The first discovery of gold in Southeast Alaska was near Sitka, in the 3’ear 1873. It excited much interest in the small settlements throughout the southeastern coast, and pros- pecting soon commenced in earnest. Miners from the old Cassiar region in British Columbia, and the northwest territory, began to push forward into Alaska, and, in the summer of 18S0, gold was discovered in the vicinity of Juneau. From this date may be reckoned the developments that have reached such large pro- portions and drawn the attention of the whole mining interests in America to our Alaska possessions.
The little Indian settlement at the head of Gastineau channel, which had rarely seen a white man, was soon enlivened by the tents and rude huts of the miners, which were scattered along the coast for many miles; and back into the interior went prospectors, singly, and in parties of three or more, in search of gold, as very strong indications led them to believe, it lay somewhere in this vicinity.
Joseph Juneau was the first man to demonstrate the existence of gold in this district in any considerable quantities. During the earl}^ days of the settlement there seemed a disposition to bestow h^nor upon one Richard Harris, a partner of Juneau, by naming the first mining town after him. So the town was first called Harrisburg, subsequently named Rockwell, in honor of one of the officers of the United States steamer Jamestown, then located at Sitka; but the inhabitants finally determined to give it the name Juneau, which it now bears.
Gold creek pours its waters down through the deep ravines and gorges that extend back from Juneau for four or five miles. It is impossible to estimate the yield of gold, but it is safe to say that it reached many thousands of dollars. While it was not claimed that any great amount was taken out by one individual, it is a fact that many men found diggings which paid them hand-somely, and effectually demonstrated that they were in the heart of a rich gold region.
Extensive coal fields exist at Cape Li.sburne, on the Arctic side, extending for thirty or forty miles parallel with the coast and for a number of miles back into the interior. It is of a lignite character, and the gov^ernment vessels Corwin and Thetis have taken coal for steaming purposes from here, and have found an excess of ash and clinker, which seems to be the general fault with all coal thus far discovered in Alaska. Strong indications of petroleum are found back from the coast a few miles, in this cold Arctic region, and also between Icy bay and Cape Yaktaga. On the North Pacific coast, west of Yakutat bay, there are extensive deposits or indications of petroleum. Practically all the coal used by vessels navigating the Alaskan waters and in the mills and towns of Alaska is brought from the Puget Sound country and British Columbia. It is bought at the mines for about three dollars per ton, and the expense of shipping to the Southern Alaska ports is five or six dollars per ton. The expense of opening up a coal mine is so great that until there is a large demand in Alaska, it is doubtful if any of the mines will be worked.