Return to Home 
Research Center Directory 




Olly W. Ashby

TWENTY-TWO years ago two boys left a hog ranch in Missouri, where they had been born and reared, and started to Alaska in search of a fortune. These two boys were O. W. and Thomas H. Ashby. They reached Juneau May 11 , 1884, and were consequently among the early pioneers of Alaska. O. W. Ashby has been identified with Alaska, and also with various enterprises in the district, for a period of twenty-one years. In 1886 he and his brother went into the Yukon River country and mined the bars of Stewart River. They poled 240 miles up the Stewart River in the fall and floated back to the Yukon and poled out to Juneau, landing there in October of the same year. In the fall of 1887 Thomas Ashby went into the Forty- Mile country, O. W. Ashby remaining in Juneau.

These early trips in this northern wilderness were prospecting expeditions. Mr. Ashby and his party mined on many bars of the Yukon and its tributaries, and made as high as twenty-four dollars a day to the man in the richest diggings which they struck. The country at this time was new and absolutely unknown except to the natives and the few adventurous prospectors who were the pioneers of the northern gold fields. At Stewart River (Alaska as it was then known) in 1886 mail was received but once a year. There are but few people now living who have seen as much of Alaska as, Mr. Ashby. He was a young man when he first came into the country, and many of the older Yukon pioneers who were his associates have "mushed" over the great divide and into that country whence no man returns. He was at the Treadwell Mine at the beginning of operations on that wonderful ledge, when only five stamps were used in crushing the ore. Now there are 840 stamps making the largest and best equipped plant in the United States.

Twelve years after Mr. Ashby first went to Alaska he visited Circle City. He was one of the earliest stampeders to Dawson, arriving in that camp in 1897. During the summer of 1897-'98 he mined on 31 Eldorado, 2 below Bonanza, and other creeks. In his mining operations in the Klondike region he was associated with his old friend and partner, Billy Leake. In the fall of 1898 he went "outside" and purchased a fine residence at Tacoma, Wash., where his family now resides.

The Nome strike and the excellent prospects of the country, which were developed in 1899, induced Mr. Ashby to go to Nome in 1900. He shipped in 1,000,000 feet of lumber on the Skookum, a nondescript vessel which was neither ship nor barge. It had a great carrying capacity and was loaded with a miscellaneous cargo of lumber and live stock. It was towed to Nome and anchored in the roadstead. After its cargo had been discharged the big storm in September washed the craft ashore and made a complete wreck of it.

Mr. Ashby disposed of his lumber. In the meantime he acquired mining interests on the peninsula, and later he associated himself with Henry Bratnober and Dr. Whitehead, becoming vice-president and general manager of the Topkuk Ditch Company, which is one of the largest ditch concerns in Northwestern Alaska. This ditch was completed in the fall of 1903. It was operated in the season of 1 904, and the returns from the rich gravels of Daniels' Creek were fully up to the expectations of Mr. Ashby and his associates, who had expended a small fortune in bringing water from the Kutcheblok River, twenty-two miles distant, for the purpose of mining this rich gravel deposit.

Mr. Ashby is a native of Missouri and was born in 1 862. While he has been a pioneer ever since he reached man's estate, he is not the type of pioneer in appearance which we read about in story books. He is essentially a self-made man and still in the prime of life, possessing both mental and physical vigor. In character he possesses many attributes that we may associate with the pioneer, such as firmness, honesty, directness of method and a detestation of anything that is unjust and not amenable to the laws of equity.

Source: Nome and Seward Peninsula by R. S. Harrison. Seattle: The Metropolitan Press, 1905.





ęCopyright 2014 Alaska Trails to the Past All Rights Reserved
For more information contact the Webmistress