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Alaskas Gold Rush

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The gold rush era in the United States began in California in 1848 and ended around the year 1900. (Yukon) Although miners searched for the valuable metal into the twentieth century, the Klondike gold rush, which was around 1897 till 1900, was the last of some of the major rushes to occur. People had flocked to the upper part of the Yukon River in hopes of striking it rich. Many people had traveled from the Canadian and American regions to the center of the Klondike gold rush to fulfill their dreams of one day being rich with gold. (Place 48) The Yukon River Valley of Canada and Alaska was once peaceful and isolated, wild animals and a few white trappers and people. The miners had wandered north after the California fields gave out and fulfilled their dreams on a few dollars in gold they managed to eke out of their mines. This loss of gold in California had made the peaceful Alaska into a rampage of greed and envy that would never make Alaska the same.

The United States acquired Alaska in 1867, but it was basically unknown and unsettled until the late 1890's, when a large number people from Canada and America had gathered there in search of gold. (Alaska's Gold) Juneau, Alaska had been established in 1880 after gold was found there, but the major strike occurred in August 1896, when the son of a California forty-niner, John Muir, found gold while panning in Rabbit Creek, which had soon become Bonanza Creek. Several men during this initial period enjoyed gold patches that had brought them all more then one-million dollars. News about this particular gold strike did not reach California and the rest of the West Coast until the summer of 1897. This gold rush had followed the pattern of the California gold rush of 1849. (Poynter 79)

In 1880, one of the largest gold rushes was started. John Muir was one of few men who began the series of Alaskan Gold Rushes, and made Alaska what it is well known for, the last frontier. John Muir was on a canoe trip through the inside passage in 1879, and he had predicted there would be large amounts of gold in Juneau, Alaska's capitol in present day America. In 1886, John Muir, along with two other men, stopped to have lunch by Rabbit Creek, and saw a sight that was to set the world on fire with gold fever. Never mind that by the time the news reached the cities, the gold fields were completely claimed; the United States and thousands of people were willing to gamble everything they ever had on the chance of finding gold in the northlands.

In August 1896, three men led by Skookum Jim Mason headed north, down the Yukon River from the Carcross area, looking for his sister Kate and her husband George Carmack. The other people that were part of the expedition were Skookum Jim's cousin, Dawson Charlie, and his nephew Patsy Henderson. After meeting up with George and Kate, they ran into Nova Scotian Robert Henderson who had been mining gold on the Indian River, which was south of the Klondike. Robert Henderson had clearly stated to Skookum Jim that he did not want any Siwashes, which are Indians, near him or where he was mining.

On August 16, 1896, they had discovered rich gold deposits in Bonanza Creek. It is now generally accepted that Skookum Jim had made the actual discovery, but some accounts say that it was Kate Carmack, Skookum's sister. George Carmack was officially credited for the discovery because the claim was staked in his last name. The group agreed to this because they felt that other miners would be reluctant to recognize a claim made by an Indian, since there were strong racist attitudes of the time.

After their discovery the news spread to other mining camps in the Yukon River Valley, and the Bonanza, Eldorado and Hunker Creeks were rapidly staked by miners who had been previously working creeks and sandbars on the Fortymile and Stewart Rivers. Robert Henderson, who was mining only a few miles away over the hill, only found out about the discovery after the rich creeks had been all staked. (Klondike)

Driven by rumors of gold elsewhere, many people scattered across the vast lands of the Alaskan tundra in search of the metal, moving as far north as the Arctic Circle in some cases. (Klondike) Historians had estimated that a whopping one-hundred thousand people journeyed to the Dawson City area in search of gold. In the summer of 1899, miners had discovered gold in the sand on the beach near Nome, Alaska, an isolated area that is located near the Bering Strait. (Alaska's Gold) This had begun another Alaska gold rush. Steamers from Seattle were unable to crack the ice that had already formed late in the summer, and eager miners were forced to wait until next season. The Klondike gold rush, and the rush to Nome, succeeded in opening up the last frontier of the United States and was the final opportunity for the amateur people to claim poor man's gold.

Violence had escalated during the Klondike gold rush, and greed and envy had become an everyday thing for the people of the last frontier. Prices for necessities that were brought in with difficulty had inflated extremely. Also, men did not like the idea of the growing population in the area.

The people of the Klondike gold rush had many different methods of mining. They had no elaborate equipment, so ways of mining were difficult. The bed rock upon which the gold was located usually was frozen. To penetrate the permafrost, minders had to burn out a shaft with wood fires. The tedious process of thawing, removing dirt, and

then thawing again led finally to bedrock. Then miners hoisted the gold-bearing gravel to the surface in buckets and, in the summer months when water was available,



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