Gold Dredges in the North
It was an ingenious piece of police work. It wasn't the police who came up with the idea, but it worked, and resulted in the arrest of the man who blew up Yukon Gold Company's Dredge No. 1.
When the gold rush finally ended and the miners, with their picks and pans had retrieved as much gold as they could, the big companies moved into the Klondike gold fields. These were internationally financed firms, all looking for a piece of the millions Klondike gold would produce. The operation at the turn of the century had everything you could imagine in a modern movie - political intrigue, financial wheeling and dealing - back stabbing and more. The big dredges being used to clean up in the Klondike were expensive machines to build and operate.
Still, Dawson City was pretty much a law-abiding town. The North West Mounted Police saw to that. Major crime was virtually unknown, unless it was of the big business kind, and Mounties didn't have much to say about that.
So it came as a complete shock on February 22, 1913, when the dredge, sitting idle for the winter in its frozen pond near Bear Creek, was blown up. The dynamite used to create the massive explosion was stolen from an unlocked storage shed on the outskirts of Dawson. Nothing much was locked up in Dawson way back then. The massive dredge lay pitched on its side looking, as one witness described it, "like a wounded duck". In the snow around the dynamited hulk were ski trails. A major clue for the Mounties to follow.
A group of Swedes (though some say they were Norwegians) lived in the north end of Dawson. They kept to themselves and rarely had much to do with Dawson activities. They were also the few people in the region to use cross-country skis on a regular basis. One of the Swedes had also been seen frequently skiing in the hills around Bear and Bonanza Creeks. When the Mounties came calling he had a ready-made alibi. He had been out skiing in the early morning, heard the explosion at the dredge and raced over on skis to see what had happened. Since their were no witnesses to the event, the Mounties had no choice but to accept the explanation. A month went by and no further leads were found. The investigation ground to a halt.
Company officials were obviously not pleased. Who would dare attack their interests? And worse, not get caught. R.E. Franklin was head of the company's electrical department. He was described as an earnest employee, a whiz at his field and a dynamo of energy. Franklin was certain one of the Swedes had committed the dastardly act. He needed proof. Franklin watched the suspect's cabin. One day, when no one was home, he set up an ingenious device which involved hiding a Dictaphone in the cabin and wiring the gadget to a head set. Then he hid in the snow outside and waited.
When the Swedes returned to the cabin late that winter afternoon, they began talking about the explosion. They discussed in detail how they hated the capitalists who were running the dredges in the Klondike. They described themselves to each other as socialists who wanted, for some unexplained reason, to get even with the big money people of Dawson. Franklin feverishly took notes. Later, he said he was enraged to hear them talk about the big fat capitalists and the stupid police, all the while laughing at the stunt they had pulled off.
Half frozen, Franklin rushed to the police station and delivered the evidence. The Mounties paid a visit to the cabin and charged one man. At the trial that winter in Dawson, one man confessed and was sentenced to twenty years in prison. The million dollar dredge was rebuilt next spring and locks were bought and installed on all dynamite caches.