It was in 1880 that two prosepctors, Joseph Juneau and Richard Harris were prospecting out in an area known as the silver bowl basin. There they happened to come across a nice find of gold. The silver bowl basin isn't too far out from Juneau Alaska. Of course news about a gold strike got out and the next thing you know there is a whole bunch of other prospectors and miners in the area looking for gold. One of these prospectors was a man named John Treadwell who had a bit of money and bought a lode claim on Douglas Island.
John Treadwell did a bit of sampling on this claim of his and the ended up buying 2 more claims that were next to the one he already had. He continued to sample these claims and then sent the samples off to an assayer to get some results of his finds. The assays came back and showed some very good results of gold. In late 1881 John formed the Alaska Mill & Mining Company and started to mine the gold vein that was on his property. It was preety low key at first which was good because after he started mining he noticed that the vein of gold went onto neighboring claims. No one really knew how good the claims were so claims could be bought for little money so he ended up buying a few more claim around the claims he already had.
John Treadwell wanted to expand this mine so he ended going to California because he knew of some people who would most likely invest money with him. He already had some investors from California who bought stock in the company so he returned to seek more financial help. As it turns out the investors like what they saw and put more money into the operation. He then returned to the claims and with the money he started a large scale mining operation.
Over the years the John Treadwell grew the mine and soon there were five mills processing ore from four different mines. There were over 2000 miners working 24 hours a day, seven day a week. There were shafts in these mines that ran a depth of 2,500 feet down below the surface. In it's day it was the largest hard rock mine in the world. In 1898 John Treadwell sold his share of the mines out to investors for almost 2 million dollars and he returned home to California.
In 1917 the mines were still producing gold and the mills were still working. There were underground channels and drifts that were being mined out that extended under the Gastineau Channel. One day one of the tunnels started to leak in water so the tunnel was evacuated. Later that day the entire tunnel collapsed and filled in with sea water. The water ran into other tunnels also. This put an end to mining in the Treadwell mine. There were a few more tunnels that could be mined but by 1922 the gold ran out and the mine was closed for good.