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«The Quest for Lillian Alling: Two authors contributions. Outdoors-Magazine.com The Quest for Lillian Alling: Two authors ...»

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Now this leads us to the recent publication by Cassandra Pybus. Her quest to complete the mystery of Lillian Alling, hopefully to answer Calvin's final questions, was my primary reason for reading this book. Apparently she was initially intrigued by Lillian's story when she encountered a reference in a BC bookstore.

While browsing a bookshop in Prince George, I noticed a reference to a women who walked to Russia, just one of many remarkable tales of endurance and determination that make up the folklore of this spectacular, wild region.

–  –  –

She wrote an article Reaching Atlin, Brick Magazine, (Canada) March, 1999, (which I have not read) that was supposed to "wash this women right out of her hair". However, she continued to want more. Apparently her starting points for Lillian's story were Edward Hoagland's Notes from the Century Before and Francis Dickie's 1972 True West magazine article. I have not seen either of these sources, but Cassandra's brief synopsis of Dickie's article seems to follow Calvin's retelling from Hiking Back to Health, and she states that;

Hoagland's information was wrong in almost all its particulars....

Cassandra's efforts are similar to Calvin's attempt to fill in the details, but goes far beyond a chapter in a book and some correspondence with the Russian press. Part I, Looking for Lillian outlines Pybus's efforts to locate Lillian's origins, her status in New York, and her travels out of British Columbia where records exist. She has researched Lillian Alling's immigration to the US and tried to physically trace her BC walk. Her analysis of Lillian's origins and possible actual last name is well presented, however, the records do not pinpoint any actual confirmed entry point for Lillian. She makes a decent case for Lillian's origin as Belorussia, as a displaced Jew from the Pale of Settlement with a last name that was some derivation of Olejnik.

I had hopes that Cassandra Pybus would fill in many of the missing details of Alling's journey. Unfortunately, Alling's trail is quite cold and filled with slightly contradictory bits and pieces of her journey. Pybus, in her journey north, finds traces of Lillian's walk, but primarily focuses on her trip with her friend. Pybus spend nearly all of Part II, Raven Road discussing the various points of the road trip but primarily her interactions with her travel partner. This portion of the book adds little to the mystery of Alling, but much to the trials of driving north with a companion that is less focused on Cassandra's goals. For a more in-depth critique of this portion of Pybus's book see YukonBooks.com.

Part III, Adrift in Beringia benefits from Cassandra and her traveling companion having split up. Some general discussion is presented on other "explorers" trials in the subarctic and there is much speculation on Lillian Alling's movements from Dawson City north, but little more was added to the existing accounts. One interesting reference was made to a story published in 1948 in Shoulder Strap the journal of the British Columbia Provincial Police by J Wellsford Mills.

I can find no evidence that Lillian's statements were ever recorded by the provincial police or the Hazelton court, so I must assume that Mills interviewed Constable Wyman. I further assume that Wyman supplied Mills with the information he used to construct a dialog in which Lillian Wyman emphatically, "I am going to Siberia". Mills must also have interviewed one of the lineman, Jim Christie, who is credited with the photos that accompany the piece.

From Christie's information, Mills reconstructed Lillian's journey from cabin to cabin. "At no time was she communicative," Mills writes. "She told nothing of her past". Mills's story comes to an end at Dawson City.

"Extensive inquires have failed to discover her eventual fate," he concludes.

Mills's account was cannibalized by Francis Dickie for his article in "True West" in 1972, in which he has Lillian say, "I go to Siberia". The elements of the encounter with the provincial police are the same in the Dickie article, but the actual dialogue is somewhat different. The Women Who Walked to Russia, 2003.

A letter Cassandra received from a retired police officer named Greenfield, does add new nuances to the story. He attributes her walk to find and marry her boy friend. He was apparently responsible for guarding her upon her arrest

–  –  –

We are left 78 years later with a number of accounts by various authors and a few photographs. So while the mystery of Lillian Alling's motives and endpoint remains, there can be no doubt that her efforts were extraordinary.

Her spirit and determination was an example, and can still be an example, for all those who put their mind to accomplish a task.

The Books Resources Calvin Rutstrum's other books and a bit more from Hiking Back to Health can be found in my earlier review of his complete works.

Way of the Wilderness, Calvin Rustrum, was originally published by Burgess Publishing in 1946, with a revised edition in 1952 followed by a reprint in 1953. These are among the most difficult to find of all of Rutstrum's work.

Both eBay and bookfinder.com have listed editions over the past few years, selling from $10 to over $100.

The New Way of the Wilderness, Calvin Rutstrum, 1958, was published by Macmillian and reprinted many times over the years. It recently has been reprinted in a University of Minnesota edition, but the hardcover editions are very commonly found at local used bookstores, eBay, and bookfinder.com. Excellent first editions can generally be found for less than $5.

Hiking Back to Health, Calvin Rutstrum, 1980, was published by ICS Books, Pittsboro, Indiana in both paper and hardcover. They can sometimes be found offered on eBay or somewhat more commonly on bookfinder.com. This is one of Rutstrum's more difficult to find editions and it sells at widely varying prices.

The Women Who Walked to Russia: A Writer's Search for a Lost Legend, Cassandra Pybus, 2003 was published by Four Walls Eight Windows, New York in large format paper, can also be found in both new and used editions on bookfinder.com. It sells for $7 and up.

–  –  –

Yukon News, 1997, an on-line article by Don Sawatsky, which covers Alling's story. This article closely follows Calvin's outline until her boat journey down the Yukon.

Pybus's website University of Tasmania.

Additional detail, (Rutstrum's Lillian Alling story from):

1958 The New Way of the Wilderness In the summer of 1927, Lillian Alling, a young Russian immigrant, homesick and compelled to perform menial tasks for a living in New York, made up her mind to go back to her homeland in Europe. Because she had no money for transportation, she decided to hike back to her native country. She tramped to Chicago, to Minneapolis, to Winnipeg, refusing all invitations to ride.

She was next seen on the Yukon Telegraph Trail in the northern part of British Columbia, Canada, a small pack on her back and a length of iron pipe in her hand for protection, heading towards Alaska. The provincial police at Hazelton prevented her from making a winter journey through the Canadian wilds, but they were able to detain her only until spring.

Starting out again, she hiked along the Telegraph Trail, over the wild mountain passes, finally reaching Dawson.

There she worked as a cook, purchased and repaired an old boat, and in the spring of 1929, launched it into the waters of the Yukon River right behind the outgoing ice and reached a point east of the Seward Peninsula. There she abandoned the boat for overland travel, reaching Nome and later Bering Strait. She was last heard bartering with the Eskimos for boat passage across the Strait to Asia.

If you care to check the story, you will find it in the files of the provincial police in British Columbia.

To say that the courageous and almost incredible experience of Lillian Alling is within the bounds of anyone would be presumptuous. Few person, either man or women, have the hardihood, let alone the ability, to undertake such a journey. My purpose in mentioning it is to show that most of us could, by comparison, undertake a wilderness journey of some kind, and succeed if we would but arouse our determination, lay our plan, and go ahead with it. The New Way of the Wilderness, 1958.

Post-scriptum :

Version 1.0 3/15/2005 Version 1.

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