Henry Hermann Itjen

Henry Hermann Itjen, Martin's brother, spent much of 1908 traveling from Germany to visit with Martin and his wife, Lucy, in Skagway, Alaska. The following three letters were written by Henry Itjen to his Aunt and Uncle who were Hanke Gerdes and Sophie(Itjen) Gerdes, in Sievern, Germany. These letters were located in Germany and mailed to Bob Wieking, in Ellensburg, Washington, USA. The letters then had to be translated into English.

Skagway, Alaska
March 15, 1908

Dear Uncle and Aunt,
I received your recent letter with such pleasure, and I am happy to see that you are all healthy and well, which thank God, we are too. Actually, I am not really all that well, but I should not complain, and even though I am not that strong, I can do my work, because I do eat well, and I live a sedate life. I live quite comfortably. Martin and his wife are very good to me. They do what they can, and I try to do the same for them. She is doing the cooking and maintains the household. She, herself, has several small properties which she leases, and so their life is quite comfortable; not working too hard, even making a little money and getting ahead. She pleaded with him(Martin) to give it up(digging for gold) when he came to visit here during Christmas. He was with us for about six weeks, but did not want to give it up. I tried to speak with him about it too, that he should give it up. But, finally he relented, and promised he would sell it in the fall. Digging for gold really takes hold of some people. It seems they are unable to give it up thinking they get richer and richer, because some days they find $50.00. Many people have found "thousands" and some have found even millions. We have lost more than we have gained. In a short time period I, myself, have lost $2,000 plus a lot of time, as well as two toes. But I thank our Lord that it is finally all over. I have given all my belongings to Martin without charge. He is living happy and content with his darling wife, and I hope he keeps his promise.

We had a mild winter here, little frost really. I just received a postcard from "Christine"(Christine is a cousin of Martin and Henry. She is the grandmother of Bob Wieking). They are all happy. I would like to thank you for the nice photos that Emma and Bertha have sent me.(They are cousins of Martin and Henry back in Sievern). I am busy every day, and I write in the evening and that tires me. I have to close now and hope this letter finds you I good health. Regards from Martin and his wife and especially from me, your loving nephew.

Henry Itjen
Skagway, Alaska
Please write again soon.

April 7, 1908

Dear Aunt,
Received your dear letter with great joy. I am here in Skagway now. It's been a hard journey. It took me 23 days. It was cold and the snow was deep, too deep for the horses, and so I had to walk and froze my right foot. I was on the road for an entire month, and the doctor had to amputate two toes. And even though I am in great pain I thank God that it was not worse. But it is bad.

So, dear aunt, I have enough of it and shall stay here this summer. I am in my own home. I can't walk yet. There is a German that lives with me that does little things for me, such as cook and bring in the firewood.

As soon as I am better I can return to my old workplace. I am well known here and have many friends that are very helpful. Martin and his wife remained there. They want to try it for another year. Both were crying when I left them. They don't know yet about my foot.

I have not much news this time. Say hello to your husband, your children, and our mother.
Your loving nephew
Henry Itjen
Write soon

Nov 4, 1908

Dear Uncle and Aunt,
Received your letter with great joy. I have been very busy this past summer, but right now there is not much to do here. The days are shorter here than in Germany. Daylight from 9-3, but in summer it's daylight almost all day long.

Thank God I am able to walk again, but I am still coughing, but I don't feel bad. I am able to do my work as well as I used to. It is, after all, not as difficult as reading and arithmetic.

Martin's wife has come out here, and we all love together now. Anyway, she is tired now of that lonely life and plans to remain in town for a while. She has a good home here, and even owns a small hotel and many small properties that she leases, and is thus able to make a good living here. Both of them send their regards. Martin is really heavily involved in digging. He takes on more and more, and has a lot of claims. Dear aunt, you ask if there are no women here? Yes, there are some, not many , but most of them are married. There are a lot of unmarred men here.
This location is a small town near the water with many ships landing here. All around us is nothing but mining industry, and lots of high, snow-covered mountains covered the whole year. They leave here by train to the end, and from there by sled over the mountains up to the North Pole, almost, or at least as far as the good Lord lets them get. Dear Aunt, it must be sad for you when all of your children leave the moment they become adults. I hope, at least one or two stay home, but that's how it goes. Everybody wants to go to America.

It is really not so bad here, but in the big cities you find much misery and hunger, and also many poor Germans. It is often their own fault, but not always.

Dear Uncle and Aunt,
God has really blessed you with nine(9) children, beautiful and healthy children, and all alive. I send a small gift for all of you. Buy yourself something for Christmas. I thank Emma for the photo she sends me.

Many loving greetings from your Henry, and a happy New Year and merry Christmas to you all.


Henry sent this postcard to his mother in San Francisco in 1912 letting her know he was okay, and kindly asking for more funds!

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