Howard Franklin

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On the advice of Yukon trader and prospector Arthur Harper, Franklin began to prospect the Chittondeg, a.k.a. Shitando River, or the "Creek of Leaves" in the language of the Tena Indians. This stream entered into the Yukon River about 40 miles downstream from Fort Reliance and thus became to be known to European prospectors and traders as the Fortymile River. The prospecting area straddles the Alaska-Yukon border. In the latter part of the 1886 season, Franklin made an important discovery. According to Alfred H. Brooks (1953):

"Franklin went up the Fortymile River, where on September 7th, 1886, he found coarse placer gold in the river bars 25 miles from the mouth and a little later on Franklin Creek, a tributary of the main river."
Soon afterwards, Franklin made an additional discovery of coarse gold on the South Fork of the Fortymile River; also known as Franklin Creek, about 48 miles southwest of Eagle, Alaska.

In a short period of time Franklin, with help from Madison, had made coarse gold discoveries in both Yukon and Alaska. These discoveries of alluvial gold were a turning point in gold exploration in both Yukon and east-central Alaska. Prior to this, only fine grained, alluvial 'bar gold' had been located, which are frequently small, intermittent and rarely economic. Franklin's find on the Fortymile River was the first location of a continuous bedrock paystreak. The coarse placer gold discoveries indicated to the perceptive prospector that substantial resources of both placer gold types were likely to be found. Franklin made no attempt to hide his findings. As a result, more experienced prospectors entered the upper Yukon basin in search for placer gold. Thereafter, 'bar gold' deposits were neglected and only bedrock paystreaks were sought by the hardy prospectors. A few years later came the Circle strike (1893), followed by the Klondike Strike of 1896.

Franklin would return to Juneau seasonally, where he had based prior to his Fortymile discoveries, and where he worked as a latter day land planner for the city. Franklin created the first city plat for the new city of Juneau. A street in Juneau bears the name of Howard Franklin.

By Charles C. Hawley, 1998; revised by Thomas K. Bundtzen, 2009


Brooks, A. H., 1953, Blazing Alaska's Trails: Caldwell, Idaho, Caxton Printers and Arctic Institute of North America, 526 pages.

Spurr, J. E., 1900, Through the Yukon gold diggings: Boston, Eastern Publishing Company.

Wickersham, James, 1938, Old Yukon: St. Paul Minnesota, West Publishing Company, 514 pages.

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