LAND OF THE MIDNIGHT SUN -- Interesting Letter from
Shadles 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
Shadles Camp. What they will do I dont 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
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
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
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 clothesmakes me feel fine.
Have quite a mustache nowdont 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
I wrote you two letters in the last week or so but as
they may not have reached you, Ill 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 upsell 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
We went to work on our boat. In the division Boals
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
riverstarted I should rather sayfor 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 wideswift 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 nowe went on a little
fartherabut 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
ashoreabout 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
canyonShadles 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 hadnt 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
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 Boals
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
couldnt 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 Ill 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 wasnt as bad as it might seem.
Some of the boys got a little cold but I didnt. I
had the bag you know and its 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
Tell Johnny his dream wont come out well. My beard
I cut off but had a dandy mustache. The other part of his
dreamcoming home with Samfor you already know
he left us two months ago. As to lice, I havent
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 dont 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