Michael Gates is no stranger to writing about the history of mining in the Yukon. As the curator of collections for Klondike National Historic Sites, he penned many a study. He also started writing the sort of material that would become his long-running History Hunter column in the Yukon News. While he and I were nursing Dawson’s nascent Klondike Sun newspaper back in the 80s and 90s, he additionally wrote his first book, Gold at Fortymile Creek.
Since then, Davidson has assembled a second book, History Hunting in the Yukon (2010) from his History Hunter columns, and written Dalton’s Gold Rush Trail (2012), as well as From the Klondike to Berlin (2017). The present book, one of several projects he has had on the go since he retired, is one he was commissioned to write by Victoria Gold, the owners of the Eagle Gold Mine. This was a somewhat different assignment for him, but one to which he could apply the same skill set. Indeed, the first three chapters of this book contain material that also generated a number of columns about early mining in the Dublin Gulch area, north and east of Mayo.
Chapter one applies a shorter version of the same historical panorama technique that James Michener used in some of his mammoth novels: begin with the development of the land and eventually introduce the flora, fauna and people. In a little more than five pages, Gates moves from geology to First Nations and on to the arrival of those seeking gold. That leads naturally to exploration chronicled later in the book, beginning in 1885, around the time of the rush to Fortymile and continuing almost in parallel with the Klondike Rush that began in 1896. As noted in the next chapter, “Placer mining has traditionally been the ‘poor man’s’ mining method.” Gates introduces a variety of characters who were more or less successful in the area, and kind of blazed the trails that would be followed later on.
“Hardrock” is the chapter that moves things on to the next stage, and maps out some of the areas that would eventually be consolidated by Victoria Gold. It’s in this chapter where the reader will find a very helpful profusion of photographs, from black and white to colour. They carry the exploration and development story from the first decade of the 1900s up to the turn of the present century.