Millionaire Died Penniless in a Log Cabin!

12 Aug
English: Keish (Skookum Jim Mason) in 1898. Ke...

Keish (Skookum Jim Mason) in 1898. Keish is today credited with making the gold discovery that led to the Klondike Gold Rush. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The man who started one of the biggest gold rushes in the world missed making a fortune because he didn’t like Indians!  Gold had been discovered along the Yukon River in 1896, and a few prospectors were making a little money.  One of them was Robert Henderson.  In one of the creeks running into the Yukon River, Henderson and four other men panned gold worth $750.  Henderson called it “Goldbottom,” and went to a settlement called Ogilvie for supplies.

On the way back, he met George Washington Carmack, an American who wanted to be an Indian and who was known as “Siwash George.”  Carmack was fishing for salmon with two Indians, “Tagish” Charlie and “Skookum” Jim.  Henderson urged him to try Goldbottom Creek.  However, he added that he didn’t want Indians staking claims.

Carmack didn’t like Goldbottom Creek, and was angered when Henderson refused to give tobacco for his companions.  Carmack and his friends left Henderson and on the way back, on August 12, they panned some gravel on Rabbit Creek and immediately found four dollars worth of gold.

They staked claims, which Skookum Jim was left to guard, while Carmack and Tagish Charlie rushed to record them at Constantine’s Post on Forty Mile.  On the way there, Carmack told everyone about their discovery.  They wouldn’t believe him until he poured gold dust out of an empty shotgun shell.  Henderson, however, was not informed, although he claimed later that he told Carmack to try Rabbit Creek.

Then the rush started.  It was the Klondike Gold Rush, the biggest and most exciting in the world.  Huge fortunes were made.  “Big Alex” MacDonald staked half of Claim 30 on Eldorado for a sack of flour and made $20 million.  He spent it almost as quickly and died penniless in a log cabin.  One of the prospectors brought his bride along.  Whenever she needed money, she just panned the muck the men were digging up and nearly always found a few nuggets!  Poor Robert Henderson, whose dedicated work started it all, had to settle for a pension of $200 a month from the Government.

Want to read more about this? I’ve got places where you can learn more! For instance, has an interesting article – be sure to watch the short video while you are there! And then Great Unsolved Mysteries In Canadian History for another great article.


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12 responses to “Millionaire Died Penniless in a Log Cabin!

  1. hermitsdoor

    August 13, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    Fortunes made by getting someone else to dig holes in the dirt and give the gold to you in exchange for something less strainous 🙂 Growing up in California, my impression was that those who made money in the gold rushes there were the merchants who sold passages on boats, clothes and tools for mining, and sexual rewards later… not the miners.

    • tkmorin

      August 13, 2013 at 9:03 pm

      I’m sure there’s a lot of truth in that …. :-). Thanks again for dropping by.

  2. noirfifre

    August 12, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    Another interesting read 🙂

    • tkmorin

      August 12, 2013 at 10:14 pm

      Thank you so much! 🙂

  3. 1quest2thenextadmin

    August 12, 2013 at 10:32 am

    I’m so excited to come upon this site. Lots of history that I’m unfamiliar with. I’ll do some reading and share some facts with my kids on here. Thanks

    • tkmorin

      August 12, 2013 at 2:03 pm

      I’m glad you like what you see! I so love feedback, so don’t hesitate!! 🙂

  4. afterthekidsleave

    August 12, 2013 at 8:47 am

    You might be interested to know that in the Chinook jargon, “skookum” means “fine” or “good,” while “siwash” means “Indian.”

    • tkmorin

      August 12, 2013 at 2:02 pm

      Thank You!! I am indeed interested! 🙂

    • maggieannthoeni

      August 12, 2013 at 8:20 pm

      I treasure the word ‘skookum’ and use it often, even here in the States where I figure the word has an onomatopoeia quality. Most people seem to ‘sense’ what it means. In NE BC we tended to use it to mean “sturdy, unbreakable, unsurpassable utility”. Maybe because we were often dealing with machinery and farm situations!

      • tkmorin

        August 12, 2013 at 10:16 pm

        Thank you! 🙂

  5. L. Marie

    August 12, 2013 at 8:39 am

    My word! Sounds like some lottery winners today! Sadly they spend it and wind up penniless.

    • tkmorin

      August 12, 2013 at 2:02 pm

      I wonder how much they enjoyed spending, though … I mean, that would be nice, to spend it! But you’re right, some of us haven’t learned that lesson! 🙂


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