Frank S. Briggs and the Yukon Gold Rush
Staff Person: Nanette Hardison
The Yukon Gold Rush or the Klondike Gold Rush, as it was sometimes known, was the frenzied migration of people to Dawson City, Yukon near the Klondike River in Alaska for the prospecting of gold in the late nineteenth century. Among those who went to seek their fortune was Frank Spencer Briggs, from the Finger Lakes Region of New York. The Frank Spencer Briggs Papers consist of his journal detailing his time as a gold prospector (April 28, 1898-March 18, 1899) as well as photos of the Yukon Gold Rush. One of these photos, which is shown below, depicts Briggs (right) on the trail to Lake Teslin. (Click on image itself to enlarge it.)
Although repetitious at times, the journal does give an enlightened view of the kind of life Frank Briggs experienced while working as a gold prospector: long days spent digging in cold tunnels in below-freezing temperatures with inadequate food to sustain him. He was also plagued with loneliness and low spirits due to being cut off from family and friends. The following passage illustrates these hard conditions:
“November 20 This has been a busy day. Joe has rocked and I have worked in the tunnel and dragged dirt down to the cabin. Not a pleasant way to spend the Sabbath but we are absolutely obliged to. We only have 3 or 4 days provisions, at 2 meals per day, in the house and must go to town by Tuesday. We are thankful that we have ground which can get a little dust as we need it but it is a shame that we are obliged to do this way. With the money we should have had we could be well clothed, plenty of provisions in the cabin and put in our time getting a good pay dump. As it is we worked hard on 2 meals per day of very plain food, not half clothed and under these conditions are forced to fudge along with a rocker. Temp. 44 below”
Frank Spencer Briggs Papers (#781), Special Collections Department, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.