Two young Americans on a Quest for Yukon Gold…
When the first wave of gold-toting miners came back from the Klondike with a fortune in gold dust and nuggets, in July 1897, the promise of a “lucky strike” in the Yukon and Alaska drove the rest of North America mad with gold fever.
Businessmen closed up shop. Farm hands left their fields and families to head out for the west coast. Even the Mayor of Seattle resigned his office to turn “stampeder” and follow the lure of Klondike gold to the wild northwest.
Two young Yale graduates, friends Marshall Bond and Stanley Pearce, were there.
America was struggling in an economic depression in the late 1890s, with widespread poverty and unemployment. Many of the would-be Klondike gold miners were woefully ill-prepared for the long journey and harsh conditions ahead of them, but thousands were driven north by the desperate hope of finding a fortune.
Few had any clear idea of how far from home they would have to travel – more than 1500 miles north of Seattle – or how cold it would be so close to the Arctic Circle, and how physically demanding the life of the Klondike gold prospector would be. Cheated by opportunistic suppliers or simply without the money and know-how needed to outfit themselves properly for the journey, hundreds of adventurers were doomed to failure before they even set foot on the shores of the Pacific northwest.
In contrast, Bond and Pearce had everything going for them.
I do not anticipate any hardships that we shall not… be able to overcome.Marshall Bond
Both were from well-to-do families with a strong background in mining. Both were keen outdoorsmen who had travelled widely, and in excellent physical condition. And both were generously financed by their families.
They set out with 3000 pounds of gear, two big dogs (in Seattle at the time, every big dog was being advertised as a potential sled dog), and three hired men to help carry the load. Their furs were the warmest, their mining tools the best quality available, and it was still summertime in the north-country Rocky Mountains when they arrived.
What could possibly go wrong?
A ripping good tale of adventure – and it’s true!
The book is woven from telegrams, letters, diaries, and Pearce’s own correspondent’s column in the Denver Republican newspaper – with all the charm, individuality and immediacy of the firsthand storytelling. These personal treasures were passed down through the Pearce family to Kim Richardson, co-author of Call of the Klondike, poet, veteran of children’s publishing in the UK, and a great-great-nephew of Stanley Pearce.
American author, speaker and educator David Meissner has threaded the historical documents and memoirs with just enough original narrative to fill in the backstory for readers who haven’t yet learned about this period in America’s history, while photographs and reproductions of telegrams and newspaper clippings bring the time and place to vivid life. The final section tells of the Meissner’s own Klondike adventure, more than 100 years after the gold rush up the rugged west coast to Skagway, Chilkoot, Dawson City and beyond.
Even today, the landmarks of Alaska and the Yukon Territory are still marked by the passage of the many men and women who answered the siren call of Klondike gold on North America’s last great frontier.
Archival photographs: Street in Skagway, Alaska, 1897 (top); Steamship WILLAMETTE at dock in Seattle, August 1897, preparing to leave for the Klondike (middle); and White Pass Trail became known as Dead Horse Trail during the Klondike gold rush (bottom photo), as thousands of prospectors’ pack horses fell prey to cold, starvation and overwork along the difficult mountain trail between Alaska and British Columbia, Canada.
The publisher offers this nonfiction title for ages 9 and up – but the whole family will enjoy this fast-paced tale of a once-in-a-century adventure.
Adventurous souls will identify with Bond and Pearce’s yen for adventure, and marvel at their courage in adversity.
History buffs will revel in a lively true story that’s told in the main through primary sources.
Fans of Call of the Wild will enjoy another view on the Klondike world of which Jack London wrote – in fact, Jack London himself makes an appearance in this book, as he tented near the rough cabin of Bond and Pearce for some weeks and “Buck,” London’s famous dog character, was based on one of the young Americans’ dogs.
And if you’re a parent or teacher looking for a nonfiction book for a boy, especially a boy in the middle-school grades – look no further.
You’ve just struck gold.