The Langlow Family
in Alaska and the Yukon

Seven Sunnmoringer and One Yankee

In L. J. Langlo's group, these were along: The brother Jens Bastian Langlo, born in Stranda 1874; Lars Peter Opsvik, born the same year in Stranda; Mikael Knutson Synnes - "Mich" Knutson - born in Vigra 1863; arid Bernt Løvold, born in Norddal 1867. The last man was a native-horn American of Norwegian descent; the father was from Voss and the mother from Hardanger. He had the name John Lee.

L. J. Langlo had the full responsibility to outfit them for the trip, but no one could do it better than he. Many things had to be taken into consideration. For the food, there were especially three things: Particularly nutritious, easily kept and easy to ship. The last demand had to be considered for everything taken along. They had to supply themselves with good dogs before they left Tacoma; one dog for each man.

The first of March 1895, the eight boarded the <i>Willapa</i> and set the course for Puget Sound with Dyea as their destination. The dogs kept up a continual noise up on deck the whole time, and the officers and men were very disgusted with these troublesome passengers. Synnes was from earlier times well-acquainted with the machinist, and he kept himself very much of the time down with him, but even down there, the howling of his dear Basen reached him; a dog he himself had raised in Tacoma, which should now give service as a lead dog together with the other dogs. As they neared Dyea, the weather was miserable. The machinist then took his comrade aside and said: "Dear Mich, don't you understand the craziness you are now going into, don't you understand that it is certain death? Don't you hear your own dear dog howls and whines and asks you to turn before it is too late? Remember that you have a family at home that is anxiously waiting for you. I pray you, it is still not too late to turn back." But no prayers at this time were of any help; the die was cast; we now had to take the chance, either bear or break and there was no middle way.

The skipper did not have much time for these "suicide candidates"; time was valuable and everything that was not absolutely essential was without question thrown overboard. An unfortunate thing was that they got into a mass of seaweed and they had a terrible time to free their boat. When they did not succeed in a hurry, they called on some Indians who were fishing in the fjord, and with their help they saved the boat. The dogs soon got into better humor when they were hitched to the sled and felt the dry snow under their paws. They made good time going up the Dyea Valley. It became much worse when they came up to the steep hill up towards the pass; then the snow was so wet that the men sank down in it up to their arms in certain places, but after a great deal of trouble, they got over it. Downhill, it was easy over the large mountain waters, Lake Bennett, Lake Lindmann, lakes that had received their names from the engineers who had been along making out the maps of the land. Some stone huts stood here and there indicating where they had dwelt while carrying on the work.

Everything went easily and happily until they came to the lower end of Marsh Lake. Langlo, with his lead dog, was in front. In full speed, he
went forward on the ice, but all of a sudden, he ran into a weak spot in the ice near the stream. The whole mass went under. The worst was that the hitch held and pulled the sled with all its contents under the water, and that was terrible. Luckily, in the very last minute we rescued everything. This happened on a Saturday, and it was now a whole week since we had landed in Dyea, and in all that time, they had not taken time to cook themselves any food. Now they were forced to stop and had a chance to prepare cooked food. Roundabout them was a large amount of dry pine. They gathered enough to make a good fire and kept it going around the clock. Many things needed to be dried. The worst was that the sack of sugar was on the first sled and was soaked with water. There was no other way to recover the sugar than to boil off the water, and most of the sugar was saved. This was done in the tent. There was a brisk wind blowing from the back, and they put sails on the sleds and let the dogs free. It was approaching the time when the ice on the Yukon would break up. When it did, they went to the woods, cut logs, sawed boards and built boats.

Two Swedes were traveling along with the Sunnmorings. To begin with., they were as good friends as anyone could find. Conditions had become so difficult that misunderstandings had arisen between them, and they decided to separate. The only thing they agreed on was this - to separate, but they could not come to a just decision on how to divide their belongings. In their blind anger, they destroyed the one gun they owned together; neither one being willing to let the other one have it. They cut the tent in two and made it useless for either one of them.

The trip down the long stretches went well, and they reached Forty Mile the 17th of May, and for them the day was a double holiday. They had now been eleven weeks on the way, and they were happy they had come so far, but they still had a hard trip before they came up into the gold valleys, and that was their goal. But there was no good news they received from there. Gold strikes had been few and small in the last year. Miners had little desire to hire new people and pay high wages in. such times. But the newcomers had this to comfort themselves with, they had a large supply of food, and this was worth a great deal here.


Dyea was the entry to the Chilkoot Pass area which leads to the Canadian interior and the Yukon River basin. At that time, Skagway did not exist. At Dyea, it was necessary to pack all supplies over a severe mountain pass. In the above account, two sentences suffice to describe the difficult ascent. Later entire books would be devoted to the ordeal of Chilkoot Pass and to the subsequent journey down the Yukon River to the Klondike.

By early and fast travel (not stopping even for a hot meal), the Langlow party avoided the problems of "running" the Miles Canyon and Whitehorse Rapids en route.

Their use of dogs and sleds as far as Lake Laberge before the icy trail broke up,, enabled them to conserve their supplies. Food and equipment became more valuable than gold the farther north they traveled. Here, boats were built using available timber close to the water. Their rough crafts were soon launched and it was smooth sailing on to Forty Mile. Men, dogs, sleds and supplies landed there on Norwegian Independence Day, May 17, 1895.

On Pages 17 and 18 of the Kjolas book is an article covering the Chilkoot Pass trek of another Norwegian pioneer the following year, which ties in with the boat building interlude which actually took place at Lake Laberge. Ole Elias Slyngstad tells of wandering in the woods near the lake, and being attracted by a fine birch tree upon which he detected, carved in the bark, the name: L. J. LANGLO. The name, so carved in that wild and rugged area, turned out to be that of his boyhood friend and neither knew the whereabouts of the other. The two were destined to meet and greet each other that fall in the rough mining camp of Forty Mile, a world away from their home village of Stranda.

Gold rush literature is replete with "cabin fever" stories (similar to that of the two Swedes) even to the extent of cutting in half a sack of flour or a jointly-owned boat.

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