was a prospector in every sense of the word. Like other prospectors,
the reason for mining was not necessarily only striking it rich, but
the adventure and chances taken along the way. Like a compulsive
gambler who cannot stop, Fred was a prospector with a zest for the
search, and a leading mining engineer in
British Columbia. Not only was he determined and focussed on discovering
the motherlode of gold, but he possessed great
physical strength as well. Fred favoured travel by snowshoe around his
claims and the surrounding area, well into his seventies, and could
still outclimb most of the men in his camp. He held the title of Snowshoe
Champion of British Columbia three years in a row from 1898 to 1890.
Unlike many gamblers, Fred did not indulge in smoking or drinking as
a lifestyle. Furthermore, he would not tolerate either in his presence,
according to fellow miner Ted Baynes6.
did not agree with Wells in regards to his belief there was gold in
Cow Mountain. The Department of Mines actually referred to Fred as "an
opinionated prospector, devoid of geological knowledge." He was
refused the right to sell stock in British Columbia by the provinical
government, but Fred persisted with the help of his friends and financiers.
Newspaper reports throughout the '30s kept detailed progress reports
on Fred Wells, his financial backers, and the increasing success of
the mines and boom town of Wells. Eventually, they applauded his determination
and unyielding belief in the Cariboo as a source of gold.
Cariboo Gold Quartz Mine began producing gold bricks in April 1933 because
Fred found his motherlode! The first gold brick, actually two gold bars
equalling $22,116.77 at 1410.62 troy ounces,
was sent to Vancouver by Fred himself who travelled there and delivered
it by limousine from the docks to be displayed in the window of Birks,
a famous old jewellery house of Canada. The second gold brick further
silenced the rumours spread by disbelievers. In the Friday, June 2,
1933 issue of The Alaska Weekly newspaper, an article titled Second
Bullion Shipment Arrives From Cariboo Gold In Time For Annual Meeting,
readers were informed that the previous Sunday, approximately 100 shareholders
met the boat at the Union Steamship Company's wharf in Vancouver. Fred
Wells stepped down the gang plank bearing gold bullion valued at $36,168
wired to a packboard on his back.
reason to be proud his theory that quartz bearing nuggets were suggestive
of a buried ore body in Cow Mountain was proven. Unfortunately, not
all of Fred's endeavors proved successful. He started the Cariboo Hudson
Mountain and Snowshoe Plateau mining projects after the Cariboo Gold
Quartz Mine was set up, both of which failed. Rather like gambling,
you win some and you lose some.
to back down easily, these events did not prevent Fred from continuing
on his quest for the motherlode. "His faith in the Cariboo as a major
gold producer never ceased". Fred moved on from Wells, the town he helped
to make a reality, to other pursuits.
the first hard rock miner in British Columbia, Fred inspired prosperity
during an era of financial depression. However, he seemed more comfortable
sleeping in the great outdoors in a tent rather than in his beautiful
new home that was built in Wells - "He had just moved in to the brand
new manager's house; and was obviously uncomfortable with all this finery".
Residents believe the house was built more for Mrs. Snoxell and her
husband George. George was hired to chauffeur Fred's Buick car and Mrs.
Snoxell made Fred's special hotcakes with his treasured Genuine Vermont
Maple Syrup, which he imported by the gallon every spring. He would
come into the house for his meals, but preferred to sleep in his tent
in the backyard.
Wells died at the age of 95 in Vancouver on September 1, 1956, after
a career of prospecting and mining promotion. He was living in a small,
humbly furnished room at the time that contained tables covered with
ore samples. He had been working, even in his nineties, on an iron and
copper prospect in the Namu area, located about 150 km north from the
northern tip of Vancouver Island. The fact he did not die a wealthy
man fuels the assumption he was like a gambler who thrived on his passion
for prospecting rather than the riches it could afford him. "You make
some money on a property and the next thing you're doing is losing it
on another prospect. I've always had to keep getting into something
new, it seems" - Fred Wells 3.
never was one to remain down on his luck.
Process | Lode vs. Placer
| Two Companies | Mining
Strikes | Profile of a Miner | Home
| Meet the Team | Site