Forty Mile City was not the town for us to stop at; we who were seeking work and gold. For this we had to go up into the end of Sixty Mile River. The shortest way up there was to go up Forty Mile River as far as the river flowed toward the south. Where the river turned towards the west, we had to go by land, and then over some hills to the creek where the gold was to be found. Brother Louie was the only one who had a definite place to go, but such as the conditions were now, he could no more than just help himself. All his companions had to shift for themselves; even his little brother. It did not matter, to begin with, as long as we had some of the food left that we had brought from the outside. At this time, the two of us stayed continually together; we who were the youngest in the group, born in the same year in the same community, my good and faithful companion, Louis Opsvik and I. In a small boat we rowed up the river as far as we could go, then we landed and took our gear and turned the boat over to cover all that we owned. So we had to start carrying our belongings. Then it was to make up a reasonably heavy load, hoist it up on our shoulders and walk until we were reasonably tired; then we would lay the load down and straighten our backs while walking back after a new load. When everything was brought to the first resting place we camped there for the night, and the next day followed the same procedure. The countryside that we were to go through was not of the best. At times there were sloughs and swamps that we had to bypass. At other places there would be heavy brush in the way, and when it was rainy we had to walk in wet clothes all day. If it so happened that we found dry wood we would start a big fire and that was fine; otherwise, one had to live anyhow.
One evening we were particularly fatigued as we had worked very hard from early morning until late at night, and there had been no time to prepare any food. There was just one load left and my good comrade was willing, as usual, and offered to go for it if I would stay and prepare some supper for us upon his return. He rated my ability to cook too high. Enough to say that when he came home late in the evening there was no food prepared on the table. He became very angry. He called me every bad name he could think of, and since I was not a fellow to take it, I replied in the same vein. We kept this up for about fifteen minutes, then we happened to look at one another eye-to-eye and both of us started laughing, for we thought it was so comical that two such good friends should disgrace one another by bawling each other out, and that, for no reason. Then I took the blame upon myself in that I had failed in my duty of preparing food. Then Louie began to excuse me; he should have known that there was no stove ready, and there was no dry wood in the shed. Our friendship renewed so solidly that it never was shattered again in all the time that we worked and lived together.
We decided that we would go to Glacier Creek as it was approaching the gold panning season and it was possible to get work. We got work with a couple of Irishmen who owned a mine together. But it was a hard job, particularly for young newcomers., We had to stand and shovel sand and gravel all day long and no break in the work was permitted. Neither one of us dared to say a word because there were others who would be glad to get the job. Our bones ached, but we had the satisfaction that our sacks of gold grew heavier and heavier as the summer advanced. That would be needed, for we had the fortune as did so many others that we would have to live through the whole winter on what we earned in the summer.
When the work with the Irishmen was finished, we two knew what we would do. We walked back over the hills from whence we had come, found our little boat, and drifted down the river towards the town. Here we went into the merchant, Questen, manager for the sales of the Alaska Commercial Company. We asked him if he was interested in freighting goods up to the gold fields. Oh, yes, it was certain that he was, and it did not take long to come to an agreement. So we loaded the boat up to the limit with foodstuffs and other necessary things for miners. We rowed up against the stream, and we soon found out that it was not as easily done as earlier in the summer during high water. With a heavily loaded boat, one had to seek his way forward in the deepest part of the river, so the course lay zigzag up the river. Every once in a while we had to jump up on land or out into the river to push, to row, or drag the boat, whichever was necessary. It had been a hard day when we landed the first evening, so now a good rest would be welcome, but for me, it was not a pleasant time. The earnings from the summer I had hid in a tight leather bag, and I had put it in my inside jacket pocket, but when I undressed in the evening I missed it. I found, however, a reasonable answer to the puzzle, which was no puzzle. The sack must have fallen out of my pocket one of the many times I had gone out of and into the boat. I broke down and cried, and my comrade comforted me by weeping with me. But what help was there in that. It did not bring back the lost gold, neither did it give me any new in its place. The only thing I had to do was to figure out a new way to earn some gold.
When we were through with the freighting job, I left for Forty Mile one more time. This time I was alone, but I had the boat with me. Here I met another new Norwegian, who was from Kristiansund and called himself Thomas Anderson. We joined forces. We rowed across the Yukon to the capital of The Yukon Territory, Cudahy. Here lately had come a Dr. Wells, and he was not only a medicine man, he was also the manager of a saw mill the state owned here. We soon came to agreement with him, got ourselves outfitted for logging work, rowed up the Yukon River until we came to an island in the middle of the river rich in timber. There were very large evergreens and anybody's possession in this no-man's land. We chopped down as many trees as we thought we could handle in a raft, so we floated it down the river and sold it to Wells for $600. We felt that we had done big business and we desired to repeat the process. Now there were others who wanted to go along, and we picked out two Swedes. One, in short, called himself Johnson, and the second, Bjarne Anderson from Gøteborg. This time we prepared ourselves for a longer period of time, took along a tent and a large supply of food, and now we rowed farther up the river to a larger island rich in timber. Here we had a regular paradise. The only inconvenience was the fine river sand that drifted around us when the wind blew. One Sunday we wanted to look around in "our kingdom", and we made a path through the woods across the island. It was farther than we had thought, but finally we spied water and close by the bank stood a tent. And so we were not alone on our island? We approached carefully, thought of greeting good neighbors, but recognized that we had come back to our own tent! We felt like a flatfish when we realized that we had walked in a circle, but, fortunately, no one had witnessed what had happened.
We remained three weeks on this island, and during that time we felled 300 logs, these were piled together crosswise, three logs high, fastened together with wooden pegs. It was not easy to steer a load like this. For a time everything went well, but all of a sudden we were stuck in the mud in the bottom of the river, and there we stuck so solidly that it was impossible for manpower to pull it loose again. Now there was only one thing to do, pick them off, log by log, and drag them into a little bay. Here we had to tie them together again in a new pile, and so to drift again with the stream. Now there was a new worry that gripped us: How should we be able to land it in a decent manner when we reached our destination? By what power and means would we be able to stop this heavy mass of logs at the right time and in the right place? The thought of this was so terrifying that it made all of us nervous. Supposing we passed the place? Besides the shame, it would be a loss so
great that it would be felt by everyone of us, poor as we were.
Cudahy, with the sawmill, was in sight. Many men stood together on the shore, a certain sign of the poor times and unemployment at the present time. "But the death of one is another's bread." Perhaps the same truth would be demonstrated here? The little boat was put in the water, two of the men rowed as hard as they could towards land, dragging a long rope, and soon a hundred hands were ready to pull in the float, the float rose, turned with its whole weight towards land right by the sawmill; and surprisingly, the logs lay in the path towards the saw. For us it was a relief that cannot be described in words. Now all that was left was for each one of us to receive the $300 for the logs.
And now there was a large number who desired to join us in a new trip, and begged to be taken along, but now that it was close to the fall, it would surely be too late to get anything ready before the frost and the ice came, and so we dissolved our partnership. For me it happened that my brother Louis had use for me in his mine in Glacier Creek. Lately his wife and his little daughter had come, and he was settled in Forty Mile with them this winter, and he freighted with the dog team when the snow came.
Forty Mile was in The Yukon Territory, Canada, not far from the American border. The mines in the area, Franklyn, Glacier, Miller and Gold Creeks, were some 30 to 40 miles to the south and west; some of them actually in Alaska. (ref: Bruce and Spurr)
Louis' wife, Ingeborg and daughter, Marie, age 5, had traveled by ship from Tacoma to St. Michael on the Bering Sea and by riverboat up the Yukon, arriving at Forty Mile on July 24, 1895. They were destined to remain in the far north for three years, real "sourdoughs" and true pioneers.
The faithful companion of Jens, Louis Opsvik, was later associated with Louie Langlow in the ownership and operation of Claim 17 above on Bonanza Creek in the Klondike district.
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