This Week in History: 1858 There’s gold in this collection of early B.C. ephemera – by John Mackie (Vancouver Sun – November 23, 2018)

Legendary collector put together 45 pages of letters, posters, maps and illustrations of B.C.’s gold rush period in the 1850s and 1860s.

In January 1862 somebody in London wrote a letter to James Cooke in the Kootenays. At the time, few people knew anything about B.C., a four-year-old colony in one of the most remote parts of the British Empire.

So they put all their geographical knowledge into the address, which is long and detailed: “Fort Shepherd, near the mouth of the Pend Orielle River, in Vicinity of Colville Mines on Columbia River, British Columbia, North America.” Cooke was the post manager at Fort Shepherd, a small Hudson’s Bay Company trading post just south of today’s Trail. You’ve probably never heard of it, because it closed in 1870.

It’s hard to say if Cooke received the letter, but by March 1862 it made it to Port Townsend, Wash., where it was postmarked. Eventually it found its way into the collection of Gerald Wellburn, a legendary collector of B.C. stamps and ephemera.

Wellburn died in 1992, and most of his collection was auctioned off for $1 million. But his family held onto his Fraser gold rush collection, including the Cooke letter. Finally the gold rush collection is being sold as well.

Wellburn put the collection into a 45-page booklet, which Brian Grant Duff of All Nations Stamp and Coin is selling one page at a time through his weekly online auction. “The front piece might only bring $25, but certainly most things are going to bring $250 and up,” Grant Duff said before the first item was auctioned. “Some will bring thousands.”

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