IAGenWeb Project - Clayton co.

Odds & Ends Index

Alaska Gold!
Letters & articles from Clayton county men seeking their fortunes
extracted from the Elkader Register

~transcribers note: several of these letters written by my husband's great uncle Louis Kramer and others from the Elkader area who set off to seek their fortunes in Alaska just before the turn of the century (1900). I thought they might be of interest to others. I was reminded of Michener's book when I compiled these letters from old Elkader Registers -- Judy M.

~transcribed by Judy Moyna

Letter from Lewis Kramer to Wm. F. Reinecke, Elkader, Iowa
Feb. 2nd, 1898

Dear Friend Will—We, Sam Boots, Ira Patterson and myself, arrived at Volga Tuesday morning, had dinner with Capt. Shadle and made a few arrangements. Chas. H. Jacobs and Will Boal, of West Union, joined our party here, Carpenter failed to show up. Upon the point of leaving Volga the Capt. made a long speech in his jolly, good natured way. There was no school that afternoon—everybody was at the depot and the children sang a beautiful song as the train was leaving. With M. C. Smith, of Volga, there were then seven in our party. We picked up Fred Milliard at Turkey River and Jack Dyer at Sabula Junction. Up to now we don’t know whether Carpenter is going or not. I told Otto Gunn at Dubuque to telephone Becker regarding Carpenter and to tell him I would leave word for him at the First National Bank, of San Francisco, if he followed us.

Trains have been a few hours late but we expect to reach Frisco by Friday night. Our fare, including tourist sleeper (2d class), cost us $49.80 from Volga. That is over the Union Pacific—best that could have been done on any road. We are stocked with enough grub to last us till we reach the coast.

We expect to have on the Victoria from Frisco Feb. 9th. Whether we can get in shape by that time I can not tell now. While we laid over at Dubuque a few hours I called on the Armour Packing Co., and procured a letter of recommendation which I present to the ’Frisco branch and which will enable us to purchase our meat supplies right.

Some of the boys are discussing the cities they will buy when they get back. A West Union man in speaking to one of our party said: “Well, Fred, I hope when you get back you’ll buy our town and put a load of dynamite under it and blow it to pieces.” He evidently doesn’t like W. U. (West Union) Sorry Carpenter isn’t with us, would like to have him along, I am going right through though, unless I hear from him.

When we get to Frisco and on the boat I will give you an itemized list of the stuff we have bought. I am sorry my hasty departure did not give me time to say good bye to all my friends. I will tell them so in this, which must be sufficient. With best regards to you all, I remain sincerely yours.
Louis J. Kramer
P.S.—We do not go to Klondyke. We are making for Cook’s Inlet and Copper River.


Elkader Register
Feb. 4, 1898

Henry Shadle and Morris Snedigar of this place, accompanied by Louis J. Kramer, Ira Patterson, and Sam Boots, of Elkader, and Jack Dwyer and Fred Meyers of Turkey River, also a gentleman from West Union, started on Tues. for the gold fields of Alaska to find their fortune. We wish them success (Volga).

Capt. Henry Shadle with his company of gold seekers started for Alaska Tuesday from Volga City. They go to San Francisco, where they buy their outfits and then expect to go to Orca at the mouth of the Copper River, Alaska. The party is made up of the following: Captain Henry Shadle and C. M. Smith, of Volga City; Smith being staked by R. E. Price, of this place; Sam Boots, Louis J. Kramer and Ira S. Patterson, of Elkader; Sam Boots being staked by Jas. E. Corlett and Ira S. Patterson by Dr. H. S. Patterson; M. W. Williard and Jack Dyer, of Turkey River; and Will Boal and Henry Jacobs, of West Union. A. J. Carpenter, who had made his arrangements to go, concluded to abandon the trip at he earnest request of his mother, at Fayette. We understand that Dar Whipple, of Volga City, will take Carpenter’s place, and join the party at San Francisco. We hope the boys will return well and hearty with a fortune in their pockets.


OUR GOLD SEEKERS, Their Outfit -- Aboard the Alliance
Feb. 25, 1898
Elkader Register

San Francisco, Feb. 8th, 1898
Friend Will—We arrived at San Francisco, Friday, Feb. 4th at 8:45 a.m. We spent the evening taking in the town. Saturday morning we ’phoned the steamship companies regarding transportation to Cook’s Inlet or Copper river and were very fortunate in securing passage on the Pacific Whaling Co’s. “Alliance” which is to sail the 10th. There were but thirteen steerage tickets for sale all others sold, so we immediately signed nine at $75 each.

Yesterday morning at he office of the Alliance people when we paid for our tickets there were many who tried to secure passage but could not as the tickets were all gone. They offered us $150 for ours and as we refused to sell two of them burst into tears. You can imagine their circumstances as no other boat will sail to Copper river for at least a month.

I enclose you an itemized list of the articles and provisions purchased for the entire party, which does not include the personal purchases such as guns, knives, clothing, etc., which amount to from $40 to $60 as per each man’s desires.

I believe it would be considerably cheaper for any one going to Alaska from the each to make their purchases at home and have them shipped here. Here are a few of our personal needs: Best Mackinaw suit, $10.25; hood cap $2, Mitts and gloves $1.75, two shirts, $4, sweater $3.50, 2 suits underwear $6, 2 pair German sox $1.50, moccasins $2.50, boots $5, 1/2 doz. pair sox $3, snow glasses, rubber boots, rifle, compass, etc.

Following is our list of supplies
1500 lbs. flour, 7 1/2/ bbls. $30.00
225 lbs. rolled oats 4.63
225 lbs. rolled wheat 6.75
40 lbs. baking powder 12.00
1350 lbs. bacon 155.25
200 lbs. ham 23.00
700 lbs. red beans 14.00
1 doz. 2 1/2 tins roast beef 2.10
200 lbs. salt pork 18.00
20 gals. syrup 8.50
24 cans condensed milk 2.00
100 lbs. prunes 4.00
400 lbs. evaporated potatoes 56.00
100 lbs. onions 50.00
1 doz. Jamaica ginger 2.00
2 tents 15.00
2 stoves 13.00
2 bake pans .35
2 camp kettles 1.10
Three 6 qt. kettles .90
Two 4 qt. coffee pots .90
Two 8 qt. bread pans .50
2 big spoons .10
1 qt. dipper .08
1 carving knife .75
3 frying pans .40
8 granite cups .72
12 granite plates 1.03
14 jars beef extract 22.00
250 lb. rice 12.50
225 lb. coffee 61.87
10 lbs. tea 4.00
300 lbs. sugar 17.25
450 lbs. hard tack 12.37
450 lbs. pilot bread 13.50
1150 lbs. salt .75
100 bars soap 5.50
10 lbs. pepper 1.70
5 lb. mustard .85
3 lbs. cinnamon .90
10 boxes, one gross matches 3.50
6 knives and forks .25
6 table spoons .15
1 doz. tea spoons .10
2 tubs 1.30
9 shovels 8.10
9 picks 10.35
9 gold pans 2.25
1 gold scale 1.25
2 axes 2.00
1 whip saw 4.00
One 4 ft. man saw 1.75
6 galvanized iron pails 1.00
200 feet rope 3.30
25 lbs. pitch 1.00
10 lbs. oakum .90
40 lbs. nails 1.40
Two nine inch blow tubes 1.00
1 mortar and pestle 1.25
2 steel hand bars 3.50
4 sleds 10.00
1 hair clipper 2.50
10 lbs. tea 4.00
2 boxes Battle Ax tobacco 6.00
5 lb. bar lever .40
14 lbs. shot .85
10 canvas bags at 20 2.00
60 canvas bags at 15 9.00
Tins for potatoes 8.00
Tins for onions 2.00
Overcharge 10.00
Total $669.10

The other evening, in company with an official guide, we visited China town. It was intensely interesting indeed. We visited their Joss house, drug stores where scraped elk’s horn, boiled rattlesnake, etc., are used for medicinal purposes; meat markets where mice, skunk veals, dog meat and other such delicacies are sold. We visited the dark and dangerous places where the highbinders reigned supreme and in fact saw the homes of all kinds of Chinese. In fact it was almost as interesting as a trip abroad to China.

There are a great many here who are going to Klondike. We meet newcomers every day. If there are any of you going to Alaska, I would advise you to correspond with some steamship company regarding tickets and time boat leaves, otherwise you may be compelled to wait some time for accommodations.

With regards to inquiring friends, I am Yours very truly, Louis J. Kramer.


Feb. 25, 1898
Elkader Register

On Board “Alliance,” Feb. 13, 1898.
Our boat arrived late and needed considerable time to unload her freight which was mostly canned salmon from the Co’s. cannery at Orca. We got word to have all baggage and freight aboard by 10 o’clock on Thursday as she was to sail at noon. We had all our goods on the dock on time but they didn’t get her loaded until 3:30 p.m. and we finally bade Frisco good-bye at 4:45. We hadn’t got out of the bay before Patterson became seasick and before the next afternoon the greater number of us were “casting our bread on the waters.”

The boys are not at all delighted with the accommodations aboard the Alliance. Steerage bunks and grub in a whaling boat aren’t the most pleasant things to a lot of boys like us. We see sick men all around us and laugh at each other when we are compelled to part with our meals. Several times of late we have had two breakfast and two dinners, one immediately following the other.

The bunks are three high and two wide with two ft. aisles between them. It seems pretty crowded now and I haven’t any idea how it will be after leaving Seattle where we take on 150 passengers and some burros and dogs.

The “grub” is most all boiled meats and cabbage and doesn’t seem to agree with us non-working men. We expect to get used to it though, that’s all we can do about it.

About 3:00 a.m. we run onto some rocks off Cape Flarety and some of the boys were pretty badly scared, rushing on deck with live preservers but there was no need of them, no damage done. We are now in smooth water (7:30 p.m.) and it is pleasant riding. We expect to reach Seattle 12 o’clock tonight.

We hear all kinds of stories regarding Cook’s Inlet and Copper river and we have been very undecided as to where we shall land since we met the other passengers. Our freight, amounting to about 9,000, is billed to Vale’s Pass, but from the very latest chats of tonight I think we will land at Portage Bay.

You can send my mail in care of National Bank of Commerce, Seattle, Wash., and I’ll have them forward it to my next address. Your friend, Louis J. Kramer.


Experiences of our Gold Seekers on Their Way to Alaska
Mar. 4, 1898
Elkader Register

Aboard Steam Alliance, Feb. 17, 1898.
Dear friend Will:
We are now resting quietly at anchor in Alert Bay B.C. (British Columbia). We lay here until the tide rises so we can pass through the straits ahead.

A picturesque little Indian village is situated to the right of us. It consists of a mission or school, church, cemetery, cannery and about 30 houses or shacks. We notice peculiar images on high towers, no doubt something relative to their religion.

Our trip from Seattle has been very pleasant and smooth with the exception of a few hours which were the roughest yet experienced. This was no doubt for the benefit of the 140 new passengers taken aboard at Seattle and I assure you they showed their appreciation of it by lining up on deck in rows of eight or more, leaning over the rail. Oh, but they were a sick lot of fellows. It did not affect us any as we are now somewhat accustomed to the motion of the ship. Smith and Millard were the only ones of our party who didn’t get sick.

The food and accommodations aboard the Alliance are very poor but now we have ravenous appetites and can eat most anything. At Seattle we stopped two days to load the freight of the passengers also 21 dogs. At the post office people were lined up in rows waiting their turn to get mail. I got in line and had to wait 33 minutes. One can buy very good meals there for 25 cents–several places dinners are served with wine for 15 cents. I believe we could have done just as well if not better in Seattle as regards our purchases but don’t know about what chance a man has of getting steamship tickets. We bout more stuff at Seattle—finding new things that we had forgotten at Frisco. We will be like a small army.

When we arrive, nearly every man has a rifle, revolver and bowie knife. We hear all kinds of stories about Copper river, some very discouraging but its hard to tell what to believe. “Dad” Shadie was a little discouraged out of Frisco, due no doubt to the sea trip, but is now all right.

Later—I just returned from the Indian village. Twelve of us went over in a boat. We entered a large rough building with a blazing bonfire in its center and nearly two hundred Indians seated around it. They danced and some furnished music with their peculiar instruments. Afterwards blankets were distributed among them by a big buck in paint. The fete and dance are called a Pot-Latch. The ship left the bay at 3 a.m. Regards to folks and friends. Louis J. Kramer.


Monday, Feb. 21, 1898
The last few days have been of considerable interest to us. Saturday after passing through decidedly rough water in Charlotte Sound, we continued our trip among the islands with waters almost as smooth as a river and very picturesque scenery. At 10 a.m., we passed the wreck of the ill fated Corrona; at 12:05 we anchored in Metlakatla Bay, awaiting favorable weather to allow us to pass through Dixon’s Entrance at 5:40 p.m. fourteen of us went ashore in a boat to visit Metlakatla—three miles away. We arrived there just in time to go to evening prayer. The Rev. Mr. Hogan gave us a heavy welcome and favored as with an excellent sermon full of wisdom after which he took us to his home and chatted with us in an interesting manner.

Sunday we left the bay at 8:00 a.m. and passed safely through Dixon’s Entrance which was very rough. At 3:15 p.m., we anchored off St. Mary’s Island, where the ship’s official went ashore to procure clearance papers for the steamer. They returned with the news that the “Clara Nevada” is lost with all aboard. We continued our journey at 4:15. It became very stormy. The wind blew a gate and the snow fell so thick that one could not see a hundred yards ahead. The pilot was guiding the steamer into a channel where we expected to wait until the storm somewhat abated and also spend the night at anchor. It soon became dark and with the terrible storm we were in considerable danger of running ashore on the many rocks and islands about us. The engines slowed down to half speed. At 6:00 p.m. the First Mate yelled “land ahead.”, but before the engines could be stopped and reversed we were run on the rocks. The wind blew terribly and the snow seemed to increase. There was great excitement aboard, several rushing on deck with life preservers. Quite a number of us waited until the mob finished their stampede up the companion way before we went on deck. The steamer had run her nose about 15 feet ashore. The tide was going out and the wind blowing a gale on her starboard side, it was feared that she would keel over on her side on the rocks. The Captain ordered a boat lowered and an anchor taken some yards away and dropped so as to keep the steamer headed right. The second mate with a crew made several attempts to get beyond the stern of the steamer, but after a half hours hard work he gave it up saying. “I can’t make it, I’m going aboard, I’m no hero.” The Captain said, “all right”, and sent his First Mate to take his place. Just as soon as Johnson, the First Mate, stepped into the boat the sailors rallied and with his cool judgment and words of cheer they pulled the oars as best they knew and slowly the boat and anchor moved out to the raging storm. When they had rowed about a hundred yards they successfully dropped anchor, and there arose a mighty cheer from the men aboard. About two hours after we run on to the rocks they succeeded in getting the steamer off the rocks and running her a half mile further and into the channel for the night. There was practically no damage done so next morning at 8:00 a.m., we continued our voyage.

The scenery is grand. Our route lies among the high mountains, densely covered with spruce and snow. It is very much like a trip on the Mississippi with many places not much wider than our turkey river. We see many little Indian villages and hundreds of ducks. There are 226 passengers aboard, of all nationalities, two ladies. Ten states were represented in our party of fourteen that went ashore at Metlakatla, B. C. Write me care of Shadle’s Camp, Valdes Pass, Alaska, via Orca, to be kept until called or sent for. With kindest regards to all, I am, Sincerely your friend, Louis J. Kramer

P.S. We stop tonight at Ft. Wrangle for water and then go out into open sea.


Our Gold Seekers
Mar. 17, 1898,
Elkader Register

Aboard the Alliance, Feb. 28, 1898
Dear Father:
I wrote a letter for the papers to Will Reinecke which no doubt he showed to you and which will give you an account of our trip up to Fort Wrangel. We went ashore in row boats at Fort Wrangel and spent two or three hours visiting the town. The steam “Cleveland” was at the wharf, going south, which took my last letter to the states. The ship expected to get water and provisions there, but water couldn’t be bought at any price, so we came up to Juneau. We struck Juneau at 4:30 this morning and we immediately went ashore. It is situated on the beach and right at the foot of towering mountains, lots of snow, but fine weather. It was 12 degrees above. Juneau has electric lights. The gambling dens were open and quite well filled, even at that hour. One can buy most anything in Juneau and get good meals for 25 and 35 cents. First thing we did was to get a good breakfast. I had two eggs, a fine porter house steak, potatoes and coffee for 35 cents. I believe we would buy at every town we stopped at. I had to buy some lumberman’s overs, same as we use on felt boots, for $1.50 and a pair of buckskin drawers for $6.00.

Not far from Juneau is Douglas Island, also electric lighted, and where the famous Treadwell mills are. Everything from Frisco up is two bits, four bits, etc. We see lots of snow now and it is getting colder. We are cutting across the Deep Sea now and our next stop, where I mail this, will be Orca.

We are decided to go into Copper River district through the Valdes Pass, which is claimed to be a terrible ordeal. They land us high and dry on the beach in the snow without any living persons about except the prospectors, who came up on the trip before us and are waiting; some have been here since August, they tell us.

With love to all, I am your obedient son, Louis J. Kramer


Port Valdes, Alaska, Feb. 26, 1898
Dear Friend Will
We are here at our destination now with no signs of civilization except a log hut and a pile of lumber. The snow covered mountains are all around us with a growth of trees and underbrush at their base. The day is beautiful with a clear sky and warm sun. The steamer can not anchor within a hundred yards of the shore, so we land in row boats and our provisions will be rafted over. Speaking about our trip we arrived at Juneau Feb. 23rd. The day before was Washington’s birthday and we had the Stars and Stripes conspicuously displayed. Juneau is quite a modern city, with water works and electric lights. The merchants have a great variety of goods on hand and one can buy almost as cheap as in Seattle. Not far from Juneau is Douglas Island, also lighted by electricity, where the famous Treadwell mines are situated. The weather was fine. 12 degrees above zero was the temperature.

We left Juneau at 11:30 a.m., and sailed out into the open seas and warm wind, with temperature about 40 degrees above. During the night we experienced rough weather and we rocked and rolled all night. The baggage and other articles tumbled around making a great racket. Several were thrown completely out of their beds. The sunrise on the 25th was superb. I can not begin to describe its beauty. We arrived at Orca at 1 p.m. yesterday, it has a cannery, post office and store and six other buildings. We met parties at Orca who have been trying to go up the Copper River from their (sic) since October and could get no further than 50 miles up. They expect to go back to Juneau and try another route. Here we learned that the parties at Valdes have succeeded in overcoming the great barrier—crossing the glacier.

Valdes Pass is 5 miles from here and we will then see for ourselves whether what we hear is true or not.

It is pleasant here today, 30 degrees above zero. Regards to all I remain
Your friend, Louis J. Kramer.


Mar. 24, 1898
Elkader Register

From Alaska Valdes Pass, Alaska, March 4, 1898
Dear Friend Will:

We arrived Saturday, Feb 26th and worked afternoon and all night to get freight off the ice to camp a mile away. The weather was been delightful with clear sky and warm sun, too warm in the afternoon. The snow here is from 4 to 8 feet deep but hard on top. The glacier at the pass is a huge body of ice about 10 miles from bottom to the summit. The ascent is an 8 miles slope at about 45 degrees. From the summit one can see a lake which lies almost at the foot of the mountains and is 20 or 25 miles long bordered with timber.

We started to sled our freight on Monday from camp to the foot of the glacier which is about 5 miles. We now have it all there except our baggage, tents and commissary out fit. A sled load is from 150 to 250 pounds and takes a man 2 1/2 to 3 hours to haul. It was 48 degree above Tuesday and very hot to work. The freight is hoisted to the first bench of the glacier by a pulley. The rest may have to be packed but maybe we can use other means. The descent will be very easy, we expect to make a big stone boat—pack our freight on it and let it go down.

A letter carrier here is getting up a list of customers to whom he will carry mail for $1 a man. In our outfit we are short candles and pipe for two stoves. We don’t know what we will do about it as we can’t buy from anyone. One man has extra box of candles but no salt—but we can’t spare any salt.

Fishing here at the Bay is good, we have had three or four meals of fish already. Salmon, cod and Halibut or Flounders are caught, some weigh 15 and 20 pounds, the average catch is about six pounds. Dogs do not seem to work well, some are all right but the majority are not. A code of laws are written out and posted up. There is a judge, sheriff and clerk, parties guilty of small thefts will be tried by 12 men and furnished with lashes, thefts amounting to $100 or more are considered same a murder and guilty ones punished accordingly.

The prospect looks good, we are all confident we can strike something good after we cross the lake. Two men came out last September we are told, with 465,000 and $85,000 but were non-committal. Of all the disagreeable news we heard in Frisco and other places, not one corresponds with the actual reality of the facts as we find them.

We all have good health and good appetites. The “Rival” came in last night with 160 passengers. Today it is snowing, but no wind at all. They say the wind blows terrible at times but we were very fortunate so far in not having any.
With regards to all, I am yours with success.
Louis J. Kramer.


From Alaska—Valdes, Mar 14, 1898

Dear Father:
I have been expecting some mail from home but till now received nothing.

We still have our camp at the foot of the glacier and are slowly working our goods up to the top. The first two miles have an elevation of 1350 feet, so you can see what we have to pull up. To the third bench we put 200 pounds to the sled and pull it up, but from the third to the fourth is one fourth mile and very steep and winding. The trail is packed hard and steps had to be cut into it. It was all two men could do to pull 150 pounds on a sled. We ought to have a sled apiece but we only have four. Three sleds were used on this run while Smith and I packed on our backs. It took us one and a half days to make he quarter mile. From the top of the fourth bench is a gradual incline, probably 250 feet to the mile for about six miles. Yesterday morning we tried 150 pounds and two men to a sled. Left our goods at the fourth bench at nine a.m., and traveled till noon. It was very windy and the trail was drifted and snow to the knees, so we went no farther. I guess we went four or five miles. It took us two and one half hours to walk back to camp—all down hill.

There must be over 1000 men here now; some one counted 1036. Several have sold their outfits and gone back. Burros would be worth their weight in gold here, but lots of dogs but many that are no good. The weather has been quite pleasant here but it snows very easy, one night sixteen inches, another twelve, which blocks up the trail.

On nice days the trail from the foot of the glacier is black with men. There must have been about 600 on it. That is about four miles. I guess, and one can get two cents a pound to haul goods to the foot of the glacier. We seldom go down to the bay where the new arrivals are, but we heard some men are going to put up a tramway. Their engineers made two measurements and said it was 1720 feet above sea level at the top of the fourth bench where our goods are cached.

When we arrived we found that we had no candles and no stove pipe. We bought candles at the store and bought a three gallon oil can from the ship Valencia and made some pipe. Flour sells for $3 a sack, bacon 25 a pound from the boat. The wind is blowing considerable today and we are not doing anything. Quite a number of Tompkins are shot around the glacier. They are like a partridge only all white.

After we got over the glacier the mail carrier will bring letters but no papers. Hoping this will find you all in good health, with love to all I remain.

Your obedient son, Louis J. Kramer.


Apr. 7, 1898
Elkader Register

Valdes, Alaska, March 22nd, 1898
Dear Friend Will:
We are still camped here at the foot of the Glacier, having moved our camp here on the 6th last. There is quite a town here now, I counted 98 tents situated on each side of a narrows street. There tented towns of course increase and decrease as the men move their goods along. There are some forty tents on the third bench, about twenty-five on top of the fourth bench or top of the glacier, and then one will see tents every mile or so.

It is quite amusing to take a stroll up our street and read the signs stuck up in the snow. One reads—“Wanted, four and bacon; will exchange whip-saw and revolver.” Another—“One sweater for sale”, and so on. There are several musical instruments in camp, also a photographer who is on his way over the ice. He takes fairly good photos at 50 cents each.

The Connecticut & Alaska Mining and Trading Co., a party of thirty five men, are putting up a store down on the bay, five miles from us, selling flour $6.00 per cwt., dried fruit 17 a pound, salt 5 a pound, etc., They brought a large snow sled or rather ice sled, operated by a 12 horse power engine, but it has proved a complete failure. For moving goods over the trail, other than man himself, a burrow has been found the best here. The dogs are good but there are a great many of no account. It takes a man to keep them in order and they haul but little more than the man alone could pull.

The weather here has been mild—never below zero. We have had about forty inches of snow since we have been here. It snowed all day yesterday and all last night. That closed the trail and the wind on top of the glacier is so that we can do nothing today. It is quite a task to move one’s goods over the trail and up the glacier. It has an elevation of about 1350 feet, in the two miles to the top. Then we move over a gradual incline of abut 250 feet to the mile for about seven miles. At the end of this run we find another icy incline similar to the first two miles. Many have sold their outfits and turned back.

The Valencia arrived here on the 16th with 600 passengers and their cargo of 18 horses, 20 oxen, and 15 burros had to be killed and thrown over board. A snow slide the other day covered up two tents, the occupants escaped with the exception of two who were taken out unconscious but recovered soon after.

The Keystone company, who came up on the same boat with us, have started a sore down near the bay and have staked off 160 acres, offering lots at $100, and $150 for corner lots. We haven’t any idea how long it will take us to get over the glacier, so far we have moved our goods but eight miles since we arrived. If we have good weather we probably can do it by the 15th of next month. As yet I have received no letters or mail but am expecting some to arrive on the next boat. Hoping same will bring good news from home. I remain, Your friend, Louis J. Kramer, Valdes, Alaska. Care Shadles’s Camp.

P.S.—It would pay a man well to come up here overstocked as he always can get a good price for everything. If I wasn’t going through I’d start a store and restaurant down near the landing. Believe a fellow could do a good thing. Such stuff as candles, flour, bacon, beans, salt, sugar, etc., will sell any time, regardless of how many stores there were here. Creepers are an essential thing and most of them are no good. They want to be of the best steel and not pressed or iron. The C. & Ala. M. Co., are making some iron ones here and selling same at $2.50, actual value in states about 40 and 50 cents. It’s devilish tough, hot and sweaty work pulling these 2 x 7 sleds over the snow with a rope over your shoulder. I packed a day and a half on my back—50 pound sack—up a steep 1/4 mile—pretty slippery. I tell you it makes the sweat roll. We are all feeling fine. I’m about as brown as a half breed now. Pat is a corker to eat, and I tell you we are all a windy set—beans, you know.

Better now send any papers as I may not get them, but clip out all interesting local news and put in letter. Remember anything will be news, so clip most any thing. Haven’t received a letter since I have been here—nearly a month.

Give my love to my father and mother and my friends. Regards to all, I am Your friend, Louis J. Kramer.


Our Klondikers - Letter from Ira Patterson
May 12, 1898
Elkader Register

Valdes, April 18th 1898 Dear Father and Mother:
I write to let you know that I am getting along all right up here. We have gone about 40 miles since we landed, but it has been all up grade. We are now over the glacier, and by the time this reaches you we will be about 100 miles further on, or as far as we want to get before the snow goes off, which is about 10 feet deep and may yet last some time.

We had a hard time of it on the glacier. We were camped two weeks on 500 feet of solid ice. The last bench of the glacier that we had to clime was a mile almost straight up and down. Wages here are very high, packers getting as high as $20 a day. Some have horses and make lots of money. If I had old Fan here I could make $1,000 in less than a month pulling freight, as the snow will soon begin to get soft and people are anxious to get over the glacier. Wood sells at the rate of $90 per cord on top of the glacier as it has to be drawn on sleds uphill for 20 miles. Flour is worth $16 per hundred, rice and sugar 25 cents per pound—you see everything is valuable.

I am getting as fat as a hog and feel good, but we all look horrid with our beards on and tanned as black as Negroes. Louis Kramer is as black as an African. When we came here there were only about 50 people, now there is over 2,000 and still more coming as almost every day a boat lands. It is great to be in a camp as large as ours. We are located in a lovely spot of timber near running water, as the foot of a mountain 4,000 feet high. We have plenty of spruce gum to chew, and dry pine wood to burn. It makes a hot old fire. Sam Boots was bothered with his rupture so that he sold his share. If he comes home you must not think there is no gold in Alaska. There is plenty of it when we get to it.

Perhaps this may be the last you will hear from me for some time, for we have to pay $1.00 for every letter we send out, but we get them brought in free. You can write long letters, but don’t be alarmed if you do not hear from me for a while for I am as safe up here as I would be at home. There was one young man shot by accident here three weeks ago. He was taking a rifle out of a bag when it went off, the charge striking him in the hip and stomach. He died and was buried the next day, and one man died of inflammation of the bowels.

I must close now and go into the next tent for supper. Capt. Shadle does the cooking and we have fine grub too. If I don’t find anything I won’t come home, shall work for a while. But I believe we shall find all we want of it.
Signed Ira Patterson.


June 30, 1898
Elkader Register

Letters from Elkader Boys in Frozen Territory, Klatina River, Alaska, May 12th, 1898
Dear folks at home:
I will write a few lines to you today to let you know I am all right yet. We have had a hard time of it for the past week or more. The snow is going and we have been going through lakes and swamps where the water was from six to eighteen inches deep and drag a sled with 400 pounds on it, and we hurried to get to this river before the snow disappeared. Many a night I have gone to bed at 11 and got up at 12:30 and started across a seven miles lake and some times the water would be frozen at that time. It is only dark from ten till two.

We won’t sled any more now as we are going to build a boat here and float down to the Copper river, and then up it. I bet I have not lost a pound in weight yet and I do not think I will loose any flesh now. There are lots of berries here that grow on the ground. They are just excellent for sauce now after having been covered with snow all winter. There are hundreds of acres of swamp covered with those berries. There is any number of wild geese and ducks here on the creeks and rivers.

Two men went by our ten a few minutes ago with about seventy live mountain trout on a pole. How is that for fishing? I like to hunt better than to fish. I took the rifle last night and went down a small creek. I laid in the grass along the water edge and shot sever ducks as they swam by. The creek was about ten feet deep in the center and forty feet wide. I got all the ducks I wanted then got up and moseyed down the stream.

The sun had just gone down and it was fifteen minutes of ten. I saw a large black thing about 200 yards ahead of me and it stood as high as a man and did not moved so I cocked my old 45 70 and shot toward it, for I knew it would kill anything. I got within 200 feet of it and shot. I hit it but it was so close to the water that it floundered into the creek before I could get to it so I did not get him. I found out that it was a beaver and they always sink in water. I went a little farther and saw their house in the middle of the water and their dam below. I shot two more the same night. They never saw anyone before and that is why they were not afraid. One of the men was out hunting grouse last Tuesday and came fact to face with a big black bear. He shot him and we had a mess of bear. It was good too.

I will have to close now for the man that is going to the coast is ready. I would like to step into the old home for a few days, but I have never wished for a minute that I had not come. I enjoy this kind of a life for a change and when I get back I’ll be a great deal wiser than when I left. Write when you can and write long letters.

From your son, Ira S. Patterson.

P. S. I am not in Shadle’s party any more. Boals, Jacobs and I are going by ourselves now.


LAND OF THE MIDNIGHT SUN -- Interesting Letter from Shadle’s Camp by L. J. Kramer.
June 23, 1898
Elkader Register

Alaska, May 13th, 1898
Dear Father and Mother:
I don know whether you will receive this or not but will write anyway. A man going back to the bay will take it. He goes back for more footwear, but may buy it from some one before he gets to the bay; in that case he will go no further and this will probably be lost.

We are now camped on the Klatina river, or third river on the west side of the Copper. We are about 35 miles from the Copper river. Down at the lakes where I last wrote you, there were two trails, one leading along a river from the lake north east; the other leading across two lakes north and slightly northwest. We took the north trail and are now at the river where everyone is busy building boats. The trail down the river from the lake brought the parties who took it 10 miles below the mouth of the river we are on and on the Copper. Hence we have done a great deal of unnecessary hauling.

Our party is breaking up today. I was appointed receiver. Patterson, Boals and Jacobs are the three who left Shadle’s Camp. What they will do I don’t know, they talk some of striking for the Tanana.

A man returned today from the Copper river who went down 18 days ago. He says Mt. Wrangel is directly east of the mouth of this river, also that the Copper river valley is very wide and more like a hunting ground than anything else. The high bluffs on this side (west) are all burnt out and seem to have very poor prospects of containing any mineral. The bluffs on the river here are almost like alkali or ash. The outlook so far is not very encouraging.

The weather has been fine the last month, average about 65 in the shade. The last three miles we almost had to pull our sleds over bare ground and it was very hard work. I was 4 hours in pulling a small load two miles. Quite a number of fish have been caught in a small stream near here. We shot four ducks. One bear was shot early this week but since then no signs of other game. I expect we will be camped here for three or four weeks.

The boys were considerably interested in the letter from Elliott that Mr. Corlett sent Boots. Sam forwarded it to me before he left. I hardly think I will get any more mail because the parties are all divided up, some took the lake trail, then about 10 miles north of the lake, some went east and we went north. There must be about 150 men in this camp and some are already down on the Copper.

The river here is not very wide, probably 100 feet or so and there are many large rocks in it. We no doubt must tow our boat down it. According to the outlook from the provision stand point I expect we will have to get out of the country in the fall as it will not last over winter. Then we would have to go out any way for if we did stay we could do nothing but sit around and eat during the winter.

It is daylight now from 1:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Most of our trail work in the last two weeks had been done from 12:30 a.m. to noon, as then the snow is slightly frozen and sometimes we can travel a little on the crust, but at noon it is very warm and the trail is almost bare. We crossed the two lakes, each five miles long with 4 to 8 inches of water on the ice. Our hip boots came into good use.

The mosquitoes are beginning to buzz and they are big ones too. No Indians are seen although we see old teepees, bear traps, etc.

Well, I hope you are all in good health. As for myself I am feeling fine. The reports of the Copper river and surrounding country given us by the men today are very discouraging but we hope for the best. With love to you all, I am your devoted son, Louis J. Kramer.

P.S. I took a fine head to foot warm bath yesterday, shaved and put on clean clothes—makes me feel fine. Have quite a mustache now—don’t think much of my beard so I scraped it off. The rest of the boys have their full bears yet. L.J.K.


On the Tazlina River, Alaska (35 miles from the Copper River)
Thursday, June 2, 1898

Dear Father:
I wrote you two letters in the last week or so but as they may not have reached you, I’ll write you another. We arrived on this river on the 13th of May with barely snow enough to reach it on sleds, but we finally got here, going the last three miles on almost bare ground. The day we arrived at the camp Boals, Jacobs and Patterson bolted from the party, had their goods set out and were going it alone hereafter. That left Shadle, Smith, Millard, Dyer and myself. Everybody was busy whipping out lumber and building boats. We just got started to cut lumber when Millard and Dyer decided to give it up—sell out and go home. They sold their goods at auction and got big prices. Flour sold for $24 per cwt., bacon $33, oat meal $24, sugar $45, etc. It was quite a sale and nearly a hundred men were present. Not long after another man sold out and by each I sent you a letter.

We went to work on our boat. In the division Boal’s party got the whip saw, and he personally owned some carpenter tools, so we were considerably crippled in the boat building business, nevertheless with a borrowed saw, hatchet and plane we put up a 20 foot scow, 5 feet wide, on which we were to sail down the Tazlina to the Copper. On the 21st of May the first (7) boats were down the river—started I should rather say—for the first one had not floated over 300 yards before she was hung up on a boulder for a half hour, lost stove and a few other things overboard and tore a hole in her side. She landed above the first rapids and the owner had to saw more lumber and repair her. She is still on the dry dock. The others got through the first rapids all right but are now strung along the river some 15 miles down, others not so far, with more or less of their freight.

This river is about 300 feet wide—swift and full of rapids, rocks and huge boulders. On the 29th, we loaded our boat, landed above the first rapids and packed our goods around the rapids, then lined the boat through, loaded up and tried it again. At the quarter mile we were nearly smashed head first into a huge boulder. We jolted the boat up against it so hard that we expected to be swamped the next moment but no—we went on a little farther—abut a half mile from camp and then hung up on two rocks. We worked and pried around to get her loose for over two hours. The water ice cold, swift and about three foot deep. We finally decided to pack our goods ashore—about a hundred ft.

We landed two parcels when live men happened along, lent us a hand and pulled boat and all ashore. We then camped here about a half mile below the city and boat yards and put the “Gold Hunter” on dry dock. She leaded a little, that was all, but our goods did not get wet. We thought best to wait for higher water. While we were doing this Dad went prospecting and found a few colors, but nothing very encouraging although he thought that we might stake out three claims in the canyon—“Shadle’s canyon.” We did so and the next day there were over fifty men in the canyon with pick, shovel and gold pan. Yesterday we changed the course of the creek making a ground sluice. We tried the former bed of the creek but no prospects in the first couple feet. Dad hardly thinks it will amount to much. Still we will try it tomorrow after we shot of the water. We want to work at it today but there was so much of interest on the river that we hadn’t the time.

Eight boats started down the river to day, they all shot the first rapids all right. The first two shot the second rapids nicely and kept going. The third hung up broadside in the second rapids and struck a big rock, up ended, partly keeled over then settled right side up solid among the rocks, full of water and running over, and but ten feet from number three. For three hours we worked with five other men and finally got number three started all right down the river and the goods all ashore from the 4th. The goods were all wet and the boat had to be abandoned.

In the afternoon “the Chicago” came down shot through the second rapids only to hang broadside on a rock, filling her with water. Her partner the “Henson” did the same above the rapids. Both had small lighters by which they succeeded in beaching their goods, they lost none, but no doubt much is damaged by the water. The next one that came was Boal’s boat. They landed her above the second rapids and overlooked the course, finally thinking it best to line it down. With five men on the line and two in the boat they started her through the rapids. At abut half way she got turned side ways, struck on some rocks and tilted up stream filling with water in a second. With hasty work they succeeded in throwing their drenched goods ashore. The last boat landed above the rapids and staid there so far all right. It was a bad day for the goods and only goes to show how difficult it will be to reach the Copper river safe and sound with all our goods. The main party up at the camp are undecided what to do. Some have gone up the Tazlina prospecting and investigating and some went down afoot to the Copper. Two returned tonight from Copper River reporting river very swift, some boulders and about twice as wide as this one. Clay banks 200 and 300 feet high on each side similar to these. They visited two camps on the Copper, one was from here having succeeded in reaching there by boat but losing about half their goods. The others sledded down having arrived here in time to travel on the ice.

It is pretty warm here now and the mosquitoes are becoming quite troublesome. It is true they are large ones and many of them. I gathered a quart of marsh cranberries about a week ago. For the last few days we have had all the green onions we wanted. They grow on the beach and are nice and tender. Decoration Day I had quite a beautiful bouquet of violet and white flowers. Game is not very plenty. Many moose and a bear were killed and there are many hunters out every day. The moose meat sold quick at two bits a pound.

(Two hours later.) The mail carrier just arrived bringing me six letters, and I am more than tickled tonight to get mail from home and the flags. Give my hearty good wishes and thanks to Mr. Wolf for the flag. I shall certainly remember him every time I see it. Katie sent me a beauty. War news was received here with considerable enthusiasm. Give my love to all the boys and tell them I was most delighted to see the photographs they made and sent. Good health and luck to them all. I am feeling excellent and couldn’t feel finer. We have a fine camping place with pine boughs for feathers and a blanket and sleeping bag makes it excellent at night. It is too warm now for both and I use but the bag now.

Your letters tell about East Sunday and what you had for dinner. Now I’ll tell you what we did on that day. We were camped on the glacier at the foot of the summit, the snow fell the day before so that there was no trail up the summit. East Sunday we expected to move camp over the summit, no trail in a.m., made two trips in p.m., slept on snow covered with one tent, then rubber blankets, on which other blankets were put. This was the worst night we put in, other times we always had boughs to sleep on. But it wasn’t as bad as it might seem. Some of the boys got a little cold but I didn’t. I had the bag you know and it’s a dandy. After supper I smoked a cigar —brought a few along— smoke them on special occasions, holidays, etc.

I am glad the town is coming still more to the front, no doubt it will have started the electric light plant ere I get back.

Tell Johnny his dream won’t come out well. My beard I cut off but had a dandy mustache. The other part of his dream—coming home with Sam—for you already know he left us two months ago. As to lice, I haven’t them yet nor any gold. I see better chances of getting the former than the latter. I still have about two pounds of dried beef and two cans ham that you sent along. Keep that for “hard times.”

There is one think my trip will benefit others more than myself even if I don’t strike anything because all I write you can bank on, now what you read in the papers. For instance I enclose a notice received by Smith about gold at thirty miles from Valdes. It is a lie pure and simple. With regards to all I am Your obedient son, Louis J. Kramer.


Letter from M.C. Smith to his wife
July 7, 1898
Elkader Register

Alaska, June 3, 1898
Dear Wife:
I will try and write a few lines to you as the mail man is here after our mail, and I will take this chance to let you know where I am. We are camped on the banks of the Tanalina river, about 35 miles from the Copper river. We built a boat to go down to the Copper river and started down with our goods, went through the rapids all right but struck a rock below them and got hung up and had to take a line to shore. I was in the water about three hours. It was cold; the ice was running in the river but we saved our goods. There has been about 15 boats started and not one has got through some lost all they had and some got their goods all wet. We don’t know when we will try it again.

Men that went down to see how bad it was say a boat can’t go down, so we went looking for gold and we found enough so we located three claims but we don’t know yet if they will pay to work. Will try them for two weeks and if they don’t pay will try some other place. We are in a high place now, we can’t go back or ahead, unless we go down the river and if we do we are sure to get wrecked and lose our goods, and we are in a place we can’t brag of, but I am happy as a bed but. I have never felt better in my life than I do now, but if I could make enough here to make a fortune I might feel a little better. I think the chances rather slim, but we can’t tell, for here we are poor today and rich tomorrow. If this claim don’t pay I am going to take my pack on my back and go to the mountains, twenty five miles from here, if we don’t start down this river again.

Fred Millard and Jack Dyer quit and went home. The mail only gets to us once every two or three months. It cost me 50 cents for ever letter I send and $1 for every letter I get. I have only heard from you once. . . . This country is covered with moss. It looks nice and it is like walking on a carpet, you will sink to your shoe tops and it is all kinds of colors. There is hundreds of acres covered with cranberries, which we have for sauce and we have all the wild onions we want. The trees have commenced to bud and they will soon be leafed out. There are some early flowers out but it is chilly today. The ground never thaws out here. you can pull up the most and see the blue ice; the mountains are all covered with ice and snow.

Must stop writing, the mail man has just brought me three letters. Guess I will have time to read them. I have not time to open all the letters as the mail man can’t wait. I have all the back letters. Hope you are getting along all right. Give my regards to all my friends and neighbors. Will write again when time permits. M. C. Smith.


Letter from Ira Patterson to his sister

Tanalina River, June 3, 1898

Dear Sister:
I have a chance to send out a letter today and will write a few lines. We are camped on the river and have our boats built ready to go down this river to the Copper river. We are a great deal farther in the interior than we though we were. The Indians say we are not far from Dawson but we don’t know how true it is. Indians are a common thing now but they are peaceable and nice.

The snow has been gone for some time, and we have fine weather here now. There are lots of wild flowers in bloom. We sleep outside of the tent lots of the time now. We go out prospecting and stay five or six days, and just build a fire to keep the mosquitoes away, and lie down on our blankets.

We have about twenty hours of sunshine and it is light all night. Never gets dark at all this time of the year. I went down the river duck hunting about two o’clock in the morning just as the sun was coming up. I heard the brush crack up on the side hill and looking up I saw a great big black bear coming down a path toward the water. I crept behind a big rock and waited until he came down and was drinking and then I tapped my rifle on the rock and he lifted his head and looked the opposite way, and I fired and struck him in the back of the head, shattering his whole head. I was over a mile from camp and so I skinned him and I could scarcely carry his hide home. We all went back and got the meat and sold what we did not want for 20 cents per pound. The hide is large enough to cover half the tent and makes a nice bed to sleep on. I am going to try and bring it home with me when I come, it is such a nice fur.* The bears up here are afraid of a person and run if they see you. There is plenty of moose meat here. I got a number of letters today, sixteen in all, but none from you folks. Why don’t you write? I would like to hear from you every two weeks and I have only received one letter from you since I left home—over four months ago. I wish you would clip slips from the papers and send to me. Don’t send whole papers as they will not deliver papers.

We find a little gold every once in a while that would pay about $3 to $4 a day but could not be worked very easy as it is so far from water. We hope soon to be in the gold region.

We have plenty of wild onions they grow like grass. I am sitting on a rock 400 feet above the river, just above a foaming rapid and it is ten minutes past ten and the sun has just gone down. We have to carry there letters a mile yet to the. . . . Ira Patterson.

*Transcribers note: Someone wrote “Damn Lie!” beside this story in the Elkader Register on file at the Elkader Library.


July 14, 1898
Elkader Register

An Alaska letter received from Louis Kramer dated June 9th states that their claim did not pan out as expected. They were thinking of buying a boat and making an attempt to get to the Copper River. He sends home an interesting picture of the boys at an outfit sale.


July 28, 1898
Elkader Register

R. E. Price received a letter Tues. from Captain Shadle in which he states that he and Smith are now alone of the party that went to Alaska. Louis Kramer has sold out his outfit and was to take his letter to the coast. Smith and Shale purpose to try it a little longer. A. Kramer also received a letter from Louis mailed from Seattle, stating that he had arrived there and thought of going to San Francisco and then to Honolulu, if not needed at home.


August 4, 1898
Elkader Register

Ira Patterson, one of the Elkader boys who went to Alaska with Capt. Shadle arrived home Tues. evening. He came over the glacier with Louis Kramer, who is now homeward bound from San Francisco. Ira looks hale and hearty. He doubts whether Shadle and Smith will attempt the pass later this fall and says they have built their provisions to last all winter.


August 18, 1898
Elkader Register

Capt. Shadle was in town Sat. shaking hands with his old friends who were glad to welcome him back from the dangers of Alaska, and to see that he was looking well. The many friends of Louis J. Kramer will be pleased to know that he has taken into partnership by a gentlemen owning an established meat market and delicatessen shop in San Francisco and apparently has bright prospects for business success.


May 11, 1899
Elkader Register

Louis Kramer, one of our Klondike travelers who has been in California for the past year, returned home last evening. He was joyously welcomed by his parents and friends.


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