The Early Days of the Klondike

Gold Is Discovered.

On August 17, 1896, George Carmack, accompanied by his Indian wife Kate and the Indians Skookum Jim and Tagish Charlie, found very rich gold in a creek that later came to be named Bonanza, which flows into the Klondike River a few miles upstream from where the Klondike joins the Yukon.

Here is how Skookum Jim described the discovery. All three were hunting moose at the top of the valley of the stream. After killing a three-year-old moose, they built a campfire to cook the meat and make a pot of tea.

Kate went down to the creek to get water, while the others gathered wood, cut up the meat, or rested. It was an especially beautiful day and the valley was flooded with sunlight.

When she reached the creek, which was only a trickle of water, she noticed gold nuggets in a crack in the rock below the surface. She picked them up and carried them back to camp along with the water.

“Open your hand,” she told George. And to his astonishment, she placed in it her find, still wet from the creek.

George couldn’t believe his eyes and made her repeat several times that it was really in this creek that she had found the gold.

Immediately they went to examine the creek bed, and found gold in such abundance that George exclaimed, “As of now, my friends, we’re rich... We won’t have to worry about our old age.”

Although George Carmack was thus credited with the famous discovery, the true discoverer was a Scotsman by the name of Robert Henderson, who came to the Klondike in 1894 and made the first strike on Gold Bottom Creek, itself a tributary of the Klondike River.

Though his find was less spectacular than Carmack’s, the Dominion Government, in recognition of the part he played in the Gold Rush, later granted Henderson a pension for life of $200 a month.

Source: Mme Emilie Tremblay, A Female Pioneer in the Yukon (Chicoutimi: Publications de la Societe Historique du Saguenay, 1948), from p. 42

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