Grant and Clarence Driver letters from Alaska Goldrush

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 1897 to 1898
Location: Alaskamap
Surnames/tags: Driver Alaska_Goldrush
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This first letter was written by Grant Simpson Driver to his mother Mary Elizabeth Forsyth regarding Clarence Elisha Driver's joining him in Alaska. Transcribed by Lyn Sara Driver Gulbransen I have left the spellings as written.

Skagway Dec 28, 1897 Dear Ma,

I received your letter yesterday. Tell Clarence: If he must come to Alaska to let me know immediately and I will wait for him. I do not want him to go in alone. and I think it would be better for him to stay at home and attend to his education. But if he is bound to come, start him out immediately. He does not know what trouble he will have going in with no knowledge of what is before him.

There are two other boys in Sacramento coming in January about the last of the month. Their name is Elliot. Very nice boys. They live at 1720 N Street. If Clarence is bound to come he might see them also Garroute at 725 G Street. Ed Walker may come also.

Men are coming out of Klondike every day. They are principally men who went in last fall with little provisions and are going below after a grubstake. They all say they intend to return. They all have money and say that money is no object in there grub is the main thing. I have seen one man however who did not strike anything. He has been in there for 6 years and has made no money to speak of. He is going back in the spring and give it another try.

We feel confident that we will make money before we come out. We have been cutting wood for some time but wood is a drug in the market and people are selling it cheaper than we can afford to and make money. We are going to speculate a little in real estate now. We have taken up a lot spice and are going to build a log house on them and sell them. We have been very foolish since we came up here. We could have had the pick of lots in this town. Lots which are now selling from 500 to 1000 dollars. We could have made money if we had just squatted on a lot and stayed there.

The weather is not very severe here yet. It snows or rains every day but it is not very cold. It was much colder a month ago. Once or twice the thermometer has been below zero but usually it is not lower than the freezing point. I received the nicest present this morning from Sacramento. It was a very fine morocco bound pocket book diary. Just the thing I needed. I have kept a diary ever since I came here. It came just in time and I will start to use it on the first of the year. I do not know when we will start in. May be about the last of January.

Talk about money if I had 100 dogs here I would have a fortune. Every poodle in town is worth money. We don’t need a pound master here. There must have been 200 dogs landed here by the last boat.

We took turkey dinner Christmas at the Hotel Cripple Creek. We had a very nice dinner for fifty cents.

Here is a list of the provisions I intend taking in. I will not buy them till I hear from you and if Clarence comes he can double it for himself an me and I will pay him when he gets here. We must have the best as it does not pay to carry a poor article so far.

10 sax flour 50#

150 sugar granulated

100# good thin bacon

20# coffee

10# black tea

100# brown beans

50# oatmeal

100# mixed fruit evaporated (40 apricots 20 apples 20 prunes 20 peaches)

25# salt

5 gals syrup

a good axe shovel and gold pan

a wall tent 8x10

two pairs good blankets

box of candles

tin of matches

This will cost about sixty or seventy dollars. Don’t lay in a great supply of cloths as one will buy lots of things below that he will not need when he gets here. Any other small articles can be had in Skagway at a very reasonable figure.

As to sleeping bag I have never examined one closely. Of course we will need one when we go inside but they are expensive. They cost from 20 to 100 dollars. A rubber blanket is indispensable. Yukon stoves can be had here as cheaply as anywhere. One wants to count on having about a hundred dollars in his pocket after he gets here with his outfit as one will have expenses on the inside such as duty and fees. The more money he has the better off.

Now Ma, if Clarence is coming at all get him to come now as I do not want to wait after I get ready to go in and I do not want him to go in alone. The fact is I would rather go in with him than most anyone else. You need not show him this letter if he has not thoroughly made up his mind to come. Well I must stop and go to bed. Hoping to hear from you soon I remain your loving son

Grant S Driver

This letter was published in Sacramento Daily Union, Volume 94, Number 36, 26 September 1897


GRANT DRIVER DESCRIBES THE SITUATION. All Kinds of People There, but Good Order Prevails—The Pass Now Open. Special Correspondence of Record-Union.) Skagway, Sept. 13. 1897. Eds. "-Record-Union:" I will give you a correct account of the condition of affairs in Skaguay. I have read the accounts published in some of the papers. Some are more or less correct, but most of them give the public a very different idea of affairs from what they really are. I came here from Sacramento nearly three weeks ago. The town, which maybe properly called a "mushroom" town, was then composed entirely of tents. There was but one wooden structure in the town. There were between two and three thousand people here, all living in tents. Now there are about one hundred and fifty wooden buildings being constructed. Mostly business houses. There are three large hotels nearly completed, and plenty of stores and saloons, and some dwellings. All classes of society are represented here. Laboring men, professional men, confidence men, gamblers. and thugs, all are here making the most they can from the business they represent. And yet there is order. Life and property are as safe here as they are in Sacramento. A vigilance committee has been organized, and the man who steals a ham will receive the same punishment as the one who kills his neighbor. The fact that this committee has had nothing to do is proof that this is a very orderly town. The streets have all been surveyed and named.

There is a great deal of talk now about a railroad being built from here to the lakes. There has been a survey made of the pass for that purpose, but whether the plan will be carried out or not remains to be seen. There are at present three companies building wharves. The oldest company is from Victoria, and has spent more than $14,000 here already, and has not half completed its wharf. This wharf is built against a cliff about a thousand feet high. The approach to it is about half a mile in length. The other two companies, one from Juneau and the other from Seattle, are building their wharves about half a mile out, with the approach reaching as far as the high tide. Wages here are anywhere from $4 to $10 per day. The wharf companies pay $3 per day and board the men. Packers get 38 cents per pound. At that rate some make as high as $15 per day.

The pass between here and the lakes has been very bad, but it is now in fair condition. The representatives of the New York "World" have taken the matter in hand, and, with the aid of men wishing to pass over and the subscriptions of the business men, have opened the trail, and made it possible for those who have means and courage to pass through. The greatest obstacle in the way of the traveler to Klondike is encountered at the lakes. There is no timber in that vicinity for boat building, and it is Impossible for one to go into the gold fields without one. Boats on Lake Bennett are selling for from $250 to $300. Boat-builders are offering $100 for a ten-inch saw log. Men are offering $500 each for seats in small boats down the Yukon.

The steamers Queen and Alki arrived to-day with more miners for the Klondike.


Clarence Driver leaving for the Alaska Gold Rush

This is a fragment of a letter from Clarence.

Dawson City July 27, 1898

Dear Mother and Father.

We are at Dawson now. We came here on Tuesday and we don’t know just when we will leave. But when we do go from here it will be to Forty Mile Creek in Alaska We both enjoy good health and hope you are all the same. We have plenty of provisions to eat, enough to last until spring.

I will try to describe Dawson and Klondyke City to you. The two towns which are really one are about two miles long. They are divided by the Klondike River but they are also connected by a bridge which costs fifty cents to cross.

Dawson extends up the Klondike about two miles and down the Yukon to the bluffs. The town was first started in a small mass and grew larger. It was extended up the hillsides which are so steep that they have to dig into the side of the hill to get a place to build a cabin. There is only one regular street in the town and it resembles Market St. in regard to the people that walk up and down it. There are so many people here and so little to do that for the sake of doing something they walk the street night and day. This street is lined with houses, every other one a saloon. Here and there a restaurant then a store and an auction house and a theater one or two banks and Miners Exchange.

There are piles of people selling out and going home. The steamers are coming up the river now one or two everyday. Bring in newcomers but also taking out a good many too. The fare from here to Seattle……

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Thanks for posting this very interesting story.
posted by Joyce Vander Bogart