Bill Gates, popularly known as ‘Swiftwater Bill’, was an Idaho-born pioneer and miner. Around 1896, Gates left his job as a dishwasher and joined the Klondike gold rush in remote western Canada. Gates purchased a claim along the Yukon River and chanced upon one of the richest deposits in the Klondike. For a while Gates was reportedly cashing in more than $10,000 of gold each week, making him one of the Yukon’s most successful prospectors.
Gates also spent money as fast as he made it. He was a notorious spendthrift, fond of fancy clothes, high living and gambling. He was also a ladies’ man – and in the goldfields, this often proved an expensive hobby:
“As a matrimonial market, Dawson City [in the Yukon] has no equal on earth. Ladies are as scarce as gold dust… Any maiden, innocent or full of guile, can become a bride with a wedding present of thousands of dollars of gold dust within 30 minutes after arriving at Dawson City if she will but whisper her consent.”
Bill Gates was particularly infatuated with the teenage girls employed as dancers and waitresses in Dawson. According to legend one of Gates’ favourite dancers was fond of eggs – a scarce commodity in the Yukon – so he bought up every egg in Dawson at a dollar apiece. The main object of Gates’ affection was 19-year-old Gussie Lamore. In 1897 he tried securing her hand in marriage by giving Gussie her own weight in gold:
“…Bill was so smitten with her charms that he called on Miss LaMore the day of her arrival and wooed her with $50,000 of gold dust in a coal oil can.”
Bill and Gussie never married (some reports suggest she already had a husband). Gates continued to chase teenage girls, including Gussie’s younger sister Grace, Bera Beebe (whom he eventually married) and 17-year-old Kitty Brandon. His antics later led to a bigamy charge, though Gates managed to avoid trial, possibly with bribes.
In his lifetime, Bill Gate dug up and squandered at least four different fortunes. He was mining a large silver deposit in Peru when he died in 1935.