Pioneer Klondike Prospectors


Prospectors Ascending the Chilkoot Pass Steps courtesy Wikimedia Commons George Cantwell photo


I looked up two words that conjure up adventure and risk.  ELDORADO, a place of vast riches and adventure. BONANZA, something yielding a rich return. Wherever these words actually originated, creeks along Alaska’s Yukon River appropriated them before the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897 where early gold-seekers staked their claims. My father Hans Pederson  joined the Klondike stampede which numbered 40,000 and may have reached 100,000 by 1898.

Prospectors crossed from Alaska to the Canadian border once they had reached the summit of the White or the Chilkoot Pass. At the border, the Canadian Mounted Police by enforcedthe “One Year Rule,” It required stampeders to demonstrate to the Mounties that they had brought one year of supplies with them. This Canadian law probably averted famine

Klondikers generally had a partner. You can see why in the photo. Picture them mounting those 1500 steps that were eventually carved into the ice along the Chilkoot Pass. Imagine how many trips they took to bring their year of supplies up those 1500 steps. Imagine sliding off those icy steps into 60 feet of snow. You had better have a partner to drag you back to the path. Everyone else needed their strength to survive.

Hans Pederson’s partner deserted him when Hans got pneumonia at their Yukon camp in Dawson City. Hans’ partner left him for dead, boarded another ship home, and drowned when his ship sank. Hans’ made it back to Seattle — possibly down those same aChilkoot steps that thawed into the brief summer.

Heans spent the next 35 years in Seattle building roads, bridges, apartments, schools and dams. I was born to his second wife, my mother,  a month before he died. I wish I could have asked him about the Chilkoot Pass along with his other adventures in Eldorado, Bonanza, and pioneer Seattle.


2 responses

  1. A poignant tribute to one of the many folk who in quiet ways were heroic and played their part in forging a nation.

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