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Yukon Nuggets

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1930 1931 1932 1933 1935 1936 1937 1938

Robert Henderson, Prospector

He was born in Nova Scotia, born with a passion for gold. He had looked all over the world for gold, financing his lonely journeys from Australia to Colorado by taking paid jobs as a sailor. He had never struck it big - just enough to pay his way back to the sea and work toward his next destination. Then, the Yukon called.

Robert Henderson was a silent and - some say - unfriendly man. His only real feelings were for the yellow metal he was seeking. In 1894, he heard stories of small gold finds in a place called the Yukon. With two acquaintances, he shipped out as far as Dyea, Alaska, and trekked over the Chilkoot Pass, eventually moving to the Sixtymile River, near, but not, in the Klondike Valley.

He began prospecting in earnest on the Indian River which flows into the Yukon above Dawson. In a tiny creek he named Gold Bottom, Henderson made a small strike, but his supplies were getting low. He decided to go down the Yukon to Fortymile, where there was a townsite and quite a few mining claims.

On the way he met George Carmack, and two of Carmack's native friends, Skookum Jim and Tagish Charlie. They were scouting out logging sites and looking for easy gold around the Klondike river. Henderson told Carmack about his modest strike at Gold Bottom Creek. Carmack said he might go there to try his luck. Henderson said they should share in the knowledge of any finds.

Just over the divide from where Henderson had been working small creeks, Skookum Jim found the biggest of Klondike nuggets on a small stream called Rabbit Creek. Carmack, Jim and Charlie with gold nuggets larger than anyone had ever seen in the region, hurried to the Fortymile townsite to register their claims on the creek, since renamed Bonanza. Carmack displayed his bag of nuggets and told all the miners within earshot where he had made the find. Immediately Fortymile and its gold-producing creeks became a ghost town. Miners flocked to the Klondike river. The great Klondike rush was on.

Meanwhile Bob Henderson continued to pan the small creeks around the Indian River, not realizing the frenzy of staking just over the hills. When Henderson finally heard of the action, it was too late. All the good ground and more had been staked. Carmack, for whatever reason, didn't tell Henderson what he had found.

In his later days, Henderson lived in a small cabin overlooking Dawson City. Those who knew him say he was never bitter about losing out on the big payoff - he had come so close to the big payoff. But the Canadian government did eventually recognize him as co-discoverer of Klondike gold.

Henderson 1
Miners near a sluice box on No. 5 from mouth of Gold Bottom Creek. Date: 1901.
Yukon Archives. Adams & Larkin fonds, #9091.
Click for larger view.

Henderson 2
A Yukon prospector shovelling dirt by the Yukon River. Beside him are a gold pan, pick, and a rocker. Date: July 1938.
Yukon Archives. Adam & Larkin fonds, #8050.
Click for larger view.

As he grew older, Bob Henderson moved to the west coast, where he spent his last days. He died in 1933.


A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin



Ghost on the Third Floor - Caribou Hotel in Carcross

"It’s haunting and haunting and luring me on as of old". So said the poet, Robert Service. Was he talking about the Yukon’s most famous hotel located in Carcross? Maybe! Because it is haunted. The hotel had been built at Bennett in 1898 at the start of the gold rush. There it was known as the Yukon Hotel. In 1901, the building was floated on a scow, down Lake Bennett to Carcross, by then-owner W. A. Anderson. It was renamed the Caribou.

In Carcross, the hotel prospered under several owners including Dawson Charlie, who had made a fortune from his Klondike gold claims. But Dawson Charlie died on January 26, 1908, when he fell of the rail bridge at Carcross.

Edwin and Bessie Gideon then rented the hotel from his estate.

But the building burned to the ground on Christmas Eve in 1909. So the Gideons built a new hotel on the same spot, using wood from a building that had been torn down in nearby Conrad City.

The Caribou’s interesting history continued when, in 1918, Polly the Parrot moved in. Captain James Alexander, owner of Engineer Mine, had asked the Gideons to take care of the Parrot while he went outside. Alexander drowned when the Princess Sophia sank in 1918. Polly stayed with the Gideons who continued to operate the hotel. When Edwin Gideon died in 1925, Bessie ran it until she died in the hotel on October 27, 1933.

Since then, strange things have been seen at the Caribou. The hotel is said to be haunted by Bessie's ghost, considered a shy spirit. A story is told of the figure of a woman who often stands near a third floor window and bangs on the floorboards. She is thought to be the ghost of Bessie, described as a spirit that is neither friendly nor unfriendly.

Though she was said to have been buried in Carcross, a cemetery survey has been unable to find Bessie Gideon’s grave, but Polly the Parrot, who died in the hotel in 1972, is buried in the cemetery. The Caribou Hotel is now a Yukon historic site, soon to reopen under new management and - legend has it - still haunted.


A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin