If there is anyone Parker Schnabel has to thank for his massive success in the gold mining, then it is his grandfather, John Schnabel. A second-generation miner, John ran the mining business until he was 90 years of age, at which point he was too old to continue. After Parker pressed his grandfather to hand him the business, John complied with a few reservations and mentored parker throughout. Even though he passed away in 2016, John is regarded as one of the most influential figures on the Big Nugget Mine.
Early Life of John Schnabel:
John Schnabel was born on the 11th of February 1920, in Kansas. Born into a farming family, John’s parents owned a wheat farm but lost it in the great depression. Following the loss of the wheat farm, John’s father began dealing in moonshine. The business lasted only for a few years and as the police cracked down on moonshiners, John’s father moved to Alaska leaving John to fend off for himself and his mother.
Alaska, World-War II, and other things:
John was just 12 when his father left and took up a job as a paperboy. When John was 19-years of age, he decided to follow his father and ended up in Haines, Alaska. He joined his father in operating the sawmill, which was established by his father. When the attack on Pearl Harbour broke out, John joined the US Army and served as a pilot and mechanic from 1941 to 1946.
It took John quite a while to quell down the embers of war and get past the mental battle. In around 1980s, John had to undergo triple-bypass surgery due to physical inactivity. After being advised by the doctors to move around, John decided to take up mining.
“I got into mining due to health reasons. After a triple bypass surgery on my heart, the doctors informed me that I could relapse in less than 10 years if I did not come out of retirement and have physical activity every day. Since I still owned the mining claim ground, I elected to see if I could become competent and relearn the values in the ground that I could recover.”
Gold Rush journey:
After purchasing land in Porcupine Creek in 1984, John wanted to see where he could take mining. He began working on the Big Nugget Mine and continued working till he was 90-years of age. However, John never fully recovered from his heart problem and was no longer able to continue mining. At this point, John turned to Parker to handle the business. But before he handed over the business to Parker, he did manage to film the first season of the reality TV series, Gold Rush. During the second season of the show, John suffered from two heart attacks but pulled through. In 2013, John was diagnosed with prostate cancer and decided to pull his hands away from mining. He then handed the business to Parker, and while John had a few reservations at first, Parker managed to put them all to rest.
“It never came to mind that Parker could have a future in mining until he was 16. I decided to give up mining after I was diagnosed with cancer, and he asked me if he could continue operating the mine. Although I had a few misgivings, I finally gave in and helped him with paperwork and financing to give him a start. He has measured up in all areas, and I am proud of him.”
Even after leaving the show, John’s health continued to deteriorate and he passed away in his sleep on the 18th of March 2016 at the age of 96. He is survived by his wife, Erma Dire, their five children, and grandchildren.