Letter from Copper River

Skidmore’s George Gilliland wrote the following letter, which was published in the February 4, 1899 Skidmore Standard:

From Copper River

Valdes Alaska, Dec. 12, 1898:
Dear friends, I will endeavor to write a few lines this evening as there is a party of six that is going to try and get to Valdez, that will start to-morrow, I rather think it is doubtful whether they can make it or not, for there were fifteen or twenty that went over there about a month ago and haven’t got back yet.  Mr. Spencer has not got over with the Nov. mail yet.  The Grogg Bros. went over the Glacier.  The snow is about 30 inches deep here, I hear it is 5 or 6 feet deep at the foot of the Glacier.  It has been pretty cold here for a starter, but is nice and pleasant now.  The coldest it has been here was 41 below zero but at present it is 20 above.  I don’t know anything new since Jim left.  The winter weather is something like the summer, about two weeks clear and warm and about two weeks cloudy, when it begins to cloud up it gets warmer although the wind doesn’t blow.

We have some mysterious things here, and one is the river below the lake freezes over when the thermometer is below 35, but when it is about 25 or 30 below it thaws out about two miles up the lake.

I heard that the Copper river had broken up and piled the ice up pretty bad and made it so people couldn’t travel up the river.  I also heard there was quite a lot of provision lost by parties leaving them on the ice, this is only hearsay.

We have about 2 1/2 hours sunshine and about 4 hours twilight.  The days are not as short as I supposed they would be.  The northern lights do not show scarcely any.

The Maley boys started for Copper Center before the last snow.  I heard that they and Sep and Joe and Fuller were only as far as Hell’s Gate.  They will be pretty apt to stay there until the snow packs.  Collins and I just got through sinking a hole; we got down to bedrock but didn’t find anything.  It was about 20 feet deep.  We will go up to his cabin and sink a hole on the creek where the man was hurt by the bear.

Sep Walner and Joe Amen have left “Shorty” (Sam Fisher).  Shorty and Hunt are together.  Fuller and Waldridge; and Collins and I are partners.  I saw a man from Mount Drum about a week ago.  He says they are down about 41 feet and no sign of bed-rock yet.

Yours Truly,
George Gilliland

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