Skookum Jim Discovers Gold

[ Skookum Jim with Wife and Daughter Daisy ]

Skookum Jim with Wife and Daughter Daisy, na, 1900

Well now I'll tell you a story as Patsy Henderson has told me dozens of times regarding Skookum Jim. See Patsy Henderson is Skookum Jim's nephew so he was always around. At that time he was only 17 years old Patsy Henderson was. So the story starts at Carcross Yukon. It seems like George Carmack and Kate Carmack, Skookum Jim's sister, left Carcross to go prospecting down the Yukon River in 1894. They were supposed to be gone only one year and come back up the Yukon to Carcross but two years went by and Skookum Jim got worried about his sister. So they formed a party to look for Kate Carmack and George Carmack. They built a river boat for this trip so they started, they went across Tagish Lakes, Windy Arm, Marsh Lake then they hit upon the Yukon River, went down the river til they hit, went through the Miles Canyon in Whitehorse, there's no name of Whitehorse then yet. Finally they hit Lake LeBarge, they crossed Lake LeBarge which is 35 miles long and they hit the Yukon River again, they call it the 30 Mile River there for a stretch until they come to the mouth of Teslin River they call it Hootalinqua River a few years back and all along they inquired from different Indian bands that lived along the Yukon river about George Carmack and Kate he asked there and found they went through here two years ago so finally got to Carmacks there was a tribe of Indians there, they inquired there so it seems like George Carmack had wintered there prospecting and he moved on so I'm not sure but I think the town of Carmacks was named after George Carmack, I'm not too sure of that. Anyway it seems like they went down further on the mouth of all these side streams, he hit Selkirk, Fort Selkirk, yes they'd gone through there kept tracing them all the way down the Yukon River until they came to the mouth of the Klondike River which they now call Dawson, City of Dawson, there they stopped at Moosehide and inquired. Yes Carmack was around. Kate Carmack was around the Indians said and they went up the Klondike River prospecting so they come back up to Moosehide at the mouth of the Klondike River camped there a few days, getting meat and some fish for food, and by that time Kate Carmack showed up glad to find them so they stayed there several days and George told them there were indications of gold on the Klondike Valley different Creeks threw a little gold, nothing in paying quantities did he find. Then there was another man in the area, a white man away up in the headwaters of the Klondike somewhere that met George Carmack and he said the same told George Carmack, "there’s a little gold all over". So George Carmack told Skookum Jim we should prospect up there more so they organized and started up so Patsy Henderson was left to look after the fish traps at the mouth of the Klondike, of course Dawson Charlie went along prospecting, Dawson Charlie was Skookum Jim's nephew. So they prospected and it was getting towards the middle of summer, it was in August, so they killed some moose up there in the Klondike Valley dried their moosemeat to make it lighter to handle, keep better. So the others started back down the Klondike River. Finally they came to a Creek which was known as Rabbit Creek. The Indians called it Rabbit Creek, later on it was changed over to Bonanza Creek. So just when they were crossing this Creek a heavy shower hit them, well in the Yukon it doesn't rain very long so you sit it out usually. They found some nice big spruce trees there, built a little fire and waited it out.

While they were sitting there resting, waiting out the storm, Skookum Jim went down to the Creek to get a pail of water to make a pot of tea, and getting this water he noticed the Creek was running on cracked up bedrock and he notice in the cracks there, there’s a funny coloured yellow rock sown all along, so he picked up a handful of this yellow rock, and in the other hand he had the pail so he gets the pail of water, comes back up to where they were under the tree. Skookum Jim says "George what’s this?" well George Carmack says "That’s gold, that’s what we're looking for and it looks good he says, you got big nuggets there and everything." So they made camp there, so they start panning in the evening and there's gold all along and it looked very rich so George says I think we'll stake some claims. So they stake some claims. George Carmack the white man, he staked Discovery Claim Skookum Jim no. 1 or no. 2, no. 1 below or no. 1 above, I forget that little bit, Dawson Charlie he staked claims of course Dawson Charlie's wife was along too and Kate Carmack was along but none of them staked, just the men staked. So George says "This looks like very rich ground” they got some $5.00 pans on the rimrock so all they had to work with was a handful [?], a few nails, no saw, they had axes though so from the spruce trees there they made a sluice box. The sluice box was eight feet long and they put in little riffles with the few nails they had then they start shoveling it into the sluice box so in a few days they had $1,500.00 worth of gold they figured.

George Carmack had a little portable scale, gold scales. I don’t know what gold was worth then it was worth around $12.00 to $16.00 per ounce it was under $16.00 mostly I guess at that time. So George says we'll go now, get an outfit and work here all winter. So they backpacked down to the mouth of the Klondike where Patsy Henderson was looking after the dogs down there and what not. So the nearest point to record a claim was at Forty Mile. There was a mining camp there going, that’s down the Yukon River, 40 miles from Dawson. At that time they figure that was Canada, and so they went down there by boat, so they recorded their claims, showed the gold and that was the beginning of the big rush that was on August 17th supposed to be 1896. So the rush started from Forty Mile, quite a few miners up on all those creeks there. The people who got to Forty Mile came up the Yukon River from St. Michael. So that was the start of the big rush. So of course it took a year or two for the news to get outside you only got once a year if you can call it mail in them days.

Source: Yukon Territorial Archives, 88/58 SR Tape 11-3, 11-4, Johnnie John, "Skookum Jim Discovers Gold," Anita, n.d

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