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Harriman Expedition Retraced



The 1899 Expedition
The 1899


Original Participants

Brief Chronology

Science Aboard the Elder
Aboard the

History of Exploration
Exploration &

Development Along Alaska's Coast
Growth Along Alaska's Coast

Alaska Native Communities


The 1899 Letters
of Charles Keeler to Louise Keeler

(Return to Charles Augustus Keeler: 1871 - 1937)

San Francisco to Seattle
Canada and Southeast Alaska
Prince William Sound

Alone Red Bluff
Saturday 7 A.M. May 27 ‘99

Writing is almost impossible my dearest as the car shakes so one might fancy he was riding on a camel. Feel refreshed after a good sleep and am now waiting for Mr. Muir to get up for breakfast. He is almost as great a talker as Aunt Sophie so you can imagine I don’t have much time to myself. A gentleman in an adjoining section is bound for Portland to have a conference with Mr. Harriman. We will have a day in Portland I understand from him. He says Mr. Harriman is the president of the board of managers of five or six railroad lines – the entire Vanderbilt system, and one of the leading railroad men of the country.
Mr. Muir entertained us with accounts of Sierra trees, and told me a little of his life on a Wisconsin farm as a young man and his boyhood in Scotland. Charley Sedgewick is on the train bound for some point near Shasta, but I have seen little of anyone save Mr. Muir.
I wonder how my dear ones are this morning. Kiss little Merodine for papa and tell her to do all she can to make mama happy. I miss you so much my dear love and do hope you are to be all right while I am away. Mr. Muir is nearly ready for breakfast so I will end this little visit, so unsatisfactory and inadequate. But I feel very well and we must both get stronger during the two months.
Love to all—

Klamath River
May 27. 3.30 P.M. ‘99

We have stopped here for a few minutes my dear love and I will take the opportunity to send you anther brief message to let you know that all is well and that I am thinking of my dear ones. I suppose you had the meeting of the building committee at our home this morning and now you are back at mother’s resting. We have had a quiet uneventful day watching the scenery and talking. We had a fine view of Castle Crag but Shasta was lost in the clouds. We stopped at Shasta Springs long enough to have a drink. The meals are poor and expensive. There is much beautiful scenery but it is sad to see it so mutilated by the lumbermen.
A meadowlark and linnet are singing outside the window as I write. Mr. Muir has pointed out many of the trees to me as we passed and talked some on the geology. He is full of accounts of his many excursions and we get along famously, but I miss my dear little family and don’t like to think that we are getting farther and farther apart. How strange it seems to think that you may be coming up on this same line in a few weeks! We expect to wait at Portland until the special train arrives there, perhaps a day. It has sprinkled a little today and is now overcast. Our car is now nearly empty and passengers so we have things quite to ourselves.
Remember my dear one that you are to gain in weight and be bright and happy while I am away. Give papa’s love to his little girl and tell her she is to learn to sing some pretty songs while he is away.
With love to all –

Salem Oregon
May 28, 1899
Sunday 8 A.M.

Good morning, my dear one – how long it seems since I left you at Sixteenth Street and the journey is scarcely begun as yet. We are three hours late this morning and as the dining car left us last night we may expect breakfast at Portland at about noon. The prunes and some bananas have kept us in good condition however. It is rather cold and cloudy this morning. Conifers are the prevailing trees and we have had some pretty glimpses of the Wilamette River. There is little to tell you, dearest except that I am thinking of you and that I miss you all the time. It has been a sacrifice for both of us to have me go on this trip and I only hope there will be enough compensation in the end.
We expect to remain a day in Portland, meeting the special train there tomorrow evening. Mr. Muir and I picked three beautiful wild iris last night and I put them in for my dear little girl. I hope she is happy playing in the garden with the flowers and the kitties. How I wish I could see you both this morning.
The railroad man who is going up to meet Mr. Harriman is a friend of McClures and tells me that we will hear before long that McClure has bought out the entire Harper Publishing Co. this should not be mentioned to any one who would make it public as for example Miss Knapp. By the way you had better call on her some day if you have the time.
Tell Kittie the candy was very good and remind her of the picture of Merodine she was to print for me. I had a little talk with Charley Wheeler and his wife yesterday and they said that Marsh was already up there. What a long journey it is from S.F. to Seattle! Good bye my dearest. Take good care of my two loved ones –

[Hotel Stationery]
The Portland
Portland, Oregon,
Mr. Bowers, Manager.

May 29, 1899
Monday / P.M.

It seems an age since we left home dearest, yet here we are still in Portland waiting for something to happen. The party are not to arrive here until tomorrow morning when they reach here by boat on the river. They have left their train for a little variety, and from here go on for some miles farther by boat, finally joining the train at Seattle. We have telegraphed them and have arranged to await them here. This has been a rainy day and we have done nothing but eat and talk. We came directly to the Portland hotel (the best in town), had breakfast at 11.30 A.M. yesterday, then walked about town a little and returned and talked. In the evening more talk, a good night’s sleep and then an entire steady morning of talk again. Mr. Muir and I have a large single room with two beds and have gotten on famously. He delights in talking and has told me about his life in great detail. It would be hopeless to try to repeat it all now although I will tell you a little of it. His father was a Scotch farmer of the severe religious order, and they migrated to Wisconsin when John was a young boy. He was undersized and called the “runt” of the family (not attaining his growth) until his 25th year. When a boy of sixteen he had to do a full man’s work with two days vacation in the year (New Years and 4th of July.) He was up at six in the morning and to bed at eight at night (in winter up at 4.) His father had no books in the house but the bible and one or two religious works, and John had no time to read except five or ten minutes when he went to bed. Finally his father became impatient of constantly having to order him to bed. The last one and forbade his taking even this much time, but said if he wanted to read he must get up early in the morning. Here was a new idea. He determined to awaken early, and the next morning was up and dressed at one. It was winter & too cold to read so he went down in the work shop under his father’s room and commenced making a saw mill he had been thinking over for a long time. He was filled with delight to think that he had secured a half day to himself.
His father was a man of his word and having made the promise stuck to it, although he disapproved. From from that time on he constantly got up at one on the morning and worked at his inventions or studied. He borrowed the poets to read from Scotch workmen who lived near by, and saved up his few pennies to buy books.
Finally he went to the University of Wisconsin and remained four years –-- pursuing such studies as he cared for but never graduating. He made a clock with various wonderful attachments, which would stand his bed upright at the proper morning, and so adjusted that at a set hour his study book would be pushed up on his desk and opened for him to begin his lessons.
After leaving the University he went to work in a saw mill which finally burned down, and he tramped to Indiannapolis (I believe) and went to work making plow handles. From this he worked up into a responsible position, but presently left to go as a long tramp. He walked to Florida the year after the war, studying botany and having many adventures. At one time he was out of money and for a week lived on a little bread and slept in a cemetary where he would be safe from the superstitious negroes about the country.
Then he came to California and started at once for the Yosemite where he wne to work making a saw mill for old Hutchinson. He ran this for 3 yrs. and was there when Emerson came to the valley. This is only a rough outline of a few things he has told me but it will serve to give you an idea.
Other than this there is absolutely nothing to tell you, dearest. It is too bad to waste all this time when we might have still been together. Mr.Muir just asked me if I was writing to you and told me to give you his regards and tell you he was having a fine time with me. He calls me Charley and is very kind and friendly. By the way, I wish you would notice what I said in my article on Redwood birds about the Cal. woodpecker storing acorns in trees. Mr.Muir says (4) positively that they go and feed on the acorns and that he has often fseen them doing so. It is often thought that they leave them to rot and hatch insects but this is erroneous. I wish you would correct this point if I have mentioned the possiblity of insects and merely make it read that they store the acorns for a food supply.
Give papa’s love to dear little Merodine and tellher he is thinking about her. She must grow fat while he is away. It is so hard not to get any word from my dear ones. Tomorrow we are to join the party early and there will be little chance for letter writing before we sail. I hope you will get the book of songs for Merodine and perhaps she may be able to learn a little one for papa. Take good care of yourself my dear love and remember you are to be very well when I return. Let me know exactly how you both are whenever you write.
Tell Sadie the wristlets have been a great comfort already and give her my love. I ought not to write much to any one for you know how letter writing always tires me.
Good bye me dear one

The Portland
Portland, Oregon.
Mr. Bowers, Manager.

May 29th 1899
Monday 8 P.M.

I must send you just a line this evening dear love for I fear there will be little opportunity to write tomorrow and after that it is hard to tell when the next letter can be sent. The party is expected here by boat very early in the morning, and then there will be visits with the members of the party that I know and introductions to the others. We go on to Seattle and aboard the Elder tomorrow. Great secrecy has been observed here about the expedition and no one knows anything about it.
While I think of it, my pass included return from Portland to S.F. so although these two days here have involved some unexpected expense I will have plenty of money for everything. This has been quite a taste of luxury here. Sunday night we had a large orchestra at dinner and an elaborate meal. On the whole the table is very good and I have had a good appetite to do justice to it. An officer of the railroad over which the special is coming told me the Elder had been provisioned so that we would be particularly well fed during the trip, and from the clipping I sent you it seems that no pains will be shared to make us comfortable.
Mr. Muir and I went to call on a few of his friends this afternoon especially to talk over forestry reserves and keeping out the sheep.
Good night, my own dear one. I cannot tell you how much I miss you. How happy we shall be when it is all over and we are together again! It seems an age since we parted and the journey is still ahead. But I hope it may help in my work and that will help to make us both happier and better. Kiss dear Merodine for papa and tell her he is thinking of her. She must be a good dear little girl and help mama all she can. Tomorrow come some word will come from my dear once and that will be a comfort.
Good night my dear one –

The Portland
Portland, Oregon.
Mr. Bowers, Manager.

May 30th 1899
Monday 8 P.M.

I must take a moment to tell you that the party has arrived, my dear one. They are in fine spirits and all say there never was such a wonderful overland journey and that if the rest of the trip is like it we are to have a grand time. We have hunched together here and are to take the steamer down the rivers very soon. I have had a talk with John Burroughs, Swain Gifford, Ridgeway, Fishes, etc. Dr. Merriam greeted me very heartily and of course Charley Palache was glad to see me. Mr. Harriman as you have seen by clippings takes his family. Everything has been done to make people comfortable and happy.
Good bye my own dear one. Keep well and let me find both of my loved ones looking bright and strong when I return. Give dear baby a kiss from papa and give my love to all the dear ones.
Charley –

Hotel Seattle
European Plan.
Hotel Stevens Co., Inc.

Seattle, Wash,May 31st 1899.

My own dear love—
I have been to the post office and received your two first letters and they were so welcome. It seemed like another visit with you, and I fear it is the last word for two months. We learn that no attempt is to be made to forward mail and unless a letter you sent to Sitka or some other point reached me by the merest chance I will have no further world. We may possibly have one or two opportunities to send mail but the chances are, I am told that no mail will be either sent or received. Still I hope you will try to reach me each time the steamer sails, with a short word, and if I do not get them they will return to you. Have a letter at Seattle a full week before we expect to be there (viz July 22) and write on it to hold until called for. From that time on you can write several letters, putting your address on the outside.
Things are managed on a fairly princely scale. The special train has had the tracks cleared of all regular travel all the way from New York. The president, chief engineer and division superintendent of every road they have travelled has --- them in a private car to the end of their respective roads. The train consists of eight cars. The members of the party are in stateroom cars, each stateroom holding two men. The table is the best the country affords, with fine wine and the smoking car is supplied with an unlimited quantity of the best cigars for those who smoke. There is a library of Alaskan literature, fine maple etc. On the way out Dr.Merriam suggested to Mr.Harriman that a trip to Shoshone falls would be pleasant. They telegraphed ahead for horses to take the entire party thirty miles inland, and received word that there were no horses and that the trip could not be made in a day if there were. Mr.Harriman sent word in reply to scour the country for horses and send them up by --- in special cars. When the party reached there the horses awaited them (saddle horses, stages, etc.) Again Dr.Merriam suggested a trip down the Snake River in a boat. In order to do this it was necessary to take the train on a long detour over an opposition road which they were then fighting. They managed it however, and a boat was sent up the river to meet them. The special train was sent back and around to pick up the party later. At one point they were detained by a freight wreck. When they reached the point a wrecking engine had swung a derailed car out in the air over a steep embankment and was in the act of hoisting it on the track.
The president of the road who was escorting them went to the men and told them he hadn’t time to wait, and ordered him to drop the car to smash in bits below. The foreman of the wrecking gang asked for only ten minutes and it was reluctantly granted him, thus saving the car.
When we left Portland yesterday we took a new boat (the fastest stern wheel steamer in the world) and she made her first trip with our party, humming along at a speed of 25 miles an hour. All the boats in port whistled salutes as we passed. At six we took the train again and I went to dinner with Dr.Merriam, John Muir and Prof. Gilbert. As Charley Palache said it is like a big informal house party. In the evening I had talks with Gifford and another artist Dellenbaugh (I believe) and a number of the other men. The Harrimans’ are very simple unassuming people. There are two or three girls of Kits age or less and several children.
My stateroom is No 49, on the upper deck only one removed from the captain’s room (forward). The rooms are good sized and newly painted and fitted up for the trip. We have a pack train aboard for those who wish to go inland, as scout and hunters from the Yellowstone, a stenography for Mr.Harriman and another for Dr.Merriam and any one in the party who cares to make use of him. I took breakfast this morning with Ridgeway, Dr.Fisher and Charley Palache. All are in good spirits and expect a wonderful time. We leave at 2 P.M. today. I expect now to call on Mrs.Bacon and then go to the steamer.
Charley Palacke and I went for our mail right after breakfast and on the way met Mr. Ritter on the street. I have come here to write this last word to my dear ones and then attend to the few last things.
You know I will be thinking of you all the way dearest, and wishing you were with me. It will be but a half enjoyment without you near. Take good care of Merodine and of yourself. I am well and intend to be careful to keep so. Kiss dear baby good bye again for papa and tell her he is on the big boat sailing way off over the water and that he will come home with lots of funny stories to tell her. Give my love to all. They will understand my not writing.
Good bye my own dear one. This must surely be the last time we are separated for so long.
With fondest love–


Steamer Elder
May 31st 1899.

Just one word more before we go my dearest. We have been detained again and are not to be off before six o clock. Ritter and I have adjoining rooms. We have taken our first meal on shipboard and everything was excellent as usual. I went to call on Mrs.Bacon and found her very friendly, but her home surprised me – many fine old things
– engravings, photographs etc, and no end of stuff – poor China painting and a mixed lot generally. Then at her request I called on Mr. Bacon down street and he walked to the boat with me.
Good bye dear love. I shall be very careful of myself and be sure that you do the same. My camera is already set up for a photograph in port. We have a piano and at least one fine musician (Mr. Fernow, Prof. of Forestry at Cornell.) Say good bye to my dear little girl and with fondest love to you from you loving Charley.
P.S. Remember the party has been so erratic in its movements that we may return a week ahead of time or two weeks late, and do’nt be worried if we are not on time. No news means we are well and prospering. –

On board Geo. W. Elder
May 31st 1899—

For the third time today I am writing to you, my dearest. We are to stop at Vancouver in th morning and I can mail one more word to you. The Sound is as quiet at San Francisco Bay although a breeze is blowing and a light drizzling rain has been falling. We left Seattle at 5 P.M. and are at last started on our journey. Mr. Muir’s stateroom had to be given up to the pilot, so they have just him in with me. O fcourse we are a trifle crowded but how great a privilege to be cooped up for two months in a little room with John Muir! Here is a plan of the rooms in our part of the ship. [Here Keeler drew a picture of the ship.]
The party is very congenial and all are in excellent spirits. There is little more to tell you now, dearest and as I have been writing up my notes for the day I will say good night

June 1st

Good morning dear love. Mr.Muir and I slept very well and felt first rates this morning. Breakfast of strawberries oatmeal and cream, fish eggs and corn bread. Beautiful roses on the table. We are going now to see the museum and call on John Fannin, a well known naturalist here.

I have shown your sketches in Southern California to Mr.Gifford and one or two other men and they were most enthusiastic over them. I also showed them the pictures of you and Merodine and of course they were delighted with them. These last I showed to Mr.Burroughs also. He is very pleasant but rather quiet. He doesn’t like Browning with the exception of “How we took the Good News from Ghent to Aix” and he asked if the guillemot was related to the gill or the duck, but he is a good hearty simple sort of a man. Prof. Brewer delights in telling stories and Prof. Emerson is also very good company. I have kept full notes so I will not attempt to tell you more now. How I wish you were here with me my own dear love. I think of you all the time and wonder what you are doing. It seems so strange not to know where you are to be while I am away, and I miss you so much but when I come back we will not let anything separate us again. Good bye my own dear love. Keep well,

Lowe inlet on Grenville Channel
On Steamer Geo.W. Elder
June 3rd 1899 6 P.M.

Another unexpected opportunity is in sight to mail you a letter, my dear love although I am told the mails are a trifle uncertain and the letter may be delayed. At some time in the night we reach the first custom house in Alaska and as we stopped in British Columbia it is necessary to report there. Hence this letter. In the first place I must tell you dear that I am better than when I left home. The sea air seems to agree with me and I have splendid appetite, and in fact am better in every way. We have just been ashore at a salmon cannery here and had a two hours ramble in the dense forest of fir and pine. I went off with Dr.Merriam and we discovered among other things a great avalanche path with immense pine trees shattered and mixed with blocks of granite and debris. The inhabitants of the town consisted of Chinamen, Indians and a few white men. We are passing through a wonderful region with snow covered mountains ever in sight and great mountain ranges coming right to the waters edge clothed with an impenetrable forest of pine, fir and spruce. Innumerable waterfalls come tumbling down the mountain sides and the tracks of past avalanches are marked now and then by lines of light green alders winding up a path between the dark firs and pines. I have kept daily notes and taken about twenty photographs, some good and a few poor. I developed them today. We have a fine dark room very conveniently fitted up.
We have an excellent table_claret or white wine for lunch and dinner and everything in keepng. The weather is cool, cloudy much of the time, with occasional light showers. One day was sunny all day long. All the men are most congenial. We make a point of changing places at table for every meal. One evening Dr.Dall gave a lecture on the history and geopgraphy of Alaska. Last night another lecture was announced, but the boat got to rolling so as we passed from one island to another that most of the people were glad to take refuge in their ----. It affected me more than usual but I didn’t get sick and soon fell asleep

Steamer ---
June 4th 1899.

It is Sunday afternoon and I have been walking up and down the deck thinking of home and my dear ones. Now I am sitting on my trunk in my stateroom and outside of my open door two porpoises are rolling in and out of the water. The shore is not far away with its everpresent range of snow topped mountains. The sky is overcast and the air chilly, but I am warmly dressed and keep very well. I have a splendid appetite and no end of fresh air and exercise of a moderate kind.
I am actually tired of the constant strain of trying to take things in. I am trying to learn from the scenery, the life and the people about me, including botanists, geologists, marine invertebratologists, ornithologists and professional story tellers. We have Prof.Emerson who has travelled all over the world and delights in telling his experiences. Dr.Dall who has lived ten years in Alaska, Prof.Brewer who is always trying to waylay some body to tell a story to say nothing of Muir, Burroughs and the rest. Dr.Fisher is a great wag and Dr.Merriam a fine companion, but tired of the effort of trying to digest it all. It is a constant strain and hard to know what to put down in my notes and what to leave out. I don’t quite see yet what phase of Alaska I can write about when others know it so much more exhaustively than I can ever begin to. Mr.Burroughs has been made the official historian of the expedition, and Mr.Harriman is to have a book published giving an account of the trip and in an appendix the scientific reports. Dr.Merriam has asked me to contribute something to the literary part and intends asking Mr.Muir, but I hardly see what I can write on with Mr.Burroughs as historian. Still all this will no doubt straighten itself out as the expedition advances.
This afternoon Mr.Fernow sat down at the piano and played for me two entire sonatas of Beethoven, some Chopin and Brahms. He is a fine musician, but only Mr.Gifford and I seemed to care much for it.
We had a most interesting visit ashore this morning at Metla Kahtla Indian village, attending the mission Church and hearing a sermon preached in Indian to a congregation of ladies and gentlemen far more stylishly dressed then we were who were cannibals thirty years ago. But it is hard to write much to you dearest, partly because it is too cold sitting still in my room and partly because there is constantly so much to see and do. We reach Wrangell tomorrow early in the morning and I am to send this letter from there. The next day we are to be in Juneau, then up to Dyea and Shagua, then to Muir Glacier, then to Sitka and after that on to Yakutat Bay, Prince William Sound, Kodiak Island and Cook’s Inlet. We may even go on to the Aleutian and Fur Seal Islands, but all this part of the voyage is uncertain. After leaving Sitka there will probably be no further opportunity for mailing letters to you, and I fear I am not to receive a single line from home. It is very hard to go so long without knowing just how and where you are my dearest, but we must feel that it is for the best this time.
Charley Palache and I have been having a talk about home this afternoon. I have been showing him the pictures of my dear ones and the little home, and he has been telling me of his future plans.
Do take such good care of your self my dear one and let me see a very marked improvement in both you and Merodine. Be careful not to have her too much excited and have her out of doors all day long. Give my love to each and all and tell them that Alaska may do for picturesque effects but that there is no place like Berkeley for a home. Kiss dear Merodine and with fondest love to you my dear one, from

Alaska, On Steamer Elder.
June 5th 1899

I mailed a letter to you at Wrangell this morning, my dear one, and now write this line to send at Juneau tomorrow. I suppose my letters will all go down on the same boat, and you will get half a dozen at one mail which is not very satisfactory, but better than it will be later, for I think each letter I send will be the last chance. You must understand, my dearest, that after we leave the regular excursion route there will be no opportunity to mail letters until we again reach Seattle at the end of the voyage. I called at Wrangle post office for a letter from you, hardly hoping that one could be there, and left my address in case anything came later.
Wrangell is a dirty miserable town and like all Alaska, settlements with streets of boards on stilts and the gulleys below them full of tin cans and old shoes. The totem poles were interesting but invariably close behind the most hideous monstrosities of painted modern houses all dirty and dilapidated – the homes of the Indians. We saw many of the Indian canoes along shore, large dugouts made of a single tree and with a high stem and stern.
This has been a wonderful day, my dearest. How I wish you were here with me to see it! We have been sailing by great ragged granite ranges of mountains densely mantled with snow, with glaciers winding down betwwen their ridges. The lower slopes and nearer mountains are densely covered with pins and fir trees and the waterway is broken up with islands and inlets. Now we are driting about, having sent two row boats full of people ashore. I preferred to stay aboard and get my journal written up and this line to you, for there is little opportunity to write when all are on board.
I am well, dearest, and only wish I could get word from you to know that all is well at home before we get beyond the reach of letters. Tell Merodine not to forget her papa and to be sure to learn some little songs to sing for him when he returns. How good it will seem when we are all together once more!
Dr.Trudeau, a young medical student and friend of Mr. Harriman, knows the Mapes boys. James Mapes died at his home in the Adriondacks under his father’s care. Mr. Burroughs told me that Aunt Lizzie reached New York the day the party left there. Good byd my dear one. Take the best of care of yourself and Merodine and know that I am ever thinking of you –

Grenville Channel B.C.
On Steamer Elder
June 3d 1899.

My dear little Merodine: –
Papa is on the big big boat sailing all night and all day on the water. We go along near the land where big pine trees grow and there are many birds flying over the water. On the tops of the mountains is white snow and it is all very pretty. I picked you some pretty wild violets today in the woods and send them with papas love. You must be a very good little girl and do all you can to help mama and make her happy. How glad papa will be to see you when he comes home, and you will put your little arms around his neck and hug him close.
Good by my dear little girl
From Papa.

Approaching Sitka, Steamer Elder
June 14th 1899 –

Again we are to come within hail of the busy world, my dear love, and I am looking forward eagerly to the event, hoping to find at least one if not two or three letters from you. I received one short letter from you at Juneau, mailed on the first of June, and was so glad to get it, although it was not enough – such a brief outline – but it was the only letter received for the expedition and it gave me at least a glimpse of my dear ones.
Now we are to be at Sitka a few days (probably four or five) and after that you will not have any word again until you get my interior to White Pass on the road to the Klondike. We followed the famous dead horse trial where the eager gold hunters are said to have traveled on the backs of dead horses which had been wired on the way. The railroad is the only one in Alaska and has only been running a few months.
Then we returned to Juneau to pick up party of our company which had been left behind and started immediately for Muir Glacier where we have been ever since. I can’t begin to tell you of the wonders of this region, my dearest, but how often I have longed to have you with me looking at this vast workshop of nature. Here is a great ragged range of mountains buried in snow with Mt. Fairweather towering up 16,000 feet, its top generally lost in clouds. Mr. Burroughs and I spent last Sunday (a day of marvelous clearness and brilliance) upon a rough rocky mountain commanding a panorama of the whole mighty ice river winding down through the mountains to the sea and dropping off ice bergs with a thundering sound, and with the beautiful Glacier Bay at our feet and the great mountain range beyond. Two other days I have spent of the Muir Glacier, one with Mr. Burroughs and Prof. Emerson and the other with Mr. Ritter.
We have visited an Indian Village, explored Glacier Bay in one of the launches and now are on the point of landing at Sitka. I will write you again from here but want to post this as soon as we land lest we miss a boat bound for home. I will put some of my notes made in the open air which will give you a few imperfect glimpses of scenes. Kiss dear little Merodine and tell her papa wants to see her so much. Love to all the dear ones. Good bye, my own dear love. Know that I am ever thinking of you and longing to be with you –

Sitka, Alaska, June 16th 1899.

It is a rainy afternoon and I am sitting in my stateroom alone thinking of you, my dearest. Dark clouds hang over the lofty snow covered mountains and the little islands which dot the bay are sombre in hue. Sitka is a wonderfully beautiful spot and I am sorry we are to leave it so soon. We have lost an hour in time here, but I keep my watch with yours and whenever I look at it I wonder what you are doing. Now it is quarter past six and you are all at the table eating dinner_dear little baby beside you!
The Topeka left this noon with letters for you and Sadie and with the Moses etc. aboard. Mrs. Moses will tell you how much better I am looking than when I left home, and perhaps tell you of our walk up town together. We sail for Yakutat Bay tomorrow evening and after that mail will be very uncertain. Mrs.Moses gave me a letter for Ms.Ritter written on the 4th. How I wish you had thought to do likewise for now I must go on with no letter since the 1st, but Mrs.Moses said you were well and I am thankful to have had a personal word about you if not from you. I suppose you will try to reach me with letters at other points beyond and I will look at each post office however far out of the world it may be.
I was greatly troubled at what Miss Beaver said about my book. She is an intensely disagreeable woman to me and I am very sorry she fell across my path. I cannot imagine what could have been found that could not set right between you and Mr.Losmis, and only hope that Miss Beaver was mistaken. Still I have practically nothing to gain by having Elder and Shepard publish it and on the whole would not be sorry if the whole thing were abandoned. I shall probably have no end of trouble and worry over it and after all it is not a thing I care anything for.
I feel more and more as if this Alaska trip would be of little or no benefit to me in my work. I am faithfully recording all that I see but it will be of no value for literary purposes except as a background for stories. Mr.Muir has promised some eastern house to write a book on Alaska and intends to do so. Mr.Burroughs, beside being historian of the expedition expects to write an article for the Century (perhaps more than one) and with all of this exploiting there will be no room for anything I may find to say. When this letter reaches you, my dearest, the time will be half over, and what a happy meeting it will be! This climate and life agrees with me even better than southern California, strange as it seems with so much rain and dampness, and this is the only consolation I have in being away from you so long.

Sitka – June 16 ’99

Just a line, my dearest, to send by the Topeka which leaves in a few minutes. I am writing on my camera standing up on the wharf in the confusion of departure. To my surprise I met Prof & Miss Beaver here on the wharf this morning. Mrs. Moses said she saw you the day before she left, that you were well and that Merodine did not seem to miss me. This was about all I could learn from her, but Miss Beaver said she had a message from Mr. Shepard saying that he had been obliged to postpone my book until my return owing to errors in the text. You can imagine how annoyed I was at this news for a number of reasons. I wish you would tell him with my compliments that if it is true he is a fool to spread such a report about the book in advance, and he has certainly taken the very best way of expressing it in letting the Beaver-Brigges. The only thing I can think of that could not easily be corrected is what I said about [illegible] birds. This group is no longer used by the A.O.U. check list, but is a convenient way of lumping a lot of birds that come together, and is a help to a popular understanding of the classification. I am very strongly inclined to withdraw the entire book from Edder & Shepard and you may be sure that if the first part is not out when I return they will never publish it. I thought strongly of returning by this boat but haven’t the money to do so.
Two letters from my dear one were awaiting me here, one forwarded from Juneau and the other dated June 1st (special delivery to Seattle) so I fear I will get no word from you during the trip later than June 1st. But the letters I have are very precious to me and make me feel that I can have little visits with my dear one during the rest of the voyage. Good bye dearest. I am well and thinking of you—

June 17th 1899.

We sail from here this evening, my dearest, for Yakutat Bay. It is only a day’s run, and I have no idea how long we are to be there. Then another day of coasting will bring us to Prince William Sound and so on. Our longest stops will probably be at Kodiak Island and Cook’s Inlet. I wrote Sadie of the possibility of returning by Steamer to San Francisco, but this is only a rumor and no one knows what the plans are to be more than a day in advance. You need not be troubled about my clothes, dear. I have put away my new suit, reserving it for grand occasions, and find the old clothes to be right in style. That is the pleasantest feature of the expedition_there is no snobbery or conventionality about it. They are all gentlemen and behave as such so we all fell very much at home however we may be dressed.
Last night we had a reception given us by the governor and were entertained by the Natives in dress suits. We all wore white shirts and looked and felt very peculiar. We have had washing done here and are in good condition now for six weeks away from the civilized centers. Tonight we are to attend a service in the Greek Church just before sailing. Sitka is a beautiful and romantic spot, full of historic associations and wonderfully beautiful in its setting, but it is being unmade as rapidly as possible by the hideous architecture of the Americans. Mr.Ritter and I are going up town now for a last look at the points of interest, so I must say good bye to my dear one. Be brave and get well and strong for me so we can both make a fresh start when I get back. Good bye, my own dear love –

Sitka, Alaska
June 17th 1899

My dear little Merodine:--
Here are some pretty flowers that Mr. Muir picked in front of his old cabin by the Muir glacier and gave me to send to my little girl. Papa has brought you a little Indian boat and you can sail it in the bathtub when I come home. I hope you are a dear good little girl and do all you can to help and comfort mama while papa is away. You must not forget to learn to sing a little song for me and make me some pretty pictures.
I think of my dear little one often and want very much to see her. You know papa is living with a great many other men on a big big boat and sailing far over the ocean but in another month he will come home to his dear ones again.
Your loving Papa –

Yakutat Bay, Alaska
June 21st1899

Imagine me sitting by the camp fire, dear love, listening to a dwarf hermit and thinking of home. Our camp is in a little inlet on the shore of Yakutat Bay, with a sand flat upon which our tents are pitched, and back of us and all around the shore a dense forest of spurce and hemlock. Ridgeway, Ritter, Saunders, Starks, Cole and one of the packers to cook make up our party, and we have had a very good time of it in spite of mosquitoes and a drizzling rain every now and then. The steamer will pick us up either today or tomorrow and I will send this from Yakutat Post Office just as we leave. We are directly opposite Mount Saint Elias, but only once for a few minutes have we had a lasting glimpse of what we took to be the crest through the clouds.
It is a constant surprise to me to find how well I keep all through the varied experiences of this trip. Good appetite, no occasion for medicine of any sort, not a suggestion of a cold and yet out in all sorts of weather! Still I am very careful to keep dry clothes on and to keep warm, so you may expect to find me very well when I return. I only hope my two dear ones will be equally improved. Do take plenty of rest and be strong and bright when that happy time comes when we are together once more.
I went to the Yakutat post office hoping that I might possibly find a letter there, but there was nothing for me. Yakutat is an Indian village with a white store keeper and two Swedish missionaries. One of them has a wife and she told me she had not seen a white woman for over a year, so you see we are quite out of the world here. I have seen considerable of the Indians here and at other places and learned much of interest concerning their habits. Night before last an old Indian called on us with some trinkets to sell, and I hired his canoe for ten cents and paddled over to the village. It was a wonderful experience, with the dark clouds overhead the dark water rocking my little dugout as I paddled along, with the base of Mt. St. Elias opposite me, a thrush singing in the solemn pine woods and a wilderness all about.
This will be my only experience at camping during the trip I expect, for after we leave here the hunters of big game expect to have things pretty much to themselves. I do’nt know whether I have told you that this expedition originated as a hunting trip, and that Mr.Harriman and his personal friends are counting on going off camping for two or three weeks at Kodiak Island, and perhaps other points, hunting for bear and other large game. I rather think they will find it more like work than play and that the hunting trip will be somewhat shortened, but that remains to be seen.
I have been gone from home now nearly four weeks, and it is comforting to think that in another month we will be homeward bound. It makes me feel that this time is nearly half up, and I hope the second half will pass more rapidly than the first. I have found it impossible to write anything for you, my dearest. There is so much to see that when my notes are written up I find it is necessary to go at something else, and the quiet and repose necessary for poetry never comes. Good bye, my dearest. Kiss dear little baby for papa and tell her he is coming home soon

Nearing Prince William Sound.
June 24th 1899 —

Another stage of our journey is passed, my dear love, and we are in sight of a great range of snow covered mountains on one of the islands in front of Prince William Sound. We have been rolling about on the broad swells of the Pacific, but strangely enough very few have been sea sick. There has been very little wind and now at last the sun is out. We have had an uneventful voyage of a day since leaving Yakutat where we stayed a little longer than we had expected in the vain hope of getting a good square look at the St.Elias range.
Mr.Muir and I are both in our little room writing home. Mr.Burroughs has been uncomfortable at sea, so I spent most of this morning talking to him and trying to make him comfortable. After breaking camp at Yakutat we steamed up to the head of the bay—a wonderful region like the arctics with the water full of floating ice, glaciers winding down to its edge, and lofty snow-covered mountains lost in clouds. We stopped at an Indian encampment where they were hunting hair seals, one of the filthiest bloodiest places I was ever in, but very picturesque and interesting notwithstanding. I have learned much of the Indians from observation and contact as well as some from books.
Mr.Muir has just given me these little flowers to send to you – it is Rhubus stellatum. It seems so strange to be writing you time after time, my dear one, with no word in reply or tidings of any sort from you. Just think of it, I have had no word since June 1st, and now the chance of hearing grows less and less as we get farther away from the regular line of travel. I can only hope and pray my dear ones are well and awaiting patiently as can be, never a trace of a cold in spite of camping in the rain, and appetite as great as ever. But I am growing more and more anxious for the end of the voyage and home.
Do not expect me back until you see me or hear from me from Seattle. One day I hear a rumor that we are to remain longer than 60 days, and the next that the time is to be shortened. There is some talk to returning by San Francisco, and still more of the party going via Canadian Pacific. In all probability we will reach Seattle August 1st, but if we are two weeks later you will understand that plans have been changed, or if we are a week earlier you need not be surprised.
These are miserable letters my love one, but you will know from them that I am thinking of you and longing to see you.
Kiss dear little Merodine and give her this little wild forget me not from papa.
With love to all – Charley.

Prince William Sound
June 27th 1899

Another opportunity is in sight of sending a message to my dear ones, so I have come to my room to have another little talk with you, dearest. Yesterday was the most wonderful day of the voyage, and how often I wished you were there with me to see it all. We spent the day in a fiord with eleven glaciers, large and small, about us. A party of us, including Mr.Muir and Mr.Burroughs, went in the steam launch through the ice floe to get a nearer view, and landed on one of the morains. Toward evening we steamed out of our anchorage to explore another inlet not far away, where another glacier was known to be. After dinner we were steaming up to the front of it and as we drew near we noticed what looked like a valley off at one end. Our pilot Capt. Humphreys who knows more of Prince William Sound said there was nothing beyond, but as we came closer to the great ice wall of the glacier we saw an inlet around the point and another glacier inside. Slowly and cautiously we advanced, casting the lead all the time, until the great blocks of ice thundered off from the glacier into the sea close beside us. Then we turned sharply around the point into the side fiord so unexpectedly opened out before us and steamed slowly up. The sun had set, but twilight lasts all night here so there was no danger of being overtaken by darkness. Dark clouds hung over the loft snow topped mountains and out of them streamed a succession of ice cascades reaching down the steep rugged slopes into the main fields of glaciers__six in all were about us. We were in a narrow fiord with ice fields in the water, snow covered mountains all about us ending in vast frozen rivers, and upon the highest peak was a rosy sunset cloud. It was the first time any white man had looked upon the inlet and the mountains, and in the solemn evening light was one of the grandest scenes I have ever witnessed.
Now we are on our way to Orca again, where the cannery is located. In another day we are to start for Kodiak Island and Cook’s Inlet. There will be no more ice in the water from this time on, as there are no glaciers large enough to discharge bergs. We have had beautiful weather these last three days, but this morning the fog and drizzle has begun again. I was never in better health in my life, and this mode of living seems to agree with me exceptionally well — good food, enough exercise to keep strong, and constant life in fresh air. I am very cautious and always keep out of dangerous places, thinking of my dear ones at home, so you have nothing to worry about dearest. You may expect to find me much stronger than when I left home and better in every way. I am counting the weeks and days to the time of our meeting again, and longing to be with you, my dearest. When you get this we will probably be thinking about turning our heads towards home. Although plans are still indefinite, the probability is that we will return to Seattle by the inside passage, arriving there on the 1st of August.
Keep well and strong dearest, and let me find dear little Merodine well and happy. Tell her that Mr.Harriman’s little boy who is a little younger than she is has not cried once during the voyage. Love to my dear ones, and to all –

At Sea – June 29th 1899-

My own dear Love: –

Tomorrow morning we are to land in some little post office port in Cook’s Inlet where letters can be mailed, and although they will probably not start on their homeward journey before the 9th of July I may not have another chance to send mail. Think of it, dearest, although our voyage is now only half over, by the time this reaches you I shall probably be well on the way home myself. Already I am counting the days before we are to turn our ships prow homeward, and thinking of that happy meeting we are to have. I am wondering if you have all gone into the country, and hoping my dear ones are well and better than when I left them. I wish I had mentioned it before but it is not now too late — I want you to be sure to be in Berkeley by the first day of August. It would be a dreadful disappointment to arrive there and not find you awaiting me, and our plans are as indefinite that we might sail direct from Alaska to San Francisco without intervening stops. Mrs.Harriman told me last night that she expected to spend two months with her children at Montery, and while she may go down from Seattle by train it is equally possible that the steamer may go as far as San Francisco.
Very little of special interest has happened since I sent my last letter from Orca. We took the two launches yesterday and went on an excursion some miles down the sound where we had lunch on the beach. We found there a most beautiful little Alpine meadow of soft spongy moss with flowers springing up everywhere in lovely profusion—our dear old Dodecatheons among the number. I picked some little white stars for baby and a golden geum for you which I will enclose. Today we have been sailing through Prince William Sound, stopping at two copper mines on the way and now we are once more in the broad swells of the Pacific. Prince William Sound is one of the most superb bodies of water I have ever seen, and is very little known.
My letters have been poor apologies, dearest, but I have written 100 pages of notes up to date and this seems to about exhaust my writing capacity where there is so much to be seen and so many interruptions. But I think of you always, and of the little home and all it has been to us. If only I could make enough from my writing to take off the constant strain and worry about the future and to enable you to have enough help to go on with your work how happy we would be! But we can only hope in the face of discouragement for better things.
I have gotten very well acquainted with Mr. Burroughs and Mr. Gifford, and of course with Mr. Muir. Mr. Fernow has been playing Beethoven to me for a long time this afternoon, and we had a delightful time over it. He also played one of the Chopin pieces that Kitten plays and it seemed like home and the Steinway piano in the parlor. Give my love to Kitten and tell her that I often think of her sprightly playing and wish we could have an evening of it right now. She would enjoy Mr.Fernow, he is so comical and full of fun—so kindly and considerate and so very musical. He is a German and served in the Franco Prussian War.
We have had such good weather at sea that there had been no excuse for sea sickness, and very few have had any trouble. My appetite continues at the top notch. I hope Merodine has improved in table manners since I have been away. The Harriman children are so very well behaved that I would be disappointed to find my own little girl fall behind them. You must try to be brave and patient while I am away, my dear love. I know it has been harder for you at home with less of excitement and change, but it has been very hard for me also, and this must certainly be the last time we allow anything to separate us. I hope you have not had to work and worry over the bird book. I am sorry I ever gave it to Elder and Shepard to publish, and now feel that even if they do get it out in time that I will not make a cent out of it. Mr.Burroughs tells me that with his ten volumes all selling well and his simple life that his books only half support him. His farm and vineyard enable him to make the balance. And Mr.Muir says that his book has paid him very little, his chief profit from writing coming from magazine articles.
It is long after bed time, so I must say good night to my dear ones. Sweet sleep,
dear love, and a kiss for my dear baby—from Papa.

Kodiak – Alaska.
July 3rd 1899.

Imagine me, dearest, sitting upon a luxurious bed of moss in the shade of a great old spruce tree way off in the heart of the forest, with Mr.Burroughs fast asleep on the ground beside me. The sun is shining, the air balmy, and the songs of innumerable birds sounding overhead. Mr.Burroughs and I have wandered off for the day, have eaten our sandwiches and drunken a bottle of beer and now while he is taking a nap I am to have a little talk with you.
Kadiak is the most beautiful place we have encountered in Alaska. The harbor is a narrow passage between two rocky shores—so narrow in fact that I could have thrown a stone form the steamers’ deck to either shore as we slipped through. The hills back of town are gently rolling and without trees, covered with brilliant green verdure and a garden of lovely wild flowers which cover the land in a riot of color. Off on the lower slopes at one side of the town and across the channel on Wood Island where Mr.Burroughs and I have had our walk, are forests crowded with birds—mostly old Berkely winter friends singing and breeding. The beautiful whistle of the varied robins, the song of the dwarf hermit thrush, pileolated warblers and a host of others are here. How you would enjoy it all, my loved one, and how it makes me long to have you with me. It is the first place we have encountered in Alaska where all is gentle and beautiful—other places have been wild, terrible and sublime, but this seems more like home. I weighed myself upon two different scales here and find that my weight is 137 ? in the morning an 138 ? at night — just 6 pounds gain in the month I have been in Alaska! If only I can hold on to it how fine it will be, but you must gain in proportion and dear little baby too. From this you will see how beneficial the trip has been to me, and this must be our compensation for the long separation, and the many lonely days. Surprises never end upon our trip. The present plan is to make a short stop at Unalaska upon leaving here and then go to the Pribilofs and from there to Indian Point on the coast of Siberia. When we get that far it is only a day’s run to the land of the midnight sun, and there we shall probably go. But remember this, dearest, that we only go to sea in fine weather when the ocean is like a millpona and that everything is done in the most luxurious manner possible. We have aboard three pilots one is Capt. Humphreys in charge of the Alaska Commercial Co. and the other Capt.Washburn, the head of the North American Commercial Co, beside our regular pilot and the captain of our ship both of whom are experienced navigators. There is still talk of the ship going to San Francisco, but you must learn as we have not to expect anything until it happens. We shall probably be within reach of telegraph by August 1st, but do’nt feel the slightest concern if you hear nothing before the middle of the month. This is the last possible chance to send you a letter, so your next word from me will be either a telegram from Seattle or else finding me at the front door, perhaps with the whole Harriman expedition at my heels.July 4th 1899—
This has been a most beautiful day, my dear love – sky clear – thermostat 70 in the shade and no air stirring. We have had patriotic exercises on the upper deck and all the American residents of Kodiak attended. Prof. Brewer delivered the oration and read a poem. After the exercises came some clog dances in which Ritter and Fernow distinguished themselves and then followed boat races of every sort and description including the Aleut bidarka (like an Esquimaux boat) against our naptha launch, and an Indian dugout against bidarka.
All day long I have been watching the harbor’s entrance for the arrival of the Dora with mail. She was due today but no I fear she will not arrive and my last hope of word from my loved one will be gone, as we are to sail early tomorrow morning. Mr.Burroughs is waiting for me to take these letters to the post office and we are to have a little walk together. Keep well, my beloved, and take good care of my dear little baby. The next three weeks will pass swiftly and then we are to be together once more. What a happy time it will be! Know that I am very well and thinking ever of you.
Charley —

Unalaska Island. July 8th 1899 —

One more chance has come to write to you my dearest, so here I am before breakfast in the smoking room of the Elder, to have a last talk with you before we meet. After all I received a letter from you, dear love, and that most unexpectedly on the high seas. I had watched for the coming of the Dora with mail all day of the fourth, but she was late and I gave up in despair. On the night of the fourth we started off, but had not gone more than a hundred feet when we ran aground high and dry in trying to turn around in the very narrow passage in which we were moored. When I awoke in the morning the tide was out and the steamer listed way over to one side. By ten o clock, however, the tide was high enough to float us and we managed to get turned and headed out to see [illegible text] about an hour when I noticed coming toward us what I at first took to be a steamer, but presently I saw smoke coming from her and immediately supposed it to be the Dora. I ran to the captain on the bridge and told him I knew there was mail for me aboard the Dora, and he whistled for her to stop. As she came alongside her captain called out that he had one letter for our party. I supposed it must be from Mrs. Ritter mailed in Sitka, but when the skiff was lowered and Mr. Harriman was rowed to the Dora they gave him your letter to me mailed to Homer. It was the only letter for the entire expedition and you may be sure I was happy indeed to hear from my loved ones—to know that they are well, and to learn that you started that day for Shasta. No other word has come to me from home since your letter of the 1st of June. I am glad to know the house is rented although you give no particulars, and you say nothing about the bird book so I suppose it is discontinued—for good so far as I am concerned.
I find we are to be made to pay for this trip with a vengeance. I am expected to send all my photographs to Mr. Harriman and he is to take his pick from them with all the others, for his book. We are not supposed to be allowed to publish the results of our observations in magazine articles or newspapers lest it take from the originality of the book or books they expect to publish, so here I am with my hands tied and nothing to show for these two months. I have promised to write a popular account of the birds of Alaska, and they will probably want another article on the scenery, so when I am to get through paying for my passage is very uncertain.
We have had a most interesting run through the Shumagin Islands with Volcanos in sight all the time, some very beautiful perfect cones. The weather has been mild and the sea calm. From here we go directly to the Pribilofs and then on to Indian Point on the coast of Siberia. We are to be back here on the 17th, then touch at Cook’s Inlet on the way back. I hope we may be in Seattle by the 1st of August but there is still an immense amount to be crowded into these next three weeks and we are very likely to be at least a week overdue.
A whaling steamer has just arrived from St. Michaels with a very tough looking crowd from the Klondike and it goes on to Seattle arriving there in eight days so you ought to get this about the 20th of the month, just when you return from Shasta. I am very well and feel that the only result of the trip to me beside the wonderful scenery I have seen has been a considerable improvement in health.
After all the most wonderful thing I have found in Alaska is Beethoven’s Sonata Opus 90 which Mr. Fernow has played for me. Get it and play as much as you can of it for me, dearest. Mr. Muir is sitting here near me with a cigar and making fun generally so my thoughts are not very connected. Kiss dear little baby and love to all the dear ones at home. In less than two weeks from the time this reaches you, you may expect me with you.
Good bye my loved one, for the last time until we meet.




For information on the Harriman Retraced Expedition e-mail: harriman2001@science.smith.edu

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