In July 1896 Dawson City didn’t yet exist; one year later it had a population of 5,000, the year after that, 30,000. Forty Mile, once the region’s principal community, was virtually abandoned. NWMP Inspector Charles Constantine, based at Forty Mile, had been the first — and, for several years, the only — person to administer mining regulations in the Yukon; the office was transferred to Dawson in 1897.
Money itself was rare. Gold dust — worth about 16 dollars an ounce — was the common currency. Many other things were rare as well. It was almost impossible to find a cabin to live in, even if someone was willing to pay the high rent. Building a cabin was also an expensive proposition; according to Thomas Fawcett, “Common lumber, which in Ontario would not cost more than $6 or $7 per 1,000 feet, is in demand at $140.”
Some people took jobs in the town or at a mine. Claims were bought, sold and leased, either to make a profit or because the owner needed the money. A somewhat plaintive ad in the Klondike Nugget of July 27, 1898, reads: “Wanted to trade — Will trade a half-interest in a mining claim for a year’s provisions.”
By early 1897 the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in had moved away from Tr’ochëk to a traditional camp downriver called Jëjik Ddhä̀ Dë̀nezhu Kek´it (Moosehide). Although the gold rush brought new economic opportunities for the territory’s First Nations people, it also created great social and cultural upheaval.
By late 1898, however, the rush was starting to subside. Even before the stampeders arrived in Dawson, almost all of the productive ground had already been staked. Thousands of hopefuls gave up their dream of wealth and left the territory. The discovery of gold in Nome, Alaska, in 1899 drew thousands more. The rush was over almost as quickly as it began, leaving in its aftermath a cosmopolitan community with electric lights, telephones, substantial buildings and four newspapers.