Pioneer Parents, Canada, and the Klondike



Miner’s camp at the head of the Yukon River during the Klondike Gold Rush from the Canadian National Archives 1 May 1898 courtesy Wikimedia Commons


A massive movement of people to the Northwest took place during the 19th century. As my Danish immigrant father, Hans Pederson,  forged his way through Canada to an Alaskan mining camp during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898, my mother’s Ukrainian immigrant grandparents, the Tokaruks, and her parents, the Huchulaks, claimed their homestead in Andrew, Alberta, Canada. Having crossed Europe, the Atlantic Ocean, and then much of the North American continent by railroad, the promise of free forested land meant more to these  pioneers than the considerable risk of searching for gold—if they even knew about the gold.

Years later in Seattle, my father told Linck, his biographer, that he and his partner pulled their belongings on a sled over the mountains until they reached the Yukon River mining camps. He didn’t tell Linck that the trip probably too three months. Lungs seared with each breath. Tearing eyes froze eyelashes. Wet feet brought frostbite. Pederson and his partner labored slowly, encountering howling winds and crashing ice. They ate cold beans and fatback bacon. Dysentery, scurvy, or spinal meningitis stopped half the prospectors. Others became disoriented by snow blindness.

The ice finally heaved its way to extinction in May. The thaw brought mud and rain. The prospectors who had readied their rafts left for the treacherous trip down the Yukon River rapids to the mining camps. Of the 100,000 who prepared to go, my father and his partner were among the fewer than half who reached a mining camp.






Pioneer Viking Rune Stones


Rune Stone, Denmark Wikimedia commons

Rune stones with etched inscriptions, dating from the Viking age, are found all over Scandinavia. No one has truly figured them out.

My Seattle father, Hans Pederson, a Danish immigrant, died when I was one month old. I soon left Seattle and have spent much of my life on the East coast of Maine. So with northern coastal lore in mind, I recently went to a talk on a local rune stone found 60 years ago near Popham Beach, now held in the Maine State Museum.

Geologist Scott Wolter described how linguistics, history, and geology have converged to allow an understanding of the mysterious symbols on these stones. While Scandinavian Vikings honored fallen warriors with stones, prevalent by 1100, several hundred years later, pagan inscriptions began to give way to Christian symbols by the Renaissance around 1400.

The first American runic stone was found under the roots of a toppled tree in Kensington Minnesota. Why Minnesota? Wolters book, with co-author Richard Nielsen, archeologist The Kensington Rune Stone: Compelling New Evidence provides a fascinating explanation of this mystery. A glacier moved the stone near the river that moved it—probably around 1362. European Knights Templar, the first North American pioneers, inscribed these stones. They settled in the Minnesota area to escape religious persecution. They would have  predated Columbus or any other explorers.

Wolter’s talk boggled the mind as he presented his information in a rapid-fire staccato. Judging by the symbols on the rune stones near Popham Beach Maine, these stones probably date back to the Kensington Minnesota rune of 1362, not back to the Vikings 300 or 400 years earlier.

The scholarship is thorough and complex, and like most controversial ideas, threatens the status quo as well as other competing  theories. Books on these topics are available on Amazon.

Critics continue to scoff. Many maintain that these “rune stones” were merely etched with random inscriptions by a bunch of hippies.














Maine and Virginia Pioneers 400 years ago



Photo Credit; Wikimedia Creative Commons, Attribution Peter Isotalo


The Historical Diaries notes a 1622 letter from immigrant Sebastian Brandt from Jamestown Virginia. Almost in passing, he writes of his wife’s and brother’s earlier deaths. Illness kept him from “travel up and down the hills and dales for good mineralls of golde, silver, and copper. He seems to have died soon after sending his letter.

Maine, considered a part of Virginia at that time, was settled before Jamestown, Virginia in 1607 when Sir George Popham led a group of pioneer explorers to what is now midcoast Maine . But after just one winter spent on the gale buffeted ledges where the firs marched down the rocks to the  bitter Atlantic, the colonists decided this northernVirginia was too cold. They built a ship, called it “The Virginia,” and sailed back to England—thereby allowing the Jamestown colony to claim that they were the first permanent settlement on the East Coast.

Maine started a seafaring tradition on her coast that continues to this day. In the heyday of sail, the state boasted 250 shipbuilders. The wooden boats they build today still hold more cachet than their modern fiberglass replacements.

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