Wayback Christmas: Bunk-Bound In Cabins, 1898 Gold Miners Reached For The Flour

The Lonely Winter Days Of The Gold Rush In Copper Center Were Tough.  Just Like Today Sourdough Pancakes Can Cure Anything  Moon over the Wr...

The Lonely Winter Days Of The Gold Rush In Copper Center Were Tough. 

Just Like Today
Sourdough Pancakes Can Cure Anything 

Moon over the Wrangells (Photo, Neil Hannan)

The Wild Arctic Moon 

During the days of the 1898 Alaska Gold Rush, the last few nights before Christmas glowed under a bright arctic moon. 

On December 21st, the temperature in the brand new settlement of Copper Center dropped to 18 degrees below zero. The next day it snowed all day long, and at night, the moon seemed even bigger than before, looming over the dark, snowy black spruce. 

The full moon that year occurred on December 27th, two days after Christmas. 


Far From Home, Sweet Home 

The 1898 gold miners, newly arrived in Alaska, huddled in their rough little cabins and wondered what in the world they were doing in this cold and unfamiliar place. They latched onto the glow of the moonlight as a familiar and reassuring tie to home. Homesick and disoriented, they also took great interest in their meals…carbohydrate-loaded Christmas meals that reminded them of their distant families and their childhoods were especially comforting. Just like today. 


Sourdough Pancakes For Breakfast 

For the miners, of course, the original "comfort food" was a big stack of sourdough hotcakes. Pancakes were their culinary reassurance that all was still right with the world. And making flapjacks was an easy way to use up some of that 400 lbs. of raw flour every single miner had dragged, in bags, across the glaciers, down the rivers, through the rain and snow, and across the trackless wilderness to this very spot under the mysterious Christmas moon. 

So, on this Christmas Day, when almost none of the miners were apparently capable of finding a moose, a caribou, or even a stray rabbit to shoot, flour was the food of choice. 


"The Finest Christmas Morning I Ever Beheld. So Still & Quiet” 

On December 25th, Horace Conger, a Minnesotan who was spending the winter in Copper Center, woke up that Christmas morning to a balmy 14 degrees above zero. "This is the finest Christmas morning I ever beheld," he wrote in his diary. 

"Soft, beautiful day. So still and quiet. Had pancakes and maple syrup for breakfast. For dinner I have made a cake and some pies." 



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