Hazelet's Journal

A Riveting Alaska Gold Rush Saga

Non-Fiction - Travel
318 Pages
Reviewed on 05/16/2023
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite

Hazelet’s Journal: A Riveting Alaska Gold Rush Saga written by George Cheever Hazelet and edited by his great-grandson John H. Clark is a fascinating account of George Cheever Hazelet’s Journal as he hunted for gold in the remote, unforgiving wilderness that was the Alaskan Goldfields at the turn of the twentieth century. The author is the great-grandson of this intrepid pioneer and later politician whose influence on early Alaskan commerce and politics was significant. In February 1898, George Hazelet left his wife Harriet and his family behind in Nebraska, as he and his partner Andrew Meals led a team into the wilds of Alaska in search of a fortune in gold to assure prosperity for his family. First by rail, then by boat, and finally by horse and foot, their final destination was the Copper River Valley deep in the Alaskan interior. For three grueling seasons, George and his team would battle snow, forest fires, biting cold, claim jumpers, anger, and intense homesickness, struggling to eke out a living in the gold-rich but hostile wilderness. George’s contribution to Alaskan lore would not be limited to his exploits in the gold fields, as his wife and family would also move to Alaska. George would carve out a unique place for himself in the forty-ninth State of the Union.

Hazelet’s Journal is a fascinating read. First, the familial relationship between Hazelet and his great-grandson John H. Clark gives the story an emotional attachment. Second, because the bulk of the work comprises the unedited writings of Hazelet himself, it gives the story real power and authority just knowing that these words were written by Hazelet over 100 years ago while in the field. This does give the writing a truncated and abrupt style but in many ways that just serves to reinforce the authenticity of the work. Finally, the inclusion of so many fascinating old photos of the places and participants in the adventure gives the reader the actual feeling of being with these old gold prospectors and experiencing many of the privations they experienced. As well as being a history of Hazelet’s three years on the goldfields, this book also explores the political and business environment of Alaska both back in the early 1900s right through to today. There are travelers’ insights for modern-day tourists that I appreciated. I particularly enjoyed that George Hazelet appeared to be a truly romantic soul and much time was spent either writing to his beloved Harriet, or thinking and dreaming about her, which rounded out the story perfectly. This book shines as a publication by a proud family member determined to give his forebear the accolades and admiration he so richly deserved. I thoroughly enjoyed this interesting and educational read and can highly recommend it.

Foluso Falaye

George Cheever Hazelet kept a journal and sent letters to his wife back home about the many strange adventures and challenges he had, such as feeling seasick, battling a forest fire, losing gold to thieves, gaining help from a wise Indian, constructing a boat, and other topics. During his quest, George visited Seattle, the Valdez Glacier, Copper River Country, and Chistochina, among other places. Aside from his journal entries made throughout his expedition, information about his life outside his gold quest is presented for readers, and several well-preserved images are included in this rich historical book provided by George Cheever Hazelet's great-grandson, John H. Clark.

I found it greatly inspiring that George, who was dealing with the guilt of leaving his family, could endure several physically demanding tasks and dangerous circumstances that would put even the bravest of humans to the test. The fact that he made time to write such a thorough and insightful journal is truly astounding. The book is full of amazing people, such as the Native American who was robbed but chose to forgive rather than pursue retribution. Immersion in the wonderfully depicted milieu of the historical gold miners was incredibly interesting for me, and George's emotional comments about his family taught me a vital lesson about the necessity of cherishing every minute with your loved ones. Anyone who enjoys reading thought-provoking and adventure-filled historical accounts will enjoy Hazelet's Journal, edited by his great-grandson, John H. Clark. It motivates us to consider how closely linked we are as humans, regardless of race or time.

Vincent Dublado

Hazelet’s Journal: A Riveting Alaska Gold Rush Saga is a memoir written by George Cheever Hazelet and edited by his great-grandson John H. Clark that introduces readers to a stark and real 1898 Gold Rush tale. The interesting cast of real characters was driven by dreams and passion, and their unwavering spirit was the most powerful tool that they could wield. It is an inspiring story anchored in the age-old concept which is the Great American Dream. George Cheever Hazelet was among the many brave and ambitious men who were in action, migrating to the West in search of a better life at a time when the American people were taking advantage of a nation that found renewed energy in rebuilding itself after the Civil War. It’s an epic that illustrates the meaning of true grit.

By publishing his great-grandfather’s journal, John H. Clark has given students of history access to an important but lesser-known event that shaped America. Clark made the editorial decision to leave the journal entries in their original form in almost every instance so readers do not become twice removed from what George Cheever Hazelet wrote. There is a charm and exoticism in the way Hazelet describes Alaska that will appeal to readers regardless of where they are in the world. Hazelet has successfully captured the allure of the Alaskan frontier. The characters here are real and help you to experience inspiring lives in a manner that you will never find in reality. I recommend Hazelet’s Journal as the book to read if you want to know more about Alaska and America in general. It remains an excellent first-person account of what brave men and women before us achieved in pursuit of their dreams and in shaping a nation.