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George A. Brackett's Wagon Road at Skaguay, Alaska

Klondike Gold Rush, 1896-1899

The Minneapolis Times, Monday Morning, January 3, 1898

The Minneapolis Times</i>, Monday Morning, January 3, 1898

'Tis Solid Gold - Geo. A. Brackett Enthusiastic Over the Klondike

    George A. Brackett is home again. The pioneer Minneapolitan who has for several months past been supervising the colossal task of blazing a way through the Alaskan wilderness, reached the city last night on the Northern Pacific coast train. He is on a fiying trip and will remain but a few days. He is here to arrange a financial matter in connection with the project in which he has interested himself. He expects to dispatch his business soon enough to return Wednesday night and will reach Skaguay in time to witness the completion of the great wagon road from Skaguay to the summit of the pass. This road, which will greatly facilitate travel to the gold fields, will probably be thrown open to the public by Jan. 15.

    Mr. Brackett was recounting his experiences from the center of the family circle when The Times wished him a happy new year at the residence, 917 Chicago avenue, last night. Colonel Wm. S. King was also present. Mr. Brackett looks hale and hearty, and says he never felt better In his life.

George A. Brackett, 1898

    "If I could have foreseen the hardships which I would be forced to undergo before starting," he said, "I would have concluded that I was not equal to the task. The extreme physical exertion to which I have been subjected would have appalled me. But I got through safe and sound, without a scratch, and now the work which I set out to accomplish is fast nearing completion. Two and a half miles of the road are yet to be finished. When I left Skaguay the foreman who has charge of this last stretch near the summit told me that it would be finished by the middle of this month. That means that we will commence doing business by Feb. 1, when the great rush to Dawson City and the other points of interest will set in. Everyone who goes over our road will pay us for the privilege. Its construction has been very expensive, but it is a good investment and is bound to prove a great money-making enterprise.

Work on the Big Road.

    "We commenced work on the road Nov. 8. It runs from Skaguay to the summit of the pass. We have had 225 men at work with a large number of teams and all the apparatus necessary for excavation and blasting. The distance to the summit is seventeen miles. The route is along the north side of the Skaguay river for the entire distance. Nine toll stations, log buildings, 22x40, have been constructed. During that seventeen and one-half miles the elevation is 2,600 feet. The road lies along the base of the mountains. I have greatly lessened the expense of the undertaking by avoiding the construction of bridges across the river at a number of points where the engineers insisted that they were absolutely necessary. I followed my own judgment and by personal investigation managed to map out a route around canyons which apparently presented insurmountable obstacles, thus doing away with the necessity of the bridges. In many instances we have been forced to blast our way through solid rock. The road will be one of the finest thoroughfares to be found in the world. It is macadamized for its entire distance and will be high and dry and open for business the year around. The drive to the summit will be an easy thing. The road is bound to accommodate the great bulk of the travel toward the gold country and will give a decided impetus to the human tide which is finding its way over the pass.

    "After leaving Skaguay you are no longer in Uncle Sam's territory. That is the jumping off place. Consequently we have been in disputed territory for the seventeen miles. There is no chance of any one disputing our claim to the right of way. First come first served is a rule which everyone respects in that country. The only question which may arise would be an international affair and no particular concern of ours. Let us operate that road for ten years; that's all we ask. What we will realize in that time will satisfy us.

    "From the summit to Lake Bennett is a distance of twenty-six miles, a descent of but 461 feet. We expect to continue the road to the lake but will not undertake it this spring, as a good road has been beaten through the snow and ice. This end of the task will be easy compared with what has already been constructed. Our immediate object is to be ready for the spring business."

Plenty of Food in Sight.

    Mr. Brackett says that there is no truth in the reports which have gone forth as to the destitute circumstances of the miners. He has not heard of a single case of actual suffering and states that there are enough supplies at Dawson City to accommodate all comers throughout the winter.

    "As for the climate,” he continued, "it is no worse from Skaguay to the summit than you enjoying here in Minneapolis. The mildness of the temperature is accounted for by the Japan stream which washes the coast of Alaska and by the chinook winds which prevail along the coast. Of course, the mercury goes down after you get over the divide. But, cold as it is there, it can be withstood as easily as the most rigorous weather in Minnesota.

    "The general opinion is that February is the best month in which to take the trip to Lake Bennett. But even now the people are flocking there by the hundreds and they are getting through all right. The steamer Seattle which left Seattle while I was there was loaded to the guards. Every berth was taken and standing room was at a premium in the steerage. Nov. 23 six men came through the Skaguay trail from Dawson City. They made the trip in twenty-four days, walking every foot of the way. While working on the road I encountered 500 men returning. They were back simply on business and all of them expressed entire confidence in their ability to find gold enough to make them independent for the rest of their days. All were intent on getting their friends to return with them to that wonderful country. There is no possible question about the vast wealth which nature is hoarding along the Yukon. I have seen enough to convince me that the whole country is one great gold mine. Anyone can go in there and realize at least $10 per day by the simplest system of surface mining."

Has Written Senator Davis.

    Although there is no actual suffering in the Klondike country because of a lack of provisions, Mr. Brackett believes that it is to the interest of the United States government to establish a supply station at Skaguay in order to facilitate the development of the country, which is bound to be thickly inhabited. To that end he has addressed letters to Senator Davis of Minnesota, asking him to consider the proposition, and at the same time calling his attention to similar steps already taken by the Canadian government. As an evidence of the crowd which will rush into Alaska in the spring, he says that he was informed by Sir Charles Tupper tn a recent interview that not less than 100,000 persons have made definite arrangements to leave the British isles for the Klondike in February.

    "I believe," he said, "that the next twenty years will witness as great a development of Alaska as ws have seen in Minnesota during that period. When Horace Greeley advised the young men of this country to go west in his memorable speech in St. Paul soon after the close of the war, he ventured the prediction that within a quarter of a century the then population and wealth of the state could be multiplied by twenty. I firmly believe that the same will apply in Alaska. To be sure the agricultural resources which we have here are there lacking, but they have the wealth and that is what will draw people from all parts of the globe.

Red Hot in Seattle.

    "The city of Seattle is certainly the liveliest place in America to-day. Day and night the streets are packed with throngs as large as you can find on Nicollet avenue when shopping is at its height on Saturday. The city, of course, is growing rapidly under such conditions. Every building is occupied and others are being constructed on all sides. Hard times there is decidedly an unknown quantity."

    Mr. Brackett denies a story published recently in the Journal to the effect that the plan of the company had been seriously delayed by a prospector who was reported to have secured a claim directly in the route of the road. He says that the story probably originated from the fact that some such opposition was encountered by a Canadian company which is constructing a tramway along the Dyea trail.

    He brought with him several gold nuggets, one of which is worth $21.

    "They are throwing these away up there," said Mr. Brackett with an amusing flourish.