“Where the river is windin,’ Big nuggets they’re findin,’
North to Alaska, They go North, the rush is on.”
From Johnny Horton’s hit song from 1960, there was history coming to real life for a few men and women from our region, who headed to the “Klondike” in July 1897.
No local people were reported to have become rich by finding gold, and none of them died from the exceedingly harsh climate in what would eventually become our 49th state. Some were just glad to get home.
Our region first read about the ambitions of many to go north and west in The Oneonta Star of Thursday, July 22, 1897. The report on the front page suggested that crowds would go in the spring of 1898.
As reported on July 24, “A party of five or six young men from Oneonta and vicinity say, in all sincerity, that they will undertake the journey to Klondike early next spring, and are already making preparations. One or two of Oneonta’s prominent business men are seriously contemplating the trip, with an idea of taking in a large supply of merchandise to sell. In fact all classes are talking of Alaska and it has been, for a week, the popular subject of conversation.”
“There are a few Oneontans now in Alaska, and they are enviously talked of by the prospective explorers. Charles Yager, a son of John Yager, who lives about four miles from Oneonta, has been in the southern part of the new territory for about three years. At first he bought and sold furs, but the latest reports told of his success in the mines. He is about 40 miles from a postoffice and the opportunities for sending a letter home are infrequent.”
“Another young man, well known to Oneonta … is C.E. Hoye, brother of Justice B.W. Hoye. He is a graduate of New York Medical college.” Hoye was a surgeon in the employ of the Berner’s Bay Mining and Milling Co.