1899 Yukon Nuggets
Gold Fields of Nome
By mid-summer of 1899, news of an improbable gold strike filtered through the mining camps of the Klondike. Men working other people's claims for wages wanted something to call their own. Quickly, the little miner with his pick and pan slipped out of Dawson and headed for Nome.
Gold was discovered at Anvil Creek on the Seward Peninsula in 1898. Here on the sands of the beaches of Nome, Alaska they uncovered a fortune in fine gold dust. They quickly dubbed the discoverers, three newscomers of Scandinavian descent, "The Three Lucky Swedes." Although two of the men were naturalized citizens, miners at Council meeting felt that immigrants did not deserve their claims. There was a wild spree of claim jumping. By early spring of 1899, a few hundred men had staked 1,500 claims. Nearly 3,000 more people arrived after the breakup.
In a single week in August of that year, more than eight thousand people left Dawson bound for Nome. Tex Rickard, who later became general manager of Madison Square Gardens in New York, left the Klondike in 1899 without a cent. Nevertheless, his gold claims on the beaches of Nome made him $100,000. Photographer E.A. Hegg , whose pictures are the most gripping reminders of the Klondike rush, headed off to Nome. Again, the gold-rush photographer captured for all time the vivid images on the beaches of Nome.
Arizona Charlie Meadows said that he would load his Palace Grande Theatre onto a barge and float it down the Yukon river to Nome. Of course, he never did. In this new rush, men were making fortunes and losing them just as fast. Saloons and dance halls sprung up on the beaches just as they had two years before in Dawson.
Nome was a poor man's paradise. Ships could reach the gold fields directly from Seattle. New arrivals saw a line of white tents stretched up and down the beach for ten miles in either direction. With no civil government to mandate sanitary measures, the residents of Nome endured foul odors and the threat of disease.
Unlike Dawson City, the Nome gold rush was a magnet for the criminal element that followed the gold seekers north. The North-West Mounted Police warned American authorities that former members of Soapy Smith's gang in Skagway and many of the worst criminals ever known on this continent were en route to Nome in the fall of 1899. It was a familar story with a familar ending. Millions were taken from the gold fields of Nome. Then in a few short years, it was over. The miners who found no gold continued their wandering search until the day they died.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin.