No event in our history is more legendary than the Yukon Gold Rush of 1896. On August 16, when rich gold deposits were discovered in Bonanza Creek, 100,000 prospectors set off for the newly created Dawson City in search of instant wealth. Hungry miners hoped for the one big strike; others, for prosperity in this instant boom town; some, for the adventure of a lifetime. Charlotte Gray, one of our best writers of non-fiction, tells the story of the Gold Rush through the intimate lives of six extraordinary people: the saintly priest Father Judge; the feisty entrepreneur Belinda Mulrooney; the struggling writer Jack London; the imperious British journalist Flora Shaw; the legendary Sam Steele of the Mounties; and the prospector William Haskell. Brilliantly interweaving their stories, Gray creates a fascinating panorama of a frontier town where desperados, saloon keepers, gamblers, dance hall girls, churchmen and law-makers were thrown together in a volatile time.
Beautifully illustrated with period photographs and documents of the Gold Rush, Gold Diggers is a colourful and entertaining journey into a world gone mad for gold.
To mine the stories of the last great Gold Rush (1896 1899), Gray (Sisters in the Wilderness), who lives in Ottawa, spent three months living in the Canadian Yukon and sifting through the archives there. Gray focuses on diverse individuals whose paths crossed during the Gold Rush days. Recovering from scurvy, novelist Jack London left with "a gold mine of stories." Energetic London Times journalist Flora Shaw explored honky-tonk dives after midnight: "It was not Flora's world," says Gray. "She cast a cool eye on the professional gamblers, the blowsy hookers, the long-nailed barmen... and the throng of boozy miners." Lawman Sam Steele saw the boomtown Dawson City and its 400 prostitutes as "simply a hell on earth, gamblers, thieves and the worst kind of womankind," while Father Judge, a gentle Jesuit priest, sought souls rather than gold. At age 25, businesswoman Belinda Mulrooney arrived to get rich and departed a multimillionaire as the mining camp of 400 became a raucous, raunchy city of 30,000 in only two years. Writing about "the wildest, noisiest, roughest frontier town, in the middle of the bleakest landscape on the American continent," Gray has hit pay dirt with this hardscrabble history, a vibrant, detailed recreation of the frenzied boomtown of Dawson City. Photos.