As word of gold spread, adventurers from California and Australia, and indeed from all parts of the world, flocked to Victoria as the only ocean port for the gold fields of the Interior. The first ship entered Victoria harbour on the morning of April 25, 1858, just as the townspeople were returning homeward from church. With astonishment, they watched as 450 men disembarked, complete with blankets, miner’s pans, spades and firearms. It is estimated that within a few weeks, over 20,000 had landed.
The gold rush was on in earnest and overnight a city of tents sprang up around the fort, quickly spreading over both sides of James Bay as miners awaited licensing and outfitted for their journey.
With the discovery of gold on the Fraser and Thompson Rivers, and in consequence of the ensuing rush, the Crown Colony of British Columbia was inaugurated at the provisional capital of Fort Langley on November 19, 1858. However, for reasons of military security, a defensible location on the north bank of the Fraser River was chosen with the subsequent decision to “lay out and settle the site of a city to be the capital of British Columbia on February 14, 1859, at New Westminster”.