The conception of Independence Mine was proof of what thinking outside the box can do. Robert Lee Hatcher, who became the namesake of the area in which Independence Mine resides, wasn’t content to seek his riches from the gold-laden creeks in what became known as the Willow Creek Mining District. He knew there had to be a source for all the wealth many were pulling out of the creeks, and he searched the mountains until he literally struck gold. In 1906 he staked a claim high in the mountains, and I doubt he knew his discovery would become the most abundant and concentrated gold mine in Southcentral Alaska. That only came to be because many innovative miners wised up and realized their finances and energy would be far more useful together. One large company was created, called the Alaska-Pacific Consolidated Mining Company, and its gold claims in the area covered over 1,300 acres of land. The weight of gold extracted from Hatcher Pass came to nearly 39,000 pounds. In today’s dollars, that would bring in over $300 million dollars.
What gets my curiosity going the most is wondering what daily life was like for the people living and working there. Were the handful of wives and mothers that lived in the small settlement near the mines excited to be part of such a grand adventure? What was school like for the children in a frenzied mining area? Did the miners consider their sacrifices worth it years later?
Did they look up at the mine shafts in wonderment or dread every morning after what was probably too short of a rest?
I will never know how these people felt and lived, but I can only imagine how thrilling and exhausting this lifestyle was. I feel privileged to experience this remnant of recent history in Alaska, and I'm already planning trips to more of the historic mines in the state! To read more about gold mining in Hatcher Pass (and read where I got much of this information), visit these sites: HERE and HERE. And check out Remembering the Gold Days, my first post in this series of two.
I'm a mom of twins, published author, editor, amateur photographer, and nature enthusiast with an unlimited supply of curiosity. Come discover the little wonders I find during my everyday life in Alaska.
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