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A winter journey from Dawson to Nome and back in 1900

Arctic & Northern History

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The Klondike Nugget, Dawson, Y.T., Wednesday, January 3, 1900

Left Dawson Sept. 9 for Nome -
Rough Weatner and Hard Luck -
Will Try Again - Long Ice Trip.

    When George E. Story resumed his old seat at Editor Geo. M. Allen's table at the Nugget mess house Sunday at dinner, he had, since the time previous he sat at that table, breakfast of September 9th, made a round trip of nearly 8000 miles.

    Mr. Storey came to Dawson in the fall of 1897. Being a printer by trade, he made up the "forms" for the first issue of The Nugget, on which paper he held the position of foreman until his departyge from the city last fall. On the 9th day of September he left Dawson on the steamer Tacoma, en route to Nome going in the interests of the proprietors of the Klondike Nugget and taking with him a printing plant with which it was proposed to start a daily paper in the new mining town. The plant taken was the one used during the early life of the Nugget.

    The long trip down the Yukon from Dawson to St. Michaels was without incident. At the latter place, river boats not being safe to attempt the trip on the open sea from St. Michaels to Nome the printing plant was transferred to a large steel barge owned by the Empire Company and used as a freight packet in carrying freight across from St. Michaels to Nome. In addition to the paper plant and material there were also on the barge $100,000 worth of liquors taken trom Dawson by a man named Parsons, 500 cases of kerosene and 150 tons of provisions.

    The barge was laden and ready to start, and was lying at anchor in St. Michaels harbor, if it can be dignified by the name of harbor, the steam schooner Lackme having the contract to tow her to Nome. A heavy southwest wind sprung up and delayed the starting. The wind increased in violence and the big barge, on which were 23 men, nearly all of whom were interested in some portion of her cargo, began to roll heavily. The heavy seas rocked and rolled the big craft until she began to ship a large quantity of water with nearly every roll. The men on the barge, realizing their precarious condition, and fearing that every succeeding wave would cause the barge to flounder, hoisted distress signals. The U. S. revenue cutter Bear was anchored within half a mile of the imprisoned and imperiled wen, but not for one second did her commander show any signs of seeing the signals of distress, nor did he take any action whatever, although with the naked eye the danger to which the men were exposed was very apparent.

    The master of the steamer Lackme, however, saw the signals and went to the rescue, but being short of life boats, she also attempted to solicit the aid of the revenue cutter Bear by blowing the distress whistle, but no attention was paid by the cutter. Every minute the conditions on the barge were growing more precarious. Her hold was fast filling with water and it was apparent that she could survive the rolling billows but a short time longer.

    Lowering a big life boat from the Lackme the second mate and two seamen breasted the storm and waves, reached the rolling barge and succeeded in landing every man aboard the Lackme, although it was a most perilous undertaking. In appreciation of their heroic efforts the mate and seamen were each presented with a substantial purse by those rescued. A few minutes after being relieved of her human cargo, the barge filled and sank in several fathoms of water. All the cargo was lost with the exception of liquor in kegs, which was washed ashore and Mr. Storey says it was then a contest between the soldiers stationed at St. Michaels and the Indians as to which could drink most and cultivate the most lurid jags.

    During the same storm which foundered the barge two small steamers sank near St. Michael, two men being lost. It was only the day previous, but a few hundred miles further south, that the big steamship Laurada, en route from Seattle to Nome, was hopelessly wrecked, all her cargo being lost, but all passengers saved.

    Although his occasion for going to Nome no longer existed, his outfit having been lost, Mr. Story went on with the Lackme, arriving there on October 4th. He satisfied himself of the existence of gold there bv digging to bedrock on the beach and panning out a few dollars' worth of dust. Four days later he again took passage aboard the Lackme and after 15 days, during which another terrific storm was encountered, he reached Seattle in very bad physical condition, having contracted a severe cold on the downward trip from being nearly drowned in his berth on the Lackme from water shipped by her during a heavy storm in the reighhorhood of the Aleutians.

    On reaching Seattle Mr. Story consulted a physician as to his ailment, and was informed that he was bordering on the first stages of quick consumption. Thinking that he could leave Dawson for the Great Beyond with less compunction than any other place on earth, Mr. Story hastened to catch the first steamer for Skagway from which place he started for Dawson on December 4th, making the trip by easy stages and arriving here last Sunday. The trip over the 1ce was not an eventful one other than that the pilgrim fell through the ice on Lebarge a few times and further along had his nose, cheeks and one of his big toes quite severely frozen. However, when he arrived, all symptoms of quick consumption had departed from his system, and aside from his nose, which he is still forced to wear in a sling, he looks the personification of health and youth.

    From Selkirk to Dawson Mr. Storey says the weather was very cold, but that to persons coming this way it was not nearly so hard as to those going out, the wind being strong from the south. On Friday and Saturday of last week Mr. Storey says it was almost impossible and very dangerous to attempt to travel up the river. The trail he reports as being in very good condition, although when he started and until the foot of Lebarge was reached there was considerable open water and thin shore ice, making travel laborious as well as, in many places, dangerous.

    On being questioned farther regarding Nome, Mr. Storey said: "While there I saw sufficient to convinced me that there is abundance of gold there, and it can be gotten from the ground at less than one-third the expense employed in getting the same quantity here, and the gold is finer in quality, that from Nome being worth in Seattle a fraction over $18 per ounce. There were 320 passengers on the Lackme from Nome to Seattle and two days after reaching the latter place I visited the assay office, where I was informed that 260 of the Lackme's passengers had already called and deposited gold, some of the lots being small, while others ran far up into the thousands. That fact alone, in my opinion, is conclusive evidence that there is gold and lots of it in the Nome country.

    "Nome will be quiet this winter, but next spring it will be the liveliest and hottest mining camp in the history of the world. It is not nearly so orderly and quiet as Dawson. There are more street and barroom fights in a week than occur n Dawson in a year. I own property here on Gold Run, but will endeavour to sell it as I want to get to Nome with the opening of navigation.

    And that reminds me, steamers will get to Nome in the spring before they can get to St. Michaels, for the reason that the latter place is situated on something like a slough, and the water being shallow, will freeze thicker and the ice will be longer in breaking up, and I will take chances in getting there from Seattle in preference to waiting here and following the ice down the river."

    As an indication of the amount of business done in the saloon trade at Nome, Mr. Storey says that Geo. Murphy and his partner, "Tex," both former Dawsorites and now proprietors of the Northern at Nome, took in $13,000 during two days while he (Storey) was there.

    Storey was in Central America when he first heard of the Klondike finds in '97, and at once started for this place. During his nearly two years residence here he made hosts of friends, all of whom welcome his return to the city. Armed with a mallet and shooting stick he will, for a few months at least, resume his old position as foreman in the Nugget office.

Note: Although Mr. Storey's name is spelled both as "Story" and Storey" in the article, his name was George E. Storey.