The legendary John Schnabel was known for his extensive gold mining knowledge, which was documented in the Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush. He was a primary shareholder of the Big Nugget Mine and former mayor of Haines, Alaska. He sadly passed away in 2016 but John Schnabel left behind a net worth of $7 million.
Schnabel was born on February 11, 1920 and was raised by a wheat farmer in Kansas, United States. Their family lost their farm when The Great Depression hit the world from 1929 to 1939.
During Prohibition in the United States, John’s father began bootlegging booze. The former farmer was persecuted, so he decided to leave his family and escape to Alaska.
Because of his father’s absence, John stepped up to be the man of the house. At the age of 12, John got his first paycheck as a paperboy in 1932. With this, he became the Schnabel family’s breadwinner.
In 1939, the young worker ultimately joined his father in Alaska, where he saw the potential for success. John Schnabel relocated to Haines riding a steamship at 19 years old.
He began working in a sawmill alongside his father. However, Schnabel left his Alaskan sawmill position after the Attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. He decided to join the Navy and served as an airplane mechanic.
In 1984, John purchased his first claim at Porcupine Creek, now known as the Big Nugget Mine, when he was 68 years old. He initially bought it as a vacation place for his family but he eventually dug for gold. Later in his career, he got elected as the mayor of Haines, Alaska.
The Schnabel family became renowned gold miners in Alaska. Because of this, they were chosen to be the main cast members in the Discovery reality series Gold Rush, which started airing in 2010.
A year later, John handed over operations of the Big Nugget Mine to his grandson, Parker Schnabel, due to his declining health. As a major shareholder of the mine, he was always available for advice.
Parker then became one of the leading figures in Gold Rush. However, he left the family mine in season four to mine in Klondike, Canada on a claim owned by Tony Beets. John took over full control of the mine again and continued to work there until his death.
Net Worth and Earnings
The main cast members of Gold Rush such as Parker and Tony Beets were paid $25,000 per episode. Although John Schnabel mostly made cameo appearances on the show, it’s unlikely he received a payback from Discovery. However, the iconic miner didn’t care too much about money.
Before the Big Nugget Mine’s operations were televised, Schnabel had considerable amounts of gold on his claim. It’s reported he once discovered 50 ounces of gold in a single day at Porcupine Creek. As founder and head of the company, he received a massive cut from their findings. This is how he was able to leave behind a fortune worth $7 million.
After John completed his service in the US Air Force and married Erma Dire. They had five children and a number of grandchildren. Schnabel passed away in his sleep in 2016 at the age of 96, surrounded by close family and friends.