Yukon Nuggets

1935 Yukon Nuggets

Swiftwater Bill Gates (No. 2)


In Dawson City they called him Swiftwater Bill. He liked that. You see, Bill Gates was a little man with a big ego. He told everyone who’d listen that he earned his nickname because of his prowess in steering boats over river rapids in Idaho, whence he came.

However, in the Klondike, poor little Bill was never taken seriously by real miners. That is, until he reluctantly took a lay on claim 13 on Eldorado creek. Turns out it was one of the richest gold claims in the world.

Now Gates was rich. With more money than any man needed, "Swiftwater" bathed in champagne and was notorious for lusting after dance hall girls. He’d often be seen with groups of girls, heading for his Eldorado claims. There they helped themselves to the Nuggets.

To ensure female companionship, he co-owned the Monte Carlo dance hall on Front Street where booze and nuggets flowed freely.

In Dawson, he was a little man with a big heart and lots of cash. And his favourite companion was Gussie Lamore, a pretty nineteen-year-old who had come to Dawson from Circle City, Alaska in the spring of 1898.

Gussie was extremely fond of fresh eggs, but they were as scarce as hen’s teeth in Dawson . One day, Swiftwater Bill was holding court in his favourite restaurant when Gussie Lamore entered on the arm of a well-known gambler. When the twosome sat down and ordered fried eggs, Swiftwater Bill, in a fit of rage, raced around Dawson and bought up every egg in town.

One friend of Gates who witnessed the incredible scene said that Swiftwater had the eggs fried one at a time in the Monte Carlo and threw them through the window to the hungry dogs. Mrs. lola Beebe, one of Swiftwater’s several future mothers-in-law, wrote later that there were two crates of eggs and that Swiftwater paid for the eggs with a couple of coffee tins filled with gold.

The incident caught young Gussie Lamore’s attention alright. She offered to meet Bill in San Francisco that fall and marry him, failing to mention that she was already married. From there, his story gets increasingly vague. He ended up with a silver mining concession in Peru, where he died in 1935.


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.