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A True Gold Rush Story: The Edgren Saga - One family's journey during the Klondike Gold Rush

One by one, the letters of Jesse Edgren and Mae Bennett Edgren sent to their family from March 1898 to July 1899 tell a fascinating story. During the Klondike Gold Rush there were hundreds of stories like this. We know this story because the Edgren Family saved their collection and made it public by donating it to the Alaska Historical Collections in the Alaska State Library.

The letters in the Edgren Saga were written personally from Jesse Edgren and Mae Bennett Edgren to their family in Wisconsin. They did not know that 100 years later people would read the letters. But the letters let us have a very personal look at the day-to-day life and death struggles of people who traveled to Alaska and the Yukon seeking gold.

Jesse and Mae have joined the other gold-seekers on the trail to Dawson City in 1898. They are newly married and happily in love. Jesse has trained a team of dogs to bring along with them.

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Transcribed: Letter from Jesse in Lake Bennett to home. May 11, 1898.

Jesse and Mae have made it to Dawson City. They continue to love getting letters with news from home in Madison, Wisconsin. Mae shares some happy news with her sister-in-law, Dottie. Prospects for the future are looking bright.
Letter from Mae in Dawson N.W. Territory about "the condition of things from a woman's standpoint" to home. Aug. 25, 1898.

What had started as a wonderful adventure and a chance for Jesse and Mae to strike it rich in the Klondike has ended. The survivors will return to Madison. The final letters, telegram, poetry and newspaper articles help us piece together the ending to this sad story.