T.A. MacLean/Gates collection Geological party at Look-out cabin on the trail to Dublin Gulch. From this point on, the trail was nothing but marsh and muskeg, impassable in the summer for ‘any conveyance other than pack animals’.

History Hunter: Hard rock mining on Dublin Gulch is more than a century old

Dublin Gulch was said to have been first staked by 1897

The Klondike gold rush drew tens of thousands of hopeful prospectors into the north hoping to strike it rich in the placers of Bonanza Eldorado and numerous other creeks. But among them were a smaller but unwavering brigade of prospectors who were determined to burrow beneath the placer gravels into bedrock in hope of finding the mother lode. These prospectors spread out to the branches of tributaries in regions so remote that they weren’t yet even plotted on maps.

One of these remote locations was Dublin Gulch, which was said to have been first staked by 1897. There was a staking rush to the area in 1901. Interest quickly dwindled and many of these claims lapsed, but another flurry of staking occurred two years later. James Corkery staked the “Barrett” quartz claim below the mouth of Dublin Gulch on April 28, 1903, and entered into a partnership with H.W. McWhorter, J.A. Davidson and W. Williamson. McWhorter would later play a significant role in the development of mining in the Mayo district. Many other prospectors quickly followed suit.

In 1907, Jack Stewart and Dr. William Catto staked the “Victoria” claim on a major vein containing gold and silver, on the north face of Potato Hill Ridge, overlooking Dublin Gulch. The following year, Robert “Bobbie” Fisher staked the “Olive” mineral claim, which he named after his niece, Olive Powers Kinsey.

Bobbie Fisher came to the Yukon from Newfoundland during the Klondike gold rush. He mined on Dominion Creek in the Klondike district for several years before moving to Mayo in 1906. He remained in this vicinity for the rest of his life. Fisher was a hard working prospector who was full of optimism, but he never struck it rich himself.

William Aldcroft relocated the “King Edward” claim in 1908 and shortly thereafter sold it to Martin Joseph Raney and Henrietta Williamson. Rainey and Williamson each sold their half shares to Stewart and Catto, who formed a partnership December 18, 1909.

Dr. Catto was a Dawson City physician with an active interest in promoting and developing hard rock properties. He is most well-known for his involvement in the development of the Lone Star quartz mine on Victoria Gulch, a tributary of Bonanza Creek, about 15 miles from Dawson City.

Other claims owned by Stewart and Catto included the “Dublin King,” the “Foundation,” the “Happy Jack,” and the “Victoria.” Over the following years, they continued to develop their property, with Stewart doing the brutal physical work of tunneling into bedrock, and Catto being the promoter. By 1921, in addition to numerous surface cuts and shafts, Stewart had excavated more than 500 metres of tunnels.

Another active hard rock developer was Frank Carscallen. In 1909, he staked the “Margaret” claim and grouped it with the “Mexican,” the “Ophir,” the “Midas,” the “Blue Grouse,” and the “Sore Leg” claims. Carscallen, who was rumoured to have been a lawyer at one time, lived in the Mayo district for 30 years, and served a term on territorial council from 1928 to 1931, representing the Mayo district.

In 1910, the outlook was optimistic for the hard rock prospects in the Dublin Gulch area. An article in the Dawson Daily News stated that there was: “…work on the Dublin properties, where Stewart & Catto have a group with tunnel far in; and other work on Dublin now being pushed by Wooler and Fisher.”

Investment was coming from people living in the Klondike. “They are showing their faith by reinvestment,” indicated the article. The work continued in 1911; Stewart had driven his tunnel in another five metres, though he did not state on which claim the tunnel was located. The quartz vein he was working, though a mere ten centimetres wide on the surface, had quickly expanded to 45 centimetres where Stewart had tunneled. Meanwhile, Bobbie Fisher was reporting optimistic results for the Olive mine.

It was looking so favorable for hard rock prospecting on Dublin Gulch that men were reported to be quitting their jobs so that they could work on the hard rock propositions. An editorial in the Dawson Daily News in September of 1911 stated: “A movement is on the foot to place a mill or two on Dublin Gulch, on the upper Stewart.”

It further rhapsodized: “This widespread activity in the stamp mill work in the North is exhilarating …The new era is dawning in the North. Let everyone encourage the miner and by rational and sure process work toward the realization of the great destiny of the Northland.”

Returning to Dawson from Dublin Gulch in 1911, sourdough Klondiker Curley Munroe announced to the Dawson Daily News that Dublin Gulch was the biggest thing he had ever seen:

“The property owned by Fisher and Sprague is where the rich pay has been struck. Two men who went up the last trip with us took a large steel mortar device for crushing rock, and it was reported they were pounding out $40 a day on a lay. Curley had gone over the ground and found no quartz open for staking closer than eight miles from the original property. He wanted to buy, but found the property held at impossible figures for him … There is talk of sending a stamp mill or two to the property this fall. Mr. Sprague will not decide, he says, for a few days what will be the plan for the operations the coming winter.”

But there was no more vocal mining promoter in 1911 than Bobbie Fisher. He was in Dawson City for Christmas, 1911, and dropped in to the Dawson Daily News office to show off samples of the rock, and leave some of them at the News for others to examine. Fisher was close-mouthed about his own property, but expressed confidence that it would prove to be of great value. He sank a shaft down 10 metres, and the vein he was following was more than three shovel lengths in width. Nearly two metres of the vein, he said, was exceedingly rich. Assays showed more than $300 to the ton.

The Olive claim adjoined the Sprague group, which in turn, was shoulder–to-shoulder with the Stewart and Catto property. Despite lackluster reviews from visiting experts, Fisher said that investors were anxious to learn all about the work. Bowles Colgate Sprague had staked hard rock claims on Dublin Gulch the year before. His “Blue Lead” group consisted of eight claims that contained a two metre vein that yielded a promising $2.50 to $27of gold per ton for a couple of hundred metres.

But there was more promise in the rocky hills overlooking this tiny tributary. In my next column, geologists look beyond the gold, and war intervenes.

Michael Gates is a Yukon historian and sometimes adventurer based in Whitehorse. His book, From the Klondike to Berlin, was shortlisted for a national book award. You can contact him at msgates@northwestel.net

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