South Edmonton, Alberta Canada
Sunday, April 17th, 1898
My Dear Mollie, and Myrty and Boys,
Thus begins the first letter in a recent addition of materials originating with James Hinkle, one of the thousands of people who joined the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898. The collection was a gift from his great-granddaughter, Marcia Bates in April 2013.
James “Jim” Hinkle (1852-1899) was a telegraph operator and railroad engineer from Mattoon, Illinois before deciding to become a gold prospector. After word of gold being found in the Klondike had reached Illinois, several people in Mattoon formed a company with the purpose of sending a small group of people to the gold fields. Hinkle and his two partners took an overland route through Edmonton, Alberta before deciding to search for gold in northeastern British Columbia.
During his trek he wrote letters home to wife Mollie and children Myrtle, Harry, and Vernon. Hinkle’s letters home to his family included rich descriptions of his experiences in the Canadian wilderness and include many drawings and diagrams of the areas where he and his colleagues spent time. In many letters he included lively and detailed pencil sketches, like in his May 1899 letter to Mollie, where we find a bird’s eye view of his encampment near a river, including the layout of the cabin and the boat launch (above).
Sadly, before he could strike it rich, Hinkle drowned while crossing a river, but his letters and journal describing his experiences were passed down from his daughter to his granddaughter, Martha Bates, who transcribed them for publication as a book. Although Martha was unable to publish the book during her lifetime her daughter, Marcia Bates, published the manuscript in 2008 as a book entitled Klondike Trek: Jim Hinkle’s Life in the Gold Rush of 1898.
Highlights of the collection include: letters, drawings and journals, all by James Hinkle during his travels; letters between his associates and family members; photographs; and other research materials used by Martha and Marcia Bates in preparing Klondike Trek.
The collection was processed and many of the letters (and their transcriptions) have been digitized by Jason Moore and are available via the Libraries’ Special Collections Digital Collections. James Hinkle’s digitized letters
The finding aid for the manuscript collection is online here. James Hinkle papers collection guide
Post prepared by Jason R. Moore and Anne Jenner, PNW Curator