The People of the Cariboo Gold Rush

Wellington Delaney Moses

Wellington Moses (1816-1890) arrived in Victoria in 1858 as part of a group of black settlers from San Francisco, and soon established the Pioneer Shaving Shop and Bath Room (Private Entrance for Ladies). In the mid-1860s he headed for the Fraser River, supporting himself as a travelling barber, and eventually settled in Barkerville to run a barbershop and dry goods store.

One of Moses' specialties was his Hair Invigorator, which he advertised to have the ability "to restore hair that has fallen off or become thin ... relieve the Headache, and give the hair a darker and glossy colour." Moses kept a little leather-bound diary where he recorded the weather, his finances, texts of sermons he heard, other incidents of note, and - a murder case which he solved!

How did Moses discover a murderer? Well it happened like this. He was travelling from New Westminster to Barkerville in the spring of 1866, and on the way made friends with Charles Morgan Blessing, who sported an unusual tiepin made of a gold nugget shaped like a man's profile - he was fresh from the California goldfields. On their way they met up with James Barry, who travelled on with them from there; it was safer to travel in groups than alone. At Quesnel Moses decided to stop and offer his barber services to the residents for a few days, but promised to meet up with Blessing soon. When Moses reached Barkerville Blessing was nowhere to be found; Barry told Moses that Blessing had turned back on the way with a sore foot. Moses was concerned, and became suspicious when one of his customers turned up wearing Blessing's gold nugget pin! He said he had got it from a hurdy-gurdy girl. Moses tracked her down and she told him that James Barry had given her the pin. Now Moses was really worried. He visited Judge Cox in Richfield and told him his story. Just at that time Blessing's body was found hidden in some bushes. Based on Moses' information, Cox sent a constable to arrest Barry, who by then had reached Soda Creek. Barry was kept in jail until Judge Begbie next held assizes in the area. In August 1867 Begbie found Barry guilty of murder and he was hanged. Meanwhile Moses took up a collection to pay for a proper funeral and a headstone for poor Charles Blessing.

In 1868 Moses' barbershop burned down in the Barkerville fire. However he rebuilt the shop and lived out the rest of his life in Barkerville, a "well known and beloved old-timer" (Kilian).