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Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
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The Ruby Creek Gold Rush, 1880
from the Seattle Intelligencer clippings — Part 1 of 3

The Skagit Mines 20 years ago (1858)
Seattle Weekly Intelligencer, Jan. 17, 1880 [From the Port Townsend Argus]

(1880 Snow Seattle)
    Paul Dorpat and Jean Sherrard offer this great snow photo and others from Seattle on their webpage and you can click on the photo for a much larger version. As they explain, we are looking north on Front Street (First Avenue) from Cherry Street during the 1880 Big Snow. Photo by Peterson & Bros.
    These excerpts are from the 1880 Seattle Intelligencer newspaper, as provided by Ronald Edge. That newspaper debuted in Seattle on Aug. 5, 1867, as the latest evolution of the Seattle Gazette the city's first newspaper in 1863. It began publishing daily in 1876 and in 1881 it merged with a competitor, the Post. It then published in print as the Post-Intelligencer until 2009.
    The Ruby Creek Gold Rush began in 1878 when some part-time argonauts took their gold samples to an assayer in Seattle and word was passed on to reporters sometime in the next 12 months. On Feb. 1, 1878, this group of very early upriver pioneers — Otto Klement, John Duncan, John Rowley, George Sanger and Robert Sharp hiked to a point fifteen miles from Goodell's landing and "there discovered a curious natural feature, the remains of a natural bridge, indicated by the overhanging rocks of the canyon."
    The rush climaxed in 1880, and although we doubt the estimates of 5,000 or more miners, at least 2,500 men did pack in, as described in these clippings. An actual city formed and the federal enumerator counted the residents for the federal census in June of that year. See the list below of stories and websites that will provide more background for this event, which was the second most important Northwest rush, after the Fraser River rush of 1858.

      A few days ago Judge Swan found pleasant recreation in looking over an old diary kept by him in 1859 [actually 1858], finding there an account of a public meeting held in Port Townsend, at which he and Captain Fowler and others discussed the subject of the Skagit mines. A flattering prospect had at that time just been found about the headwaters of the Skagit, and the people of Port Townsend were much excited over the fact. The Frazer [actually Fraser] River excitement, then running high, however, diverted the attention of all; and subsequently the Cariboo mines turned the heads of those who might otherwise have renewed their attention to Skagit, so it was forgiven. All of this shows that Skagit gold is not an entirely unheard of thing.

The Skagit Pack Trail
Seattle Weekly Intelligencer, Jan. 4, 1880
      On last Wednesday, at the office of Hon. Orange Jacobs, the contract was completed between Mr. Day, the lowest bidder for the construction of the pack trail from the head of steamboat navigation on the Skagit river to the mouth of Ruby Creek, and the committee appointed by the subscribers to the fund for that purpose. The work is to be done for $1650 and it is to be commenced on or before the 15th of January.
      It is to be prosecuted vigorously and completed on or before the first day of April next. Four hundred dollars are to be paid down, as much more when the work is half done, and the remainder when the trail is completed. A committee mutually appointed is to examine the work when completed. If found to be done in accordance with the provisions of the contract, the same is to be accepted and the remainder of the money paid.
      The trail is to be a good, safe, firm pack trail for loaded animals, and not to have a gradient of over one foot in four. Streams are to be bridged and mudholes or miry places corduroyed or planked. A good and sufficient bond was given for the performance of the work as per contract. Mr. Day and his associates will begin work next week.

Off for the mines
Seattle Weekly Intelligencer, Jan. 6, 1880
      Captain McCall, who left here last week with Mr. Williamson's steam ballast hoister, the Neptune, for a trip up the Skagit river, arrived home again, safe and sound, last night. He succeeded in ascending the river above the jam, which is considered a marvelous performance when the character of the craft is taken into consideration.

The Ruby Creek miners
Seattle Weekly Intelligencer, Jan. 8, 1880
      From the upper Skagit we have reports of five feet of snow, and from the lower Skagit of one half that depth. . . . We very much fear that some of the eager claim hunters, who could not wait until spring, but are now in the mines or on the way there, will suffer for their haste. Parties going in for claims usually take small quantities of provisions, or just enough to enable them to get in, locate and get out again. This snow will detain them, and some of them will be lucky indeed if they get out at all.

Skagit mines
Seattle Weekly Intelligencer, Jan. 9, 1880
    Any time, any amount, please help build our travel and research fund for what promises to be a very busy 2011, traveling to mine resources from California to Washington and maybe beyond. Depth of research determined by the level of aid from readers. Because of our recent illness, our research fund is completely bare. See many examples of how you can aid our project and help us continue for another ten years. And subscriptions to our optional Subscribers Online Magazine (launched 2000) by donation too. Thank you.

We recently visited our newest sponsor, Plumeria Bay, which is based in Birdsview, just a short walk away from the Royal family's famous Stumpranch, and is your source for the finest down comforters, pillows, featherbeds and duvet covers and bed linens. Order directly from their website and learn more about this intriguing local business.

      From Mount Vernon, Washington Territory, Jan. 6, 1879
      Editor, I see, under the head of "Local News and Comments," in the [LaConner] Puget Sound Mail of Dec. 20th, the following: "A proposition has been talked of among our citizens, during the past few days, to offer inducement to the Cassiar or other light draft steamer to make LaConner her embarking point for the Skagit gold mines. It is very properly considered that a boat fit to navigate the upper waters of the Skagit cannot with perfect safety take in a full cargo at Seattle for her destination, owing to the sixty or seventy miles of deep sea navigation intervening between that city and the mouth of the Skagit River.
      "Hence it is wisely suggested that the regular river boat make LaConner her headquarters, and at regular periods there take freight and passengers from the three or more steamers now regularly plying between this place and Seattle. Aside from other considerations, miners can fit out here as well as at Seattle, our stores and business houses being amply able to meet any ordinary trade in that line. We shall dwell more fully on this proposition hereafter."
      Now, Mr. Editor, I want to ask what advantage will miners gain by making LaConner their headquarters. The river boat may as well land at Seattle in the first place as there. There is fully as much danger of being wrecked from the mouth of the Skagit to LaConner as on any other part of the route to Seattle of the same distance.
      Any boat fit for the upper river has no business outside at all, in any weather; for any steamboat man knows wind squalls spring up unexpectedly and are liable to come any trip, on any part of the Sound, and light draft boats cannot hold their own against the wind — they don't draw enough water. A steamer from Seattle can make inside the Skagit river, over the flats, as easily as she can make LaConner, and then she is safe.
      In two hours she can reach Mount Vernon, the head of tidewater, where the upper river boats should meet the Sound boats, and freight and passengers will be at least twenty miles further on their road than if landed at LaConner. Miners can fit themselves for the mines as cheaply here as at any other place on Puget Sound, and be furnished as good provisions and tools as the Seattle or Portland markets afford.
      McNamara's hotel can accommodate a great number at present, and he will have its dimensions more than doubled next spring. A new hotel will be opened to the public by March 1st, so miners need not be afraid of poor accommodations. We wish LaConner well, but cannot hold our peace when we believe the good of the public is at stake. A few people would be enriched by making LaConner headquarters while, by the Sound boats connecting at Mount Vernon with the upper river boats, the traveling public will be benefited; home-seekers will be placed near as large and as good a body of farming land as Washington Territory can boats of in one body (Olympia Marsh); and thousands of acres of farming land meet the eye of the traveler as he ascends the river, first class bottom land.
      Truly we hope that LaConner may reap a rich harvest from the gold fields of the Skagit; but we are sure, quite sure, that time and travel will prove to all that Mount Vernon is the best, safest and most natural point of connection for the river boats and Sound steamers. A miner

The Skagit mines
Seattle Weekly Intelligencer, Jan. 9, 1880 [From the Walla Walla Statesman]
(Map of Ruby Creek)
National Park Service Map

      An experienced Cariboo miner passed through this city recently on his way from the Skagit gold mines, where he and six others have located 1750 feet, which they intend working in the spring. He reports the work heretofore done as irregular and not of the proper mining character. He washed out about 69 cents to four pans on the upper dirt, but had not reached the bedrock, which is probably eight feet from the surface. He thinks the diggings will pay $15 a day to the band when properly managed. He thinks at least five thousand people will leave for the mines in the spring, and considers the mines extensive. About seventy claims have already been located. He thinks the trail from British Columbia via Fort Hope will be preferred to that from Seattle on account of the low rates of freightage on the former.

The Skagit mines
Seattle Weekly Intelligencer, Jan. 9, 1880
      More snow fell yesterday, to the consternation of not a few of the timid ones. Men were again in demand for the cleaning off of roofs, and better wages were made by them than were made by the men in the Skagit mines last summer. The snow that fell did not add much to the depth of what was already upon the ground, but we were assured by one excited individual, when it was coming down fastest, that it would be thirteen and a quarter feet deep at breakfast time this morning.

Skagit gold
Seattle Weekly Intelligencer, Jan. 9, 1880
      Persons wishing to see the quality of gold taken out of the Ruby Creek mines, can be accommodated by calling at L.B. Harkness exchange office. That gentleman takes pleasure in showing it. He also has a beautiful specimen of Santiam, Oregon, gold.

Snow in Skagit/North Cascades
Seattle Weekly Intelligencer, Jan. 8, 1880
      The steamer Josephine arrived last evening from the Skagit river. Capt. Smith states that when he left Skagit City there was about three feet of snow on the ground, with good prospects for more. An Indian down from Goodell's states that the snow was six feet deep at that point. Twelve miners started up the river in canoes for the mines, Monday.

Back from the Skagit
Seattle Weekly Intelligencer, Jan. 20, 1880
      The steamer Josephine brought back several men who had attempted to go into the mines on Ruby Creek, but were compelled to return on account of the deep snow. Among the number who returned was Mr. John Pippin, a well known woodsman, from whom we learn the following particulars:
      Some three weeks ago he left this city in company with two or three others, each with a month's provisions, and arrived at Mount Vernon, on the Skagit river, the same day on which he started. After remaining there a few days several accessions were made to the party, which now numbered seven men. They embarked in canoes, and after five days poling and paddling, arrived at the portage. Their progress up the river was greatly retarded by a blinding storm.
      Arriving at the Portage, ten miles below Goodell's they camped. A party of miners who left a few days ahead of them, with Indians to manage the canoes, had arrived at Goodell's and were encamped there. While Pippin's party were at the Portage the snow fell thick and fast. They held the fort till a six foot pole was nowhere when stuck down into the snow.
      At this juncture an old Indian came along and reported twenty feet of snow on the summit of Sour Dough Mountain [now Sourdough]. This took the starch out of the would-be miners, and after packing up their traps, they made a break for home. There are ten or fifteen men in the mines, unable to get out, but it is thought they have provisions sufficient to last until the trail is passable.

For the Skagit
Seattle Weekly Intelligencer, Jan. 20, 1880
      The steamer Chehalis expects to start this morning for the head of Skagit navigation. Fifteen or twenty miners will take passage on her. The water-power sawmill machinery for Ruby Creek will be among her freight. It is generally considered unwise to start for the diggings so early in the season, but every man who intends going is anxious to secure a claim, and hence will start early, rain or shine.

(Ruby Creek)
      This photo was taken at the confluence of Skagit River and Ruby Creek in 1906. The Ruby Inn roadhouse complex is in the upper right. Photo from the Callahan Collection, Seattle, Washington, courtesy of the National Parks Service.

Off for the mines
Seattle Weekly Intelligencer, Jan. 21, 1880
      The steamer Chehalis did not leave for the Skagit till last evening, when she took about twenty-five passengers and considerable freight. Capt. Brennan informs us that he will go up as far as the Portage, if there is any possible chance for any steamer to reach that point. The result of the Chehalis's first effort on the Skagit will be looked for with interest.

Seattle Weekly Intelligencer, Jan. 24, 1880
      "Say. Sam, are you going to Skagit mines in the Spring?" "You be your boots I'm going." "Well, now, as you're talking about boots, before you start for Skagit you just go up Front street and let Freeman make you a pair of first-class miner's boots. He's the boy that can do it, because he's an old miner himself; and don't you forget it.

From the upper Skagit
      A hardy miner, just down from the upper Skagit, made us a call yesterday. From him we learn that there were seven feet of snow at the head of navigation two weeks ago, but that a four day's rain carried off the bulk of it afterward. He thinks the snow no obstacle to getting in, and says that several have made the attempt to reach Ruby Creek since he left.
      New claim hunters are going up the river all the time, and a month hence the rush will have fairly begun. The river is low and our informant says that steamers cannot possibly get above Sauk.

Skagit news
Seattle Weekly Intelligencer, Jan. 27, 1880
      The steamer Chehalis, which left here on the 20th inst., for the head of navigation on the Skagit, with passengers and freight, succeeded in getting up as far as the bar two miles above the [coal] mines, where there was only sixteen inches of water at the deepest point.
      She remained there over night, but as the river only raised two inches in the twelve hours she returned to the coal mines and took on about twelve tons of blacksmith coal. Captain Brannan there left the steamer, and procuring canoes the whole party started up the river, determined to reach Goodell's at all hazards.
      During the canoe trip Captain Brannan will examine and explore the river, so as to be familiar with its rocks, snags, crooks, shoals, reefs, etc., when the water rises. The mate brought the Chehalis down, and yesterday afternoon she started out again with about twenty miners, with their supplies. Captain Brittain went in command of her, and unless the water is high enough to permit the steamer to reach the portage she will remain at the coal mine until Capt. Brannan's return from up the river.

Bound for the coal mines
      One party of seven men, who arrived on the City of Chester and are bound for Skagit, are all from the little town of Antioch, near the bay of San Francisco. Their number includes three old miners, a machinist or two, and a printer, and they have come equipped with brave hearts to stay and struggle, if necessary, a full year in their search for gold.
      This party were among those going up on the Chehalis yesterday. They will waste no time in town or on the road, but will strike for the diggings at once. They take saws, tools and provisions to fix themselves comfortably and stay; and if there is anything there, we hope they'll get their share of it. Another party who started for the mines had money enough only to pay their way to Victoria, where they quit the steamer. They will work awhile and get on as soon as their circumstances will permit. These things show the feeling at present agitating Californians toward the Skagit gold mines.

Skagit news
Seattle Weekly Intelligencer, Jan. 29, 1880
      Coal mines, Jan. 27, 1880
      Editor, we arrived here today by the steamer Chehalis, commanded by the genial and hospitable Captains Brittain and Brennan, who in every respect made it pleasant profitable for us all. The trip from Seattle to Goodell's at the head of canoe navigation, including passage per steamer and canoe, cost us but $12 each. Fare per steamer $5, and special arrangements made with Indians for about $7 per man.
      We made the distance in about 18 hours, stopping at every camp on the route, receiving and depositing freight and passengers.
      We take this means of thanking the Captain for the kindness received at this hands, and advise andy and all who desire to go to the Skagit mines to come by way of Seattle and take the steamer Chehalis. About 17 men leave here to push up the river and over the mountain as fast as possible. Yours respectfully, S.T. Metcalf, A.T. Beede, J.C. Ault, J.L. Ettender, L.M. Barton, George W. Fuller, Charles Rohlffs

A wrong practice
Seattle Weekly Intelligencer, Jan. 30, 1880
      The Indians of Skagit river, we are informed, charge the same price for canoeing white men to the head of navigation from one point as they do from another. In other words, their rate is fixed from Mount Vernon, and if they take men from the coal mine or from Minkler's mill, twenty and thirty miles further up the river, they charge them no less. Of course, this is not right, as the saving in time, going down the river and up again, is two or three days, and the service is worth just that much less.
      Men want to go by steamboat every mile they possibly can, and they don't want to pay for canoeing up the river any distance they may have made by steamboat. Unless a change comes over the Skagit Indians in this matter, they will find they have overreached themselves. Nisqually, Puyallup, Lummi and other Indians will go in there, as they go now from all parts of the Sound to the hop fields, and the Skagits will discover their monopoly in transportation ruined.
      Steamboat men will be provoked, and they will see that remedies are secured and applied. Extortion pay for a time only, whether resorted to by Indians or white men. If Seattle men have to advertise the Ruby Creek gold mines, if Seattle men have to open the road into them, and if Seattle men have to furnish the steamboats and everything else necessary for the development of those mines, they propose to have something to say about them; they don't propose to allow any unnecessary gouging of miners; and if any money is made out of the mines they want a share in it, as well as the Indians of the upper Skagit and the white men of Mount Vernon. A little competition is needed, but, like other resorts of trade, it should be conducted on honorable principles, one of which, gouging, is not.

More gold
Seattle Weekly Intelligencer, Feb. 1, 1880
      We were shown yesterday about ninety dollars in gold dust just down from the Skagit. The gentleman who brought it down went into the diggings late in the season, after most of the miners had come out, and washed out this dust at various points for fifteen miles up and down the creek. The largest piece in the lot weighted $1.75 and was found in a pan of dirt from a bar eighty feet above the level of the river.
      On arriving here the miner sold his dust to Mr. Harmon, of the New England Hotel. He states that one part of miners who remained in the mines, lived a month on one meal per day, and that meal was bread and water. All the miners have been heard from excepting one party who were camped at the mouth of Panther Creek. They are probably all right as they had enough provisions to last till this time, but so far have not shown up.
      There is still much snow on the route but every day adds to the number who ascend the river, bound for the mines. The blacksmith and the party of Californians who left here about one month ago, are camped at Goodell's awaiting the disappearance of the snow.

A good story
Seattle Weekly Intelligencer, Feb. 3, 1880
      A correspondent of the Olympia Transcript, writing from this place, tells the following good one:
      "I glean the following from a man in Utsalady, who, I believe, can be relied upon. Two French Canadians who went to the Ruby Creek mines from Victoria, by way of Fort Hope, came down to Utsalady last week on snow shoes. One had $3200 and the other $3500 in coarse gold. They placed the value at $16 per ounce; should it assay more than that, their pile would be increased that much more. They report about seventeen men in the mines. This goes to show that mining can be prosecuted up there the entire year. . . ."
      At a late hour last night we learned that the steamer Dakota, which will be due here this evening, has on board two hundred miners bound for Ruby Creek.

The road to Skagit and the Mount Vernon route
Seattle Weekly Intelligencer, Feb. 4, 1880
(Ruby Creek Bridge)
Bridge over narrow neck of Ruby Creek, nearly 50 years before the area was flooded to create a lake.

      Our friends across the boundary line are looking sharply to their interests in the Skagit gold mines, with an eye to the profit to be drawn therefrom. They must be fishing for gudgeons, for no other would snap at so untempting a bait as they throw out. A miner's outfit purchased in Victoria, in the first place, costs 15 or 20 percent, more than a similar outfit purchased in Seattle. The reason for this is found in the fact that Victoria is a foreign town, importing substantially all it consumes and paying thereon a duty from which we are exempt. A complete outfit, including blankets, tent, boots, tools, provisions, &c., will cost not far from a hundred dollars, and the loss to the gudgeon who buys in Victoria, compared with the miner who buys in Seattle, will be fifteen or twenty dollars least.
Mount Vernon route
      Taking both routes from San Francisco — by Portland and by Victoria — into consideration, it costs less from San Francisco to Seattle than from San Francisco to Victoria. Once here, it costs six dollars and a half to go to Fort Hope, a difference in our favor of four dollars. Mount Vernon is more accessible to the diggings, in point of time and money, than is Fort Hope, and every mile beyond Mount Vernon the steamers go renders the comparison the more marked in our favor
      Our trail is only one-third as long as that of our neighbors, and we may infer that it is ever so much better from the fact that men have invariably gone over it the second time, and some the fourth and sixth times, while we have yet to hear of the first person who has dared to essay the Fort Hope trail a second time. Again: our trail is to be improved, or recut and made fit for pack animals within sixty days. Under favorable circumstances a party of eight British Columbians, who went in by way of Fort Hope, were nine days from Victoria, and one or two of the number told us there world be much snow on that route in July.
      They chose to return to Victoria by way of Seattle, and they were fewer days by several going back than thy were going in. Old miners will all take the Seattle-Skagit route, and the information we are endeavoring to give is for the benefit of new ones, who don't know and are liable to be led astray. . . .
      The steamer Chehalis yesterday completed another Skagit river trip. The low stage of water prevents her getting more than from fifteen to twenty five miles above Mount Vernon. She will start out again tomorrow morning.

Letters of Inquiry
Seattle Weekly Intelligencer, Feb. 6, 1880, page 2
      We are in almost daily receipt of letters making inquiry concerning the Ruby Creek gold mines. One man in Virginia City, Nevada, wants to know how far the mines are from Seattle, and how early in the season can a man get into them with a prospect of doing work.
      Another man, at Steilacoom, wants to know if Ruby Creek runs through a level country, or through canyons; and still another man, in Guadalupe, California, wants general info ration on nearly every bead. He says: "I frequently see items in papers take from the Intelligencer, which I understand, contains all and full particulars about the gold mines, which are creating an excitement in this section of the country, Santa Barbara County, &c."
      We might go on with references and quotations at great length, but these are enough. The want of all the writers is the same, and that is to obtain such reliable word as will justify them in coming. Of course, we haven't time to separately answer each and all, and must content ourself with a published reply that will do for all.
      Ruby Creek, by the way usually traveled, is about 160 miles from Seattle. that way is over the Sound to the mouth of the Skagit river, thence up the Skagit as far as steamboats and canoes can get, and from there by trail into the diggings. By any other route the distance is greater. By this route one can get into the mines any season and any month of the year.
      Men are coming and going continually. The twenty or thirty miles of trail are through a mountainous country, over which it is not easy to travel. Still, we are assured by men who pretend to know, the way is not difficult compared with trails in other mining regions in which, like this one, not a dollar of work has been done. men pack over it from 60 to 80 pounds, and we have yet to hear of the first accident that has befallen any one of them. It is yet too early to mine, the snow laying next to the creek from four to six feet deep. The latter part of March or first of April will be soon enough to go in, and quite as soon as mining can be profitably conducted.
      The creek runs through a mountainous region, there being canyons and ravines from its source in the snow to its confluence with the Skagit river. The only level parts are a few bars now worth considering. The best general advice to give those abroad is to go a little slow for a month or two yet. Nothing worth doing can be done by coming at this time, while some expense and suffering will be thereby entailed.

Cariboo vs. Skagit
Seattle Weekly Intelligencer, Feb. 8, 1880
Seattle, Feb. 7, 1880
      Editor, will you be kind enough to give space in the columns of your valuable paper to a few utterances from an uneducated miner? My idea regarding the Skagit mines is that it is a scheme calculated to defraud the people in general, and more especially those of California.
      People are blinded by glowing accounts of the richness of the mines, and yet, when we come to examine the facts, we find that those who are owners of those rich claims come down here "dead broke" and ask for provisions, &c., for a half share. Does it stand to reason that when a man comes from Skagit and tells us that he can trace the gold in his claim like following the links of a lady's necklace, and then be out of money?
      Why is it that more interest is not taken in the work of making a good trail? Surely it is of great importance to Seattle, as there is every prospect of the miners coming this way. It is also a strange fact that no capitalists here nor in Victoria have taken hold, which alone is sufficient to prove the absurdity of this fine talk from Skagit.
      These remarks are not calculated to depreciate the value of the mines, but to let people know that we are not all green. "Well," they say, "we have seen specimens from Ruby and Canyon creeks." Yes, so have I. They are very fine ones, too, but they have been carried in the vest pocket so long that the match and tobacco stains have not entirely disappeared.
      I wish the gold seekers the best of luck; but if the gold is so thick that it can be traced at a half a rod, then I say stay at home and build your castles from other sources than that of Skagit. Respectfully, Cariboo

The route to Ruby Creek
not via the mythical Hope route
Seattle Weekly Intelligencer, Feb. 22, 1880
      A few persons are trying very hard to make themselves believe that there is a route and trail from Fort Hope to the Ruby Creek gold mines. These persons are deluded by the newspapers of British Columbia, which, because they badly want a trail, imagine there is one and boldly assert its existence. We are not so much surprised at people north of the line being taken in in this way for they are generally impressed with the greatness, the grandeur and superiority of British Columbia, and think there is little good outside the narrow bounds of their Province.
      We are surprised, however, to learn that people south of the line in occasional instances are even more deluded than those north. A party of forty men left New Tacoma last Wednesday night for the Ruby Creek gold mines, via Victoria and Fort Hope. They took with them hand sleds 8 feet long, 18 inches wide and 8 inches high, loaded with 250 pounds each.
      They apparently think they are to traverse an open highway quite as good as the average country road, else they would not go prepared as they do. To Victoria will cost them six dollars and from Victoria to Hope will cost them six more, without taking into account a meal or a lodging the several days they will be occupied in getting that far.
      Once there they will be, to use a vulgar expression, stuck. No road or trail whatever leads from Fort Hope to Ruby Creek. Over three hundred men have already gone into the diggings from this side, and we have no positive report of a baker's dozen from that [north side]; all of whom, as far as known, have come out this way. If this New Tacoma party succeeds in reaching the creek, which is more than doubtful, they will have gone a distance of three hundred miles against less than a hundred and seventy by the Skagit river route, and at more than three times the cost in time and money.
      What were they thinking of? They couldn't have thought at all, else they would not have perpetrated this folly. Notwithstanding all the talk about the Hope route by the Victoria press, and the men daily passing over it, or supposed by the managers of that press to be passing over it, not a man has arrived in the diggings from that quarter since the 1st of January, while two hundred have gone in from Seattle. Is not this alone conclusive proof of the superiority of our route?
      To repeat, men are said by the advocates of both routes to be going continually, and yet none arrive at their common destination from one place while all arrive from the other. The Skagit route has no terrors to those best acquainted with it. The Hope trail is simply no trail at all, it having been projected, laid out on paper, and there been allowed to rest. Game is abundant on the upper Skagit and its tributaries. One man claims to have caught eighty or a hundred pounds of trout in a single day. The Oregon Company killed three deer on Wednesday last, above Goodell's and Lee Rogers killed seven deer on Panther Creek one day about a month ago.

Follow-up from Ruby Creek mines
Seattle Weekly Intelligencer, Feb. 22, 1880
      Messrs S.T. Metcalf, A.T. Beede and G.W. Fuller, of the Antioch (CA) party of seven mentioned by us a few weeks ago as going to the Ruby Creek mines, returned from there last evening, having arrived on the steamer Chehalis. They had no mishaps on the way, encountered but few obstacles, and made excellent time. They prospected and found the color to suit, located their claims on Canyon Creek, about fourteen miles from the mouth of Ruby.
      The four men left behind are engaged packing in provisions, &c. after completing which they will go to whipsawing lumber for cabins and getting read for the season's work. The men who came out report four feet of snow on the Creek. While there the depth was down at one time to 22 inches. A bridge has been thrown across the Skagit river at the intersection of Ruby Creek, which must prove a great convenience to future travelers.
      Newell & Spaulding are putting up their sawmill at the junction of Granite and Canyon creeks, and send back word of an encouraging character. By the 1st of May there will be ready to supply lumber to their anticipated thousands of customers. Goodell will commence the construction of a hotel at his place on the upper Skagit at an early day for the accommodation of the many bound in and out.
      George T. Sawyer, the Recorder, has moved into the diggings, where he may hereafter be found by claim hunters. The trail from the head of navigation to the Creek is not so bad as has been stated.
      "The gentlemen named in the opening sentence report passing three men, each loaded with 65 pounds, who were going from Goodell's to the Creek in a single day. They also report passing one party of six men (Kerns and company, loggers) not one of whom was carrying less than 90 pounds, while one had 125 pounds, another 135, and still another 140! They were big, powerful men, to be sure, but if the trail had been as bad as has been stated, such loads would have been impossible over it.
      To give an idea of the extent of the rush that is already under way, these men say that they passed, bound for the mines, 51 men on the trail, 16 at Goodell's, and 64 in canoes on the river; and besides they left 7 men on the Creek and 46 left the steamers Chehalis and Josephine on Friday last.
      Messrs Fuller, Beede and Metcalf came back much improved in health; all being much more robust and rugged than when they left, on the 23d of last month. They saw a number of specimens of beautiful gold, in the creek bed and elsewhere, and are satisfied that the article is there in plenty. They will be on the ground again in time to represent their claims, July 3, and from that time on will put in the season in quest of the precious metal they have come so far to obtain.

From the mines
Seattle Weekly Intelligencer, Feb. 22, 1880
      Several men from the Ruby Creek gold mines arrived here on the steamer Josephine yesterday. Their story is the one we have told so often before. They looked up and down the Creek, prospected here and there, located their claims and came out, all satisfied and all intending to return later in the season. They report passing about a hundred and twenty men bound for the diggings on Ruby.

The Trail
Seattle Weekly Intelligencer, Feb. 29, 1880
      On the steamer that leaves for the Skagit this morning, one of the contractors for the Skagit trail will be a passenger. He will be followed in a few days by men, tools, powder, etc., and rush the trail ahead as rapidly as possible. The necessary bridges and crossings to streams can be put in while the snow lies on the ground to better advantage than afterward.

Map to the Skagit
Seattle Weekly Intelligencer, March 13, 1880
      Photographs of the only correct map of the Skagit gold fields, drawn by Mr. S.C. Harris, can be had at Pumphrey's or of Jack Levy.

A new mining district
Seattle Weekly Intelligencer, March 17, 1880
      Among the miners who arrived in Seattle on the Josephine, from the mines, last evening, were two young gentlemen from [illegible] California, John R. Knowles and Robert Smith. They left San Francisco on the Chester of Feb. 10th, and arrived here about the 15th.
      After fitting out they started for the mines, and experienced about the same adventures on the trip as many others, whose exploits we have published. Arriving at Ruby Creek they found all the claims on that stream taken, so they continued on to the head of Canyon Creek, where they located. They then returned down to the mouth of Canyon Creek, where they met nineteen miners on their way up the creek, to locate.
      Knowles's party told them that most of the ground on Canyon, as well as Ruby, had been taken, and the whole company decided to go back to the mouth of Granite Creek, which they did, and commenced prospecting. One of the party waded out into the stream and washed out some dirt. The first pan showed 13 colors, and the second 9 colors, and a handsome piece of pure virgin gold about the size of a cambric needle and half an inch long.
      This pleased the prospectors very much, and in less than two hours twenty claims were located in a row, up the creek from the discovering claim. That same evening a meeting was called for the purpose of organizing a new mining district. The meeting was called to order by J.R. Knowles, who was afterwards elected Secretary. Harry Heckins was chosen President. The district was called "Granite Creek District," and C.W. Anderson was appointed recorder. A code of laws was agreed upon and adopted, very similar to those of the Ruby Creek District, except that the claims will go on the Recorder's Book according to number, and must be represented on the 15th of June, instead of the first of July, as on Ruby.
      Two days after these claims were located near the mouth of Granite Creek, three men went up two and a half miles above the mouth of the creek and dug some earth from the bank three feet above the water in the creek, and washed out five pans of dirt, out of which they got twenty-seven cents, by actual weight. The next day many other claims were located in the Granite District.
      Messrs Knowles and Smith will be passengers on the outgoing Dakota, for their homes in California. They will both be on hand to represent their claims about the first of June. They report the now deep, and travel slow, but are both well pleased with the mines and will encourage their friends to visit the new gold fields.

Narrow escape
Seattle Weekly Intelligencer, April 21, 1880
      Last Friday seven miners, with their luggage, got into a frail little canoe at Goodell's, and started down to the Portage, where they intended embarking in a more substantial craft for Mount Vernon. All went well until they started over a riffle one and a half miles below Goodell's when the canoe lurched to one side and filled.
      The miners all made a lunge for the shore, when over the canoe went, dumping their packs, provisions, blankets, cooking utensils, and everything else into the raging, rushing water. After getting to shore they set themselves to picking up what they could, that had floated within reach. The first article packed up was an overcoat belonging to one of the men, in the pockets of which were several ounces of Skagit gold dust. After spending a cold, cheerless night in the woods, the party reached the Portage the next day, and took passage for Mount Vernon, where they joined the Chehalis for this city.
      In conversation with some of those gentlemen, we learn that in some places mining on a small scale has commenced on Ruby Creek, but the snow has not sufficiently disappeared to enable the men to do much in the way of mining. Good prospects continue to be taken out, and all feel assured that as soon as the season opens, gold in abundance will be obtained.

Where is Sauk City?
Seattle Weekly Intelligencer, April 21, 1880
April 15, 1880
      Editor — We have been residing at the town of Sauk for the past two days. Perhaps you would like to know where Sauk City is. It is situated on the Skagit river, about 60 miles above its mouth, at the junction of the Sauk river. Its population is metropolitan and the present inhabitants number thirteen.
      Its incorporators are T.G. Mellus, S.T. Metcalf, George Burson and Charles B. Spercy. The town site embraces one mile up and down the river, and runs a mile and one-fourth back. it is a beautiful site and it is the opinion of a good many that it will be the head of steamboat navigation on the Skagit river. Men are now at work chopping cordwood for the steamer, building cabins, &c. It will be surveyed and laid off into town lots next week. We are very comfortably situated for the present in a large tent with B.T. Osborn and W.G. Barr.
      Tomorrow morning we start for the Cascade river and intend to prospect it clear to its source, if possible. The Indians tell us there is a good horse trail up the Cascade river clear through to the Kittitas valley, but there is lots of snow there now. According to the maps the course of the Cascade river is only a few miles south of Ruby and Canyon creeks. We may succeed in finding a rote much preferable to the present one. We are told there have been very fine prospects found on Cascade river. We have six months' provisions, and will make every endeavor possible to reach the source. This is probably the last you will hear of us for some time. C.H

To Skagit and back
Seattle Weekly Intelligencer, April 21, 1880
      Mr. A.H. Manning, at one time in the employ of the Railroad Company [Northern Pacific?] and well known in this county, has just returned from the Skagit mines, and furnishes us the following particulars of his trip, and what he actually did and observed while there. Mr. M has spent eight years in Montana during her palmy days, and should therefore be competent to judge of mining matters.
      In company with Mr. William H.H. Elliott he left Port Townsend in a small canoe on March 17th. In passing through Deception Pass, experienced rough weather, but after a nine hours run reached the mouth of the Skagit river. Three hours more brought them to Mount Vernon, where they remained two days, and started on up the river.
      At Green's riffle, 30 miles above Mount Vernon, they overtook two men, who were trying to reach the mines by land, they had a little provision but no money. They were taken into the canoe with Manning and his chum, and thereafter were identified with them. The weather was very stormy, and on reaching Skagit City, the party remained fiver days, enjoying the hospitality of Mr. McPherson. They continued on and reached Goodell's on the 28th of March, thus making the trip from Port Townsend to Goodell's, in a canoe in five and one-half days, actual traveling time.
      The party left Goodell's with two packs each. 75 or 80 pounds in each pack. Arriving at Ruby Creek, April 3d, they formed themselves into a company and located four hill claims, in all 1,000 feet, a portion of which is on Ruby and the balance on the Skagit, being on what is supposed to have been the original channel of Ruby Creek. The claims are known as the Balaratt Companies ground. The noted Dirley claim lays directly below the Balaratt ground.
      While there Mr. Manning prospected the Dirley claim, getting from three to 45 cents to the pan; this was from dirt taken out of the creek bottom and underwater. Mr. Manning states that he offered $500 for a fifth interest in this claim, but his offer was rejected. In regard to the Balaratt claim, Mr. Manning says he dug through five feet of snow in order to prospect his claim, and got from a fine color to one dollar and ten cents to the pan.
      The party then dug a ditch seventy feet long and eight feet deep on their ground, and turned the water as required by law, and had it recorded. Mr. Manning says he found men in the mines who were dissatisfied, and disposed to grumble and curse the country, but he gives it as [illegible] opinion that any industrious men, with a pick, shovel and pan, can make their grub at the present time, and prices; notwithstanding the depth of snow. The party after a few days preceded up Ruby and Canyon district, and called it the Orofino Claim.
      Snow covered the ground to a depth of five or six feet, and in many places slid a made it from fifty to one hundred feet deep. Mr. Manning says he got down to the wreck through an airhole in the snow, on the Orofino, and dug up several pans of dirt which yielded them from twelve to twenty colors each, that would save in a sluice. Mr. M. then returned down to Borren's cabin, on Canyon Creek, where he found the miners well supplied with provisions, and just getting ready for work; the boys in the Butcher Claim have put in a very strong dam, which will probably resist high waters; Armstrong is also ready to commence active operations on his claim
      The Nip and Tuck Company worked two days, when the water drove them out; three men from Port Townsend, Armstrong, Johnson and Martin got prospects of from five cents to twenty-five cents to the pan, in the gravel; The Blakely boys, near the mouth of Ruby, are at work, taking out from five to six dollars per day to the man, from their hill claim.
      Mr. Manning says they do not know anything about mining or they could do much better. Four of them in two days washed out forty dollars, which Mr. M. bought. It is handsome dust, and was seen by many of our business men yesterday. Other men on the creek are taking out from $1.50 to $6 per day with pans and rockers, according to the facilities for work.
      Mr. Manning wished to state his mind regarding the richness of the Skagit mines; we told him we would report his exact language if he desired, so that he would be responsible for the statements made by himself, to which he agreed, and continued as follows:

      After eight years of mining experience, I give it as my candid opinion that there is one hundred miles of ground on Ruby Creek and its tributaries, that will pay, when properly worked, from five dollars to five ounces per day to the man; but I advise no man, unless he has money enough to buy, or pay for packing in provisions, and wants to experience hardships, to go into the mines with the expectation of doing much before the first of July. If a man has money and wants to mine, Ruby Creek is the place for him.
      Mr. Manning further states that there has been a great deal of ground "smuggled," that cannot be held on representation day. Some have gone so far as to stake out five and sometimes six claims in the same district, when but two can be held, a creek claim and a hill claim.
      The snow has sufficiently disappeared along the route of the Skagit trail to admit of work on it being commenced. There should be no further delay in regard to this matter. The miners are getting very impatient, and send an earnest protest against further delay in the matter. Many of them are willing to work on the trail free of charge, if it will only be started.
      It is a matter of material importance to the people of Seattle and the whole Territory that this trail be made at once. Other sections are doing everything in their power to divert trade and travel from the Skagit route, and they will be able to take a great deal of money out of the pockets of Seattle merchants, if work on this trail is suffered to be delayed much longer.
      If the contractors are unwilling to fulfill their contract, let the work be given to responsible men who will put it through. Several such stand ready to undertake the work, we are told, who have the grit and backbone to carry it through. Give them a chance.
      The sawmill is expected to be running by the first of June. Mr. Manning

Continue to Part Two, May-December 1880


Cariboo mines
      The Cariboo Gold Rush began in Canada in 1861, replacing the brief but dramatic placer-gold rush on the Fraser River in 1858. The new rush centered on the new town of Barkerville, far north in the British Columbia mainland. Sedro founder Mortimer Cook founded his first town, Cook's Ferry, on the Thompson River when the new Cariboo Road was cut through that canyon and the Bonaparte River Valley. Unlike the earlier rush, this one was populated by a majority of Canadians because many Americans were occupied with the Civil War. The construction of the road bankrupted the mainland British colony and forced it to join with the Vancouver Island colony to form the province of British Columbia in the new national confederation. [Return]

Skagit gold
      The new town of Whatcom was the original kickoff point for the 1858 Fraser River Gold Rush until Vancouver Island Governor James Douglas mandated that all miners had to register first in Victoria before proceeding to the gold fields. The future Skagit County was tangential at best re: gold at that time. One party from Port Townsend, under the leadership of Major J.J. Van Bokkelyn, ascended the Skagit River past the log jams while waiting for the Fraser flood waters to recede and found faint traces of placer gold in the area above the Baker River, but they did not find enough and the transportation bottleneck at the jams discouraged any argonauts on the Skagit that year. Read June Burn's review of the 1858 rush. [Return]

Orange Jacobs
      Washington's colorful Territorial Representative to Congress from 1875-79. Later mayor of Seattle and author of book on the fauna of Washington. Profile [Return]

Corduroy roads
      A method of embedding halves of logs with the convex side up so that greased logs can be slid along the tops across muddy or swamp sections. [Return]

Mount Vernon log jams
      When settlers first visited the Skagit Valley in the 1850s, they were discouraged from exploring the upper river for the first two decades because of two large log jams at the future site of Mount Vernon. Volunteers there cut a hole through the jams in 1878 that was large enough for small craft to pass through and by 1879, sternwheeler steamboats delivered freight and settlers to the foothills of the Cascades. Log Jam portal section [Return]

      Note that the accepted spelling at that time was without the space between the lower-case "a" and the upper-case "C." [Return]

McNamara's Hotel
      That was the Ruby Hotel. According to the 1906 Illustrated History of Skagit & Snohomish Counties, McNamara built the hotel of rough wood two lots south of the Clothier & English store in 1879 and named it for the gold rush. The downstairs was a saloon, kitchen and dining room, and all the rooms and beds were upstairs. McNamara moved here from Centerville/Stanwood, where he ran an earlier hotel. [Return]

New Hotel
      According to the 1906 Illustrated History of Skagit & Snohomish Counties, "A new hotel, however, known as the Mount Vernon hotel, had been erected by Clothier, English & Klement during the busy season." From 1876 onwards George Moran logged north of here in Whatcom county and then for five years on the Skagit river. He came to Mount Vernon in June 1881 and owned and operated Mount Vernon House for several years. He sold the hotel in 1890, was then in retail liquor business. [Return]

McNamara's Hotel
      That was the Ruby Hotel. According to the 1906 Illustrated History of Skagit & Snohomish Counties, McNamara built the hotel of rough wood two lots south of the Clothier & English store in 1879 and named it for the gold rush. The downstairs was a saloon, kitchen and dining room, and all the rooms and beds were upstairs. McNamara moved here from Centerville/Stanwood, where he ran an earlier hotel. [Return]

Olympia Marsh
      This marshy, boggy area lay north of Burlington at the southern end of the Samish River delta. Mortimer Cook and other farmers in the area drained the land with cedar puncheon logs and discovered fires that had burning underground in the peat moss for generations. [Return]

Goodell's Landing
      This trading post was built by Nathan E. Goodell of Forest Grove, Oregon, sometime in 1879 and served as the only upriver supply point for the Ruby Creek miners until retail stores opened there. Goodell was the brother of Phoebe Goodell Judson, and they were part of the Jotham Weeks Goodell family who moved here from Vermillion, Ohio, and settled near Olympia in 1853, the year that Washington became a territory. Goodell stayed in the county until sometime in 1881 but Clothier and English took over the store in 1880. [Return]

Shallow water
      This page illustrates why the sternwheeler steamboats dominated river travel on the pioneer. Depending on the size of the boat, the paddle could rotate in as little as a foot of water so the shallow draft meant that a sternwheel was needed. As Joshua Green observed, after launching his very successful transportation service a decade later, his sternwheeler Fannie Lake was "built to float on a heavy dew." [Return]

      Small freshwater, bottom-dwelling fish that live in rapids and other fast moving water in lakes and rivers in Europe [Return]

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