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Erik O. Lindblom

A tailor and a sailor and then a lucky miner -- this is a rhythmic story in brief of the life of Erik O. Lindblom. When told in detail it sounds like a romance. It contains all the essential elements of a romance. The humble life of a journeyman, plying his trade in many towns and villages of Europe, is the opening chapter. Immigrating to America he works diligently with the ambition of acquiring a modest competence. He hears the report of a new Eldorado in the far north and decides to abandon the ceaseless grind of his trade and try his luck as a gold miner. In order to husband his meager funds he ships as a sailor before the mast. Before arriving at his destination, and after suffering all the rebuffs and humiliation that are meted out to a green sailor under the command of an old whaling captain, he learns that the gold fields for which he was bound are a fake, as mythical as the Golden Fleece vainly sought by the ancient Argonauts. In desperation over his plight as an inexperienced sailor, and discouraged by the eclipse of his mining prospects, he deserts from the vessel on a barren shore, whither he has been sent to fill the water casks of the ship. He wanders over an uninhabited country, and is luckily rescued from starvation by some traveling natives; is transported in a skin boat on Bering Sea a distance of 200 miles to a little settlement of white men in this bleak country; becomes a prospector, and before the close of the brief Arctic summer makes one of the most wonderful discoveries of gold in the history of that precious metal. Is not this the synopsis of a story?

Erik O. Lindblom is the son of a school teacher. He was born in Dalarne, Sweden, June 27, 1857. When a young man he learned the trade of tailor, and gratified a nomadic instinct by traveling over a large part of Europe. He went to America in 1886, and was following his trade in Oakland, California, at the time of the Kotzebue excitement. April 27, 1898, he shipped before the mast on the bark Alaska, commanded by Captain B. Cogan, carrying passengers and their outfits to the new gold fields. The vessel encountered ice in Bering Sea, and it was not deemed safe to enter the Arctic Ocean until the season was farther advanced. While at Indian Point on the Siberian coast, Mr. Lindblom learned from whalers that no discovery of gold in paying quantity had been made in the Kotzebue Sound country. The reports of the whalers were very discouraging. Captain Cogan was an old whaler, and as Grantley Harbor was a favorite rendezvous for whalers, where they waited for an opportunity to follow the ice through Bering Strait, he sailed across the sea and anchored in the harbor. While here he sent a part of his crew ashore for fresh water. The date was July 5, and Mr. Lindblom was one of the sailors in the detail.

The sailors landed at the mouth of a stream which flowed out of a cavern of snow and ice. The tundra was bare, but the gulches of the distant hills were still filled with snow. Snow that had drifted in the depressions of the water courses had not melted, but the creeks had been flowing for weeks beneath these drifts. Mr. Lindblom had made up his mind to quit the ship, and the snow cavern through which the stream flowed offered him his only opportunity, as all this country is barren of tree or shrub. Entering the cavern unobserved by his companions, he followed the water course up Stream. In some places the arched roof was so low that he could make progress only by stooping. The way was dark, and water dripped from the roof. It seemed a long time before a welcome ray of light indicated a place where he might emerge from the dark and tortuous course. Climbing to the surface with difficulty, he carefully noted his position, and was gratified to discover that he had reached a point where he could not be observed from the vessel. His next purpose was to place as great a distance between himself and the vessel as possible, and he started for the interior and kept going until overcome by fatigue. He knew that there was a mission and a trading station on Golovin Bay, which could be reached by crossing the country a hundred miles or more, and he started on the trip. But he had no conception of the difficulties in the way, the streams which were now at flood and which had to be crossed, the slow progress one makes traveling over the country, and besides this he was without food. The third day out he encountered a white man, a lone prospector on one of the streams in this region, but the prospector's food supply was nearly exhausted. But if the prospector could not supply him with food for the trip he had undertaken, he could and did furnish him with timely and useful advice. He told him to go back, that his bones would bleach in the mountains if he persisted in the attempt to cross the country to Golovin Bay.

His experience had demonstrated the wisdom of the advice, but the problem he had to solve was how to get back to Port Clarence and escape the vigilant eye of Captain Cogan. If he could only manage to live until the vessel sailed he could find succor at the reindeer station at Teller, on Grantley Harbor. But he started back, and when he got within sight of the harbor he saw the bark Alaska still riding at anchor. It was evident that a part of the crew was searching for him, and here he was, back where they might discover him at any moment. This was a critical situation from which he escaped by the aid of an Eskimo. Promarshuk, a chief, an oomalik among the Kavariagmutes, with his family, dogs and wares, was starting on a trading expedition to Golovin Bay. He took the forlorn sailor into his big boat made of walrus skins, and covered him with the pelts of many kinds of animals. Beneath these he was secure from observation, but he nearly died of suffocation, and the stench of the skins made him dreadfully sick. Promarshuk's oomiak sailed within a few rods of the Alaska, and passed unmolested out of the harbor. Skirting the coast southeasterly the Eskimo craft was soon out of sight of the bark, and Mr. Lindblom thankfully breathed the pure air again.

On the way down the coast Promarshuk stopped at the mouth of Egoshoruk River, now known as Snake River, the spot where Nome is located. Mr. Lindblom prospected on the bar at the mouth of Dry Creek, and found colors. It was July 27 when Promarshuk's primitive transport arrived at Dexter's trading station on Golovin Bay. Mr. Lindblom told the trader of his discovery at the mouth of Bourbon Creek, and Dexter wanted to send him back to the place on a prospecting trip, but he chose the work offered him by N. O. Hultberg, the missionary at this station. His first employment was as prospector on Ophir Creek. At the same time Melsing and Libby were prospecting on the same stream. Later he, Haglin and Brynteson prospected on Mystery Creek and Fish River. Subsequently they were joined by Jafet Lindeberg, who had been prospecting on the Casadepoga and Neukluk. Both Brynteson and Mr. Lindblom had been in what is since known as the Nome country, and found prospects, and arrangements were made to go to that region. A keel was put on an old scow, a sail was made, and the queer craft was rigged. Erik O. Lindblom, Jafet Linde- berg and John E. Brynteson sailed in this vessel on a hundred-mile sea voyage. They skirted the coast, making slow progress, as the weather was stormy and the rain incessant. September 1 5 they arrived at the mouth of Snake River, and effecting a landing without a serious mishap, they began the work of prospecting. September 22 they made discoveries and locations on Anvil Creek, and subsequently prospected on Snow Gulch, Glacier, Rock, Mountain and Dry Creeks. They panned gold valued at near $50, and had it in shot-gun shells when they returned to Golovin Bay.

At Golovin they met Gabe Price, who was returning from Kotzebue Sound. He was a miner, fully understanding the laws governing the location of mining claims and the organization of districts. It was necessary to have more men to organize a district. The original discoverers confided to Mr. Price, Dr. Kittilsen, who was the Government physician of the reindeer herders, a deer herder by the name of Tornensis, and Mr. Haglin. Returning to the Nome country, the claims were properly measured with a tape line and staked so as to comply with the law. By this time winter was encroaching, but notwithstanding the freezing ground, the prospectors constructed a crude rocker and worked assiduously with it and with pan and shovel. In three hours panning on Snow Gulch Lindblom, Lindeberg and Brynteson obtained gold valued at $166. Within a few days the party extracted more than $1,500 of gold dust. They then returned to Golovin, and preparations were made that winter for the next season's operations.

The readers of this book know the value of this discovery. Through it Mr. Lindblom has acquired more than the modest competence he had hoped for in his early life. He is the owner of a valuable quartz mine in Mexico, and has varied property interests. He is also operating in the Kotzebue country, where he owns some promising property. His objective point when he started for the North was this region. He took a desperate chance to avoid going there when he heard discouraging reports of the country, and through this action he was one of the discoverers of the Nome gold fields. After the lapse of a few years a strike was made on Shungnak, a tributary of the Kobuk River, and Mr. Lindblom sent his brother with four men into this region, and they have located some good ground, if gravel that yields as much as $4 to the pan may be called good ground. In an interview Mr. Lindblom said: "I have good faith in the Kobuk."

During the winter season Mr. Lindblom lives in Oakland, Cal. He is fond of automobiling, and being able to indulge in luxuries, owns a valuable machine. He is a retiring, unassuming gentleman, and wealth has not given him false ideas of the superiority of those who possess it.  

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




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