The People of the Cariboo Gold Rush

Catherine Schubert

Catherine Schubert
Catherine Schubert
Survival was the name of the game for Catherine Schubert (1835-1918), who was the only woman to travel west from Fort Garry with the Overlanders in 1862. Born Catherine O'Hara in Ireland, she voyaged to New York at the age of sixteen, and a few years later married Augustus Schubert from Germany. The couple lived first in Minnesota, then in Ontario.

When they decided to try their luck at the British Columbia goldfields, they had three children (aged 6, 3, and 1) with another baby on the way. That baby wasn't supposed to be born until the journey was over.

But what a journey! It was much harder and longer than the Overlanders expected. At first on the prairies they had hot sun and not enough water, then there were torrential rains, with rivers flooding and the cattle getting stuck in the mud. Sometimes Schubert had to wade in water up to her waist. At Fort Edmonton the Schuberts traded oxen for horses and sold one of their cows for supplies. Schubert and her children stayed with some nuns there (at St. Ann's Mission), who tried to persuade her to stay on until her baby was born, but Schubert was determined to keep her family together.

On they went, blazing trails, fording rivers, and rafting down the Thompson River. They fished and hunted and gathered berries. They probably couldn't have survived without help from First Nations people, who traded goods for food when they were close to starving, living on porcupine, squirrel, berries and whatever they could scrounge. Schubert in particular must have appreciated their help; she gave birth in a First Nations village near Kamloops, helped by one of the women living there. She hadn't finished her journey yet, but mother and baby were both healthy and able to travel on with the others all the way to Victoria, keeping the family together as Schubert wanted.

It took Catherine Schubert and her family several years to find just the right home. They tried Lillooet, then Quesnel, and stayed in Cache Creek for a few years - long enough for Schubert to have two more children and teach school there. In 1884 the Schuberts finally settled in Armstrong, where Catherine lived for the rest of her life until dying at the age of 83. She was not only a pioneer but also a survivor, and if she never found any gold, well she accomplished a great deal just the same.



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