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