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Our History

Let me begin by telling you that my husband, Sam Achman, came to Fairbanks, Alaska in the spring of 1952 from Minnesota,  going to work for the old Fairbanks Exploration Co., working at their gold camp in Ester, Ak., on one of the last big gold dredge to operate in the Fairbanks area, and is now a large visitor attraction.  Except for the occasional visit to the family in Mn., and his years of military service, he hasn’t been out of the state for more than a couple of weeks in the last 48 years.  In 1971 he leased some mining claims in the Circle Mining District north of Fairbanks eventually purchasing the 20+ claims,  and during the winter months he plied his trade being a journeyman electrician.  In 1984 our mining operation was moved permanently to Jack Wade Creek in the historic 40 Mile Mining District.

Sam My name is Dianne Jenkins-Achman,  and I arrived in Alaska in 1966 from Oregon and I knew immediately I had found home.  This was after the devastating earthquake of 1964 and before the Fairbanks flood of 1967.  Ater  working as a secretary, bartender, waitress, and sales clerk all over Alaska, I finally headed north to Fairbanks in the mid-1970’s and it was here I met, and fell in love with, my very own gold miner, Singin’ Sam Achman and his Rainbow Mine.  I had always been a history buff, but boy, did I have a lot to learn about gold, gold mining, Alaskan history and Alaskan bush living.  By 1979 I had taken over The Golden Web,  Sam’s small nugget jewelry manufacturing  company that sold nugget jewelry and raw gold to retail jewelry stores around the state.  Our biggest account was the J.C. Penny store in Fairbanks, long before there were any malls, Wal-Marts, K-Marts or Fred Meyers store in Alaska.

An old medicine cupboardIn 1980-81 I left the state to spend a year in Santa Monica, Ca., getting my Graduate Gemologist degree from the  Gemological Institute of America.  I really loved the courses and teachers, but I was so very glad to get back to Alaska.  We didn’t have freeways up here then, and Fairbanks proper had a population of less than 20,000 people! The summer of 1981 we started a trial mining operation on Jack Wade Creek , north east of Chicken, Alaska, and about 80 miles from the famous Klondike gold rush town of Dawson City, in the Canada’s Yukon Territory.  Running both operations was a real feat, as Jack Wade Creek was 450 miles from our Circle Mining District claims, and 300 miles from our home in Fairbanks.

In the spring of 1982 we decided to put the operation on Harrison Creek on hold, and just work Jack Wade Creek.  We were leasing the claims from an old timer named George who had been on the creek since the mid-1930’s., and he had some wonderful stories to tell if you could get him to talk  Most of the historic information on this site are from George and Sam’s stories of life in the last frontier.

It was August of 1983, one of our employees had been working on a steep side hill above the creek, and the dozer started sliding on the permafrost, caught on a rock and rolled over. Fortunately no one was hurt, but it took a good day to get the cat back on its tracts and ready to work again. It was quite an experience, to say the least.  Two week later Sam and the crew were doing end of the shift maintenance on one of the loaders when Sam’s eye was caught by an unusually large gold colored rock in the sluice box, but assumed the crew was playing a prank on him.  After several more trips by the box, and the crew paying no undo attention, he finally leaned over and picked up his “pet rock” a five pound natural gold nugget.

The BIG nugget - 56 ouncesThis nugget weighed in at 56-3/4 troy ounces, and at the time was the twelfth largest nugget known to have been found in Alaska.  A one ounce raw gold nugget is rarer than a five carat diamond, so in essence, it was like finding the crown jewels in your sluice box.  We were offered in excess of $200,000.00 for the nugget, but it is still ours, and we occasionally share it with the visitors that come by our Tok store, Jack Wade Gold Co., they get a real kick out of picking it up, or having their picture taken holding it. Up to that time, the largest nugget we had mined was about 8.5 ounces, and that was up in Circle.  While Jack Wade Creek was noted for large nuggets, this was the only one we ever got that weighed more than a couple of ounces. Jack Wade gold is usually very smooth, although we have gotten some pretty rough textured nuggets from a couple of the side creeks coming into Jack Wade Creek.  The gold assays out at about .900 fine, meaning its about 21-22 Kt., vs. the usual jewelry gold of 14Kt. 

The spring of 1984 we were driving 310 miles one way from Fairbanks to the mine, Fairbanks had really grown in population and we decided to give up our home in town and move to Tok, a small community on the Alaska Hwy., only 80 miles from the operation. This made it much easier and quicker to get supplies to the creek, I was interested in the possibility of a nugget jewelry store in Tok and getting more involved in the tourism industry.  This also gave Sam & I a chance to see a little more of each other during the summer months.  The mine operates seven days a week, 12-14 hours a day from late May to mid October, as does our jewelry store, but at least I could make the 1-1/2 hour drive  to the mine from Tok once a week or every ten day, where before I wouldn’t see Sam for weeks at a time unless there was a major equipment breakdown.  Remember, there’s only 100-110 days a season to mine, due to weather conditions( it is really hard to sluice gold with frozen water !).

Today, placer mining is done with large hydraulic equipment, such as dozer, loaders, backhoes and draglines.  Mining on Harrison Creek, it was the norm to average 1000 yards of paydirt run through the sluice box a day. On Jack Wade Creek, we would average maybe 300 yards of dirt a day, due to the difference in terrain and material being sluiced.  On both creeks, bed rock was at an average depth of 6’-12’, so even though it’s called open pit , it is shallow.  An no, you never know how much gold  you’ll get out.

And, there are strict state and federal guideline regulations for mining procedures, water quality and reclamation that must be adhered to, if found in violation of the clean water act, an operator can be fined up to $25,000.00 A DAY !! 

We even did some mining in the Yukon for one summer, but logistically it was a real problem, having to truck in all the equipment and find a good mining crew, as you are only allowed to hire Canadians residents, and it takes a couple of years to put a really good mining crew together.  We would normally have from 4 to 8 employees, including the cook and a mechanic.    The camp at Jack Wade consisted of a 55’ mobile home that made up or cook shack and bath house.  The crew slept in one of the old log cabin bunkhouses, and Sam & I used a log cabin built in the early 30’s.  George had a two room log cabin on the top of a incline, and when I ask him how old the cabin was, he said “ it was old when I got on the creek, and I’ve been here 45 years”.  Also, at thA strange toole main site of the old gold camp was the blacksmiths shop, mule barn, two smaller cabins and the old cookshack, that was quite spacious for its day, and the old cache, a log building built just for storage purposes. This is where George had stored most of the old artifacts, hand tools, paper records and supplies that might be needed at a later date.  When he came to visit the shop in Tok,  and found it named after his creek, he gave me a goodly portion of all the artifacts, antiques, and old mining equipment now on display at the store. 

In the hand written records George gave us, were a lot of old photo negatives, some from early day Fairbanks and the  Richardson highway and it’s many roadhouses.  Of particular interest are some very early photos taken about 1900, and they chronicle the travels of a gentlemen I have named Thomas, who leaves Europe, England I believe, traveling by ship to Toronto, Canada, crossing Canada, I would suppose by train, and arriving in British Columbia where he catches another ship going to Skagway,Alaska. He eventually ends up in the Forty Mile country, around Franklin Gulch and Chicken. The photos are displayed on the historical photo page.

Good for a beer at your local pub in those daysYou will find the Miners Dictionary page, as well as a Jewelry dictionary page that will explain terms and phrases you may not be familiar with, as well as some pertinent gold facts, and of course  pictures of gold nugget jewelry currently in stock and ready for purchase.  There is a page of custom designs we have done for people all over the world  that may give you some ideas, in case your not sure exactly what you want.  If nothing strikes your fancy in our completed inventory, or you have an idea of what  you want and haven’t seen anything similar, I would be delighted to design and make up that “something special” for you or a loved one.  Please feel free to contact us at our e-mail address, or give us a phone call at (907)883-5887, and Sam or I will be more than happy to answer questions about Alaska,  mining, or to help with a jewelry design.

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Jack Wade Gold
PO Box 149
Tok Alaska 99780
907-883-5887
info@jackwadegold.com

 

Last Updated: 03/23/03
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