Sherburne History Center

Sherburne History Center
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Friday, August 14, 2015

Klondike Gold Rush Impacts Sherburne County

The Klondike strain of Gold Fever infected Sherburne County in 1897.  The Sherburne County Star News noted the particular disease in August and began offering best advice for those afflicted with the virus and those contemplating an adventure into the Alaska gold fields. 
            In the summer months of 1897, the newspaper advised it was already too late to begin the trek to the Klondike.  Adventurous Sherburnites might reach Alaska when the goldfields would be snowed covered.  The paper calculated eight months to reach Juneau, the jumping off point for the Klondike goldfields.  The newspaper suggested adventurers time their journey so that they reach Alaska in the summer months and make the final trek to the interior during the easier summer months. 

            “Those who penetrate into the ice and snow must be rugged and hardy,” the paper warned.  “They must have money and courage, and even then they will take their lives in their hands.”  Overall, an estimated 100,000 prospectors set out for Alaska.  Historian Pierre Berton and official records from the North-West Mounted Police estimate 40 percent actually reached the gold fields.  The other 60,000 either died in the effort or surrendered and returned home

            In spite of the warnings from the press, several county citizens set out for the northern gold fields.  The newspapers noted the plans of J. A. Wagner’s journey.  The editor hoped Wagner might change his mind and stay in Becker.  “We can’t spare him,” the paper concluded.  In other columns, the newspaper reported former resident Brad Trask was rumored to have gold sufficient “to keep the wolf from his door the rest of his life.” 

             With the arrival of spring 1898, gold discoveries in the easier to access areas of Nome, Alaska altered the particular strain of gold fever.  The Klondike Gold rush faded from the attention of Sherburne County newspaper readers.  News of the Spanish American War completely eliminated the infectious gold fever and visions of valor on the battle field dominated the brains of adventure seeking men in the United States.  

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