Sunday, February 19, 2012

North To Alaska June 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 W. Hearn from Wm. Hearn

Lake Lindeman, B.C.
June, Don’t know.

Dear Brother,

We are getting along finely and will so long as we can get plenty of beans and fried mosquitoes; and that just reminds me, when you boys come out here bring a plenty of barbed wire fencing to fence in your tent to keep out mosquitoes. I like Alaska much better than I did some time ago. The snow is nearly gone except in places and there are lots of different kinds of wild flowers in bloom; we can find pretty flowers not five feet from a snow bank, and there are lots of wild berries ripe. They are ripe before the snow goes off, don’t know when they bloom; that is what so many birds are after up here. It seems right home like to hear the (wait till I kill and skin this mosquito) Robin sings; I found a Robin nest this week with four eggs in it, was tempted to take the eggs home for breakfast but thought it would be to bad to do so. But “Billy” saw a chicken rooster yesterday running around, the only chicken we have seen in Alaska, and not far away he found a hen’s nest and we had eggs for breakfast this morning.

On the coast of Alaska is a great summer resort for the people living in the west. I am glad I can spend a summer at a summer resort.

I have had my hair cut and my whiskers trimmed English style, my hair was about five inches long and had not cut it before since last August.

If the people who write to me didn’t have any more paper than I have they would use both sides, but possibly they think I am short of paper and will need one side to answer. I walked thirty miles to the post office a few days ago to get my mail and received one from Minnie, and one from New Haven, Conn., he said he felt just like dropping me a few lines, he must be very high if he can drop a letter to me for I am about thirty five hundred feet above sea level. Sometime the clouds come down all around us and we can see only a few feet from us.

When I was coming from the post office a big mosquito pitched on my hand and I was going to let him “fill up” and then kill it and send it home, but I was afraid I would never get home if I should loose that much blood, so by the use of rocks I managed to kill it, and carry it home by its hind legs.

We have got our boat about done and now we can’t decide what to name it. Every boat must be inspected, named, numbered and registered. Our boat is eighteen feet long, three feet six wide in the bottom and six feet wide at the top, but I suppose you want to know how we like whipsawing and how it is done; first you must walk about five miles to find timber and then hunt half a day to find logs long enough, then after you get the logs the next thing is the saw pit, which is a framework about eight feet high, then get the logs on the pit, line it up, then you are ready for the saw. We put one log on the pit and decided it would be easier to put them out to the water edge and build a raft and float them to the saw mill and have them sawed, so we took the one we had on the pit and started to the water; we got nearly there and that was hard that we thought we had rather whip saw, so we went back and put two logs on the pit and put our saws together and begin to saw, we sawed about twelve inches and then we had enough of whip sawing. We didn’t have money enough to buy a boat and we couldn’t buy lumber; boats cost 125.00 and lumber twenty-five cents per foot, so what were we going to do? It looked like we were going back home, so the next morning we left our saw home and took our axes determine to pull those logs to the water, and they went along pretty well after we determined to do it, and after a little more than two days work we had them all to the water, and the next day we made the raft; we had 125 feet of 5/8 rope to make it with. Then came the fun for we had to build the raft on land as the water ran so rapidly that it was impossible to build it in the water. We build our raft on the banks of the rapids, brother to the White Horse rapids, where the water runs about twelve miles an hour. One man said he would not ride a raft through those rapids for a $1000. Another man said it was too big to go through. We left our watches home and everything that water would hurt, expecting to get a ducking. When it struck the water we jumped on and it started off as Ashland Malone said about the cars “H—bent for Dublin” it didn’t go far before the stream turned and we found that we could not do anything toward guiding it so we just let go. In turning the corner it struck the bank and swung around and started the other end first. I think it was the most crooked stream I was ever on, but we saw that if the rope would hold we were all right, but if it should break it was all over with us. That ride was the most fun and the most excitement I have had since I have been in Alaska and now wish we had another to bring down. We expect to leave here in a day or two if our boat don’t leak too bad; have not put her in the water yet.

These flowers were pulled only a few inches from a snow bank, there are lots of them here and any number of snow balls.

It costs us twenty-five cents every letter we mail or receive here, and will cost a dollar after we leave here.

Regards to all.
Wm. Hearn

2 comments:

Carol said...

I am thoroughly enjoying the letters fom Alaska. This one by far was the funniest. Thanks, hope there are many more to come.

Howard said...

I am glad you like the letters Carol. There are only about four more before they come back home.