1904 Yukon Nuggets
Ain’t just the gold that I’m wanting, so much as just finding the gold. What a great line about gold mining especially when it comes not from a miner, but a poet. So then imagine finding not just the gold, but the largest nugget in Klondike history.
In 1964, miner Joe Yanisiw saw a photo of a huge chunk of Klondike gold that had been found on Dominion Creek in 1904. Being the curious sort, Joe began a search to find out what claim the gold came from and who found it.
It took 40 years. Joe said that through his many years as a prospector and miner, he was surprised that he was not able to locate even a mention of this large nugget anywhere in Klondike Gold Rush historical records. Then on a trip to Fairbanks in 2004, he had some time on his hands and went to the Rasmussen library at the University and there it was...information and a photo of the largest Yukon Nugget .
Fred Mattheisen, of Seattle Washington and his partner F.F. Coffin found it on their claim number 9 above discovery on Dominion Creek in 1904. The monster weighed in at 126 ounces.
Still curious, Joe Yanisiw wondered why information about the nugget was so hard to find. Finally he decided it was likely because, at the turn of the century, a Yukon miner who found less than five hundred dollars worth of gold a year, was only required to pay the government a 10% royalty. If they mined more than five hundred dollars, the royalty rose to 15%.
Americans in the Klondike didn’t like the rule. Many refused to pay and instead smuggled their gold out of the territory. The Mounties searched departing Klondike miners on the trains to Skagway and confiscated their gold if the royalty had not been paid on it. Joe is sure that if the royalty had been paid on this 126-ounce nugget, it would have been mentioned in Yukon or Klondike history records. So this one must have escaped.
There was no mention of this nugget in government records, until it was melted down in Seattle in 1910 after Mattheisen and his family left the Klondike. The nugget produced fifty ounces of pure gold worth fifty thousand dollars today.
Strangely Joe has owned claim Number 9 on Dominion Creek since 1990 and thinks that he may have located the site of the cabin where a photo of the huge nugget was taken. Nothing remains today except some old stove parts and the ditch which Mattheisen and Coffin may have dug and used to flume water to their workings.
Who knows. Maybe there’s another monster nugget lurking in the ground that produced the Yukon’s largest chunk of gold.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin.