About Me

Wells, BC, Canada
Richard is a working photographer and writer in B.C. His camera focuses on natural history. archeology, travel, and documentary photography. His photography blog may be found at: http://richardtwright.blogspot.com/

Sunday, February 5, 2012

How Tombstone's Wyatt Earp avenged a Barkerville, Cariboo miner

Barkerville B.C. to Tombstone, Arizona
The story behind a photograph.
(See the April 12, 2013 post for an update.)
Sometimes we don't know why we take a photograph. Sometimes an image speaks to us. Sometimes it is, we have to admit, just a fortuitous shutter click.  Such is the story of this photo, the grave of "Van Houten, 1879", in the Boot Hill Cemetery of Tombstone, Arizona.

John Van Houten, a Cariboo miner, lies buried  in
Boot Hill, Tombstone , Arizona. Richard Wright photo

In 2009 Amy and I travelled south through Montana, Utah and Nevada to Arizona, eventually, many adventures later, arriving at the quintessential Old West Town of Tombstone. Our goal was to visit as many mining town as we could, gathering stories and background for our work at the Theatre Royal in B.C.'s largest heritage site, Barkerville Historic Town.  Research has shown me that we tend to forget or ignore the fact that all the folks who came to the B.C. gold rush came with back stories. Contrary to oft-quoted ramblings these men and women were not all "19-year-olds."  The medium age was 34. Many had mined before.  Some had been soldiers, 49ers, drunks and business men, from around the world. And similarly, many would go on to create wonderful stories outside and beyond the rushes of Cariboo and Fraser River.


Researching census records in the Tombstone archives. Amy Newman photo

As we left Tombstone, awash in the characters and stories of the Tombstone silver rush, I remarked to Amy that wouldn't it be great if we found that Wyatt or Doc had travelled to Barkerville, just as many Cariboo miners had travelled to Nevada and Arizona. For by this time we had a long list of what we might call Cariboo ex-pats in places like Elko Nevada; Tucson and Tombstone, Arizona.  There is little doubt that migration worked in both directions.  For that we can evidence Boone Helm, a western killer who rode north to Cariboo and then south to Virginia City, Montana, where he was hung.

Some further research when we returned home showed that there was indeed a strong connection between the two towns. By the time Tombstone was booming the Cariboo gold rush was declining.  In fact, one of the classic "gunfights" acted out in the town involved a Tombstone constable and a Cariboo miner. But that is another story.


"Wyatt Earp" at the re-creation of "The Gunfight at OK Corral." Richard Wright photo

This story centres around one John Van Houten and his ill-marked grave.  It is, as you will read, a photo I took while I wandered Boot Hill cemetery. I did not even know I had taken the photo until much later.

Now, unfortunately, for the complete story you will have to click again and go to:

http://theatreroyalca.blogspot.com/2009/12/from-barkerville-wyatt-earp-cariboo.html

This is the story I wrote for another blog at Theatre Royal, Barkerville. Google is cautious, as they should be.  If I was to cut and paste the story here it would be seen as plagarism, even though I wrote it.  I appreciate that Google. So click on the link above and read the story behind the photo.
Should the link not work for you search on Theatreroyal.ca and Wyatt Earp.

For an article titled: "Tombstone Arizona as a mirror to Barkerville B.C.", go to:

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