A Living Ghost Town
By Vernon Cross
You could call the still active mining town of Wiseman
Alaska a living ghost town. The sun-bleached graying logs of its century
old log cabins are a stark contrast to the shiny new pickups parked in
front of many of them... home to the miners and their families still
actively mining there today. I had traveled this far north to detect in
the old mining towns of Coldfoot and Wiseman, Alaska.
Wiseman is 80 miles above the arctic circle. The sun doesn't really set
during the peak summer months this far north so there was ample time to
detect. I unearthed this 100+ year old token With my Whites XLT detector
in a flood area that had deposited about 5 inches of silt and small
gravel over a miners yard several years ago. The token was 8 inches deep
and I first I thought I had recovered a nickel until I cleaned it off in
a near by puddle.
The old token was originally from a bar/cigar emporium in Skagway Alaska
called the "Monogram" during the great Klondike gold rush of
1898. Skagway was the Alaska port of call for the stampeders heading for
the Canadian Klondike goldfields and beyond from ships out of Seattle.
The infamous con man Soapy Smith and his band of cut-throats rode rein
over the town of Skagway, preying on the incoming and outgoing sea of
humanity passing through. If "Soapy" couldn't get their money
through con games, his cut throats would "take 'em out back to see
the eagle", where they would be beaten and robbed. This went on for
quite some time, until an ex-lawman named Frank Reid faced Soapy Smith
in a shoot-out. Reid's shot sent the bullet through Soapy's heart,
killing him instantly. However, not before Soapy managed to get off a
shot with a rifle that hit Reid in the groin; Reid died three weeks
later from complications of that gunshot.
This old token is special to me because of the history of that Alaska
town, and is rated a rarity of R7, meaning there's only approx. 250 of
them known to exist.... according to Mark Parker, of W & E Treasures
magazine. It's value is $145+. Apparently a miner that was in Skagway
brought this coin to Cold Foot/Wiseman area around the turn of the
century, where he either lost it or chucked it. The gold with the photo
is some I had found and added for a little artistic flair, representing
the Gold Rush.
The denomination of six and one quarter cents would be one half of a
"bit'. A "bit" being 12.5 cents. "That'll be two
bits for the drink and the cigar mister.... and next time, try and hit
the spittoon will ya?
Vernon Cross is a
painter of nature and it's situations.
He is a longtime prospector and expert detectorist.
His work can be seen here: Vern
Cross...Alaska Mining Artist