Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Klondike Gold Rush

The Klondike Gold Rush was touched off by the 16 August 1896 discovery of placer gold on Rabbit (later Bonanza) Creek, a tributary of the Klondike River.

It is now generally accepted that Skookum Jim made the actual discovery. George Carmack was officially credited for the discovery because the "discovery" claim was staked in his name. The group agreed to this because they felt that other miners would be reluctant to recognize a claim made by an Indian, given the strong racist attitudes of the time.
The gold rush that followed was confined that first year to the Yukon interior. Miners on the scene staked every creek in the Klondike and Indian river watersheds, including the fabulously rich Eldorado. News reached the US in July 1897, when the first successful prospectors arrived in San Francisco and Seattle, setting off the Klondike stampede.
In 1898, the population in the Klondike may have reached 40,000, which threatened to cause a famine.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer's description of "a ton of gold" touched off the stampede.

The effect on the depressed economy was instant as thousands of amateur gold seekers started north that fall and winter.
The rich went all the way by water; the poor struggled over the White Pass and Chilkoot Pass, then down the Yukon River.

The foolhardy took the "all-Canadian" routes through BC or out of Edmonton and found themselves spending 2 years on the trail.
Klondike fever was the catalyst and at one point more than sixty steamboats plied the Yukon. The new town of Dawson at the Klondike's mouth became the largest community north of Seattle and west of Winnipeg, boasting telephones, electricity and motion picture theatres.

Prostitution was tolerated; saloons, dancehalls and gaming parlours ran wide open except on Sundays.

The North-West Mounted Police kept Dawson a law-abiding town. The Spanish-American War and the news of a strike at Nome, Alaska, quickly ended the stampede in the summer of 1898.

It is estimated the goldseekers had spent some $50 million reaching the Klondike, a sum about equal to the amount taken from the diggings in the 5 years following Carmack's discovery.
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