Tuesday, February 21, 2012

North To Alaska July 15 1898

William T. Hearn and William R. Bacon left the Salisbury - Delmar area January 31, 1898 for the Goldfields of the Klondike. They were two of about 100,000 people who went north in seach of gold, only about 4,000 would find gold. Moving from the Klondike they went to Alaska in search of gold and a paying job. They wrote a number of letters home to family and friends that were published in the Salisbury Advertiser. Over the next week or so I will post some of their letters home.


Letter to Harry Hearn from Wm T. Hearn

Dawson City, N. W. T.
July 15, 1898
Dear Brother,

We have arrived at Dawson City and I suppose you want to know something about our trip down the lakes and rivers. We left Lindman Thursday, June 23rd; run down to Lake Bennett in about one hour. There is a canyon between Lindman and Bennett where the water runs very swift and is full of rocks also which makes it almost impossible to run a boat through; nine cases out of ten you will strike a rock and tear the boat to pieces unless you have experienced men to run her. We gave a man three dollars to run our boat through, but he let us go with him, we wanted the experience of riding on bad water, enjoyed it very much, came through all right. Then we met a friend that we got acquainted with in Dyea and he said he would like to come down with us. He gave us $40 to bring him down. We left Bennett Friday with a good wind so we made good time, it was not too long before the wind got stronger and the waves rolled about eight feet high, but “Mena” rode them beautiful. We camped at the head of of Tagish Lake, the next morning was calm and clear so we had to row, in about three hours we came to Windy Arm, thinking we could get over all right by rowing we started across, the wind was getting stronger every minute but there was nothing to do but stick to the oars, we pulled three solid hours but then we could pull no longer and we saw the wind was getting the best of us so we raised our sail and started for shore; just as we reached the shore our boat filled with water and everything we had got a good soaking . We unloaded the boat and pulled her up out of the water to keep the waves from beating her to pieces. We spent the balance of the day drying our outfit; there were others. Next morning it was calm and we got out of that place as soon as possible, we reached Tagish house a while before Midnight, but did not leave there until the following Monday . Before leaving we had to have our boat inspected register and numbered. Our number is 13,980, so you can imagine something about the number of people that come up here; each boat will average at least four people. When the ice first broke up there were as many as 700 registered one day. Then we went on down six mile river to White Horse Rapids. The rapids was not just what I expected to find, but it is a swift piece of water, about midway there is a fall of about five feet, that is where its rough, after you shoot over the falls; but we got through all right kept everything in the boat covered with the tent. Wouldn’t have missed it for anything. Left there at 3 o’clock and by ten were at Lake Lebarge, and as we had a fair wind we decided to run all night as that is a bad piece of water to get over. About Midnight the wind begin to blow to beat the band, but we could not stop as the shore was very rocky and the waves rolling from ten to fourteen feet high. I lay down and was soon rocked to sleep in the cradle of the deep. Mena behaved nicely and was obliging as the two girls she is named after. We got across about eight o’clock and had breakfast and went to bed and slept all day. When we were building out boat the people at Lindman told us that it was no use to go to so much trouble to build a boat just to go down the river in but I remember what Mr. Hill had told me, “that anything worth doing at all, was worth doing well,” and I also knew whose life depended on that boat; and I was glad that night that our boat was well built, had it not been it would have gone down with some of the others. We were told by an old shipbuilder that it was the best built boat he had seen on the river. We started again at six in the evening and run down thirty mile river until midnight, went in camp by two big scows that had been wrecked they had an $8,000 outfit, lost half. Thirty Mile River is the most dangerous piece of water on the whole trip (I mean of any length) there are so many big rocks just under the water. There are lots of wrecks on that river but we had no trouble at all.

Continued on down to Five Finger rapids. There is but little danger there, very swift, but short and sweet. An hour’s run brought us to Rinks Rapids, there is no danger at all.

Fourth of July it rained all day so we stayed in camp. Tuesday about noon we entered the broad waters of the Yukon. The current in the river is so strong that we floated about five miles an hour and we had nothing to do but lie around and enjoy the beautiful scenery, which was very pretty. We arrive here Saturday, took a walk down town and to my surprise I found that one can buy almost anything here that you can in the States, and cheap too; pretty good oranges and lemons for fifty cents each, newspaper $1 each, chairs that sell for $2.50 a dozen in Salisbury, $10 each, and a coffin for $500. If I had brought some embalming fluid, case of instruments and a set of tools, I could make a fortune within a year, but I haven’t got them.

I think we go to work next week at $8 per day, unless I can get some tools and start up a shop, haven’t decided yet just what to do. It is no use to go out prospecting around here, for one hundred miles it is all staked off, and there is a ring here and unless you can get into the ring you can’t do much.

I have gained 25 pounds and am four inches larger in the waist, clothes all too small, healthy country, I have never felt better.

Since I have wrote the above we have got another job for three or four weeks at $15 a day. I have taken a trip up to the mines but they are nearly done washing and the nuggets on the bushes are not quite ripe yet, so I didn’t get any to send home.

Life here is altogether different from life in the States, it seems that we are living in another world. We are camping on the Klondike River, only about four feet from the water’s edge. Dawson is a city of tents of five and ten thousand possibly, more. They are just as close together as they can be and are a pretty sight. It is almost impossible to get into the postoffice, you have to stand outside and wait for about twelve hours. If you will give a policeman two dollars he will go in the side door and get your mail.

From Your Brother,
W.T. Hearn

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