Yukon Nuggets

1906 Yukon Nuggets

The Battle of the Rainmakers


The miners of the Klondike raised their eyes to the cloudless sky, waiting for a miracle. It was July, nineteen oh six (1906), and the region hadn’t seen rain in a month. In fact, there hadn’t been enough rain for a full season of placer mining for three years.

The gold industry was in a crisis. In desperation, the placer miners and the territorial government had banded together and for the price of ten thousand dollars, hired a rainmaker to save the Yukon from ruin.

The man they chose was Charles Hatfield, whose name frequently appeared in the newspapers claiming success at rainmaking in America.

Hatfield arrived in Dawson City on June the fifth. Within days, he had constructed a six-metre high tower atop King Solomon’s Dome and was soon filling the sky with smoke from a secret recipe of chemicals. Despite his pronouncements that he had created rain every day since he started, the miners weren’t convinced.

Less than a month later, there was still no rain – and he had competition:  Chief Isaac, leader of the First Nations people living at Moosehide. Chief Isaac said he could make all the rain the miners would need, and he would do it for a lot less.

Furthermore, he said the money would stay in the community, where it would do more good.

Chief Isaac set four of his best medicine men to work to counteract Hatfield’s efforts. By the twenty third of July, the miners had had enough. There was still not enough rain to make a difference, so they sent him packing.  The Dawson Daily News accused Hatfield  of practicing nothing more than hocus-pocus.

A shamed rainmaker left the parched Yukon receiving only travel expenses for him and his assistant. When Hatfield arrived in Seattle, however, he was claiming success in the Klondike.

 Meanwhile, Chief Isaac had a medicine man at Moosehide hard at work making rain. And rain it did. A petition was circulated in the community in August asking the government to make Chief Isaac the  official rainmaker at a rate of seven hundred dollars a year.

 Commissioner McInnes refused any payment claiming that it was already too late in the season.

 In retaliation, Chief Isaac placed another injunction upon the heavens. By November, no precipitation had yet fallen in the Yukon, and the sleighs could not traverse the winter road between Whitehorse and Dawson City.

 So who do you think demonstrated more control over the heavens, Hatfield, or Isaac?

A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Michael Gates.

Michael Gates

Michael Gates

Known widely as the “History Hunter” for the Yukon News, Michael is the perfect fit to continue Les’ legacy as author of Yukon Nuggets — ever mining Yukon’s past for historical nuggets, never resting til they’re verified true gold.