"Of all national assets, archives are the most precious:
they are the gift of one generation to another,
and the extent of our care of them marks the
extent of our civilization." Arthur Doughty.

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San Juan Islands, Washington State, United States
A society formed in 2009 for the purpose of collecting, preserving, celebrating, and disseminating the maritime history of the San Juan Islands and northern Puget Sound area. Check this log for tales from out-of-print publications as well as from members and friends. There are circa 500, often long entries, on a broad range of maritime topics; there are search aids at the bottom of the log. Please ask for permission to use any photo posted on this site. Thank you.

17 November 2016

❖ SIXTY-EIGHT MINERS AND A GOLDEN SCOOP ❖



S.S. PORTLAND (ex-HAYTIAN REPUBLIC)
with flags flying and gold aboard, 
steaming for Seattle, WA. 17 July 1897.
Litho card from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
"As the steamer PORTLAND neared Cape Flattery on 17 July 1897, Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporters had assembled at the offices of the Puget Sound Tug Boat Co in Port Townsend. Rumor had it that the steamship was carrying gold-laden miners from the Klondike region in the Canadian Yukon. The enterprising reporters wished to charter a tug to intercept the PORTLAND before it reached Seattle. Assigned the tug SEA LION, they headed out the strait to Cape Flattery, where they met the steamer and got their story, one of the major scoops of the century. On board the PORTLAND were 68 miners with $964,000 worth of gold dust and nuggets, estimated at one and a half tons of gold. 'A TON OF GOLD' the Seattle P-I bannered in understatement, but a nation and a world were nevertheless electrified by the news and the Klondike promise.
      The Port Townsend Leader chose, however, to ignore the event, noting only that 'the tug SEA LION went to the Cape yesterday;' they featured a story two days later, headlined 'MOUNTAIN OF GOLD,'  about the purported gold find of three Port Townsend men at the headwaters of the Big Quilcene River in the Olympics. 'We have a Klondyke (an early spelling) of our own right here at our door,' Dr. J.C. House proclaimed. Acknowledging the stampede that was gathering throughout Puget Sound for passage to the Yukon, House repeated, 'For mine, I will take my Klondyke in the Olympics and won't have to travel 2,500 miles to get there either.' As it turned out, chances were better in the Klondike. House estimated that his find was valued at 'thousands, if not millions,' but nothing came of it. But the economy of Puget Sound, moribund since the depression of 1893, surged into prosperity with the rush to gold.
      Pt. Townsend men were among the first to schedule trips north. Among them was William J. Jones, who founded the Leader but sold it to become a U.S. commissioner stationed at the Alaska-Yukon border. His concern for gold was secondary. Representing the US. government in the affairs of its citizens taking gold out of Canada, Jones also turned his newspaper background into a side enterprise  when he contracted as special correspondent with 21 newspapers, including Frank Leslie's Weekly, the New York World, and the New York Herald, but not the Leader. He received fifteen dollars from Frank Leslie for a one-thousand word article, and eight dollars to ten dollars per column from other periodicals. His early reports, reprinted by the Leader from other papers, told of the trials of the ill-prepared miners during that first year of scramble after gold.
      Port Townsend merchants did their best to make certain that no one was under supplied. 'Last on, first off' was the marketing slogan local outfitters used to attract the hordes of stampeders. Nearly all Klondikers en route to Skagway stopped in Port Townsend, their last U.S. stop before Alaska and the rugged Chilkoot Pass. Local merchants advertised in Klondike promotional publications, noting that the gold-seekers'  supplies would be stowed on top of those manifested in Seattle and would therefore be unloaded first, giving Pt. Townsend passengers an edge in the mad dash to Dawson before the snows closed access to the Yukon for the winter. The Pt. Townsend Board of Trade claimed that outfits could be bought in Pt. Townsend for 5 to 20 percent less than any other city on Puget Sound, and they even found miners to testify to that fact. Whatever the truth behind the hype, most gold seekers chose Seattle, and the booming business in the Queen City settled any lingering arguments about which town would be the primary metropolis of the Northwest. All Port Townsend got for its effort was an enduring though unsubstantiated legend concerning JACK LONDON.
Above words Simpson, Peter. City of Dreams. Bay Press, Pt. Townsend. 1986.


There is Seattle waiting to welcome the gold ship,
1897.
Photo caught O. by Frasch.
From the archives of the S.P.H.S. © 
"The PORTLAND came very near being two days late winning a place in history for herself. The EXCELSIOR had picked up the first of the Klondike miners at Nome and arrived at San Francisco on 15 July carrying almost as rich a treasure as the PORTLAND. It was a publicity man named Erastus Brainerrd who made the steamer PORTLAND famous, gave the great gold rush to Seattle and made Alaska a 'suburb' of that enterprising Pacific Northwest city." Newell & Williamson. Pacific Coastal Liners. Superior Publishing. 1959


      

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