Fact #5 on Alaska

“Alaska’s capital city, Juneau, was originally called Harrisburg after the first miner to strike gold there.”

National Geographic Kids, 5,000 Awesome facts, 2015

Juneau, was the first city to be founded in Alaska after Russia sold it to the United States in 1867. Unbeknownst to Russia, who thought Alaska was a wasteland, Juneau became a gold jackpot in 1880.

After the California Gold Rush, 1848-1855, and the land had been mined to exhaustion, people began looking for a new place to strike it rich. A mining engineer, George Pilz, offered a reward to any head chief of the area to bring him to a gold mine. Kowee, a Tlingit chief, was actually the first person to bring samples back to Pilz, and afterwards him, Joe Juneau and Richard Harrison set on out to find out if there was more. They came across a basin in where Harrison described it as “the most gold bearing quartz I had ever seen in one gulch.” They marked 160 acres good for mining gold and other resources, and people started coming out to the tiny village. It quickly grew in population and trade, making it a town rather than a village. They were going to name it Harrisburg, after Richard, but settled on Joe’s last name, Juneau. I’ve not been able to find any reason why one name and not the other, but since 1906 Alaska’s capitol has been Juneau.

Juneau today has 3,255 square miles, making it the second largest city in the U.S. by area.





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