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Ruby Creek: editorials of 1880
and background of the brief gold rush, Part 3

      Below you will find some impatient editorials re: the proposed Ruby Creek trail in Whatcom County, and background information about Ruby Creek from Gretchen Luxenberg.

Ruby Creek news 1880
(Map of Ruby Creek)
National Park Service Map

Editorial columns, Weekly Intelligencer (Seattle), April 24, 1880
      It was editorially suggested in the Intelligencer, last winter, that the Commissioners of Whatcom county take hold of the trail to Ruby Creek where the citizens of Seattle let go. People here have $1,600 for opening the trail and making it passable for pack animals and this money, we are yet in hopes, will some time be expended as the givers intended.Every foot of that trail will be in Whatcom County, through one hundred miles of which (including the Skagit River the route from Seattle will extend. The mines are also in Whatcom county and the men going to those mines will speedily become citizens of Whatcom county, and the men going to those mines will speedily become citizens of Whatcom county and entitled to all the benefits and privileges such citizenship implies. Among those are schools, roads &c.
      It is not rash to say that the precinct which includes these mines will have a greater population this summer and fall than all other precincts in the county combined, and in the course of a year or so will pay the bulk of the taxes. Gold miners have as much right to ask help in the matter of roads as farmers and townspeople have, and it should as feely be extended.
      Our proposition now is that the county of Whatcom, through its Board of Commissioners, appropriate an amount equal totht given by citizens of Seattle, the money to be expended jointly, or in any other satisfactory way, on the trail from the head of navigation on Skagit river to the mouth of Ruby Creek. Three or four thousand dollars judiciously laid out will accomplish a great deal and will make a very fair road sixteen miles long in a country so rough even at that through which the one projected will be made.
      Ten days hence the Commissioners of Whatcom county will be in session, when we hope to hear of this matter receiving their favorable consideration.

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      Still we hear nothing of the new trail to Ruby Creek. After all the talks; after the great effort of last December to raise the money, and after getting the money in hand; after being made the butt and jeer envious and less enterprising neighbors; after a taste of the sweets of mining trade and travel; after all these things and more, we have no more of a trail than we had a year ago, and no prospect of more. This is not a pleasant report to make, but is a true one nevertheless. Fellow citizens and subscribers to the trail fund, what are you going to do about it?

Portland funding and Argonauts heading north
      A fifteen million dollar Skagit gold mining company has been organized in Portland, of which a statement in full will be found in our telegraphic columns. Portlanders are nowadays displaying extraordinary enterprise, and are reaching out from their own town to grasp all the tit-bits of Oregon, Idaho, Washington and Alaska. Seattle men must look to it sharply, or a large share of the treasures of Skagit will find its way into the lap of Portland.
      One thousand men have fitted out in and started from Seattle to go to the Skagit gold mines since the 1st of January. They have probably averaged in doing this an expenditure of fifty dollars each. This money has gone directly to merchants, hotel keepe4rs and steamboat men and indicrectly to a great number o othrs. The expenditure in our midst of this fifty thousand dollars had had visible effect in brightening the mines.

Portland, Oregon April 23
      This morning articles of incorporation were filed in the office of the county clear by Messers. George W. McCoy, W.H. Brooks and E.H. Boggs, by the terms of which a new company, to be known as the Skagit Mining Company, was duly and lawfully organized. The purpose of the organization as stated by the articles of incorporation is to locate, purchase, hold, develop, sell and transfer mining claims on Skagit river and its tributaries in Washington Territory.
      The capital stock of the company is placed at $15,000,000, divided into one hundred and fifty thousand shares valued at $100 a share. The principal office of the company will be in Portland. The company is empowered to erect quartz mills and all other concerns necessary to make a successful mining company, and if the latitude in operation amounts to anything they will in all assurance be successful.
      A large number of shares have already been subscribed for and the indications are that the company will be a bona fide one in all respects. The incorporators own a large number of claims in the new district.
      Henry Villard and party, who have been on a visit to Eastern Oregon and Walla Walla Valley and other points; will return to this city tomorrow evening by the Cascade boat. Probably they will next make a tour of the Sound country.
      [Journal ed. note: We provide below as background information for Ruby Creek an excerpt from the mother lode for such information: Gretchen Luxenberg's excellent "Marketing the Wilderness" series for the National Park service. She completed the research and compiled the files from 1986-99. This information in expanded form, covering the whole North Cascades, is available at this link.]

Marketing the wilderness: development of commercial enterprises, mineral resources: mining
Ruby Creek Mining District
Gretchen Luxenberg
      No tangible evidence remains from the first Ruby Creek gold rush of the 1870s. This is chiefly because of hydroelectric activity along the Skagit River which flooded the mouth of Ruby Creek in the 1940s, inundating a large portion of this early mining district.
      The first party of prospectors made its way into the Ruby Creek area in 1872, in search of gold along the river's banks. Although no contemporary account of that journey exists, local tradition holds that John Sutter, George Sanger,, and John Rowley traveled up the Skagit, panning its banks as far as present-day Ruby Creek. It was during this trip that the creek received its name from Rowley, who found a sizable ruby in his pan while washing gravel along the water's edge. Rowley faithfully returned to the upper Skagit in 1875 and two years later, in 1877. [87] By 1878 and 1879 it was rumored and believed that gold was present in significant quantities. The Washington Standard (June 27, 1879) noted "The Skagit gold mines are booming again" and "If reports are to be relied upon, the miners engaged on Skagit river have, at last, struck some paying diggings." [88]
      The upper Skagit gold rush was underway. Local newspapers carried up-to-date information about "The Skagit Mines":

(Goodell roadhouse)
Sedro-Woolley photographer Darius Kinsey took this photo on a 1900 expedition with his friend Seneca G. Ketchum, publisher of the Skagit County Times. In the book, Kinsey Photographer by Bohn and Petschek, it is captioned, "Roadhouse on Skagit River. This is Goodell's Landing." Presumably this is Edward's original store, which August Dohne made into a roadhouse a few years before the photo was taken. The building burned in 1901.

      The mines are located in the Cascade Mountains on what is known as Ruby Creek, the union of several smaller creeks tributary to the Skagit river. . . . Gold has been found on the river thirty miles below the mouth of Ruby Creek and some exceptionally fine specimens of the precious metal have been taken from a bar in the river twenty miles below Ruby Creek, at what is known as Goodell's place. To reach the mines from Seattle, the gold seeker must take some one of the steamers on the Skagit route for Mount Vernon . . .
      From Mt. Vernon a party of three can charter a canoe, manned by Indians, to ascend the river to Goodell's trading-post for $30 dollars. All along the route the scenery is described as grand and picturesque in the extreme . . . [finally] you reach Goodell's "place." The remainder of the distance is traversed on foot. The trail follows the river for twenty miles, now at the water's edge at the foot of some towering rocky wall, again over a tortuous ascent to the edge of a precipice with the river thousands of feet below. [89]

      Placer gold, particularly along Ruby Creek, drew hundreds over the course of the rush. Although a trail existed along the upper Skagit, most prospectors used the Canadian route to reach Ruby Creek. [90] By August, 1879, 62 prospectors were working along Ruby Creek and farther upstream. Miners and speculators filtered in, dug ditches, and built flumes and sluices. Albert Bacon, an early upper Skagit settler, put in a wing dam on Ruby Creek with the help of fellow miners. Located eight miles above the mouth of Ruby Creek, their "Nip and Tuck" claim reportedly produced $1,500 in gold dust that year. [91]
      The excitement carried through to the following year, and on March 5, 1880, the Washington Standard reported:

      About 100 miners a week are now flocking to Skagit, and the number is constantly increasing. No matter how rich the mines prove to be, of this number a large proportion will return without having accomplished the object of their mission, and many will come down poor . . .
      Indeed, it quickly became evident that available placer ground was limited, that streams were difficult to handle, that the cost of reaching the diggings was prohibitive, and that the trip in, particularly via the Skagit, was hazardous. Nevertheless, upwards of 600 claims were located along the Ruby Creek drainage and a Ruby Creek Mining District was formed. More than 2500 prospectors were said to have worked the diggings which eventually produced $100,000 of gold dust. [92] Within the year, however, before any substantial efforts were realized, the boom was over. Gold simply did not exist in quantities large enough to make placer mining profitable. [93]
      Claims and equipment were abandoned along stream beds and only those with great faith in finding gold stayed and settled in the upper Skagit valley. For more than ten years the mining district was essentially deserted.


87. Thompson, Erwin. History: Basic Data; North Cascades National Park. 90-91.
      Eastern Service Center: Office of History and Historic Architecture, National Park Service, Dept. of Interior, 1970: p.35-36. Hereinafter cited as Thompson 1970. Rowley returned again in 1877, traveling with Otto Klement, Charles Von Pressentin, John Duncan, and Frank Scott. This trip was more exploratory than Rowley's previous trips. The group left the banks of the Skagit, hiked over Cascade Pass, and down the Stehekin valley to Lake Chelan. An excursion to the Methow valley in search of rumored gold proved fruitless but the men returned to the lower Skagit River with new information about the unknown region. [Return]

88. Washington Standard [newspaper, Olympia], 24 October 1879. Hereinafter cited as WS.

89. WS, 19 December 1879.

90. Wuorinen, Paula. A History of the Skagit Valley Recreation Area.
      Historic Parks and Sites Division, B.C. Parks Branch, July 1975: p. 43. 1975, 14. [Return]

91. Thompson 1970, 91-2.

92. Hodges, Lawrence K., editor. "Mining in the Pacific Northwest." Seattle: Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1897.
      Shorey Book Store Reproduction, Seattle, 1967: p. 56. Hereinafter cited as Hodges 1897. [Return]

93. Thompson 1970, 94.
      Lawrence K. Hodges in his 1896 book, How a Prospector Lives: "They work year after year, shut themselves off from civilization and live on rough fare in isolated cabins far off in the mountains hoping that some man will come along and pay them a fabulous price which will enable them to live at ease the rest of their days. They scorn all smaller offers and, like a child, reach out for the moon." Northwest Discovery [magazine], October 1980: p.204.[Return]

      [Journal ed. note: Re: the Seattle Intelligencer, it published both daily (1876-81) and weekly (1867-81) editions until the papers combined in 1881 and formed the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which survived in print through 2009.]

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Story posted May 25, 2011
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