Felice Pedroni, best known by his Hispanicized alias, Felix Pedro, was an Italian immigrant whose discovery of gold in the then remote Tanana River valley of Interior Alaska, sparked the 1902 Fairbanks gold rush, which resulted in the development of Alaska’s largest gold district, frequently referred to by chroniclers of the day as “America’s Klondike”.
Pedroni was born on April 16th, 1858, in Fanano, Duchy of Modena, Italy, to a family of subsistence farmers. In 1881, following the death of his father, Pedroni arrived in New York City, and eventually assumed the name of Felix Pedro. Pedro traveled across the North American Continent, and worked in New York City, Ohio, Washington State, and British Columbia and Yukon Territory, Canada.
In each locale, Felix would work until he had earned enough money to travel again. Pedro finally reached Alaska sometime in the 1890s, before the 1893 Circle (Alaska) and 1896 Klondike (Canada) gold rushes. The Circle-based Pedro first prospected the Fortymile district near the Canadian border, and then the Piledriver Slough area near present day community of Salcha.
One of the best accounts of Pedro’s pre-discovery exploration efforts is based on interviews conducted by Alaska Mining Hall of Famer Genevieve Alice Parker with Thomas Gilmore and other early Fairbanks pioneers as part of her 1929 Bachelor of Science in Geology and Mining Thesis at the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines.
Parker’s narrative is a classic summary of how prospectors operated during the Alaska-Yukon gold rush era. In the following summary, contemporary names of rivers, streams and topographic features are used for descriptive convenience, many were unnamed during Pedro’s prospecting trips.
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