‘Stampede’ Review: An Attack of ‘Klondicitis’ – by Andrew R. Graybill (Wall Street Journal – April 5, 2021)

The above WNED PBS production premiered in January 2015.


The average haul for a Gold Rush prospector was about five dollars. Only a few hundred dug out enough to come home rich.

Brian Castner’s “Stampede: Gold Fever and Disaster in the Klondike” begins in medias res, with the harrowing tale of Robert Henderson, a solitary prospector panning for gold in the Yukon Valley in the spring of 1895. Picking his way over a tree trunk lying across a frigid stream, Henderson fell and skewered his calf on one of the branches.

After freeing himself and reaching shore, he convalesced in a tent for three weeks, leaching pus from his wound with strips of bacon that, when discarded, were devoured by wolves. Although Henderson’s leg healed, his “Klondicitis” never broke; once he could hobble he went right back to his quest, and in June 1896 struck paydirt on a stream he christened Gold Bottom Creek. But his dreams came to naught—Henderson missed out on a far bigger strike nearby and didn’t meet the deadline to file his own claim, which went to another man.

Henderson’s story—replete with derring-do, suffering and failure—is emblematic of Mr. Castner’s history of the Klondike Gold Rush, which at its peak, in the summer of 1897, drew more than 100,000 people to the border region between Alaska and the Yukon.

The author or editor of four previous books, including a memoir of his time as an explosive-ordnance disposal officer during the Iraq War, Mr. Castner brings to life the last of the great 19th-century North American gold rushes, featuring a cast of characters both illustrious (Jack London, who returned from the Klondike wealthy only in grist for his stories) and infamous (Frederick Trump, grandfather of the former president, who operated a restaurant and brothel).

For the rest of this article: https://www.wsj.com/articles/stampede-review-an-attack-of-klondicitis-11617661530