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Syracuse Evening Herald / April 21, 1898

George W. Steele Writes to the Herald.

His Story of the Recent Awful Avalanche -- Helped to Dig Out Victims -- Difficulties in Climbing the Pass With Tons of Provisions to Be Hauled Through Snow.

George W. Steele of this city writes to the Herald of the awful avalanche in Chilkoot pass. Mr. Steele was encamped with his party about 1,000 feet below the slide at the time he wrote. He says a fierce snow storm had been raging for four days. The slides, he declares, began at 3 A. M., and continued for six hours with a roaring sound, which could be heard miles away. He was camped about three miles away. As soon as the horror became known Mr. Steele’s party joined the rescuers and relieved or dug out seventeen bodies or living persons. The party struck tent on the top of the snow. On digging down Mr. Steele discovered they were above the tops of the trees and yet their tent was soon buried under five feet of snow.

When the fatal storm began the Steele party had their goods within a mile of Chilkoot summit and they expected to find them covered by at least ten feet of snow.

People camped in the pass were so alarmed, Mr. Steele writes, that a long rope was secured and the camp was aroused. A man familiar with the road got hold of one end of the rope, which was 300 feet long, and as many as could, clung to the rope while the leader sought to reach a place of safety. They had proceeded only a short distance, however, when the slide cane, burying all but 15 persons. In Mr. Steele’s opinion there were at least 200 persons under the snow. Quite a number were taken out alive after Mr. Steele wrote his letter.

Speaking of his own experience in climbing through Chilkoot pass, Mr. Steele says: “I saw three wounded, and one woman killed, from sleighs breaking loose, or men falling and letting go their holds of sleigh ropes. The sled that killed the woman struck my rope 100 feet above me. As we near the summit, I find dangers I never dreamed of. Not an hour passes but that some dog or horse team becomes frightened and runs away. Down the hill goes team and sleigh, causing people on the trail to scamper for their lives, while team and sleigh land in a dead or ruined heap at the foot of the hill. I find the safest way is to put down a stake at the top of the hill, attach a pulley to it and draw up your sled by means of 1,000 feet of rope. In two days, with fair weather, we can put all our goods on the tip top of the summit. When it is considered that we have five tons of provision alone, you will see the advantage of our novel freight line system.”

Mr. Steele encloses an extra edition of the Dyea Trail. It is a sheet of paper 14 by 11 inches, printed only on one side. Among other things the newspaper contains a dispatch, signed by H. E. Batton, president of the City Council of Skaguay, offering Dyea assistance in the unfortunate affair. The message reads:

“Will you please say to the citizens of Dyea, in the name of the City Council of Skaguay, that if our citizens can be of any assistance to the sufferers by the sad calamity that happened at the Scales to-day, to call on us as one people, for we have a warm spot in our hearts.”



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