Per Edward Larss


Mr. Larss, or Larson as he later was known, was a famous photographer of the Gold Rush. He was born on this day, February 16, 1863 in Sweden. He worked with another photographer, Joseph E. N. Duclos here in the north from 1899 until 1904. Duclos continued working in Alaska and died in Alaska of pneumonia after surgery in 1917. Their many photos are seen at the Alaska Archives under “Larss and Duclos” or incorrectly as “Larss and Duglos.” Above is a cute one of naughty ladies on a ladder in Dawson.
Larss left Alaska and the Yukon in 1904 and eventually went back to California where he died in 1941 in San Pedro.

His biography is captured in the book “Frozen in Silver.”

Love Story

I pieced this love story together last week; you will love it.

In 1865 a young woman came to Victoria from England on the famous “bride ship”. After an unsuccessful marriage she split up with her gold miner husband and in 1873 her husband paid the convent of the Sisters of Saint Ann in Victoria to care for their two little girls. One little girl, Mary Elizabeth Martin was 5 and she spent the next 27 years working for the church, taking vows in 1885 and the name Sister Mary of the Cross. In 1898 Father William Judge, known as the Saint of Dawson needed help caring for the starving and sick men at the hospital he had built in Dawson. The help he requested came in the form of several Sisters of St. Ann and Mary was one of these.
Meanwhile, in Detroit, a young man, Joseph Bettinger attended college and became a doctor, actually a pharmacist there. In 1898 he also heard the call from the North, and like thousands of others decided to head to the Klondike to find his fortune. On April 3, 1898 he found himself near Chilkoot Pass when a terrible avalanche happened, burying at least 100 people, although some were pulled out, as many as 94 died. Dr. Bettinger helped to dig up and take care of the survivors. He then continued on to Dawson where he went to work for Father Judge. In the summer of 1898, the doc told the priest he wanted to become Catholic and so Father Judge asked one of his faithful nuns to instruct the doctor. It was here that Joseph and Mary met and fell in love.
Mary announced that she wanted to leave the order but was counseled by the Mother Superior and the priest not to. She felt strongly about it and took off her habit and called herself Mary Elizabeth Martin. Shunned by the community, she and Joseph went to Tacoma to visit Mary’s mother, now remarried with 8 children. On July 16, 1900 they were married in Tacoma.
The story would have ended with happily every after, but instead the newlyweds decided to go back to Dawson. When they returned they found that Fr. Judge had died – of overwork at the hospital in July of 1899. The new hospital administration and the community still shunned the couple and Joseph found that he did not have a job.
They decide to return south, but being low on funds, Joseph decides to walk to Whitehorse in December of 1900 when the temperatures were 60 below zero. He tells Mary to take the coach a few days later and they would meet up in Skagway or Whitehorse. It is the last time Mary sees her husband.
Temperatures in the Yukon were 60 degrees below zero that month. When Mary arrived in Skagway she looked for Joseph every day but after days turned to weeks, she implored the authorities to look for him. The NWMP found his body 7 miles off the Yukon Trail up the White River (near Stewart and Minto). The report stated he died of exposure. The authorities asked Mary if she wanted his body sent south, but she could not afford the $320 to ship it, so he was buried near Stewart (the river later washed away the graveyard).
Mary returned to Washington and remarried, but never told her family of her past until she lay on her deathbed at the age of 95 in 1959.

The Weekly Ex (SF) Sept 30, 1897; Policing the Plains by MacBeth online book p 111;Once Upon a Wedding; stories of weddings in W. Canada by Nancy Millar; personal communications with Mary’s great granddaughter.

Kathleen Eloisa Rockwell


Happy Birthday to “Klondike Kate” born on October 4, 1876 in Junction City, Kansas. She came to Skagway about 1899 and worked here and in Bennett before going to Dawson.

When Kate first came to Alaska she was not well known. She was just another actress. What made Kate famous was her flame dance. For this dance she would come on stage wearing an elaborate dress covered in red sequins and an enormous cape. She took off the cape revealing a cane that was attached to more than 200 yards of red chiffon. She began leaping and twirling with the chiffon until she looked like fire dancing around. At the end she would dramatically drop to the floor. The miners loved it. She was a hit and was named “The Flame of the Yukon.”

Klondike Kate traveled all over, doing her dancing routines. She boasted later of wearing $1500 Paris gowns and bracelets of purest gold. It was said she mesmerized the men she entertained.

Many books have been written about her including Klondike Kate The Queen of the Yukon and the Last and Mightiest Frontier Gold Rush by Ellis Lucia.
She died in her sleep in 1957 in Sweet Home Oregon.

George Washington Carmack

Happy Birthday to George Carmack one of the discoverers of the the gold in Dawson!

Born on September 24, 1860 in Pacheco California he came to Alaska in 1882 on the US Wachusette at Sitka, he was a marine.
George married a native woman who died and then he married her sister, Kate Mason Nadagaat Tlaa Kaachgaawaa who became wealthy with him and moved down south.

Eventually, George left California and his wife and daughter. In 1900, George married Marguerite Saftig L’Aimee in Olympia, Washington. Kate, illiterate and nearly destitute, initiated a protracted legal battle to prove she was George’s wife and eligible for alimony, but eventually dropped the case in favor of trying to reclaim her husband. When this failed, Kate settled in Carcross, where she lived until her death from influenza in 1920.
Their daughter Graphie lived to be 70 and died in Lodi, California in 1963.

Nantuck Murder and Execution


A notorious case that started with a burglary. As Kitty Smith, grand-neice of the Nantuck Brothers put it:

Some Indians stole some baking-powder from a prospector’s camp. Turned out it was arsenic, perhaps put there deliberately, perhaps just supplies for refining gold. In any case, two Indians died.

At that time, customary Indian law dictated that members of victims’ moiety or clan (Crow of the Klinkit Tribe) take steps to avenge the deaths, if not against the individuals actually responsible, at least against representatives of their moiety or clan. The debt could be paid by money or a death.

When asked for payment, purportedly, the prospectors said no. At this point, as related by the 4 Nantuck brothers (Joe, Jim, Dawson and Frank), they shot two white prospectors on May 10 1898. One of these, William Meehan, died, while the other, Christian Fox survived and went to RCMP who subsequently arrested the four native brothers.

RCMP took the boys to Dawson where an extensive trial took place. Although they confessed, Canadian leaders felt the need to be lenient because of past cases and a change in attitude towards the First Nations people. In the end, Frank and Joe died of consumption (TB) in jail during 1898 and the other two, Dawson and Jim were hung in Dawson on August 4, 1899.

from two books: Life Lived like a Story by Kitty Smith et. al. and Essays on the History of Canadian Law by John McLaren and Hamar Foster.