Charles Patch
When I read the obituary of Charles Patch, to say the least, I
was disappointed. It said he died. Charles Patch had done such
interesting things in his life and sent letters back home for
everyone to read and share in his experiences. Many of them were
printed in the newspaper and I
certainly thought they were worth the effort to copy and
share with you. I hope that you find them as informing and
intriguing as I did.

South-West Democrat, May 4, 1888

Mr. S.S. Patch, of Ross township, received a letter from his son, Charles, a few days ago, dated at Honolulu, an island in the Pacific ocean, March 18th. He has been on board of a whaler since last November and been cruising in the southern hemisphere. He reports the capture of eleven whales, and 400 barrels of oil. He will cruise in the far north this summer.



The Bedford Free Press, March 14, 1901

Nome, Alaska, Nov 30, 1900
S.S. Patch, Bedford, Iowa
dear father and mother:

I will write you as often as I can, for I suppose a part of the letters I write you are lost. We have a very poor mail service here.

The weather here has been very mild for some time with the exception of this fall, when we had one severe storm and some rain.

The ice came in about the 16th, and drifted back to sea again. Yesterday it came in and stayed along the shore. There are more people wintering in Nome this year than there were last as there is plenty of fuel and provisions for all. Times are very dull now, only an occasional team hauling wood in sight.

I haven't been out stampeding any yet but I may go after the days get longer; darkness comes now about 2 pm.

I have only one dog left of my dog team, the rest having been stolen. This is the greatest place for thieves I ever saw in my life.

I received a letter from T.S. Mahan which I answered, but have not heard from him since. I also wrote Celona and the children but have received no answer.

Sanderson was up this summer, but has gone to Oregon to trap during the winter.

My contract ended with the California party last June. We have plenty of fuel and provisions for the winter, and own four boats, two whale and two river boats.

I expect to spend next winter in the States. I suppose we will have to wait a couple of months yet to hear how the election went; hope Bryan was the lucky man. We had an election in Nome to see how the people here stood. We elected Bryan by quite a majority.

Well, this leaves me well and hope you are all the same. A merry Xmas and happy new year with love and best wishes. C.E. Patch


The Bedford Free Press, July 25, 1901

Nome, Alaska, June 17
S.S. Patch,
Dear Father and Mother;

I will try and write you a few lines this morning as the mail will be leaving in a few days. There were five large steamers that arrived yesterday afternoon. It was quite a sight to see them racing, trying to see which would be the first in. They were all in sight at about the same time. They were the Senator first, Roanoak, City of California, Oregon and Santa Anna. All together they brought about one thousand passengers. They were all landed within two hours from the time the first one dropped anchor. I went up town in the evening. We had worked hard all day and until 9:30 pm getting a barge off of the beach. Most of the passengers were people that were here last season.

We have had nice, warm weather for the last week. There is considerable snow on the hills and in the creeks yet, and some ice along the beach.

I am in hopes of getting a good big bunch of mail, but it will be some time before it is all distributed, as there is some fifteen or twenty tons of mostly second class mail on the steamers. One has to stand in line for nearly a half day before he can get his mail.

My partner is cooking for the Beau Mercantile Co. - will probably stay with them for a year.

If the man we have out brings in favorable reports I suppose I will go to the Good Hope Bay country. We expected him back by the middle of this month.

I sent the lodge at Campbell ten dollars to pay my dues, but don't know how I stand in the camp. You said in one of your letters last fall that you had paid my dues, but I received no receipt. Will try and send you some papers through the Free Press.

June 19 - Was up town yesterday. More mail came in, but no letters for me. The second class mail is not distributed yet.

Am going to town today to have some claims recorded. We received a letter from our man, saying that he had got good prospects on our claims, but on account of there being so much snow it would be impossible for him to get out before the first of July. Then we will take a boat load of supplies and go around to Good Hope Bay. My partner and I together have about twenty claims. We have let lays on some of them; the others I expect to look after myself. By fall I think we will have opened up something pretty good.

Nome is becoming pretty well crowded, some of the steamers bringing as high as four hundred passengers.  C.E. Patch

June 22, - Just received a letter from you, saying you had not heard from me since November. I have written at least a half dozen letters to you since that time. I don't see why some of them should not get through. I received three copies of the Free Press yesterday. Thanks for sending them. I see by the paper and also by your letter of your visit. Hope you had a good time and enjoyed yourselves.

If I am here next summer I hope to be able to send for you to come and spend the summer. It would be a delightful trip for you both.

You spoke of sending Ed's baby's picture, but I never received it. I received a letter from Celona. She said that Tim and Ham were both married. Success to them both. They spoke of not staying in Lemars much longer. It looks as though they roved nearly as much as I do. I believe I have written to Ed and Elmer last, and if they wish to hear from me they should write. Mrs J. Beauchamp wrote me a letter in regard to the whereabouts of her two brothers. I made the inquiry, and posted a notice asking of their whereabouts, and answered her letter. Do you know if she received it? C.E. Patch

June 25 - Your welcome letter of June 2nd received yesterday. Still you say you have not heard from me since last November. I can't see why some of my letters should not reach you, as I have written quite often. Don't suppose the mail has had time to reach you that was sent out by the first boats. After this I will register all the mail I send out during the winter and occasionally one in the summer, so you will be sure of hearing from me. I have had two letters from Sanderson. He also complains of not hearing from me. I have received three copies of the Free Press. Was glad to get them as they were newsy and bright. Of course, there are a good many names that are new to me. I expect more papers today. Will send you copies of the Nome papers occasionally during the summer.

It has been rainy and disagreeable for the last week. Quite a storm at sea this morning. Expect a vessel or two to come ashore most any time, as they are lying pretty close in, and a heavy on-shore gale blowing.

Nome is crowded with idle men, as very little work is being done on the creeks yet. It will be some time before the ice and snow is out of the creeks. Most all of the steamers brought from three to four hundred passengers.

The streets of Nome are a fright, but they are improving them very rapidly by putting down plank pavement on all the principal streets. Provisions are very cheap at present, and more coming. There are enough here to last the crowd for a year.

I just received the photo of Ed's baby. It is very cute. I sent you a picture of our cabin, or the snow in front and on top. Will send you some more during the summer. Ask T.S. Mahan if he received a letter from me last summer. The first thing I saw in the Free Press was, "will Bedford celebrate?" I could hardly realize that the Fourth of July was so near at hand. When here it is ice and snow which ever way one may look.

I wrote in my last letter that I was expecting to get contracts taking supplies to Port Clarence. Well, they fooled me. They bought an old boat and started yesterday. I'll bet they wish by this time they had given me the contract, for I could have taken them through in a day, and I don't suppose they are more than half way, and no small boat could live in such a storm.

June 26th - Nice and pleasant today. The storm is over and the sea is going down. One schooner came ashore yesterday but no lives were lost. Hoping that you have got some of the many letters I have written lately, will close with love and regards to all.   C.E. Patch



 Bedford Free Press, Nov 7, 1901

Good Hope Bay, Kug Rug river, Alaska, Aug 5, 1901

S.S. Patch,
Dear Parents:

We arrived here alright yesterday morning.Made the trip of about four hundred and fifty miles by boat in about ten days. Had a pleasant trip, but head winds or dead calms most of the time. We had an oil stove, and so we did our cooking, eating and sleeping on board. There were only two of us for the native who started with us became afraid and left us at Cripple river. We will leave this morning for up river, where the man we sent on with the pack horse has his camp. I would have written before but had not heard from you since writing my last letter. I don't suppose I will get any more mail now till I go back to Nome this fall, but will write you every time I get a chance to send mail. It has been raining here for the last ten days, the grass is knee high while at Home there is considerable snow on the hills. If the gold is as plentiful here as the mosquitoes I will be a millionaire.

My partner is cooking for the Beau Mercantile Co. and so I will be sure of something to chew on this winter. We will be here till the last week of September. We will try to get to Nome before the freeze up, but if we don't, we have the dogs to finish the trip with. We have the following provisions with us: 8 sacks of flour, 100 pounds of sugar, 1 case milk, 1 case cream, 1 case corn, 1 case tomatoes, 3 cases meat, 75 pounds ham and bacon, 12 two pound cans butter, 1 case eggs, 1 sack potatoes, 75 pounds of beans, 25 pounds of rice, 3 gallons honey, 10 pounds maple sugar, 100 pounds rolled oats, 1 case pineapple, 1 case crushed fruit, 25 pounds dried prunes, 15 pounds raisins, coffee, tea, cocoa and 50 pounds corn meal, so I think we won't starve before we reach Nome.

We laid over at Cripple river on account of the bad weather and caught enough salmon to last the dogs and us. I have a shot gun with me and expect to get some small game. I will close now with love to all. C.E. Patch


Bedford Free Press, May 8, 1902

Kugorluck River, Good Hope Bay,
September 23, 1901

S.S. Patch,
Dear Father and Mother:

As it has been some time since I wrote you, will write a few lines. The steamer leaves here for Nome in a few hours. I expect to go on later on a schooner. We have been discharging cargo from her with my whale boat to pay our passage to Nome. Two of the boys are stopping on board while I am camped on the beach, as I have  my dogs to look out for. We expected to finish unloading the schooner today, but an on-shore storm came up and the schooner had to put to sea -- don't know when she will be able to get back.

We did not find anything on our claims, and my partner lost his position with the Beau Mercantile Co., so we will have to hustle ourselves to pull through the winter. But we have a good cabin and six good dogs.

They struck it rich here on Candle creek, a tributary of the Kugorluck, but we were too late to get in on the creek.

A particular friend of mine had several good claims here, worth probably a million dollars. He had gone to Nome and bought in his winter outfit, but when he was taking it ashore the boat he was in capsized and he was drowned after having put in three and a half years of hardships and just as he had found a fortune.

It snowed about two inches last night and is cold and sharp this morning.

I am coming to the states next winter so will lay my plans accordingly, but must make a stake before leaving Alaska for good. It may be my turn next. After I get in Nome will write a full account of my summer's trip. It's hard work writing a letter sitting on the ground in a tent with small board on your lap for a writing desk. I am well at present; hope you are all the same. Will close with love and regards to all. C.E. Patch



Bedford Free Press, May 8, 1902

Nome, Alaska
January 23, 1902:

I arrived in Nome on Christmas night and found five letters from you awaiting me--the first word from you since the fore part of July. My partner wouldn't take chances forwarding my mail, as it was rather uncertain if it would reach me.

Well, so far I have spent a pleasant winter. There was a party of five of us came overland with dog teams--Mr and Mrs Pepper, R.W. Snyder, M.E. Therway and myself. We were thirteen days on the trail, but we laid over four days. We picked up a party of three that were lost and out of provisions, having had nothing to eat for three days. After being with us a few days, one of the men dropped dead on the trail, of heart failure. We had to haul the body three days. We had a bad trail most all the way--had to break the trail with three pairs of snow shoes. The last day we made a run of 45 miles, that is the three of us. Mr and Mrs. Pepper got a ride with a horse team. You can bet we were glad to stop when we reached Nome. One can ride 45 miles in a day and not think much of it, but when it comes to hoonfig it or, as we say here, "mushing," these short days, one doesn't have much time to play. We had four meals, and one was a turkey dinner. We only stopped three nights in a house on the trip. I stopped in Nome two nights, and then Joseph Crowe and I went down the coast about 80 miles, and on the first of January I staked a rich quartz ledge. We were gone fourteen days, laying over on account of the storms on the last day of the old year and the first day of the new one. We waded around in the snow up to our waists hunting for stakes, as this claim was staked two years before, and the assessment not being done it was open for relocation. One of our party had staked the claim and we were  intending to do the assessment work, but were delayed so long in getting to Nome, so I restaked the claim.

Up to the time we arrived at Nome I had slept in a house but six nights this winter. It has been the coldest along the coast here for the last three weeks known for several years, ranging from 52 to 55 degrees below. Quite a number were frozen to death, and a good many will lose both their feet and hands. We expect to go back as soon as the weather settles. It has been quite severe for some time. Snow is drifted in Nome in some places as high as the houses, and the streets are impassable. Times are very dull in Nome, scarcely any money circulating and plenty of destitute, some deserving and a good many that are not.

Everything is very cheap in Nome. To go through the streets and read the signs and bill posters one would imagine he was back in the states. Restaurant meals 15c, large beer 5c, seven loaves of bread for 25c, lodging house beds 25c and up; flour $1.25 per sack.

We expect to start for Candle creek as soon as the weather will permit. We will have to pick up a few more dogs. One of my best dogs died of the distemper after we came here. We have shipped 1500 pounds to Fish river, about eight miles from Nome, so we will not have much of a load the fore part of the trip. It is about 1050 miles from Nome to Candle creek.

Mr Rockwell, my partner, is clerking in a large grocery store in Nome. He works for the money and I spend it, but I would like to trade places with him.

You ask how we do assessment work on our claims. Well, I had two men helping me nearly all summer, and we let lays on some and some we lose. We lost four good claims last year. Mr Rockwell sent some men to do the work, but they failed to do the work so we lost them. But I got a good quartz claim the first of January and expect to get another on my way to Candle.

There has been no overland mail as yet this winter. The mail for the states leaves tomorrow.

Well, I have just finished writing six letters and am quite lazy today, so will close with love and regards to all. C.E. Patch


Bedford Free Press, March 6, 1902

Ku-garluck River, Alaska
November 5, 1901

Father and Mother:
As it has been some time since I wrote you, and have a chance of sending mail home will chance getting a letter to you. I am well and feeling good at present, but the outlook for me at the beginning of winter was rather discouraging. I expected to go to Nome on the schooner but I had to take our pack horse up to the timber, which is about thirty miles where the grass was good, and when I got back to the coast the schooner had gone and it was freezing up, and I had no one to go around with me with my boat. I was broke and had no provisions, just my two dogs, shotgun and a few old clothes, but I met a friend of mine that has some rich claims so he hired me to help him up the river to his winter quarters. I got seven dollars a day for myself and dogs and he boards me till I get to Nome. Of course I don't get work every day, but my board costs me nothing. I am camped three miles from town on the mouth of Candle creek. I am watching his goods till we get them moved up the river. He went up with a load this morning. In the meantime I am cutting wood to sell. There is nothing here but small willow and alder, but some days I get two cords. It is worth fifty dollars per cord in town. We expect to haul it to town as soon as we get the provisions moved up to camp. We have seven good dogs and take about fifteen hundred pounds to a load, according to the trail. It gets pretty cold in the tent but I manage to get along all right. It is rather lonesome stopping alone but one gets used to that. There are some natives living about half a mile from the river and they come over to see me occasionally.

There is plenty of good spruce timber about thirty miles up the river. There is quite a settlement at the mouth of Candle creek. This creek is a tributary of the Kugarluck and it is very rich, from three to five dollars to the pan. (a pan of dust is two small shovels full.) Some parties rocked out as much as four hundred dollars worth of dust in two hours and took the gravel out of about two feet of water. The gold seems to be all on the surface, little or no strhipping is required. This friend of mine is going to give me a lay on one of his claims in the spring. He expects to go to Nome with me as soon as we get our work here completed. I haven't had a letter or heard a word from any of you since I left Nome in July, but my partner writes me that there are several letters there for me. He said he was afraid to trust the mail as we have much poor mail service here, and he expected me in Nome last fall. I like to live here much better than in Nome, but provisions are much cheaper in Nome and I have all my clothing there. We brought all the provisions up this far by boat, then the ice got so thick we could go no further so had to waite till sledding got good. I had a native helping me with the two boats and one evening just as we were getting ready to camp I fell in the river. My, but wasn't it cold amongst the ice. I had no dry clothes to put on, just a thin pair of overalls the native had and I cut up a gunny sack for socks. I didn't even take cold. I wish you would see about my dues in the lodge. I wrote them but received no answer. I sent them ten dollars which ought to pay my dues in the subordinate to July 1, 1901, and in the camp to January 1, 1901.

I have about five hundred dollars worth of wood cut and will send some money when I reach Nome. I just heard of President McKinley's assassination last week so you see we don't get much news. Today is beautiful with sun shining bright while yesterday it was snowing and blowing a gale. The days are getting quite short, it is almost ten o'clock when the sun rises. Provisions are rather high considering their cheapness in Nome. Flour $5 per sack, milk $1 a can, bacon 50 cents per pound, and other things in proportion. I am going to spend my next winter in Bedford so lay up a good supply of provisions for I will have a good appetite for good things after being up here for four years. I wish it was so you both could come up and spend the summer with me. Tell Dr Manker that I will send him a rabbit foot and I wish him luck according to its size. I didn't get to send that box I agreed to but of course thought I would be in Nome last fall. Hope you are all well and that you may have a good time next fourth of July, as it will be too late by the time this reaches you to wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. With love and best wishes to all. C.E. Patch


Bedford Free Press, July 3, 1902

Nome, Alaska
June 5, 1902

S.S. Patch:

I have just arrived in Nome after a trip of about 140 miles overland, or part by sled and the balance, some 80 miles, on foot. I came over for some powder and tools. We have been prospecting in the mountains for quartz for the last month. We found some very rich float, and are now trying to locate the ledge. Our quartz miner says if we succeed in finding a ledge a foot in thickness as good as this cropping we are finding, we will have all we want. How I hope we will find that foot of ore. If we don't find it by the first of July, I am going on to Candle creek to work on a placer mine there; so that will be another 150 miles to "foot" it, with a pack on my back. You know I said I had done all the winter traveling last winter I intended doing, but I out did myself this winter. This is my third trip to Nome this winter from Candle creek, a distance of 250 miles, making for the three trips 1500 miles, besides other trips. I also said I would be in Bedford this coming winter, but who knows? I will try and come home for the winter. I sent the Free Press some papers, also some grass that was cut above the Arctic Circle last August. If you care for them call at the office. I also sent Dr Manker a curio; hope he will be pleased. There were only two steamers in port so far this season. I received no letters, but about a dozen copies of the Free Press. Haven't had time to read any of them. I expect to start back tomorrow. It will take me about six or seven days.

My partner, Mr Rockwell, has bought a roadhouse and ferry at Bonanza. He will run them this summer, but I am going to stay with the prospecting till I find something, or I have to work for wages for a winter grub stake. There is plenty of small game such as Ptarmigan, ducks, geese, and crane where we are prospecting, and after the ice goes out there will be plenty of salmon and white fish. There was plenty of ice and snow when I left the mountains. I was sledding on the first of June, but the snow has been disappearing very fast lately along the coast. The grass is six inches high. Will send you some pictures. I am taking a boat overland 25 miles. Am very busy just at present so will not write a long letter. Hoping to hear from you all quite often during the summer, will close with love and best wishes to all. C.E. Patch



Bedford Free Press, August 7, 1902

Tupicktuluck, Alaska
July 7, 1902

Dear Father and Mother:

I will write you again, although it's a long time since I got a letter from you--the 5th of last November. I am prospecting for quartz: just got back from a trip of 80 miles down Fish river, where I had to carry a pack of about 40 pounds. We expect to stop here 9 or 10 days; then if we don't find anything worth staying for will go on to Candle Creek to get money for another winter's outfit of provisions. So you see I will have to put off coming home for another year. Who knows? May be better time are coming. We are camped at the foot of the mountains near a large lake, and it is a beautiful place. We have plenty of small game and fish. One party killed a bear the other day, while a bear ran another one of the boys into camp. We have plenty of fish, but it is not much sport in getting them, for we catch them with a net. How I would like to exchange some of them with you for some nice, fresh vegetables. We haven't even had potatoes for nearly a year.

I got quite a number of copies of the Free Press when I was in Nome. We have had a beautiful spring and summer, scarcely no rain at all, but suppose when it does set in it will make up for lost time. Hope you all enjoyed yourselves July 4. I did. I went out on the lake and took the fish out of the trap, and killed a porcupine. In the evening took a few old logs we couldn't split for wood, bored holes in them, filled them with giant powder and proceeded to have a small celebration of our own.

Supper is ready. Bill of fare: Beans, bacon, rice, tea. I know it without asking the cook. Kind regards to all. C.E. Patch


Bedford Free Press, November 6, 1902

Candle City, Alaska
Sep 24, 1902

Dear Father and Mother:

I have just returned to Candle creek; have been prospecting and doing assessment work on Bear creek. We panned and rocked out about $16. I intend to have a nice ring made of my share. $8 ought to make a right good ring, as it is beautiful looking gold, the nicest I ever saw.

On my return I found a letter from you. I guess my partner will go to the States this fall, as he seem to have gotten enough of Alaska. Things do look a little blue at times, but I don't know where we could do better. He wants me to go with him to Peru or South America, but I have just served my apprenticeship in Alaska and don't like to leave for awhile, as I still think I can make something here.

I have staked some claims on Bear creek; they seem to be all right, so far as prospects are concerned. We rocked out an ounce in about two hours. Well, I guess winter is upon us again; it's getting quite cold and spitting snow. I wish I were in Bedford today, as I had counted so much on wintering in the states this season. I would go anyway if I had my outfit all gathered up, but I have things scattered from here to Nome. I don't know just where I will winter, here or at Nome. Most all the claims have closed down for the winter.

My partner wanted me to hunt polar bears, but I don't believe I have lost any of those animals, not for the present at least. C.E. Patch