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Frank S. Smith

Nearly 500 years ago Thomas Tusser said: "A stone that is rolling can gather no moss, and this quotation has survived the centuries and has been accepted as altruism. If we look about us we will find the application in hundreds of people we know, and see the truth of the converse of the trite sentence in only a few. The main difficulty encountered by the human stone is to know when to roll, as moss does not accumulate in every place. If the stone be in a dry place, where there is neither dampness of ground nor moisture of atmosphere, it would better roll and become fixed, in a spot where conditions are more favorable to the growth of moss. The subject of this sketch is not a rolling stone and having become fixed in a spot in Alaska where nature has not made adequate moisture available, he has created the conditions, as will be hereinafter told, where moss will grow luxuriantly.

When he came to the northern gold fields he first went to Dawson. In the Klondike country he acquired an interest in a bench claim on Hunker Creek and mined it for two years. Having an opportunity to sell it for a fair price he disposed of his interest and came to Nome in 1900. His first venture here was on Hungry Creek, in the Cripple River region. After mining the property and taking out of it a considerable quantity of gold, he acquired other property in the vicinity, constructed a road-house and made his Alaska home on Oregon Creek; he studied the country, prospected in creeks and benches, and continued to acquire property. Claim owners would lease mining ground in this neighborhood, and the laymen in most cases would work long enough to discover that the ground was not rich enough to warrant shoveling in sluice-boxes and paying a royalty to owners. But ditches and hydraulic methods should accomplish something in a country where men can shovel into a sluice-box and make wages. This was the opportunity that Mr. Smith recognized when it called upon him. It is said that opportunity has a long forelock but is bald behind. When it has passed by, one finds difficulty in getting hold of it. But Mr. Smith did not let it pass. He got hold of that long forelock. He staked and acquired water rights, and in June, 1904, began the construction of ditches which will supply water for hydraulic mining in the region of the upper waters of Cripple River, and by extension can be made to supply water nearly all the vast area of mineral ground in the water-shed of Cripple River. The work that can be done by this undertaking will not be accomplished in a life time. Although having a modest beginning it is a big enterprise, filled with magnificent possibilities.

F. S. Smith is a native of Utah, and of English and Scotch blood, by virtue of his father's and mother's lineage, respectively. He was born in Tooeley City, April 24, 1870. He is next to the eldest son in a family of four boys and one girl. His father owned and operated a farm and a saw mill in Utah. In 1880 the family moved to Idaho, and resided in Albion, Challis, Wood River and Boise City, the latter place being their present home. Mr. Smith's father followed stock raising and ranching in Idaho, and the subject of this sketch received the benefit of a public school education in the schools of Idaho. In 1898 he went to Dawson via the Chilkoot Pass. His brother, Ed. S. Smith, and P. W. Koelsch accompanied him. They arrived in Dawson June 22, having made a successful trip without serious mishap or accident. While they escaped the perils of this arduous journey, they packed 3,000 pounds over the pass, and became intimately acquainted with the strenuous life to which prospectors bound for the Klondike were introduced in the early days of the Yukon mining camp. Soon after arriving in Dawson he and his brother and Mr. Koelsch located a bench claim on Hunker Creek, No. 8, right limit. The pay-streak was found at a depth of twenty feet, and consisted of from two to five feet of gravel overlaying bedrock. The first winter the ground was worked by thawing with wood fires. The second winter a steam-thawer operated by a ten-horse power boiler was used. The ground was rich, yielding as much as $43 to the pan. The last clean-up in the spring of 1900, of the winter dump, yielded an average of eighteen and a third cents the pan. They sold the claim in the spring of 1900, and his brother and Mr. Koelsch returned to Idaho. Mr. Smith came to Nome, arriving July 4. He and O. E. Pennell bought 500 feet of ground on Hungry Creek, and began work on it August 20, and did not close down until October 10. They were satisfied with the season's work. Mr. Smith went home in the fall of 1 900, and returned the following spring when he bought his partner out, and has continued his operations in this neighborhood ever since. He has mined on Trilby Creek, Oregon Creek and Nugget Gulch. He established the Oregon Creek Road-house, and is engaged in the transportation business, owning teams that make round-trips every two days between Nome and Oregon Creek.

Mr. Smith owns Trilby Creek, a tributary of Hungry. His property on this stream consists of Nos. 1 , 2 and 3 creek claims, and the Sullivan, Saturday, McCubbin, Smith and Accidental bench claims. On Hungry Creek he owns No. 2 and 500 feet of the Le Clair fraction. Among other promising claims that he owns are No. 3 above the mouth of Oregon, and the Eureka bench opposite 6 below. He has secured long term leases on No. 1 Nugget Gulch, No. 6 below Oregon, I X L bench and the Portland and Laramie benches. In 1903 he staked water rights on Oregon, Aurora, Slate and the upper Oregon, 1,000 inches on each stream. June 20, 1904, he began the construction of a seven-mile ditch, beginning at the head or Aurora Creek and tapping the waters of Oregon Creek. This ditch, which is four feet wide on the bottom, six feet on top and a foot deep, will carry 800 inches of water. By September 1 three miles of this ditch had been completed, delivering water on the Portland and Laramie benches, and the giants were at work on these benches, washing out the vast deposit of auriferous gravel which they contain. 1 his ditch when extended will cover Nugget Gulch, Trilby and Hungry Creeks. Another ditch will be constructed in 1905, which will bring water from the headwaters of Cripple and Stewart Rivers. When it is finished this ditch will be fifteen miles long. When these ditches are complete they will cover 1 ,000 acres of mineral land on the upper Cripple River, 200 acres on Trilby Creek, 200 acres on Oregon Creek, 320 acres on Cleveland Creek, 800 acres on Arctic Creek and several thousand acres on the lower part of Cripple River. All of this country is low grade ground, and some of it is rich enough to yield a profit when worked by the ordinary method of shoveling in sluice-boxes.

Mr. Smith is yet a young man, but he has matured plans, which will be the means of extracting a great deal of gold from this part of Seward Peninsula, and these plans will be consummated before the close of another year. He has mapped out the work of a life time. Modest, unassuming, but energetic and persistent, he has gone about his work quietly, and the water was running through his ditch before many people in Nome knew anything of his enterprise. It is work of this character that will develop the country, and hasten the time when the annual product of gold in Seward Peninsula will be double, treble, possibly quadruple the largest output of any season heretofore.

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




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