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PUBLISHED: 1:50 PM on Wednesday, January 10, 2007
A quick look at Juneau history

Author's collection
  The Treadwell Mine Cave in 1917.
When Joe Juneau and Richard Harris, adventurers and prospectors, came to the Juneau area in 1880, the narrow shelf of land between the mountains and the channel was a winter camp and fish camp for the Native Tlingit Indians. Chief Kowee of the Auk Tribe led the newcomers up Gold Creek to the Silverbow Basin, where they found deposits and staked mining claims. Developing the first white city, called "Harrisburg," on 160 acres of land, the duo were only the forerunners of a large number of prospectors who followed in their footsteps to the Juneau area when they founded the first new town after the 1867 purchase of Alaska from Russia.

Across the channel, on Douglas Island, prospectors discovered gold on the beach, and soon, the city of Treadwell grew out of claims staked there.

When the City of Juneau was formed in 1900, the quiet of the Tlingit winter camp had turned into a noisy ore-mill town. Fish camps were gradually abandoned and replaced by trading posts, saloons, stores and missionaries.

The state capital was transferred from Sitka to Juneau in 1906 while Alaska was a U.S. Territory.

The Treadwell and Ready Bullion mines across the channel on Douglas Island became world-scale mines, operating from 1882 to 1917, when a cave-in in the Treadwell mine closed it. When it closed after 35 years of operation, the Treadwell mine had produced $66 million worth of gold.

Fishing, canneries, transportation and trading services and a sawmill contributed to Juneau's growth through the early 1900s. Mining on the Juneau side continued well into the World War II years, but in 1944, the federal government declared the industry non-essential to the war effort and ordered it shout down. When the A-J Mine closed that year, having produced more than $80 million in gold.

There is still low-grade ore in the mine, but modern companies have not found it worth the investment to reopen the mine.

Mining is still going on today at the Greens Creek Mine on the northern tip of Admiralty Island, just west of Douglas Island. Miners live in Juneau and commute one hour each way by catamaran. Greens Creek is the nation's most productive silver mine and also provides molybden and gold.


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