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The shaft did not pay off quickly and as
winter drew nearer the miners began to wonder if they had the right location.
Meanwhile the Camerons had another child; but it was stillborn and Sophia
became ill...never to recover.
"Mrs. Cameron died at 3 a.m. on October
23, 1862. Richfield was the name of the mining town where she passed away.
Cameron and I were the only persons present at the time. Poor Cameron! The
morning Mrs. Cameron died was intensely cold, the thermometer standing at
thirty degrees before zero, and a wind blowing at the rate of sixty miles
an hour. As there were no undertakers in Cariboo, I went away and engaged
Griffin to make a coffin, and Henry Lightfoot of Vankleek Hill made the
case." R. Stevenson.
Of the five thousand people on the creek
in the summer of '62 only ninety-seven remained to be at her funeral that
John was shattered. He threw himself into
work at the mine and vowed that come spring and better fortune he would
carry out the last wish of Sophia; to be buried at "home" in Canada
West. Her body was placed in a tin casket inside a wooden coffin and buried
temporarily under an abandoned cabin in Richfield.
Exactly two months later, three days before Christmas, the
Cameron Co. struck paydirt...
"On December 22 we struck it very rich
at twenty-two feet. Dick Rivers was in the shaft and William Halpenny and
I were at the windlass. Cameron had just come down from Richfield to see
how we were getting on, when Rivers called up from the bottom "Cameron
or Stevenson - come down here at once - the place is yellow with gold! Look
here boys!" R. Stevenson
By the end of February, Cameron a wealthy
but grieving man decided to head for Victoria. He offered twelve dollars
a day and a $2,000 bonus to any man who would help him make the trip down.
Twenty-two men signed up. Their journey took them through virtual wilderness:
snowdrifts up to twelve feet deep, mountains, dense forest, often without
a trail, with temperatures as cold as fifty below zero; dragging the coffin
on an awkward toboggan heaped with blankets, food and 50 lb. of gold. To
add to their formidable task, was the ever-present danger of smallpox.
On March 7, 1863, having travelled approximately
600 miles, they finally reached their destination. Here Sophia had a well-attended
funeral, was preserved in alcohol in preparation for the long voyage back
east, and re-buried.
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