Belinda Mulrooney (1872–1967) was an entrepreneur and purportedly the “richest woman in the Klondike”. She made one fortune in the Klondike Gold Rush, lost it, and amassed a second, which lasted most of her life.
Mulrooney was born in Ireland. When she was young, her family either emigrated to Pennsylvania, where her father worked as a miner in Scranton, or sent her to live with relatives there. She set out on her own and operated a sandwich stand during the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. With her profits, she traveled to San Francisco in 1894 to set up an ice cream parlor. Undaunted when she lost everything in a fire, she found employment as a stewardess on a Pacific Coast Steamship Company ship plying its route from California to Alaska, earning extra money by selling necessities and luxuries to the passengers. Discovery of gold at Juneau, Alaska motivated her to move north in 1896. Then came the Klondike Gold Rush to the east, in Canada.
Instead of seeking her fortune as a prospector, Mulrooney bought supplies of “silk underwear, bolts of cotton cloth and hot water bottles” with her savings of $5000 and transported them over the Chilkoot Pass to Dawson City, where she sold them for six times that amount in June 1897. She built a restaurant in Dawson, then a roadhouse, the Grand Forks Hotel and restaurant, near the gold fields. Prospering, she started buying mining claims as well; by the end of the year, she either owned or was a partner in five. She sold the hotel for $24,000 and set about building the finest hotel in Dawson. The Fairview Hotel opened its doors on July 27, 1898, with a restaurant and rooms for thirty guests.
Mulrooney once partnered with fellow Klondike legend Alex McDonald to salvage the cargo from a small ship wrecked on a sand bar. McDonald got there first and took all of the food, leaving only gum boots and whiskey for her. She got her revenge, however. The next spring, when McDonald needed boots for his workers, he had to pay her $100 a pair.
On October 1, 1900, Mulrooney married self-styled “Count” Charles Eugene Carbonneau, who claimed to be a French aristocrat, but was actually a champagne salesman and former barber from Quebec. By 1903 or 1904, the couple separated, and she lost her fortune. She obtained a divorce in December 1906.
Starting over, she moved to Fairbanks, Alaska in 1904 or 1905 and prospered once again. She established the Dome City Bank in Fairbanks with her younger sister Margaret.
Mulrooney eventually retired to Yakima, Washington, where she had a large mansion built. She supported her family until her money ran out. She then moved to Seattle, where she died in 1967.
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