Thursday, October 4, 2012

Treasure Chest Thursday - Gold Rush!

I've finished updating my database with all my Gibson-related files, and have started in on the Groff stuff. My Groff line starts with my third-great-grandmother Mary Groff, wife of Adoniram Ami Shute, and goes back to, well, her father, Paul Groff. I haven't been able to document who Paul's parents are yet, but I do know that he was from New York. While going through my Groff census records, I came across something very interesting today.

My ancestor Mary had a sister named Eldora who was about three years younger than she was, born in Minnesota in July 1860. She married Judson Clark about 1878 and they had four kids - Judson Jr, Susan, Jerome, and Bertha. They moved out to Thurston County, Washington sometime between 1887 and 1898. Her parents, brother George, and sister Ida all moved out there around the same time. Eldora's husband Judson, however, did something that, so far as I know, no one else in my family tree did - he left his family behind for a couple years and went off to join the gold rush. Not the gold rush in California, as he wasn't even born yet when that one started, but one that started about 50 years later in Alaska.

I had found Judson and Eldora in the 1900 census, all listed together Bucoda, Washington. But as I went through my other census records, I realized I had another 1900 census for Judson, but from Alaska, not Washington. At first, I wondered if I had the wrong person, same name but different guy. But aside from the name, the birth date matched - October 1854; both censuses listed Pennsylvania as the birth place; and the Alaska census had a couple of unique columns - one for "date of locating in Alaska," which was March 1898; another column labeled "post office address at home" listed Judson's home address as Tenino, Washington, (which is actually just 4 miles from Bucoda); and another column asked for occupation, not once but twice - at home and in Alaska. The 'at home' occupations listed for the 22 people in the district were pretty varied - farmer (which Judson said he was), sailor, druggist, clerk, salesman, locksmith, and stock raiser among them. But in the column for 'in Alaska', everyone (with one exception) had the exact same occupation - miner. According to Wikipedia, the Klondike gold rush (which was centered some ways to the northeast of where Judson was living in 1900) really picked up between 1896 and 1898, which is when Judson came to Alaska. It all seems to fit together - the personal details all matched, virtually all the residents of the district having 'miner' as their occupation, and the location (generally speaking) and time period matched what I have read about the Klondike gold rush. Given that he was living in Alaska when the census was taken, his wife Eldora (or whoever gave the details given in the census) must have listed him as still living in Washington even though he physically hadn't been in Washington since at least March 1898. He did eventually return to Washington, as I've found him in the 1910, 1920, and 1930 censuses there.

I haven't found anything that shows whether or not he struck it rich up in Alaska. The 1910-1930 censuses just show him and his wife living together alone. But whether he did or not, I'm glad he made it back home to his family. Life in prospecting towns apparently wasn't safe or sanitary, so I'm happy with the fact that he made it home and lived a long life after his gold rush days were over.

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