Learn how Juneau Alaska was discovered with a gold strike, how it got its name, and how it became the capital of Alaska.
The Gastineau Channel and surrounding area of what is now Juneau, was originally a fishing location for the Taku and Auke tribes.
While there isn't a lot known about the origin of the name Gastineau, it may have been named for an English civil engineer and surveyor named John Gastineau.
In 1880, two men, Richard Harris and Joe Juneau, left Sitka, Alaska by canoe to prospect for gold.
The two ended up at Snow Slide Gulch in the Gastineau Channel where they hit pay dirt in a stream that was later named Gold Creek. The two packed out 150 pounds of gold.
Returning later, the two set up a mining camp.
Soon, word got around, and a gold rush was on.
When news of a strike reached the United States, the U.S. Navy dispatched a steamship to the area. When it arrived in the channel, U.S. Lieutenant Commander Charles Rockwell and a small detachment went ashore.
Rockwell and his men were tasked with keeping law and order in the gold rush town.
By 1881, the mining camp had grown into a rough town of around 100.
Soon, the new settlement was being called Rockwell, after the Lieutenant Commander.
Then the name was unofficially changed to Harrisburg after Richard Harris who had been one of the two original prospectors to find gold in the area.
Later on, during a meeting of the miners, it was decided that the town needed an official name. They decided on the name Juneau for the other prospector, Joe Juneau, who had discovered gold along with his partner Richard Harris… Why they chose Joe Juneau over Richard Harris is not known.
After Alaska was purchased from Russia, Sitka was the largest town, and as a result, it was named the Capital of Alaska.
Then by 1906, Juneau had become the largest city and was then named the capital for the territory.
In 1950, Anchorage became the largest town in Alaska, however, it was decided that Juneau would remain the capital.
Having Canada on its eastern boarder makes Juneau the only state capital in the United States with an international border.
The city of Juneau is larger in area than the state of Delaware.
On April 1st, 2016 (note the date), Juneau was renamed “Uno” after the famous card game. Following the April Fools' joke, Mattel, the owner of the card game, donated 15,000 dollars to the Juneau Community Foundation for the privilege of the marketing joke.
Juneau boasts not one, not two, but three climates.
The Humid Continental, Subarctic and Oceanic climates, all resulting in warm, moist weather.
The coldest temperature ever recorded was -22F in February 1968 and January 12, 1972.
The warmest temperature ever recorded was 90F on July 7, 1975.
While the discovery of gold was what got things started, a flood in 1915 brought an end to mining in the area.
Today's economy looks like this:
Being the capital of the state of Alaska brings a contribution to the local hotel, restaurant, and bar economies.
A local commercial fishing industry is still going strong.
And tourism, with plenty of cruise ships bringing people to Juneau in the summer months, keeps the area busy.
As with many cities, towns, and villages in Alaska, Juneau has a rich history.
From gold first being discovered in the area, to becoming the capital of Alaska, the city of Juneau plays a big part in the history of the Great Land known as Alaska.
“My sister sent me an Anchorage Memories VIP Club publication a few weeks ago.
And I want to thank you for the connection to my past. I grew up in Anchorage and left for college in 1967.
My last visit to Anchorage was for a West high school class reunion over 20 years ago.
So, thanks for putting all this together.”
Join your free Anchorage Memories VIP Club
A treasure chest of precious memories, delivered right to your email in-box three times each month.
Discover Alaska Facts and History
Meet Anchorage Pioneers
PLUS you'll receive your free Anchorage e-book when you join
Click on the following link