Yukon Nuggets

  • The elaborate headstone was a tribute to Frederick (Fritz) Miller. Date: 1921. Yukon Archives. Claude & Mary Tidd fonds, #7754.

  • Main Street Pine City Atlin B.C. Date: November 26, 1899. Yukon Archives. Anton Vogee fonds, #186.

  • Miners posed on their claim #124 Spruce Creek, Atlin Mining District, with sluice in foreground and their tents in background. Date: 1899. Yukon Archives. Anton Vogee fonds, #158.

1899 Yukon Nuggets

Stage coach robbery


Where there is gold, there are bunco artists, swindlers and just plain foolish felons out to make a quick buck. It was no different during the California or Klondike gold rushes. Nor, it seems, was the largely forgotten rush to Atlin immune from petty theft.

The Atlin gold fields were opened in 1898 when prospectors Fritz Miller and Kenny McLaren struck paydirt on Spruce Creek. Overnight, many men on their way to the Klondike via the Chilkoot pass, decided to take a chance on the Atlin region instead.

By 1899, there were upwards of ten thousand people mining for gold, or mining the miners, in the Atlin district that most people thought at the time was in the Yukon.

Along with the main community of Atlin on the shore of big Atlin Lake, a sizeable community called Pine City grew at the site of the original discovery on Spruce Creek. The road from the gold mining town of Pine City to Atlin was a wagon trail, about six miles long, called Discovery Road.

In a few short years, a four-mile stretch of Spruce Creek yielded more than $25 million in gold including an 83-ounce nugget discovered in 1899. It was half the size of a loaf of bread. There was a lot of money in the district and all kinds of businesses sprang up. Atlin and Pine City could have rivalled Dawson City, but no one except the locals were paying much attention.

But one day, the region resembled the wild American west. It happened on Monday September 16, 1899. At eight o'clock, Walker's stage was enroute to Pine City from Atlin when a masked highwayman stepped out of the bushes and pointed a Winchester rifle at the driver. The passengers were ordered to get out of the stage and to line up with their hands in the air. Four of the passengers, reported the Bennett Sun, took to the woods. The other five stayed with the stage and though they had considerable money with them, most of them managed to " - lose their purses in the stage before leaving it."

Thus, the newspaper reported: "the highwayman's order to throw their money in a pile on the road resulted in only $3.55 being contributed. This, the robber sulkily picked up, backed into the bushes and disappeared. The police were immediately notified and they made a vigorous search for the daring robber, but in late reports he has not been caught".

"The work of the robber", said the Bennett Sun, "was shockingly crude. His method, or rather lack of it, showed that he was not an expert in the profession, and that he was thoroughly in want of experience".

Whether the still anonymous Atlin highwayman ever received any further training, in the age old art of stagecoach theft, remains unknown.


A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin.

Les McLaughlin

Les McLaughlin

As storyteller, radio man, and music producer, Les proved a passionate preserver of Yukon heritage throughout his life — nowhere more evident than as the author and voice of CKRW’s “Yukon Nuggets,” from its inception until his passing in 2011.

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Atlin, B.C.