Gold Rush Wiki

John Schnabel (February 11, 1920 - March 18, 2016)

On February 11, 2016, he celebrated his 96th birthday. On March 18, 2016 he passed away,[1] surrounded by friends and family. Please show that we are all caring humans during times like this, and keep the comments positive and supportive. We are better than this.[2] He will be missed.

He was an inspiration to many and certainly is missed by many. John is survived by his wife Erma Schnabel, his two daughters, his son Roger Schnabel, his son's wife Nancy Schnabel, their sons Parker Schnabel and Payson Schnabel; and other family and friends.

Early life

On February 11 1920,[1] John Schnabel was born as a son of a wheat farmer in Kansas. Due to the Great Depression they lost the family farm, and his father eventually headed to Alaska.

At the age of 12, he made his first money as a paper boy. From his first salary he bought a loaf of bread and a block of cheese for his family.

In 1939, he followed his father and arrived in Haines, Alaska. He was 19, and arrived on a steamship on March 10, 1939.[1] He mentioned, that he saw Alaska as a place where he could be successful. [3]

Big Nugget Mine

In 1984, he bought a claim at Porcupine Creek - later known as the Big Nugget Mine. He bought the mine as a place to take his children in the summers. He got more involved into gold mining, and started making more money from the venture. As Parker Schnabel grew up, as a child he would spend summers at the mine with grandfather John.

He entrusted the mining operation to his 16-year old grandson, Parker Schnabel, in 2011. Since that time, John was around to advise his grandson. Once Parker Schnabel left the mining operation in Porcupine Creek, John resumed running the mine by himself.

John Schnabel became a legendary gold miner. He found fifty ounces of gold with several large nuggets at a section of his claim in one day, known as McKilrevie Bench.


Near the end of Season 2, John suffered a heart attack, but survived. During Parker's return to school, John once again was boss of the mine. In 2013, John was diagnosed with prostate cancer. His dream of mining Smith Creek Hill was documented in the episode Grandpa´s Last Wish, with Payson Schnabel and Parker Schnabel, his grandsons by his son Roger Schnabel and his wife Nancy Schnabel. In March 2014, at the end of Season 4, John was 93 years-old, and still active at the mine. In March 2016, at the end of the run of Season 6, he died at age 96. He was memorialized on the show in the special episode Remembering John Schnabel.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Gold Rush, season 6 (2016), "Remembering John Schnabel"