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Jerry Galvin

JERRY GALVIN. was not long after the discovery of gold on Anvil Creek and other streams in this neighborhood until most of the available ground was appropriated for mining purposes. The beach strike in 1899 furnished profitable employment for all the men in the camp who were not employed on the creeks or engaged in business in Nome, but when winter stopped active mining work there began a period of exploration and prospecting in remote parts of the peninsula. Jerry Galvin, who arrived in Nome from Dawson late in the season of 1899, was one of the first prospectors to go to the Kougarok District, the great interior and as yet comparatively undeveloped district of the Nome country.

White men had been as far inland as Mary's Igloo, but beyond this the country was unknown. Jerry Galvin and George Ostrom were the first white men to enter this unknown region. Piloted by an Eskimo who told them he knew where gold could be found, they went up the Kuzitrin to Idaho Bar, where prospecting revealed colors in the ruby sand. They were the first white men to visit the mouth of the Kougarok River. At this place they camped a couple of days, prospecting in the bars and discovering gold. They went up the Kougarok as far as the mouth of Windy Creek, but did not go farther because above Windy Creek there was ho fuel. The only wood in this country is willow, and it is a stunted growth, attaining a height of only a few feet. A stick with the diameter of a man's arm is big timber. The winter season of 1899-1900 was the mildest in the recent history of this country, and the pioneer prospectors did not suffer any great hardships. While the ground was frozen, they were able to do considerable prospecting, and Mr. Galvin became convinced that there were pay-streaks in this region where prospects could be found with so little difficulty in the bars. He worked all winter in this part of the country, excepting the time spent journeying to and from Nome, 200 miles by the coast trail, distant from his camp in the solitude of the treeless hills, for the purpose of obtaining food supplies. He found a pay-streak which has yielded as much as $225 the pan, and he has since discovered other pay-streaks, and therein is compensation. He is the discoverer of gold on the Kougarok, and one of the pioneer miners in this district.

Jerry Galvin is a native of Wisconsin, and was born in Eau Claire April 22, 1869. The family moved to Michigan, and he was educated in the public schools of that state. He began life for himself at the age of sixteen in railroad work on the Soo line, beginning as a freight brakeman, and going through the list of promotion for efficient service, until he was a passenger conductor. In this last capacity he worked for the Northern Pacific for twelve years. After he was promoted to freight conductor on the Duluth, Superior and Western Road, he had charge of the construction train on his division, and it was here that he learned a lot of useful lessons about expeditious and economical methods of handling earth, which he has found of great value in mining. In railroading he was both successful and fortunate, and he never had an accident during his entire career as conductor.

In 1898 the microbe that causes the gold fever got into his system, and he quit the business in which, by years of work and painstaking attention to details he had become proficient, and started for Dawson. He acquired a bench claim off Upper Discovery on Dominion Creek, and mined it successfully until the latter part of the season of 1899, when he sold it and came down the Yukon on the last boat down the river, arriving in Nome in October. His first experience after arriving in Nome was a thrilling adventure on Sledge Island where he and a party of prospectors were marooned for twelve days. The story of this experience will be found on another page of this book. Soon after this adventure he and George Ostrom got a dog team and started for the Kougarok, where as told in a preceding paragraph, he spent the winter. He staked Discovery claim on the Kougarok March 2, 1900. During the winter he made two trips to Nome. On the third journey back to this region he was accompanied by Griff Yarnell, and they crossed over to the Arctic slope.

The next spring he and Martin Dahl, Griff Yarnell and Al. Kerry went over the ground to fix up the stakes, which could not be put in the ground properly in the winter time. They stopped for lunch on a bar of Quartz Creek, where panning showed values of from five to fifty cents the pan.

Mr. Galvin went up the creek to the confluence of a small tributary. He washed out some gravel on his shovel and found coarse gold. This was the discovery of gold on Dahl Creek, now the most famous creek of this district. This is the pay-streak where $225 was obtained from one pan of gravel picked out of the frozen ground. During the subsequent seasons Mr. Galvin has mined in this district, principally on Dahl Creek. Notwithstanding the short seasons and the difficulty of getting supplies into the country have been a serious handicap, a large quantity of gold dust has come out of the Dahl Creek claims.

Mr. Galvin has a host of friends in the Northland. Being a young man, he is not in appearance the type of a pioneer, but he lacks nothing in character to deprive him of the appellation. Generous, affable and kind-hearted, he deserves the good fortune that does not come to all the men who blaze the trails.  

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




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