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Nels Peterson

NELS PETERSON is one of the fortunate miners of the Nome country. He is an intelligent miner. His wide experience in the northern gold fields has equipped him with a knowledge of the conditions surrounding placer gold deposits. If he has been fortunate it is not altogether the result of luck, as he has used his brains and the knowledge of his experience in his search for the pay-streaks

Nels Peterson was born on the Island of Szaland, Denmark. October 23, 1850. His father tilled a small farm on the island, and the boy obtained his education in the public schools of his native land. Mr. Peterson has been a bread-winner ever since he was eleven years old. In 1872 he left the old country and went to the United States. He spent two years in the iron mines of Lake Superior, and another two years in the city of Chicago. From Chicago he went to the northern park of Michigan and Minnesota, and during a period of nine years was a railroad contractor engaged in construction work. His last railroad work, in 1885, was on the Canadian Pacific.

Quitting railroad work he engaged in mining in British Columbia and two years later went to Seattle. He resided in Seattle from 1887 to 1894, and during this tune he was engaged in the grocery and transfer business, and the work of contracting to clear land for city improvements. In June, 1894, he went to Southern Oregon and for three years prospected and mined in this state. Returning to Seattle in 1897, he outfitted for Alaska, and on March 25 sailed on the City of Mexico for Dyea.

He arrived in Dawson, May 20. His entire assets upon his in the Yukon mining camp were ninety-five cents.  Working a month for wages at $15.00 the day, he obtained a "grub-stake" and started prospecting, believing that his experience as a miner was worth more to him than the splendid wages he was receiving.  He located 5 Below on the left limit of Bonanza Creek, and was the first man to find pay in the benches of this stream.  He borrow three sluice-boxes from "Tex" Ricard, and without any assistance in three weeks cleaned up $1,100. The famous Gold Hill of the Klondike gold fields lay between his claim and Skookum Creek. Careful observation by Mr. Peterson of the character of gold in Bonanza and Eldorado Creeks and in Skookum Creek and the spots where it was most plentifully found, convinced him that an ancient channel or deposit of concentrated placers existed in Gold Hill. So when Nathan Kresge, his partner on the trail to Dawson, came to his camp, Mr. Peterson induced him to locate a bench claim on the right limit of Big Skookum where he thought the old channel might be discovered. Previous prospecting by Mr. Peterson on Gold Hill convinced him that the pay was deep. On the claim located by Mr. Kresge, in which Mr. Peterson was to have a half interest, the first stroke of the pick removed the moss-covering of a gravel deposit and turned over a stone that had a yellow glitter on its bottom side. The yellow glitter was a $10.40 nugget. Taking a pan of the gravel to water he washed it and secured $8.00. With rockers made of tomato boxes, he and his partner in eight days working five hours a day, and carrying the gravel to the water, cleaned up $6,375. Two days after they made the strike there were a thousand people on Gold Hill locating claims. This discovery was made late in the season and during the winter he and his partner sold the Skookum claim for $40,000 and Mr. Peterson sold his Bonanza claim for $10,000. Mr. Peterson went to work for the company that purchased his property, as manager at a salary of $5,000 a year. In the spring of 1899 he cleaned up all of his mining interests and bought the river steamers Bonanza King and Eldorado, paying for them $50,000. But he found the transportation business different from mining. He came into active competition with the Canadian Development Company, and in the fall of 1900 he landed in Seattle broke.

In the spring of 1901 he sailed on the Centennial for Nome and arrived in this camp in worse financial condition than he was in when he arrived in Dawson. He didn't have a cent. But his wife who had remained in Dawson the previous winter reached Nome a few days after his arrival, and she had $800, which she had managed to save out of the wreck of his Klondike accumulations. Mr. Peterson went to Teller and prospected in the Agiapuk region, but meeting with no success he returned to Nome, and in the middle of September bought in on bedrock from A. M. Britt on No. 2 Holyoke. He and Mr. Britt operated this property for two seasons and took out over $37,000. In 1904 they sold the claim for $3,000. Mr. Peterson did a great deal of winter prospecting during his residence in the Nome country, and one winter took $4,000 out of the Portland Bench on Oregon Creek, but the expense was $4,500. In 1904 he obtained a lease of eighty acres on the left limit of Snake River three miles from Nome, and constructed a ditch three miles long from 5 below on Anvil Creek to this property. He operated the ground late in the season and extracted $4,000. He bonded the ditch and lease to W. C. Wilkins, who purchased this property for $10,000 in the spring of 1905.

In the middle of November, 1904, John Johnson who had a lease from the Pioneer Mining Company on a piece of tundra ground known as the Portland Bench, near the famous Little Creek strike, requested him to go in partnership with him and assist him in making the effort to find the pay-streak. Securing the co-operation of Carl Anderson as another partner, the three miners built a cabin, and using Mr. Peterson's boiler and thawer began the slow and laborious work of sinking holes in the frozen ground. They sunk six holes to bedrock. The depth of these shafts was from thirty-two feet to fifty-three feet. They drifted on bedrock a total distance of 160 feet, and finally on Washington's birthday they struck the pay. It proved to be the richest gravel deposit ever found in any of the northern gold fields, possibly the richest ever found in the world. A pan of gravel taken from bedrock yielded $1,200, and Mr. Peterson says that a pan could have been picked that would have yielded $3,000, possibly $5,000. The terms of the lease allowed them to work only eight men, including the cook. In sixty days they took out a dump which they cleaned up in twelve days sluicing, and which yielded gold valued at $413,000. Every cubic yard of gravel taken from this wonderful mine averaged $2.1 the pan. There never was less than 1,000 ounces in the clean-up, and the largest clean-up four men shoveling in four hours resulted in securing $41,000.

Mr. Peterson was married in Dawson, July 4, 1899. They have one child, Nels Joseph Peterson, born April 12, 1900. Nels Peterson is a successful miner because he knows how. He is an industrious man, a good citizen and deserves all the good fortune that has come to him.  

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




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