There are stories to discover about your family’s past that are just as exciting as any current adventure movie. Jane Stevens of St. George shares her grandfather Marion Christopher’s experiences in the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898-1899. He was 27 when he went to Alaska, stayed one year, then came home and married Jane’s grandmother Tacy Baile in Warrensburg Mo in 1900.
This story about Marion’s life was written by his daughter Ana: Everyone wants to make their fortunes. Papa went, of course. It was the hardest thing a man ever did, sinking a hole. You’d build a fire in the a.m. out of wood, a hole about two feet wide and five foot long, like a grave. You’d keep that fire going till you burned the hole down thirty feet. At night, you’d clean the fire out and there would be two or three inches of ground melted; if lucky, maybe four or five inches at the most. You’d build another fire and so on. You could go eight feet down and the ground would still be frozen. It was that cold. The fire was going all the time except when cleaning it out.
You had to go to bedrock. There’d be black muck to go through and then the bedrock which was gravel on top. You’d pan it out and take to the cabin. But if there was gold, you’d have to tunnel under. When you staked a claim out, you tried to get close to the fellow who had already found gold. Papa recalled: I had a dog sled and from five to seven Indian dogs, Malamutes. We’d have about three and a half hours of daylight. My partner and I went up river from Dawson walking. It was over 680 miles. It was rough going. Snow all the time. Fine mist would fall everyday and crust over the snow. We’d average about thirty miles a day when there was good trails. We followed the river trail up and down the river. On Gold Run Creek, we built our cabin.
This same story could be about my own great grandfather Wm. Marion Johnson who left his home in Utah to go north to Alaska looking for gold. Leaving his wife and family, he never returned. What stories wait to be discovered as you search for your family’s past? How can you share these stories if you haven’t collected them? NEXT TIME: Learn from the Past. Need help getting started writing your family stories? Use Lin’s book: FIND YOUR VOICE: WRITE YOUR LIFE STORY with ideas for collecting and organizing your ancestor’s stories then editing and publishing them for your family. Only $10.