Most Klondikers of the 19th century staked gold claims if they could. Joe Ladue staked what could be called land claims. And they brought him a fortune.
Joseph Ladue came to the Yukon from Schuyler, New York. He arrived in the territory in 1882 via the Chilkoot Pass becoming one of the first prospectors in the region. But he was more of an entrepreneur than a miner, even though he and Jack McQuestion prospected on Bonanza Creek well before George Carmack made the big find.
With increased activity in the region in the early 1890s, Ladue and his partner Arthur Harper opened a trading post at the mouth of the 60 Mile river, upstream from what is now Dawson City. They named the location Ogilvie, after their friend, surveyor William Ogilvie. Here they built and ran a successful sawmill.
In August of 1896, Ladue decided to move his sawmill from Ogilvie to the flat land at the mouth of the Klondike River. It was a move which would make him a fortune.
Arriving on August 28th, just 12 days after the big discovery on Rabbit creek, Ladue staked 160 acres of land and set up his sawmill. There was no coarse gold on Ladue's land. But it didn't matter. He built a store and opened it on September 1st. It was the first store in what would soon become Dawson City.
He also built a saloon called the Pioneer. In 1897, when the first wave of would-be miners began arriving, Ladue had William Ogilvie survey his land into building lots. The lots sold like hot cakes as Dawson City became the biggest town in the west.
In two years, Ladue was a millionaire. He then returned to New York state. But his Klondike fortune didn't do him much good. He died in 1901 from tuberculosis.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin