South half of the Colville Reservation opens to mineral claims and a stampede ensues on June 30, 1898.

  • By Jim Kershner
  • Posted 6/15/2009
  • Essay 9052
On June 30, 1898, when news arrives in Republic and elsewhere that the south half of the Colville Reservation has been thrown open to mineral claims, a stampede ensues. Hundreds of gold prospectors in Northeast Washington and British Columbia flood into the region to stake claims.

Reaching 500 Ears in Five Minutes

The news flashed into Republic via telephone, late on June 30, 1898. As the Republic Pioneer described it "the report had reached 500 ears within five minutes" (Steele). Republic had been established in 1896 when the north half of the Colville Reservation was thrown open to mineral claims, and fortunes in gold had already been made. Everybody hoped that similar fortunes were there for the taking on the South Half.

The mad rush couldn't wait until dawn. The Republic Pioneer wrote:

"Men already on their feet made a bee line to awaken their partners, who might be in bed, or rushed off to get pack or saddle horses. The quickest kind of packing was practiced, so by 2 a.m., just as gray dawn was creeping over the eastern hills, at least 60 men had mounted and departed southward, leaving a trail of dust behind them" (Steele).

A Noisy Exodus

The streets of Republic were so noisy that townspeople couldn't sleep. The exodus continued all day and into the next day. People poured through Republic from the mining districts of British Columbia. The newspaper reported that "nearly every prominent man in town had at least a grub-stake interest, and a few had put up considerable money." It predicted that "there will be a vast territory staked off, regardless of ledge, cropping or any other evidence of mineral (Steele)"

"It is safe to say that within 10 days, every foot of ground worth talking about will be appropriated," said the paper (Steele).

In all, 5,000 mining claims were filed within a week.

As it turned out, most of these eager prospectors rushed to disappointment. The South Half turned out to be far stingier in gold ore than the North Half.

Sources: Richard F. Steele, History of North Washington: An Illustrated History of Stevens, Ferry, Okanogan and Chelan Counties (Spokane: Western Historical Publishing Co., 1904)

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