While mining on Coal and Woodchopper Creeks were profitable large-scale operations, there are other examples of small-scale independent miners who also left their mark in the area. A succession of such miners lived and worked on Sam and Ben Creeks from 1898 until the late 1970s. Alfred Johnson and Sandy Johnson (no relation to one another) staked claims on the creeks in 1898, and settled into long-term subsistence mining lifestyles. They prospected, drift-mined, and mined with hydraulic methods during their tenure on the creeks. After 50 years on the creeks, Sandy Johnson sold his remaining claims on Ben Creek to Barney Hansen in 1944. Hansen, in turn, sold the claims to James R. Layman in the early 1960s. Layman and his son Dennis continued to mine in the area until the late 1970s.
Sandy Johnson, a Finnish immigrant, was a noted woodworker as well as a miner. He built Slaven’s Roadhouse as well as a cabin for Arthur “Cap” Reynolds, who also adopted a similar subsistence lifestyle of mining in summer and trapping by dog sled in the winter (see photo). He spent the last 23 years of his life (1927-1950) on Sam Creek. Another character who mined in the area was the infamous Joe Vogler of Fairbanks. During the 1970s he purchased 59 claims on Woodchopper Creek, using a front-end loader to scrape the earth for placer gold deposits. Vogler's political opinions and his vocal opposition to the National Park Service often launched him into controversy as well as into the limelight. Vogler’s disappearance in 1993 made newspaper headlines. His remains and the story of his murder eventually came to light the following year.
Last updated: April 14, 2015