North To Alaska March 26, 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.
From W. R. Bacon to B. F. Kennerly
Sheep Camp, March 26, 1898
Only a few moments before dark and I will try and let you know how things are.
The man that has money here is O.K. and may really take things easy, but it takes cash. The ordinary mortals like Will and I get it far from easy. We are now about 17 miles from Dyea, at the last timber before the famous summit is reached. We had about ten miles of fairly good sledding after leaving Dyea. The trail is level but badly broken up. A man can carry over that part on his sled about two hundred lbs but has to pull it off about every mile and pack it across stream on his back.
We got here a little late, the ice was broken, had we been about three weeks sooner we might have made the ten miles in two days. We then are at Canyon City at the entrance to the Canyon, here the grade is very steep and a man can take only 100 lbs on his sled, or at most 150. That is two miles long when we again strike level ground, generally level but very hilly and holey, about 3 or 4 miles to Sheep Camp. Here we have quite a city, larger than Salisbury by far, but about nine tenths of the dwelling are tents . Have a little town of log houses, etc., where most of the business is done. From sheep camp to the scales is the worst part of the whole trail, some say, worst than going up the summit. There are three or four very steep hills that a man has got to pack his goods up, or, rope them up, get a party of six or eight and about 500 feet of rope and a pulley, put a sleight at each end of the rope and pull the one up the hill, that pulls the loaded one up; unload the upper one and load the lower one and repeat, either or any way you may take it, it is hard work.
There is quite a town at the scales where by-the-way, wood is two cents a pound, so they say, and its here where you go over the summit. It is about half a mile to the top, at an angle of fully 45 degrees if not more. There is a constant stream of people going over all the while. They have steps cut in the snow and a rope stretched up to steady themselves by, also little places cut out so a man may rest. Fifty pounds is a fair load for the ordinary mortal. Some of the Indian packers take as high as 150 pounds but they have been at the business for quite a while.
In coming down they just sit down on the snow and let her come. The only danger is wearing out pants and on warm days they get wet through on that end. They also have this rope system on the summit at the place where they slide down. They load a sled and get lots of people to ride down on the light sled which weight being more than the load of goods, naturally carries it up.
There are two tramways running, possibly three. The one that was advertised to run in connection with a railroad from Dyea has never run a day nor is there any railroad either. One of the tramways is in the bucket system carrying the goods in buckets. The others are sleds pulled up the side of the mountain. There is a gradual descent on the other side of nearly seven miles before getting to the timber line, and is a grand sight to look at seven miles and see nothing but snow.
The Canadian officials collect duty on the summit but they do not enforce the thousand pounds racket or ask any questions until you get to Tagish Lake about forty miles below. There a man has got have 1000 pounds of staple articles of food, besides luxuries such as tea, coffee, etc. The duty on food is very reasonable, on clothing and hardware it is about 25 to 35 per cent, on firearms 50 per cent, tobacco very high to. We are expecting to pay a duty of $75 or $85 on our outfit, if not more. We don’t give the goods in at actual costs, cut it a little. Everything takes money here and we can’t leave in a hurry. Common bread at 25 cents per loaf and very common it is too; Flour $7 per 100 pounds or $14 a barrel: oranges two for 25 cents , and so on, but you won’t wonder when you see that it costs about three and half cents to get anything here from the outside world and about two cents a pound more at the scales.
We are enjoying this life even if it is hard work and could give you all some points on bread making and cooking in general. The thermometer goes to zero at night but gets very warm in the day time. I have got to cut some wood to get supper so will close with regards to all.