IMPORTANT NOTICE: A black box of old letters similar to this one both to and from Leslie F. "Les" Parker were stolen in a break-in at the old Leslie Parker homestead in Gustavus, Alaska in 2004. A police report is on file in Juneau, Alaska. GHAA asks everyone to be on the alert and return any found documents to GHAA, Box 14, Gustavus, Alaska 99826. Anyone in possession of these and/or other stolen documents may return them to the above address "no questions asked". Thank You, GHAA
We received your very welcomed letter yesterday Feb.
Since then I’ve been quite bewildered in the story you tell me about this man Peter Hurkas. I’ve never heard of him, but never the less, I’ve gone in search of knowledge. With no success, I’ve completely ramsacked two libraries for books, but have found and am reading a couple books about “The Lost Dutchman Mine”. One is copyright 1953 by Sims Ely & the other by Edward Clark.
It’s very interesting – tells the character of the gold leaving ore – seems to be very rich.
When did Peter Hurkus discover the Lost Dutchman? It must have been quite recently. Is he operating the mine or did he sell it? The Lost Dutchman Mine was found 83 years ago. Prior to this it was operated by Mexican & known as Paralta. This operation ended by the Peralta Massacre 30 years before the D discovery. So the original location, if it ever was located, could have been a hundred years ago. (I mean, if it had been legally located)
It seems that a Spaniard, one Don Miguel Peralta, who lived in Mexico during the 1840s, was responsible for the discovery of the famous lode. I have found no record of a Hurkus in the mine’s early history. As for the Gustavus tide lands, I believe you would have difficulty leasing it from the Department of Land Management, Juneau, Ak. Dorothy’s land is a mile back from tide water and her land is the closest to tide water except along Salmon River. Her land is quite close. I fully believe there is only a sprinkle of flour gold under the surface of her land. About 30 years ago, Glen discovered a few specks of gold opposite Dorothy’s land in a slough near Salmon River. We figured it was not worth further investigation. But through the years we have panned along Salmon River all the way up in to the mountains and the results were not very encouraging. Still we found colors in the gold pan in many places, but none after we left the flat lands.
When Harry Hall was living, he and Bert found a small nugget just about where Salmon River spills out of the foot hills. On the strength of that discovery, Brother Charles and a couple partners hiked all the way up to where Bartlett River enters the hills and staked some claims. He spent several winters there sinking a shaft with no success. He did not find bedrock. I guess he ran out of money. I tested a pan of dirt on the surface near his shaft and it showed a few flour specks of gold. I also tested a reef of bedrock showing in midstream which had considerable gold.
Some 60 years ago a fellow by the name of Jack Dalton drove a long tunnel in from a lake between Bartlett River and Bear Track River. I took a few samples of ore from the mine, had it assayed. It ran about 6 dollars a ton at the 20.65 cent gold value.
Jack Dalton was supposed to have found rich placer ground in Bartlett River. He worked it with what he had all one winter. Then in the spring he took his gold to Juneau, put it in the Behrends Bank where Mr. Lucas, the banker, later told Charlie that Dalton had put 6,000 dollars in gold in his bank.
We never have sunk a shaft down to bedrock in or around Gustavus, so you can see we haven’t given the country a fair trial. But I do know that the gold is coarser and nearer the surface closest to the source of supply. There is one place half way up Salmon River where I could find considerable gold lodged in a blanket of iron calpking (?). The calpking is from 6” to 24 inches thick. In the early days, Indians would sack up their concentrates of ore and send it to the Tacoma smelter. This Red Iron calpking can be found in Goodriver, Salmon River and Rink River along the mountain. Also along Bartlett River.
About 1934 Dad, Glen and I took off on a prospecting trip up Bartlett River on the strength of a story told by an old Indian that Bert had befriended years before. This Indian lay on his death bed in St. Anns Hospital in the year of 1930 or 31. Bert went to visit him and the Indian was very glad to see him and this is what he said, “You my brother, you gave me vegetables and meat when I live in Hoonah. I know old man Parker, he good man – everybody like him. Here, I give you sample of rock I find up Bartlett River. You see high sharp mountain, go up river, head for it then go past it. You see old dead glacier – go by that too, then you find 6 foot vein of ore just like what I give you…”
Bert took the sample and carried it around for years. Finally he gave it to Dad. Dad broke of a small piece of it and kept part of it so he could identify the vein if he ever found it. That sample, when crushed and panned, yielded about 1/10 gold. Very rich indeed. A vein of that size torn down by glacier action for thousands of years could have scattered its gold all over Gustavus besides the veins of low grade ore that Jack Dalton discovered.
You will find that the west side of the Gustavus mountains have a number of veins running parallel to it – mostly low grade. One of the gold bearing veins measures 12 feet wide, which crosses Fall Creek. Between Fall Creek and Salmon River I found a 16 in vein of white quartz. One could easily see the bright yellow gold in it. I went back later, but never could find it again.
One of the reasons I am telling you all of this is I want to give you the picture of how the glaciers tore the vein of ore down, scattered and finally deposited the gold in Gustavus. There has not been enough water action such as ocean waves, to concentrate the gold along the shores of Icy Passage. In fact, there is a heavy blanket of blue clay several feet thick all the way from Salmon River to the east of Gustavus making it almost impossible to recover the gold content unless it was extremely rich.
I ask myself the question – since Jennie heard this man Peter Hurkas tell about the rich placer gold along Icy Passage on the shores of Gustavus, why didn’t she take much stock in his story?
Has Peter Hurkas ever made any real rich discoveries before or after he found the Lost Dutchman? Maybe he had one of those gold finding machines that he used to discover the mine and, of course, as you say, he had to have extremely uncanny perception to go along with it, for the Lost Dutchman was like finding a needle in a haystack. Many a real prospector has gone down to his grave looking for it. If Peter Hurkas has found the Lost Dutchman, I for one would like to shake his hand and say “Bully” for him. That is my simple way of expressing my feelings for a man that has conquered and discovered what any amount of prospectors would go hog wild over. “Bully for him”.
You ask if I received any encouragement from my trips this summer. I ask myself the same question. Bert and I made two flying trips into Glacier Bay. We took a geologist in on one trip. Then the next trip we had a plane land us in a small lake about 6 miles back from salt water on the west side of Glacier Bay. It was at the end of a dry spell so the minute we landed fog started to settle in. The plane took off immediately as soon as we unloaded our supplies. We took off for the hills as soon as we had our lean-to camp in order. We crossed a low mountain, crawled down into the river bottom, took several pans of sand with not a color in sight. We found we were locked in a sort of a box canyon as the river was so deep and swift we didn’t dare attempt to cross it. We intended prospecting on both sides of the river, only further down. We were cut off by steep mountains on our side of the river. We climbed back over the mountain, tried to settle down for the night. The rain came down, soaked the ground around us and even where we slept. We put in a miserable night. Our clothes and blankets were getting wet – even our food. We lowered our shelter and dug ditches around it, cut fur bows and layed on the soaking wet ground.
During the next day Bert took his fish pole out along the lake – tried fishing. He took a hike up the valley west of our camp and ran into a couple of brown bear that were laying down sleeping. He turned back, came down along the river, found a small cabin that had a door and window, also a heavy shipmate stove in it. We don’t know whether it was a trappers cabin or a prospectors hideout.
We put in another terrible night with only a gas stove for heat. Next day the plane came back for us and were we glad to see him. He had to take us out one at a time, as the lake was so small he couldn’t make the sudden climb with both of us heavy weights aboard, as I weigh 198 fully dressed and Bert about 220. We had about 200 pounds of camping equipment.
On the trip with the geologist we flew up Glacier Bay, circled around a heavily mineralized mountain, came back down near the south border of Glacier Bay, landed in another small lake. We took off for the hills, showed the Geologist some copper ore. He took notes and samples, then we hit for the beach. Jennie came out on the plane that was to pick us up. We all crawled aboard. Ray, the pilot, ran his little seaplane up into the extreme northwest end of the lake, then took off with a roar. He had to make a crescent curve with the throttle wide open. Finally he got it into the air. Ray stood up in his seat as we attempted crossing over a high side of hill and timber. His plane was nosed up as high as he dared and we just barely skimmed over the tree tops. He said later he didn’t think, for a while, we were going to make it.
Bert and I have talked a lot about prospecting for placer. So by my firing Bert up he chartered a copter and took an old prospector that knew where there is a lot of placer, out for a days trip. When Bert came back he told me about the lay of the land. As I see it, it’s not one of those get rich quick propositions. I believe there is plenty of gold there but it also takes a lot of money to get started.
Also I was told by a close friend of mine who knew a Geologist who was making a survey for the Bureau of Mines and discovered a very rich silver vein 6 ft wide and very extensive about 20 miles from salt water. A road could be built in to it. The Geologist could not stake it as he was employed by the government, but he figured later he would. He died before he got a chance to stake it. His last remark was, "It’s the richest and most promising vein I’ve ever seen". This friend of mine was told where it is and he described its location and showed me its location by a chart we had laying on the table. I know this friend of mine will never do anything with it. In fact, he said so. He’s not a mining man – he’s a fisherman.
These two last locations can only be reached by copter. In fact, 90 percent is a copters job, which costs $120 per hour. I’ve been looking for a prospect where I could make a real good clean up in a short period of time at a minimum of expense. It takes money to make money.
I have no idea how much of a project you and your folks can support, without feeling the pinch each year. But whoever backs me up can feel assured I’ll not retain any valuable mining information from them. In fact, I’ll donate mineral locations I’ve been told about years ago and any locations I work on during the period of time we are in the venture together. But as I have said, any worthwhile venture will cost money. If I am to go in to prospecting full time, I’ve got to have an income to match it besides the copter trips I’ll have to make. I cannot afford to make these short prospecting trips and still try to hold my job and my head above water. There are six of us that depend on my income. Of course, as long as I live, I’ll always dream of finding a large rich vein of gold bearing ore such as I found in the Leroy Gold Mine. Now that hard rock mining is so costly, I’ll have to find my wealth in a rich stream of gold placer.
Forgive me if I’ve wasted your valuable time in pouring out my life’s dreams and hopes. The sweat and hardship I’ve suffered, the times of success and times of disappointment. God help me to face the remaining years with a smile of satisfaction that I’ve done my best for you, your friends and for mine.
Sincerely, Leslie F. Parker