Independence Gold Mine

Independence Mine
Yesterday, July 15, 2012, our HOM group visited a historic gold mine located in the Talkeeta Mountains. We went to Independence Mine on a very cold and rainy day, but despite the weather conditions it was still one of my favorite historical sites visited so far. Gold was first discovered here in 1906 by Robert Lee Hatcher. Hatcher found high up in the mountains a piece of quartz with gold veins running through it. This particular type of gold would be very expensive and difficult to mine for the first few years. In 1937 Alaska-Pacific Consolidated Mining Company (APC) had approximately 83 claims, which spread over 1350 acres. By the 1940s the gold camp was thriving and mining more gold than anyone else in the area. The employees of the camp were making good money and were kept happy with a well paid staff as well. The camp manager at the time was Walter W Stoll. He built a ultra modern house for his family and himself. It had electricity ran by generators and modern appliances to go along with the electricity.

The average wages per day for the workers varied. A flunkie, unskilled worker, would make about $5 a day. A Mucker, miner, would make about $6 a day. A skilled worker, iron worker, would make $7 a day. During the peak of Independence mine there were about 206 men working. This did not include women and children. One of the most important jobs of the camp was the cook, who made $250 a year. He had his own separate living quarters with his family. He had the job of keeping the workers happy with good food everyday. As 1941 continued the reality of World War Two would soon approach the United States. On December 7, 1941 Japanese enemy forces would attack Pearl Harbor and leap the U.S. into WWII. Focus was now turned away from domestic projects and were turned outward towards Europe and Asia. Independence Gold Mine was now decommissioned and its resources were now used for the front line. The mine was using about 1000 gallons of fuel a day to keep the camp running. This was an extremely large amount of fuel. Soon the entire camp was abandoned and would never be brought back to its former glory. After 1946 the band on gold mining was lifted and Independence mine was allowed to prosper once more. There were few attempts to restore the camp but none were very successful. In the late 1970s the lands were donated to the Alaska State Parks, where today they have turned the camp into a Historical Park. . The tour guide showed us through the original buildings. The first building we walked through on the tour was the main hall, which housed the kitchen, main dinning area, and a living area on the upper floors. The large dinning room once held over 200 men, women, and children. We continued walking through other buildings around the complex which gave a great since that this small community were close knit. Even though the Independence Mine stayed open for only a few years, it was a very well oiled machine. To me it felt like a great place to work during a rough time in our countries history. The Great Depression affected almost the entire country, but not the tiny piece of land in the Talkeeta Mountains.

Remnants of the mine
The best part about the park today is that it is not overdone in anyway. It still holds its historic integrity of look and feel. Besides the cars in the parking lot, you would assume you were brought back in time to the 1940s. The players piano in the Stoll House gave the park great historical feeling. Our tour guide was great and seemed to really love the history of the area, which always make for a better experience. This was an amazing historical park and I would recommend it to anyone. Experiencing the mine first hand was amazing. Walking around this small mining town really brought you back in time and made walking through freezing rain worth it.  Overall it was a great experience and made me much more interested in the history of Alaskan gold mining. Independence Mine will spark the interest of any History lover. I would love to visit the park again in 10 years and see how much it has improved from its already excellent condition. Our tour guide informed us about archives that were recently found and would soon be incorporated into the historic park. Hopefully one day I will be able to again experience Independence Mine and learn more about the mining boom in Alaska.

-Tori Latiolais

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