Charles D. Lane


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Charles D. Lane, date unknown.
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Charles Lane was born in Palmyra, Marion County, Missouri, on November 15, 1840. At the age of 12, Lane's family emigrated to California, settling near Stockton. Charles was mining by the winter of the same year. Over the next few decades, Lane farmed, mined, drove ox teams, and flirted with success. He thought that every job was a worthwhile learning experience. In his own words, he tried,

"to draw a little bit of honey out of any kind of a flower."

Lane's first mining success was in very fine placer gold on the bars of the Snake River in Idaho. His first major success was at the hard-rock Utica Mine, Angels Camp, California. It was also his first association with a man named Hayward, a San Francisco financier. Hayward and and another man, named Howard, furnished capital to buy out Lane's first partners, and to develop the mine, which, by 1905, had produced 17 million dollars worth of gold. Lane also found success at the Fortuna Mine in Arizona, which paid out several million dollars.

In 1894, Lane and Hayward consolidated many of the key claims in Silver Bow Basin at Juneau, in southeast Alaska, and established a mine and mill. In 1897, Lane and Hayward sold the claims to Mein and Beit, perhaps discouraged by the loss of the first mill to a massive snow slide. But Lane and Hayward affected a key consolidation of claims that later benefited the Alaska-Juneau Gold Mine, one of the largest hard-rock gold mines in Alaska's history.

In 1898, Lane missed an opportunity to be one of the initial discoverers of a gold play in Kotzebue Country, Alaska. Lane had returned to California, but he sent an associate named Gabe Price to Kotzebue with a large party to investigate rumors of gold. But Price was in the nearby town of Golovin when prospectors Lindeberg, Lindblom and Brynteson discovered gold at Nome in the fall of 1898. Lane's man had missed his chance to get Lane involved in the initial discovery and claim-staking, but when Price traveled to Nome and met the three prospectors, he was sufficiently impressed that he committed Lane to help develop and defend the new mines.

Lane was an ideal choice. Although nearly sixty years old, Lane was tough from years of hard physical labor. He was not afraid of a fight, physical or legal, and he found plenty at Nome, as other people tried to claim the rich new mines. The first battles were against men named Blake and Dexter, who had long been on the Seward Peninsula, and had political connections in Nome. The second and more difficult series of battles was against a corrupt man named Alexander McKenzie, who organized claim jumpers, and teamed up with an equally corrupt Judge of the Federal Court, named Alfred Noyes.

Lane's wife Anna, and their son Tom, backed the only successful hard-rock mine on the Seward Peninsula, the Big Hurrah, east of Nome. Charles Lane's Wild Goose Company was equaled only by the Pioneer Company in the early days. Lane also organized a railroad from Nome through Anvil Gulch to Dexter.

Lane did not confine his later activities to the Seward Peninsula. Lane optioned the Chichagof Mine north of Sitka, Alaska, shortly after its discovery. In 1907, he was preparing to develop the Chichagof property.

A long-time and serious illness led to Lane's death in 1911. His Alaskan empire gradually diminished thereafter, but for his courage, foresight, and mining abilities, Lane deserves recognition as one of the true founders of Nome, and as an important figure in the mining history of southeast Alaska. An Alaskan toast could parallel one from Lane's home state of Missouri:

We've all abused Missourri,
And sung our songs of Pike;
And laughed to poke some wicked joke
At raw-boned hungry Ike.
But we've tot to pull our houses up,
And 'fess up flat and plain;
Can't find no mate to match the State
That gave us Charley Lane

By Charles C. Hawley, 1998


Ahwinona, Jacob, 1997, Reflections on my life, in Communities of Memory, Book of Nome, Alaska. Published at Nome, possibly available at Nome museum.

Brooks, A.H. 1908, The development of the mining industry, in The Gold Placers of Parts of the Seward Peninsula, Alaska: U.S. Geol. Survey Bull. 328, p. 10-39. Including a letter to F. L. Hess from Jafet Lindeberg, footnote p. 16-18: also a statement from Dr. A. N. Kittleson, 1905, footnote, p. 21.

Cole, Terence M., 1983, A history of the Nome gold rush: The poor mans paradise: Ph.D. thesis, Universityof Washington, 267 p.

"First grains of gold discovered at Nome now in San Francisco", American Mine Reporter, San Francisco, v.1, no. 6, p. 1-2. The newspaper article was partly based on an interview with Erik Lindblom, but it extensively quotes a letter in the Healy, Alaska "Aurora Borealis" published on 1 March 1899, and an address by Judge William W. Morrow, U.S. Court of Appeals at the University of California, 19 November 1915 on Rex Beach's "The Spoilers".

Harrison, E.S. 1905, Nome and Seward Peninsula: History, description, biographies, and stories: Metropolitan Press, Seattle, 392 p. Especially pages 197-227 in Biographies.

Lindblom, Robert G. to Cussie (Reardon) Kauer, City of Nome, letter, 2 pages, 3 June 1997.

(Robert Lindblom is Erik Lindblom's grandson by the marriage to Mary Ann Smith.)

Olsson, Siw, 1989, Torparsonen Som Slev Guldking: Omslagstockning: Lars Lindqvist, Dalslanningens, 144p.

Smith, Howard L., 1997, Nome River water Control Structures: BLM Open File Report 62.

Spence, Clark C., 1996, The Northern Gold Fleet: University of Illinois Press, 302p.

Vorren, O., 1994, Saami, Reindeer and Gold: Waveland Press, Prospect Heights, Ill.

Wickersham, James, 1938, Old Yukon. Tails Trails Trials: Washington Law Book Company, espec. P.327-378

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