Gold at Fortymile Creek: Early Days in the Yukon

By Michael Gates | Go to book overview

12
THE DISCOVERY OF GOLD IN THE KLONDIKE

The discovery of gold in the Klondike is the single most important event in the history of the Yukon. The circumstances of the discovery are surrounded by controversy and dispute as to who was the true discoverer of gold in the Klondike. There are several players in this drama, with personalities as unlike each other as possible. The traditional story tells us that Robert Henderson, a Canadian from the Maritimes, was the first person to discover gold in the Klondike region, and that George Carmack, who staked the discovery claim on Bonanza Creek, denied Henderson his share in the discovery. 1


The 'Squaw Man'

George Carmack was born in Contra Costa County, California, on a wheat farm near Pacheco on 24 September 1860. At the age of two, he accompanied his parents east to Harvard, Illinois, where his mother died a short time later. 2 He returned with his father to Stockton, California, in the fall of 1865 and then went to Hollister, California, in 1869. At the age of twelve, Carmack was orphaned. He lived with his married sister for nine years. Eventually, his wanderlust took him north to Alaska. In the spring of 1885, he headed first for Juneau and then for Dyea. He spent the summer prospecting the upper reaches of the Yukon River, coming back out for the winter to work at Juneau. He signed on as a second mate on Healy and Wilson's schooner Charlie, and then helped the traders erect their first building in Dyea.

The following year, 1886, he accompanied miners named Barney Hill

-129-

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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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