Indian Brides Who Have Made Their Husbands Rich

While I was in Alaska I heard the true story of how the Klondike came to be discovered and it was all because of an Indian woman.

As everybody knows, George W. Carmack was the man who staked the first claim in the Klondike, but as everybody doesn’t know, George was only a poor sailor living among the Chilkoots near Dyea, where he had left his ship. He liked the ways of the Indians, and no one could please him better than by mistaking him for one…

What a Squaw Brings

When white men would come along and make a little fun at George’s expense because he was wedded to a squaw, he would say quietly:

“That’s all right. Mary brings me lots of luck. Don’t you wish you had an Indian wife?”

Mary brought him more luck than more bundles of furs. One day he took her and her brother Skookum Jim in a boat and called down through the rapids to the place where the Dawson now stands. Other Indians came along in other boats, quite a flotilla and stopped to rest there at the mouth of the Klondike River.

George poked along up the little rivers his wife and her brother by his side. When they got to Bonanza Creek they branched off up in that direction and finally arrived at Rabbit Creek.

There Skookum Jim, who had been panning for gold along the way, filled his pan at the foot of a birch tree and took it down to the stream. He washed out the “dirt” and in the bottom of the pan found about ten cents worth of gold. This fired George Carmack’s imagination. He went up and down the little valley eagerly searching for gold and finally found it in good paying quantities, two to three dollars to the pan.

Rejoicing in his great luck, he staked a double claim for himself, another claim for his wife, and still another for his brother in law. Within a few weeks he was a wealthy man.

“I owe it all to Mary,” he used to say when he told the story of his discovery. “If it hadn’t been for marrying her I should never have been so lucky.”

And, of course, he was right, for it was a case with which superstition had nothing to do. If he hadn’t married Mary he would not have gone up the river with Skookum Jim, who found the first traces of gold and gave him the clue to his great discovery of the wealth of the Klondike.

Besides Carmack there were several other very wealthy Alaskan miners who had squaw wives, but he is the only one I know who would confess to it in polite society.

Source: Bailey Millard, "Indian Brides Who Have Made Their Husbands Rich," New York Times, May 8, 1910

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