Deception, and Decisions: The founding of Swanport

When the Excelsior and Portland arrived at San Francisco and Seattle in July of 1897 with their passengers laden with gold from the Klondike, the resulting newspaper stories triggered the Klondike and Copper River Area gold rushes.

In San Francisco, real estate developer Harry T. Renton, who claimed to have ascended the Copper River, quickly organized the "Southern Alaska Mining and Development Company," invested $20,000 in the venture, recruited a group of 45 miners, and chartered the top-sail schooner La Ninfa to carry the company to Orca. The La Ninfa departed San Francisco around August 24, 1997 and arrived at Orca on October 28th.


At Orca, they quickly learned that they could not sail up the Copper River. Deceived, misinformed, with winter coming on, the gold rushers had to make a decision: give up and return to San Francisco, stay in Orca and face the Copper River route's challenges or go to Port Valdes and try the old Indian route over Valdez Glacier. The party split. Charles Hubbard, who later found copper in the McCarthy area and developed the Primrose Gold Mine near Moose Pass, decided to attempt the Copper River route. Adam Swan joined Jack Shepard, one of the few men to have crossed Valdez Glacier, and headed for Port Valdes.

Whether Adam Swan reached his decision earlier or after arriving at Valdez, we do not know. But instead of hunting for gold, he claimed a townsite at "Swanport," and started upon a career of developing a permanent community in Port Valdes.

(Jim and Nancy Lethcoe are the authors of Valdez Gold Rush Trails 1898-99 ).

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