Don't Go to the Klondike

From the Paris Appeal

17 Feb 1898 

Don't Go to the Klondike

Hon. George W. Young, Congressman Bodine's law partner, returned to his home at Paris, Mo. last week , after an absence of six months in Alaska. On August 4 of last year he was grub-staked by a company of Paris capitalists composed of Hon. R.N. Bodine, Dr. F.M. Moss, Judge D. H. Moss and H. G. Stavely, and started for Dawson City to prospect for gold. His return was entirely unexpected, no one knowing he was on the way back until he reached Seattle. Since his arrival in Paris he has been besieged by prospective gold seekers and the account he gives of his observations in the Klondike has had a tendency to chill their ardor. Mr. Young said:

"It took me nine weeks to make the trip from Paris, Mo., to Dawson City, and if I live to be 100 years old I will never forget that journey. I went by the Skagway trail. At that time it was one struggling mass of excited gold seekers, and was strewn with horses that had been killed, crippled or abandoned. After a series of hardships that no man could describe I reached the lake and made the rest of the trip down the Yukon with comparative ease. When I reached Dawson City in October, winter had already set in and fully 1000 men had been forced to leave for Fort Yukon by high prices and scarcity of food. My brother, whom I had expected to join had gone to Fort Yukon several weeks before, after locating and prospecting a claim that proved to be worthless. The stores had long before quit filling orders for supplies, and I could not have bought enough food for a month, even if I had begged for the privilege on my knees. Flour was $12.00 per 100 pounds, beans 10 cents a pound, and coffee, tea, bacon and other provisions $1.00 a pound.

The stores still had a limited amount of supplies, but were holding them for those who had been in the country all season and who were depending on them, and even they could only get a small amount per week. A new comer or tenderfoot could not buy at any price. Wages had been cut from $1.50 an hour to $1.00 an hour, and there was work for only a limited number. Many of the mines were not in operation because of the 10 percent royalty the Canadians government is exacting on the gold taken out, the owners claiming that at the present prices of supplies and labor they cannot afford to operate their mines and pay royalty. "

" I remained in Dawson City six weeks. I found that the richness of the country had been terribly exaggerated and that we had only heard of the bright side of it. O course there are a few mines that are making immense yields, but there are also hundreds of claims on which men have spent months of hard work and great sums of money and have gotten no9thing in return. I know of one man who worked for weeks and weeks sledding eighty cords of wood to his claim and that was worth a small fortune, and after a season of hard work he was poorer than the day he started. Those who go this season expecting to secure claims will be disappointed. Everything within thirty-five miles of Dawson City has been taken, and comparatively few of these will pan out a fortune. Those who are starting now will get to Dawson City early in the spring, two months before supply boats are able to get up the river. They will find no claims worth having, and no work to be had, and unless they have plenty of provisions they will find it the most expensive spot on earth in which to exist. "

" I found Dawson City to be a town of about 2500 inhabitants, 150 of whom were women. It had a Catholic, Presbyterian and an Episcopal church, and saloons, gambling halls and dance houses without number. The commonest whisky and beer a man ever swallowed retails at 50 cents a drink. Everything considered, though, it is a very orderly place. The place was about out of illuminating materials when I left, several mines having shut down because no lights could be obtained. I remained in Dawson City six weeks, and the longer I stayed the more I became convinced that there was no show for me to strike anything."

" On the 4th of December, in company with six other men, I started back to the United States. We had provisions enough of our own for the trip. They were loaded on sleds and drawn by dogs. The day we left the thermometer registered 60 degrees below zero. The Yukon was frozen and we followed it back to the lakes and crossed the Skagway pass. We met the two men having 800 pounds of condensed or evaporated eggs on sleds. The surest way to make money up there is to take provision across the pass before spring and boat them to Dawson City as soon as the ice begins to move. Boats going down the Yukon will get in three weeks before steamers can get up the river, and of course will find a great demand for goods at big prices."

Mr. Young weights 50 pounds less than when he left Paris in August.

 (Courtesy of Kathleen Wilham)