The Russian American Company discovered traces of gold on the Kenai Peninsula in 1850-51. American Alexander King made the first commercial discovery of gold on Turnagain Arm, between spring 1888 and fall 1889. King panned four pokes of gold out of the creeks. The first claim was staked on Resurrection Creek in 1893 by Charles Miller. Other miners arrived and fanned out to other nearby creeks, including Sixmile. In 1895, the Polly Mine, on a tributary of Sixmile Creek, had a good cleanup. That fall, the welcome news spread to the economically-depressed United States.
In spring 1896, three thousand gold seekers arrived by ship on Cook Inlet. The settlement at the mouth of Resurrection Creek is believed to have been named Hope City after young prospector Percy Lee Hope. The settlement at the mouth of Sixmile Creek was called Sunrise City, because of the way the sun appears to rise three times from behind the steep mountains. Merchants in the new cities sold supplies to the prospectors heading up the creeks to search for gold. Most miners took a ship south in September, but a few stayed through the winter.
Summer 1897 was the start of the Klondike Gold Rush, but a few thousand came to Cook Inlet also. The summer of 1898 saw 8,000 prospectors on Cook Inlet. For a few weeks that summer, Sunrise City, with 800 people, was the largest city in Alaska. During the boom years, Sunrise had three general stores, three saloons, a billiard hall, a restaurant, a hotel, a post office, a social hall, a cemetery, a ferry service, and a rail tramway that extended north to docks and warehouses near the mouth of Sixmile Creek. Sunrise City was the judicial center of the Cook Inlet, having a U.S. Commissioner and assistant U.S. Marshal. Hope had two boat landings, two general stores, two saloons, a brewery, a pool hall, a restaurant, a hotel, an assay office, a deputy recorder's office, a post office, a school, a social hall, and a sawmill. Hope City and Sunrise City were the oldest gold towns on the Iditarod Trail, a government mail route.
The value of gold produced in Turnagain Arm from 1895 to 1905 was over a million dollars, but Hope City and Sunrise City were fading. They lost people, businesses, and government offices to the new city of Seward. Building fires and a deadly avalanche hastened the end of Sunrise City. The last year-round resident of Sunrise, Michael Connolly, died in a boating accident in 1939. Hope residents continued to mine, but they also grew root crops and apples. The good garden soil added to the valley's appeal. The community population was approximately 50 people for seven decades. Except for the World War II years, mining has always been part of the economy. The leading mining families were Renners, Shells, Mathisons, and Clarks. Merchants George Roll, Iver Nearhouse, and Tito Kagimoto saw to community needs.