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The Klondike: Bonanza Creek, 1898

The Klondike: Bonanza Creek, 1898

Klondike Gold Rush

The Klondike News,
Dawson, N.W.T., April 1st, 1898

    It becomes now our pleasant duty to write about the man who made all the trouble.

    The man who was inconsiderate enough to find gold in large quantities in a cold and desolate country so far from the comforts of our pleasant homes.

    The finding of gold "Beside the old birch tree" on that eventful day in August, 1896, was largely accidental, although the discoverer had roamed the Yukon from Dyea to Behring Sea for a full dozen of years, constantly searching for it. On this afternoon, however, he had been fishing for salmon, and happening to glance at the rim rock opposite the claim which he now owns, was greatly surprised to see a sprinkling of gold on the projecting bedrock, washed there by the running water.

    This same Bonanza Creek had borne the footprints of many a prospector before, who did not deem it worth his while to stop and investigate such an unpromising looking spot. Gold had already been found in small quantities by Henderson, on Gold Bottom Creek, across the divide from Bonanza, but it remained for George Carmack to discover "The Klondike" of to-day.

    And what a lot of trouble it has caused. Homes have been mortgaged, wives and families deserted and employers robbed by people of high and low degree determined to reach the land of gold at any cost.

    It has loosened up capital all over the world, stimulated inventive genius and created a market for much of our surplus products.

    It has given employment to thousands of men, caused cities and towns to spring up both at the mines and on the roads leading to them, and has put into commission many worthless hulks and boats that have since gone to the bottom.

    It has helped San Francisco, revived Portland, and been the making of Seattle.

    But more remarkable than all these things that this discovery has done, is the wonderful effect it has had upon the lives and happiness of about fifty thousand dogs. It has given them a commercial value that they never enjoyed before, caused them to eat food that cost a dollar a pound, and entitled them to a degree of respect that the most self-respecting dog heretofore could not expect. The man who kicks a dog in the Klondike may well expect to be kicked twice in return. And still the dogs are not happy. It was remarked very aptly recently that if the dogs of the Klondike but knew who discovered the gold and brought all the honor and hard work upon them, that they would rise as one jog and chase George Carmack out of the country.

    But of course George can't help all this, and it is suspected that he is glad that he found It.

    Geo. W. Carmack is a native son of the Golden West. He springs from one of the old frontier families that stampeded in 1849 and made for the borders of civilization shortly after the discovery of gold by Marshall. His youth was spent mostly on the back of a bounding mustang in picturesque and sunny southern California. Carmack was born at Port Costa, California, Sept. the 24th, 1860, on a cattle ranch.

    When the tide of civilization turned toward the land of the setting sun, when grazing lands were converted into orange orchards and vineyards and the fields into flower gardens; when the romantic vacqueros became a thing of the past, and the mustang gradually became extinct, then the pent-up frontier instinct that was smoldering in the breast of George Carmack, burst into a flame of stampede. He could no more settle down to the humdrum life of a farm or village than an eagle could thrive in a cage, and looking the broad land over he decided to strike for the unknown and unexplored interior of Alaska and the Northwest. Accordingly on the 31st of March, 1885, he left San Francisco, and arrived in Juneau in April, where he organized a party of seven which crossed Chilkoot Pass in May and prospected the headwaters of Lewis River and the Lakes as far as Mile Canyon without success. He returned to Juneau in the Fall. In the following spring he built a station at Dyea, crossed the Pass again late in the Summer and prospected the headwaters of the Lewis River as far as Big Salmon, retracing his steps again in the Fall. In the following Spring he joined Major Ogilvie's surveying party and piloted them to Lake Bennett. He then again returned to Salt Water and took a stock of Indian goods over the Pass and down the lakes to the mouth of the Hootalingua. Here, with two Indians, as companions, he spent the summer casting about with pick and pan, gun and traps.

    During the eleven years that the discoverer of the 19th Century El Dorado wandered among forests and lakes, rivers and marshes, glaciers and mountains, two trusty Siwash Indians, "Skookum Jim" and "Takish Charlie," were his only companions. Their white friend soon taught the aborigines how to hunt for goid.

    During one season spent on the Hootalinqua, one sack of flour was the allowance for the party. They were all good hunters and trappers and lived by their guns. In 1889, Carmack boated down the Yukon River to Forty-Mile Creek, and from there to Fort Yukon and back. The year 1890 found this restless prospector on Birch Creek, where he found a fair showing of gold, but had to return to Forty-Mile for provisions. During the next four years he had a trading post at Five Fingers, and built the Mission building at Pelly River, or old Fort Selkirk. Early in the spring of '96, the man who set the whole world wild by his discoveries separated from his red companions and found his way to Forty-Mile again. On August he went fishing for salmon on the Klondike River. "Skookum Jim" and "Takish Charlie" grew lonely and yearned for their white companion. They had started down the river shortly after the break-up, and at the mouth of the Klondike there was a reunion of the three hunters. They decided to cross over to Gold Bottom, where it was reported that gold had been found in small quantities. On August the 17th, about twelve miles from the mouth of Bonanza Creek, Carmack stuck the first shovel in the ground beside a big birch tree. As a result of the pan several coarse colors were found, and one-half hour's work by the three men filled a shotgun cartridge full of yellow metal. Carmack staked Discovery claim, commencing at the big birch tree; "Skookum Jim" took No. 1 above, and "Takish Charlie" No. 1 below, and the party then started to Forty-Mile to record. The first parties met were McKay and Waugh, Dave Edwards and Dan McGilvory, four worn-out miners, discouraged and disheartened, who had spent the Winter and Spring in fruitless search for gold in the Upper Yukon.

    When they saw the gold and heard Carmack's story of his discovery, and knew that they were to be the first upon the ground, their faces brightened and their spirits revived.

    They were fortunate in locating on choice ground. C. Raymond, H. Peterson, L. Cooper and Mr. Monoham, were the next party to learn of the find; they located below Discovery. Two Frenchmen coming down the Yukon in a boat were hailed by Carmack's party and informed of the big strike on Bonanza Creek. They at once took the fever, and unloading their boat, forgot to tie it in their excitement, and started for the new diggings.

    When Carmack reached Forty-Mile he at once began to celebrate his discovery by getting on a spree, getting the whole Forty-Mile Camp on a jamboree. Most of the townspeople stampeded at once, and the news spread like wild fire. The merchants and real estate owners of that town tried to discourage the excited miners, but all who knew Carmack had faith in his stories, and Forty-Mile Creek was soon deserted. Circle City also got word of the new El Dorado, and about holiday time the whole town maddened with excitement rushed to the new gold fields, Many who could not get claims on Bonanza Creek were forced to go to El Dorado or return without staking. Adams Creek and several tributaries to Bonanza were staked in preference to Eldorado. Many men have laid claim to the discovery of gold in Klondike, those who found colors back as far as the Hudson Bay Company, on the Yukon River, and let it be said to the credit of the Northwest as a gold bearing region, that hardly a shoveiful of gravel along the Yukon River and its tributaries can be found, that will not show colors of gold. But the man who discovered gold in paying quantities is George Carmack, who has spent the best part of his life searching for it over the broad domain of the Northwest in regions unknown to the white man.

    During all the excitement and squabble for grounds, Carmack has protected his Indian partners against the speculative and wily white man. The fifteen hundred feet of ground owned by himself and the two red men of the forest is the richest spot on all the Klondike.

    A pay streak fully one hundred feet wide, from four to five feet deep, would show at the low estimate of fifty cents per pan, two and a half millions of dollars. Since some of this ground pays as much as one hundred dollars per pan, and that hardly a prospect of less than twenty-five cents can be found on the entire ground, it can readily be seen that the fortune that Carmack has dreamed of for years has materialized beyond his expectations.

    Carmack is a handsome specimen of typical frontiersman, over six feet tall, with broad shoulders and a handsome face. He has a deep, serious look and is not given to talking much.

    His love for new scenes has inspired in him the idea of building his own boat to visit the Paris Exposition in 1900, and he has selected for his tour an extended voyage through the South Sea Islands, Japan, China, through the Straits' settlement and Suez Canal, taking in the Holy Land and the country bordering on the Mediterranean Sea, returning by way of the Atlantic.

    From an old memorandum book is taken a few lines written by the wanderer on Christmas, 1888, when in his mountain habitat, far from civilization and many miles from the track of any living man.

By George Carmack.
Christmas Eve, 1888.

    I'm camped on a mountain side to-night
        one hundred miles from the sea,
    "And the smell of the caribou steak on the coals,
        is a grateful odor to me.
    "For the deer were fleet-footed and shy to-day
        and I've roamed the mountain's breast,
    "Till the bear skin robe on my cozy bed
        seems beckoning me to rest.
    "But a tall old Spruce by the camp-fire's glow
        bows his glittering top to me,
    "And seems to whisper 'Tis Christmas Eve
        and I am your Christmas Tree.'
    "Then a flood of memories o'er me sweeps
        and my spirit afar doth roam,
    "To where there's another glittering tree,
        in an California home.
    "There all is light and life and love and
        the children laugh with glee,
    "And I cannot but wonder with wistful pain
        are they thinking to-night of me?
    "But a whisper comes from the tall old Spruce
        and my soul from pain is free,
    "For I know when they kneel together tonight
        they'll all be praying for me."

    These tender lines show that a love of home is deeply implanted in Carmack's breast in spite of the fact that he has been a wanderer for many years. This is further evidenced by the surroundings of his home life upon the claim. In that neat cabin upon No. 1 Bonanza, the visitor is likely to receive some surprises. The first of these will be a handsome organ, and the second will be a well stocked library; on the centre table one can also find magazines of more or less recent date, such as the Scientific American, The North American Review and The Review of Reviews. The host can also discuss intelligently all the recent inventions of the day, although he has never seen an electric light nor heard a friend shout "Hello" through a telephone.

    The editor of the "News" recently spent an evening at the Carmack cottage and was greatly entertained by Mr. Carmack's discourse on scientific subjects, such as sound waves, sympathetic telegraphing and the theories of Nicola Tesla.

    "Skookum Jim," as his name implies to the initiated, is a stalwart specimen of the interior tribes of the Yukon, without the oriental characteristics that a too close connection with Japan has given his coastal brothers. He enjoys the novel distinction of being a millionaire immensely, and spends money with both hands.

    He is a hard and faithful worker, however, and spends most of his time upon his claim.

    "Takish Charley," his brother, is not quite so "skookum" in size, but more than makes it up in speed, and is "speedy" in every sense of the word. He dresses like a tailor's model, spends his money like a road agent, and never bets less than the limit.

    Mr. Carmack keeps a watchful eye upon his two proteges and they will undoubtedly have plenty of money in their old age.

    Carmack, by the way, likes a touch of high life occasionally himself, and is very popular among the boys. One of the favorite songs in Dawson relates how Carmack found the gold, and is as follows:

(Tune, I Wonder Why.)

    George Carmack. on Bonanza Creek, went out to look for gold,
        I wonder why, I wonder why;
    Old-timers said it was no use, the water was too cold,
        I wonder why, I wonder why;
    They said that he might search that creek until the world did end,
    And not enough of gold he'd find a postage stamp to send,
    They said the willows on that creek the other way should bend,
        I wonder why, I wonder why,
    I wonder why, | wonder why, to solve the mystery I very often try,
        I wonder why, I wonder why.
    Now he's worth a million dollars, the old-timers they are broke,

    George Carmack roamed the Yukon from Dyea to Behring Sea,
        I wonder why, I wonder why;
    Before he sunk that little hole beside the old birch tree,
        I wonder why, I wonder why;
    "Twas Providence directed him, 'tis agreed by everyone,
    That people might inhabit this fair land of mid-night Sun,
    Who all join to honor Carmack for the work that he has done,
        Who wonders why, who wonders why.

    I wonder why, I wonder why,
    to solve the mystery I very often try,
    Now Carmack is rewarded for the work that he has done,
        Who wonders why, who wonders why.

    Once Marshall up on Sutter Creek, picked up a chunk of gold,
        I wonder why, I wonder why;
    How oft in song and story this discovery has been told,
        I wonder why, I wonder why;
    It was a lucky accident that Marshall famous made,
    His statue carved in marble guards the spot where he is laid,
    Where ere a native son may roam, his memory cannot fade,
        Who wonders why, who wonders why.

    I wonder why, I wonder why, to solve the mystery I very often try,
    We will mould a statue of pure gold of Carmack by and by,
        Who wonders why, who wonders why.