Erik Lindblom, date unknown.
Photo from Alaska's Digital Archives.
Of the three partners who discovered the gold fields at Nome, Erik Lindblom was oldest and the one with the least physical preparation for the arduous job of prospecting and mining. Lindblom was the son of a school teacher named Olof P. Lindblom, and he had a difficult childhood. After the early death of his father, Lindblom's mother, Brita, (nee Olofson) practically existed as a beggar to maintain her family. At Stockholm, Lindblom learned to be a tailor, a portable trade that allowed him to escape the extreme poverty of his youth, and took him to St. Petersburg, Paris, and Berlin. Before traveling to the United States, Lindblom detoured through London, England, where he gained further formal education at the Y.M.C.A. Polytechnical School. He married Mary Ann Smith, the daughter of a tailor, in London on August 2, 1886. The young couple arrived in the United States in 1886, and began a westerly course. Like Brynteson, one of his Nome partners, Lindblom became an American citizen, in his case, in Montana in 1894. Lindblom, though trained in a sedentary trade, yearned for the pioneer life, and was fascinated by the American West. As the Lindbloms moved across the United States, they met and were friendly with American Indians. Their son, Olof Henry, was born while the family lived on an Indian reservation near Pocatello, Idaho. A daughter, Lindblom's mother's namesake, Brita, was also born on the western trek.
Lindblom seemingly had less mining experience than either of his two Nome partners, but he might have had some youthful contact with the industry, as he was born in one of Sweden's oldest mining regions. Undoubtedly, he picked up pioneering skills as he crossed the United States. Lindblom gained specialized knowledge when he took courses in mining while he and his family lived in the San Francisco Bay area after 1893. Lindblom was still in the Bay area when gold fever struck, and he decided to go north upon hearing rumors of a gold discovery at Kotzebue, Alaska in 1897. Lindblom embarked as a sailor on the north-bound sailing vessel Alaska on April 27, 1898.
His next adventures are legendary, but they were not formally recorded until years later, by E. S. Harrison, at which time their veracity could be challenged. Learning that no gold had been found at Kotzebue, and nearly ice-bound in Grantly Harbor near Teller, Lindblom jumped ship. Lindblom was sent out with a group detailed to bring fresh water back to the ship. In the treeless country, Lindblom hid in a snow cavern excavated beneath the ice, then climbed to the surface and walked for three days across the Seward Peninsula, bound for Golovin. A chance meeting with a prospector directed him back to the harbor - a cross-country hike to Golovin would have been nearly impossible. The Alaska was still there, but he encountered a local Eskimo, Promarshuk, who was on his way to Golovin with a cargo of fur. Lindblom rode out of the harbor under the pelts, nearly suffocating in the process. Promarshuk stopped at the mouth of the Snake River, present day Nome, and Lindblom panned colors at the mouth of Dry Creek. Lindblom reportedly panned gold on the Snake River on July 13, 1898; another account states that he panned gold in the Sinrock River, also known as the Sinuk River, west of Nome.
Lindblom arrived at Dexter's trading post in Golovin on July 27, 1898, where he went to work prospecting for Hultberg, a gold-struck missionary. The site was the rich discovery at Ophir Creek, a discovery which led to the creation of the Council mining district. Lindblom met Brynteson, one of his future partners at Nome, and, with another man named Hagelin, prospected at Mystery Creek, also in the Council district. Shortly afterwards, Brynteson and Lindblom met their third partner, Lindeberg, who had been prospecting on the Casadapaga River and on the Niukluk River. On September 15th, the new partners arrived at the mouth of the Snake River in a boat chartered from the mission. The first major discoveries of the Nome mining district were made on September 22, 1898.
Regardless of his apparent lack of practical mining preparation, Lindblom took $100,000 in gold out of the Discovery Claim on Anvil Creek in 1899, as well as his share of the gold recovered by the three partners at nearby Snow Gulch.
Lindblom was an active partner and Vice President in the Pioneer Mining Company for several years, after which he moved to Oakland, California, where he bought and operated the Claremont Hotel. But, proving that his good fortune at Nome was not a fluke, Lindblom also entered into successful mining operations in California and Nevada, and was the owner and President of the Parral Electric, Water and Telephone Company, Parral, Chihuahua, Mexico.
Lindblom enjoyed life in California, which was a good deal easier than life in Alaska. In 1903, by now a very wealthy man, he divorced Mary Ann and married Hanna Sadie Ulrika Sparman. He made at least one trip back to Sweden. In 1915, Lindblom was knighted by King Gustav with the order of Vasa-Orden, but he was accused, probably unfairly, of failing to support his widowed mother and effectively ostracized near his home town. He returned to California, where he was a well-known and honored citizen until his death in 1928. He died in his residence at the Claremont Hotel, with a fortune much depleted.
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 Trail Trials: Washington Law Book Company, espec. P.327-378