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R. B. Zehner

R. B. ZEHNER was born at Cheyenne, Wyoming, in 1870, which was at that time a frontier town. During the gold stampede to Colorado in 1866 his parents journeyed overland by stage from New York to Denver, where they remained until the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad caused them, for business reasons, to move to Cheyenne.

Mr. Zehner's father was a goldsmith by trade and the son, after finishing his schooling in the town schools, took up the trade with his father. After spending two years as an apprentice, he entered a watch construction school in Minnesota, where he remained for one year. Soon after leaving school he became connected with a jewelry house in St. Louis, which afforded him an opportunity of acquiring a practical knowledge along his chosen line.

As opportunities soon presented themselves in other localities, Mr. Zehner left St. Louis to accept a position in Chicago. Later he went to Laramie City, Wyoming, where he was placed in charge of a large retail jewelry store. Upon leaving Laramie City, Mr. Zehner traveled extensively in the Western states in the interest of the jewelry business, finally locating with W. H. Fink, the Seattle jeweler, in 1897.

The Nome gold excitement that caused the historical stampede of 1900 drew Mr. Zehner from his business and stimulated him to take passage on the steamer Centennial for the Northland. On arriving at Nome he experienced the usual inconveniences that nearly all of the first arrivals were forced to experience. The store he was to occupy had not been built, and he had to camp on the beach without even a a tent for shelter until such time as accommodations could be obtained. Quarters finally being secured, he opened up a jewelry store and continued in business until 1 90 1 , when he sold his stock of goods and left for his mines that he had purchased in the Kougarok country.

The property was located on Windy Creek, a tributary of the Kougarok River. It was in April, and Mr. Zehner concluded to make the journey, a distance of 100 miles, overland by dog team. He encountered great hardships, being compelled to lay out on Salmon Lake three days. He found, on reaching his property that a difficult undertaking confronted him, as the ground was frozen to unknown depths, and that in order to do any prospecting it would be necessary to devise some means for thawing. He set to work, and by heating rocks in fires built from the small willows to be had, succeeded in thawing several holes to bedrock, and was rewarded by locating a pay-streak, which, however, was not thick enough to merit the slow and expensive operations. After sluicing for a short time on the claim he returned to Nome; his supplies were becoming exhausted and the lateness of the season would not justify further development.


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




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