Litchfield New Hampshire Gold Prospector, Adventurer, and Father of Alaska: Leroy Napoleon "Jack" McQuesten (1836-1900)

Leroy Napoleon “Jack” McQuesten

Leroy Napoleon McQuesten, (but usually called Jack) was born on a New Hampshire farm in Litchfield. When he was a young child, his parents moved to Portland Maine, where he grew up.

As many New Englanders did, he joined the gold rush to California. A tenderfoot teenager, he mined for a few years with his brother and cousins.  By age 19 he was fighting Indians in the “Oregon War.” In 1858 the McQuesten clan broke up, each going their own way.  Jack remained in the northern country, trapping and trading with the Native Peoples in the area of the Mackenzie River, using dog teams to travel over the snow.

After an absence of about half a century, “Jack” visited his family in New Hampshire. He found William and Henry W., with whom he had worked half a century before in the California gold rush, had returned to their New Hampshire farm homes, married and raised their families, but no other close relatives were living there. Leroy’s father and mother moved to Wisconsin shortly after he left home, and settled at Mineral Point, Wisconsin.

In his first letter to the home folks for forty-seven years he said: “I don’t suppose you boys will think I did very well, when I tell you I have a full-blooded Alaska Indian wife (I named her Kate), but I never expected to see a white woman again, so I took the best the country afforded, and we have a large family of bright children whom I dearly love.” They had eleven children, who were educated in Berkeley, California, where their parents settled on Hopkins Street, he having sold his interests to the Alaska Commercial Co., about the time of the Klondike gold rush, that his children might receive an education.

In 1878 he was prospecting on the Mackenzie River, crossed the Rocky Mountains to the outposts of the Alaska Commercial Co., on the Yukon River. He built Fort Reliance in 1879, and was employed by the Hudson Bay Co., then the Alaska Commercial Company, and used Fort Reliance as a trading post for about 12 years. While in charge of that Fort he made the first weather record in 1880-81. (The fort was 7 miles below Dawson and was the first white settlement on the Yukon). It was afterwards burned by Indians.

As soon as gold was discovered at Forty Mile Creek (40 miles below), he established a post there, and kept it until 1894, when he established the post at Circle City. Then he discovered gold on Stewart Run and amassed a fortune, panning out dirt estimated upwards of two  million dollars. He was known as “Golden Rule McQuesten,” but commonly called “Jack  McQuesten, the Father of Alaska,” or the “Father of the Yukon.” He went to the Northwest Territory with Al Mayo, Joe LaDue and a man called Harper. McQuesten River is named for him.

According to Wikipedia, “Yukon Jack,” the 100 proof Canadian whiskey and honey-based liquor, was named after this Jack McQuesten.


*Additional Reading*

Genealogy of the McQuestion Family

Leroy Napoleon (Jack) McQuestion: Bio and Photographs – Alaska Mining Hall of Fame Foundation

Jack McQuesten Plows His Field With A Dog

Alaska’s Gold

-Book: Early Days on the Yukon, by William Oglivie

-Alaska Digital Archives: Photographs of Jack McQuesten

-Wikipedia: Father of Alaska, Jack McQuesten

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One Response to Litchfield New Hampshire Gold Prospector, Adventurer, and Father of Alaska: Leroy Napoleon "Jack" McQuesten (1836-1900)

  1. Pingback: Ho, The Klondike: Portsmouth New Hampshire’s Failed Quest for Gold in 1898 | Cow Hampshire

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