Gold Rush of 1898
Few people lived in the Valdez area until the winter of 1897-98 when gold-seekers came to Valdez to follow the "All-American Route" over the Valdez Glacier into the Interior. Some planned to prospect in the Copper River Basin; others planned to continue on to the Klondike. The route was based on an inaccurate description by US Army Lt. William Abercrombie of a trail that he quite probably had never actually traversed during the course of his 1884 Copper River Expedition. Nonetheless, the route was advertised all over the continental US as an established, preexisting trail. It was a great surprise, therefore, to the would-be miners to arrive in Valdez and find no town and no real trail. A tent city sprang up at the head of the bay; thus Valdez was formed. Four thousand stampeders came through Valdez that year. Some of them stayed on shore to set up shops and other businesses; others dragged themselves and their gear up and over the glacier. The trip over the glacier was a difficult one and some people died in the attempt. Snowslides, snowblindness, glacial crevasses, and extreme physical challenges were just some of the problems encountered. Supplies of goods had to be transported on people-pulled sleds; as many as 20 trips back and forth over the steepest legs of the journey were needed in order to get the necessary year's worth of supplies across. The following winter of 1898-99 was long and difficult; huge numbers suffered from scurvy and inadequate supplies. Rescue missions were organized by the prospectors to move sick people out of the interior and back to relief cabins in Valdez.