Juneau's History in a Nutshell

The members of the Auke tribe of Tlingit Indians were the first settlers to the area that became Juneau. The land and the sea provided such an abundance of food and natural resources that these original settlers enjoyed a productive and creative lifestyle. The cultural heritage of all the Indian tribes of the Northwest Coastal areas is readily evident in Juneau and the surrounding area.

It was gold that spurred the birth of the town that was originally named Harrisburg, later renamed Juneau. The town was founded in 1880 by gold seekers Joe Juneau and Richard Harris. However, it was the Tlingit Chief Kowee that first pointed Harris and Juneau in the direction of Gold!

During the prime 60 years of gold mining in the area Juneau was home to three of the world's largest gold mines: The Alaska Juneau, and the Alaska Gastineau mine, on the Juneau side of the Channel and the Treadwell mine on the Douglas island side. The three produced $158 million worth of gold at a time when gold was priced between $20.00 and $35.00 an ounce. The Alaska Juneau mine closed during WWII as the cost of production became prohibitive. The Treadwell mine was flooded in 1917 and finally closed in 1922.

Joe Juneau continued his hunt for gold, heading for the Klondike in 1897. He died in Dawson in 1903 and his body was returned to Juneau to rest in the Evergreen Cemetery.

Richard Harris lost most of his holdings and went to work for various Juneau mining companies. He died in a sanitarium in Oregon in 1907. His body was also returned to Juneau and rests nearby that of Joe Juneau.

Chief Kowee received little or no credit for his part in the Juneau gold rush. He died in his home in Juneau's Indian Village in 1892. He was cremated, according to his wishes, at the entrance to Evergreen Cemetery. A bronze plaque marks that spot.

Credit to Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau and historical contributors.

More information about Juneau History can be found on the website of the Gastineau Historical Society