Gold at Fortymile Creek: Early Days in the Yukon

By Michael Gates | Go to book overview

1
EARLY DAYS: THE FIRST GOLD-SEEKERS ARRIVE

The Land

Starting as a trickle at its headwaters in the coastal range of the Rocky Mountains, just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean, the Yukon River winds its way through the heart of the Yukon and Alaska. In its route to the sea, it forms a gigantic arc, almost grazing the Arctic Circle at its most northerly point. From the interior of the continent, it grows in size as it moves downstream and finally disgorges its voluminous, silty load into the Bering Sea, over 2,000 miles from its source. Draining an area of some 327,000 square miles of rugged northern terrain, it is the second largest river in North America and one of the largest rivers in the world.

The Russians called it the 'Kwikhpak,' which, in Aleut, means 'great river.' The Tanana called it the 'Niga-to,' which, in their language, meant the same thing. The name which stuck was given to it by the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) trader, John Bell, when, in 1846, he descended the Porcupine River to its junction with the Yukon River. The name stems from a White corruption of the Loucheux word for 'big river.' In 1848, Robert Campbell proved that Bell's river was the same great watercourse which passed Fort Selkirk, the newly established trading post at the Yukon River's confluence with the Pelly River, deep in the heart of uncharted territory.

The Yukon basin is a region of extremes: of endless summer daylight and sunless winter twilight; of temperatures which peak near one hundred degrees Fahrenheit and plummet to eighty degrees below zero. Here, over a thousand miles above the mouth of the Yukon River, is

-3-

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Gold at Fortymile Creek: Early Days in the Yukon
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • ILLUSTRATIONS AND MAPS ix
  • PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS xi
  • 1 - Early Days: The First Gold-Seekers Arrive 3
  • 2 - The Chilkoot Pass and Early Transportation 9
  • 3 - Early Developments on the Yukon River 18
  • 4 - The Miners' Code 25
  • 5 - The Fortymile Stampede 32
  • 6 - Strangers in a Strange Land 44
  • 7 - Years of Change 51
  • 8 - Forty Mile: Anatomy of a Gold Rush Town 68
  • 9 - The Arrival of the North-West Mounted Police 88
  • 10 - Death of the Miners' Committee 106
  • 11 - Circle: The Largest Log City in the World 115
  • 12 - The Discovery of Gold in the Klondike 129
  • 13 - Epilogue 146
  • APPENDIXES 151
  • Notes 169
  • Bibliography 187
  • Index 195
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