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J. C. Brown

One of the most remarkable strikes in the Nome District in 1904 was made on Little Creek. Following in the wake of the Midas scandal and when a considerable exodus of miners to the Tanana District was occurring, it meant much to the reputation of Alaska and the prosperity of Nome as a mining camp. This discovery was the reward and result of patient effort and skillful prospecting on the part of Mr. J. C. Brown. It placed him among the successful and prosperous miners of Alaska.

Mr. Brown was born at Fort Worth, Texas, in 1860, but his youth was spent on a farm near Argentine, Kansas. In early manhood he removed to the city and conducted a feed, fuel and builders' supply business and was associated with the city bank. His townsmen elected him a member of the city council, of which body he was president until he left the city. In 1 898 Mr. Brown decided to go to Dawson. He arrived at Chilkoot Pass on the momentous day of the snow-slide which caused such loss of life at Sheep Camp. After this catastrophe he was one of the first to cross the pass. He underwent the awful hardship incident to overland travel to Dawson at that time, but not finding the place to his liking traveled farther down the Yukon. During the summer he prospected in the vicinity of Eagle City, and in 1899 was chosen mayor of the town he had helped lay out and plat. Here he met his first mining difficulties.

He had located some property and was industriously prospecting, when a party of English capitalists came down the river and in utter disregard of the rights of the resident miners, local customs and United States law, began to locate tracts of land hundreds of square miles in area. Mr. Brown called a miners meeting, one of the first and largest ever held in Alaska, and demanded justice and protection against the intruders. The result of the meeting was an order issued to the men to vacate the country on three days' notice. It was obeyed and the interests of the bonafide miner in the Eagle country were not again disturbed in a similar manner. In the fall of 1899 Mr. Brown returned to the states, but the rush of 1900 carried him to Nome, where he has since been a permanent resident. His first operations were unfortunate. He bought a lay of property on Nikkilai Gulch, and afterwards found that he had paid the wrong man, but was unable to regain the money. He spent the remainder of the season prospecting, and went as far north as the Good Hope District.

The summer of 1902 found him working on Dorothy Creek, and the following season he was associated with a company that put in a ditch on Cripple River. But not until the summer of 1904 was his ambition realized. At that time Mr. Brown owned Claim No. I, sometimes known as Railroad Claim, on Little Creek. Commencing at one end of the claim, he put down a series of six holes through solid frost, finding bedrock at a depth of forty feet. In all fair prospects were found, but not until the last was the rich gravel found. In this main shaft pans of pay gravel chosen at random yielded from $150 to $180. The bedrock was very uneven. Parts of the gold-bearing stratum rested on beds of solid transparent ice varying in thickness from one to three inches. Both fine and coarse gold was found, the largest nugget being worth fifty dollars. Five different lays were worked during the winter of 1904-'05 The cluster of camps with those of men who worked adjoining property was called Brownville.

Though not a miner of long experience. Mr. Browns sound ideas, based on intelligent observation and practical work, have won for him the attention and respect of more experienced men. He has been the adviser instrumental in the execution of a  number of important business deals. Several newspaper articles written by Mr. Brown express unbounded faith in the future of Seward Peninsula as a gold-bearing country. In one of them he names the territory included between Cape Nome and Point Rodney, "The Basin of Gold," and he believes the adjoining foothills will surprise the world.

Mr. Brown's efforts to secure law and order in a mining camp are well illustrated by an incident which also exemplifies the spirit of perseverance that every successful miner must possess. In the winter of 1900 he was robbed of nearly all he owned. Believing the thief would return, he lay in wait and caught the man and forced him to divulge the names of the persons aiding in the robbery. Through his determined prosecution a desperate gang of robbers was broken up and six men were sent to McNeil's Island.

Mr. Brown has always been the friend and advocate of the prospector and trail blazer, for only through the efforts of such men can the country be properly developed, and he has always opposed unjust representation of the country. He has endured the hardships that every Alaskan pioneer must endure, and has earned the respect of the community by upright dealings and the bold determined spirit of his work. No man has earned a more well-deserved success.  

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




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