The earliest known quartz claims filed on the “Leota” property were in 1904 as individual one claim registrations near the mouths of Flat Creek and Leotta Creek. Common practice of the era was staking of quartz claims by placer miners to avoid conflicts should they mine the cracks in the bedrock.
The first quartz claim staked on the property covering a vein was staked by Duncan Michie, who immigrated to Dawson City and was employed as a clerk at the BNA Bank. He staked his first placer claim in 1903 on Last Chance Creek, a tributary of Hunker Creek, and over several years he would stake numerous placer and quartz claims, often with partners, and sell them to mining syndicates associated with his bookkeeper, Charles J. Vifquain of Dawson City.
During his early prospecting career, Michie would roam the Klondike, Indian, and Stewart River watersheds staking and selling quartz claims. It appears in 1922 he settled on a quartz claim at the mouth of Alexander Creek and intensively prospected for the source of lode gold while working his placer claims nearby. Naturally, the economics of the times favoured individual placer mining over hard rock mining; nevertheless, Michie was one of the few persistent quartz prospectors of the time and deserves recognition as such.
After the mining laws evolved to allow the staking of more than one claim per vein, Michie quietly staked six quartz claims over a period of one year near the confluence of Alexander Creek and Allgold Creek. After registering them as a group of claims in Dawson City on the 17th of August 1931, he announced his discovery to the press.
Dawson News, August 20, 1931. Text reads:
Duncan Michie, of All Gold creek, spent the week end in town, attending to his mining affairs. He reports having made a strike of auriferous quartz on Alexander gulch, a tributary of All Gold. Values have been obtained practically from the surface. The outcropping appears in four different places and the lead has been definitely traced for over 1,000 feet on each side of Alexander gulch. Mr. Michie has also exposed the vein by ground sluicing, showing a width of fourteen feet without the foot wall being encountered. The deposit follows a course parallel to a dyke of greenstone. Several assays of this vein have given returns which place this property among the most promising prospects of this district, particularly as the find has been made in a section where no quartz finds have previously been reported. The lead has been traced for miles and crosses Dominion creek below Paris. Mr. Michie has been working quietly on this prospect for three years and now has a group of six claims recorded.
In the 1930s, the annual assessment work needed to keep a quartz claim in good standing was $100, the same as it is today. Six claims would have required $600 per year. At the time of the Great Depression, $100 was an average monthly wage. Indeed it would have been challenging to hold on to six claims hoping to interest mine developers. As often was the case, quartz claims would be dropped and restaked year after year. Such was the case in 1944 when despite the economic turmoil of the Second World War; Michie had the optimism to re-stake three claims over his original discovery vein that he had previously publicized.
The archives reveal that on October 17th, 1944, Michie went to the Mine Recorder’s office at lower Hunker Creek to register the last claim filed as a group of three, and within days he would be admitted to the hospital in Dawson City. On November 19, 1944, he died of an undisclosed illness at the age of 70 and was buried at the Catholic cemetery in Dawson City.
The Yukon Quartz Mining Act states that after a miner’s death the claims are given special dispensation and are not subject to annual assessment obligations for three years, allowing time for the estate to be settled. In Michie’s case, records show no references to a will or estate sale, and as expected the claims expired. This was not unusual as after WWII, property markets in general were depressed and in some cases choice real estate had to be auctioned by widows unable to pay taxes. It should be no surprise that Michie’s group of placer and quartz claims would expire and not be of interest to miners until a decade later when men returned to the bush in search for base metals like copper, lead, and zinc.
Another area with a rich history of prospecting for lode gold and covered by the ‘Leota’ group of claims is on both sides of Hunker Creek between Mint Pup and Hunker’s uppermost right fork and its tributary, 36 Pup. The report can also be found in the circa 1914 publication, “Lode Mining in Yukon” by T.A. Maclean, on page 108. It describes one of John Fawcett’s properties, the “Alphonse” mineral claim, covering a fissure-type quartz vein which assayed @ AU 0.12 oz/t, one of the highest in the region at the time.