Alaska, our largest state, has numerous sites of lost gold mines, caches, shipwrecks, and abandoned mining camps. The treasure hunter will have no problem finding interesting and profitable locations.
In 1903, the International Boundary Survey was in the process of establishing the exact boundaries of Alaska and Canada. Gold had been discovered in the Yukon. The only feasible means to access this region lay through U. S. Territory. By insisting upon a boundary survey, Canada hoped to acquire a port or ports on the coast to use as a starting point to the Yukon.
It was one of the surveyors who stumbled upon the gold. The party was crossing the mountainous divide between the Iskut and Unuk Rivers. It had become the custom of members of the survey party to produce, in camp after supper, any interesting rock they had picked up during the day.
On this particular evening, various surveyors laid out attractive fragments of galena and gaudy chunks of copper floating on a canvas. One man waited until last, removed his knotted handkerchief from his pocket and began to unwrap it.
There was no mistaking the speckles of yellow in the piece of snow-white quartz he laid on the canvas. It was gold!
He told his companions he had picked up the chunk of white quartz on a high ridge, which they had just crossed at 6400 feet. But he had not found an outcropping or any other samples in the immediate area. However, he had made only a hasty search.
The men were working against time. They had to press on. And when the job was completed, none ever returned to that rough, remote area to search for what could be a fabulous outcropping of gold-bearing ore.
Somewhere between the markers on the divide between the Iskut and Unuk Rivers, there is a 6400-foot ridge. Perhaps by intense research of the atlas published in 1919 entitled “Joint Report upon the Survey and Demarcation of the International Boundary between the U. S. and Canada along the One Hundred and Forty-First Meridian from the Arctic Ocean to Mount St. Elias,” one could find the right 6400-foot ridge and perhaps a fortune in gold.
The Mad Trapper Johnson treasure is located on the boundary line between Alaska and the Yukon Territory. After murdering several prospectors for their gold and robbing Indian trap lines, Johnson was killed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 1932.
After shooting a Mountie while making for the Alaskan border, he cached the gold near the border, either in Alaska or Yukon, and was then shot and killed. There is no record of his cache’s being found.
The Yukon riverboat Columbian caught fire and was beached and destroyed on September 25, 1905, while en route to Dawson. The great amount of gold she carried has reportedly never been found.
Johnny Watson’s gold, collected during a lifetime spent on the Yukon River, is hidden somewhere on Watson Creek, 60 miles downstream from Dawson. Watson Creek was named for Johnny, who died at 83.
The great Klondike gold discovery came early in the winter of 1896-97, but the news didn’t reach the United States until June 15, 1897, when the Excelsior sailed into San Francisco. On board were hardened sourdoughs toting an average of $10,000 in gold they had found.
On July 17, the Portland steamed into Seattle, a car going one and three quarter million dollars worth of gold. The stampede to the Far North was on.
Telegraph wires flashed word of the gold strikes across the continent. And, in the little settlement of Welsh Hill, Pennsylvania, a young man felt his heart pump fast with excitement. Remembered today as Frank, he packed up and set out for the Klondike, which is on the upper reaches of the Yukon River in Alaska and Canada, to make his fortune.
Perhaps the only person from Welsh Hill to go to the Klondike in search of gold, he succeeded beyond all expectations. He found plenty of it to fill a dozen fruit jars with dust and shiny nuggets, which he brought back to Welsh Hill four years later.
But that was only a sampling compared to what he left cached on his claim near Dawson, which is approximately 50 miles from the Alaskan border. And this gold, a virtual fortune today, is still where Frank hid it.
When he returned to the Klondike for it, he died mysteriously without a chance to recover it.
Wealth did little to change Frank when he came back to Alaska. He was generous with his gold, spending it freely on those he loved and those whose company pleased him.
Frank laughed when asked what he expected to do with the gold he brought back. “Enjoy it,” he said. And to close friends, he confided that he would soon return to the Klondike, for the gold he had brought home was just a sample.
A few months later, Frank announced to the town that he was returning to the North Country. Friends in Welsh Hill waited impatiently for his return. Months passed. There was no word from him. One day relatives received a letter signed by a stranger. It said simply that Frank had died in the Klondike of an illness.
Those who knew him couldn’t believe it. He had left in the best of health. He was a rugged man who could take anything the North Country could dish out in the way of hardships. A sister was especially skeptical of the letter and set out to learn what had happened to her brother. She gathered up some of the gold he had left with her and used it to finance a trip to the Klondike.
Arriving at his claim, she found a cabin on it. When she entered, she screamed in shock. On a bunk lay Frank. He had been dead for months, but his body had been preserved, life-like in appearance, by sub-zero temperatures.
But there was something strange about it all. Though it was later decided that he had succumbed to typhoid, many never accepted the verdict. His sister was one. She had found Frank’s cabin in great disorder. Boards were pried loose from the walls.
Floor planking had been pried up. Someone had searched for Frank’s rich cache. And efforts to track down the stranger who had written the mysterious letter failed.
Frank’s body was thawed out and embalmed and shipped back to Welsh Hill for services. Intimates began whispering that he had told them the cache of gold was in fruit jars, like those he had returned from the Klondike with. Friends felt certain from conversations with Frank that he had not hidden the gold in the fruit jars on the cabin site. He was much too smart for that, they said.
Many from Welsh Hill vowed one day to visit the Klondike region and search for the fruit jars of gold. But if the cache was ever found, no word of it leaked out.
One shipwreck off Kodiak Island may contain somewhere between $8,000,000 and $24,000,000 in gold in its battered hulk, which is also very probable.
Shortly before the turn of the century, the Aleutian, loaded with gold from the mining regions of Nome and Fairbanks, went down in this region during a storm. She was reputed to carry a gold shipment worth somewhere between $1,000,000 and $3,000,000. Today’s prices would bring quite a bit more than that.
During a violent storm, the Aleutian was blown more than 100 miles off course. Suddenly, a grinding crash was heard as the ship struck a partially submerged boulder. She sank within eight minutes, and only a handful of those aboard escaped.
Reaching safety, they told of the huge gold shipment on the ship.
Several years later, a pilot accidentally sighted the ship’s masts while flying off Kodiak during low tide. He said he also observed the boulder close by on which the vessel had foundered. Others, too, have reported seeing the masts.
The pilot organized a group to dive for the trove, but he died in a plane crash before they could return. The others were unable to locate the site.
Only time will tell if the ship can again be located. But those who search for her might find one or two other vessels, as well, also profitable to their finder. One is the sloop Servia, which sank off Kodiak in 1905 while carrying about $35,000 in gold.
The other is the schooner St. George, which sank in 1878 with around $15,000 in gold, which would be vastly more valuable today. But compared with the rich Aleutian, these two would be mere bonuses.
Cortez D. Thompson, better known in Denver as Cort, was the card-playing, free-wheeling husband of Martha A. Silks, a madam during Denver’s lurid red-light-district days. Cort went to Alaska during the gold rush and is said to have accumulated a fortune of $50,000 in gold through crooked card games.
When he became involved in a brawl with Jefferson Randolph and Soapy Smith, Cort fled Alaska, leaving his gold buried someplace in or near the town of Chitina.
Among the fascinating Alaskan stories is the tale of the Lake of the Golden Bar.
According to the legend, in August of 1884, three prospectors started across the St. Elias Mountains near the Yukon River.
One evening the men came to a small lake and saw myriads of golden rays beaming in the sunlight from a bar only a few feet from the shore. Throwing down their packs, the men swam to the bar and found it paved with gold nuggets. The first one they picked up was supposed to have weighed ten pounds, and another weighed fifty pounds!
The prospectors built a cabin and remained at the lake for weeks, picking up gold nuggets and stowing them in a nearby cave. They estimated their hoard at a half-ton or more of precious metal.
Then came hostile Indians, probably one of the fierce Tlinghet tribes who inhabited the area. The Indians burned the cabin and killed one of the partners.
The other two prospectors escaped but became separated. Without provisions, each started alone for civilization. After unbelievable hardships, they reached the coast and eventually the States.
One prospector was paralyzed due to the hardships he had undergone during the trip. The other started for Alaska the next summer, hoping to recover the gold the three had accumulated. He was never heard of again, and his fate remains a mystery.
Though many prospectors have searched for the shining bar and the cave filled with nuggets, neither has ever been found, and the Lake of the Golden Bar remains among Alaska’s most intriguing lost treasures.
One of the strangest stories of a ship lost at sea involves a ghost ship and a fortune in furs. In 1931, the steamer Baychimo was caught in an ice pack off Ft. Barrow, Alaska. She carried a million dollars in furs for the Hudson Bay Company.
When the ship became trapped, the crew decided they would be safer on the ice, so they abandoned the Baychimo. A blizzard came up that night, and the ship was gone the next morning.
Sometime later in the year, a party of Eskimos discovered the Baychimo about 50 miles south of where it had disappeared, and they took off part of the furs. When they returned to take the remaining valuable cargo, the ghost ship again sailed away.
It was not heard of the following year (1932) when another band of Eskimos found it near Barrow. They went aboard, intending to remove the furs, but the wind began to drift the ship, and they barely escaped with their lives.
The ship was last seen in 1956 in the Beaufort Sea. The chances are good that it is still afloat somewhere in the Arctic, with a treasure of furs preserved by the cold.
There is a rich placer lost somewhere in the wilds of Alaska. Following is a brief account based on the known facts.
Joe Quigley, a well-known sourdough prospector with an Indian wife, was an independent, hardy man for whom the search was, paradoxically, more important than the gold itself. In the early spring of 1905, he was one of the first white men to reach the Kantishna Hills, a group of rugged 3500-foot high ridges about 30 miles north of Mount McKinley, the highest peak on the North American continent.
The remote Kantishna area, like much of interior Alaska, was almost inaccessible except during the long winter when eight months of bitter cold made dogsled travel possible over the frozen muskeg and tundra. As soon as the spring thaw freed the water, Quigley began panning the gravels of the local Kantishna Creeks.
He soon found color in a small unnamed creek that emptied into Moose Creek, a main drainage river in the Kantishna Hills. Working alone, as he preferred, he began digging, and when he found the shallow bedrock, it was covered with yellow and black nuggets of coarse placer gold.
Joe Quigley knew he had made a major strike. He named the creek Friday, in recognition of the day of discovery, a name which has lasted to the present.
Word of the new strike spread rapidly through the Alaskan brush during the summer. When winter made travel more practical, a small stampede brought hundreds of miners and prospectors, and a gold camp developed rapidly.
But, like all gold camps, the rich gravels played out, and the miners drifted elsewhere, searching for new gold fields. A few remained to work what was left, which by today’s standards would be considered quite rich, and over the years, almost all of the buildings that made up the town were torn down for firewood. Only one cabin that was part of the original townsite remains.
In 1912, two sourdough prospectors, Forrest Hayden, who had come to the Alaskan gold fields from California, and Russell Hixon, who had made the long trek from Ohio, set out from Kantishna to prospect the other creeks in an untried area near the Kuskokwim River 70 miles to the north.
Accompanying them was a half-breed Russian Indian known only as Anatol, who had worked for a year in Kantishna and was widely known because of his pronounced nose, unusual for an Indian.
The three men set out with one sled in the early spring, and nothing more was heard of them until September, when Hayden, weak and exhausted and with a painful toe injury that had become badly infected, stumbled into Kantishna with a wild story about a fabulous gold strike he and his partners had made on the Kuskokwim.
The men listened, more with curiosity than anything else, to Hayden’s story of several small creeks that emptied into the Kuskokwim where coarse gold, often trapped in the grassroots, was waiting to be picked up. He claimed he had returned for supplies and men to help set up a permanent camp.
While on the way back, he fell from a rocky ledge and injured his foot, which had become infected.
It was necessary to amputate Hayden’s infected toe, and it was very fortunate that he did not lose his entire foot.
When he regained his strength, he borrowed two dogs and a sled and, cursing the men of Kantishna for not believing and following him, set off alone into the Alaskan winter, where Russell Hixon and the half-breed Anatol were waiting. That was the last anyone ever saw of Forrest Hayden.
In 1914, it was reported that a half-breed Indian had made his way on foot to a small settlement near what is present-day Palmer, Alaska. He was carrying with him two heavy leather bags of coarse placer gold.
His arrival caused excitement, but the Indian wisely did not brag to everyone where he had sluiced the gold. Old-timers recognized the Indian as Anatol, the same man who had once worked the Kantishna area several years earlier, lending credence to the belief that the gold came from the Kukokwim.
There has never been any large-scale placer mining in the area where Hayden claimed to have made his strike. To this day, the area has never thoroughly prospected, and there is a good chance that a rich placer deposit awaits the man who can retrace Forrest Hayden’s footprints.
From 1848, when gold was first discovered in the gravel of the Kenia River, to this day, thousands of miners have fared well in all districts of Alaska. The U. S. Geological Survey lists 43 districts, each producing over 10,000 ounces of gold.
Until 1959, the total reported take from these districts was well over 29 million troy ounces. Every quadrangle section map in Alaska, of which there are over 150, lists both gold and silver lodes.
Those vacationers headed for Alaska are advised to take along a pan and try their luck. Who knows, you may be the lucky one who turns over a rock and finds a 100-ounce nugget!
It was in the late 1920s that this cache was made. The Harris River mine, located on the east coast of Prince of Wales Island, is in southeast Alaska. Among the miners was a man named John Vial. He was an Italian who had worked around Juneau, Alaska, before coming to Hollis, the town that served the Harris River mine and other mines in the area. Like many miners, Vial did a little high-grading when he was in rich ore.
He would return to the tunnel after supper on the days he was drilling in good-looking ore. He told the other miners that he was going down to see how the ground broke after blasting.
What he wanted to do was pick out rich quartz samples showing free gold. He put these into sacks and hid them. Unusually rich samples, he brought to the surface in his coat pockets and put them into a large glass jar. He kept this jar cached under the floor of the log cabin he bunked in.
About 1927, Vial was on the pump level, which was the number three level. He had eighteen sacks of rich ore well-covered with rocks and boards. Under the log cabin, his glass jar was nearly full. A rockslide caught him as he was working. The cave-in nearly killed him, and it was over a year before he was released from the hospital.
When Vial returned to the mine, his first thought was of that precious jar. When he looked beneath the cabin, the jar was gone, to his dismay. Someone had been watching him and had hastened to remove it and its valuable contents.
Then he checked on his sacked cache. His injuries were so extensive that Vial was still very weak. Each of his sacks probably weighed sixty pounds. He may have crammed them to capacity, making them even heavier. He knew he could never carry out his eighteen sacks of gold ore. So the cache was left in the mine shaft.
The mine is on the north side of the Harris River, about three-quarters of a mile from the mouth and tidewater of Twelvemine Arm.
In January 1929, the mine was closed. The result was that workings below the Harris River had flooded ever since. This water has been a safeguard for Vial’s cache.
Years later, Vial told another prospector about his cache, but the fellow did not try to recover the cache. When asked about the mine, he said that it was considered worked out and then closed.
He felt that the cost of pumping the mine would not warrant recovering the gold, as, at that time, the price of gold was well below what it is today. This would not be the case today, for, as we all know, the price of gold per ounce is much higher than in 1929.
It was inevitable that with the great Klondike gold rush, some strikes could not be located again. The Sourdough Sailor’s lost mine is one of these.
Among the earliest Fortymile prospectors, this mine was reputed to have been wonderfully rich. The Fortymile River headwaters were in Alaska, and the river ran into the Yukon Territory, where it emptied into the Yukon River. Occasionally, the prospectors saw samples from or heard about strikes such as that made by the Sourdough Sailor.
He had been a sailor before coming up the Yukon in 1897. No one could remember his name except that it was Irish-Casey, maybe-and that was what he was called for convenience whenever his story was told. Like most prospectors in the area, Casey worked out of Fortymile, a small town on Fortymile River.
Casey was out in the brush trying to cross from Franklin to Davis Creek. There was gold in the area as in the previous September, a man named Howard Franklin had discovered rich deposits of coarse gold at a place where a stream, later called Franklin Creek, joined the Southford of the Fortymile River.
But Casey got lost. He finally made his way to California Creek and wandered down it. At a certain point, he came to a birch tree that had a rusty axe hanging in it. It had evidently been thrust there years ago by someone working in the vicinity.
Being attracted to the axe, Casey looked around. Nearby he found a sort of opening in the hillside where the quartz was very decomposed. Upon examination, Casey found this had exposed a great quantity of gold ore. It was in a such concentrated form that Casey could pick up, with no equipment except his hands, a sufficient supply to give him what other sourdoughs termed a good competence.
After several days, as the story goes, Casey returns to Fortymile. He then decided to return to the States with his wealth. Shortly after going to California, Casey became ill, and before dying, he gave a map to a man named Jim O’Brien. O’Brien had been in the Cassiar and other mining camps and had fallen in with Casey in 1897 after he had made his strike.
Except for the map, O’Brien did not know the mine’s location. O’Brien gave the original map to a man named Arny Hart in 1898. It is unknown whether Hart returned immediately to search for the Sourdough Sailor’s mine.
Finally, in 1920, Hart, who had become Dawson City’s fire chief, took a three-week summer vacation and went across the country to California Creek to see if he could find the mine. However, he was never able to locate it.
Here is the story of the Lost Cabin Mine. It began in 1902 when a lone prospector reportedly discovered a rich lode of gold-bearing quartz in a remote area near the coast of southeastern Alaska.
He constructed a cabin nearby and spent several weeks prospecting the surrounding area to determine the mineralized zone’s richness and extent. When the prospector completed his sampling and surface assessment work, he knew that a king’s ransom lay at his feet.
After carefully noting all landmarks in the vicinity, the prospector shouldered his pack and trekked out to the coast, where he took a ship to Seattle in hopes of raising sufficient capital to develop his find.
In Seattle, the prospector experienced no difficulty convincing a group of speculators to invest in a partnership, as an assay showed that his clip samples contained gold worth $1370 per ton!
The following spring, as soon as the snow line began to creep up the mountain slopes, the prospector and his excited new partners boarded a steamer bound for Juneau, Alaska. They planned to spend the entire summer at the rich site and work it earnestly.
From Juneau, the party trudged their way overland to the settlement of Haines, located on the Lynn Canal. From this point, they penetrated the St. Elias Mountains, a country that was almost entirely unexplored at that time.
Several days later, his clothing in tatters, sick, and half-crazed from starvation and exposure, a lone member of the mining expedition staggered into Haines with a grim tale. He claimed that he was the sole survivor of the group. All the others had perished after crossing several glaciers before they reached the mine site. He said the country was utterly impenetrable and was frequented by wild animals.
The lost mine was allegedly in an area at the top of the Alaskan Panhandle, on the south slopes of the St. Elias Mountains, near where the Alaska, Yukon Territory, and British Columbia boundaries join, northwest of Russell Fiord on Yakutat Bay.
Glaciers and mountain peaks over 10,000 feet surround the area on three sides. A jungle of shattered rock and dense, tangled underbrush stretches from the base of the mountains southward to the sea. As late as 1943, this remote corner of Alaska was still called the “Lost World” by the area’s prospectors. So far as is known, the Lost Cabin Mine has never been found.
Every mining state has its stories of rich mines that have become lost. With its large area and wealth of valuable minerals, Alaska has its share of lost mines.
One such story is that of the lost mine of the Frenchman of Howkan. It was early in the 1880s that the Frenchman first came to Howkan to replenish his supplies. The fact that a strange white man was in town was enough to excite the Indian villagers.
But an even more unusual thing about the Frenchman’s visit was that he paid for his purchases with pure gold. The talk that followed, however, did not lead to a gold rush.
Howkan was an important Haida Indian village on Long Island, one of the many small islands that make up what is known as the west coast of Prince of Wales Island. There were nearly 100 natives living at Howkan at the time, and a Presbyterian mission had been established there in 1881.
But the few white people in Howkan were too busy to follow the Frenchman to see where he had filled his poke with gold. The Frenchman was soon forgotten.
Then one day, he returned for more supplies. Again he paid for his purchases with gold from his poke, and the poke was considerably larger than it had been on his previous visit.
For several days, the Frenchman returned periodically to Howkan for supplies, and always his poke was full of gold.
As was typical of white men in early Alaskan days, the storekeeper did not stay long in the tiny Indian village. The new storekeeper was more interested in gold. He listened eagerly to the stories of the Frenchman’s gold and decided that the man had struck it rich.
When the Frenchman next came in for supplies, the new storekeeper tried to persuade him to discuss his gold strike. But his customer cheerfully evaded all questions. The storekeeper hired several Indians to follow the lucky miner, who skillfully lost them among the small islands and reefs.
A regular steamer made twice-yearly freight stops at Howkan. One fall, the Frenchman came to say farewell to his acquaintances and board the steamer for Victoria, British Columbia. He never returned.
The area in which the Frenchman found the gold probably lies on the southern tip of Dall Island, an irregular mountainous island with summits from 1500 to 3000 feet in altitude.
Many prospects have been located along the east coast of Dall Island. However, improvements of importance have been made on none of these. Because of the isolated location of the island, vigorous prospecting has never been pursued, and the Frenchman’s lost mine has never been reported found.
It has been estimated that over one million dollars were buried on Adak Island by the captain of the Hitsap, a ship that killed seals. Captain Gregory Dwargstof of the Hitsap, had stolen this gold from the Sealing Association, of which he was a member, then buried it somewhere on Red Bluff Hill on Adak Island in 1892. Several coins have been found, but the $1,000,000 still waits for some lucky treasure hunter.
Gold has been found in six of the rivers of Alaska. These are the Yukon, Tanana, Chena, Porcupine, Kuskikwin, and Kayukuk. If you search for gold along any of these rivers, be sure and check their tributaries. Sometimes this is where you will find the mother lode.
Two prospectors named Olaf Swendson and Antonio Pauzza found nine mineral-bearing ledges in the Talkeetna Mountains north of Anchorage, Alaska. They mined and carried out, on a packhorse, enough gold to retire them for life. The gold was so rich it could be chopped out with an axe.
Indians had known of this deposit for centuries. Having suffered untold hardships during their mountain stay, the two prospectors never returned to their gold-bearing ledges. The lost deposit of ore is known as the Lost Swede Mine, and, as far as can be learned, it has not yet been found.
During the summer of 1881, two miners named Bates and Harper crossed the mountains from the Yukon River to the Tanana River. While they were fording the north fork of Fortymile River, Bates was swept off his feet by the fast-moving current.
After fighting the swift water for several yards, Bates could grab an overhanging tree limb and pull himself up on the river’s bank. Here Harper joined him. They built a fire and decided to camp for the night. While gathering firewood, Harper noticed a ledge that had small gold nuggets in it. Taking several ore samples, the two men moved on the next day.
After several months of prospecting, the two returned to San Francisco, Calif. It was here that they had all their ore samples assayed. Imagine their surprise when they learned that the samples of ore they had picked up when Bates fell into the river assayed at $20,000 to the ton.
Harper returned to the area the following year, but Bates could not make the trip. Harper was never able to relocate the gold-bearing ledge. The two men estimated the location to be twenty miles up from the mouth of Fortymile River, on the right-hand side. This is a good location for a modern-day prospector with a metal detector to check into.
One of Alaska’s best-known yet unsolved robberies took place on the Yukon River. In early 1901, a steamer left Fort Yukon, heading downstream with a large shipment of gold. A watchman had been hired to guard the shipment en route.
When the ship reached Victor’s Landing, the watchman and gold were both gone on the Yukon. A search was done, and the watchman hid behind the boat, landing in a cabin. Victor, the owner of the landing, was suspected of having planned the gold theft with the watchman’s help.
Victor had developed placer claims, and authorities believed he intended to claim that the gold came from his deposits. The watchman was taken to Fairbanks and tried for the theft. Although he claimed to be innocent, he was given a long jail term.
The jury agreed that Victor was innocent and that the watchman must have thrown the gold overboard with a buoy marker near Victor’s Landing, planning to retrieve it later.
If the jury’s conclusion is correct, and it seems to be the only answer, then somewhere near Victor’s Landing, under a few feet of water, a fortune in gold awaits some lucky diver.
In June of 1900, after months of trying and many presents, Charlie Stone finally enticed his Indian guide to talk about the gold-laden ledge, which he said was about 50 miles northwest of Wrangell, Alaska.
Showing Charlie a piece of quartz laced with gold, the Indian said, “You like stone like this? You go up to Bay of Death, camp on the right side of Patterson River. Travel up river about eight miles and turn up to the high country. Walk a mile and a half; you find a half-moon lake there. Plenty of stone like this I found on the slide there.”
Thomas Bay was called the Bay of Death by the Indians because several years before, a huge landslide had wiped out a native village of 500 inhabitants. Thomas Bay is northwesterly, about 50 miles from Wrangell. The bay is somewhat circular and about ten miles in length.
On the southeast side is a broad bight, a curve in the shoreline extending eastward to the moraine of Patterson Glacier. The Patterson River, formed by melting ice from the glacier, flows through the moraine and empties into Thomas Bay.
Stone arrived at Thomas Bay after a three-day journey and set up camp a quarter-mile up Patterson River on the right-hand side. After going up the river two miles from camp, he ascended a hill, and here he found a lake shaped like an S. Using his pan, he obtained good colors, but nothing excited him.
Suddenly he glimpsed a piece of quartz gleaming with free gold. A snag had fallen back on the river’s bank, scraping the overburden loose and exposing an eight-foot ledge that had been worked smooth by a glacier.
Knowing he had located a rich strike, Charlie covered up the ledge and picked out landmarks. He could see Frederick Sound, Cape of Strait Light, and Point Vanderput at the mouth of Thomas Bay. To his left, he could see the Sukoi Islands and the mouth of Wrangell Narrows.
Charlie returned to Wrangell, showed the rich ore samples to his partners, told the story of the ledge, and then without any explanation, he left for the United States and never returned to Alaska.
Stone’s partners spent several years searching for this deposit but were never able to find it. As far as is known, it still has not been found.
Local research could pay off in this location. In 1903, when gold was being brought from Alaska to the United States, almost by the shipload, a theft of $40,000 in gold occurred at Fairbanks, which has never been solved.
A man known as Timothy Owens obtained a job as a guard on a ship tied at the Fairbanks wharves. During the second night on board, Owens managed to get to the strong box and remove the gold. He carried it ashore and buried it, then filled the empty box with buck-shot, planning on its weight to fool everyone into believing the gold was still in it.
The next day, the ship’s steward went to check the contents of the strong box before sailing and learned that the gold had been removed and replaced by the buckshot. Lawmen were notified; they checked stores in Fairbanks and found that the guard had recently bought a large quantity of buck-shot. Owens was arrested, tried, and sent to prison for a long sentence.
There is no record of Owens’ ever returning to Alaska after he was released from prison, and the gold was never found.
Kitty Hensley was the wife of the owner of the Florence S., a Yukon riverboat during the gold rush years of 1896-1899. Kitty’s husband eventually left for parts unknown, leaving her with a share of profits from the Florence S. In 1910, she established a home on shore in Fairbanks after spending many years as owner/passenger aboard the boat.
Her home was 28 Eighth Street in Fairbanks, and neighbors reported her as a hoarder and saver. Forced to spend some time in the hospital with a broken hip, Kitty’s home was thoroughly cleaned by a local Women’s Society.
Kitty claimed afterward that the overzealous ladies had discarded items of great value. On April 14, 1931, she was found dead of a heart attack, and friends later searched the house for treasure but found very little value.
However, a subsequent owner of the house, in removing the ornate fireplace Kitty had installed, found, hidden behind panels, a 4-cent coin in a tobacco sack, a stocking, and a leather pouch with $350 in gold dust inside. The other gold dust and money Kitty is known to have had was never found.
In 1918 a stranger hiking from Nome set up camp on the Arctic slope of the Seward Peninsula on the Bering Sea. During that winter’s severe weather, he died of exposure and was buried at Cape York just the way he was found.
The body was in such a sad shape that no search of the remains was attempted. It was only later that it was learned that the stranger had paid for goods from a money belt around his waist stuffed with twenty-dollar gold pieces.
Just out of Anchorage are many old roads with abandoned buildings, once used by trappers and hopeful miners. South of Anchorage, on the Seward Highway, are many abandoned mines, left behind when news of more strikes elsewhere came in.
Canneries were a common sight on Alaska’s coastlines in the 1930s. Some were Seward, Homer Valdez, Whittier, and Seldovia. Many cannery buildings are now abandoned, but they are all good sites for relics.
This item appeared in the Anchorage Daily News in 1977 (date unknown), from which I quote in part:
“A DC 4 Northwest Airlines plane smashed into Mt. Sanford on March 13, 1948. Unfortunately, the only persons who could verify the rumors of gold bullion were killed in that crash.
“Thirty-three men died that day when the plane plowed into an almost perpendicular face of the mountain-the only mountain constituting a barrier between Anchorage and the stop it was scheduled to make in Minneapolis. It slid down the mountainside in a ball of flames and came to rest in a virtually inaccessible canyon.
“The plane was on its way from Shanghai to New York and carried the 30-man crew of a tanker that had just been delivered to Shanghai plus the 3-man plane crew. The tanker crew was rumored to be carrying millions of dollars in Chinese gold bullion, including the money received from selling the tanker to the Nationalist Chinese government and their wages.
“More than one party of gold seekers has tried to recover this ice-bound bonanza since the time of the crash. The most imaginative attempt has involved the packing of numerous light metal ladders up the slopes of Mt. Sanford hoped they could be connected and lowered into the canyon. This party got within 300 feet of the wreckage before turning away because of extreme avalanche danger.
“A group attempting the salvage operation in 1957 reported the plane to be almost buried by rock slides at that time with only a small section of the tail still visible.”
For the person interested in beachcombing, the following information should be helpful. Most of the western coastline of the United States and Canada are good areas for collectors. But nowhere is the finding better than Alaska Peninsula’s western shores.
And for beachcombers, these ocean tides carry a bonanza of driftwood, strange bottles, oriental light bulbs, sea creatures, bamboo brooms-and, glass fishing floats. The latter is considered the ultimate prize by most seashore searchers.
A typical float is a round hollow glass ball three to six inches in diameter. The most common color is light blue-green. Along Alaskan coasts, they are often covered with cord netting. The floats are used by fishermen of many nations to properly position their nets and lines in the water.
During normal usage, the balls break loose occasionally and are caught up by the currents. When typhoons or hurricanes hit the fishing fleets, thousands of floats may be lost. Because the Japanese are the principal makers and users of this floating type, and because of the tireless winds and Japanese current, they originate more gems that wash up on our shores.
In selling the floats, the netting is important. Roughly half have no covering at all. The netting may have been lost in the ball’s original escape, during months or years at sea, or in the surf at the time of beaching. Manila cord is the usual cover for smaller balls. Covering on large floats is invariably woven manila rope, and good netting greatly increases the value of these trophies.
Size and color are always important. Diameters range from three to nearly 18 inches. The latter are scarce and, thus, the big game of float hunting. Shading varies according to the impurities of additives in the glass. Among the prevalent blue-green, it is possible to find floats ranging from clear to pale blue, dark green, or brown.
The smallest and most common floats in gift stores and souvenir shops usually sell for $1.50 to $3.00. Those that are noticeably abnormal in color and size bring higher prices. Large specimens, with near-perfect netting, range up to $35.00. For coast dwellers in Alaska, this aspect of treasure hunting could be quite profitable.