Seattle, Canada, and the Klondike Gold Rush

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Prospectors ascending the Chilcoot Pass, 1898, courtesy Wikimedia Commons

 

100,000 prospectors joined the Klondike Gold Rush stampede between 1896 and 1899, most of them, embarking either from Seattle or San Francisco. They followed either the Chilcoot or White Pass trails to reach the Yukon River and wait for the ice to melt before they navigated the Klondike River to reach the gold fields.

Canadian authorities required the prospectors to bring a year’s supply of food, or they would have starved. Most of them spent the winter carrying their supplies, weighing close to a ton, in several trips over the passes themselves. Some, who fell, just careened back down the mountain.

My father, Hans Pederson, a pioneer Danish immigrant, was one of the 30,000 who actually reached the Yukon. After a bout of pneumonia, he did make it back to Seattle, although with empty pockets. He later bought stock in the Alaska Reindeer Company, and today I have several of his worthless stock certificates His partner, who was in more of a hurry to leave the Yukon,  abandoned Pederson and drowned when his ship sank on the way back to Seattle.

Seattle Libraries Contain History

After his Woodinville homestead burned to the ground in 1892, Hans Pederson, my  Danish immigrant father moved back to Seattle and spent the winter studying English and American history in the public library.  He died in 1933, one month after my birth.

When I decided to write about him from my home in Maine, I called the the Seattle library to request information. They sent passages from city histories along with newspaper articles about Hans Pederson. I had to wait a year for other articles that had been archived in the state library in Olympia since the building had been damaged by the 2001 earthquake. Finally, for the sum of $30, they sent me priceless information I could not have found in any other way.

Today you can read a book in e-format on a Kindle, buy one for $.99, or listen to an audiobook on your smart phone. Many believe that the internet has now supplanted physical libraries.

No way. Grand or humble, stone, wood, or fiberboard, these vital spaces are the repository of our history and our culture.

In 2013, a Parade Magazine annual salary survey listed a princely $8,840 salary for Mary Stenger, the Lost Creek West Virginia Director of America’s best small library. In this world of increasing noise pollution, a library can sometimes seem as peaceful as a mountain stream.

E-books are convenient for some. Audiobooks help multitaskers. Some readers still prefer the feel of a physical book. I mark mine up so I can find my favorite passages. Libraries are important. I don’t believe anyone has hacked one yet.

Hitler built a bonfire and burned books in one of his pre-World war II acts as Fuhrer.

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Seattle Central Library Photo by Bobak Ha Eri, June 4, 2009 courtesy Wikimedia Commons

 

Today’s Seattle public library is worth the walk. The building will take your breath away when you see it. But to reach it from the waterfront you have to climb four blocks up  Seattle’s ever-present hills. The natives surely must develop strong legs.

Immigrants and Prejudice

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A Homesteader, courtesy Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My mother’s family immigrated as Ukrainian homesteaders to the Alberta plains in 1898. Mom was the first in her family to go to school since Canada offered schooling only to English-speaking children. Her older siblings never learned to speak English well. Her younger siblings, Helen and Alex, followed her in school.

When Mom grew up, she left the farm about 1925 and headed to Edmonton to study nursing. Soon her sister Helen and brother Alex joined her as they studied to become teachers. Her brother’s friend also moved in “to help make ends meet.” The guys ate them out of house and home. One time my mother said they were down to their last quarter. So they bought a quart of strawberries and some cream and feasted on the luscious fresh fruit —so expensive in Northern Canada.

Mother obtained her nursing degree at Edmonton Hospital in 1928. She followed her mother’s advice and left for Seattle — just as the depression was about to hit. Four years later she married my father, Hans Pederson, a Danish immigrant who rose to become one of Seattle’s largest early 20th century contractors.

Her reticence  about both my father and her Canadian upbringing launched me into detective work after her death. I was already  more than seventy, but family secrets only bring more curiosity.

Mother’s siblings, Alex and Helen, returned to Andrew, Alberta where Helen taught and Alex became principal of the Andrew School. Even though Andrew was their home town and their school, Canadians continued to harbor such prejudice against the Ukrainian community that a generation later, college-educated descendants of Ukrainian immigrants could find jobs only in Ukrainian schools.

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