The Taylor family on Dublin Gulch in the early 1950s. Frank Taylor, back left, Lowell Bleiler, back right, Fred Taylor’s sister (or half sister) Marjorie, front left, Fred Taylor, front centre, and Jim Taylor. Frank’s first job for his father, at age nine, earned him eight and a half cents per hour. (Submitted/Lowell Bleiler collection)

History Hunter: The Dublin Gulch story: Part two

Despite depopulation during World War I, 14 men were reported still engaged in placer mining on Dublin Gulch 85 kilometres north of Mayo.

Access to the creek created problems for the miners, and although a double-ender sleigh road was to be built to the creek, rising costs, expensive transportation and a stagnant gold price all combined to diminish interest in mining there through this period. By 1925 the only miners left on the creek were the brothers, Nathan and William Abbott, as well as William Portlock and Robert Fisher.

During the summer of 1932, Theodore “Ted” Bleiler, a teacher posted to Keno City, and his partner, Norval Lochore, did some prospecting on Dublin Gulch. In three weeks, they recovered $1400 in gold. Their clean-up was enough to start a small staking spree, in the area.

Bleiler gave up teaching and turned to mining on Dublin Gulch, but the rich ground that got them started petered out and Lochore left the territory in 1936. Ted Bleiler worked the property by himself that year, then took on a partner named Fred W. Taylor in 1937. Bleiler was married in 1937; so he sold the ground to Taylor.

Taylor decided to sink a shaft the first winter, and reached bedrock about eight metres down. He broke up the large rocks with a hammer, sometimes using fires to aid the work, and drifted two directions along bedrock to determine the best gold location.

In 1938, he hired two men to work a cut on his claim. Prior to Taylor owning these claims, previous miners had been working only in the surface gravels, which only yielded a grubstake for the winter.

To move the heavy boulders that blanketed his claim out of the way, Taylor built his own derrick to hoist them up. His goal was to move 100 loads of rock a day, about 100 tons, seven days a week, all summer long. Despite the mechanical aid, it was still back-breaking work.

World War II started in September of 1939, and Taylor went outside to Vancouver the winter of 1939-40, where he met and married a hair dresser named Ann. Fred came back to Mayo the following spring and in three weeks built a house at Dublin Gulch by hand that his family would call home for many years.

Because of the war, a tungsten ore called scheelite, that had been a nuisance clogging sluice boxes, became a mineral of strategic importance, but extracting it and getting to where it would be of value to the war industry was hampered by poor transportation.

As the war continued, the demand for tungsten increased. The spring of 1942, the federal government built a bridge over the McQuesten River and constructed a road to Haggart Creek and Dublin Gulch. Fred Taylor had a good mining season, extracting 700 ounces of gold and $4,000 worth of tungsten concentrates.

Production of scheelite increased dramatically in the Mayo district in 1943 when the price increased by 50 per cent, and the government began paying 75 per cent of the value of the concentrate once it reached Mayo.

Fred and Ann Taylor went outside in the fall of 1942 and Fred joined the army. During the four years that he was away, Fred leased his property to two other men, one of them being Ole Lunde. Once he was demobilized, Fred and Ann quickly returned to Mayo.

He had saved up enough money by 1946 or 1947 that he was able to purchase a brand-new D-7 bulldozer, which was a real boon to mining, compared to pick and shovel.

Taylor mined the creek until 1949, then started again in 1953. As his sons, Frank and Jim, grew up, they joined him in his mining work. Son Frank remembers that he started working for his father at nine years of age. He was paid eight and a half cents an hour. The half cent was included, Frank thought, so that he could improve his math skills.

Fred Taylor mined his Dublin Gulch property for more than 30 years, but ceased after the 1970 season. The following year he sold the property to Ron Holway and his American partner, Darrell Duensing. The deal with Taylor was made with a simple handshake. That’s the way things were done back then.

Holway and Duensing worked the property under the corporate name of Darron Placers Ltd., and for several years it was very much a family operation. At first, it was just the two partners working the claim, with Ron’s wife Helen cooking and expediting parts.

In 1977, a geologist named Gordon Gutrath had been invited by friends to start a new public company called Queenstake Resources Ltd. They optioned placer claims on Dublin Gulch.

“Our downstream neighbours were Ron Holway and Darrell Duensing,” remembered Gutrath, “who were operating a successful placer mining operation. They were very helpful as we were real amateurs when it came to placer mining. One thing we did provide them with was lots of laughs.”

The fall of 1977, the president of Canada Tungsten met with Queenstake Resources and purchased a 30% interest in the company. They subsequently purchased the claims owned by Darron Placers Ltd and for the next few years, Holway and Duensing pursued placer mining opportunities elsewhere.

The results of a test run with a new and expensive processing plant in September of 1979 looked promising. In 1980, Canada Tungsten brought in more heavy equipment and worked around the clock during the summer months. But the results were disappointing, and they did not continue the work after 1981.

Canada Tungsten sold the property back to Gutrath, who in turn leased claims back to Duensing and Holway. They began mining there again in 1988 under the corporate name of Dublin Gulch Mining Ltd.. Between 1988 and 1992, they worked with crews ranging from six to eight employees working two shifts daily.

Duensing left the partnership after several years to pursue other interests. Holway continued to mine Dublin Gulch and then Haggart Creek until 1999. The following year, the license was decommissioned.

As of the closure of Ron Holway’s operation in the year 2000, placer mining ceased on this tiny tributary. For more than a hundred years, it had seen continuous activity starting with Jack Suttles, followed by the Cantin Brothers, Ted Bleiler, Fred Taylor, Gordon Gutrath, Canada Tungsten, and finally, Holway and Duensing.

At first worked by hand, followed by increasingly large scale and sophisticated technologies, it continued to be a steady producer of placer gold. Wives joined their husbands, and families grew up there.

While the placer mining sustained the tributaries of Haggart Creek for more than a hundred years, there was always the hope that someone would strike the mother lode on the rocky hills overlooking the valley, but it would be a hundred years before the hard rock potential would come to be fully realized.

Coming soon: hard rock prospecting on Dublin Gulch

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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