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Monday, August 2, 2010

Oregon Doctors and Gold Fever 1897

The Klondike gold rush of 1897 attracted many Portlanders and Oregonians and it would be a powerful element in the life of Esther Clayson Pohl and her family. 
Esther Clayson Pohl's husband and medical partner Emil Pohl and her brother Fred Clayson were on the first voyage of the steamship George W. Elder, the first ship to leave Portland for the gold fields. They sailed on July 30, 1897 from Portland to Skagway, Alaska. Also on board was Portland physician Andrew C. Smith. Henry Coe, editor of the Medical Sentinel, assured readers that Dr. Smith was already the "owner of some valuable gold mines and is able to give this question a dispassionate investigation."
"Dispassionate" would hardly describe the rest of the enterprise. The gold rush was front page news in the Oregonian for weeks and the paper published news of the "Argonauts" preparing to sail with anecdotes, estimates of tonnage, and (to the everlasting gratitude of historians) passenger lists. The paper even covered a going away party Dr. Curtis Holcomb threw for the "Albina Boys" the night before the George W. Elder sailed, toasts and all.
This illustration accompanied the story of the sailing on the front page of the Oregonian for July 30, 1897. Hundreds gathered on the Ainsworth dock of the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company to send off 400 "Argonauts" including six women (not yet Esther Pohl -- more on her trip in a future post), 150 horses, dozens of dogs and 450 tons of equipment. It was, the reporter rhapsodized, "the most stirring and romantic incident of the kind in the history of staid old Portland."


"The Elder Filled Up," Oregonian, July 28, 1897, 1, 6.
"The Alaska Gold Fields," Medical Sentinel 5 no. 8 (August 1897), 411.
"Elder Sails Tonight," Oregonian, July 30, 1897, 1, 6.
"Off in Gold's Quest," Oregonian, July 31, 1897, 1, 6.