Editor’s Note: Laura Bien’s local history column this week relates a familiar tale of a gold rush expedition that did not actually lay claim to any gold – but it’s through some elegant prose from an Ypsilanti teacher-turned-prospector’s diary.
A single personal belonging of onetime Ypsilanti teacher Frederick Boyd survives today: a diary preserved in Alaska. With Frederick, the tiny book crossed mountain passes, frozen snowfields, and part of the Pacific ocean. The book details Frederick’s struggle as a miner in the turn-of-the-century Klondike gold rush.
Frederick had likely read the stories in his hometown paper warning against Yukon hardships – stories that also detailed the luck of a fortunate few. Frederick had a secure job, a wife, and an infant daughter.
On the morning of March 6, 1898, the 33-year-old teacher stepped from the Ypsi depot platform onto an eastbound Michigan Central train. As it began to pull out, he saw his 27-year-old wife Celia on the platform holding their daughter Daphne. Frederick was leaving behind his classroom, his friends, his and Celia’s home, and his hometown.