Martin, J.K., Letters from the Klondike gold rush, part 1.
In 1898 J.K. Martin and several companions joined the gold rush to the Klondike. Parts of five of his letters home were published as articles in the Little Falls Daily Transcript.
Letters 1 & 2 are presented here. Transcribed by Sandra B. Martin without change except for typographical errors.
Click here to download a pdf of parts 1 & 2.
OFF FOR ALASKA
The Remainder of the Little Falls Party Will Start on This Evening’s Train.
Four of the party of five from this city who will go to the gold fields of Alaska will leave on the Pacific coast passenger train this afternoon, which leaves here at 5:15. Their names are H. L. Rutgers, George Klewel, Frank Whitemore and Henry R. Baldwin, the latter a relative of H. L. Rutgers, who arrived here a few days since to accompany the party to Alaska.
The party will be joined by J. K. Martin, who left Tuesday evening, at Sentinel Butte, N.D., where he stopped two days visiting his brother, and will go direct to Seattle, where they will ship for Dyea, on the 23rd.
With no delays their train will reach Seattle about noon Sunday, and they will have about three days in Seattle to get their outfits, and make preparations for the trip from there to Alaska.
Everyone of the party bought his outfit of clothing, bedding, etc. here but they will wait until they reach Seattle before purchasing their stock of provisions. When they leave here each will be supplied with mackinaw suits, rubber boots, moccasins and rubber shoes and water proof suits, sweaters, woolen socks and other necessities in abundance. For bedding, each will have two pair of heavy, mackinaw blankets, one 8x8 foot dog skin robe and one water proof blanket.
When they reach Seattle a large tent will be purchased, and possibly two, for the party may be divided as soon as they reach Dyea. Their mining outfits will also be secured there, and will consist of a miner’s sheet iron stove with its paraphernalia, picks, pans and everything that will be considered necessary for placer mining. To this will be added a supply of provisions intended to last a year, and they estimate that the weight of each one’s outfit completed when they leave Seattle will be 1,500 pounds or more.
Six dogs will be taken by the party as far as Seattle, and if they there decide that they are necessary they will be taken to Alaska and if not they will be sold or given away at Seattle. It will cost $3.60 for each dog from here to Seattle, and from Seattle to Dyea about $8.00 more for each canine. The cheapest fare to Dyea from here is $75, $40 to Seattle and thirty five dollars for the steamship passage from Seattle. Beyond Dyea the members have planned but little. Should all parties decide to take the same direction from there, they will, no doubt, continue to camp together and assist each other in every way possible. But it seems that the opinions of the party differ to some extent at present as to which is the best place to strike for after reaching Dyea, but they will not decide until they reach that place. Frank Whitmore, who is the representative of a syndicate of Little Falls men, thinks that he will go to the Copper river country, and J. K. Martin and George Klewel, will probably go to Dawson City.
All members of the party are apparently strong, healthy, determined men, who go there with expectations of enduring great hardships, and not withstanding the recent discouraging reports all are confident of making a fortune, or at least bettering their financial condition before they return. Some plan that they will be back in a year and others expect to be away longer, but none longer than one and a half years. The best wishes of the entire community are with them. And all sincerely hope that they will succeed in gaining wealth and will return safe and sound to their families and friends, who no doubt will be very anxious about them during their absence.
Little Falls Daily Transcript — Saturday, March 19, 1898.
WRITES FROM DYEA
J.K. Martin Sends a Letter to Little Falls Friends.
The Party Was at Dyea Two Weeks Ago - Ready to Start Inland.
M.V. Wetzel received a letter today from J.K. Martin, one of the party who left here for the Klondike in February. The letter was dated at Dyea, March 2, and the Transcript is allowed to take the following from it:
We are now camping about three miles from Dyea, and waiting for our freight to be transferred from the docks to Dyea, a distance of about three miles. We have been here three days and received two packages of freight but think the balance will be in tomorrow morning and then we will cart it out here. There are seven in the party now, and we have six dogs: they do fine work.
This is a great country, and you see all kinds of funny things and I have thoroughly enjoyed myself so far. The boat trip was a corker. I wish I could tell you all about it, but the candle is getting short and I have to bathe my ankle vet. Met with an accident at Seattle, but guess I will come out all right.
(Under the succeeding date he continues.)
I have just got in from the docks with a sled load of freight. Mike and Wilson have started for the summit or top of Chilkoot pass with two dogs, and I expect them back tomorrow night., They have gone up to inspect the roads and see whether we had better hire our freight hauled or do it ourselves. We are afraid the canyon will break up, as the weather is very warm - thawing every day.
Frank Whitmore went to the post office to look for mail for us. They form in line and take their turn to get in the postoffice, same as everyone else here. If a man gets in line about 1 o’clock he will get in the postoffice about 4 or 4:30. Most any time you go by the postoffice you will see a line of men that will reach down the street a block. This town is fully two miles long, and up in the main part of town fully six or eight blocks wide, but, most of the way just one block.
Rutgers is in the tent sewing up his clothes where he ripped them this morning packing freight. He and Baldwin brought 700 pounds from the warehouse out here this forenoon a distance of three miles. Rutgers is doing fine and seems to stand it well; all the rest of us have colds.
Wish you were here to eat with us. Rutgers and myself are cooks; fried potatoes, onions and bacon mixed, hot biscuit, butter cold ham and tea - what better could a man ask for?
I have pretty near quit smoking - but have 10 pounds of tobacco, and the duty to take it across the line is 50 cents a pound; guess I will give it away. I understand there is no duty on clothing but it will run about 25 percent on our provisions, and we must have three pounds per day to the man for one year before the officers will let us cross the line, and our granulated, evaporated and crystalized food does not count, so we have to purchase about 250 pounds to the man to make us 1100 each.
I met a man from the gold fields today, and he was purchasing provisions to go back with again – and he had the gold dust to do it with. I have talked with several business men here and they say you cannot get much out of the men who come down, but that they all have the dust. The Yukoners report the roads as being a fright, and say it is one solid iceberg, but one of the men who camped next to us has been in as far as Lake Togish, and he says the roads are fine, and that they are trying to scare everybody out.
But I am going through (even if I come back broke) if I have my health.
|Martin, Jira Kenneth