Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Picture Of Yukon Gold Mining

I realize that this is wordless Wednesday but really these photos require a bit of an explanation. So today is Wordy Wednesday for me. Yeah, I know everyday is wordy for me but I digress.

Back to the story here.

My husband's Irish grandfather braved the Chilkoot trail back in 1897. He was one of the first miners to head up to Dawson City in the Yukon Territory. The trail is 33 miles of walking. Uphill both ways. With a ton of supplies. The story goes that you carried some of your supplies up about 5 or so miles dropped them off, came back, picked up some more, dropped those off with the first, then went back for more and so on until you had all your stuffed piled. End of that day. At this rate it took a long time to walk up the trail.

Why didn't they just use pack animals? Good question. Unfortunately, it seems that the conditions were so harsh that the animals just couldn't make it.

Now, I'm no historian (oh wait, I am. Just not on this subject. Ask me about colonial or Revolutionary America and I'm all over that) and I'm way to lazy to do the research right now but there is a whole lot more to this trail then I've scribbled down.

Long story even longer. JR's grandaddy made his way and his fortune up in the Yukon Territory between 1897 to 1909. Him and some other men (we don't know who) established the Eldorado mine.

They are standing in it. Doesn't look like much does it? It seems that you dug a big pit to get the gold out.

In the winter they would stack wood in the pit, set fire to it and let it burn all night. This would melt the permafrost so they could dig out the gold the next day. That is what the logs stacked in the background are for. I'm pretty sure that is why some of the photos I have show the area surrounding the city with no trees. Not very good stewards of the environment, those gold miners but clever.

Grandaddy is the guy on the left above the cook. He's the one with the outrageous mustache. He was quite the character according to my mother-in-law and quite the disciplinarian according to my father-in-law. Interesting how two people remember the same person depending on family ties.

He left the Yukon with $15,000 in gold. More than Nordstrom did. Of course, granddaddy didn't start a shoe store in Seattle either. He went back to Ireland. Found a wife. Brought her over to Seattle to get married. Bought 2500 acres in Eastern Montana to farm. Then lived to the ripe old age of 83. End of story.

Or maybe not. Granddaddy was a wiley old cuss. We are still collecting oil revenues from his farm. Not much, mind you but some. We're not oil barons by any stretch (don't I wish).

Wondering why there are two of the same picture? I couldn't decide this morning if I liked the fixed one or the original. The sepia toned one is the original or at least what it looks like now. Back when this was taken it would have looked like the top one. I have 11 photos from the Yukon that granddaddy and his partners had taken. I'm slowly restoring them. Want to see more photos from the Yukon? The University of Washington has a wonderful digital collection.

Enough history for today. Class dismissed. You all have a great day.


PS: For those of you interested the man who took the photo was Frank E. Wolfe. Frank E. Wolfe owned and operated Wolfe Photo studio in Yukon Territory, Dawson from the late 1890s to around 1920. Wolfe Photo studio was one of the major photographers of the Yukon area gold rush.


  1. I guess conditions couldn't have been too bad if they brought the camera along! Great shot and that's one impressive mustache.

  2. Am I the only person this post makes glad that I live today and not back then? The whole thing about carrying the supplies makes my back hurt just thinking about it.

    Absolutely fascinating Michele.

  3. Grandaddy found a wife? Why would anyone go looking for one? Cheers Michele!!

  4. I love the pictures. Yeah, I always wonder about who has the camera. (As casey mentioned.)

  5. I love history and I love to study what made our families so strong and our country strong.

    Thank you for sharing this, I truly enjoyed your family history.


  6. What a fascinating but hard life - loved the pics. I can't imagine living like that - I like my modern goodies too much!

  7. Very cool! Of course, the first thing I thought of when I saw "Yukon Gold" was potatoes. I'm starving right now!

  8. I love your history lessons! And I'm not just kissing up to teacher!

  9. That is a very cool story (oh, no pun intended).
    Can't imagine hauling all that stuff that way. You deserve to be an oil baron for him having done that!

  10. Fascinating story and great photo. We saw one of the trails the gold hunters trekked in Alaska....don't remember what the name was. Supposedly 3000 horses died along it or something like that. I rode a train up; that was enough for me.

  11. Irish people are tough, flat out tough. I know.

  12. When my computer first loaded your blog the writing was a bit distorted and it looked like the heading was "Picture of Yuk on Gold Mining." Made me curious to say the least!

    Once again, a very interesting post. Amazing to think how much humans were able to manage to do with little more than their own hands, and how far they could travel with only their own legs to carry them.

  13. You should check out Pierre Burton's Klondike. He's a Canadian historian who was actually born in Dawson City. Your husband's grandfather is probably in the book. I'd go check my copy but it's in my son's bedroom and I don't want to wake him.