Gold was discovered on Anvil Creek and adjacent streams in 1898. Jafet Lindeberg found a 97-ounce nugget on Anvil Creek in the early 1900’s. The nugget was found while a posthole was being sunk on the west side of his mining claim. A pile of tailings had been covering the spot for a year and had been removed the day before. Nome’s largest nugget, 182 troy ounces and the largest found in Alaska and the Yukon, was found on the property of the Pioneer Mining Company in 1901. A four-pound nugget was found nearby in the same area, recovered from a sluice box.
For many years these streams were the principal producers in the region. Mining of the coastal plains deposits started when gold was discovered on the present Nome beach in 1899. The drove of hand miners practically exhausted the richer concentrations in less than two years. The Second beach was discovered around the same time, and the Third beach was discovered in 1904.
The first dredge was built in 1905 and by 1911 nine dredges were operating in the Nome area. At first, dredging was limited to thawed ground along stream channels. A series of experiments culminated in the patenting of a cold water thawing technique by J.H. Miles in 1920. This development made large-scale dredging feasible in the deep gravels of the Nome coastal plain. A steady refinement of in the construction of dredges and recovery plants resulted in the building of a jig-type bucketline dredge that was placed in operation on the Submarine Beach in 1957.
Despite a highly efficient recovery plant, the dredge on the Submarine Beach was shut down in 1961 due to the high cost of thawing and digging. All dredging on the Nome plain ceased in 1962.
One of Nome’s richest gold mines, if not the richest in Alaska, was the Hot Air Bench on the right limit of Glacier Creek. It is estimated that the paystreak carried nearly 3 ounces gold to the cubic yard. The gold is believed to have originated from the mineralized schist and quartz veins found in the immediate vicinity.
A miner once recovered 200 pounds of gold with a rocker box in 7 hours time on Little Creek. On No. 1 Little Creek, some places averaged an ounce of gold per handful of paydirt. On the Portland bench near Little Creek, Peterson, Johnson & Anderson had a quarter-inch pay layer of almost pure gold lying on bedrock. The miners could pick up clods of paydirt from the dump runs and visibly see gold nuggets with the naked eye, shot throughout the dirt.
Carl Anderson, Nels Peterson and John Johnson shoveled out over 15,000 ounces gold in sixty days from their Nome claim. Peterson’s partner, Nathan Kresge, had peeled back the moss on top of the hill exposing a half-ounce nugget. In eight days, the two recovered over 300 ounces gold. Two days after they made the strike, a thousand prospectors joined them on the hill. They sold out their claim that winter for $40,000.
Residual gold deposits are mined at Pioneer Gulch, on the west side of the Snake River just below the forks. The free gold is coarse and angular.
Considering its size, Snow Gulch was one of the richest streams discovered in the Nome region, with more than 48,000 ounces recovered from 3/4 of a mile in 1913. Most of the gold was fine and rounded, but it is not believed to have traveled a great distance.
At the head of Bourbon Creek, gravel mined in winter and piled in a dump yielded over 1/2 ounce per cubic yard when washed in the Spring in the early 1900’s. Other ground consistently yielded 1/4 ounce per cubic yard.
Mining continues today across the Seward Peninsula. There are the usual prospectors that mine the beaches. A large suction dredge operation has been mining off the coast, working the ocean floor. Backhoe, bulldozer, washplant and sluice operations can be found on Nome area creeks.
Total gold production from the Nome area, which includes both beach and stream placers, from 1898 to 1965 was 4,480,727 ounces worth approximately $8.9 billion today.