History of a Wandering Yankee: Arrival in San Francisco

In the beginning of his 20 page (single spaced!) letter detailing his adventures in Alaska to family in New York, Frank Felter describes why he and his wife Nell wanted to take this trip. Their journey begins as they depart from their home in Los Angeles and travel to San Francisco by steamer, where they would stay for several days before heading further north. I can imagine how exciting it would have been to see San Francisco slowly appear through the fog on that spring day!

Folsom wharf.jpg
The Felters probably arrived in San Francisco at a wharf like the one on Folsom Street. Photo Credit: San Francisco Public Library.

Los Angeles, Cal. Dec. 1900

To Uncle, and to all our dear friends and relatives, East of the Rocky Mountains.

Having promised to write you something about our trip to Alaska, I will set about it without any preliminary remarks other than these:-

We did not to with the definite idea of bringing back half, or even a third of the “Klondyke Wealth” in our strong boxes, and of having a guard of thirty or forty well armed men to escort us back to civilization.

We did not set out with the purpose of melting the ice and snow with red paint, or of eventually reaching the North Pole.

We had no intention of taking the trip because it was popular, and to enable us to say we had “done” this, or had seen that wonderful thing.

We never for a moment entertained the thought of telling yarns about the frozen North, and impossible stories stories of occurences which never happened. We never considered any of the above inducements for journeying to Alaska. Our sole purpose was the somewhat selfish one of enjoying ourselves: of traveling by restful and easy stages, stopping here and there as our whims and caprices might direct us, and with the general idea of having a good time and a continuous holiday.

With this end in view we started out on the first of May,- left the beautiful city of the Angels and boarded the Steamer for San Francisco. Some of our friends went down to see us off, and they were so thoughtful and kind as to inform us that the Captain prophesied a rough trip. We kept up our spirits however, in the face of this news, and started off with the firm belief that the passage would be a smooth and delightful one.  Strange as it may seem, the wind began to moderate shortly after starting, and during the whole of the trip the weather was unexceptionable. The Captain said there must be a Mascot on board, for all the indications had pointed toward a very rough passage. We had a very pleasant time on board, reading, walking on the deck, or swapping stories with the other passengers. Continue reading “History of a Wandering Yankee: Arrival in San Francisco”

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History of a Wandering Yankee

Port Chilkoot
Gil Smith, Port Chilkoot, Alaska, n.d., watercolor, Image credit: Smithsonian American Art Museum

For the next several months, I will be posting parts of a travelogue written by Frank L. Felter as he traveled through Alaska at the turn of the century. Frank is a very distant relative- my cousin six times removed (he is the cousin of my great, great, great, great grandfather). After his trip, he wrote all about it in a long letter to my family living in New York. Frank lived in Los Angeles and I doubt he traveled back east often. This letter/manuscript is incredibly detailed and has been a really interesting read. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did!

I’ll try to post the letter a page at a time, so expect to see many more posts after this one! I’ll end this post with the introduction my grandfather, Charles Sargent, wrote when he transcribed the original copy.

Map_of_maps__Alaska_and_British_Columbia_showing_the_Yukon_Cariboo_Cassiar_with_a_portion_of_the_Kootenay_gold_fields
Alaska and British Columbia showing the Yukon, Cariboo, Cassiar, with a portion of the Kootenay gold fields. 1901. Image source: University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

Over one hundred years ago, the attached travelog was written by Frank Felter describing a trip he and his wife, Nell, made in the year 1900 from Los Angeles to Skagway, Alaska utilizing steamers and railroads. His vivid descriptions and attention to details reflect the fact that he must have taken copious notes along the way. His motivation to write this travelog was to tell his upstate New York cousins (Ostego County) about his experiences on the trip.

Since my “original” copy of this manuscript suffers from successive copying, I have had it retyped with absolutely no editing.

Frank and Nell left Los Angeles on May 1, 1900 and returned to L.A. on August 26 after extended lay overs in San Francisco, Portland and Skagway. On Sept. 18, 1900, after his return, Frank wrote a letter to his upstate New York cousins Frank and Mary Sargent (my grandparents) which stated:

“Have had lots of fun and seen lots of queer sights. Someday I think I’ll write a short story of my travels and have it printed and call it ‘History of a Wandering Yankee,’ sell it for 2¢ ea., 3 for a nickel. Would it pay do you think or had I better stick to my present occupation and mend shoes.”

I hope future generations will get their 2 cents worth as I have.

Incidentally, Frank Felter was the grandson of Hiram Hammond, my great, great grandfather.

Charles R. Sargent
Baltimore
February 2004