GOLD! The lure of gold has haunted man since the beginning of time. The Atlin Gold rush began in 1898, when Fritz Miller, a German immigrant & Kenneth McLarren, a Nova Scotian acted on a tip from Fritz’s older brother George. George had come from Juneau Alaska on a pack trip to the Atlin area. While a companion was cooking dinner, he took his gold pan and tested the gravel of the creek and there was GOLD!
Fritz Miller & Kenny McLaren had little difficulty in locating Pine Creek where they quickly found the fortune they were seeking. On July 27th 1898, Fritz presented himself before Captain D’Arcy Strickland of the North West Mounted Police at Tagish Lake to claim Discovery for himself and McLaren.
The rest is history! The word was out! “As rich as the Klondike. Atlin City … the wonder of 1899”, the newspapers proclaimed the new bonanza. This was welcome news for the hundreds of would-be miners struggling towards Dawson City. Most were running short of money and supplies and energy. The nearby coastal cities of Dyea, Skagway and Juneau were affected drastically as practically every able bodied man made straight for the Eldorado in Atlin. They left the stores and businesses to be managed by the comparatively few women in the country.
Before long all the creeks in the Atlin area were staked and dotted with tents and hundreds of miners. A tent-city sprung up on the shores of Atlin Lake. Soon, there were buildings of all kinds, saloons, hotels, banks, restaurants and stores. Sawmills ran 24 hours a day. Boats, large and small plied the waters with goods and passengers brought up through Tagish Lake over the Atlin River. On Pine Creek there was a “city” too, which became known as Discovery. As with all the mining towns, the liquor flowed freely and there was gambling, the games of faro, blackjack and poker, and there were the “ladies of easy virtue” to help the miners spend their money and give them solace from the home sickness which beset most of them. The lure of gold attracted people from every corner
of Europe and North America. Pine Creek, Spruce Creek, Ruby Creek, McKee Creek, Birch Creek, are still yielding up gold today.
Different methods of mining have been used, with the use of heavy equipment, dredges, drag lines, excavators and floaters, up through the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s to present day 2007. There are still dreamers and gold seekers working the creeks in and around Atlin and they are still finding gold. The price of gold in 2011 was around $1500 an ounce.
There are some very interesting books on the Atlin area, one being: Atlin, The Story of British Columbias last gold Rush, written by Christine Frances Dickinson and Diane Solie Smith. The Atlin Museum is a gold mine of information about the Atlin Gold Rush. Come, stay awhile, there are still some interesting characters around with gold mining stories to
A different breed of “Seekers” are coming to Atlin in recent years from every part of the world. They are looking for the beauty and pristine wilderness. Heliskiers come to ski the slopes, fishermen come for the thrill of catching big lake trout. The music lovers come for the Music Festival.
For more stories on Atlin’s history, please download the Atlin Claim.