As an author of books on the history of Alaska, I often receive inquiries from people seeking information about long-lost relatives, and I’m always happy to help whenever I can. Family connections are important, and helping someone piece together clues to a lost relative is a fringe benefit of my work which brings happiness and often new friends.
I received one such letter recently which provides a fascinating glimpse into the life of a young roadhouse keeper along the Valdez-to-Fairbanks Trail, which would later become the Richardson Highway, in the early years of the 20th century, when travel was slow and arduous, whether by dogteam, horse-drawn wagon or sleigh, or most often, by foot.The letter came from my friend Julie Stricker, the online content editor at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. Julie had received the letter from a woman named Lorne Brown who’d read Ray Bonnell’s article about the Sourdough Roadhouse in the News-Miner, and she queried: “I am looking for any information you might be able to offer regarding the woman who purchased the Roadhouse from C.L. Hoyt in 1916. We have an old family letter from my G-G Aunt Elizabeth Geady — she married a Kerr and a Stevens, but we believe was divorced from both before arriving in Alaska — in which she writes about the trading post, she refers to it as a store, that she owns in Gulkana, at least that is where the letter is postmarked from. The letter is dated January 30, 1915.”
There was more to Lorne’s letter to Julie, describing her great-great aunt’s 1915 letter, and she ended with this plea: “Any assistance you can offer would be greatly appreciated. She’s our lost Klondiker.”
Young Elizabeth Geady wrote this letter to her mother from Gulkana in January, 1915. I’ve transcribed it for easier reading and the text of the letter is below the photos.
Jan 30, 1915
I received both your letters and was so glad to hear that you are well and liked the goods I sent you. I am glad that you sold some of them. I will send you some more things before long, I can write to the store keepers in Chicago or Toronto if I know their name it would not cost any duty from there.
Tell Mr. Randsom I said Thank you for sending his regards to me (?) tell him I have in mind very clearly the time I worked for them.
They were such nice clean people. Tell him that I said that I remember of his father (Old Mr. Randsom) he wanted to light his pipe and he had no match so I run and lighted his pipe with a sliver of wood and old Mr. Randsom said someday you will be very rich lady. I asked him how he could tell and he said oh it is a sure sign when a child saves a match that they will get rich. What a nice lady Mrs. Randsom was, and also her sister. I hope they are all well. The last time I saw Mrs. Randsom she had a little baby girl and I had lots of fun with Leslie.
Mr. Randsom might be able to give you the address of some wholesale stores in Toronto, ask him and send me the address and I will send you some things from there.
I have a store here and am doing well. I have 3 black foxes and 9 cross foxes alive. I sold a black live fox this summer for $1000 for breeding purposes. I caught him myself in a trap and I sent to the States and got a lot of goods. I got 1 ton of flour, 200 lb bacon, 500 lbs sugar and everything in proportion and lots of clothing. I sell them to the Indians. Flour is $16 a hundred, sugar $20 a hundred, tea $1.50 a lb, bacon 60¢ a lb, socks $1.50 pair (can’t decipher). Everything is high here. I have a horse and I send 150 miles for the goods after they land in Alaska.
Oh how I wish you were here with me. I am so comfortable and contented. If you were here you could get my breakfast for me. I hate to cook and do housework. I have a saddle horse to ride all over the country. I have a shotgun and shoot partridges and grouse. They are so good to eat.
I am living on the bank of the Tolsona River. The trout and greyling are so thick one can get them by the thousand
Mother, did you get my letter where I told you to give Teany my hand painted things, there are a few things
Lizzy’s letter ends there. Lorne explained “The Teany she mentions at the end is my Great Grandma Brown, Christianna (nee Geady) Brown.”
If you have any information about Elizabeth “Lizzy” Geady (possibly Kerr or Stevens) from around 1915, please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will forward your information and contact details to Lizzy’s great-great niece, Lorne Brown.