Tuesday, August 27, 2013
By George Cheever Hazelet
Published by Old Stone Press, November 2012
George Cheever Hazelet was a remarkable man by any standards. Initially a school principal in Nebraska, he became an entrepreneur who saw his chicory drink business collapse during the Great Panic of 1896/7.
Undaunted, he was inspired by the news of the Klondike Gold Rush to try his luck prospecting in Alaska and kept a detailed journal of his life there.
To say conditions were brutally harsh there is an understatement; many men died in the attempt to live in the Alaskan winter and it is a testament to Hazelet's tenacity, determination and remarkable courage that he not only survived his years prospecting but actually prospered, acquiring 720 acres of land in 1901 and eventually permanently moving his family out to Valdez.
Even when cold, exhausted and dispirited in the worst conditions, his thoughts were with his wife and children and he writes with a sweet and tender dignity of his love for them all, mentioning repeatedly how precious his letters from home were to him during his extended stays in Alaska. He was a compassionate man, refusing to treat livestock cruelly when prospecting even though so many men worked their dogs and horses quite literally to death and he comments thoughtfully in his diary entries about his daily life and the people he meets.
The finding of large reserves of copper meant it was an ideal time for Hazelet to take advantage of the need to build a railroad to the area. He later became Mayor of Cordova, and was a highly respected man who was also nominated to run as senator. He died at the age of 65 in 1926, and his descendants treasured the remarkable journals he had made. Thankfully they have been published so that a true life account of his life and times prospecting has been preserved for future generations of readers to marvel over and wonder if they too could show the same sort of grit and moral character that he did.