Commissioner Ogilvie Supports Henderson

[ Sam Steele, the

Sam Steele, the "Lion of the North", na, 1898, author's collection

Commissioner’s Office, Dawson YT, March 26th, 1901.

Letter: 401556

File: 2348

[handwritten] 60386

Page 1

The Honorable The Minister of the Interior, Ottawa, Ontario.


I beg to lay before you for your most favourable consideration an application made by Robert Henderson for certain Government reserve claims in consideration of the discovery by him of gold in the Klondike and Indian River districts. I have already laid before you some facts in connection with this gentleman’s claim, but will here recapitulate shortly the facts in the case as I understand and believe them to be.

Early in the summer of 1896 Robert Henderson, Frank Swanson and a man named Munson ascended the Indian River, prospecting as they went; and from the head of what is now known as Quartz creek, I believe, they crossed over to a creek, a tributary of the Klondike which was at first known as Gold Bottom, but since been named Hunker creek. Henderson worked there several weeks, finding what he considered fair pay, but continued prospecting in the hopes of finding something better. He knew that there were sixty days within which to record after location, but did not locate through the hopes which I have mentioned. Provisions ran out, and he was deputed by the other two to return to Sixty-mile post and procure a fresh supply. Reaching that point he found there was nothing

Page 2

there; so he had to repair to the town of Forty-mile some 105 miles further down the river. On his way he passed George Carmack at the mouth of the Klondike; and as it is an unwritten article of the miners’ code that all miners shall proclaim discoveries to brother miners on sight, and Henderson knew Carmack as a miner, he told him of the find on the creek, tributary of the Klondike and advised him to go up and try his luck. Carmack with his brother-in-law, known as Skookum Jim, and a cousin of Jim’s known as Tagish Charlie, made their way under Henderson’s directions along an Indian path from the confluence of the Klondike with the Yukon to a point on Bonanza creek considerably above its mouth, thence up Eldorado creek a mile or two, when they took to the ridge between Eldorado and Bonanza the top of which they followed around until they came to the head of the creek which they believed to be the one described by Henderson. Down this they proceeded until they came to where Swanson and Munson were at work, and after some time spent in prospecting, Carmack decided that the ground was not rich enough to suit him, so made his way back but changed his route by following down Bonanza from its head, prospecting as he went until he came to discovery claim where he panned out sufficient in a short time, in his estimation, to justify him in locating discovery and No. 1 below for himself;

Page 3

[the following word incomplete] iently could, he made his way to Forty-mile and proclaimed discovery. This caused a stampede, and a man named Hunker with some others repaired to the vicinity where Henderson had been prospecting, located and returned immediately for record. Hunker in this way secured two claims on the creek now named after him, then known as Gold Bottom, namely Discovery and another one.

In accordance with the article in the unwritten miners’ code, which I have already mentioned, Hunker immediately sent information to Henderson of his Discovery of rich ground where he had tried. But Carmack, contrary to his promise, as Henderson alleges, never notified him in any way of the discovery on Bonanza, so that he was unable to avail himself of the fact, though it was led up to by himself by information conveyed to Carmack.

When Henderson made his way to the Recorder’s office at Forty-mile he found that Hunker had been recorded for Discovery on the creek, and the then agent did not appear inclined, so Henderson says, to entertain his claim for another discovery, though he had been working on the creek several months before Hunker.

Through Henderson’s carelessness and the spirit manifested towards him by the then agent he did not succeed in getting anything like what he considered his

Page 4

discovery on Bonanza and Eldorado until after they had been located.

Now I do not wish to say that Henderson is blameless in this matter and that he was too harshly treated, but I do say that I think a more friendly spirit might have been manifested toward him, and I make this remark based on conversations I had with both the then agent at Forty-mile and Henderson himself.

One fact stands prominently forth, that is that he was the first white man to make any extensive and methodical prospecting on the waters of the Indian River and the Klondike; and also the fact that he in no way personally benefited by such prospecting. I would, therefore, ask you to take into most favourable consideration his claim and instruct the Gold Commissioner to give him about an equivalent of a 500 foot claim which he would have been entitled to on Hunker creek, and also would have reasonably been assured of on Bonanza had Carmack kept faith with him. I think the act would be a graceful recognition of the discovery of gold in this region by a Canadian; though I must also say that his family are now residents of the United States. Whether Robert Henderson is a citizen of the United States or not I do not at present know.

Apart from all such considerations, as I have stated,

Page 5

this man’s labor in bringing so prominently before the world the riches of this region.

Hoping you will see your way to giving this request your most favourable consideration,

I am, Sir,

Your obedient servant,

William Ogilive (signature)


Source: National Archives of Canada, RG 85, vol. 2158, file 23613, William Ogilvie, Commissioner Ogilvie Supports Henderson, March 26, 1901

Return to parent page