In the early 1900s, John Conrad, an American financier, took a bold million dollar move and consolidated gold and silver claims on Montana Mountain, which overlooks Carcross and Windy Arm. With the value of silver rising, development of the Windy Arm claims began in March, 1905.
Despite the crude methods used to drive the adits into the side of the mountain, work went well. In June, Conrad reported that $12 million worth of ore was in sight on the Montana vein alone. But how to get the ore from the top of the mountain down to Windy Arm, where it could be picked up by river boat and shipped to Carcross for loading onto the White Pass rail cars.
Conrad travelled to Seattle in mid-July, and ordered an aerial tramway system. It cost $80,000 and would rise more than 18,000 feet from a small bay on Windy Arm to the Mountain Hero claim.
Eighty ore buckets were suspended from the cable. Each carried twelve cubic feet of ore. It took about fifty minutes for a bucket to travel from the mine to the terminal at Windy Arm.
By August, 60 men were working on three main claims, and about 100 men worked on pack trails, wagon roads, buildings, and other services.
The first materials for the Montana tramway arrived, including several tons of iron and steel tramway parts.
As part of the Yukon government's commitment to quartz mining, a road-building crew was sent to Carcross to start laying out a road to the lower terminal of Conrad's tramway. The real Sam McGee was in charge.
Conrad City sprang up on the banks of Windy Arm, and the swaggering John Conrad predicted that the town would replace Dawson City as the Yukon's capital.
By 1907 Conrad employed more than 350 men in the mines, while 150 scoured the hills in search of further mineral deposits.
Five hundred people lived in Conrad City. It boasted six hotels, hardware and grocery stores, butcher, barber and blacksmith shops, several churches, a hospital, a newspaper, a telegraph office, and a Mountie detachment.
By 1909, several thousand tons of ore had been shipped to southern smelters. However, the ore was generally patchy, and of a lower grade. Conrad's bounding enthusiasm, determination and fast depleting money supply could not overcome that. The cost of transporting thousands of tons of mining machinery to the mines and shipping the ore to market on the White Pass railway was hugely expensive.
Conrad took the White Pass to court, saying that the carrier's rates were five times those of any other outfit on the continent. The case dragged on for years. Finally, an international commission ruled that if White Pass reduced their rates, the corporation would go bankrupt. Instead, Conrad Consolidated Mines went bankrupt.
In April 1912, "Colonel" John Conrad left the Yukon. On November 27, 1928, John Howard Conrad died of heart failure in Seattle.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin