Excerpts from "The Bushes and the Berrys"
by Edna "Tot" Berry
Dawson and the Gold Fields
Henry and Frank Berry were camped at El Dorado Creek all this time, though Frank made a good many trips to Dawson, walking the nineteen miles both ways. George Byrne and Henry had staked a claim on Bonanza Creek, each taking half, and Henry spent a good deal of his time with George.
Louse Hill is close to Dawson on one side, the Klondyke River coming down on the other side of it. To reach the creeks we had to cross it. The climb was short but much steeper than the Chilkoot Pass. We knew that, when we reached Dawson, the whole town would turn out to meet the boat, as that was the custom, whether they were expecting anyone or not. Ethel asked Clarence to pull into shore, as we wanted to take the nets off and doll ourselves up before we met our friends. Poie did not want to stop and told us that we looked all right and that we could make our change in a room at the hotel. But Clarence did as Ethel wanted.
We had brought our two dresses all the way from home for just this very purpose and nothing could have stopped us from putting them on. We were glad to take off the much-used and much-worn flannels. Our dresses were of flowered lawn, very high waisted, with narrow velvet ribbon at the bottom of the short sleeves and where the skirt joined the waist. We wore black cotton stockings with high shoes. My dress was quite a bit shorter than Ethel's, and I thought it very pretty. We hung a small mirror on a tree to aid us in combing our hair. (No bobbed hair in those days.) Ethel did hers in a knot at the back, while I braided mine with a bow at the neck. The dresses may have had a few wrinkles from their long journey, but they looked mighty good to us. We got back into the boat and in a short time were landing in Dawson. One part of our great adventure was at an end. We had reached our goal, after many trying but happy experiences.
George Byrne, Henry and Frank Berry were on the banks to meet up; they had been in Dawson several days, as they had met some people who had seen us on the trail and knew where we were at the time.
The hotel was filled with people, milling around, talking, setting up the drinks, and telling the news of the creeks, and so we soon went up to our rooms. It wasn't long until some of the folks drifted up to us, for they were anxious to get the latest news from home; soon there was a regular hubbub of questions. We spent most of the night talking.
The morning we were to leave, we again got out the old reliable flannel dresses and put them on; we also wore our gum boots, as the moss was wet and thick all the way to El dorado. A nineteen-mile hike was ahead of us; so we took it easy over the hill, on a trail so narrow that we had to go in single file. When we were on the level again, I began skipping about and jumping from rock to rock. I was full of pep and glad to be on my feet again after the long time spent in the boat.
"Don't do that, Tot," C.J. called to me, "You will need all your strength to make this trip. You don't know what's ahead of you."
I answered right back, "Oh, C.J., what's nineteen miles? I could walk thirty."
I found out later that, as usual, he was right. Of course, after an hour or so I expected to come in sight of the cabin. We walked and walked. As the sun advanced, we slowed down and took frequent rests. Every step we took we sank almost to our knees in the mucky moss. Our skirts were weighted down now with mud. I wanted Ethel to ask Clarence to cut them off above the boot-tops, but she shook her head. I asked one of the other boys to cut mine and found walking much easier. After another five miles Ethel had a half yard cut from hers. What a trip! We were nowhere near home. George Byrne, Emile Stauf, and Frank had joined us. We were all very tired when, late in the evening, we reached the Forks, with still another mile and a half to go. I thought I could never make it, but I would rather have dropped than admit it. The forks was just a small trading post set up to catch the trade where Bonanza Creek ran into El Dorado Creek. An eating house, a saloon, and a few homes had been built there. After a rest on the rocks with the cabin insight, we trudged on wearily.
We reached the cabin at supper time, but no supper was waiting for us. I just dropped on the steps at the door and in two minutes I was asleep. One of the boys gathered me up, saying: "Poor little devil! For a chuchaco [newcomer] she stood the trip well." I did not awaken until late afternoon of the next day, and when I tried to get out of bed, I couldn't use my legs. C.J. thought it best for me to get up and move around, all the time telling me what to do and laughing at me when I groaned. It was another two days before I could walk without pain, but if Ethel felt bad I never knew it. C.J. had the biggest heart and nicest ways. While I was so stiff, he concerned himself very much about me and would cheer me up by saying: "Well, kid, it was a pretty tough trip; I have never seen the trail any worse. Now that you're here, take it easy." One would think that after all those days of travel and the active life we led on the Bush Ranch, the walk from Dawson couldn't have worn me out so completely. I was glad to be at El Dorado after sixty odd days on the way!
The first thing I asked to see was the mine. The boys laughed and told me that I didn't have to go far, as the house was resting on it. I thought to myself: "Have I come all this distance just to see this little mine?" One of them showed me how to pan gold, but it just rolled out of the pan with the water.
C.J. said: "You can have all you pan."
"May I dig any place I want to?" I asked.
I took my pan over near the bank, poked around a bit with the shovel, looked for a prospect, and then started digging. All of a sudden the fine gold, looking much like gravel, came rushing down as sugar would pour from a sack if you punched a hole in it. I had sense enough to know that was not the way it was done, and I called: "Someone come here and look, or did you just salt this for me?"
You should have seen the expressions on their faces when they saw the results. One said: "I'll be jiggered." Another said: "Ye Gods! the luck of a tenderfoot!" Then Clarence spoke up. "Go ahead, take your pan. That's what I said you could do."
It seemed I had opened up a pocket of pure gold and there was also a good-sized nugget there. I can tell you I was excited. I kept thinking all evening and wondering how I could make some money. After supper I asked Ethel if she did not want to hire me as a cook. They all laughed, but Ethel said: "I'll hire you if you'll do the job for $50 a month." That was a fabulous sum of money to me as I had never had over a dollar to spend at a time, so I said: "I want to be paid in gold dust." Clarence agreed, and I salted away every penny of it.