The gold deposit found in 1902 north of present-day Fairbanks proved to be the richest in Alaska. Prospector Felix Pedro and trader E.T. Barnette played key roles in the discovery and initial rush. A second strike made the following summer catapulted a temporary trading post into the largest city in the territory.A Prospector and Trader MeetFelix Pedro, an Italian immigrant, claimed he made a rich gold strike in 1898 in the Tanana Valley foothills. While trying to find it again in 1901, he purchased supplies from E.T. Barnette's temporary trading post on the Chena River. The post was nearly a hundred miles from the nearest trail or gold strike. Barnette had been left at the site by the riverboat captain he had hired to take him to the upper Tanana River.
A Premature StampedePedro returned to Barnette's post on July 28, 1902, to announce a new gold discovery. Barnette sent word of the strike to nearby gold camps, exaggerating its richness. Seven hundred people then stampeded to the Tanana Valley. These rushers found the nearby creeks already staked, few claims being worked and Barnette charging high prices for supplies. With no money and no jobs, the stampeders camped near Barnette's trading post convened a miners' meeting in January 1903. They considered hanging the promoters of the new camp. Before there was any blood shed, Barnette agreed to lower his prices.
Striking it Really BigIn the fall of 1903, miners on Cleary, Fairbanks and Ester creeks in the Tanana foothills announced rich gold discoveries. Another rush occurred and 1,500 people were mining in the area by Christmas. The camp Barnette named Fairbanks grew into a city of saloons and two-story buildings. The amount of gold mined increased from $40,000 in 1903 to $9.6 million in 1909. The Tanana gold fields were Alaska's richest, and within a few years Fairbanks became the territory's largest city.