Quest for Gold Ends in Tragedy

In August 1896, the discovery of gold in a tributary of the Klondike River set off a historic gold rush. Roughly 100,000 people would embark on the dangerous trek to Alaska, hoping to strike it rich. Many died in the process.

screen shot 2019-01-28 at 3.18.06 pmAbout 10 miles outside Skagway, Alaska lies the only cemetery within the boundaries of Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. The Slide Cemetery contains the remains of more than 60 prospectors who died on April 3, 1898, when the Palm Sunday Avalanche careened down the Chilkoot Trail and entombed them in the snow.

summit_of_chilkoot_pass_depicting_aftermath_of_the_april_3,_1898_avalanche,_alaska_(hegg_49)One of those killed was Charles Hampton Beck. Born in Ocala, Florida, Beck left his home and family to seek his fortune in the Klondike. He and other stampeders made their way to Alaska and the Chilkoot Trail. Weeks of heavy snow followed by warm winds left the snowpack unstable. Despite warnings, the prospectors set out to summit the pass. Several smaller avalanches finally convinced them to abandon their plans and evacuate an area of the trail known as Scales. While descending, they entered a slide-prone area. scene_near_chilkoot_pass_depicting_aftermath_of_an_avalanche,_alaska,_april_3,_1897_(laroche_168)Survivors described the sound of a rumbling far above that increased to a large roar, followed by a rush of wind. The mountainside had given way, sweeping over the prospectors with an avalanche of snow.

Rescuers scrambled to dig out survivors, but an exact count of those buried was never determined. The recovered remains of many of those that perished were laid to rest in the Slide Cemetery.

One comment

  1. I enjoy hearing history on burial locations. You learn more about the country and the people.
    I would like to think that years from now someone will read my name and wonder what my story was.

    Thank you for sharing.

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