Sunday, August 15, 2010

Tom Brennan in the Yukon?

A lot of people know that I lived and worked in China for a year, that I’ve also traveled to two other foreign countries so far (Canada and Ireland) and that I’ve been to 30 of the 50 states in America.

What very few people know, however, is that there WAS a time when Tom Brennan traveled to the Yukon in order to make his fortune.

Before sharing those personal details with you, however, I need to take you back in time a little more than 100 years ago.

Long before “Carnac the Magnificent” became a staple on the Johnny Carson Show,

a man named George Carmack left California in 1881 and traveled north because he had heard rumors of gold strikes in Alaska.

For 15 years, he searched in vain. One day, out of frustration, he finally did what all good men do when they need time to think:

He went fishing.

While salmon fishing near the Klondike River in Canada's Yukon Territory on August 16, 1896, he found nuggets of gold in a creek bed. His lucky discovery sparked the last great gold rush in the American West.

The day after discovering the gold, George and two partners staked their claim. Within two years, as many as 50,000 men came to the area in order to get some relief from the devastation caused by the Panic of 1893.

Although very few of them had much luck, Carmack eventually left the Yukon with $1,000,000 worth of gold. Large scale gold mining continued in the area for another 70 years, by which time $250,000,000 worth of gold had been pulled out of the ground. Even today, small mines continue to operate in the area.

One of the 50,000 people who moved to the area was Tom Brennan, the younger brother of my paternal grandfather (Mark Brennan). Like most of the people that went north, he failed to accomplish what he set out to do. As a matter of fact, he never even got back home. Not long after arriving in Alaska, a violent thunderstorm caused a large tree to fall on his head. Amazingly, he managed to survive the initial blow, but died three days later in a local hospital.

My parents had originally planned to name me Mark, after my grandfather, but my dad’s sister Josephine gave birth to a son shortly before I was born, and she named HIM Mark.

Since their name of choice was already taken, I was named after a man who was felled be a tree. My middle name came from my maternal grandfather, who was born in County Sligo, Ireland.

One of the 25 goals that I wrote down earlier this year was to visit every state in this country that I haven’t been to yet, so at some point in time, I plan to visit the state where my great uncle met his demise. More than likely, we’ll be traveling to most of those states in an RV (inspired by a couple of trips to RAGBRAI), but the NEXT time that Tom Brennan goes to the Yukon, it will be a much different journey:

let's go cruisin'

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