Profile of a man: Peter Dunlevey

Peter Curran Dunlevey

No phase of pioneer development in the northwest was unfamiliar to Peter Curran Dunlevey and in many ways he was closely connected with the work of development and improvement as different lines of business were introduced and the country was opened up to the business enterprises which have promoted its greatness and wrought its prosperity.

Williams Lake Tribune, 
June 9, 1965, p.10

A Moment in History

Good turn led to the first gold strike in the Cariboo

The first man to discover gold in the Cariboo owed his good fortune to the fact that he was willing to extend a helping hand to an Indian.

Peter Dunlevey, An American, arrived on the lower reaches of the Fraser just about the time the Indians above Fort Yale had massacred a number of white people.
Not deterred by remarks that any attempt to push farther into hostile Indian territory would be fool-hardy, he and his party went upriver as far as the mouth of the Chilcotin.
One day as Dunlevey was working with pan and shovel, a young, pleasant-faced Indian suddenly appeared on the bank of the River and asked for food. He was a runner for the Hudson's Bay Company, by the name of Tomaah, son of chief Lolos of Fort Kamloops.
Walking back to his tent, Peter quickly made a little fire and gave the traveller some hot tea and food.
Tomaah stayed two days, and on the second day as he watched Dunlevey washing some gold in his pan, he drew a rough sketch on the ground. Placing the end of his stick on a certain spot on his plan, the runner said "here is a place where the gold is round and heavier" than that which Dunlevey was panning.
The place was on a little river northwest of Lac La Hache, and Tomaah said he would meet Dunlevey in 16 days later on the brigade trail at the southeast end of the lake and lead them to the river.
On the 16th day the prospectors were at the appointed spot. Dunlevey was sitting with his back to heavy bush when he felt a hand on his shoulder, and heard the words "Kla-how-ya Dunleebi". It was the young Indian, true to his word. He had urgent message to deliver to Kamloops, so had brought along John Baptiste to guide the prospectors.
The men travelled past Eagle Lake, McIntosh Lake, Moffat Lake, down the Moffat Creek to the Horsefly River and down the river to a bench that slopes off to Quesnel Lake.
There they found coarse gold the size of wheat. It was the middle of June, 1859.
Dunlevey gave up prospecting in 1861 to start a fur trading post and stopping place at Beaver Lake. He left there when he say that the new Cariboo road would kill that venture and moved to Soda Creek, starting a saloon, store and ranch. 
He died there in 1904 and is buried at St. Joseph's Mission.

Mr. Dunlevey was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, October 21st, 1833, a son of Jeremiah and Rose Dunlevey, and the public schools of his native city afforded him his educational privileges. In, 1854, when a young man of but the age of twenty-one, he went to the Feather River district of California and there engaged in buying gold from the miners. In 1857 he left that state and made his way northward to British Columbia. He immediately afterward entered the Cariboo Country as a gold seeker, being one of the first to arrive in that district, in which he continued to make his home for forty-five years. In 1858 he mined on the Fraser River, which he followed from Yale, mining all the way along the Quesnelle River and eventually proceeding up that river to the Forks. He followed the discovery of the first gold strike on Butler Creek and later proceeded on to Williams Creek.

No phase of mining life and experience in the Cariboo country was unknown to him. He went through the usual experiences of the miner who seeks gold in a region to which civilization has not hitherto penetrated. He opened a store at Beaver Lake when the Cariboo trail was finished in 1864 and subsequently removed to Mud Lake and then thence to Soda Creek. In 1871 he made a trip to the Peace River, returning in one season. At Beaver Lake he established a store and later founded trading posts throughout the Cariboo and Peace River districts until at one time he was the owner of a chain of nine trading posts. He traded furs with the Indians and furnished outfits for the miners, and in fact utilized all the different opportunities for trade that were offered in the frontier country. He was continuously engaged in these enterprises until 1896, when he closed out the different outposts but continued his trading at Soda Creek, in connection with which he was also engaged in farming and in the cattle business. He owned one thousand acres of land, one half of which was under cultivation. His last days were spent at Soda Creek, where he passed away October 15, 1905, at the age of seventy-two years.

The efforts of Mr. Dunlevey were an important feature in the development and upbuilding of the sections in which he operated. It was he who conceived the idea of the building of a railway from Victoria to Sidney, assisted in getting charter for a company and in the raising of capital for the construction of the line. He was also influential in securing the charter and financing the Nelson-Fort Shepard Railway and was interested in mining on a large scale throughout the province, especially in the Cariboo district. He spent nearly two hundred thousand dollars in the installation of a stamp mill at Island Mountain and his business affairs in all these different connections were an element in public progress as well as in individual success, so that the name of Peter C. Dunlevey is written high on the roll of western Canada's honored and valued pioneers.

On the 9th of November, 1875, Mr. Dunlevey was united in marriage, at Victoria, British Columbia, to Miss Jennie Huston, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Guy Huston, who were natives of Ireland and at an early day made their way to San Francisco. It was in that city that Mrs. Dunlevey was born, November 9th, 1854, but during her early girlhood her parents removed with their family to Victoria. Since her husband's death Mrs. Dunlevey has become the wife of Dr. S. E. Mostyn-Hoops and still resides at Soda Creek. By her first marriage there were five children: Canissa, now living in New York city; Carlton, who died in Vancouver in 1910; Gertrude, the wife of George E. Powell, a barrister of Vancouver; Stanley P., living in Vancouver; and Marvin, who is attending college at Portland, Oregon.

Mr. Dunlevey was conservative in his political faith and a Catholic in his religious belief. For many years he continued a resident of the northwest and was a link between the pioneer past and the progressive present, his memory reaching back to the days when all travel was done by way of the rivers or on pack horses over a trail; when it was the desire to win wealth in the mines that brought the majority of people to the Cariboo, and when conditions showed every evidence of a frontier existence.

The miner's camp or the settler's rude cabin constituted the principal features in most districts into which the white man had penetrated, and around him were all the evidence of primeval nature. Mr. Dunlevey witnessed the great changes which brought about modern development and was active amoung the business men whose labors wrought present day conditions. Success attended his efforts and he won not only a comfortable competence but also a good name amoung his friends and acquaintances.
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