Archival Documents


Acklen family fonds [graphic material, textual record, object]

Creation Date(s): 1875-1935, predominant 1899-1907

Physical Description:
34 photographs : b&w prints. - 9 post cards. - 1 scrapbook. - 2 cm textual records. - 1 artifact

Bio Sketch / Admin History:
Joseph Anderson Acklen (Ackland) was born in Nova Scotia or Illinois ca. 1866. On October 23, 1894, he married Nancy Ellen White (b. ca. 1868, Pennsylvania) in Estrella, California. J.A. Acklen traveled into the Yukon from Los Angeles, California in 1898. His wife joined him in 1899, along with their daughter Charlotte, who had been born in California ca. 1896. Another child, Joseph Warren White, was born in the Klondike in 1900.

Prior to traveling to the Klondike, J.A. Acklen had been employed as a landscape gardener in southern California, where he had gained some knowledge of open ditch irrigation. Upon arrival in Dawson City he acquired a piece of land on high ground, on the right limit of Klondike River, near the mouth of Bonanza Creek. There he built Acklen Villa and established a farm and flower gardens. He was listed as a florist in the Canadian census for 1901.

Sometime after 1898 Acklen discovered gold on his property while digging an irrigation ditch to divert water from a nearby creek. He washed out some gravel for a few seasons, but recognized that he would need a better water source in order to make his high ground pay. There was an abundance of water in the Klondike, but the water level was too low to make pumping a feasible solution.

Determined to dig more from his land than carrots and potatoes, Acklen walked northeast from his property in search of a stream running at sufficient elevation to divert down to the Acklen farm. He soon found Moosehide Creek, a tributary of the Yukon, and quietly petitioned the Canadian Government for water rights, and for the right to construct a ditch and flume. By 1905 Acklen had secured water grants for Moosehide Creek and the Twelve Mile River, conditional on the construction of flumes and ditches by 1907.

Acklen was one of the first individuals to envisage the potential for hydraulic mining in the Klondike. His vision was to divert water from the Twelve Mile and Moosehide to a reservoir on his property 250 feet above the Klondike River. From there the water could be siphoned across the Klondike and up Bonanza Creek with a pressure sufficient for hydraulic mining and sluicing on water-poor bench claims.

Many believed that the Klondike was not ready or suitable for hydraulic mining, but Acklen was convinced. He sought interviews with Guggenheim agent, A.N.C. Treadgold, who was in the area looking for business opportunities. A deal was made, and Acklen sold his water-rights, titles and privileges to the Guggenheims for $400 000. The Acklen Ditch was eventually completed with Guggenheim capital.

J.A. Acklen left Dawson ca. 1906, settling his family in Seattle, Washington. From there he traveled to various old mining camps in the United States and squandered his fortune. He returned to Dawson City in 1910, reportedly claiming to have been recently in Peru. He was drinking heavily and was declared "insane" in Iditarod, Alaska in 1911.

In March of 1912, Nancy Ellen Acklen remarried Charles Pyne in Fairbanks, Alaska, and spent many years with him in the gold fields of the Yukon and Alaska. Charlotte Acklen married a Mr. Foley and had two daughters. Joseph W. Acklen completed elementary school in Juneau, Alaska, and later studied at West Point Military Academy. He married Jessie McDonald in Longview, Washington, with whom he had three daughters, Jennifer (Jinx), Jill, and Joanna. He worked for the Pacific Northwest Retail Credit Bureau.

Scope and Content:
This fonds consists of graphic and textual materials predominantly relating to the lives of the Acklen family in Dawson City at the beginning of the 20th century, as well as to the life of Nancy Ellen Acklen after the death of her first husband, Joseph (Jack) Anderson Acklen.

Graphic materials include: photographs of Acklen ditch, Acklen's villa, the "Potato Patch", and the Acklen family, as well as used and unused post cards depicting Yukon scenes.

Textual records include: a report card, postcards, a notebook belonging to Nancy Ellen Acklen, a diary and free miner's certificate belonging to J.A. Acklen.

The scrapbook consists of forty-three photographs of Acklen Ditch, members of the Aklen and Pyne families, and landscape scenes, as well as clippings about water issues in the Klondike, Acklen ditch, A.N.C. Treadgold, and members of the Acklen family.

Accession Number(s): 2008.11


Dawson City Museum is located in the Old Territorial Administration Building at 595 Fifth Avenue.
Phone: 867-993-5291 • Fax: 867-993-5839 • E-Mail: info@dawsonmuseum.ca