1898 Yukon Nuggets
Postal Service in the Klondike
Lake Bennett, April 21, 1898.
I sent a letter off this morning by a man from Massachusetts who was going to Dyea. I went up to Lindeman to look for mail but was disappointed. My walk was about 33 miles today, 16 of those for a letter that did not come.
Alfred McMichael, from a letter written at Lake Bennett.
To prospectors on the Klondike trails and in the mining camps, mail was often as important as gold. Trouble is, both were hard to come by. Hardly any of the rabble who rushed to the Klondike in 1898 were rewarded with nuggets.
Most found themselves in a cold and God-forsaken land thousands of miles from home and without prospects of a bright futures. More than whiskey, a paying job or gold, they longed for letters from home.
Yet postal service to the Klondike was primitive at best. The gold rush was not likely to be permanent, reasoned the Canadian government, so it made little effort to expedite mail delivery to the distant gold fields.
Thus, freelance mail carriers like Mike Mahoney were able to earn a small fortune delivering letters for individuals along the trails leading from the Alaskan coast to Dawson City and from the creeks to the towns. In the winter of 1897, Mahoney delivered a load of mail from Dawson to Skagway on a two-week trip that earned him $2500.00 for his troubles. There was money in mail, all right.
In the beginning, Klondikers were stuck in tiny tents stretched out along Lakes Lindeman and Bennett during the bleak winter of '97-'98. They had little to occupy their dreary days and lots of time to long for news from home.
Got your letter on Thursday last. The post office delivers our mail to Sheep Camp, from there a private carrier brings it to Lake Lindeman for which we pay 15 cents per letter, and am glad to get them at that price.
Harley Tuch, from a diary he kept on the trail.
It is surprising that they carried the U.S. Mail up the Chilkoot trail to Sheep Camp. However, beyond that, private, unoffical mail carriers delivered letters to the tent towns.
Lake Bennett May 8, 1898
My Dear Clara,
At last I have been rewarded for my trip after mail. When I reach camp again, this will have been a forty mile one, but I have seven letters to show and a few supplies which I picked up. Think of my doing forty miles on foot when a two and a half mile trip downtown on foot was quite a consideration. I have not paid $1.75 with as much pleasure since leaving home. I hope more will come.
Alfred G. McMichael's letter from the Chilkoot Pass trail.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin.