James 'Little Jim' Dunmire, left, with unknown fishermen at Sportsmans Lodge. The photo was taken in 1967.
This summer a 1969 interview of James “Little Jim” Dunmire by a representative of the U. S. Forest Service was donated to the Cooper Landing Museum. Little Jim and “Big Jim” O’Brien were mining partners and close friends.
They came to Cooper Landing in 1935 and moved into a log cabin on the Kenai River near Schooners Bend. It was built by Tom Towle, Frank Towle’s brother, about 1902 or 1909, from what I’ve been told.
In the interview Little Jim said: “I’ll tell you what we did. We just moved in there; it was abandoned, we took it over and we built a lot more garden, worked on the garden, raised a beautiful garden there year after year.”
The two Jims lived in that cabin until 1966 when Little Jim moved to another home in Cooper Landing. Big Jim stayed in the old place for another year when a fire destroyed the cabin and all their belongings stored there.
Friends in the community got together and built a small frame cabin for Big Jim, in the same location 14-by-14 foot. He lived there until his death in January 1968.
The Jims worked their mine on Surprise Creek close to 30 years. Little Jim talked about the older miners he met in his early years here.
“I knew lots of them, this is not a gold country and don’t let anybody kid you. Nobody in the whole country around here, including us and everybody else, we did more gold work than anybody in the whole d--- country. We drove 2600 feet a tunnel-not in hard rock, in gravel and clay . we put in all kinds of equipment, we put in compressors, drilling equipment, very latest, very newest, too. We could drill dry or we t . We sawed thousands of feet of lumber, thousands of feet of planking, sluice boxes and everything else .”
Although they didn’t get rich, the Jims occasionally found gold. “We had a day once-in-awhile when we’d take out $50 worth of gold we got the beautiful least, coarsest gold we ever heard of in the whole country around up here. We got it out of Surprise Creek and we brought it up and showed it to lots of people. Make beautiful ore earrings, We sold lots of that for earrings.”
James Dunmire died in, December 1969.
Two pieces of the Jims mining equipment, one of their claim markers, a photograph of one of their big nuggets and other memorabilia of the two Jims are at the Cooper Landing Museum.
By Mona Painter Cooper Landing Historical Society and Museum.
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