A History of the Klondike Gold Rush in Yukon Territory

Author Photo
By Staff

Learn about the history of the Klondike gold rush in Yukon territory.

After Irving several years in the north country, I acquired the
pleasant hobby of following up the famous gold rush of 1898.
However, it was not until the summer of 1965 that I was fortunate
enough to visit the Klondike region of the Yukon Territory.

First, let’s be sure of our geography. We lived in Alaska in
the ’40’s and early ’50’s. The Yukon River rises in
Canada and flows across the breadth of Alaska, but the Yukon
Territory is in Canada and the folks of old Dawson City prefer to
be addressed just Yukon on their mail.

There are numberless books published on the Klondike gold rush in Yukon territory of 1898.
Through the years, I have inquired about eight of the more factual
ones, so when I actually visited the area, I was prepared to make
the most of every hour around old Dawson City. It is still a town
of gravel streets and board walks. About 800 people live there
today but there are dozens of old buildings falling in ruin; many
of the old blacksmith and steam shops with their Contents intact,
slowly rusting away. Woe to the person caught vandalizing or
carrying off these reminders of bygone days. The old-timers of
Dawson really frown upon souvenir hunters.

The old shops are just teeming with steam piping, boilers,
donkey engines and thawing equipment. In the early days a steam
railroad ran from Dawson, east along the Klondike River and over
south to the creeks. The roadbed has long since been torn up to
make way for the dredges brought in after the turn of the
century — all except one short section of track on which perched a
small locomotive near Bear Creek. This little steam relic lay there
and rusted for 50 years until the summer of 1965 when some
souvenier hunter “bought it” and hauled it to Vancouver. Not
until the folks at Dawson read about it in the paper did they know
anything about someone “buying” the little locomotive.

Nine miles up Bonanza Creek there is a marker placed where
George Carmacks more or less accidentally discovered the deposit of
heavy placer gold. One half mile above that, Eldorado Creek joins
the Bonanza. Carmacks had been over to see Bob Henderson on
Goldbottom Creek. Taking a short cut back to the Klondike River, he
camped one night on Rabbit Creek (later called Bonanza). He panned
some gravel to pass the time and uncovered a mint of gold.

This was August 1896. The word leaked out and the rush was on.
By the fall of 1897, all ground in the Klondike had been staked;
yet the summer of 1898 brought in about 30,000 people from all over
Canada and the States. The rush to the Klondike in 1898 might be
called the biggest hoax of all time even though the miners took out
an estimated 10 million in gold in 1898. There were thousands who
arrived in Dawson; stayed a few days and headed home again,
disappointed. Some actually thought gold nuggets were growing on the

But today the creek bottoms are quiet except for an occasional
dredge in operation. One can spot the remains of old cabins, rusted
pick heads and shovels, old steam thawing equipment; but mostly one
sees the entire creek bed riffled with tailings from the

Back in old Dawson City the people live quietly on; the old
timers still having hope of another boom; and in the late evenings
of summer the rows of old buildings stand ghostly quiet.

However, the archeolgists and mining engineers left a spark of
hope the old timers of Dawson — the mother lode was never found.

–Dorothy Smith, secretary.

Here is a picture of my 20-40 Case, No. 14454. This engine was
used for threshing only and shows very little wear. I also have an
old Titan that I am repairing and restoring to original

Published on Jul 1, 1966

Gas Engine Magazine

Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines