Alaska's First Big Gold Rush

Juneau – Alaska’s capital since 1906. Here would boast Alaska’s First big Gold Rush.

In 1880, Sitka mining engineer George Pilz offered a reward to any local chief who could lead him to gold-bearing ore. A Native American Indian Chief named Kowee guided two miners, Joe Juneau and Richard Harris through what is now known as Gold Creek. Later, they followed a creek they named Quartz Creek into what became the Silver Bow Basin. That’s when they started to find nuggets "as large as peas and beans," in Harris' words. In thirty years of mining and prospecting, Joe Juneau had never seen its equal in terms of the immense size of the gold-bearing zone. Hundreds of gold quartz veins ran through the basin.

On October 18, 1880, the two men marked a 160 acre town site where soon a mining camp appeared. In 1881 the miners met and renamed the town Juneau, after Joe Juneau. He traveled around Alaska prospecting new sites all through his life. In 1897, Joe decided to make one last rush to the Klondike, but the rough years had taken a toll on him and he died in the Yukon in 1899. A few years later, fellow miners and Juneau residents brought his body back for burial in Juneau, a belated honor, but well deserved.