W T Hearn To his sister
Dyea, Alaska March 22, 1898
I wrote you a card about ten days ago and told you I would be here long enough for you to write to me and I think you will have time to write to me again after you receive this letter. I said there were about two thousand tons of provisions on the trail ahead of us. Well I had not seen but one end of the trail then, but have since seen a little more and asked some reliable people about the amount of provisions that are on the trail to Dyea to the summit, and they tell me that there is at least ten thousand tons piled along the pass; it is almost a distant of twenty miles.
It is perfectly safe to leave anything lying out anywhere, for it is almost sure death to steal anything. There were two men that tried it, one of them they caught and stripped down to his waist and tied him to a tree and beat him until he was nearly dead; the other shot himself to keep from going to the same post. We are by no means lonely for there are about fifteen thousand people camped along the trail, some camps are two to three miles long.
I have been working in my shirt sleeves every day. I saw one man with only a summer undershirt and his sleeves up over his elbows, so you see it is not very cold here now, but it has been cold judging from the thickness of the ice, and is pretty cold yet on the summit.
We are at work moving our goods, we are going to move our tent up to Sheep Camp today, fourteen miles from here. After we get them all there we will be done work until we get ready to start on our long journey. One can draw his goods on sleds to the foot of the summit, that is if he comes before the snow and ice break up, then he takes it on his back and carries it up the summit, a distant of two thousand feet, and pile it up there, but one must put a flag with his name on it, that is if he wants to find it again for it snows almost all the time up there and is soon covered with snow. One party of ten had just finished carrying their outfit up when a man came up and said: “ You have piled your goods exactly over mine” and his was down five feet under the snow and he said there was another man’s pile exactly under them, but down twenty feet. Now how is the first man going to get to his pile? There are lots of people that get discouraged and sell out after they get here and once go up on the summit. It takes one hour to go up and two minutes to come down. It is no trouble to come down after you get up; you simply sit down and give yourself a little start and down you go. And it is not so hart to go up; there are steps cut in the snow and a rope running to the top to hold on to, and there is continuous string all the way up. As soon as one man takes his foot up another man has his in its place.
I am getting along real nicely cooking, we have been buying baker’s bread but it is now twenty five cents per loaf, and we are making our own bread. The first time I tried to cook dried fruit I had everything full I could find, after it begin to cook; I put it in our smallest kettle at first, but soon had to change it to a larger one and pretty soon I had both full and our beans are the same way. I hope everything we have got will swell up that way.
I haven’t had a cough or the least bit of cold since I left home. When we move our camp the first thing we do is to make it as comfortable as possible.
A large number of the dogs that were brought out here from the United States have turned out to be a failure, they don’t like to work. I can see dead dogs lying around here most anywhere.
You don’t see many Negroes out here but when you do see one I tell you he feels his importance, but he can’t walk over anyone.
I knew that Mr. John Nelson wanted to come out here real bad but I did not think he was coming, but I see a lot of goods marked “John Nelson.”