Steamboat Mountain was the site of the biggest gold rush ever seen in the Canadian Skagit. The strike was made on June 29 , 1910 by two American prospectors named Dan Greenwald and W.A. Stevens. Two years before, they had heard rumours of gold in the mountains south of Hope, from an old-timer in Humbolt County, Nevada.
The pair came north in the spring of 1910, panning the creeks around Steamboat Mountain and investigating promising quartz ledges the old-timer had described on the flanks of the mountain above Steamboat Creek. Ore samples collected from those quartz ledges were taken to the Assay Office in Vancouver and showed a stunning gold value of $4,000 per ton.
Greenwald and Stevens had already staked claims on Steamboat Mountain, and word of their discovery quickly spread. Excitement increased when Vancouver mining promoter C.D. Rand announced he had acquired “a large interest” in Steamboat Mountain Gold Mines, Ltd. – the new company set up by Greenwald and Stevens to exploit their claims.
The March 1911 issue of the business magazine Opportunities carried a full page advertisement for Steamboat Central Mines Limited (not the original company): “And There’s Gold at Steamboat, Plenty of It, Baskets Full of It … the best chance to make money you will ever have”. The agents in Vancouver offered 50,000 shares at 25 cents each.
By the fall of 1910, hundreds of miners were pouring into the Skagit Valley via the old Dewdney and Whatcom Trails – a 33-mile journey by foot and pack horse from Hope. Twelve hundred claims were staked and three townsites sprang up within months – “Steamboat”, “Steamboat Mountain”, and “Steamboat City”. Each bragged of at least one hotel, general store, restaurant, and dozens of surveyed lots for purchase.
Citizens at Steamboat Townsite formed a Board of Trade in June, 1911, blissfully unaware that the game was over. In addition to the resthouses along the Steamboat trail, substantial investments were made at the two Steamboat townsites. The original (southern) Steamboat Townsite was staked by “Alaska Jack” Ginivan. This townsite was more complete when abandoned, with Mclntyre and Raymond’s hotel, manager J. J. Doyle; a two storey assay office; a real estate office; and several smaller buildings.
The second townsite, Steamboat Mountain (33 Mile) had been staked, presumably, to intercept traffic en route to the other settlement. Here was a three storey hotel, a grocery, a real estate office, and a post office.
In the Spring of 1911, as the snow went, owners began developing their properties. A feeling grew that all was not well. A mining engineer, one Mr. Webster, came up from Mexico and spent two weeks examining the area. On leaving, June 15, he diplomatically observed that “the camp will be one of low grade ore”.
Hope News for June 22, 1911, hinted that there might be “a taste of salt” in the Steamboat Discovery claim. Others were more forceful. Mining Engineer W. A. (Bill) Lewis spent nearly two months examining mining properties for investors, then declared in the Hope Steamboat Nugget, July 29, 1911: “There’s nothing there, never was, and never will be. It was all a fake. All the gold samples that were brought out from there were from Tonapah and Cripple Creek [Nevada] …”
The whole affair left such a bitter taste among its many victims, that the name “Steamboat” was erased from maps and general use. Steamboat Mountain and Ten Mile Creek were renamed Shawatum Mountain and Shawatum Creek, respectively.
The Steamboat townsite has the remains of three log buildings and bits of lumber set among numerous paths and clearings. The Steamboat Mountain townsite is now simply a clearing with some large stacked logs and a few visible moss covered foundation boards. The third townsite, Steamboat City, has not been located as no visible trails lead into the area. The Steamboat Mountain mines are located by a trail from the un-located Steamboat City townsite, and with a pair of binoculars can be seen from the Silver-Skagit road.
Dan Greenwald and W.A. Stevens were nowhere to be found, and it was later revealed that they had sold their stake in the company for $80,000 and returned to the United States. Greenwald departed for South America, while Stevens returned to California, spending his ill-gotten gains on new mining ventures. Dan Greenwald was abruptly denounced, and his partner in crime, W.A. Stevens, committed suicide a few months later – not from guilt, but because his latest mining venture had collapsed.