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Powell Family Leaves Ashland for Alaska Gold Rush

In 1898, Ashland resident Thaddeus Powell, 28 years old, married and with a new baby at home, was feeling restless.  He told his wife, Laura, that he was either going to fight in the Spanish-American War over Cuba, The Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico or join the gold rush in Alaska.  Laura replied, “Well, you’re not going to war!”

So, Powell left for Alaska.  Three years later, Powell sent for his Ashland family. Laura and their daughter, Hazel, traveled to the Yukon River and then inland with a Native Alaskan guide until they met Thaddeus with his 16-foot rowboat.  For eight years, the family traveled from one mining camp to another.  Thaddeus hunted caribou with a dog team and sold the meat in the mining camps.  Laura and Hazel earned money by baking bread in their small cook stove.   In 1905, while still on the Yukon River, Laura gave birth to a second daughter, Ethel.  
The family returned to Ashland in 1910 and settled down permanently.  Near his father’s apple cider shop in Ashland’s railroad district, Thaddeus opened a pool hall and another business.  He lived in his Oak Street home in Ashland until his death in 1955.

Sources: Gunter, Jack. Southern Oregon Historical Society: Oral history Interview March 3, 2003 and April 15, 2003; Powell, Thaddeus L. Oregon Death Index, 1903-1998; U.S. Federal Census, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940. 

Amy Couture has a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Oregon, a master’s in teacher education from Eastern Oregon University, and a master’s in history from Minnesota State University, Mankato.  A former teacher and cross-country coach, she is the author of 14 historical vignettes in the book, Astorians: Eccentric and Extraordinary.