Sunday 7 August 2016

Skookum Jim Sparks the Klondike Gold Rush

Skookum Jim Mason.png

Skookum Jim circa 1898 courtesy

Born to a Tahitan mother and Native Indian father, James Mason grew up in the Yukon Territory.  In the 1880's, he worked as a packer, carrying supplies for miners, earning him the nickname "Skookum", a Chinook term for incredible strength.  On August 17, 1896, four prospectors, Skookum Jim, his sister Kate Carmack,her husband, George Charmack and their nephew, Dawson Charlie were travelling along a tributary of the Klondike River, called Rabbit Creek.  Stopping to rest on the banks of the creek, one of the party saw a shiny object in the water.  It was gold, pure gold.  While it might have been Skookum Jim who spotted the precious object, it was George Carmack who took credit for the discovery, possibly because the former was a Native Indian.

Prospectors ascending the Chilkoot Pass in a long line

Ascending the Chilkoot Pass circa 1898 courtesy

Word spread quickly as thousands of prospectors stampeded to what is now "Discovery Pass".  Climbing the white capped mountains, their figures looked like ants on an anthill.    The Canadian government required each "stampeder" to pack a year's supply of food to avoid starvation.  As a result, each prospector's gear weighing close to a ton, had to be carried in stages.  Nearby Dawson City, with a population of 500, swelled to 30,000 by 1898.  To accommodate the new arrivals, locals built dozens of wooden structures, susceptible to fire.  Unsanitary conditions made epidemics spread quickly.  Yet, successful prospectors sunk their fortunes into the local saloons where they gambled and drank every night.

Miners wait to register claims in Dawson City circa 1899 courtesy

Rabbit Creek was renamed Bonanza Creek by the miners who discovered millions of dollars worth of gold beneath its waters.  Skookum Jim passed away in Whitehorse, Yukon in 1916, leaving a daughter, Daisy Mason.  Discovery Claim was declared a National Historic Site in 1998.  Canada Post issued a Klondike Gold Rush series in 1996, on the Centennial of Skookum Jim's discovery.

Klondike Gold Rush series courtesy

No comments:

Post a Comment