The Spoilers

Miners used sluice boxes to wash gold from the gravel along Anvil Creek.

Norwegian reindeer herder Jafet Lindeberg, along with two American citizens of Swedish birth, discovered the rich gold-bearing gravels of Anvil Creek, Alaska. The discoverers were known enviously as the “three lucky Swedes.”


At first called Anvil City, the city of Nome sprang up on the beach near where Anvil creek emptied into the Bering Sea.

Jafet Lindeberg uses a shovel to demonstrate gold panning at his claim on Anvil Creek.


Called “the senator-maker,” Alexander McKenzie was the powerful Republican national committeeman from North Dakota.  He secured appointment of his lackeys as federal officials at Nome, then went north to steal the best gold mines at Nome.

Senator Thomas Carter of Montana tried to help McKenzie by supporting legislation to take the mines away from the Scandinavians.


Senator Henry Clay Hansborough of North Dakota was another McKenzie ally who unsuccessfully supported legislation to hand the Scandanavian’s claims over to claim jumpers.


Republican Senator Henry Teller of Colorado fought the claim-jumper legislation in the U.S. Senate.

Charles Lane bought Nome mining claims from Scandinavian immigrants, and used his own political connections in Washington to defeat proposals to invalidate his titles to the claims.  Then he went north for the final showdown with Alexander McKenzie.


Alexander McKenzie finagled the appointment of Arthur Noyes as the federal judge for Nome. Noyes first act as judge was to hand the gold mines over to McKenzie.

After Noyes was removed, his successor called the incident “the most flagrant prostitution of American courts known in our history.”

Lawyer Samuel Metson appealed Judge Noyes’ rulings to the federal appeals court. When Judge Noyes tried to have him arrested, Metson fled Nome. 


Rex Beach had been a prospector at Nome during the thefts by Alexander McKenzie and Judge Noyes. He saw rich material in the story, and turned it into his best-selling novel The Spoilers.

Judge William Morrow, on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, reversed Noyes’ rulings, and ordered the gold mines restored to their rightful owners.  The Ninth Circuit later jailed Alexander McKenzie and some of his co-conspirators, and fined Judge Noyes for contempt of court.

spoilers - 1905

The American public had paid scant attention to the charges and counter-charges about the attempted theft of the Nome gold mines.  But Beach’s novelized version of the affair, The Spoilers, brought it forcefully before the public.  The Spoilers was made five times into movies, including a 1942 version starring John Wayne, Marlene Dietrich, and Randolph Scott.


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