Forty Mile: Gold on the Fortymile!
In September 1886, Howard Franklin and Henry Madison travelled up the Fortymile River prospecting along the way. Twenty-three miles up the river, they made the first discovery of coarse gold in the Yukon-Alaska interior. Up to this time, most miners were finding the finer flour gold and this major new development sparked a rush to the new diggings.
Trader Arthur Harper knew that more goods were needed to supply the rush of gold miners and needed to get word outside to his trading partner Jack McQuesten. Tom Williams and a First Nations companion named Bob volunteered to deliver mail by dogteam to Skagway in mid-winter. It was a gruelling trip. Tom became deathly ill with pneumonia and Bob carried him on his back through icy winds and deep snowdrifts. A group of Chilkat helped the pair to the Healy and Wilson post. Tom gasped out his message then died.
At Forty Mile, gold miners pioneered new mining methods that allowed them to work their claims in winter. They built fires to thaw the frozen ground in layers. These gold-bearing gravels were piled in large dumps, ready to be sluiced or washed down in spring when the streams began running.