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Anton Stander staked a “moose pasture” and discovered the richest creek in the world

Anton Stander on his arrival in New York had only one dollar and seventy-five cents on him and spoke no English. No one supposed that he was going to discover the richest creek in the world, later called Eldorado Creek.

Anton Stander one of the discoverers of Eldorado Creek in Klondike in 1896.
Anton Stander one of the discoverers of Eldorado Creek in Klondike in 1896.

Anton Stander or actually Anton Prestopec was born in 1867, June 16, in Javorje, close to Litija, in Austro-Hungarian Empire (present Slovenia). He left his country in 1887 and came to New York. He walked on foot to Johnstone, Ohio, where he spent some time working on his uncle’s farm. Then he tried his luck working in the remote corners of the continent, working as a cowboy, sheep-herder, coal miner, servant, waiter and finally prospector.

In early spring 1896 he spent all his founds on the trip north to Yukon, where the gold seekers were still trying to find some gold bearing streams. There was no Dawson City at this time and no one had ever heard about Klondike. There was just a bunch of hungry prospectors traveling along the Yukon river trying to find their own piece of ground producing enough gold to stake a placer claim. They knew that it was possible. Some of them remembered what had happened in Sacramento in 1849, and some of them traveled all the way along western gold rush trail through the Fraser River, Big Bend, Cariboo, Omineca, Cassiar and Atlin. There was no question for them if it was possible to find gold, there was just a question how many years they would need before someone struck again and new gold rush began. Anton Stander had no money in his pocket, but he had everything he needed to become rich - he was in the right place at the right time.

By the time Anton Stander came to Klondike region, the central point of local community had been  Forty Mile, a little town established in 1886 at the confluence of the Yukon and Fortymile rivers by prospectors and fortune hunters. In 1896 when Robert Henderson told George Carmack to go and check the valleys behind blue hills, north-east from the Yukon river, everything begun. Carmack with his two native friends - Skookum Jim and Tagish Dawson Charlie went there to check out the little stream called Rabbit Creek. Nobody believed that this side of the Yukon River could be promising. The experienced gold seekers, sourdoughs, as they were called on the Yukon, kept finding gold in Miller, Davis or Clacier Creek, on the bars of Indian or Steward rivers, but not beyond the hills on the other side of the Klondike River. That was probably the reason why even experienced prospectors staking claims on the Rabbit Creek still didn't believe there might be something spectacular. They were doing this more as a habit, not because they really believed that this could be the beginning of a new gold rush. Two thirds of the first claims' owners on the Rabbit Creek, later named Bonanza, decided to sell their claims straightaway for almost nothing. That was probably the biggest mistake of their life.

Map of the Klondike Goldfields
Map of the Klondike Goldfields, Photo by John Bellew ©

When Stander showed up at Bonanza with four friends everything had already been claimed. They staked some claims far away from the Carmack's discovery, but they were predicting nothing there. The short Yukon summer was coming to an end and Standers knew that it was his last chance. In the act of desperation, he and his three companions rushed to check a little tributary creek called by that time Bonanza's pup. It would soon be known as Eldorado.

Anton Stander, Jay Whipple – an old prospector from Sixtymile, Frank Keller – brakeman from California, J.J. Clements from New York and Frank Phiscator – a farm boy from Michigan were all broke. They picked up some sand and gravel from the bottom of the creek and started panning. There was more than six dollars’ worth of gold in the pan (around $177 today according to Consumer Price Index). Each of the claims staked by them on Eldorado Creek eventually produced one million dollars or more.

claim no 17 on eldorado creek tributary of bonanza creek in klondike close to Dawson City, Yukon during the last great gold rush in 1898 called Klondike gold rush or yukon gold rush
Claim no 17 on the Eldorado Creek tributary of Bonanza Creek in Klondike Eric A. Hegg [Public domain]

Stander settled down in Dawson City on the confluence of the Klondike and Yukon rivers. Since 1897 he had lived with a dancer and opera singer, Violet Raymond and finally married her in 1901 in San Francisco, then they settled in Seattle. Since 1900 they had became the owners of the Seattle's Holyoke Building and from 1905 to 1906 also the owners of the newly built, a 250 room Stander's Hotel. Anton Stander was not mean. He bought all diamonds in Dawson for his girlfriend and gave her $20.000 in gold dust and $1000 monthly, and as a wedding gift to her, a box full of gold worth approximately $100.000. On their honeymoon they traveled to Japan and China before taking a trip to Paris.

Stander was one of the legendary Klondike Kings, and like the others: Clarence Berry, Stanley, Great Alex, happy Sweden or Dick Low, he was the first one to buy a bottle of champagne for two ounces of gold. But his good luck didn’t last long. He had a problem with alcohol and eventually his wife left him. They divided the hotel worth approximately $900,000 and  soon he went bankrupt. Stander decided to go north hoping to find another Klondike, but he did not find any gold this time. The Klondike King ended up in a shelter called Pioneers' Home at Sitka, Alaska. According to some sources he died there in April 1952, but some people said that he had just disappeared from there one day and no one had ever seen him again.

sources: Spletni biografski leksikon osrednije Slovenije: Anton Stander; Pierre Berton, The Klondike Fever; Slovenian Portal Kamra, Antone F. StandardTappan AdneyThe Klondike Stampede, UBC Press, 2011

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