The Gold Rush of 1898

Women of the Valdez Gold Rush: Mrs. Dowling, Mrs. Anne Barrett, Miss Lillian Moore - these women and 60 others joined the Valdez Gold Rush. Some were married, some were adventuresome unmarried women. They were all looking for something more exciting than church socials and tea parties. Mrs. Dowling became a living legend on the trail. At Klutina Lake, she nursed an Army man stricken with typhoid back to health. About her, Copper River Joe wrote - "When these men [crossing the glacier] were about to give up, a woman by name of Mrs. Dowling, shamed them into a final effort and it saved them, because one among them had the nerve, though undoubtedly she was the weakest physically." Mrs. Anne Barrett, a popular Swedish beauty, prepared for the Valdez Trail by walking 20 miles every day. After crossing the glacier, she started a restaurant at Klutina Lake and was famous for her fresh lingonberry pies. Later, she became a mine owner at Slate Creek and a restaurant owner in Valdez. Lillian Moore, a Vassar graduate, was an excellent horsewoman. Capt. Abercrombie hired her to help take his horses over Valdez Glacier. She wrote home that she had "out walked the men." Concerned about the treatment of horses, Lillian Moore started an organization to rescue them. Later, Lillian and her husband ran a transport company taking goods by horse drawn sleds over the Richardson Trail. Women played an integral role throughout the gold rush facing challenges alongside their male peers. Obstacles turned into opportunities for many women who braved the wilds of Alaska at the turn of the century. goldrush picture

Valdez and the Gold Rush "Gold in Alaska!" "Valdez Glacier - Best Trail!" So rang the headlines in 1897-1898. Steamship companies promoted the Valdez Glacier Trail praising it as the only All-American trail to Alaska's interior. The Copper River, they said, was on American soil. Prospectors were bound to find even more gold there than in the Klondike. It was one of the greatest hoaxes in Alaska's history. The prospectors arrived to find a glacier trail twice as long and steep as reported. With frontier grit, they set about hand sledding more than a 1000 pounds of supplies over the glacier, building boats, rafting the Klutina River's Hell's Gate rapids, and prospecting unnamed creeks. By August most of the 4,000 or more goldrushers knew - they had been conned. But was it worth it? No, for those who died. Yes, for the many who found the greatest adventure of their lives. They returned home to tell others about Valdez's mountainous beauty and awe-inspiring glaciers. They told stories of their thrilling experiences rafting wild rivers, encountering bears, catching fish and hiking wilderness trails. And yes, for those who succumbed to the lure and challenge of building the first ice-free trail between coastal and interior Alaska. Today, this is the route of the Richardson Highway and the TransAlaska Pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez. And yes, again, for those who were so intrigued by this majestic wonderland they stayed to build the town of Valdez and Alaska.

by Nancy Lethcoe

Nancy and her husband, Jim, have written extensively on the cultural and natural history of Prince William Sound . Please visit her website - Prince William Sound Books


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