By Alysha Page
Within the first three weeks of being in Alaska, I had the opportunity to go out to Dyea, Alaska. The location of the first landing port of the “Stampeders”, men and women that traded and settled during the Gold Rush.
In the fall of 1897, it was a Boomtown thanks to the large influx of those searching for gold.. Prior to the Gold Rush, the Chilkat Tlingit people used this location as a trading post. The name Dayéi means “to pack,” and was one of three locations where one could obtain access to the Chilkoot pass (the pass that was crossed to get to Dawson to search for Gold).
Camp Dyea was established upon the U.S. Army Troops armies’ arrival in March 1898 and would later be the location where Company L arrived later in May. The town after a huge increase in the population began to decline in the spring of 1899 due to weather slowing transportation. According to Letters Received in the District of the Lynn Canal from the National Archives in D.C., a fire broke out and destroyed the U.S. Army Campgrounds. Captain Hovey said, “the wind and conditions were unfavorable we would have then been forced to leave; this opened a new element of dangers not hitherto considered in the use of that place as a post and gave me cause for so much anxiety for the possibility of the future that I made it a rule to be out and about several times during the night.” The conditions were so poor that Captain Hovey requested that they abandon the town.
A once thriving boom town was soon deserted and by 1900 there were only about 250 living in Dyea and 71 by 1901. Today the land is mostly flat and empty, with placards to remind us of what once was.
Standing on that ground made me think of the determination of these fortune seekers and even more the courage of this all Black military regiment to come to enforce order in a mostly white territory.
Find out more about Dyea here: https://www.nps.gov/klgo/learn/historyculture/dyea.htm