Tuesday, January 15

We Were There in the Klondike Gold Rush

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When three men found gold in the Klondike River in 1896, it set off another huge gold rush!  Thousands of hopefuls set off for Canada’s Yukon Territory, hoping to strike it rich.  The Alaskan towns of Skagway and Dyea became boomtowns, as these were the starting points of the 600-mile journey to the riches.  In our reading, we follow the journey through Dyea and up the Chilkroot Trail into Canada.

Equipment needed included :
  • warm clothes and outerwear
  • moccasins and boots
  • blankets and towels
  • mosquito netting
  • personal care items
  • medicine
  • first aid items
  • candles and matches
  • soap
  • approximately 1,000 pounds of food (year’s supply)
  • tools and mining equipment
  • camping equipment
Less than half of the people who set off to find gold actually made it to Dawson City.  While the Chilkroot Trail was difficult for the men who had to climb its steep slopes carrying all of their belongings, the White Pass Trail caused the deaths of more than 3,000 horses, and was thus dubbed Dead Horse Pass.  These horses often died because they were overloaded with supplies and forced up steep, rocky terrain – it was too hard on their bodies.

Those who did make it to the Yukon found that reports of gold had been exaggerated, and there was little to be had.  Many went home immediately.  Of those who stayed, they could only work during certain months of the year, when the ground was thawed, and they were subjected to disease and poor sanitary conditions.  Unfortunately, the gold rush turned out to be a disappointment for many.  It did boost the economy of areas like Seattle, which was a starting point for the trip north, but it also destroyed the Yukon environment and brought disease to the natives who lived there.

The real riches to be made in the Klondike Gold Rush were in retail.  Merchants, bankers, restaurant owners, and even saloon girls were able to charge ten times as much for food, services, and supplies, did not have to bear the back-breaking work of mining, and had a steady stream of gold-seekers to keep them in business.
Read

Make / Do
Watch
Define / Identify
  • permafrost 
  • prospecting 
  • sourdoughs 
  • surveyor 
  • tributaries 
  • Robert Henderson 
  • George Carmack 
  • Skookum Jim 
  • Dawson Charlie 
  • Kate Carmack (“Shaaw Tláa")
Think
  • Read this article.  What conditions might have lent themselves to success or failure for the miners? Would you be willing to drop everything for a chance at fame and fortune?  Why or why not?
  • What would life have been like for the gold seekers of the late 1800's?  What are your thoughts about the lives of the families these gold seekers left behind?
Check out all of our We Were There unit studies!

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