Martha Louise Munger Purdy Black


Martha Black is well known in the Yukon. Although she was reported to be the first woman to cross the Chilkoot Trail, she was actually the 5th (first was “Dutch Kate” Wilson in 1887, 2nd was Bell Healey in 1888, 3rd was Emilie Tremblay in 1894 and 4th was Jesse McDougall in 1895).
Martha Munger was born on this day, February 24, 1866 in Chicago.

When news of the Klondike gold discoveries reached the Outside, Martha and her husband Will Purdy made plans to head North. At the last minute, however, Will Purdy got a better offer to go to Hawaii. Martha was determined to break away from the straight-laced life she had led, and continued on without him – she was never to see her husband again.

Martha left Dawson for a year, but returned in 1900, when she joined a mining syndicate. The following year, her father arrived with the machinery to set up a sawmill, and a stamp mill for assaying the ore from quartz mines which were being developed. Martha was put in charge of the mills, and when she needed a lawyer, George Black came highly recommended. Within 2 weeks George had proposed marriage, but Martha held off for over 2 years. They were finally married in Martha’s large home at the sawmill on August 1, 1904. George was elected to Parliament in 1921 and served until 1935, when he was forced to resign due to ill health. Martha then ran in his place, and at the age of 69, she became only the second woman ever to be elected to Canada’s Parliament.

If you go to Whitehorse there is a beautiful “May Day” tree just off of 2nd by the city office building. The placque there says that it was Martha Black’s tree. In the spring when it blooms with hundreds of fragrant white blossoms, it is a beautiful reminder of a great lady. Martha died in 1957 in Whitehorse.

From numerous sources.

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.

Ella Clark Card


The little Card family was photographed by Winter and Pond, Klondike photographers. There are several different shots of them in Dyea preparing to climb the Chilkoot Pass. Ella Clark Card is holding her son who dies shortly thereafter at Lindemann and is buried there with a little white picket fence around his grave, he was 7 months old. Buried next to him is the baby daughter of Mrs. J.D. McKay who also died in 1897 there at Lindemann. I wonder if the two baby ghosts enjoy each other’s company? If you camp at Lindemann and hear babies crying, don’t be surprised…

Ella and Fred pushed on and she ran the hotel Cecil in Dawson by 1903. Ella died on this day, February 11, in 1927 possibly in Fairbanks.

John Battist Bassett is the packer actually pulling the cart and in front of him is Joe LaPorte.

AK Searchlight June 5, 1897; Wickersham; Two Years in the Klondike.

Adele Lawrence Harrington

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On this day, January 26, 1896, Adele married Calvin H. Barkdull either in Skagway or Eureka, California. Later in 1896, the first child, a daughter was born to them here, said to be the first “white child” born in Skagway. In his story “The Flaxen Haired boy” in the December 1951 Alaska Sportsman Magazine, Calvin mentions his wife and daughter and tells a story about a boy who died on the Chilkoot trail but the story sounds a little made up. Calvin also made up some stories about a wife of Soapy’s coming here and exhuming Soapy’s grave, which are false, so who knows…

Calvin Barkdull had graduated from the University of California in 1894. He worked here as Chilkoot packer but left by 1902 and went to Petersburg to raise foxes, work a gold mine and a hotel. Adele divorced him and remarried a Mr. Clarence McBurney by 1900.  Here is a photo donated by Judith Bacon of Adele, her daughter Beryl and her 2nd husband Clarence McBurney from around 1905?

 

Nellie Cashman


Nellie Cashman came to the Klondike about 1898. She was a native of County Cork, Ireland and had worked as both a nurse and a grocer. She was known as the “Angel of the Cassiar” because of her tireless work with the sick men. She was also known as the Frontier Angel, Saint of the Sourdoughs, Miner’s Angel, and The Angel of Tombstone.

Her energy and selfless work is an inspiration. She died in Victoria on this day, January 4, 1925 at the age of 80 in the hospital there that she helped to build. She is buried in the Ross Bay Cemetery near all the Religious nuns and priests. I visited her grave in November. The cemetery is beautiful with a view of Ross Bay, a short walk from downtown through some very pretty neighborhoods.

Clara Annie Thompson Moulton Cameron


Clara was born January 1, or July 4, 1860 in Ann Arbor Michigan. Her father, Clement Thompson was mayor of Battle Creek. She led a fairly normal life, marrying and having two sons in Michigan.
Then in 1898 she went a little crazy! She came to Skagway and then to the Yukon. Supposedly she married John Cameron in Dawson in 1898, he an RCMP.
She left Yukon Sept 24, 1904 to go to Rexford Hotel, Boston MA. Her husband was J.A. Cameron as she was listed as Mrs. J.A.
Although I’m still working on this case, she apparently ended up back in Skagway on July 21, 1908 where she died of a pelvic abcess. She was 48 years old. Her sons back in Michigan decided not to bring here back to Michigan but to bury her here in Skagway. Perhaps there was a little anger there for abandoning them when they were boys….. But who knows? And what happened to her Mountie Cameron?
Her grave is in the Gold Rush Cemetery.

1943 Mystery

On this day, December 10 1943, three women died according to the Skagway Death Records, but no indication of why they died. There is also no record of where Signa Rugene Sletten, Mary Andrews Steinard, and Margaret Alma Stukel were buried.

During this time there were fires that took down the Elks Hall, Pullen House and the Mission School, so perhaps that is a clue….go to work fellow sleuths!

P.S. the photo above has nothing to do with the Mystery, except that I wonder what type of beer this bear is drinking.

Thomas Alfred Marquam


Nicknamed “Fighting Tom,” he was elected to represent Republicans from Skagway and Haines at the 1900 territorial Republican convention in Juneau. He lost his bid to become Alaska’s delegate to the National Republican Convention, but represented Haines as a witness before a U.S. Senate subcommittee investigating conditions in Alaska in the summer of 1903.

Tom Marquam came to Skagway with some lawyer friends in 1897 to follow the gold rush as his father had done in 1849 in California. He met a young woman, possibly a prostitute, here and married her. She died a few years later and he then married another prostitute named Ray Alderman pictured above with President Harding.

In 1923, when it became obvious that Dan Sutherland, Alaska’s delegate to Congress, was at odds with the president and would not escort Harding on his visit, Tom happily volunteered to do it himself, with his bride at his side. Harding, a man of the world with a mistress of his own, appreciated the mayor’s pretty wife. He invited the Marquams to accompany him in his private railroad car, and Tom’s appointment as ambassador seemed assured until Harding died less than three weeks later.

Tom Marquam’s death on November 23, 1931, at age fifty-seven was not well explained. One newspaper reported he had died of a heart attack; another referred to several operations and a long illness. There were rumors that he had been murdered and it was also suggested that he had committed suicide in a fit of depression over the still unsettled charges against him.

http://www.alaska.edu/opa/eInfo/index.xml?StoryID=299

Mollie Walsh


Probably one of the most famous women of Skagway, red-haired Irish descent Mollie was a waitress and church helper, coming here with Rev. Dickey in the goldrush. She was a kind person and everyone loved her, so why did her husband murder her on October 28, 1902 on a street in Seattle? Mike Bartlett claimed it was a “crime of passion” but later committed suicide leaving their son Leo an orphan.

Packer Jack Newman, long an admirer of Mollie, had a statue made of her in 1930 and sent it to Skagway where it sits today on 6th Street in front of a children’s park. An inscription written by Packer Jack goes: “…Her spirit fingers still reach across the years and play on the slackened strings of my old heart, and my heart still sings,—MOLLIE!—my heart still sings but in such sad undertone that none but God and I can hear.”