City and Borough of Juneau
History of Juneau
A Short History of Juneau
From the Juneau Convention & Visitors Bureau 1999 Visitors Guide.
Originally fishing grounds for local Tlingit Indians, the Gastineau Channel area became a focus of attention in the late 1800 's when a Tlingit named Kowee of the Auk Tlingit Tribe provided gold ore samples in response to a reward offered by George Pilz, a Sitka engineer. Pilz grubstaked prospectors Richard Harris and Joseph Juneau in August 1880. They found plenty of color in Gold Creek, but did not follow the gold to its source. At Kowee 's urging, Pilz sent the pair back again. Harris and Juneau climbed Snow Slide Gulch at the head of Gold Creek and looked down into the mother lode of Quartz Gulch and Silver Bow Basin.
On October 18, they staked a 160 acre town site on the beach where, the following month, they were joined by the first boatloads of prospectors bound for the new strike on Gastineau Channel. The stampede was on. The discovery was the first that resulted in the founding of an Alaskan town.
Juneau grew from a boomtown to a center for large-scale hard-rock mining when the loose gold in the stream beds ran out. On the mainland side of the Channel, two great mills were created: the Alaska-Juneau at the south end of Juneau and the Alaska-Gastineau at Thane, farther south. On Douglas Island, the ground reverberated with 960 stamps of the world-renowned Treadwell Gold Mining Company.
Treadwell production peaked in 1915. Two years later, a cave-in flooded three of the four mines, effectively ending the Treadwell era. In Juneau, the Alaska-Gastineau folded from high costs in 1921. A-J was halted by the war in 1944.
Juneau was established as Alaska 's capital in 1906 when the government was transferred from Sitka. Today, federal, state and local government employs one out of every two Juneau workers. Tourism is the largest private employer and continues to grow. Commercial fishing and mining continue to play a role in Juneau 's economy.