The Aggees came to Skagway from Telluride Colorado. Alonzo Aggee and his sons Roy and Harry arrived via the Chilkoot Pass on October 9, 1899 yet Alonzo, his wife Martha or Madie Crouch and their son Alonzo Jr.(Sam), daughters Helen and Ollie all show up on the Skagway census in 1900. They may have been in the process of moving to Dawson when the census took place. Oddly, despite the fact that they were one of the few African-American families in the Yukon, the Skagway census lists them as being white.
Alonzo worked for a time as a deckhand on the steamers going up and down the Yukon River. Then he settled down in Dawson City as a barber, and the rest of the family, including his wife Martha, sons Sam and Harry, and daughter Helen arrived soon after.
Harry and Roy worked as barbers with their father, but in 1901 Roy, the oldest son, died of peritonitis. The family carried on. Sam gained fame as a member of Dawson City’s 1910 championship hockey team. He died in 1925 in Tacoma. Harry died in 1917 in Seattle and Martha in 1930. Alonzo L. Aggee outlived them all and died at the age of 81 in Skagit, Washington on December 21, 1940.
-On the Trail of the Yukon’s Black Pioneers by Kilian; Washington death records; Skagway 1900 census.Read More
Stephen Rooney was born on this day, December 29, 1864 in Sacramento. His father, John Rooney, had emigrated from Ireland at the age of 21 in 1849. John went from Liverpool to Boston to New Orleans, through the isthmus of Panama to San Francisco and finally to Sacramento. He was following the 49er’s to find gold which he did. The Alabama mine in Eldorado county, owned by Mr. Rooney, yielded as much as $800 per day, and by 1853, he had netted $25,000. John married and had four sons, among them was Stephen born on the homestead on Coloma road, five miles from Sacramento. Stephen entered Sacramento Institute and later was a student at St. Mary’s college in San Francisco (St. Mary’s moved from the city to Oakland in 1889 and now is at Moraga). Interested in agriculture, he raised hops, but at one time he also served as deputy Sheriff of Sacramento county.
So it is no wonder that in 1898, he decided to go to the Klondike to search for gold much as his father had 50 years before. He, his brother and Lee Brown landed at Skagway where they tried to move their load to Lake Bennett. However, from the very outset they had bad luck. A number of valuable pack animals had been lost with the Steamship Corona January 24, 1898 on Lewis Island (480 miles north of Victoria). A quantity of forage and provisions was lost in another vessel which went down. Finally, when his high hopes had begun to sink beneath the weight of his failures he fell ill with spinal meningitis and died in Skagway on March 7, 1898. There is a Skagway record of his body being buried in the Gold Rush cemetery, but it was then disinterred and sent back to California by his brother and was interred in a local cemetery in Sacramento. He left a wife, Mary, and three children ages 9, 7 and 5.
Seen above is the Steamship Corona in 1907 when she foundered again.
Willis, William L., History of Sacramento County, California, Pages 693-696. Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, CA. 1913.Read More
The brothers Krause were born in 1848 and 1851 in Konopath, Westpreussen, Preussen or what we would call Poland today. They were noted Anthropologists who explored the Chilkat and the Chilkoot Passes 1881. They spent the winter of 1881-82 at Haines, studying the Chilkat for the Geographical Society of Bremen and then wrote “To the Chukchi Peninsula and to the Tlingit Indians: A Scientific Expedition Carried Out by Aurel and Arthur Krause in 1881/1882”. Aurel also wrote “The Tlingit Indians: results of a trip to the Northwest Coast of America and the Bering Straits” published in 1885, translated by Gunther in 1956. Unfortunately this did not have much effect on general knowledge since it was in German. In this 1885 account he describes Lake Arkell (or Kusawa) as an early trade route between coast and interior used by the Chilkats. By 1887 George Dawson said that the use of this route was declining by Tlingit traders because the journey from the coast to the head of the Takhini was so difficult. They began using the Chilkat Trail even though it was longer, yet less dangerous. I looked these up in the Alaska Atlas and was amazed at these routes which were not only longer but crossed several glaciers. No wonder they were more dangerous, there were stories of men falling into crevasses on those routes. It is easy to see on a map why the Chilkoot trail from Dyea became so popular.
The Krause research was not only the earliest but some of the most comprehensive accounts of Northwest coast cultures before they were significantly changed by European contact.
Aurel died in 1908 and Arthur died in 1922 both in Berlin.
The Yukon, London 1898 p.378; Yukon places & names, Coutts; Thornton p 286; Life Lived Like a story, page 369. Under Mount Saint Elias: The History and Culture of the Yakutat Tlingit, by Frederica de Laguna SMITHSONIAN CONTRIBUTIONS TO ANTHROPOLOGY VOLUME 7Read More
Walter Russell Curtin was born in 1878 in California and spent a terrible winter onboard the Yukoner where he froze. He wrote about that experience in 1938, more than thirty years after the gold rush.
“I had thirty five cents in my pocket when I set foot in Alaska, but I gave that to a mission church at Dutch Harbour. I did not have so much left when I left the country more than two years later…….
I made exactly nothing, but if I could turn time back, I would do it over again for less than that”
He died in Los Angeles on March 10, 1951.
The Yukoner is seen above going through the infamous 5-finger rapids on the Yukon River.
Yukon voyage;: Unofficial log of the steamer Yukoner, by Walter Russell Curtin (Hardcover – 1938)Read More