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The Porcupine Gold Camp

It was back in 1897 when hundreds of prospectors were heading over the chillkoot pass on their way to the klondike. This route was very treacherous so any other way to get over the mountains was always being looked at. One of these alternative routes was a trail heading north from Haines. It was on this trail that a cattle wrangler by the name Sylva Mix noticed gold in a creek while running a herd of cattle north. Mix returned the following year with a couple of other men and they started to explore in the area of Boulder Creek.

After not having much luck on the first creek, the three men moved further on to area now known as Porcupine Creek where they find good gold. With just simple hand tools these three men were making ten bucks a day. Just on one small ledge out crop of the creek they could just reach down and pluck nuggets right out the water. Within a week they had recovered over twelve hundred buck in gold. One of the nuggets was put on display at a hotel in Juneau. This gold nugget caught the eye of many prospectors but with winter setting in all they could do was wait till spring. However despite the winter tempuratures, many men headed out and started staking claims on this creek even though it was said there was still upwards of 6 feet of snow covering the ground. Pretty soon everything was staked and soon a small camp got started. By the end of 1899 over $50,000 worth of gold had been mined.

One of the early men who got involved in the rush was a fella named Jack Dalton. Jack was the guy who started the Dalton Trail. He got in early and staked up a good chunk of land and soon had sawmill running and built a hotel and general store. He then started to survey out a townsite and was selling town lots for $300 each. By late winter there was a sizable tent town with the start of some more permenant structures ebing built. By the summer of 1900 it had four saloons, two hotels and even a dance hall. Blackjack and poker games were running high, and tents and cabins sprouted at Porcupine faster than you could shake a stick at. The following year there were five sawmills running full time and a mining recorder’s office and a post office were opened.

Newspapers were touting the porcupine gold camp could be just as large as the klondike. This news caught ear of business man John F. Maloney who bought into the Porcupine Trading Company and they proceeded to build and large wooden flume. This flume would be the largest anywhere in Alaska and the Klondike. It varied from 6 to 8 feet deep, 24 to 40 feet wide and was 8,000 feet in length and took over 2 million board feet of lumber to build. This flume would allow them to mine upwards of 150,00 dollars per year of gold. That would be about 30 million dollars today.

In 1905 heavy spring floods came down the creek and destroyed the flume and at that time the Porcupine Trading Company ceased operations. Then in 1907 with a road built to Haines the flume was rebuilt and sluicing of gold continued until 1915 when once again flooding washed out the flume. Then in 1917 the Alaska Corporation took over the original claims and began to repair building the damaged flume. After a couple season of work, more gold was being taken out with less expense than ever before. Then the flume once again got flooded out and operations came to stand still.

Then in 1926 miner and businessman August Fritsche, acquired nearly all the claims in the district. With over 100 workers he then constructed yet another 12,000 foot flume and worked the claims until 1936. Company records showed over 1.7 million dollars in gold was mined during this 10 year span. On the last day of operation in 1936 Fritsche took $25,000 in gold to his home. When he didn’t show up at the “cleanup” party later that night, some of the workers when looking for him. Later he was found dead. However none of the gold was found. It was not in the safe, and after a through search, the gold was never found. How he died no one really knows. It could have been foul play or even suicide. Then in 1953, a miner living in Fritsche’s house was rumored to have found a can gold and abandoned the house and was never seen again.

Porcupine Creek today is the site where the Gold Rush series was first filmed. There is still active mining that goes on in this area, however the old gold camp of Porcupine is pretty much gone except for maybe a few old cabins.