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More Stories Than Gold

Last week, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) television channel featured a documentary on the thousands of reels of early films discovered in Dawson City, Canada. Dawson City was the jumping off point for the Klondike gold rush that began in 1896. If you’ve been on an Alaska cruise, you’ve probably been to Skagway, where many of the gold-hunting hordes—an estimated 100,000--would gather to begin the arduous trek across mountainous terrain and through the Chilkoot Pass, dragging along the required 2,000 pounds of supplies, to arrive in Dawson City and begin prospecting for gold. Back in the 1900s, Dawson City was the last stop for films. They would have made their way all around the United States and Canada before finally coming to Dawson City. Since it was the films’ last stop, most of them were discarded because the film companies didn’t want to pay for shipping them back. These films were made of nitrate and were incendiary, if not downright explosive. Even in the best conditions, not many survived. In Dawson City, they were put into crates and stored for years or used as land fill or simply thrown out. During a recent construction project, bulldozers turned up crates of the films, and a few people recognized their value. The TCM documentary was a composite of hundreds of bits and pieces of damaged film, restored as much as possible, and put together into a fascinating documentary. One particularly horrifying incident caught on film was of an avalanche that buried a group of men as they ran from it. By coincidence, I just received in the mail a book called, Finding the Little Klondike Gold Mine: Grandpa’s Last Nugget by John Cox Williams. It looks fascinating, and I will review it in my next blog. The author enclosed a letter about the book, which he says is 100 percent accurate and contains about 40 images. He says he wrote the book to record for his grandchildren an exciting time in his family’s history. But what is most interesting to me is that he also lists sources he used in researching the book. Since two of my books required extensive historical research, I found this information extremely useful, and it may prove useful to you as well. Here are his sources: early Canadian Government mining reports; old mining maps and photos; land grant records; old letters and wills; museum curators; an exploration company hired to do the initial reconnaissance; an extensive genealogist report of his ancestors; his deceased mother’s notes; NOAA services to convert the mine’s UTM coordinates from an old abandoned mine report to current latitude and longitude; and an onsite trek to the mine itself.

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