History generally records the names of unique
individuals whose contributions have significantly affected the lives of others.
However, some historical events are attributable to the efforts of many people rather than
individuals. So it was with
those who crossed Valdez Glacier in 1898 in search of gold in the Copper River Basin and
Singly, their dreams, struggles, and actions were insignificant, but collectively they
made a difference. For they explored and opened up a then unknown region of Alaska.
No one made a fabulously wealthy gold strike; but a few were fortunate
enough to find one of the world's largest copper deposits. A few more found modest
gold placer claims, and perhaps even more found enough gold nuggets to return home with
mementos for their families. Others, however, died in accidents, succumbed to
scurvy, or became discouraged and headed home with empty pockets and a lifetime of
stories. But they all saw the same mountains we see today, marveled at the northern
lights, shivered in the cold and complained about the mosquitoes. Because of these
men and women, Valdez and Copper Center were founded and the first All-American,
glacier-free route from coastal to interior Alaska
was built. We still use this route today.
To the Reader -
Since the first publication of a list of participants in the Valdez Gold Rush in Jim and
Nancy Lethcoe's book, Valdez Gold Rush Trails 1898-99, two more diaries
and a letter have been
received at the Valdez Museum and Historical Archive. Names from these have been
added to the roll call. The Dooley Diary, written by an eighteen year old boy,
deserves special mention. Because the people he met were important enough to him to
be recorded in his diary or listed in his names and address section, we can remember and
pay tribute to many individuals whose efforts would otherwise have
gone unnoted. Now, we and their descendents are offered a brief glimpse into the
life of a relative who left home for the gold rush trails.
This database was first placed on the internet in December 1996 with 1600 names. As
a result, Jim and Nancy Lethcoe have received additional names from descendants.
Larry Lashway, the grand nephew of Harry Lashway of the Millard Party, has donated many
hours to collecting names of gold rushers to the Valdez and Copper River area from
passenger lists and letters published in hometown newspapers. These additional 1200
names have now been added to the database. If you are a student or are interested in the
gold rush, we encourage you to look at copies of your hometown newspaper for the years
1897 (August) to 1899. You, too, may discover that gold rushers set out for personal
wealth and the patriotic good of their country for the "Klondike" via Skagway or
the Copper River gold fields via Orca or Valdez. If you find information, please
share it with others. The Lethcoes can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Valdez Museum is also interested in hearing from
people who have information on gold rush participants. The database will be expanded
as information is received.
Once again, we thank those who have made copies of their ancestor's writings and
photographs available to the Valdez Museum and Historical Archives and encourage others to
Museum and Historical Archive