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U.S. School for Indians



SAW THE KLONDIKE.


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Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette / June 4, 1898

S. K. MYERS HAS SEEN IT, AND TELLS SOME FACTS

Inferred That It Is One of the Most Gigantic Fakes Ever Perpetrated -- Where the Big-Find Stories Originate -- Says he, “Don’t You Go.”

S. K. Myers, the music man, will not be numbered with the winners at Klondike, for he went there, saw how it really was and came home Thursday, thoroughly filled with anti-Klondicitis medicine. He left Cedar Rapids in March and was gone about three months.

The first desire he had to go to the fabulous gold fields was when he had read the accounts of the millionaire finds which all classes of people seemed to have made. The last was the individual with $60,000 in gold as a result of his mining propensities in the Klondike. Mr. Myers telephoned to Center Point the day after their arrival of the gentleman. His answer over the wire was like this. “Tinman is here, but he don't know of any wealth that came back with him.” Subsequently it was learned that the whole item was a gigantic fake, telegraphed from Seattle for the purposes best known to the transportation companies of Alaska. It was too late to change at that time, and Mr. Myers started for the gold fields. His first disappointment was at Seattle, where he found that the party with which he was to sail had left three days before. They were in too much of a hurry to wait for a straggler from Cedar Rapids. “I joined another party,” said Mr. Myers, in conversation yesterday with the representative of The Gazette, "but from the first it was everything but pleasant. One would think from the manner in which they went at it, that they believed you were the only man on earth, and that they would literally lay down their lives for you, but once ensconced in camp life the real nature of a cosmopolitan crowd became manifest. One wanted to be boss; another constantly sponged the good things that some other fellow had, while some stout fellow who looked as if he could pack everything we had over the Chilkoot would shirk the work, throwing it on to the rest of us.

“We took the steamer to Dyea and. It is but fourteen miles from Dyea to Sheep Camp, the literal foot of the famous Chilkoot pass. Sheep Camp is about three and one-half miles from the foot of the pass proper, but there is about two and a half miles of uphill climbing before the pass proper is reached. This path to the foot of the pass is a rise of probably 12 percent -- twelve feet to the hundred. One does not get lonesome on the route, for there is plenty of company made up of hundreds who are going in the same direction. To fancy the Chilkoot pass imagine, if you can, a land covered with snow and ice: no sign of civilization beyond the tents or shanties of the prospectors and the mountain just before you rising thousands of feet in the air, the straight and narrow path up its side and snow to its very edge, with the moving mass of humanity surging upward, each bearing an oblong pack on his back. Remember that you have already come two and a half miles up the mountains before you are in the small transitory settlement, which is designated the foot of Chilkoot. This group of shanties and tents is the abiding place for a few days of a restless crowd of humanity, all eager to reach the land of gold which never existed. The cost of transportation is heavy. We paid 3½ cents a pound from Sheep Camp to the summit of the pass, but a majority of the travelers bear their burdens to the little settlement and have them transported up the incline, a distance of probably 5,000 feet, for a cent a pound, where they take charge of them themselves and slide them down on the other side.

“The roadway for the pass is made of steps cut out of the solid ice. At stated intervals larger steps which might be called landings are cut out of the ice at the side of the route for resting places, and here the tired travelers deposit their burdens for a moment while they take a long breath. The company, the ownership of which I do not recall, has placed a gasoline engine inside of a shanty at the foot of the pass, and with a long cable which is fastened at the summit and a small sled the bundles are hauled to the top at the minimum charge of a cent a pound. Foot passengers are kept from falling by a rope which runs from the bottom to the top of the incline.

“I went eighteen miles on the other side of the pass into a camp which contained all shades of miners. There were two returning where one was going, and they were a disgusted lot, you may believe. It was about 400 hundred miles from this camp to the heart of the Klondike, but, a lingering hope still within me I made careful enquiry as to the prospects on up ahead. I found that on average, not more than one in 1,000 are getting the gold, and these only in small quantities. The reports of the fabulous finds are simply fakes, and if there are any in Cedar Rapids to still have a lingering belief that they can get rich by going into that country I want to say that the best thing to do is to keep out of it. I wish somebody who had been there as I have could have told me the situation.

“The fake stories start in the important mining localities, where the transportation companies have aides to start the reports, and newspaper reporters who are paid to keep the truth from the public. This situation exists as far as the summit. Beyond that the common carriers care nothing, and you get at the truth beyond the Chilcoot. One of the latest stories was sent out from Seattle after my return about a well known St. Paul man. They credited him with having made a stake of $60,000, and it was published in all the Seattle papers and sent into the interior. When the gentleman reached home, he published a card in one of his own papers, in which he stated that the only true statement contained in the article was that he had been to Alaska. As for taking out $60,000, the man said he was just $700 out for his experience. This is but a sample case.

“I do not know whether or not you would call it a narrow escape, but I came near being in that avalanche that killed so many people in the pass. I met a party of men at a hotel in Seattle soon after I reached there, and after we had become pretty well acquainted they asked me to become a member of their crew. I declined to do so, stating that it would be better to await the soft season there than to go to Alaska. They did not agree with me, and went on. When I reached Dyea. I found out that three of them had been caught in the avalanche and were killed.”

Mr. Myers did not say outright that the Klondike was the biggest fake ever perpetrated on the American people, but he inferred as much. Anyhow, he has been there, and knows.

 

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