1897 Famine Threat
Dateline: Autumn, 1897
Panic was beginning to sweep Dawson.
Longed-for steamers with provisions had not arrived. Six were stuck in the
shallow river four hundred miles away brought the desperation to a head. Men
were gathering in the streets in muttering throngs.
During the summer the town had swelled until there were now
almost 25,000 people living in the Klondike area in tents or hastily constructed
cabins. There were ten saloons, three restaurants, half a dozen hotels, and a
theatrical company. Men arrived daily by boat, scow, and raft. But there was
not enough food in Dawson to last the winter.
And the winter-freeze was fast approaching.
|"So many are coming in unprepared, either with outfits,
experience, or common-sense," says he. "They ask me what the price
of flour is in Dawson. I tell them it has no price. 'But it must
have some price,' they insist. 'It has no price. If the stores will
sell it to you, you will pay $6 a sack ; but there has been no
time this summer when
a man could get a complete outfit from the stores. Last winter flour
was freighted from Forty-Mile and sold in Dawson for $40 to $60 a
sack. You will see it sell this winter for $100."
The mounted police posted in Dawson City were encouraging miners low on
provisions to pack and leave before freeze-up. They arranged for two hundred men
to travel down river on the steamer Bella, and others were making their
way upriver and out over the Dalton Trail.
Captain J. E. Hansen, manager of the Alaska Commercial Company, Sergeant Major
Davis of the Mounted Police, and Thomas Fawcett, the gold commissioner, walked
the streets urging people to leave Dawson.
Steamer fares had been dropped to $50 per person to for St. Michael. One
-hundred sixty people took advantage of that offer. Later, the Canadian
government offered free passage to Fort Yukon.
|"The boats are stuck and there is a shortage of grub and a
stampede out of Dawson. People outside talk as if the steamers on
this river run on a schedule ; whereas they are liable to be stuck
on a bar and not get oft" at all and be destroyed by the ice in the
spring. The country is not and never has been well supplied. Mr.
Harper says that in the twenty-five years that he has been in the
Yukon there has not been a year when there has not been a shortage
of something. One year it was candles, and the men had to sit in the
dark, Another year something else."
|"When the supply of provisions became short and the camp was
threatened with famine, Captain Constantine, of the Northwest
Mounted Police, was forced to send a detachment of his men to
Forty-Mile Post because there were not sufficient provisions in the
barracks to feed the men, and those who remained in Dawson with the
Captain had to live throughout the winter on reduced rations.
Whenever it became necessary to arrest a man, the police always
inquired if he had an outfit of provisions that could be taken to
the barracks for his use while he was awaiting trial. If he had no
provisions the arrest was ordinarily not made, but the man was
occasionally looked after by the police to see that he was still in
camp. In this connection a case that illustrates the complete
isolation of the Klondike when the winter is on might be cited. A
man who was clearly guilty of a certain crime was arrested, but,
there being no provisions in his cabin upon which he could live, was
given his freedom that he might shift for himself. Afterwards, when
he was found guilty and sent to imprisonment, he was sometimes given
a half-day's liberty to go into the town and visit his wife, who was
ill, the authorities knowing that there was not the least
possibility of his attempting an escape."
Those still in Dawson settled down for a long, hungry winter.
Or did they?
|"Six thousand souls wintered in Dawson, of whom five-sixths
did not know whether their stock of provisions would last till
spring. The meager stock remaining in the stores was doled out a few
pounds at a time, after an interview with the agent in person. The
North American Trading and Transportation Company had about seventy
duplicate orders, left by men who took outfits from the other store.
These outfits, comprising each a sack or two of flour, were sold at
the regular store prices; indeed, although the miners whose outfits
were short, and others who for any cause were refused provisions,
vehemently asserted that the agent was speculating in the
necessaries of life, no pound of goods was sold by that store for
more than the original price. The fact of two such extremely
differing prices existing at the same moment is incomprehensible
until the conditions are understood."
New York Tribune,
New York, New York
Saturday, July 24, 1897
A CLONDYKE TALE OF WOE
Frank Moss Found Horrors and Starvation There.
|Great Falls, Mont., July 28. -
Frank Moss, an old-time
miner in this section, who, four years ago, was one of a party of Americans
first to visit the Clondyke country, returned today, and tells a story of
horrors and starvation seldom equaled even in modern novels. He describes
Clondyke as a placer camp, seven miles long and thirteen miles wide, located in
a sink, walled in by boulders of rock 3,000 feet high. Gold, he says,
abounds, but no ordinary man can stand the hardships of the uncivilized region.
When Moss left this place four years ago he was a sturdy fellow over six feet
tall. From hardships and privations he is a cripple for life and badly
broken in health. In three years he saw over two thousand graves made in
the Clondyke basin, a large majority of their occupants dying from starvation.
The steamship companies bring in all food and allow no
private importation, consequently it is not uncommon to go for weeks with but a
scant supply and for days entirely without food.
New York Times, New York, New
Saturday, September 11, 1897
FAMINE IN DAWSON CITY
Hundreds of Gold
Seekers in the Klondike Region Threatened with Starvation.
WINTER FAST CLOSING ON THEM
Inadequate Stock of Provisions in Sight -
Enormous Prices for Food - Alarming Reports Brought by the Steamer
|OTTER POINT, B.
C., Sept. 10. - The steamer Cleveland has arrived from St.
Michael, brining with her from the Yukon gold fields a lot of miners
who tell a story of distress and disaster which the officers of the
The winter has
set in at Dawson and two great stores of the place have closed their
doors, having nothing to sell. Those who have been seeking
gold now must seek for food or starve.
While it is possible the story told by
the Cleveland's passengers exaggerates the condition of affairs at
Dawson City, there is no question that famine threatens some of the
adventurous men and women who have made their way to the Klondike,
nor that hundreds of unruly men are flocking to Dawson from whom
violent behavior may be expected as the winter progresses.
The first signs of winter are apparent on
the River Yukon, which is beginning to freeze, and in a few weeks
will be closed. Enormous prices are now being paid for food at
Dawson, and it is impossible that more than four vessels with
provisions can reach Dawson before the river is a mass of ice.
On the Cleveland there are thirty-eight
passengers, men, women, and children, who have come from Dawson
City. There are few miners in this party that are able to tell
of prosperity. Most of them wish to exaggerate their
possessions, and if one should believe the stories they tell he
would say the ship in which they come carries $5,000,000.
Capt. Hall, master of the Cleveland, says that he has $100,000 in
his safe. The purser believes that he can account for $150,000
on board and no more.
July 25 the stores of the Alaska
Commercial Company and of the North American Trading and
Transportation company announced that they had no more food to sell.
Three weeks b efore that the same companies were unable to furnish
outfits, and when the announcement was made that no more goods were
available consternation resulted on the part of the people of Dawson
with gold seekers coming in at the rate of twenty to forty a day.
Drunkenness, gambling, and disorder are
rampant at Dawson, and conservative observers predict serious
consequences. There is gold everywhere, but the people of
Dawson want food more than they want gold now. At St. Michael
there are not enough buildings to accommodate the crowd, and scores
of people are living in tents.
Shortly before the Cleveland left St.
Michael members of two of the expeditions, those of the National
City and of the South Coast, held indignation meetings, threatening
dire vengenace upon those who had brought them where they were and
were unable to carry them further. They had been left stranded
at St. Michael and could not possibly reach Dawson before next
If fortune favors, four vessels will be
able to reach Dawson from St. Michael before the Yukon River
freezes. They will carry provisions, but it is by no means
certain that they will reach the Klondike. They offer the only
hope, however, for a renewal of supplies.
On Aug. 28 the Excelsior left St.
Michael. Reports were current that her treasure amounted to
$1,000,000, but there are none on the Cleveland who can verify this
assertion. The Excelsior was caught on the dangerous flats of
the Yukon and broke two blades of her propeller. When the
Cleveland reached Unalaska she found the Excelsior undergoing
It is probably, however, that she left
Unalaska last Monday to resume her journey to the south.
The Cleveland brings news that when the
Humboldt stopped at Unalaska on her journey to St. Michael the
passengers were in open rebellion. They began to realize that
it would b e impossible for them to reach Dawson before next spring,
and they knew that misery awaited them at St. Michael. There
were open threats against W. D. Wood, the organizer and manager of
the expedition. It was feared that he might lose his life at
the hands of his passengers.
Monday, October 25, 1897
Thousand Miners Must Flee Dawson.
|Seattle, Wash., Oct. 25. -
The steamer Humboldt arrived
Saturday night with five men from Dawson (leaving there Sept. 3), and three from
Mino0nk and other points on the Yukon. They say tht no gold will come out
this fall, as this steamer took the last of those who have come down the Yukon,
ande that river is now frozen hard.
Of the five or six thousand people in Dawson and
vicinity at least 1000 will be obliged to flee from impending starvation.
Up to the time the Miller party left Dawson new arrivals numbered from three to
20 people daily. One way of relief is open to the miners. Five
hundred or a thousand could winter at Circle City, 100 miles below Dawson, and
drag their supplies by dog train from Fort Yukon. Circle City has 500
houses, and is said to be the largest log cabin town in the world.
John F. Miller says there will not necessarily be
starvation, but certainly miners will suffer extreme privations.
There is no doubt that the people of Dawson have been
alive to the situation for six weeks.
"Our leaving," says Mr. Sims, one of the party, "was the
beginning of a stampede for grub. Transportation companies at St. Michaels
and Fort Yukon claim the liquor traffic has no appreciable effect on the supply
of provisions. Not more than 30 tons of liquor, they say, has gone into
the country. No gold will come this year. There is any amount of
gold at Dawson, but the mines are owned by men who know their value. It
seems plentiful, but you must remember it is more plentiful in the United States
Treasury, and is just as hard to get. People who flock to the mines
expecting to pick up gold in the grass roots do not realize what they are up
Columbus, South Carolina
Monday, November 29, 1897
FLEE FROM DAWSON.
Death by Starvation Stares Miners in Face.
THE DISMAL STORIES.
Continue to Come From the Yukon. Men Becoming Desperate. Food Thieves Shot.
Nov. 28. - Twenty-five men arrived here today on the City of
Seattle direct from Dawson City. They came out over the Dalton
trail. They are reported to have between them $60,000 in
drafts and $200,000 in gold dust. All tell stories of a food
shortage in Dawson that is almost a famine. The last person to
leave Dawson was Jack Dalton. When Dalton left, the steamers Alice and Bella had reached there loaded light.
It is said that the Bella's cargo consisted of whiskey and billiard
balls. She brought no provisions. The Canadian government mounted
police chartered the Bella and gave all who wished a free pass to the Yukon.
The Bella is reported to have left about Oct. 12 with 200 men.
According to the statements made by members of the
Dalton party there is liable to be trouble of the most serious kind this winter
in Dawson. Billy Leak told one of the men in a party ahead of him, whom he
met at Dyea, that all the people talk about at Dawson was about the food famine.
Men were gathering in groups and cursing with might and main the newcomers that
were constantly coming into the Klondike loaded with scarcely any provisions.
The mounted police were offering free transportation to the grub piles further
down the Yukon, but to countless hundreds who had labored hard all through the
summer accumulating a grub stake, the prospect was uninviting to say the least.
The men figured that it would take all their earnings in gold to pay their
living expenses at Fort Yukon during the winter and that in the spring they
would not have even enough to pay passage money back to Dawson, to say nothing
of purchasing enough food to subsist on until they could get started again.
To these poor fellows the offer of the mounted police was no better than the
prospect at Dawson of being compelled to live on half rations until the supply
boats could reach the diggings in the spring.
John W. Brauer, the United States mail carrier, who left
Dawson, Sept. 27, said: "There is only one salvation for the miners who are now
at Dawson City and that is for them to undertake the awful winter trip from
Dawson to Fort Yukon, a distance of 400 miles. There is no food at Fort
Yukon, there is none at Dawson and just as sure as the stars shine, terrible
suffering will be the fate of the Dawson miners unless they leave there before
spring. I will make my statement that when I left Dawson the men there had
only an average four months' food supply. Some did not have a month's
supply, some had four or five. The restaurant closed the night I left.
It had been selling nothing but beefsteak for which the hungry paid $2.50.
When the people realized that the boats would be unable to get up the river,
they knew that starvation threatened them and the great stampede began.
The first to leave went to Fort Yukon. I guess there was about 10 in the
party that left the first day. One boat that came up from Fort Yukon with
several newspaper men on board brought the news that the Hamilton had
unloaded all of her cargo and tried to get over the bar light and failed in here
efforts, though she drew but two feet of water. This news increased the
excitement and made the rush toward the food centers all the greater. On
Oct. 14, Bert Nelson of Seattle and myself left Circle City and started to pole
up the river to Dawson City, a distance of 300 miles. At the time we
started from Circle City the miners had about taken their departure. It
took us 11 days and three hours to make the journey, arriving at Dawson City on
Sept. 26. Capt. Hanson with two Indians who had left for the Yukon, beat
us into Dawson about an hour and half. Hanson gathered the Dawson City
miners together and made a short speech in which he advised all who did not have
provisions to last them all winter to either get out of the country to
civilization or try and reach points in the Yukon river country, where it was
known food could be secured. That night was the greatest one in the
history of Dawson City. The miners, as soon as they heard the news, made
hasty preparations to get out, and nightfall saw the gold seekers and men who
can today sell out for many thousands leaving by thousands for down the river,
or up the river points. The little steamer Klukuk, which was to
make the trip from Dawson to Pelly, where the Jack Dalton trail starts, was
brought into play. She was besieged by would-be passengers who offered as
high as $250 that they might be aboard while she made her journey of 175 miles
to Pelly. The Klukuk left Dawson on the afternoon of Sep. 12, with
12 or 15 passengers. The next day we made up a party, including Herbert
Haymond of Seattle, Bert Nelson of Seattle, Harry Robertson of San Francisco and
myself. We started up the river in a small river boat, the same one we had
used in going from Circle City to Dawson. We left Dawson about 2 p.m. and
were soon on our way up the river. While Jack Dalton left Dawson a couple
of days later, the siutation there was the same as when we left and I can tell
you in a few words. The only thing you could possibly buy was sugar,
baking powder, spieces and some dried fruits. No flour, bacon or anything
of that kind cuold be purchased from any of the stores, simply because they did
not have them. So long as the stores had any provisions, prices remained
the same. I want to say that the stores treat4ed the men all right and
never advanced the prices, knowing that they were aware of the shortage and knew
that they had but to ask for high prices and receive them. I know of an
instance where a private party sold to a miner a sack of flour for $75 and bacon
at $1 a pound."
H. A. Ferguson, another of the returning miners, said:
"The situation at Dawson was relieved by the exodus to Fort Yukon. I doubt
if there will be any actual starvation there, but there will be a shortage.
The old timers have provisions enough to carry them through. The stores
are practically closed out. All they would sell was five pounds to the
man. Flour could not be bought at all. One or two sacks were quickly
picked up at $200 per sack.
"Wages are still $15 a day, but they are sure to go down
to $8 by next summer, and $8 a day is no better than $1.50 a day Outside."
Thomas Magee, Dr., the well known capitalist of San
Francisco, in an interview with the correspondent of the Associated Press, said:
"The excitement over the failure of the steamers to bring food up to Dawson
continued when the Dalton party left. The police took charge for two days
of the stores and warehouses of the Northwestern and Alaska company as a
precaution only. Flour was selling at $2 a pound and no sale of less than
50 pounds was made. No plans have yet been formulated to avert the
starvation of those who are short of provisions. Those well supplied have
not much sympathy with those who are shot, because of the fact that the majority
of these latter went in with little food, although abundantly warned at lake
Bennett in advance.
"It had not been discovered up to October 16th who shot
the two men in Dawson who were caught stealing food. One was found dead,
the other fatally wounded. It is believed that a secret organization
exists for the purpose of shooting down thieves. The organization of
hunting parties for the winter to hunt moose was talked of and will be carried
out. Dysentery and accompanying fever were general at Dawson last summer,
caused by miasma from the swamp on which the business portion of the town is
built and absence of drainage and sewerage. These conditions will be
greatly intensified next summer and an epidemic is predicted. Nothing was
talked about but the grub question. The solution will probably be a public
committee to gather up voluntary or enforced contributions, the food thus
gathered to be publicly disposed of and paid for by work or cash by those to
whom it is given.
"It was a study... to see men apparently almost crazed
with haste breaking their necks almost rushing over the Skaguay trails to get
into the Klondike, and later on to see them loafing around the muck hole streets
there doing nothing, waiting for rich strikes which they expected and did not
find. Nearly all of them were short of provisions, and the great majority
were suffering from the blues and intense disappointment. Eight out of ten
of them wished they had not come. It was generally prophesied at Dawson at
there would next summer and fall be nearly as a great a hegira of out-goers as
Monday, November 29, 1897
Pages 1, 2
FAMINE IN DAWSON
Fear of Starvation Causes a Stampede of Miners.
|SEATTLE, Wash., Nov. 28 -
Twenty-five men arrived her
today on the City of Seattle, direct from Dawson City. They were divided
into two parties, the last of which left Dawson October 16. The party
consisted of Thomas Magee, Sr., Thomas Magee, Jr., of San Francisco; "Swiftwater
Bill" Gates, Joe Boyle, William Huskins, F. Eckert, H. Robertson, H. Raymond,
Bert Nelson, John W. Brauer, W. H. Chambers, E. W. Pond, E. Ash, J. Gillis,
Thomas Wilson, P. McGraw, Jack Dalton, William Leak, Arthur Celine, Joseph
Fairburn, J. Smith, T. Warren, Jim Ferguson, and two others, whose names could
not be learned tonight. They came out over the Dalton trail.
All tell stories of a food shortage in Dawson that is
almost a famine.
Tuesday, December 14, 1897
DRIVEN BY FAMINE.
Stampede of a Thousand Miners From Alaska.
STARVATION IN ALASKA.
Secretary Alger Says the Danger is Imminent.
A TERROR STRICKEN ARMY.
It is Forcing Its Way Through the Passes and a Large Proportion Will Probably
Leave Their Bones There - Secretary Alger Declares That Help Must be Sent
Dec. 13 - By steamer Topeka from Dyea news is received that more
than 1,000 ill provisioned men stampeded from Dawson during the
latter part of October and impelled by the haunting fears of amine
are now madly forcing their way over the mountains.
Auk, the Indian mail carrier who brings this report,
left the Yukon capital fully ten days after the Dalton party. He says the
vanguard of the terror stricken army is following less than a week behind him.
Auk declares that fully 25 per cent of the stampeding army will never live to
recite the terrors of their flight north.
The river steamers Bella and Weare, it now
appears, did not land more than 100 tons of provisions on their arrival in
Dawson in the early part of October, owing to their having been held up at
DANGER OF ACTUAL STARVATION
Secretary Alger Tells the Senate That Relief Must be
WASHINGTON, Dec. 13. - In answer to a senate resolution calling for such
information as the war department possesses relative to the lack of food
supplies on the Yukon river, Secretary Alger today submitted a letter reciting
this action in sending Capt. Ray, Eighth Infantry, to that country to
investigate, and inclosing copies of that officer's reports, the features of
which have already been published. Secretary Alger says:
"From these reports it will be seen that as early as the
first of September, and while en route up the Yukon, Capt. Ray was in receipt of
information to the effect that unless some relief expedition was sent to the
men, starvation, or at least privation, would be inevitable.
"From other sources, includes dispatches from the
chambers of commerce of Portland and Tacoma, which, while unofficial, the
department believes to be thoroughly reliable, it is ascertained that since the
13th of August but 165 tons of provisions have reached Dawson City by river, and
that the boats of the two transportation companies, with 2,000 tons of supplies
for that place, were obliged to discharge their freight at Ft. Yukon, 400 miles
north of Dawson City, owing to the lowness of the river between these two
points. It is also learned from three independent sources that the
population of Dawson and vicinity in October of this year, was estimated to be
not less than 5,000, and probably was much in excess of that number, and that of
the population of Dawson City and in the country tributary thereto, a large
number of American citizens are reported to have insufficient food to last them
through the winter, and that many are absolutely destitute.
"When it was ascertained at Dawson, by special messenger
sent from Ft. Yukon about Sept. 13, that no more supplies could reach the mining
districts before next summer via the Yukon, 700 or 800 people are reported to
have gone 400 miles down the river in boats to Ft. Yukon, a journey requiring
from twenty-three to twenty-eight days' travel, where it is estimated there are
about 700 tons of provisions cached, and that at Minook creek, about 600
miles from Dawson City, and Ft. Hamlin, 520 miles from that place, down the
river, the two trading companies upon whom the miners depend wholly for their
winter's supply, were compelled, owing to the lowness of the river, to unload
respectively 110 and 200 tons of provisions from their six boats bound from St.
Michael for Dawson.
"The latest information from the mining district bears
date of Oct. 17, when, it is reported, there was not on sale in the stores of
Dawson or those accessible to the mining region, a single pound of bacon, beans
or flour, and that those miners who had been in the territory continuous to
Dawson, depending on the stores therefore for their usual winter supply, found
it impossible to purchase any supplies whatever, except in rare instances, from
friends or individuals who thought they had a surplus, and the cost of food for
the bare necessities was exorbitant and almost prohibitory, fifty-pound sacks of
flour seeing at $100 to $125.
"Although there are many tons of supplies at Fort St.
Michael, about 1,770 miles from Dawson City, down the Yukon, it will be
impossible to get any food from that point before next summer. The only
possible route by which supplies can be transported into the mining district at
the present season would be either by the Chilkoot or White pass, through lakes
Linderman and Bennett, and down the Lewis and Yukon rivers over the ice, or
through the Chilkoot pass and over Dalton's trail, approximately 700 miles and
550 miles respectively from Juneau, requiring from thirty and thirty-five days'
travel from Juneau - a most hazardous and perhaps impossibly trip, although it
is believed it can be accomplished. From the best information that can be
obtained it is believed that the use of reindeer will be the means by which
these supplies can be got through if at all. It is also recommended that
reindeer be purchased in Lapland to the number of 500 and permission granted to
bring the reindeer drivers from that country; this upon the information that it
requires much skill to manage these animals.
"It is believed that supplies taken into that country
need not to any great extent be furnished as a gratuity, but that many of the
miners will be able to pay the cost of such supplies."
The Lethbridge News,
Lethbridge, Alberta, N.W.T.
Wednesday, December 15, 1897.
MINERS OF DAWSON CITY FACED WITH STARVATION.
Flour sold at $200 a Sack and Beef-steak at
$2.50 a Portion - Stores Cleaned Out and Restaurants Close Down -
The N. .W. M. P. Giving Transportation.
have just arrived at Seattle, Wash., on the City of Seattle direct
from Dawson City. They were divided into two parties, the last one
of which left Dawson on October 16th. The party consisted of Thomas
McGee, Sr., Thos. McGee, Jr., of San Francisco; "Swiftwater Bill"
Sales, Joe Boyle, Wm. Huskins, F. Eckart, F. Robertson, H. Raymond,
Bert Mason, J. W. Brauer, W. H. chambers, E. W. Bond, E. J.
Gillespie, Thos. Wilson, P. McGraw, Jack Dalton, William Leak,
Arthur Celine, Joseph Fairburn, J. Smith, F. Warren and Jim
Stephens. They came out over the Dalton Trail. They are reported
to have among them $60,000 in drafts.
All tell stories of a food shortage in Dawson that is almost a
famine. The last person to leave Dawson was Jack Dalton. When
Dalton left the steamers Alice and Bella had reached there loaded
lightly. It is said that the Bella's cargo consisted of whiskey and
billiard balls. She brought no provisions. The Canadian government
Mounted Police chartered the steamer, and gave all who wished a free
pass to Yukon. The Bella is reported to have left October 12 with
200 men. According to statemnets made by members of the Dalton
party, there is liable to be trouble of the most serious kind in
Dawson this winter. Billy Leak told one of the party ahead of him
whom he met at Dyea that all the people talk about at Dawson is the
food famine. Men were gathering in groups and cursing with might
and main the newcomers that were constantly arriving in the Klondyke
loaded with scarcely any provisions. The Mounted Police were
offering free transportation to the grub placers further down the
Yukon to Fort Yukon, but to the countless hundreds who had labored
hard all through the summer accumulating a grubstake, the prospect
was not very inviting to say the least. The men figured that it
would take all their earnings in gold to pay their living expenses
through the winter, and that in the spring they would not even have
enough money left to pay their passage back to Dawson, to say
nothing of purchasing enough food to subsist on until they could get
started again. To these poor fellows the offers of the Mounted
Police was no better than the prospect at Dawson of being compelled
to live on half rations until the supply boats could reach the
diggings in the spring.
John W. Brauer, the United States mail carrier, who left Dawson
September, said: "There is only one salvation for the miners who are
now in Dawson City, that is for them to undertake the awful winter
trip from Dawson to Fort Yukon, a distance of 400 miles. There is no
food at Fort Yu7kon, there is none at Dawson, and just as sure as
the stars shine terrible suffering will be the fate of the Dawson
miner unless he leaves there before spring. I will make my
statement that when I left Dawson, the men who were there had on an
average four months' supplies. Some did not have a months'
supplies, and some had four or five. The restaurant closed the
night I left. It had been selling nothing but beefsteak, for which
the hungry paid $2.50 a portion.
"When the people realized that the boats would be unable to get up
the river they knew that starvation threatened them, and the great
stampede began. The first to leave went to Fort Yukon. I guess
there [are] about ten in the party that left the first day. One boat
that came up from Yukon with several newspaper men _____, among them
correspondent Sam __________ McGilliyray. They brought the news
that the Hamilton had unloaded all off her cargo and tried to get
over the bar light, and failed in her efforts, though she drew only
two feet of water. This news increased the excitement, and made the
rush towards food centers all the greater. On September 14, Bert
Nelson, of Seattle, and myself, left Circle City, and started to
pole up the river to Dawson City, a distance of 300 miles. At the
same time we left Circle City, the miners had about taken their
departure. It took us eleven days and three hours to make the
journey, arriving at Dawson September 26. Captain Hansen, with two
Indians, who had left Fort Yukon, beat us into Dawson by about one
hour and a half. Hansen gathered the Dawson City miners together,
and made a short speech in which he advised all who did not have
provisions to last the winter to go to civilization, or try to reach
points on the Yukon river country where it was know food could be
secured. That night was the greatest one in the history of Dawson
City. The miners, as soon as they heard the news, made hasty
preparations to get out, and nightfall saw the gold seekers and men
who came today sell out for many thousands of dollars, leaving by
thousands for down the river or up the river points. The little
steamer Kinkuk, which was to make the trip from Dawson to Pelly,
where the Jack Dalton trail starts, was brought into play. She was
besieged by would-be passengers, who offered as high as $250 that
they might be aboard while she made her journey of 175 miles to
Pelly. The Kinkuk left Dawson on the afternoon of September 26,
with 12 or 16 passengers.
"The next day we made up a party including Herbert Raymond, of
Seattle, Bert Nelson, off Seattle; Harry Robertson, of San
Francisco, and myself. We started up the river in a small river
boat the same one we had used in going from Circle City to Dawson.
We left Dawson about 2 p.m., and were soon on our way up the river.
While Jack Dalton left Dawson a couple of days later the situation
there then was the same as it was when we left and I can tell you in
a few words. The only thing you could possibly buy was sugar,
baking powder and spices, and some dried fruit. No flour, bacon, or
anything of that kind could be purchased from any of the stores
simply because they did not have them. So long as the stores had
any provisions, prices remained the same. The stores treated the
men all right under the circumstances, never advancing the price,
knowing a shortage was coming and they knew they had but to ask for
high prices and receive it. I can relate, however, an instance
where a private party sold to a miner a sack of flour for $75 and
bacon at $1 a pound."
H. A. Ferguson said: "The situation at Dawson was relieved by the
exodus to Fort Yukon. I doubt if there will be any actual
starvation there, but there will be a shortage. The old-timers have
enough provisions to carry them through. The stores are practically
cleaned out. All they could sell was five pounds of sugar to one
man. Flour could not be bought at all. One or two sacks were
quickly picked up at $200 per sack. Wages are still $15 a day but
they are sure to go down to $8 by next summer and $8 a day there is
no more than $1.50 a day Outside."
Thos. McGee, Sr., the well-known San Francisco capitalist, in an
interview says the excitement over the failure of the steamer to
bring food up to Dawson continued when the Dalton party left. The
police took charge for two days of the stores and warehouses of the
Northwestern and Alaska Commercial company, only flour was selling
at $2 a pound, and no sales of more than fifty pounds per man. No
plans have yet been formed to prevent the starvation of those who
are short of provisions. those well supplied have not much sympathy
with those who are short, because of the fact that the majority of
these latter went in with little food, although abundantly warned at
Lake Bennett in advance.
Trenton Evening Times,
Trenton, New Jersey
Monday, December 27, 1897
STARVATION OR NOT?
Rather Conflicting Stories About the State of Things In Dawson City.
via Seattle, Wash., Dec. 27 - John Lindsay of Olympia, Wash., who
has just arrived from Dawson City, says there will surely be
starvation there this winter. He examined into the foot
situation thoroughly, he says, and after satisfying himself that
there would be starvation he sold his outfit and, in company with
Frank Ballaine of Olympia, Wash., Tom Storey of
Victoria, B. C., and Bob Glynn of Seattle, started out on foot, each man drawing
a sled carrying about 140 pounds of provisions.
Lindsay says the Dawson people believe that there is no
great amount of food at Fort Yukon, as has been alleged. The river rose
sufficiently and remained open long enough to enable food supply to have been
brought from Fort Yukon had there been any there.
The people of Dawson, believing that there was not ample
food supplies at Fort Yukon, refused to go there, preferring to remain in
Dawswon. Not more than 300 or 400 people took advantage of the
transportation company's offer to take the people to Fort Yukon for nothing.
When the miners at Dawson found that no more provisions would reach the town by
the river route they announced that a meeting would be held to take steps for
apportioning the provisions in the town. Those that had plenty, they said,
must share with those who had none.
Captain Constantine of the Northwest mounted police
interfered and told the miners that no such thing would be permitted. The
meeting was not held.
Lindsay says the output of the mines will be greatly
curtailed this winter because of the scarcity of food and light. Coal oil
sold for $45 a gallon and candles are as high as $150 a box of 100. Even
if men were able to work their claims they cannot get light to do so.
These statements are borne out by all the returning
Klondikers, quite a number of whom have reached here the past week. Few of
them, however, take as gloomy view of the situation as does Mr. Lindsay.
Dr. D. L. Bradley of Roseburg, OR, says that food is
scarce, but he does not think that there will be actual starvation.
Niether do W. B. King of Merced, Cal., P. J. Holland of Butte, Thomas Storey of
Victoria or Robert Glynn of Seattle, all of whom reached here last week from
New York Tribune,
New York, New York
Wednesday, December 29, 1897
NO STARVATION AT DAWSON.
The Relief Expedition Declared Unnecessary.
PEOPLE WHO LEFT THE GOLD COUNTRY FIVE WEEKS AGO SAY THAT THERE IS FOOD ENOUGH TO
LAST TILL SPRING - PLENTY OF SUPPLIES AT FORT YUKON.
Dec. 28. - The steamer Al Ki arrived here today bringing advices
from Dawson City up to November 25. The Al Ki's passengers included thirty
persons who left Dawson between November 22 and November 25. All without
exception, say that there will be no starvation at Dawson this winter or next
spring. When informed of the action taken by the United States Government
to send out a relief expedition, they said it was unnecessary.
Several thousand men have gone from Dawson to Fort
Yukon, where there is an unlimited supply of provisions. Those remaining
in Dawson have three regular meals each day, and have enough supplies in sight
to last well along into spring. No sickness is reported at Dawson, and
everybody there is in much better circumstances and worrying less over the food
situation that their friends on the Outside imagine.
Nearly all those who arrived on the steamer Al Ki today
were at Dawson City only about three months, having started in with the first
rush in the latter part of July. They came out to purchase their outfits
for the next season. Following is a list of today's arrivals: W. W.
Eveland, S. W. Fox, W. E. Knowles, C. Lengan, B. Murnier, D. C. Campbell, J. J.
McKay and wife, Daniel Eman, W. A. Kiestling, B. Alderson, A. Hedstrong, W.
Falkes, L. D. Barnes, H. D. Dudson, George Munroe, S. W. Foote, J. Dubroinky, E.
A. Sother, W. J. Christie, M. B. Crane, C. J. Christianson, E. L. Remould, T. H.
Mallory, Con. O'Brien, Edward Barrington, James Keating and A. L. Cheeney.
McKay and his wife, whose home is in Tacoma, made the
trip out from Dawson to Dyea in the quick time of twenty-five days. They
passed over two hundred people on the way up.