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There’s Gold in Them Thar Hills!

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Gold was discovered in the Sacramento Valley of California in themid-19th century. The first strike in 1848 made headlines on several continents, and by 1849 thousands of immigrants—known as “fortyniners”—came to seek their fortune. The State of California was born in 1850, and the population grew from about 1,000 to 380,000 over the first decade. Two of these original forty-niners who sought their fortune in California came from the Sutton area: Omie Lagrange, who sold his mill on Maple Street and departed, and Alva Laraway, who would later, in 1898, join another Suttonite gold-rusher—Reuben Westover—in Edmonton, and travel with him to the Klondike. (See, Reuben Westover
Heads for the Klondike, p. 10)

A decade later, gold was also found in British Columbia. The Fraser Valley had some scattered deposits, and there was a gold rush in the Caribou Mountains between 1860 and 1866. In the Cassiar Mountains of northern British Columbia there was “a major strike” at Dease Lake in 1872.1 Finally, in the Northwest Territories, the Yukon River and its tributaries were explored, among them the Klondike River. By the 1890s—the California gold rush long over—gold fever still raged in Alaska and the Yukon. On 15 July 1897, the ship Excelsior docked in San Francisco, bringing a crowd of prospectors from the
Yukon. The San Francisco Call of that date declared: “Half a Million Dollars’ Worth of [gold] Dust Comes by the Excelsior.” Two days later a second ship, the Portland, was due to dock in Seattle. Reporters rented a tug boat and besieged it on the water well before it docked. On board they interviewed the newly-rich prospectors—still in their filthy mining clothes—and witnessed the bags of gold dust and nuggets they’d carried from the Yukon and the Klondike. The tug rushed the reporters back to shore; their stories were printed before the Portland even reached port. Three days later, the Los Angeles Herald reported that the Hon C.H. Mcintosh, Governor of the Northwest Territories—passing through Seattle en route to Edmonton—was quoted as saying, “I consider the British Yukon goldfields the richest ever trod by man. The gold supply is practically inexhaustible. There are hundreds of rich rivers and creeks. Clondyke [sic] is only one of them.”

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