Chief Kowee, an Auk Indian who lived on Admiralty Island, should receive much of the credit for the discovery of gold in the Juneau area. With hopes of bringing prosperity to his people, he brought ore samples to Sitka where an entrepreneur named George Pilz offered to reward Indians who could lead his mining teams to gold. Pilz sent Joe Juneau and Richard Harris, two veteran prospectors, along with Kowee to locate the source of the gold. Legend says that Kowee literally dragged these reluctant prospectors up Gold Creek to what is now Silver Bow Basin.
Juneau and Harris loaded 1000 Ibs. of gold ore in their canoe and headed south to Canada instead of returning to Pilz in Sitka. Another of Pilz’s prospectors encountered them en route and brought them back to Sitka at gunpoint. Thus began Alaska’s first big gold rush, 16 years before the Klondike.
A boomtown was created: first called Harrisburg, then Pilzburg, then Rockwell, but the final name of Juneau was chosen when Joe Juneau used his first summer’s earnings to buy the votes of his fellow miners.