Orville G. Herning Alaska Correspondance 1898
Letter written by Orville George "O.G." Herning to his employer, in
About his 1st season in the Willow Creek Mining District of Alaska,
as the Head of the Boston and Klondike Gold Mining Co
"In the spring of 1898, when the Alaskan Gold Fever was at its height,
I decided to try my luck in finding some of the precious metal and as E.
C. Davis & Co., of Boston offered the best inducements to go to Alaska,
I decided to take the management of their Expedition No. 4 and go to Alaska
for eighteen months as their contract called for.
I was notified that their Expeditions 2 and 4 would leave Boston, Wednesday,
March 23rd by special car for Seattle, Washington and to be on hand on that
date. With my family, I arrived in Boston on the 22nd and completed final
arrangements. To leave home and loved ones, to be gone nearly two years and
travel some ten thousand miles, is no pleasant sensation and as we were waiting
for the train to depart from the Boston and Maine Depot, there was a gathering
of friends and loved ones that will long be remembered. As the train pulled
out of the depot, I kissed by baby boy from the car window and his little
face is in my memory still. Many the man could be seen wiping the tears
from his eyes, from the effect of his departure and not knowing whether
he would ever see his home and loved ones again.
On we rolled and the next morning we were in Montreal. The next
evening we arrived at Toronto and we had an opportunity to see the town
as we had to lay there five hours. At 2 PM on Friday we arrived in
Chicago and at 4 PM we departed for St. Paul, arriving the next morning
at 9 AM. At St. Paul my sister, brother and cousin met me and
I received a letter from my father sending his regrets. My sister presented
me with a basket of eatables to supply the inner man while journeying over
the Rockies to Seattle on the Pacific Coast.
We departed from St. Paul at 1 PM Saturday the 26th, over the Great Northern,
being furnished with a new tourist car, right from the factory and our first
days travel was delightful and pleasant. On Sunday, we were passing
through North Dakota and the eastern boys seemed to take great pleasure in
viewing the broad plains and now and then seeing a jack rabbit or an antelope
or perhaps a prairie wolf hopping along over the plains. As we neared
the Rockies, we got a good view of the cattle ranches and it looked rather
cold and lonesome to see the cattle moving about in the snow covered grass.
As we were passing over the mountains, we heard that the train preceding
us had been held up by highwaymen and it gave the boys quite a fright.
That night, when we retired, someone moved that we put a man on guard at
each door of the car with a rifle and as no one would volunteer to act, we
loaded up our guns and each man retired with the understanding that he was
to protect himself. Then we awoke in the morning, one man shouted out
I've been robbed but we found his revolver kicking around on the floor.
Of course the boys gave him a laugh and that wound up the hold up business.
As we passed over the switchback we viewed some elegant scenery and on
the run down, the engineer nearly derailed the whole train by applying the
air brakes too quickly. When nearing Spokane, the boys amused themselves
by shooting at the ducks and geese from the car windows. We were delayed
two hours by the section man who had put a blast in the side of the cliff
and landed several tons of rock on the track and on account of the snow had
lost five hours on the trip from St. Paul, we arrived in Seattle however
on Tuesday the 29th, only a few hours late and at once took up quarters at
the Hotel Seattle.
April 1st, we were to sail north on the steamer Whitelaw, but on our arrival,
learned that she had burned to her waters edge at Skaguay. Then we
were billed to sail on the Noyo in a few days and during this time we bought
our necessary Klondike supplies from the Seattle Trading Co. and had our pictures
taken and we were ready to sail at a moments notice. Day after day
passes on, and no Noyo, so we put up a great big kick and got transferred
to the Dirigo and on the evening of April 12th, we finally got away.
It was rather a dark night but there was the usual large crowd on the wharf
to give the would be Klondikers three cheers as the boat threw off her lines
and steamed out into the sound.
Soon we were going at full speed and on our way to Cook Inlet via Linn
Canal, Port Valdes on Prince William Sound. The first night passed
all ok and the next day we had quite an exciting time in trying to stem the
tide up through the Seymour Narrows. We arrived at Wrangle in the night,
so we could not get a good view of the town. The second day we busied
ourselves in viewing the beautiful snow-capped mountains and the day passed
off pleasantly. The third day we arrived at the typical mining town
of Juneau, and for a few hours took in the town. Saturday the 16th,
we arrived at Skaguay and Dyea and had an opportunity to view the remains
of the Whitelaw and the Bark Mercury that was blown ashore by one of those
noted Skaguay winds. We also took in the town and got a good view of
the trails that lead to the north.
Sunday the 17th, while passing through the Icy Straits, our condenser
gave out and we put into Hooney Mission to make the necessary repairs.
The Capt. gave us the use of his boats and we all went ashore to view the
Indian Village and grave yard. There was some 700 Indians at this mission
but they were mostly all out for their summers hunt. Monday, the Chief
Engineer came to the conclusion that he couldn’t repair the condenser, so
we put back to Juneau, arriving there, Tuesday morning, April 19th.
On our arrival at the wharf we ran into a coalier called Czarena and knocked
a big hole in her side. She had to put over to Douglas Island and beach
her in order to save her from sinking. We were delayed 8 days at Juneau,
so we had a good opportunity to go prospecting and to go through the Great
Tredwell Quartz Mine.
On Tuesday, April 26th, at midnight, we departed on our journey to Cook
Inlet and on Wednesday, we got a grand view of Glacier Bay and the Brady
Glacier and then passed out into the open sea for the first time in our journey.
It was then that the boys began to throw up all their old shoes and to think
of Home Sweet Home. On Friday the 29th at 10:30 AM within six miles
of Valdez we got off our course and went aground. When the tide left
us, the bow of the boat lay high & dry and the stern was in 16' of water,
but she layed easy and as the sea was calm we had no cause for alarm.
One of the other Pacific Whaling Co. boats came to our rescue and put our
Pilot on course and at high tide we managed to pull her off, but before we
got to the main channel we grounded again, then by twisting and backing and
playing the merry go round, we finally got into the channel and in a blinding
snow storm and darkness, finally managed to reach Port Valdez OK.
The next morning when we awoke we found a foot of snow on the deck and
it was still snowing. That discouraged a good many and only 18 passengers
were landed, the rest preferring to try their luck in going to Cook Inlet.
Saturday, the storm was so thick we couldn’t get a good view of the Valdez
Glacier, but we did see where the Cowboy was hung and the steam snow plow
that proved a failure and then in a blinding storm we sailed direct for Cook
As we were passing out of the Sound, our boat put me in mind of a Minnesota
snow plow plunging through the drifts, the snow was that thick on the water.
As we passed out to sea, we encountered a heavy gale. For 2 days, our boat
rolled from gunnel to gunnel. There was but few that reported for their meals
and during the storm the Davis Launch was all but washed overboard.
One of the Revere parties (Burrows) died from sea sickness and we buried
him in the briny deep as we were entering the mouth of Cook Inlet.
On Monday, the 2nd of May, at 11 AM we arrived at Tyoonok and, before
landing, the Captain gave us a good dinner, which was most cordially accepted.
Twenty days was rather a long voyage but no one complained, as we found we
had arrived in due time but would have to wait 2 or 3 weeks before the ice
broke up in the rivers so we could go prospecting in the interior.
Our goods were all landed safely on the beach and the first night we covered
our provisions with one tent and all slept in the other. That night
it rained but the next morning was clear and fine. It was an amusing
scene to see all the new arrivals preparing their morning meal, some were
getting the wood, some the water and others mixing dough for their flapjacks
etc. Other boats arrived daily for about a week and in a short time
there were 300 tenderfeet camped on the beach, with all the conceivable outfits
that money could buy and of course, everyone "had the BEST outfit".
The first thing to consider was to find a location and how to find it
was THE question. There was the usual boodler around, ready to locate
you or sell you a claim and all kinds of stories were going the rounds as
to the best place to locate. We finally got onto a new district from
an old timer and as his propersition was within the bounds of reason we concluded
to follow his instructions.
The first 2 weeks, Tyoonok Beach was turned into a shipyard and one could
see all kinds of boats being constructed, from a wagon box to a steam scow.
Knowing the danger of navigating the Inlet, and as we couldn’t purchase suitable
lumber for building a boat, we decided to purchase a boat that had been
used for sealing and it proved to be a most valuable purchase.
The first day that we launched our boat, to see how she would sail, we
nearly capsized it and then we learned a timely lesson. On this same
trip, one of the boys accidentally fired off his gun, the charge passed between
mine and another companions head, then to finish up with, we got caught
in one of those noted 'Turnagain Arm blows' and for one hour we had to stem
the tide and pull for dear life, before we could reach the shore. That
proved to be a day of most valuable instruction and it proved to guard us
from the dangers that lay before us and you can bet we were very cautious
in the future and took no chances that experience had taught us to avoid.
There was two deaths on the beach within a week, one from natural causes,
the other from poisoning and one man died on the 'SS Morgan City' who got
caught in a snow slide on the Valdez Glacier. The young man that died
from poisoning was caused from eating desiccated cabbage and one peculiar
thing that occurred, that will long be remembered. As he was breathing
his last, our Mr. Brown played softly on his violin, "In the Sweet By and
By" and several of the boys joined chorus and not knowing that our neighbor
was passing from this land to that beautiful shore until we was informed
by his companion. This man belonged to the Patterson Party of Kansas.
They were out for a banking firm and his death caused the party to disband
and return home at once, taking their companion with them. It caused
especially the married men on the beach to do some serious thinking of their
loved ones at home and the future that lay before them.
On May 25th, Mr. Johnston notified us that it was time to start for our
new diggings and that he would take us, on his sloop, to Knik Station on
the Knik Arm and to make ready at once. I made up 3 sacks (65 lbs.
each) and with Butler and Burrows, we sailed on the next tide. It was
a dark cloudy day but we made Fire Island OK and anchored for the night.
The next day at noon we arrived at Knik Station, a distance of 75 miles northeast
of Tyoonok and after hiring an Indian guide, we made ready to start on the
trail the next morning. It was the 27th at 9:30 AM when we got away
and the first day we made 15 miles and camped at the 1st lake on the route.
That evening the Indians dog got poisoned and as we were trying to administer
to him some bacon grease, the dog bit the Indians thumb, through and through,
so we then turned our attention to cauterizing the wound, for it wouldn’t
be a very pleasant thing to have an Indian go mad in the woods carrying a
rifle, with us only armed with our revolvers and loaded down with a heavy
pack on our backs.
The second day we arrived at the Little Sushitna River and as the water
was high we had to fall a tree in order to cross over and that evening we
arrived at the foothills of the mountains and camped for the night.
That night was our first opportunity to get a good look at the peculiar
freaks of the bears and just then we saw two caribou pass along, but not
within range of our guns. It rained that night so we didn’t leave camp
until noon the next day, when we proceeded to climb the mountain. All
went well on ascending the south slope, but when we began to descend,
there we found snow, anywhere from 2' to 10' deep and as the crust was not
strong enough to hold us up, we had to play the up and down until we reached
the valley below. Then our guide seemed to be lost, at any rate, he
set fire to a large spruce tree and fired off his rifle a couple times but
got no reply. We were wet from head to foot and as darkness was coming
we camped for the night. After cooking our supper, we sat around the
camp fire and dried out our clothes the best we could and occasionally took
a drink of Jamaica Ginger to warm up the inner man, then retired for the
The next morning the weather was fine so we started out to look up the
miners camp and in a short time we found them located on Grub Stake Gulch,
a branch of Willow Creek and they were quite surprised to know how many happened
to find them. When we made ourselves known, they became very friendly
and invited us into their cabins. We found four cabins on this gulch,
occupied by Messrs. Herndon, Morris, Brainard, E’Van and Capt. Andrews and
his family (consisting of his wife, mother and baby girl, six months old).
After prospecting a couple of days with Capt. Andrews, we located 15 full
placer claims then built 2 sluice boxes and took out a nice sample of gold.
Our grub was getting low by this time so we had to make ready to return to
our camp. On June 11th, we held a miners meeting with O. G. Herning
as chairman and Billy Morris as Secretary and formed the Willow Creek
Mining District, with L. H. Herndon as recorder. At the close of the meeting
we experienced an earth quake that shook the gold dust off the recorders table.
Then we had an exciting time in falling a log over Willow Creek and before
we accomplished the deed, Mr. E’Van fell in and got a free cold icy bath.
We Were then ready to leave for our camp by way of the Big Sushitna River
and we started on our journey at 6 PM and that night camped at the foothills
and as the mosquitoes were just ripe, we were given a very warm reception,
one that will not be forgotten for many a day. The next day we pushed
on through swamps and tundra and toward evening, discovered that a forest
fire was close upon us. As luck seemed to come our way we came to a
small stream and in a short time we came to a sand bar so we decided to wait
for developments and in a short time, the Fire King was upon us, roaring
like a cyclone. We buried our blankets in the sand and made ready to
jump into the stream if compelled to and just then the fire swept down the
opposite side of the creek and it kept us very busy, in brushing the sparks
off each other. Then it swept down our side, but as it was mostly balms
and alders, we stood the roast all OK and only came out partly parboiled,
with a few holes in our clothes. That night, as the mosquitoes had all
been burned up, we slept in peace and comfort. The next morning we
started out early and congratulated ourselves to think we escaped the Fire
King, so lucky and we thanked the Lord because all the mosquitoes had
been burned up, but to our surprise we soon came to the end of the burned
district and we soon met an army of birds thicker than ever. They nearly
drove us mad, so to escape them we decided to build a raft and float the stream.
In two hours our raft was ready and away we went down the narrow channel.
After rounding a bend or two, we struck the bank and our raft went to pieces.
Big George jumped ashore and said 'that is all the rafting I want, I had
rather fight the birds', so we proceeded on the old way and that night reached
the Sushitna River and found we were a great way out of our course.
As the river was free of driftwood and as our supplies were getting very low,
I proposed that we build another raft and float down to the A. C. Co., station,
but Big George said 'no, when the grub is all gone, then we will talk about
that'. We traveled on for 2 days and came to no signs of a living soul.
We had been told the A. C. Co. station was on an island in the river,
we passed some hundred or more islands and at every one would let out three
war hoops that would cause the woods to tremble, but no reply came and it
seemed that we were doomed to pass out our checks on the other shore and arrive
there on an empty stomach. Our last meal consisted of one small biscuit and
a piece of bacon as large as the heel of your shoe and it was then that Big
George consented to try his chances on another raft and he said, 'I had just
as soon go to H--- on the water as to starve to death on land', so we commenced
to build a raft which consisted of three large spruce trees, 24' long, withed
together with clamps at either end.
We were two hours in building our craft and after launching her, I wrote
our names on the stumps of the trees as well as on the ends of the logs so
that if no one lived to tell the story, someone might perchance to find our
message and make our whereabouts known. It was the 16th of June at 1:30 PM
that we got aboard our craft. Big George stood on the bow with a long
poll in his hand to keep her off the bank. Butler, our sailor stood in the
stern with a 16' oar to propel the craft and I sat on the baggage in the
middle with a paddle to help steer her. We said, here goes nothing and
pushed her out into the swift current that was running 15 miles an hour and
we were soon going at that rate of speed.
We soon found that by our mechanical arrangement that we had perfect control
over our Revenue Cutter and on we went around bend after bend in the river.
All at once before us, we beheld a large body of water that resembled the
Inlet and just then two canoes could be seen moving at a great rate of speed.
Big George shouted 'put her ashore, we are lost sure if we get into this
big body of water' and just then we were in it and we caught sight of the
Indian Village and the station two miles below. Of all the shouting
one ever heard and it brought the Indians to our rescue. They gave us
a tow line and then commenced to paddle to the shore. They worked like
heroes and after a hard struggle they finally landed us all safe.
You can bet our hearts and minds were relieved when we stood on the shore
once more, then I gave them 2 bitts each to take us down to the station.
At the station, they all said we were a sight to be pitied. Butler had
no shoes, his pants and shirt was nearly gone and all I had left of my shoes
was the soles. Our pants were worn off up to the knees and in fact
a better trio couldn’t have been found for the Dime Museum. The A.
C. Co. agent, Mr. James Cleghorn, gave us a warm welcome and invited us into
tea. We never ate a meal that tasted so good as that one which consisted
of pork and beans, corned beef, bread and butter, cheese, canned peaches,
apricots, fancy crackers, with good tea, cream and sugar.
We expected some of our boys would meet us at this station, but we learned
that they had only got as far as the mouth of the river, so I gave the Indians
$5 to take us down to our camp and we left the station just at three o’clock
and arrived at our camp at six, making the 30 miles in just 3 hours.
This was my first ride in a birch bark canoe and in a short time I could
handle the paddle as well as the Indian. The only unpleasant part of
this journey was the water slopping in the canoe and wetting the seat of my
When we arrived at our camp (which is known as Camp Kirk), supper was
ready and you can bet we didn’t refuse to sit in with the boys. When
we told our story of the trip and then showed the boys our sample of GOLD,
it made them hysterical with joy and why not, we were the first to get located
and show color, out of the 300 that were camped on Tyoonok Beach and on our
return they were most all there yet. It was no trouble to find friends
and in fact some tried hard to marry us. Our boys had moved about
half of our supplies to the mouth of the river while we were away and on
June 27th we completed the task of moving our supplies over Cook Inlet.
In summing up what we had accomplished on our prospecting tour, we were
gone just 23 days, we located 300 acres of placer ground, took out a nice
sample of GOLD and moved 10 tons of supplies twenty-five miles which is
not a very bad record. On our last trip, the Inlet was rough, so we
had to leave some of our supplies at Three Mile Creek. Messrs Thorne,
Butler and Young volunteered to return for those supplies. It was
calm when they started out but before they arrived at Three Mile Creek,
they got caught in one of the Turnagain Arm blows and when they landed their
boat was half full of water. Only for having the staunch little Sea
Otter boat they would surely have been drowned. We realized then that
our investment in that boat was the proper thing and we considered our money
well invested. On June 30th, we experienced another earth quake.
It tumbled our baggage around in the tent and gave some of the boys quite
a scare, via, Kirkpatrick and Dinneen. July 2nd, Mr. A. Beverley Smith
of N. Y. took a picture of my party at Camp Kirk and on the 3rd, we started
up the river with two loads of provisions. The first day we made ten
miles very successfully, then camped for the night. This was the first
time that the boys really got acquainted with the Mosquitoes and then realized
that our story was a good story and a true story in regard to our hardships
when returning from the mines. The 4th of July there was no wind and
we only moved up the river two miles. The 5th, we didn’t do much better
and we nearly lost one of our boats. The boys with the Sea Otter
Boat were trying to get around the end of a bar and the current was so strong
that it set them over on the other side. While they were trying to
make a landing, their mast caught on the end of a wind fall and for about
a minute their boat stood nearly on end. Again we congratulated ourselves
on owning such a good boat and only for the boat being decked in, she would
have sunk surely.
The 6th, we got a good wind and that night we arrived at the Station all
OK. On the 7th, we rented an Indian cabin and cached our goods and in the
afternoon put back to our Camp and made the return trip in just five
hours, so you can judge as to the swiftness of that river.
As our boys now knew the course up the river, I decided to take six men
and some supplies and start at once for the mines. That same night
I stayed up all night, selecting out our provisions and getting the packs
ready so we could leave the next morning.
The 8th was a fair day and we got away on the out-going tide on the Inlet
for Knik Station by way of Knik Arm. There was several that intended
to follow us but our course deluded them and we gave them the slip in good
shape as they thought we were going to Tyoonok. We didn’t get far the
1st day as the tide left us and that night we camped on an island near the
east fork of the Sushitna River where several tender feet had been camped
for two weeks and were waiting for Ladd’s launch to come and take them back
to Tyoonok. They claimed the country was no good and were going to
return to home sweet home. It is these kind of wood-be prospectors that
condemn the country. They camp for a few days in the mud flats or on
the beach, same as these men did, get discouraged, then put back for home
without prospecting even one pan of dirt, openly declare that there is no
gold in the country. The 9th, we started out again and all we had to
give us the course was the charts that Mr. Johnston furnished us. The weather
was fine and we got along very well and after being left on the mud flats
one hour, we arrived at the mouth of Knik Arm but finally got caught in a
rain storm that wet us from head to foot. That night we camped on the
beach and at high tide the water came up within a foot of our tent.
The 10th was Sunday and we arrived at Knik Station all safe and prepared
to do some baking to last us while going over the trail to the mines.
On the 11th I hired two Indians to guide us to the mines and with our two
boats we started out to boat up to the government camp, 12 miles above.
By some misunderstanding the Indians took us up the Matanuska River and that
night we camped at Palmer’s store, which was 25 miles out of our course.
We returned the next morning to Knik Station and camped there that night.
The 13th, when ready to start for the govt. camp, we discovered that our
Indians gave us the slip, so I, at once, went down to the fishing station
to find out the trouble. It seemed the Indians thought we were mad
at them because they made a mistake and they were afraid to go with us for
fear we would take revenge and perhaps hang them when we got out on the trail.
I assured them the boys would not do them any harm and then they consented
to go but said it must be sure money. That night we arrived at Capt. Glenn’s
Station, launched our boats and the next morning, the 14th we were all ready
to play the mule act. I am sure it would have been an honor as well
as a pleasure if Messrs. E. C. Davis & Co., could of seen their 10 men
from Expd. #4, as they were lined up ready to start, with each under a pack
of 65-85 lbs. as they filed in one by one on the trail. It was a warm
day with the mosquitoes tormenting, it was no pleasant sensation I can
assure you. We were followed again by two men on horses, but they
soon got off the trail and we gave them the slip. That day we made
about 10 miles, then camped and a more tired and worn out set of men never
drew the breath of life.
The 15th we covered about the same distance and camped for the night,
worn and tired as usual. The 16th we arrived at the Little Sushitna
River and as the water had washed away our bridge, we had to fall another
tree across the stream. Just as we got across on the other side, we
discovered two men on our trail.
We made a great spring, but they soon overtook us and to our surprise,
it was Messrs. Brainard and E’Van from our mines who had been out to
Knik Station after more supplies. That night, in a rain storm, we
camped at the foot-hills of the mountains and the next morning we cached
part of our supplies and I sent Messrs. Daniels, Dinneen and Coleman back
to Camp Kirk to finish moving the supplies up the river while the rest of
us were prospecting for gold.
Sunday the 17th, the grass was wet, but on we went up the mountain with
hopes of reaching the mines that night. Just before we reached the summit,
our Mr. Brown gave up and lay down to die. He was so exhausted that
he said, 'go on boys, don’t mind me, Id just as soon die here as anywhere',
but some of our boys had a good heart and they gave him a helping hand and
assisted him to the top of the mountain. When once at the summit and
knowing the mines were just below, it gave Mr. Brown courage and in a short
time we arrived below and was soon in camp for the night. We found
our neighbors very busy taking out the yellow metal but as the rainy season
was on, it looked rather discouraging to us. During our stay at the mines
we did considerable prospecting and opened up several old chanels, took out
a nice sample of gold which can now be seen at our company office at 244 Washington
Street, Boston, Mass.
On Monday, the 8th of August, we broke camp and started to Knik
Station. It was raining and as I had some business with the recorder,
I sent the rest of the party on so they could take their time and cross
over the mountains and pitch our tent for the night. As I was crossing
the mountain I met a big brown bear, he looked at me and I gave him a wide
berth. Perhaps if I had been of the right sex he might of embraced
me and you can bet I congratulated myself to think I wasn’t built that way.
On the 9th we arrived at the Little Sushitna River and we found our bridge
was washed away. We fell trees for six hours before we could get any
to stay and the boys lost their nerve in seeing so many trees go down the
swift stream and were afraid to cross. Butler and myself crossed over,
then had to carry over all the packs before anyone would attempt to cross
over. The dog made the 1st attempt and got hooked up on a limb and
fell in. The swift current carried him downstream quite a distance before
he could reach the bank but he swam out like a hero.
When safely landed on the other side, we proceeded on our journey and
in a short time we came across a flock of grouse. After clipping the
heads off 3 of them we journeyed on and in a short time were in camp for
the night (rest of sentence is lost due to poor paper
conditions) government camp we had quite an exciting time for
a few minutes and the boys will not forget it for some time to come, especially
Mr. Kirkpatrick. As we were journeying along the trail, and without
warning, a big brown bear came furiously after our dog and she came up within
10' of us, when Big George let out one of his war hoops and she then stood
up on her haunches to see what was before her. Several of the boys
pulled their revolvers and some shouted, 'don’t shoot, she will kill us'.
At the same time the man with the rifle was trying to slip some shells into
the magazine when Kirkpatrick threw his pack right over his head right on
top of him. Then Kirk tried to climb him thinking he was a tree.
By that time the bear run away and we then spied two bear cubs up in the trees.
As the old one was feeding on fish, her meat was no good and as the fur was
out of season, we decided not to shoot her and let her go. Thus ends
the bear story, but nevertheless it is a true story and can be vouched for.
Wednesday noon, the 10th, we arrived at the Govt. Sta. Making the trip
in just two days that took us four days going in to the mines. It makes
some difference whether a man is carrying 100 lbs. on his back or
only blankets. At the Govt. Sta. We found that the soldiers had borrowed
our boat, so we quietly made ourselves at home as the guests of Uncle Sam,
read the war news and waited for the return of the same.
On the 11th, our boat was returned and we, at once, sailed for Knik Station.
The 12th we moved down the Arm to Goose Bay and that was where we got our
first experience with the gnats. We located a town site on Goose Bay
then moved across the Arm to Creasent Bay and located another town site which
is at the head of deep water navigation and some day will be the Skaguay
of Cook Inlet. There is plenty of wood, water and game at this place
and in connection with the new Govt. Trail will some day make on of those
typical Alaskan towns that we read so much about.
At Knik Station, a prospector presented us with a piece of mountain sheep
and we had a fine stew out of it. Fresh meat in the north makes a mans
mouth water, like the 1st fruits of the season do in the East and it is
much more acceptable.
August 15th we departed for our camp at the mouth of the Sushitna River
and that night we camped on the Mud Flats at the head of Cook Inlet, near
the mouth of the Little Sushitna River. Just as we left the tide water,
a fierce gale came up and it took 6 of us to hold down the tent and keep
it from blowing away and it was 2 hours before we could light a fire.
The 16th we started out on high tide and in a short time the rollers and
beakers were all around us. We sailed about 10 miles and then
decided to put to shore. As luck would have it, we struck a clam slick
and landed a mile in on the flats, all safe. Then we went over and
inspected the A. C. Co. store that was washed away in 1898 by the bursting
of the Knik Glacier, some 50 miles above. We managed to get to the mouth
of the Sushitna River and, as the tide left us, we had to camp for the night.
While we were pitching our tent, who should come sailing along but two men
who had just got on our trail and were outfitted and were going to the mine.
They camped for the night and as the mining season was practically closed
for the season, we advised them not to go in and the next morning they returned
with us to our camp. We found the boys had moved all the provisions
up to winter quarters, with the exception of 3 loads. We found a deserted
boat over at the Indian fish camp and knowing who it belonged to, we borrowed
it, rigged up a sail and the next morning, the 18th, we started out with
4 sail boats for our final trip up the river. A good breeze blew up
and away went the white squadron and if the E.C.D. & Co. could of seen
us, I am sure it would of made them feel proud. The little Sea Otter
boat took the lead and anyone would of known who we represented when they
gazed upon the big black sign on the bow of the boat that read The K. and
B. G. M. and Mfg. Co. Exp. No. 4. That day we made a record breaker
by sailing up the river 20 miles, within 10 miles of the station and had we
got an early start, we would of made the station. For the next 4 days
we had no wind, so had to lay to, but on the 24th we arrived at the station
We landed our cargo on the main land opposite the station where we found
plenty of wood, coal and water and for the next 2 days we did our washing,
took a bath and then commenced to erect a cache to house our supplies.
We also got the refusal of a double cabin for laying a floor in the same
and in a few days we had it ready to occupy.
As this location was so pleasant, we christened it Camp Comfort and our
many white tents made it quite a camp indeed.
Sept. 5th our cabin was completed and our cache about finished and we
were practically settled for the winter. Camp Comfort is the starting
point for sledding in to the mines on Willow Creek and as soon as the snow
crusts over in the spring, we will begin to move our supplies to the mines.
As we were short of some supplies, tools etc. and as we had a new proposition
which we thought would be of great benefit to our company, the boys thought
it best to send me out and lay our plans before the company and deliver to
them our first sample of gold.
So, on the 5th, with 3 men in the Sea Otter boat, we started for Tyoonok.
The 1st night we camped at Camp Kirk at the mouth of the river and on the
2nd day proceeded on, but were compelled to go ashore on account of rough
weather on the Inlet. For 48 hours it rained torrents, then it blewed
for the same length of time. We had to lash our tent down between 2
large trees and built a floor in our tent of logs in order to keep out of
the water. While waiting for the storm to clear up, we amused ourselves
by shooting ducks that were as thick as the mosquitoes were during the summer.
For 4 days it was rather unpleasant but living on roast duck and snipe stews
kept us in good humor.
The 9th showed up as a pleasant day and just as we were ready to leave
for Tyoonok, 2 canoes came along with the Indian priests and soon after Prof.
Eldridge, with the Geological Survey Party came along and they informed us
that the station on the Island across from our camp had been flooded and
it drove them all off the island. Some of our goods were still in the
cabin there and of course got slightly wet, but as all the perishable goods
were over at our camp, the loss was small.
We all cooked dinner over the same camp fire, then put off for Tyoonok,
arriving there at 7 PM. The day was a most perfect one and not a ripple
could be seen on the Inlet. The snow covered mountains loomed up all
around us and the scenery was something superb. Then we held the 1st
White Ball ever held on the beach with Colonel Meagher and O. G. Herning
as orchestra and Prof. Gleason as prompter. We also had an orchestra
composed of violin, flute and guitar and on several evenings, several of
the boys proved that they were no amitures at clog dancing. When we arrived
at Tyoonok, we found the boat had sailed south on the 8th, so I had to wait
until the 24th for another boat. During this time we held a miners
meeting over 1 Major Matson, who had made it a rule to swindle every one
he could on the beach. L. C. Pratt was elected judge and I was elected
Clerk of the Court with E. Cameron as Sheriff. We found the Major guilty
of swindling one Silas Benton to the amount of $100 and the court ordered
the Major to pay the bill at once or the court would levy on his provisions
and property for collection.
On the event of that storm, $10,000 worth of hydrolicing machinery, a
steam launch and a fish house was washed away at Ladd’s Station. On
the 24th, the Dora arrived and I sailed on her for Juneau, the same day
via Orca, Yakatut Bay, Kiak Island, Lituay Bay, arriving in Juneau at 7
AM. After 4 days delay, I sailed for Seattle stopping at Wrangell only.
Just below Wrangle we saw two deer swimming in the water near the ship.
The sailors lowered a boat and went after them, throwing a rope around their
necks and pulling them into the boat. I have seen men go hunting for
deer before, but this was the 1 time that I ever saw them go fishing for
them with 1 exception for deers. The water was as smooth as a mill
pond all the way along the trip was a most pleasant one. We arrived
at Seattle Sunday the 9th and I at once took up quarters at the Hotel Seattle.