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John D. Leedy

J. D. LEEDY was the first man to land in Nome from the steamer Garonne in the spring of 1899, and the steamer Garonne was the first vessel to arrive at Nome from from the states. Mr. Leedy's description of the handful of men found in the new camp is both interesting and instructive. At this time Nome had the atmosphere of an unusual environment. The inhabitants had lived through the long winter without a suitable or adequate food supply, and there were a few minor cases of scurvy. Among the inhabitants who had spent the winter in Nome was a brother of Mr. Leedy. When the subject of this sketch swung over the rail of the Garonne and descended by a rope to 3 home-made dory he carried with him two valises — one filled with fresh fruits and other with fresh vegetables. He describes the gratification of the boatman when he was presented with an onion, and how he ate it like he was eating an apple. The snow had not entirely left the ground, and the only log cabin on the present site of Nome was the one occupied by G. W. Price, the deputy recorder of the district. A few tents in which two or three lines of business were conducted, completed the ensemble of the town.

Mr. Leedy had acquired considerable experience as a miner in the Black Hills and in British Columbia, and he immediately devoted himself to the work of acquiring mining property by lease or appropriation. During this year and the years that fol- lowed he prospected and mined with varying success. He staked the first quartz claim ever staked on the peninsula. This quartz, property is at the head of Nome Gulch and Mr. Leedy believes that it contains the possibilities of a mine. He was employed by the Alaska Banking and Safe Deposit Company as an expert to investigate properties offered as collateral for loans. Mr. Leedy has the record of never having advised a loan by which the company lost a dollar.

Mr. Leedy worked faithfully and waited patiently, but his opportunity did not come until the season of 1 904. He and H. T. Harding had often canvassed the proposition of a ditch to supply water to the valuable mining claims lying on the southerly slope of Anvil Mountain. These numerous talks finally crystallized in the initial work of the Seward Ditch, which diverts water from Nome River near Dorothy Creek, and will deliver water for use on Dexter Hill under a pressure of 100 inches. With the co-operation of Dr. Cabell Whitehead and Henry Bratnober this ditch project was amply financed during the winter of 1904-'05. and with the arrival of the first fleet of steamers in the spring of 1905 the work of perfecting this important enterprise was begun.

J. D. Leedy was born in Fredericktown, Knox County, Ohio, February 4, 1865. His father was a lumber manufacturer, who moved to Trenton, Missouri, when the son was an infant. When he was eleven years old J. D. Leedy went to the Black Hills. In addition to a public school education he has been a student in the State School of Mines in Rapid City, S. D. He began the work of mining at an early age, striking his first drill when he was fourteen years old. He left the Black Hills country in 1 889 and went to Seattle, and ever since that date he has mined in British Columbia, Washington and Alaska.

Mr. Leedy married Nellie G. Norton in Nome September 16, 1899. His education has been practical. He has learned by work, and his judgment of mines and mining is accurate and reliable. He is a man of big brain capacity and the possessor of that most excellent quality and estimable trait of human character -- honesty.

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




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