William “Billy” Redford, born in Devon, England, was the first prospector to find gold along the Indian River in 1893. During 1894 Mr. Redford found and mined gold on Quartz Creek, a northern tributary of the Indian River but on the opposite side from Ruby Ellis Bench. The Canadian Government opened a post office on Redford’s discovery claim on Quartz Creek on August 19, 1905, to service a settlement that had grown up there since 1894. The postal station was first named “Radford” and later “Readford” until its final closure on December 31, 1952.
Considerable mining activity existed in the Indian River area prior to 1900 and by 1906 most of the tributaries of the Indian River were either being prospected or mined for placer gold as a result of the influx of people during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898. During those years several hydraulic concessions were located along the lower reaches of the Indian River, including the ground at the mouth of Ruby Creek which was then called Garnet Creek.
During 1905 Ruby Ellis found gold on the large gravel terrace which extends along the left limit of Indian River immediately upstream from Garnet/Ruby Creek. This terrace became known as Ruby Ellis Bench. Also, the name of Garnet Creek was changed to Ruby Creek as it appears today on most Government maps – presumably being named after Ruby Ellis.
Other than a few individuals, most early placer prospectors were inexperienced persons looking for “bonanza diggings” and concentrated their efforts in areas with rich pay and shallow ground. Although several streams which flow into the Indian River, including Quartz, Sulphur and Dominion Creeks, etc., were being mined at that time, most low level and low grade placer deposits such as those deposits known to exist along the center and lower reaches of Indian River received little attention.
Mining activity in the Indian River area has fluctuated greatly since 1900, largely due to changing economics, the effect of World Wars, and the influence of Yukon Consolidated Gold Corporation which essentially monopolized mining in the Klondike Region until the 1960’s.
Y.C.G.C. was headquartered on Bear Creek near Dawson and conducted extensive placer mining operations in the region, including dredging on some of the upstream tributaries of the Indian River. Apparently the gravel deposits situated along Ruby Creek and other gravel deposits in the middle and lower reaches of the Indian River, such as Ruby Ellis Bench, although known to be auriferous, were never tested by that Company.
However, it has been reported that limited small-scale hand mining was done on Ruby Creek during the 1920’s by two Europeans. The recent discovery of significant placer gold along the left limit of this Creek by Mr. Al Osborne along with Lloyd and Daphne Becker seems to support the previous report of the presence of placer gold.
During the mid 1970’s after the price of gold began to rise, placer mining activity began to increase in the Indian River area and by 1984 mining was being conducted in the Indian River Channel and along both limits of its lower valley approximately one mile below the mouth of Quartz Creek.
Most of the gold recovered from the Indian River and area is well-rounded and flat, with some specimens being “chunky” approaching the size of peas. The placer gold is associated with garnets and iron-rich heavy sands.