AHS Blog

Looking Back: The 1900 Nome Gold Rush

Date Posted: October 15, 2013       Categories: 49 History

By Laura Samuelson, Director, Carrie M. McLain Memorial Museum
Last week Ed and Wilfred were mining fish as well as gold. The pump was sucking up tomcod and dumping them into the sluice box. This week their mining days are numbered…
By Wilfred A. McDaniel
The short days of October passed quickly, with a noticeable decrease in daylight, from day to day. From the continuous day light of summer to the long, dark nights of winter, the change is rapid.

PREPARED FOR WINTER – “It was with no great reluctance that we
stacked the sluices, after making the last clean-up, and gave King
Winter undisputed sway!” Note the driftwood stacked against the tent
for insulation and protection from the wind. Photo by Wilfred
McDaniel from the Carrie M. McLain Memorial Museum Archives

Increasing cold came as the sun came southward, lowering slowly toward the horizon, as each day passed. Heavy freezes came during the longer nights and working hours were often shortened because of frost and ice in the pits. Thawing of the pump became necessary, and as the weather grew colder, to prevent damage, a complete draining of the water from pump and engine was required.
Owing to the fact that saltwater freezes at a lower temperature, mining on the beach continued for some time after the creek placers had shut down for the winter.
Our work went on during the shortening hours of sunshine, but the discomfort of working in the stinging cold, and accomplishing so little was disheartening. Even the gold lost its lure, and when icicles hung from the pump and sluice-boxes, and slush ice formed on the seepage water under foot, it was with no great reluctance that we stacked the sluices, after making the last clean-up, and gave King Winter undisputed sway!

A TIME FOR EVERY SEASON – “With lowering temperatures, living and sleeping
in the tent became an uncomfortable problem!” Photo by Wilfred
McDaniel from the Carrie M. McLain Memorial Museum Archives

October 15th marked the end of the mining season. A record kept showed that we had worked almost eighty days of actual mining, and under the conditions during which this was accomplished, it seemed a real achievement! The mining season over, removal and storage of engine and pump was undertaken at once. This was found to be much easier now, for the hard, frozen beach made an ideal pavement and by aid of planks from the wrecked lighter, with pinch bars and rollers, the various heavy parts were placed safely back on the bench and wrapped in canvas, soon to be buried under the deep snows of winter.
With lowering temperatures, living and sleeping in the tent became an uncomfortable problem! The heavy cast-iron stove was now useless. During the summer it had been set up in a shelter attached to the tent, but its bulk and poor heating capacity made it unfitted for present conditions, and a sheet iron Yukon stove replaced it. While fire remained in the Yukon stove the interior of the tent would be dry and comfortable, but at night, after we had rolled in the blankets, the fire soon died out. Water left on the stove at night would be ice in the morning, and our damp outer garments would be stiff with frost, but soon thawed after dressing!
Continued in the week of October 21.