Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ralph Mozart Whitehead, Yukon Terrritory 1898

1898 Klondike Gold Rush Letters about the trip of Ralph Mozart Whitehead to the Yukon Terrritory in search of a gold strike during the heat of the Klondike Gold Rush. Whitehead writes to his mother in these letters. THE FIRST LETTER- Dated February, 9 1898 on "Hotel Northern-S.S. Bailey Proprietor" (117 First Ave. South) stationary finds Whitehead, a New York City doctor, just arrived in Seattle with intentions of starting a practice there. In this letter he describes Seattle (" the only trouble with the place is that it rains almost every day") and his plans for his Washington physcian liscensing. The foreshadowing begins in this first letter however as he writes "There is only one subject of conversation in the town and that is Klondike." He goes on to describe what he's been hearing and the gold fever in town. Then he writes "I met an old New York friend of mine here....he's with a small party.....they will leave... this week....he..immediately wanted me to go....I told him of course that, I couldn't go, even if I wanted to....I didn't have the price...he said.. I would stand a very good chance to make a fortune and would not much need to practice (medicine) unless I wanted" The New York friend comes back later in the day and offers $500.00 towards the $800.00 it costs to be outfitted for the Yukon. Whitehead proceeds to tell his friend he can't come up with the $300.00 either. SECOND LETTER- Dated February, 12 1898. On "The Occidental hotel" stationary (corner Whart and Johnson streets-Walter Porter, Proprietor) This letter begins with "It is the unexpected that always happens...". Whitehead is going yet he seems to be tempering his expectations of making a strike. He states their plan to prospect up the Stewart River as they are currently getting their licensces in Victoria. From Victoria they plan to go to Juneau, then D'yea, and "up over the Chilcoot [sic] Pass." THIRD LETTER- Dated February 18, 1898. Written on "The Juneau Hotel" stationary In excellent detail and language Whitehead describes the scenery seen on their trip from Victoria to Juneau, the ship whistle's echo within the mountains, a blinding snow storm, and seeing the aurora borealis. He goes on to lay out their plan after they reach the summit of the Chilkoot. He writes "Once at the summit the rest is easy. For it is all down hill. We get down to Lake Lindeman, and sled across the lake to Lake Bennett,. There we wait for a favorable wind and sail the sleds across on the ice which is very smooth. Then we pull over Caribou Crossing to Tagish Lake. Where we pass the Canadian Custom House.....they permit no one to pass, who has not at least 1100 lbs. of provisions....we each have about 1800 lbs. ..from Tagish lake we sail the sleds to the foot of Lake Marsh.....we will take the Mulchatna River...then over the Indian trail to the telin river. There we will camp and build two boats, while waiting for the ice....then to the Lewis, to the Yukon, and up the Stewart.....By this route we avoid the dangerous White Horse Rapids." FOURTH AND FIFTH LETTERS- Both Dated February 25, 1898. On "Lynn Canal Commercial Company..D'yea Alaska" stationary and one on "The Burkhard House...Skaguay, Alaska" stationary. He describes the weather and describes Skaguay writing "the town is a large collection of Bunkhouses, Restaurants, Bar Rooms, dance and gambling costs you a dollar to turn around and breath...dogs, that is Eskimos dogs, sell here for more than horses, they average about $300-$500 apiece!" From D'yea he writes "little shantes rent for $100 a month and lots sell for fabulous prices, all running on the boom. The hotels here are peaches, they have more draughts to the square inch than any other place..." and writes in detail concerning the costs involved in shipping freight. FIFTH LETTER-from Lake Bennett. He discusses how they are going to store most of their goods here and it will come down on barge later. He discusses, as he often does, there plans to stay ahead of the throngs of people on their way. He goes into interesting detail about their upcoming route and their plan to make claims. SIXTH LETTER-Dated March 28, 1898. From Lake Marsh. The majority of the letter discusses in detail the scenery and their plan for the coming thawing. SEVENTH LETTER-Dated April 13, 1898. From White Horse Rapids. In this and the last letter the "rumors' from returning prospectors has not been favorable. He discusses the how many "characters" are along the trail and how much "capital" humor Mark Twain would make of the trail. EIGHTH LETTER-Dated May 8, 1898. From White Horse Rapids. A beautifully crafted description of the aurora borealis, description of the strengthing rapids, and the thousands of boats that are beginning to travel the river.

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