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Alexander McDonald, one of the Klondike Kings in 1899

Arctic & Northern Biographies

Klondike Gold Rush

Dateline: June 27, 2022
This article was copied from the Dawson Daily News' Mining Edition, published in September 1899.

    ALEX. McDONALD is the largest mine owner in the Klondike and Indian River mining districts. Reaching Dawson in the fall of 1896 from his claim in the Fortymile district, he immediately struck up Bonanza and Eldorado to look over the various prospects. Learning from several of his friends what the prospect holes were yielding, he began purchasing Eldorado property. From the returns on Nos. 27 and 22 Eldorado he purchased property early in the winter of 1897 above and below in the vicinity of discovery on Hunker. From the proceeds of his early investments and year's purchases on Eldorado, Upper Bonanza and Hunker in the early winter of '97, he began buying claims on Dominion and Sulphur. At that time properties on Dominion and Sulphur could be bought for small sums. He purchased desirable claims for from $1,000 to $2,500 each. Their original locators had lost faith in their own properties, and, desiring grub, sacrificed their mining interests. After making a tour of Dominion in the biter cold months of December and the fore part of January, he crossed over to Sulphur and began picking up claims at nominal figures; so that at the present time he owns on Sulphur and has interests in the following claims:

    Above Discovery - Nos. 37, 36, 35, 33, 21, 31, 29, 27, 15, 14, 13, 11, 10, 8, 7 and discovery.

    Below - 3B, 5A, 7A, 16, 28, 36, 46, 47 and 48.

    Of these claims 13, 11, 10, 8 above, and 7A, 16, 28, 36, 46, 47, and 48 below have been only slightly worked. The most development work has been done on 36, 31 and 29 above. The laymen on 29 above struck the paystreak on the left limit in January. The paystreak was found to be wide, of good depth and with the gold distributed evenly through the gravel. The cleanup of this claim last spring was 6,554 ounces; the laymen this summer, on ground that had been partially worked by last winter's laymen, in five weeks time, yielded 4,336 ounces. The depth of this paystreak is from four to six feet, two and one-half feet being in gravel, the balance consisting of clay and ground-up bedrock. The width of the paystreak has not been determined. On No. 36 drifting was extended for over 100 feet across the creek bed, the ends of the cross drift being in pay gravel. The workings were extended 121 feet up and down the creek. This work was done this summer, with the aid of steam thawers.

    S. J. Stiles, an old Colorado miner and associate with Alex. McDonald in several of his mining interests, shares equally with him in the ownership of 36. He has charge of all the development work upon Alex. McDonald's mining claims, both on Dominion and Sulphur. His capable management of No. 36, Eldorado, in the summer sluicing of '98, fairly demonstrated that he was a thorough placer miner, and is conversant with labor-saving methods by which mining has become a science. It was generally conceded by the claim owners of Eldorado that his drain ditch and mode of sluicing were superior to any other work done that year on the creek. His value as a partner and executive ability in handling mines and men became a fact in the estimation of Alex. McDonald. So from that time on he has become one of the chief mining superintendents in the employ of Alex. McDonald. His summer work on 36 above, Sulphur, has added to his reputation as a capable man. He employed on 36 above 12 men underground and six men on top to handle the mine's work.

    A double compartment shaft was sunk to bedrock, a distance of 60 feet. It was timbered and lined with guides for the cage the same as obtained in quartz mining. With an improvised hoisting gear and chair frame for the resting of the cage, gravel was handled in wheelbarrows the same as cars filled with ore on the Comstock of Nevada. The engineer hoisted about 600 wheelbarrows in 10 hours' shift. In the day and night shift fully 1,200 wheelbarrows were raised and dumped into a gravity tramway; connecting with the sluice-boxes set along the creek bed. The gear was capable of hoisting 1,000 wheelbarrows in 10 hours, but this amount is more than the sluicehead could handle. The wheelbarrow used held 15 pans of gravel. The three boilers, with a combined 30-horse power, furnished the steam for the 15 points used and for the motor power in connection with the hoisting gear. The shafts were six feet two inches by eight feet two inches in the clear. The cars on the tramway handle the gravel from the platform, which receive the contents of the wheelbarrows, so that there is no delay or extra expense entailed in the conveyance of the pay gravel from the shaft to the sluices.

    It is the intention of Mr. Stiles to introduce an innovation in the line of winter sluicing on No. 36 above. To overcome the cold and frost he will build a long log building to cover the sluice-boxes and settling tanks. The water will be pumped from the mites and led into a feed tank. A coil of steampipe will reduce the temperature and keep it from freezing. The gravel will be dumped into a chute leading into the sluicebox. At the end of the sluicebog a movable iron grizzly will receive the coarse gravel and pieces of bedrock. The finer sand and gravel washing away in the tailbox to the creek bed below. The coarse gravel and bedrock will be removed by cars from the grizzly. A part of the water will be dumped from the sluicebox into large receiving tanks for the retention of sluicing water. Coils of steampipe will be placed in these tanks also. By means of these tanks the sluice water will be used over and over again, the sediment settling in extra tanks. A fan reversed would draw the warm air around the boiler to the further end of the sluicebox shed so as to maintain an even temperature in the interior.

    The prominent miners hold favorable and adverse opinions to the feasibility and success of winter sluicing, but Mr. Stiles is willing to take a chance that he will overcome the great obstacle, Jack Frost, who has prevented others from the mere thought of trying such an undertaking. It will be a great advance in the profits of Klondike mining if winter sluicing can be introduced with success and at a low cost; because it will place the placer mines on a paying basis the year round, doing away with the waiting upon spring cleanups for the payment of the men and liquidation of expenses.

    This coming winter a number of the claims on Sulphur, including 36, will be worked by the day's-pay system. The balance or greater number will be given out on 50 per cent lays. All the properties of Mr. McDonald on Sulphur will be worked with steam thawers. It is the intention of management to push the work and endeavor to work out the claims as quickly as possible. Mr. McDonald believes in results, and takes a different policy from other claim owners who are doing not much more than representation work, pinning their faith upon the government revising the mining laws and reducing the 10 per cent royalty tax. The output of Nos. 29 and 36 above has encourage mine owners on Sulphur. The Klondike Development company is following in the footsteps of Mr. McDonald at a rapid gait, and their development work will second his efforts in showing what Sulphur can do under extensive and favorable management.

    Alex. McDonald, besides working several of his properties on Sulphur, had a force of men on Nos. 12, 13, 36 and 37, Eldorado, engaged in summer sluicing. These claims produced a very large output of gold; in fact, excelling the yield of the previous two years. Nos. 13 and 36 are considered among the richest on Eldorado. On Hunker his mining interests were extensively worked. Summer sluicing was done on 2a, 3 and 6 bellow discovery. This ground is the richest part of Hunker creek. On Bonanza, 6 below was extensively sluiced and the paystreak located. On Nos. 36 and 37, Eldorado, the past two seasons have witnessed an extensive development work during the summer months. The ground in that section is shallow, which made it favorable for ground sluicing, so that expenses were cut in half over the amount expended in winter. On Dominion there was a little development work done on some of the claims performed in the nature of prospecting work, as the ground is too deep to admit of profitable summer sluicing. The same rule holds true on Sulphur creek, where the bedrock is from 30 to 60 feet under the surface. It is the intention of Alex. McDonald to introduce a larger number of thawers upon all his properties and carry on on a larger scale of operations than ever attempted in the two preceding years.

    The following is a complete list of his mining interests in the Yukon country:

    Besides his many mining interests he is one of the heaviest investors in Dawson realty and building improvements. He owns among his many buildings the Chisholm bloc, Bank of British North America building, the McDonald hotel, and his office building. Mr. McDonald presented to the Catholic congregation their present church, a two-story building built of logs and handsomely finished in the interior at a cost of $30,000. Last winter Mr. McDonald spent the greater part of his time in Great Britain, meeting the lady of his choice in the peson of Miss Chisholm, whom he married after a short acquaintanceship. He is energetic, has great faith in the future of the mining interests of the Yukon, and is by all odds the heaviest investor in the placer claims in the district. His business keeps him busy from morning till night, and though he is called King of the Klondike he is approachable in his affairs socially and financially as the humblest miner in the Yukon.