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Benjamin A. Chilberg

In 1898 B. A. Chilberg went to Dawson. He came down the Yukon the following year on his way to the states. He paused in his journey when he reached St. Michael, and made a brief trip to Nome, and was so favorably impressed that he returned to this camp in 1900, and has been identified with the country ever since. Mr. Chilberg is a native of Ottumwa, Iowa, and was 56 years old February 22, 1904. He is a brother of the Seattle banker, and two of his nephews are prominently connected with the Pioneer Mining Company. He is of Scandinavian ancestry, his father being a pioneer of Iowa.

When twenty-one years old B. A. Chilberg came to the State of Washington, and engaged in farming. In 1876 he started the first grocery store in New Tacoma. Three years later he moved to Walla Walla, and pursued the same line of business, subsequently returning to La Conner, where he first settled, and going back to the farm. In 1889 he engaged in the real estate business in Tacoma. Two years later he moved to Seattle, and was in the grocery business until 1897. During this year he went to Skagway, and from this place to Fort Wrangell, where he conducted a grocery business. In '98 he sold out and went to Dawson with a stock of window glass, which sold for two dollars and three dollars a pane. He made some money out of the venture, and lost it mining with a steam thawer on Chechako Hill. During the winter of '98 he made a trip to Eagle, and in the summer of 1899 he started to return to Seattle, but slopped for a short time in Nome, as heretofore narrated.

In the spring of 1900 he returned to Nome, and he and his brother, N. Chilberg, mined with a rocker on Cooper Gulch. At the close of the season N. Chilberg returned to Seattle, but the subject of this sketch remained on Cooper Gulch for the purpose of taking out a winter dump. January 1 9 of this winter is the date of the severest blizzard in the history of Nome. Mr. Chilberg was working alone in a drift of his mine 600 feet from his cabin. He shoveled his gravel on a sled and hoisted it through an incline by means of a pulley. At the surface the sled was automatically dumped, and then dragged back into the mine to be reloaded. For several hours Mr. Chilberg noticed that the sled came back covered with, snow, but he was not prepared for the conditions which surrounded him when he came to the surface at 5 o'clock to go to his cabin. The night was dark as Egypt, and the wind was blowing with such force that he found it difficult to stand. The air was filled with flying snow, and he debated whether he should go back into the mine and resume work, or try to go to the cabin. In the mine he knew there was safety, and although the cabin was only a short distance away, and he knew the direction perfectly well, he might miss it and perish in the furious storm. The thought that his cabin mates, who were two men that were working another claim, might attempt to hunt for him and lose their lives, impelled him to go forward. When he had covered half the distance he observed a corner stake which he passed daily, and saw that he was a few points off his course. The wind was blowing at a right angle to his course, and in endeavoring to make allowance for the I force of the gale he had worked too far up into the wind. Taking his bearings again, he went on, and reached the spot where the cabin ought to be, but found no cabin. He called at the top of his voice, but there was too much noise made by the elements for his companions to hear him. Bewildered, he stood still for a few minutes, but the penetrating cold warned him that he could not stand still and expect to be alive when daylight returned. He went on, and a short distance ahead found another landmark that enabled him to retrace his steps and find the cabin door. Next day when the storm had abated he found the spot where he had stopped and stood and called for help, and it was on top of the cabin. This cabin was a sort of a dug-out in the hill-side, only the face of it I being visible in the winter time.

This experience caused him to make provision for another such contingency. He constructed a windmill with a tick-tack, and when the wind blew hard it made a , noise that could be heard a couple of miles away. One bad night during this winter, when the wind was howling and snarling from the north, whipping the snow from mountains to tundra, from tundra to the sea, there was a knock at the door of the cabin. Hastily getting out of his bunk and opening the door, a man, nearly exhausted and half frozen, stumbled inside. He had been lost, and was about to give up in despair when he heard the noise of the windmill. He took a course in the direction of the sound and found the cabin. The windmill saved his life.

In 1901 Mr. Chilberg was foreman for the Pioneer Mining Company on Mountain Creek. In 1902-'03 he was connected with the Nome Exploration Company. In 1879 he married Miss Lina Woodward. They have two daughters, one of whom is the wife of Frank Victor, manager of the Moore Jewelry Company of Seattle. Mr. Chilberg is a good citizen, whose honesty, genial nature and courtesy are best known to those who know him intimately.  

Source: Nome and Seward Peninsula by R. S. Harrison. Seattle: The Metropolitan Press, 1905.




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