Thursday, November 03, 2016

Two Yukon Gold Rush Women by Paty Jager


My historical western romance novel, Staking Claim, is set during the Yukon Gold Rush. While researching for that book, I picked up many books for references, and one that I found fascinating was Gold Rush Women by Claire Rudolf Murphy and Jane G. Haigh.  The stories of the women in that book helped me get the feel of the life of a woman at that time and place. Here are a couple of the women who intrigued me.

 Anna DeGraff – Was born in Germany and came to America in 1867. She faced many hardships including losing her husband and raising 5 children. A the age of 55 she climbed Chilkoot Pass in spring  of 1894 with a crutch and feet wrapped in rags to find her son who had left in search of gold in 1892. On this journey she carried her sewing machine and a feather bed.  To hike the pass she wore a heavy skirt, layered petticoats, a blouse, warm jacket, cap and heavy shoes. She round the pass both beautiful and daunting.  Along the way she asked about her son.  An October snow storm arrived when she was in Circle City. There she and one other woman in the party brought the town’s count of women to 8 while there were several hundred men.  She went to work making tents for a store and clothing for the miners and dance hall girls. In the spring of 1896 Anna decided to abanodon her search for her son. She sold her sewing machine and traveled to San Francisco. The gold dust she’d been paid for all her sewing amounted to $1,200. 

Bridget Mannion – An Irish immigrant working as a cook for a wealthy family, Bridget was bitten by the Alaska bug while listening to guests at her employer’s dinner table.  She managed to get hired as a maid to the wife and sailed for Alaska the summer of 1892 from Seattle. After having to wait in one of the first Russian settlements on the Yukon River through the winter, they arrived at Forty Mile settlement the summer of 1893.  She loved the frontier community and soon learned class distinctions didn’t matter in a country where you had to depend on one another. She had many suitors but waited for the right man to come alone. She found him in an Irish man who panned $50,000 a month from his mine. She dressed in silks and was no longer a cook. She visited her relatives in Ireland and after several years in Alaska, move to Seattle, and participated in the Yukon Order of Pioneers.  She lived to the age of 92.

Paty Jager writes murder mysteries and steamy romance starring cowboys and Indians.
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