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GOLD SEEKERS' PERIL


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Newark Daily Advocate / September 11, 1897

A Gloomy Prospect for Prospective Klondike Miners.

Returning Prospectors Say That but Few Who Went Forward Will Live to Realize Their Hopes -- A Starving Man Shot for Stealing a Side of Bacon.

In the mad rush for Klondike gold men are already starving to death. Of the thousands now hastening to Alaska, many will never return. Their bones will bleach under the snows of the deadly passes.

Gold there is in plenty, but it is not easily obtained. And this is not all. Starvation, disease, treacherous Indians, desperadoes who will commit murder for a biscuit, frightful storms and all the perils of an unknown, inhospitable and barren country await the inexperienced.

Men who are abandoning their homes to join the mad scramble for the new El Dorado should remember that once they have passed over the gangplank of the Alaskan steamer there is no way of getting back unless they turn about immediately, while they have enough money for transportation and strength to clamber into the boat. Over the entrances to White and Chilkat passes there might well be strung to legend, “Who enters here leaves hope behind,” for it is the sheerest luck if a fair percentage of those going in ever return to civilization or live to see fruition of their wild hopes.

One of the clearest accounts of the situation at Dyea and Skagguay, where several thousand prospectors are camped waiting to get over the divide, was given recently by George L. Fish, a prominent grocer of Oakland, Cal., who made the trip in order to see whether there was any chance for rushing supplies into the Klondike this fall. He found the outlook hopeless. He said:

“If you want to do a service to humanity, advise men and women to stay away from Dyea and Skagguay. The day I left Dyea there were three funerals. Two were those of young men who attempted to cross Dyea river. The last funeral was that of a young man who had reached the summit of Chilkat pass. He was entirely out of provisions, and, goaded to desperation by starvation, he stole a side of bacon. He was detected by two of the party from whose outfit he stole and was shot to death. An inquest was held, and the verdict was justifiable homicide.

“At least 5,000 people are camped at Dyea and Skagway, and the majority will remain there through the winter. Starvation and death will stalk among them. There are many lawless adventurers in the two little towns on the bleak coast, men and women of the stripe who will not hesitate at the commission of any crime when money and food become scarce.

“I was ashore for nearly three days, during which time I made close observations. People who had arrived at Dyea two weeks before had been unable to move owing to lack of transportation. There were 1,500 people between Dyea and the summit, and this included many women. There were about 3,500 from Skagquay road to Dawson through White pass and down to Lake Bennett. It is impossible to get through the pass, and there is a swamp of seven or eight miles to cross before reaching Lake Bennett."

He said few of the prospectors had the courage to advance, and many had no money to return.

Henry Gable, an old and experienced miner, who was one of the first to join the rush to the Klondike, has returned and tells a story calculated to deter others from going north in search of gold. There is hardly a trail in California, Arizona, Nevada or Montana with which Gable is not familiar.

When the news of the gold strikes reached this country, he determined to seek his fortune in the Yukon, left his mines in Arizona and went to San Francisco. Here he bought his outfit and supplies and left on the Umatilla, en route for the Klondike, via Juneau and the Chilkat pass. Now he is back, having sold his outfit, which cost $235. He learned from many experienced mining men at Juneau and farther up that it would be suicide to go before spring. He says:

“When we reached Barnum’s Bay, which is a little way from Dyea, I gave up the idea. I left the vessel, intending to go to work in the Comet mines there and wait until next spring, when I intended to go into the Klondike. I found the mines were deserted, as the men would not work there at this time of year, owing to the water, which fills the mines.

“The Alaskan mining men are positive that nearly all who are trying to go to get to Dawson City will be frozen up en route until spring, and their fate is uncertain. I will not answer for the lives of the ‘tenderfeet’ who are now going."

Thomas Magee, well known as a conservative business man and a careful observer, who accompanied his son to Dyea, writes from that point to the effect that the ignorance displayed by the crowds who are flocking to the Klondike fields is lamentable. Of the 400 passengers who sailed with him on the steamer George W. Elder, half of whom were from San Francisco, not one in 20 had any definite information as to how to reach his destination.

While the routes were well known, the details and conditions to be met with were not considered, most of the searchers for wealth hoping to settle all doubts and uncertainties when they reached Juneau. Instead, however, further confusion was created by the appalling statements that there were only two routes, each of which necessitated the encountering of almost insurmountable difficulties. There were plenty of advocates for both routes at Juno, but most of them were found to be interested parties. -- Chicago Times-Herald.

 

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