Alaska Gold Rush History & Genealogy

Juneau located on the Gastineau Channel in the panhandle of the U.S. state of Alaska
The first European to see the Juneau area was Joseph Whidbey, master of the Discovery during George Vancouver’s 1791-95 expedition, who explored the region in July–August 1794.
In 1880, Sitka mining engineer George Pilz offered a reward to any local chief who could lead him to gold-bearing ore. Chief Kowee arrived with some ore and several prospectors were sent to investigate. On their first trip, to Gold Creek, they found deposits of little interest. However, at Chief Kowee's urging Pilz sent Joe Juneau and Richard Harris back to the Gastineau Channel, directing them to Snow Slide Gulch (the head of Gold Creek) where they found nuggets "as large as peas and beans", in Harris' words.
On October 18, 1880, the two men marked a 160-acre (650,000 m2) town site where soon a mining camp appeared. Within a year, the camp became a small town, the first to be founded after Alaska's purchase by the United States.
The town was originally called Harrisburg, after Richard Harris; some time later, its name was changed to Rockwell, after Lt. Com. Charles Rockwell. In 1881, the miners met and renamed the town Juneau, after Joe Juneau. In 1906, after the diminution of the whaling and fur trade, Sitka, the original capital of Alaska, declined in importance and the seat of government was moved to Juneau. Juneau was the largest city in Alaska during the inter-war years, passing Fairbanks in the 1920 census and displaced by Anchorage in 1950.

 

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