Gold Prospecting and Mining

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Prospecting Gold in Alaska

Mary (Picton) Hatch - Gold Prospecting Story
(Daughter of Stephen Picton)

Dick Bowen remembers the following: The William D. and Mary (Picton) Hatch famly left Hiawatha, Kansas for Alaska on February 18, 1898 to look for gold. They left during a blizzard. William D. Hatch returned when he sold his share of a gold claim for $10,000 to Mr. Balbry. Then the William D. Hatch's went back up to Alaska again.

There daughter Emma (Hatch) Herbert said that one time on there way to Alaska, they stopped at Seattle, Washington. Her Mother Mary (Picton) Hatch then visited with her first cousin Lewis Picton who worked for the railroad at that time.

A folklore rumor is that the gold claim they sold was worth over a million dollars in value at prices at that time. They did not realize that it would turn out to be so valuable and sold it for $10,000.

William D. Hatch was a stone mason and did the stone mason work on this Clock Tower Building at Hiawatha, Kansas before he went prospecting for gold in Alaska. I know he left his name somewhere on the building but do not know where.

Legend of Lewis Picton (Nephew of Stephen Picton)
The Alaska Adventure part
by his Grandson Lewis Picton

This chapter of Lewis’ life probably started well after 1900. After more than a decade in the Merchant Navy, Lewis may have been ready for a new adventure. The Alaska/Yukon gold rush started in 1897. It attracted people from every corner of the British Empire and the world. Lewis Rees had the most detailed version of this period. Lewis sailed into Seattle, went ashore with his mates and got into some altercation in a saloon resulting in considerable property damage. With the law waiting at his ship, he decided to jump ship (deserted) and stowed aboard a ship bound for the frozen North. After sailing, Lewis joined the crew and worked his way north. He may have made the trip on more than one ship, stopping off in places to investigate the opportunities. He tried his hand at gold prospecting, but like most he was not successful. Eventually he ended up in Cordova, Alaska. Betty thinks that Lewis arrived in Cordova on his own ship and deserted there. However he did it, it was a real gamble, as many gold rush ships foundered. The waters of Alaska were not well surveyed, the weather is awful, and there were few aids to navigation.Unscrupulous persons were operating ships that were un-seaworthy or inappropriate. It is no exaggeration to say this voyage may have been truly ‘death defying’.

Cordova is at the southeast corner of Prince William Sound, which was one of the gateways to the interior where the gold strikes were. Lewis probably arrived in late 1904 or 1905. The ‘rush’ to the gold fields had waned and the new focus was the big copper deposit at Kennecott, 194 miles east of Cordova. The railroad from Cordova to Kennecott was constructed from 1905 to 1911. Lewis was certainly there during the days leading up to the building of the railroad and some time after construction started. There was a fish cannery and he may have worked in the salmon or herring fishery. Work could have been had to the east, at the Katalla oil field or the coal mines where a Welshman would have been welcome. He even delivered mail to out lying areas with his dog Bill. Because there was so much development activity, he probably tried his hand at a number of jobs and may have been involved in the activities as the railroad was surveyed into the Copper River Delta and up the canyon toward Chitina. In any event, prosperity eluded him as he nearly starved during one winter.

Lewis’ time in Cordova must have been a true frontier adventure. The mountains there seem to scrape the sky, the rivers are untamed and man has left few marks on the land. I’ve explored some of that area in a car and I shudder to think what it must have been like to do it on foot or by dog sled in winter. Like so many who sought their fortune in Alaska, Lewis probably tired of the cold climate and decided to make his way south for his next adventure.

Lewis Rees used to tell us that Lewis met a railroad conductor in Alaska who had a relative working for the Great Northern Railway at Leavenworth, Washington. If so, this probably occurred at Skagway, from where the White Pass; Yukon Route operated trains up to the Yukon. Lewis could have stopped in there on his north or south bound voyages. Around 1906, with that contact in his pocket, he sailed south to Seattle, went to Leavenworth and got a job as locomotive fireman with the Great Northern Railway.

Mining Gold in Siberia

(Ralph Picton was a Grandson of Stephen Picton)

The following is taken from a letter written November 5, 1975 by Daisy (Picton) Dow about her father Ralph Picton (son of James and Jennie Picton and grandson of Stephen and Eliza Picton).

"Ralph George Picton, born February 22, 1890 at Vista, Nebraska. Papa (Ralph George Picton), was in the United States armed forces in 1918 in Vladivostok, Russia were he met Mama (Martha Gookoff). They married February 2, 1920 at Vladivostok, Russia. I (Daisy Picton Dow was born May 31, 1921 in Okhotka, Siberia.

In 1923 my parents were mining for gold in Okhotka, Siberia when the "Reds" came down from the hills and shot all the White Russians along the waterfront. Somehow my parents and I escaped into a row boat along with several others. There was a Schooner in the bay named "Ruby" (from Hudson Bay) and it brought us to the United States of America (took us 3 months).

My Mother's father was an Officer in the Russian Army and had been transferred to Vladivostok. There were 9 children in her family. She is the oldest one and she has only a sister living in Tashkent, Russia."

Mining Gold in Wales

Demetae Ancestors

Long ago tribal ancestors of the people in Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire were the Demetae (They were Celtic). A major business enterprise of the Demetae tribe is believed to be the Dolaucothi Gold Mines near Carmarthen at Pumsaint, Carmarthenshire maybe as long ago as 3,000 years ago. These gold mines are one of the reasons why the Romans conquered Briton. There was also a lead mine about 10 miles away.

The Romans conquered these gold mines 2,000 years ago, employed better mining methods and were there for five hundred years. The Romans built several waters aqueducts with the longest one being 7 miles (11 Km) in length to use in mining gold. They likely worked the mines with slave labor. The gold mining was restarted in the 19th century and continued up to first part of the 20th century. Dolaucothi Gold Mine Tours are now available.

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Last Modified June 2015
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