Glen DeForde Franklin

(1913 - 2008)

photo of Glen Franklin.

Glen DeForde Franklin;
photo from the Franklin family collection.

Glen Deforde Franklin was born on April 30, 1913, on a farm near Chewelah, Stevens County, Washington, about 50 miles north of Spokane. At the time of his birth, Chewelah was a small town of about 1600 people, slightly less than the 2300 that reside there today. Glen's father, Charles Frank Franklin, known to friends as 'CF', was born in Minnesota in 1873, and moved west as a traveling salesman. He was also a jeweler, and an expert watchmaker. Glen's mother, Lucille Gertrude DeForde, was born in Dayton, Ohio, and met, and later married, Charles Franklin in Spokane in 1906. Before Glen's birth, the Spokane area's economy sagged, and Charles and Lucille started a farm near Chewelah, and also supplied railroad ties to the Great Northern Railroad. The couple had two sons, Carl and Earl, who were born in Spokane. According to Glen, his mother's desire for a daughter was thwarted when he arrived.

In 1914, the family moved to Pe Ell, near Centralia, in western Washington. There, Charles and Lucille opened a combined jewelry and furniture warehouse complex, which included apartment rental units, and leased dental and medical offices. Pe Ell was home to many immigrants from Poland, the Philippines, and Japan, and, according to Glen, it was a great place to grow up. He got early contact with the mining industry when he shoveled a rail car full of Centralia coal (40-45 tons) into the family's fuel bins each year. Glen's father and mother were hard workers, and their business flourished, but they were too liberal with credit. Customers owed the firm about $90,000 when the stock market crashed in 1929. Charles and Lucille thought that they could just call in the money owed to them to pay off the loan due on their store. But no money arrived from those to which they had extended credit, and the Chehalis Savings and Loan foreclosed on the Franklin business. Glen's parents lost everything, and had to declare bankruptcy. This catastrophic event would affect how Glen would proceed with his life. After settling the bankruptcy, the family moved to Forest Grove, Oregon.

Glen Franklin was an exceptional athlete in high school, and played baseball, tennis, football and basketball. He loved basketball, and was an excellent point guard. He also loved to play his trumpet, and performed at many Saturday night dances. After high school graduation in 1931, he was on track to play basketball at Washington State University (WSU) in Pullman, but broke a leg while on a bridge construction job, sustaining compound fractures. The leg later became infected, and it was nearly amputated. Glen's father would not allow the doctors to remove the leg. After a year, the leg finally healed. Glen enrolled at WSU in 1932, and he made the varsity basketball squad.

Like so many of his age, Glen faced the reality of the Great Depression. Glen's older brother, Carl, who was teaching at the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines (AAC&SM) in Fairbanks, Alaska, urged him to travel north to seek education, and, later, employment in Interior Alaska's gold mines. Gold mining was going strong near Fairbanks, largely due to the activities of the USSR&M Company dredge fleet, which had revitalized the economy of Fairbanks. An additional boost to the Territory's mining economy occured in 1934, when President Roosevelt took the United States off the gold standard, which nearly doubled the price of gold, from $20.67 an ounce to $35.00 an ounce. During the fall of 1933, Glen Franklin traveled north aboard the Alaska Steamship Company's steamer, the S.S. Alaska, with his brother Carl, who had spent the summer in Washington. They left Seattle on August 28th, and stopped in Juneau to take on more passengers. One passenger was an attractive high school graduate of Finnish descent by the name of Vieno Wahto, who was living in Douglas with her family. Glen and Vieno would later marry, after graduating from the university. Glen, Carl, Vieno and other students arrived in Seward on September 2nd, and traveled to Fairbanks via the Alaska Railroad on September 5th.

Franklin enrolled in AAC&SM, and pursued a business major. Glen served as Student Body President, and was President of the Business Administration Club. He made money playing his trumpet, and joined The International Swingsters, a band that featured a piano, banjo, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet and drums.

Glen and Vieno Franklin, circa 1938.

Glen Franklin and Vieno Wahto Franklin, circa 1938;
photo from the Glenna Hutchens collection.

Glen was quickly recognized as a star point guard on the AAC&SM basketball team. In December 1933, the team traveled by steamer, and played teams throughout Alaska's coastal areas. They played 29 games in 27 days, and won all but two games. Many other games would be won by the ACC&SM, which later became the University of Alaska, basketball team before Glen's graduation. Glen would play basketball in the city leagues of both Fairbanks and Douglas until he was 35 years old. Glen also played hockey at ACC&SM, but performed as a less than stellar hockey goalie. He would later claim that his inability to skate, which he blamed on his long-limbed frame, placed him in front of the net, rather than on the offensive lineup. Nevertheless, in 1936, Glen was part of a team dubbed the 'Hockey Champions of Alaska'. Later, local Fairbanks businesses sponsored a hockey series originally designed to compete with the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. Glen joined other hockey players from Fairbanks and Dawson, and played teams in both the United States and Canada. The north country athletes were competitive with the American, teams, but were always soundly defeated in Canada. They split the series in Minneapolis.

University of Alaska hockey team.

University of Alaska hockey team dubbed "Champions of Alaska" showing Glen Franklin, second from the left in the front row;
photo from the Gordon Picotte collection, UAF Polar Archives.

In 1936, Glen Franklin earned a Bachelors of Science Degree in Business Administration, with a major in accounting and a minor in education, from the University of Alaska. Vieno Wahto had one more year to go before graduating in 1937. They were married on April 23, 1938.

Glen's mentor was Ernest N. Patty, who was the Dean of the School of Mines, and, later a President of the University of Alaska. Even though Glen was not a graduate of the School of Mines, the two became close, first in a student-teacher relationship, and later as long time mining colleagues. Glen's mining career started in the summer of 1936, when Patty hired him to be the chief operating accountant for Fairbanks-based Alluvial Golds, Inc. and Gold Placers, Inc. Patty, who had resigned from the School of Mines earlier that year, managed both firms. The dredging firm, Alluvial Golds, Inc., had assembled a three cubic foot, bucket-line, W.W. Johnson (San Francisco) dredge on Coal Creek, southeast of Circle. Glen's job with Alluvial Golds Inc. continued for six years, until the end of the 1941 mining season. His first daughter, Ina Lucille, was born in 1940, and was taken to Coal Creek camp to spend the summer. His second daughter, Glenna, was born after the War, in 1946. In October 1942, Federal Order L-208 shut down most gold mines in Alaska for the duration of World War II, including the Coal Creek dredge. The dredge restarted after World War II, and mined until the end of 1952. During thirteen full seasons of operation, more than 100,000 ounces of placer gold were produced. The knowledge that Glen gained while keeping the books for the sophisticated placer mine would serve him well in his future.

Years later, Glen would relate an amusing story about the first operations of the Coal Creek dredge. The principle investors, Alexander McRae and Walter Seligman, arrived in camp during the fall of 1936 to observe the first cleanup of the new dredge, which yielded about 550 ounces of placer gold. Since they judged the company safe to be insecure, the investors expressed concern that the gold might be stolen; hence they slept in the manager's office with the cleanup. To insure security, they nailed the windows and doors shut. The next morning, Ernest Patty was surprised to find that they had used a ball-peen hammer to seal the door and windows. Although the gold was indeed safe, a claw hammer had to be dropped down the stove pipe of the manager's office so that the nails could be removed from the door, and the investors could escape.

In December 1941, Glen registered for the draft. His enlistment officer recommended that he work for Alaska Freight Lines, which was doing strategic military work in Alaska for the War Department. Glen was a foreman for twenty truck drivers, who drove freight from Valdez to Northway, initially for the construction of the Northway airport, and later to haul military equipment to various interior bases. Some of the freight consisted of aircraft parts for the USA/USSR Lend Lease program.

After the War, Glen became re-engaged in the Alaska placer gold mining industry. In the fall of 1945, Glen joined with four partners, Charles F. Herbert, Leonard J. Stampe, Earl Ellingen, and Harold Schmidt, to form the Yukon Placer Mining Company (YPMC) and an affiliated subsidiary, the Jack Wade Creek Dredging Company. The YPMC partnership assembled a variety of applied skills, including engineering (Herbert), mechanical (Stampe, Ellingen, and Schmidt), business management (Franklin), dredging (Herbert and Franklin), and hard work (all of them). The streams and districts in which YPMC would operate are summarized in Table 1. What made YPMC different from other northern mining firms was that they operated gold mines on both sides of the International Boundary. Glen served as the partner responsible for all of the bookwork, payroll and income tax, and also independently managed the Jack Wade Creek Dredging Company. Eventually, Franklin would assume management responsibilities for several more operating placer mines, with a focus on dredging. The YPMC became one of the more successful and respected non-corporate, north country, mechanized placer mining firms of the mid-20th Century.

During January and February, 1946, Glen, Earl Stampe and Harold Schmidt drove a two ton Ford truck, named "The Green Hornet", from the Alaska-Canada Highway southeast of Tok Junction, Alaska to Dawson, Yukon Territory, using a patchwork of old mining trails and open river beds. This was the first vehicle to make the trip from Alaska to the Klondike in the Yukon, on what are now known as the Taylor and Top of the World Highways. In March 1946, after finalizing a large line of credit from the Northern Commercial Company, YPMC assembled a 'cat train' composed of heavy equipment, trucks, a shack on skids with bunks and a kitchen termed 'The Doghouse' and 'go-devil' sleds laden with fuel and other supplies, and moved into the 40-Mile Country.

The first YPMC mining operations were non-float, mechanized operations on the Walkers Fork of the 40-Mile River and on Jack Wade Creek, both in eastern Alaska. On Canyon Creek, the paystreak was also mined with a small bucket-line dredge. By 1951, economic pay was running out at the main operation on Walkers Fork in Alaska, and the company moved over to the Yukon Territory, Canada. They settled on Big Gold, Miller, and Glacier Creeks, which collectively, became known as YPMC's 60-Mile project, which continued until 1961. In the 60-Mile district, YPMC mined pay with a 3.75 cubic foot bucket-line stacker dredge (on Big Gold Creek) as well as by non-float, mechanized dozer mining techniques. After the 1951 season, YPMC mined exclusively in Canada until 1968. After 1957, all operations were mechanized, non-float dozer mining projects.

Through time, the YPMC partnership shifted and changed direction. In 1952, Earl Ellingen left the partnership, only to pass away a few years later. Both Leonard Stampe and Chuck Herbert were bought out in 1959. Herbert became involved with gold mining operations near Livengood, Alaska, and would later become a Deputy Commissioner of Natural Resources and Commissioner of Natural Resources for the William Egan administrations of 1960-1966 and 1970-1974, respectively. Eventually, Herbert would become an important Alaskan leader during the contentious D-2 lands debate that followed his state service. Herbert was inducted into the Alaska Mining Hall of Fame in 2006.

Glen Franklin in the 60-Mile district.

Glen Franklin and long-time mining partner Harold Schmidt standing in front of a Caterpillar tractor on Glacier Creek, 60-Mile district, Yukon Territory, Canada;
photo courtesy of Glenna Hutchens.

Table 1.  Summary listing of placer gold mining projects of the Yukon Placer Mining Company, 1946-1968.

Table 1. Summary listing of placer gold mining projects of the Yukon Placer Mining Company, 1946-1968.

After 1959, Glen Franklin and Harold 'Smitty' Schmidt continued the Canadian placer mining operations. These last two partners, Smitty and Glen, would operate together until 1965. Afterwards, Glen operated Franklin Enterprises Ltd., a subsidiary of the YPMC, on a small scale on Eldorado Creek until 1968.

After the Yukon Placer Mining Company finally closed its doors, Harold Schmidt formed Ballarat Mining Company, and continued to operate in the Yukon Territory. Harold Schmidt's son, Stuart, who was a good friend of Glen's, currently operates Schmidt Mining Corporation, one of the Yukon's largest placer gold mining firms. In a recent correspondence with the writer, Stuart Schmidt wrote:

"I feel like I was raised in the tradition of the old timers from Yukon Placer Mining Company and so much of what I have learned about placer mining comes from their history. Those guys were my professors."

Glen Franklin cleaning up the box at Glacier Creek in the 60-Mile district.  The small child looking on is Stuart Schmidt.

Glen Franklin cleaning up the box at Glacier Creek in the 60-Mile district. The small child looking on is Stuart Schmidt, the current owner/operator of Schmidt Mining Corporation;
photo courtesy of Glenna Hutchens.

At a public gathering held in Fairbanks on April 17, 2000 (which the writer attended), Glen presented the results of the 22 years of mining conducted by the Yukon Placer Mining Company (YPMC) and subsidiaries, and provided statistical summaries through the eyes of a gold miner, manager, and accountant. He described how the firm required cash assets to start the business, which involved a hefty loan package that had to be repaid within three years. Logistics and infrastructure issues were challenging, and the company built many of miles of roads into their mining properties. Power had to be generated; heavy equipment needed to be purchased and maintained; water and water rights had to be secured; and people needed to be trained. Complex land acquisitions included negotiations with the Yukon Consolidated Gold Corporation Ltd. (YCGC), which was then the largest dredging entity active in Yukon Territory.

Glen said that his family, wife Vieno and daughters Ina and Glenna, actively participated in the mining business. Glen 'and his girls' helped operate the dredge on Big Gold Creek. Ina and Glenna teamed up with 'Papa' Franklin and Harold Schmidt's girls, Dede and Mimi, to pick up heavy equipment parts from the company's Walkers Fork camp and haul them over the divide to YPMC's 60-Mile district mines in Canada. Ina taught Sunday School to miners' children in the mining camps, and played a Salvation Army pipe organ acquired from Dawson. Glenna and Ina took care of the company vegetable garden in 60-Mile camp. In an effort to prevent boredom from settling in at the mining camps, the Franklin and Schmidt girls would show movies on Saturday nights, and provide pop corn for the weary mining crews.

Glenna and Ina Franklin helping to keep up the garden at the 60-mile camp.

Glenna and Ina helping to keep up the garden at the 60-mile camp;
photo courtesy of Glenna Hutchens.

Glenna, Ina and Vieno Franklin in the 60-Mile district.

From left, Glenna, Ina and Vieno Franklin in the 60-Mile district;
photo courtesy of Glenna Hutchens.

Several locations were mined simultaneously, and the firm employed as many as fifty people during the short summer seasons. The Canadian operations involved participation with the Federal Canadian Emergency Gold Mining Assistance program (EGMA), which worked to keep small gold mining firms afloat in small communities throughout rural Canada, because of their importance to the local economies.

In Glen's final analysis, approximately 17.64 million cubic yards of muck and overburden were stripped by YPMC. Just over 7.06 million cubic yards of gravel were processed, and 163,960 troy ounces of placer gold were produced at an average overall grade of 0.023 ounces of placer gold/cubic yard. Eldorado Creek and Jack Wade Creek yielded the highest gold grades of 0.031 and 0.028 ounces of placer gold/cubic yard, respectively. Just over ? of the total gold output came out of their 60-Mile operations, which constituted YPMC's largest single project. Eight of the eleven projects listed in Table 1 were profitable, but three were not. The Internal Rate of Return (IRR) to YPMC for the entire twenty-two year period of mining was just under 21 percent. The rising costs of mining and the fixed price of gold ended the YPMC activities in Alaska and the Yukon. Glen's April, 2000 presentation was the most complete summary of a mid-20th Century, north-country placer mining venture that the writer has ever heard.

In the mid-1950s, Glen and his family began to split their time between Seattle, Washington, during the winter months, and Alaska and the Yukon during the summer months. In 1959, Glen and Vieno moved to Kennewick, Washington, where they bought 10 acres, planted a plum orchard, and managed Keller Insurance Company. Glen and Vieno continued to travel north each year to mine until 1968. When the price of gold was decontrolled and began to rise in the mid-1970s, Glen worked as a placer consultant. During 1974-1975, he worked with Toronto-based Livengood Joint Ventures, for which developed a large-scale placer mining operation on the Livengood Bench north of Fairbanks. He also provided consulting expertise for operations in Idaho, Oregon and California, and outside the United States in Haiti, Mexico, and Italy.

Glen and Vieno were together for 42 years, but Vieno was diagnosed with bone cancer in 1979, and died eleven months later in 1980. In 1983, at the encouragement of his good friend, Bill Stroeker, Glen pursued a relationship with a previous Fairbanks acquaintance, Patricia Egan Sather, who had recently been widowed. Her husband, Martin, a well known gold miner from Fairbanks, had also died of terminal cancer. That summer, after a brief but determined courtship, Glen and Pat were married. Until 2005, the couple spent many summers on Pat's mining property on Fairbanks Creek. Denise Herzog related to the writer:

"They had the most wonderful parties on Fairbanks Creek."

During the winters, Glen and Pat alternated between Fairbanks, Hawaii, and visiting friends in the Lower 48 States and abroad. Glen continued to thoroughly enjoy oversight of mining operations, and ensured that Pat's four sons were kept busy with innumerable projects that he personally directed.

Glen, Pat and Rusty at the Fairbanks Creek camp.

Glen, Pat and Rusty at the Fairbanks Creek camp, circa 1980s;
photo from the John Cook collection.

Glen Franklin was a civically minded individual in addition to his successes in the minerals business. He became interested in politics after World War II. Because he was neither a Democrat nor a Republican, he ran as an Independent for the Territorial House in 1947 (unsuccessfully). During the 1949 and 1951 sessions, Glen ran and won as a conservative Democrat, and represented Alaska's 4th Judicial Division in the Territorial Legislature. In 1949, he was part of the group that drafted the first Alaska Statehood Bill, which was created by the Alaska legislature to express the desire of Alaskans for Statehood. He did not win re-election in 1953, but joined many other Democrats who were swept from office during the 'Eisenhower Landslide' of 1952-53. Subsequently, Glen was a lobbyist for the Alaska Miners Association in Juneau until Statehood.

The 20th Territorial House in session during 1951.  Glen Franklin is at the far left edge of the photo.

The 20th Territorial House in session during 1951. Glen Franklin is at the far left edge of the photo. The Speaker of the House (left center) is Glen's long time friend, Bill Egan;
photo from Alaska's Digital Archives.

Glen Franklin with friends Governor Bill Egan and Chuck Herbert.

Glen Franklin (center) with friends Governor Bill Egan (left) and Chuck Herbert, circa early 1980s;
photo courtesy of the John Cook family.

Glen was very active in the Pioneers of Alaska, and a strong supporter of the University of Alaska. Through the Pioneers Igloo #4, Glen directed the purchase and installation of the life-sized, bronze statue of the first University President, Dr. Charles Bunnell, which appears on the campus of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

On the evening of June 17, 2008, Glen D. Franklin, aged 95, passed peacefully in his sleep with his wife, Pat, by his side. Thus ended the long and successful career of an Alaskan pioneer, musician, athlete, leader, statesman, accountant, and placer gold miner.

Written by Thomas K. Bundtzen, March 4, 2012.


Franklin, Glen D., 1975, Mining for Gold: Unpublished manuscript of Glen D. Franklin's mining career from 1936-1968 Inclusive, 4 pages plus one table

Franklin, Glen D., 1991, Facts, Fiction, and Memories about Glen DeForde Franklin: Unpublished notes and manuscript, 25 pages.

Holdsworth. Phil, 1953, Report of the Commissioner of Mines to the Governor for the Year Biennium Ended December 31, 1952: 66 pages.

Saarela, Leo H., 1951, Report of the Commissioner of Mines to the Governor for the Year Biennium Ended December 31, 1950: 57 pages.

Stewart, B.D., 1937, Report of the Commissioner of Mines to the Governor for the Year Biennium Ended December 31, 1936: 67 pages.

Stewart, B.D., 1941, Report of the Commissioner of Mines to the Governor for the Year Biennium Ended December 31, 1940: 92 pages.

Stewart, B.D., 1947, Report of the Commissioner of Mines to the Governor for the Year Biennium Ended December 31, 1946: 50 pages.

Stewart, B.D., 1949, Report of the Commissioner of Mines to the Governor for the Year Biennium Ended December 31, 1948: 49 pages.

Unauthored, 2000, Presentation of Glen Franklin as part of Joint Igloo #4 and Auxiliary #8 Pioneers Program; 2 pages; Tape Reference-H20000-15.

Unauthored, 2008, Obituary of Glen D. Franklin June 22nd, 2008 Published in Fairbanks Daily News Miner.

Unauthored, 2008, "In Loving Memory-Glen D. Franklin"-Catholic Mass Program held at Immaculate Conception Church, Fairbanks, 2 pages.

Unauthored, 2012, Chewelah, Washington-Wikipedia Summary, three page on line document.

Unauthored, 2012, Yukon Charley Rivers National Preserve Coal Creek Dredge: On-line summary of mining history of Coal Creek Dredge, 4 pages.

Unrau, Jason, 2012, How a novice miner survived a summer in the Klondike: The Globe and Mail, February 25th, 2012 (description of current Schmidt Mining Corporation operations in Yukon, Canada)

This biographic sketch benefited from a long 1991 written correspondence from Glen to his daughter, Glenna Hutchens , and several addendums-all entitled 'Facts, Fiction, and Memories about Glen DeForde Franklin'. In addition to email, phone and correspondence and interviews with Norman Sather (on February 8th, 2012), Denise Herzog and John Cook (on December 9th, 2011), Stuart Schmidt (February 22nd and 24th, 2012), and Glenna Hutchens (February 23rd, March 4th, and March 7th, 2012), the writer used notes from a conversation with Patricia Franklin on June 22nd, 2008 and notes taken during conversations with Glen Franklin on April 17th, 2000 and in two previous meetings with him in the 1990s.

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