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Butler, Charles M. (ca. 1866 – after 1930); [Hopkins, William A.] (ca. 1862-1951). Collection of Three Original Autograph Letters Signed to His Friend William Hopkins from Watsonville, CA, Talking about His Gold Mining on the Sunset Creek near Nome, the Success of the “Pioneer Mining Co.” on the Metson Bench and of Other Miners on the Ophir Creek, the Creation of a New Gold Mining Camp on the Iditarod River, and that “it is the hardest time I ever saw in Nome”. Nome, Alaska, 20 June 1909, 28 October 1909, 10 March 1910.



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Three Quarto letters (ca. 25x20 cm or 10 x 7 ¾ in). 2, 2, 3 = 7 pp. Brown and black ink on watermarked laid and wove paper; filled in on rectos only. All letters with the original envelopes, addressed to “Mr. W.A. Hoppkins, #25 Carr St., Watsonville, Santa Cruz Co., Calif.,” with postal ink and U.S. postage stamps. One envelope with period handwritten pencil calculations and a list of groceries. The envelopes slightly soiled and with a couple of minor tears on extremities, but overall a very good collection.

Collection of three content-rich original letters, talking about gold mining in Nome and near the newly founded Iditarod camp in the lower Yukon River basin in 1909-1910. The author, Charles M. Butler, originally from Redding, California, came to Nome in 1899 or 1900. He remained in Alaska and owned several gold mining claims there (see: Returns from Nome// Weekly Searchlight, 9 November 1900, p. 4; Has Property at Nome, Alaska// The Searchlight, 25 May 1905, p. 4; The Nome Daily Nugget, 28 June 1917, p. 4). The US Federal census for 1930 listed him as a 69-year-old placer miner in Nome. The addressee, William A. Hopkins, was evidently Butler’s fellow gold miner in the past. In 1891, he came to California with his family, and in 1899 settled in Watsonville (Santa Cruz county), where he resided for over 30 years (Golden wedding of Mr. & Mrs. W.A. Hopkins at home// Santa Cruz Sentinel, 25 March 1934, p 5.). Hopkins spent “seven years in Alaska during the goldrush period at the turn of the century” (W.A. Hopkins dies at age 89// The Peninsula Times Tribune. Palo Alto, California, 26 May 1951, p. 2)

In the letters, Butler talks about the progress of his gold mining activities (mostly without success), the work of the “Pioneer Mining Company” near Nome, where they “took out lots of big dumps over $1,000,000,” and the Metson Bench. He also describes the new gold mining camp on the Iditarod River (a tributary of the Innoko River, which is a tributary of the Yukon). The camp was founded in the summer of 1909 and saw a massive stampede in 1910, but was largely abandoned in the 1930s after the gold deposits were exhausted, and is now a ghost town. There are also mentions of other Nome gold miners, including Oscar Margraf (?-1958) - “a pioneer Alaskan bismuth mine owner” (Nome miner dies in States// Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. 12 August 1958, p. 12), John Reick, Jack Stegler, and their successful mining on the Ophir Creek (another tributary of the Innoko River), &c. Overall an interesting early 20th-century collection of letters from a Nome gold miner.

Excerpts from the letters (the spelling is original):
20 June 1909: “Dear Friend Hop, <…> I was not luckey on the Oakland, struck lots of water and could not handle it. I have bargained the engin [sic!] for $600 and hope to get the money. So if nothing turns up here soon, we will gamble the engin on […?]. We surely can get there and if we can get hold of any thing we can get parties to help us. You know I can peddle [sic!] some, if I could get what is do [sic!] me, I would have a few thousand, but it is the hardest time I ever saw in Nome. Look down the street and it is full of idle men. The steamers will so be loaded taking them back again. The P[ioneer]. M.[ining] Co. made lots of money this winter, took out lots of big dumps over $1,000,000. Lots of small out fits run behind caught the banks for a few thousand as usual. <…> I wish a many a time you had of been here but was better off where you are then up here, for this place is worse then when you left. <…> P. M. Co. took out a nice dump on the Metson B[ench]. this winter again. Margraf is here but he to [sic!] lost this last winter, but he can still peddle the bool pretty strong. <…>

28 October 1909: “Dear Hop, I am awful sorry to disepoint you by not being able to come out. Money is short with me. I feel sure I can’t do with out money, of the new diggings up on the Youcon R. The Iditarod in the name of the new camp. There are about 2,000 miners there now, lots have gone from here and still going. Margraf is on his way with 6 horses to put in a telephone line, thinks he is on a winner this time, but you know he is full of b__s__. If he had not of been we moved of got rich out of the Metson Bench. I had a long talk with John [Reick?], he came down here this fall after absence of two years from the Noko [Innoko River] on Ophir Cr., a tributary of the Noko. He took out with Jack Steggler $24,000 and went out home to see his folks. He looked fine. He says that his camp is about 100 miles from Mt. McKinley, lots of big game, 50 miles from his mine. He says a man is better broke in the country then here. If you were here we would take a trip over there in the spring, there is lots of timber there. John said he would return over the ice in February. Some time he says that the country has big [porphydicts?] carrying gold, that is the feeder of the placer gold. Let me know if you get excited, and I make some money this winter. <…>

10 March 1910: “Dear Hop, <…> I located all of snow gulch quartz mines and I will make a little turn so to come out. So far I have found nothing in placer. There has been lots of work done up near Sunset Cr., but no pay found up to date. Nome looks blue, it has been a hard winter, lots of snow about 4 ft on the level. I wrote and told you where Jack Stegler was up at the Noko, he & John Reick are to gather, and have some pay on Ophir Cr., a tributary of the Noko. Margraf started to put in a telegraph line up there, from the Youcon River. I hear he is broke, he’s take the cake. I will come out this year without fail. The winters are too long. I hear that J.C. Brown is going to put a dredge on his claim on Little Cr. this year. The Pioneer M. Co. will be through with their winter work this year, then they will work the ground over again with hydraulics. <…> Most every one are hard up here and I don’t see what they will do, if something is not found soon. <…> I would like to put a check in this for you, but it will come just as soon as I get on my feet. <…>

Item #MA30
Price: $1500.00