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The Klondike: Hunker Creek, 1898

The Klondike: Hunker Creek, 1898

Klondike Gold Rush

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

The Golden Hunker.

    Hunker Creek, the fame of whose gold-ladened bed, has gone over the world, and the story of whose riches has astonished mankind, runs almost parallel with Bonanza Creek, and empties into the Klondike nearly twenty miles above Dawson. It is fed by Last Chance, Gold Bottom and many other streams whose waters run over golden sands. It is a stream that has been but little worked as yet, for it may be said that mining is in its infancy there, but enough has been done to show that the rich treasure which lies in the gravel above the bedrock, and in the banks which are kissed by its golden waters, is practically inexhaustible.

    Nature seems to have been more than prodigal in the distribution of her wealth uitong that favored stream, for, in the gravel that forms its bed at its source to the sands that glisten along its banks at its mouth, the yellow nuggets are strewn like shells on the beach.

    The journey from Dawson to the point where Hunker Creek mingles its waters with the Klondike River can easily be made in a day, but it will require another day to complete the trip to the place where the discovery claim is staked; but one need not go very far along the Hunker before meeting with husky looking miners who are delving in the ground for the shining nuggets which they know to be there, and who think themselves very fortunate to be able to lay claim to a location anywhere on that creek.

    The history of the discovery of the creek and the rich placers which have made it famous, is a romantic one, and the name itself suggests to those who are familiar with the story the unusual incidents which preceded the bestowal of the title by the discoverers. Chance had considerable to do with the discovery of the gold which has since made the name Hunker familiar to thousands who have never been in the Northwest Territory, and if possible had more to do with the naming of the creek, for had tne silver coin which was flipped into the air by the happy prospectors who unearthed the first gold there, turned over once more before it fell on the sands, the rich watercourse might have gone down into the records of the Northwest and out into the world as the Johnson, instead of the Hunker. But to the story.

    Andrew Hunker and Charles M. Johnson, when they heard the news of George Carmack’s lucky strike on Bonanza Creek, immediately left for the new diggings. They had spent considerable time prospecting on the various creeks, and had come to the conclusion that there was gold in large quantities in the country awaiting the lucky man who should stumble onto it, and as soon as they had arrived at Bonanza they determined to look for the rich placers which they were sure were no great distance away. They remained on Bonanza just long enough to locate a claim apiece, and then, with packs upon their backs, started over the mountain from Bonanza.

    Although the country was unknown to them, they crossed over McCormick's forks, without a guide, to the head of a stream which was afterwards named Last Chance, and which proved to be a tributary of what is now the Hunker. With much difficulty they made their way along this creek, on which the foot of a white man had probably never traveled before and came to a large creek. They went up this latter stream, prospecting as they went along, and were gratified to find colors of gold at different places. When they had gone about eight miles up the stream they stopped and began panning on the rim of the creek, which was what is known as a small rim.

    The first panful of dirt yielded ten cents, the next twenty-five cents and the third one $2.50. In six hours they panned out $22.75. The next day, September 6, 1896, they set their stakes on a claim of 1500 feet which they located as the discovery, and then located. Nos. 1 above and 1 below.

    As it was necessary for the purpose of recording their claims to have a name for the creek, the partners concluded to bestow one on it, and agreed to let chance decide which of the two should have the honor. A half dollar was pitched into the air, the partners agreeing that on its head or tail the name of the creek should be settled. Hunker chose "head" and Johnson "tail" The coin was tossed and when it landed the head of the piece was uppermost and Hunker named the creek after himself.

    After locating the partners went to Forty-Mile to record their claims and incidentally to get provisions. Bonanza and Hunker were formerly two mining divisions, but later all the streams flowing into the Yukon were united and merged into what is known as the Troandik division of the Yukon mining district.

    When they returned they built a cabin on their discovery claim and began sluicing. One man worked three hours one afternoon and sluiced out $75.00. In the spring of ‘97 they sluiced out some ground and cleaned up about $16,000. A great many nuggets were found and among them wes the largest one that has ever been taken in the Hunker district. It weighed $176.00.

    The claims on Hunker are what are known as good summer and winter diggings. There is from 15 to 20 feet of gravel, and the pay dirt is from one to six feet deep and about 200 feet wide. On discovery some of the banner pans yielded $200.

    No. 2 is a good claim as is also No. 3. The pay streak on Nos. 4 and 5 is very rich, as it is also on the other claims in the district.

    The creek was not long vacant after Messrs. Hunker and Johnson made their discovery known. The news spread rapidly and in a surprisingly short time, a stampede had taken place. A big crowd cushed up to the discovery and began panning out. They staked Hunker to the narrows and to the head of the creek on the right hand fork. A great many veuch claims were also staked, and many of them will yleld fortunes to their owners, and when the creek is surveyed there will be an opportunity to stake more bench claims.

    The pay streak on Hunker is much longer than that on Bonanza, although not nearly as much work has been done. as has been said, mining on the Hunker igs as yet in its infaucy. The reason for this is that the road to Hunker is hardly worthy of the name, while it is much easier to get to Bonanza and El Dorado, and in consequence the work on those two creeks has progressed much more rapidly than it has on Hunker. When the problem of getting to Hunker Creek with the appliances which will be brought into the country has been solved, the rich placers on that creek will be developed more rapidly than they are at the present time.

    At the present rate of working, it will take at least five or six years for the miners to get the main pay streak worked and at the end of that time, companies can take hold of the property and with improved methods go on working successfully aud with much profit for twenty years to come. The high price of living and the expense of labor made it impossible to work any but the best claims last year and nothing but the richest streaks were touched. Many portions of the claims now on Hunker which are not worked for this reason, wiil pay well under the altered conditions which the next few years will bring about.

    It is not a very wild prediction to say that in the near future some very rich deposits of quartz will be found near the headwaters of the Hunker. The character of the gold found in the stream would indicate as much. Whether the gold exists in ledges or not seems to be a mooted question, The majority of the miner along the stream, who have given the subject much thought, incline to the belief that the quartz is in pockets. The doubt will at some near time be set at rest, for the source of all the coarse gold cannot long remain hidden from the observant eyes of the hundreds of experts of quartz who will go into the country when the craze after placers has somewhat abated.

    A great deal of gold has already been taken out of Hunker in the form of nuggets and coarse gold, but the amount already washed up will not be a drop in the bucket to the fortunes which will be brought out in the spring. Conservative men place the yield of Hunker this year to be between five to ten millions. That this is a low estimate, none who have seen the gold that has been drifted out already, or the amount of dirt on the dumps awaiting the spring wash-up, will doubt.

    And the amount that will be brought away by the fortunate miners this summer will only represent a fraction of that which will be taken from the almost inexhaustible treasures in Hunker Creek.

Andrew Hunker.

    One of the richest creeks in the Klondike district bears the name of the subject of this sketch, but as the story of the discovery of that wonderful gold-bearing stream is fully told in an article on this page, nothing more than the mere mention of the fact will be made here. As the accompanying picture shows, Andrew Hunker is a man whom anyone would pick out of a crowd as an individual whose strength of character and strong determination would persevere against the most overwhelming odds, and succeed in undertakings before which a less determined nature would quail.

    One would not have to be a phrenologist to see the dogged, resolute purpose expressed in his well chiseled chin, or to learn from his steady, observant eye, the quick intelligence necessary to direct the great forces of a physique made perfect by the hand of Nature and strengthened by the healthful exercise which his calling gives, for his features truly and unmistakably denote the traits of his character.

    Mr. Hunker is a native of Germany, and was born in Wittenberg in 1851. Ten years later he came to America and located in Pennsylvania where he made his home until 1875, leaving that place to go west. He spent some years in the quartz mines of Siskiyou and Trinity counties and in 1882 went into British Columbia where he prospected in North Townsend and Big Bend, in the Kootenay district. He made considerable money in the Consolidation claim, but sank it again in developing other properties.

    In the spring of 1894, Mr. Hunker, in company with four other prospectors, came to the North West Territory, by way of the Dyea Pass. He prospected the streams all along the main route and found gold in nearly all of them. He spent some time in the vicinity of Selkirk and then went to Forty Mile, and thence to Miller and Glacier creeks which streams he prospected and found but little gold. He also prospected on Little Gold creek, but that stream appeared to be wrongly named, for there was no gold there.

    In company with his partner, Mr. Johnson, he went to Bear creek and was working the bars along that stream, when the news of the Bdnanza discoveries reached him. He did not wait, but started for the new diggings with Mr. Johnson, on the evening of the day the news reached them. He staked 31 below on Bonanza, but as others claimed it, and as serious complications, have arisen in regard to the ownership, in consequence, he sold out at the very small figure of $1,500, $500 of which was paid in cash and the balance was to be paid on the bedrock. The bedrock was apparently very deep on that claim, for Mr. Hunker has not yet received the $1,000 which is still due on it. The claim is now in the possession of Lou Cooper.

    On September 5th, he arrived on the creek which now bears his name and the next day stnked the Discovery claim which was the first recorded in the district.

    Mr. Hunker has interests in the Discovery and on 1 above and 1 below. The claims have proved very rich. The biggest nugget ever found on the creek was found by him and weighed $52.50. From a hole 8x8 feet $1,200 was taken, and from another about 20x18, $11,000 was taken.

    The hardy miner crossed over McCormick's forks without a guide. Another Instance of his hardihood was his encounter with a big bear which he killed in front of his cabin.

    After the spring clean up Mr. Hunker will visit his relatives in the east.

Charles M. Johnson.

    Charles M. Johnson, a picture of whom appears on this page, has the distinction of being one of the two men wno discovered Hunker Creek, and gave to the world the knowledge of the placers whose richness has made that creek famous. As will be seen by the picture Mr. Johnson is a tall, strong looking man, a typical specimen of the hardy, adventurous frontiersman, whose untiring energy and indomitable courage have opened up some of the best mineral producing countries in the world. The big fur coat which envelops his robust form, is the kind which the severity of the weather in that frozen region makes it incumbent on the miners to wear. From his bearded face, beam a pair of kindly eyes, which reflect the goodness of a heart that beats in sympathy with the misfortunes of his fellow man.

    Mr. Johnson was born in Vinton county, Ohio, in 1850, and when 15 years old went to Illinois where he engaged in the occupation of a farmer, remaining there until 1871, when he removed to Linn county, Missouri. He followed agricultural pursuits there until 1874 when he left and in the spring of 1875 went to California. Going to the redwood forests of Humboldt county, he engaged in the business of logging, which he followed until the fall of 1879, when he took a trip te San Francisco where the winter was spent.

    The following spring the young man spent on the Columbia River, Oregon, and in the following summer proceeded to Victoria, British Columbia, and thence up to Yale on the Frazier River. From here he carried his blanket to Clinton, in the Luluwood district, where he secured work on a hay ranch. After remaining there a short time he pushed his way into the Caribou mining district and spent some time in prospecting on the south fork of the Quenselle river. He afterwards secured work in the South Fork Hydraulic Mining Company.

    He remained in British Columbia about fourteen years, spending a part or the time in Queen Charlotte Island, where he prospected for coal and timber.

    Another winter was spent in San Francisco and when spring opened he went to Cook's Inlet and in the summer that he spent there prospecting, he located valuable petroleum deposits, which on being tested were found to contain 53 per cent of illuminating oil. In the spring of '96 Mr. Johnson left San Francisco for Forty-Mile via Dyea. He made the trip in safety carrying 1000 pounds of provisions and arrived at his destination early in July. Some months were spent in prospecting on Miller, Poker, Glacier, Davis, Bear and Clinton creeks.

    While at Forty-Mile Mr. Johnson became acquainted with Andrew Hunker, and hearing of the strike on the Boranza they went together to that stream and located claims there, the former staking No. 43 below. He went to Forty-Mile to record his claim and when he got back he, in company with Mr. Hunker, started out witb a pack on his back and discovered the creek which now bears the name of his partner, Hunker. He and his partner staked Discovery and Nos. 1 above and 1 below. These are the richest claims on the creek. In the spring of '97 $16,000 was sluiced out and the amount that will be taken out this spring will far exceed that. These claims are rich in nuggets.