Gang of Gams and Cut Throats

Three story 19th Century building with goods stacked outside.
Stores such as this in Seattle sold golds to stampeder going north.


Seattle, March 2

Dear Boys,

Was very agreeably surprised this afternoon to receive a letter from each of you. I didn’t hope for more than one. I took the earlier car to be sure to catch the train. Thought you all understood it. But it is all the same anyway. Everything is smooth as molasses so far. Yet there is not a fellow on the train who has been as lucky so far as I have. Have seen some of those fellows who knew it all and they don’t know where they are at.

No trace of Dawley.

Did I speak of the young miner I rode in with from Montana in my last? I did none or two trifling services on the train and am getting it back tenfold. He and his step-father are going in about two weeks, so I will probably see them again on the trail and may go in in company. The old man went in last year and came out for provisions. He has two claims which he thinks will pay well. In fact he brought out quite a bit of gold. He will help me outfit.

He says don’t take a lot of fur clothing. I had been somewhat discouraged about my cap when I saw all the fur here, but this afternoon I asked him what I should wear on my head and he said, “That cap you have on now is good enough if you have something to wind around your head on a very cold or windy day.” He says, and so do nearly all I have talked with, not to take sleeping bag. They get damp on the inside and it is almost impossible to dry them. They have fur sleeping robes here. I asked about that and he said a piece of light duck was just as warm. He says, take plenty of good, heavy blankets—3 or 4—wind yourself in them, then wrap the duck around so no wind can get in and no trouble to keep warm. That is what he used last December there, which was the coldest month they had. By his tell, most of these fellows are going in with a lot of truck they can neither sell nor give away. He advises not to outfit at these big stores. Says they keep cheap stuff. Says he will take me where he bought before, and where he will this time, and where most of the Seattle people go, and where I can get the best stuff for as little money as at the big stores. It is back on the hill where the rent is small. Shall look at it anyway. More later.

Evening—Have been with my new friends all evening. The young fellow’s name is Joe Henke and his step-father’s Nick Hoech, 814 Eighth Ave., South.

Everyone is crazy for rubber boots with leather sales. He says don’t get them. The thick rubber soles will wear out. And by his advice, after I buy my stuff and get my bill, shall have another bill made out for benefit of Canadian customs officers. May save $20 or $25. Have got a good many pointers about getting claim, and holding, etc. He says I will find lots of claims staked with no owners. Skin game. If I want one that I think will pay, has told me what to do to get it.

Had a little friction with a Sheeny tonight; they were going to take a hand in it, but I didn’t need any assistance. It was down in the bad quarters. They are worth a visit now after nightfall, just to see the gang of gams and cut throats that are let loose in this place.

When you come out, don’t fail to pick your steamer before buying your tickets. This same line has a lot of very poor old tubs. As it happens, the Seattle is about the best one in the coast service. Gillette will not go on this boat. However, the North East party have interviewed him several times, and so I get all information only second hand.

In regard to Peeler’s questions, two cents will send letters to Dyea. That is not official; it is per Hoeck. He says there is a U.S. Post Office there. I too the wormwood. As to the rest, I can’t tell yet, of course. Hoeck says it will be next to impossible to tell what I have until next winter, but if I will hang on for a year, a good thing is almost certainty. Says after another year, even the poor grade mines can be worked at a profit, but says I will meet lots of people going out discouraged, with tales of woe, but to stick to it. Says he run all the rapids, but would not advise it, as it is better to lose a little time be on the safe side. Says he is more afraid of Thirty Mile River than White Horse rapids. Says only a place 40 or 50 feet long dangerous in the White Horse. Five Finger and Rink all right if you keep to the right.

Shall not try to take boat from here. Canvas no good, and the other knock-down boat not worth the money. In one respect I shall not follow Hoeck’s advice. He says take lumber from here for boat, as it is getting scarce over there. But I shall have time enough to go back on the hills for it.

Have left the Diller House and got a dandy place—the Colby Third Avenue. Dollar a day for board and room, and a fine board. Good respectable place.

Good night, Fred.
- - -

Seattle, March 4

Dear Boys,

Your second letters arrived today. Bought my outfit yesterday morning, and as good luck would have it, there was a delay in packing, so did not get it on the wharf. I say good luck, because today I heard the Canadian police were turning back all without a year’s supplies, reckoning three pounds substantials per day—1095. I immediately made a hustle to investigate and I guess it is so. Then I immediately increased my provisions to 1200 pounds, mostly on flour bacon and beans, which are cheap here, the duty not high, and if I do not need them, are most easily sold there. Thought had better be on safe side anyway, rather than have to turn back to buy more.

Already see lots of those who have given it up and I only wonder there are not more, the timber that is coming in. Such a motley crowd and such things as they buy. If anyone has anything to sell, Seattle is the place to sell it. Wish I had My Jamestown real estate here. Think I could persuade someone they were just the thing to take along and raise their own vegetables on them while there.

My new mining friend here says if I go up Stewart, would advise me to go clear up if I can get there, where no white man has ever been. He thinks there is gold there. He is stuck on Henderson Creek, about two miles from the Stewart, which he says is very rich, but admits that it is probably crowded now. So don’t be alarmed if you don’t hear form me for a long time, I am well provisioned and well armed.

Reports are coming in that the Chilkoot is blocked, but Skagway is open. Know there has been hard weather there, but think stories are exaggerated by Skagway people to boom their town. If Chilkoot is blocked, it won’t be long, with all those miners there. I enclose clipping which I think bear out our wisdom in keeping clear of the Copper River.

One or two in the North East party are getting a little weak in the knees. One of them told me tonight he wished he was out of it; but the older members of the part are good stuff.

Shall get my freight down tomorrow, and then think I will take a run out to Lake Washington as the day promises to be fine.

Am feeling fine as silk.
Nothing from Dawley.

Ta-ta, Fred.
- - -
Seattle, March 6, 1898

Dear Boys,

This is the last you will probably have from me in Seattle. We sail tomorrow evening at 9 o’clock—midnight at home—but it is liable to be Tuesday morning.

Saw Blodgett. Run into the bank yesterday morning and again last night. He wishes to be remembered, especially to Dean. Dawley has gone on to Skagway, so probably will not see him. I stick to Dyea. Am my own master anyway and there are some advantages in that. Shall go in company with North East party as far as suits my convenience. Nice party.

I send list of my outfit. Think I have listed about everything. It may be of interest to you. Makes 34 packages besides satchel and basket. Almost regret getting the snowshoes, and belt for coin and dust. Am well satisfied with all else, though I presume could dispense with a good deal, but thought had better take a little too much than too little.

Run across Carl Strong on street yesterday. He is on his way to the Klondike to start hardware store. Chas. Hammerquist is also here, but don’t think I shall see him.

Well, I have escaped the bunco men thus far. Think there is no cause for worry on that score. Guess Seattle is worse that the North now. Hold-ups are a daily occurrence here, even in broad daylight. But a hold-up occurred a short distance from my hotel a day or two ago which was not relished quite as well by the bunco men. A young Montana cowboy was seized with the gold fever. He struck this place with about $300. Of course an engaging young man made his acquaintance at the depot. He also was on his way North with a party of 16. He introduced our cowboy to the “captain” and a little excursion to Lake Washington planned. This is a favorite place with these people. There they met another young man with the shell game. It was a new thing to our Montana friend, and he went back just $165 poorer. The more he thought of it, the plainer it appeared to him that in some manner he had been swindled. He couldn’t see just how, but he felt pretty bad about the $165, so he went on a still hunt. He met the two who had piloted him out there, on one of the busy streets. In a twinkling their hands were up they were looking into a six-inch barrel with a mad cowboy behind it. The police gathered them in and the cowboy went gunning for the third party. Could write a volume on the swindling stories I run across.

I have no new news for you. Am all ready to start. Freight down and all. Cost me $21 freight and wharfage, and I understand wharfage at Dyea is $5. Count on about $50 duty. Think that will be plenty. The Chilkoot is blocked just now. It may be I write the same thing over and over again. But I don’t remember hardly who I tell things to, you and my wife or father. Take care of my wife while I am gone.

Don’t let her get lonesome. You will hear once more from me when I get to Dyea. Understand there is a Post Office there. Don’t know of anything else now.

Good-bye, Fred.

Last updated: September 28, 2017