215 pages, 6 x 9
36 colour illustrations
Release Date:01 Jan 1994

Gold at Fortymile Creek

Early Days in the Yukon

UBC Press

Gold at Fortymile Creek tells the story of the search for gold in the Yukon before the great Klondike gold rush. Michael Gates writes about the life and times of the early pioneers, who suffered unimaginable hardships in search of the big strike. It is a story about survival and adversity, life and death, good times and bad on one of the harshest, most formidable frontiers in the world.

The book, based on the accounts of dozens of prospectors, follows the first gold-seekers from their arrival in 1873 until the stampede to the Klondike in 1896. Gates captures the essence of these early years of the gold rush, about which very little has been written. He chronicles the trials, hearbreaks, and successes of the unique and hardy individualists who searched for gold in the wilderness. With names like Swiftwater Bill, Crooked Leg Louie, Slobbery Tom, and Tin Kettle George, these men lived in total isolation beyond the borders of civilization. They were often eccentrics and outcasts, who shaped their own rules, their own justice, and their own social order.

Into this no-man's land came the harbingers of civilization: the traders, missionaries, gentlemen travellers, pioneer women, North-West Mounted Police, and countless others who populated the rough-and-ready settlements – Fort Reliance, Forty Mile, Circle, and Dawson – which grew up around each new find.

Fascinating and informative, Gold at Fortymile Creek tells the story of a rag-tag group of risk-takers and dreamers, who set the stage for one of the most remarkable events of the nineteenth-century -- the Klondike gold rush.

This meticulous study ientifies the major implications of attempting to ‘MacDonalize’ the delivery of social services. Gerd Schroeter, Canadian Public Policy (Reviews)
A fine introduction to the pre-Klondike history of the Yukon River valley, and an excellent primer for historians interested in the years leading up to the great gold rush in the North. Ken Coates, Western Historical Quarterly
Gates presents an especially vivid picture of the material and social lives of Yukon prospectors. Piecing together an array of primary sources, the author vividly describes how white miners endured the harsh and remote environment; the struggle to obtain food, heat and shelter; the problem of mining in frozen earth; and the danger of travel in northern winters. Maps and numerous photographs illustrate the anecdotes. Gates succeeds admirably in his goal of showing that ‘the life of the miners was very difficult indeed (p. xii).’ Historians of material culture, especially, will welcome this addition to the growing literature on mining camp life. Janet Ore, Pacific Northwest Quarterly
Michael Gates is Curator of Collections for Klondike National Historic Sites in Dawson, Yukon.

Illustrations and Maps

Preface and Acknowledgments

1 Early Days: The First Gold Seekers Arrive

2 The Chilkoot Pass and Early Transportation

3 Early Developments on the Yukon River

4 The Miners' Code

5 The Fortymile Stampede

6 Strangers in a Strange Land

7 Years of Change

8 Forty Mile: Anatomy of a Goldrush Town

9 The Arrival of the North-West Mounted Police

10 Death of the Miners' Committee

11 Circle: The Largest Log City in the World

12 The Discovery of Gold in the Klondike

13 Epilogue


A. Mining Methods and Terms

B. Roll Call: Names of the Early Yukon Pioneers




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