the gold rush that never was

Some guys have all the luck. Seven years after striking it rich on Rabbit Creek in the Klondike, Skookum Jim and Dawson Charlie were at it again.

Some guys have all the luck.

Seven years after striking it rich on Rabbit Creek in the Klondike, Skookum Jim and Dawson Charlie were at it again. This time they were credited with finding gold in the Ruby Range, east of Kluane Lake.

Charlie staked the first claim on July 4, 1903; he aptly called it the Fourth of July claim.

A few months later, in October 1903, four men went to Whitehorse with 43 ounces of gold they had found on Bullion Creek in just 9 days.

The Kluane Gold Rush was officially on.

By March of 1904, more than 2,000 claims had been staked in the area.

Hopes were high for the new find. Many thought the rush to Kluane would rival the rush to the Klondike which happened just a few years earlier.

“Sluicing operations produced pans averaging $0.45 or more with some going as high as $2. Not bad, considering gold was worth $20 an ounce in 1904,” wrote Marc Stevenson in an article titled Kluane’s Golden Past.

“Prospects looked so good that a Vancouver company planned to build a million-dollar railway from Whitehorse to the Kluane gold fields.”

Hundreds of men flocked to prospect in the area and the North West Mounted Police followed.

There were predictions that 10,000 miners would come to the area, but only a few thousand materialized at the rush’s peak.

“Bullion Creek was the scene of frenzied activity, the busiest camp since the big Rush itself,” wrote Stevenson.

“Tent camps and hotels, reputed to be the largest and finest buildings in the district, sprang up on Bullion and nearby Sheep Creek.”

In 1904, the Mounties set up detachments in canvas tents on Ruby Creek, Bullion Creek and Pine Creek, before establishing a permanent detachment in a small new community called Kluane or Silver City.

In mid-June 1904, a find on Burwash Creek lured the hungry prospectors to the north. Bullion Creek was all but abandoned.

By 1905, only a few hundred prospectors remained in the area.

Despite the modest returns one man felt it was the time to act.

W.L. Breeze, an Englishman, sunk $300,000 in to the Bullion Hydraulic Company.

It was a move Stevenson called: “one of the largest financial blunders in Yukon mining history.”

In 1906, Breeze pulled out of Bullion after pulling out just $1,000 in gold.

By 1914, less than $40,000 of gold had been taken from the creeks and by 1915 Silver City had just one resident.

Many prospectors were disappointed in this short-lived rush, but at least one man made a living out of Kluane’s gold veins.

Louis Jacquot, who ran a trading post with his brother Eugene at Burwash Landing, is believed to have taken the largest amount of gold from the Burwash area.

It’s said Louis took 220 ounces, which was then valued at about $4,000.

The brothers also worked as big game outfitters from the 1920s to the 1940s.

The wagon road they used to transport clients and supplies to the Kluane area from Whitehorse became the Alaska Highway in 1942.

This column is provided by the MacBride Museum of Yukon History. Each week it will explore a different morsel of Yukon’s modern history. For more information, or to comment on anything in this column e-mail lchalykoff@macbridemuseum.com.

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