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Wealthiest Woman OF Klondike Gold Rush: Hot Water Bottles To Luxury Hotel

Belinda Mulrooney had no husband or brothers to rely on, but she believed she could be a “successful trailblazer” on her own. An estimated 100,000 people made their way to the Klondike between 1896 and 1900. Approximately 1,000 of those were women. Among them, was Mulrooney, an Irish native born in 1872 who was determined to make her fortune in the Gold Rush.

Hot Water Bottles, Silks And Cottons While other Klondike rushers lugged the required year’s worth of supplies over the treacherous terrain (See Klondike Gold Rush: Kings, Cons & Stairs To Heaven), Mulrooney took a different tack in the spring of 1897.

She hauled $5,000 worth of niceties instead of necessities over the treacherous Chilkoot Pass to Dawson City, including hot water bottles, silk undergarments and cotton cloth. In a matter of months, she turned her $5,000 bet into $30,000.

The Queen Of The Klondike Built A Dynasty
With her profit, Mulrooney opened the Grand Forks Hotel and Restaurant in Dawson. Not only did she make a handsome profit on the food she served, she ran all sweepings from the floor through a sluice which brought in up to $100 a day in gold dust that fell from her customers’ clothing.

Mulrooney saw that there was nowhere for newcomers to live in Dawson. In her first-person account in Klondike Women, she said, “lumber was as scarce as hens’ teeth,” so she hired young men to build cabins that she rented to miners.

She Worked The Miners
Instead of working claims, Mulrooney bought claims from discouraged miners. She soon became a stakeholder in one of the most successful companies of the time, the Eldorado-Bonanza Quartz and Placer Mining Company.

Appreciating her business acumen, a local bank hired her to run the largest mining company in the Yukon, the Gold Run mining Company, which had been in the red. She managed it into profit in 18 months, making her the only woman to run a mining company.

She Brought Luxury To The Klondike Mulrooney later opened the Fair View Hotel on July 27, 1898. It was touted in publications across country for offering the finest lodging in the area. The Fair View boasted great finery including brass beds, fine china and linens and cut glass chandeliers.

The very act of hauling all this finery over the passes into Dawson was an achievement unto itself. Mulrooney offered chamber music in the lobby and electricity throughout, which was generated by the engine of a yacht that was anchored in the harbor.

She Made One Big Mistake In The Klondike
Mulrooney generally worked alone, but for a brief time, she partnered in a venture with “Big Alex” McDonald, a mild-mannered Nova Scotian who built a fortune by purchasing claims from discouraged miners.

Big Alex and Mulrooney partnered in a scheme to salvage the cargo off a steamboat that had wrecked on the brutal shore. Big Alex got to the wreck first and cleaned out most of the valuables, leaving Mulrooney with a few cases of whiskey and rubber boots.

Not one to be out witted, Mulrooney told Big Alex that he would pay through the nose for attempting to cheat her. When the snow thawed out and the gold fields turned to mush, Big Alex desperately needed rubber boots for his many men who were working his mines. Mulrooney charged him a then astronomical price of $100 per pair.

Mulrooney Moved On
After conquering the Yukon, it seemed that Mulrooney yearned to continue trailblazing. When news of a bigger gold rush in Nome, Alaska hit the streets of Dawson, she moved on to new challenges.
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