion. The evening starts at 7 p.m., and admission is by donation.

Wright says there were many reasons he and Newman wanted to look into Wilson’s life.

“One of the reasons is we thought she was a single woman in Barkerville, which was unusual, plus she was one of the most important people in the artistic community in Barkerville,” he said.

“She started the library as far as we know or was certainly one of two people to start the library, she ran a saloon, she was active in the Theatre Royal, she was an actor, and she was one of the people who started the Cariboo Amateur Dramatic Association and built the Theatre Royal. So she was an important person in Barkerville.”

Wright says Wilson has been on the radar of a number of people who have worked in Barkerville for many years, and as they learned more about her, they found a lot of unanswered questions about her life.

In the event description for the Sept. 11 presentation, Wilson is described as “Barkerville’s enigma.”

Wright says that is because they knew almost nothing about her until the last couple of years.

“We knew that she existed, we knew she came from England because she came on a bride ship, so we assumed she came from London, and then she disappeared, and I guess that was the main thing — in 1875, she left Barkerville and completely disappeared and we could not find her anywhere,” he said.

“The other thing was that in 1864, she’d been here, she’d been established, and she went to Idaho for approximately a year and then came back, and nobody knew why or where she had gone in Idaho. It was assumed that she had followed the gold rushes in Idaho, but we didn’t know for sure. So there were all these questions about her, and it was important to those of us who are interested in Barkerville history and people.

“She was involved heavily in the culture of the town and yet there were these questions about her — where did she come from? Why did she leave in 1864? Why did she disappear in 1875?”

Gradually, more people have become interested in Wilson, and Wright and Newman have become connected with two more researchers in the last four years, which helped put the pieces of Wilson’s life together.

“Through luck and happenstance, we’ve managed to put more or less her whole story together, and it’s really only been possible because of the Internet,” said Wright.

“It would have been very unlikely we would have found this complete story unless different generations had gotten involved, because it just takes so long to do this kind of research if you don’t have the Internet. The two main researchers that have come on board in the last couple of years came on board because of a blog that I wrote, and they happened to be searching for Florence and found the blog online.”

The first person who saw Wright’s blog turned out to be the great-great-great-great niece of Wilson. Dr. Judith Booth lives in Wentworth Falls, Australia, and her upcoming visit to the Cariboo to see Barkerville Historic Town and Park is actually the reason why they are putting together this whole evening, as Booth will speak about her relative and be part of a discussion following the film’s premiere, explained Wright.

“Judith and I have been working on this for about four years, trading information,” said Wright.

“It’s a little bit more complex because she’s actually related to Florence through Florence’s half-brother, who was transported to Australia for stealing a top hat.”

Last year, another researcher in England came across Wright’s blog, contacted him and helped stitch together more pieces of Wilson’s story.

“Eventually, we discovered that she had left Barkerville and gone to California,” said Wright.

Newman and Wright have been making the film about Wilson for their Bonepicker series for the last four years, filming in England, Idaho and California.

During the Sept. 11 event, Newman and Wright will introduce Booth, Booth will speak about Wilson, and then they will show the Bonepicker film. Newman will also present a couple of songs that Wilson’s mother wrote, which they only found recently. Wright says she had been commissioned to write music for Queen Victoria’s birthday, just before she became queen.

The event will conclude with a panel discussion with Booth, Newman, Wright and Boucher.

“I don’t want to give too much away obviously, but there’s some pretty interesting stuff that’s come out of Florence and other people in the town that she was associated with,” said Wright.

“So it’s not just about Florence — it’s also becoming a broader story about I guess you’d call it the arts in Barkerville and how influential she was in the theatre and the arts in Barkerville.”

READ MORE: PHOTOS: Old-fashioned fun and games on the creek



editor@quesnelobserver.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Wilf Smith Memorial Curling League Lions Cup Bonspiel a hit

Special Olympics curlers team up with other league members in annual Quesnel competition

Colourful characers and important messages introduced in Th’owxiya: The Hungry Feast Dish

Indigenous storytellers spin a tale from the Kwantlen First Nation July 31 in Quesnel

Forestry Ink: Building soil health through biodiversity

Regular columnist Jim Hilton shares information from the TRU soils conference

Quesnel Waveriders make a splash in Kelowna

Quesnel swimmers Seth Reddemann and Hollyn Rowsell competed in the KAJ Snowfest Jan. 17-19

Kersley Farmers Institute’s winter workshop highlights opportunity and connection

The workshop featured a new networking event and a full day of presentations and updates in Quesnel

VIDEO: Canada’s first presumptive case of coronavirus officially confirmed

Both patient and wife arrived on a China Southern Airlines flight after having been to Wuhan

‘Big money’ funding B.C. politics now mostly from taxpayers

Campaign targets $16 million and counting in ‘politician welfare’

Ski lift closed at B.C. mountain over alleged actions of former employee

‘We are actively investigating and dealing with the actions of a former employee,’ said the resort

VIDEO: Music stars pay tribute to Kobe Bryant at Grammys award show

Music artists including Billy Ray Cyrus, Rick Ross and Kirk Franklin paid tribute to Bryant

John Lennon’s psychedelic Rolls-Royce on display at Royal BC Museum

The classic car has been a favourite for Beatles fans from Victoria and internationally

Coastal GasLink stresses pipeline ‘on a schedule’ as B.C. appoints liaison for Wet’suwet’en

670-kilometre pipeline is schedule to be completed by end of 2023

Furstenau flays NDP as she launches B.C. Green Party leadership bid

LNG, Site C dam wrong for environment, Cowichan MLA says

Woman guilty of dangerous driving crash that left Saanich girl, then 11, unresponsive

Nikirk guilty of one count of dangerous driving causing bodily harm

Pregnant B.C. woman stuck in Wuhan, the epicentre of coronavirus outbreak

Woman is due to give birth in Wuhan, China unless she can get out

Most Read