About The Gold Rush Christmas
“The Gold Rush Christmas” a novella in The Pioneer Christmas Collection (Barbour, September 1, 2013, ISBN: 978-1624161902) 60 pages.
When Samantha and Peter Harris arrange to seek their father in 1897 Alaska, who would guess they’d booked passage on a ship filled with gold-fevered men? Dressing in her twin’s clothing, Sam travels far in search of adventures.
Miles Parker, the boy next door, travels with the Harris twins hoping to prove his capabilities to Samantha, the woman he loves. Along the way, the trio find their faith, morals and ideals challenged by run-ins with prostitutes and con men in Skagway, Alaska. Eventually they learn true riches only can be found in ministering best with the gifts God gave them.
“Michelle Ule delivers an interesting and unique story with twins Samantha and Peter Harris travelling to Skagway, Alaska with good friend Miles. What sets out as a search for the twins’ father ends up becoming so much more for all three of these `musketeers’. This takes place during the 1897 Gold Rush bringing many unsavoury characters to the region; however this story which is based on a true account ends with an extraordinary Christmas inspired conclusion.” ~Amazon reviewer
The Gold Rush Christmas idea came from a trip my family took to Alaska in 1991. We packed up a van full of four boys under eleven, my husband, his father and me.
That’s right. Six guys and Michelle went camping to Alaska.
Before we left, we poured over information about the state–particularly the history. Since the Alaskan ferry let us off at Skagway in the middle of the night, we knew we’d want to spend part of the next day exploring the town.
We lived near Seattle that year, and I started the boys at the Gold Rush museum–part one–in downtown Seattle. When we got to Skagway a week later, we visited the second half and learned all about the Argonauts and Sourdoughs who swept through Skagway on their way to the Klondike gold fields.
While The Gold Rush Christmas spends its time on the ship Alki and in Skagway, my family drove to the Klondike (over White’s Pass, a much simpler trip now) and Dawson Creek. What a fun adventure, and how our minds filled with stories of derring do and desperation.
The old boy next door, story, of course is familiar and I wanted to tell a tale where the truly good guy trips and then gets the girl. Morgan Brooke Hancock suggested the final theme about finding riches in the ministry God gives you, rather than in wealth (or gold, in this case).
As I researched the story, I discovered a fantastic true story about the power of God at work among the prostitutes in Skagway that first year. I framed The Gold Rush Christmas around it.
I also realized that a Christmas totem pole would be a fitting reason for a carving missionary father to delay coming home. I wrote up my ideas of a Christmas totem pole, then went looking on the Internet to see if may be someone had figured out the concept. Rev. David Fison, a long time Alaskan pastor, carved one in 1987. I contacted him and he gave me permission to use his totem pole in my story.
Thanks Rev. Fison!
I wrote about the Christmas totem in a blog post, and bought a small copy for myself.
Truly the most surprising story I uncovered in my research was Mollie Walsh and the Reverend R. M Dickey’s tale of the Skagway sporting women. I tell the same story using Miles as the instigator with the steamship captain–whereas it was Reverend Dickey in real life. But the story is true.
When Mollie Walsh, a small woman restauranteur in Skagway saw an old friend from high school in Minneapolis, she was dismayed to discover the woman a prostitute.
But the woman wanted out of prostitution. When she realized she was dying, she called for Mollie, who brought the local pastor with her. He read Scripture to her and led her to repentence before her death, as detailed in his book Gold Fever: A Narrative of The Great Klondike Gold Rush, 1897-1899.
Two days later, over the objection of the “good” people of town who had just build Union Church, Rev. Dickey held the prostitute’s funeral. Most of the prostitutes in town came and sobbed. Afterwards, Rev. Dickey took a walk and met a steamship captain who volunteered to take any women back to Seattle who wanted to escape.
50 women did so.
Mrs. Klocki, my history teacher from long ago used to say, “I don’t know why you read fiction. History is even more ridiculous and true!”
Blog posts about The Gold Rush Christmas:
From The Gold Rush Christmas:
Port Orchard, Washington, August 1897
Samantha Harris pushed the heavy golden braid over her shoulder as she tapped shut a red cedar barrel. Soon all her non-essential possessions would be rolled into the Reverend Parker’s basement for safekeeping.
Peter hustled the barrel to the front door beside the four others they’d spent the last day packing. He nudged her indigo carpet bag. “This ready to go?”
At her nod, Peter piled it with the other luggage under the bay window. His steps sounded hollow in the empty room. They’d sold the furniture and nearly all the household items.
Mrs. Parker sighed as she folded a wedding ring quilt into a crate. “I remember your dear mother stitching the quilts on the veranda. She tucked a prayer for your future husband and Peter’s future wife into each stitch. I’m sorry she’ll never learn who they are.”
Samantha glanced at her brother.
He grinned. “I’m sure you can find a husband in Alaska territory.”
“I’m hunting for Pa, not a husband.”
“Maybe you’ll find both.” Peter stretched his long arms wide. “Alaska is a land of golden opportunities. Anything is possible. We’re throwing off civilization’s shackles and sailing to a territory of unlimited prospects. We’re off on the adventure I’ve always craved. I’m ready to go.”