George G. Shaw was born in Long Lake, New York on July 15, 1872. At the age of 15 he started working as a guide to sportsmen in the Adirondacks. In 1894 he went to Seattle and was thus poised to head to the Klondike in the Gold Rush of 1897 with two fellow goldrushers, Clem Frazier and Alvin Cook. They arrived in Skagway and headed up the Chilkoot trail with thousands of others. They made it to Dawson and made a claim but when he arrived back home, he had little to show monetarily, but a wealth of stories for his family. He traveled across Alaska by himself and took a whaling schooner to Siberia. He married in 1920 and passed away in 1958 back in Vermont.
William Sinnot Rath was born in County Wexford (Ireland) on May 3, 1832. His brother George Rath was born January 26, 1833. The Rath family were farmers, and had a 999 year lease on their property, paying a tax twice a year. They were strong farmers or major tenants which would have made them more educated then most people were. William Rath was quite the adventurer and made several trips to North America from Ireland. His brother George and himself traveled to the California Gold Rush, fought in a war, and joined the Klondike Gold Rush. In 1878 they were some of the first gold rushers to cross the Chilkoot Trail with Ed Bean. William and George Rath were part of the first miners to join the Cassiar Gold Rush in Northen British Columbia. Captain William Moore proposed appointing Rath as the recorder for the gold claims there to prevent disputes, which proved very handy to Moore. After George Rath died about 1884, William, at age 52 returned to Ireland and married a 20-year old woman. They returned to beautiful British Columbia and settled near the coast at a place they named Rathtrevor Beach which is now a Provincial Park. The Biographical Sketch of William Moore; rathtrevorbeach.ca;
There was an obscure reference in the Skagway Death records to a child “Preigmore” who died in April 1898. After much research and reading of old newspaper articles and censuses I was able to piece together the story of the Prigmore family. First I will quote the San Francisco Call of August 23, 1897. It refers to Duke Prigmore who made more than one trip from Washington to Skagway on the family’s quest for gold.
“Many Outfits Lost: Bad Condition of the White Pass Trail from Skaguay where Gold Seekers are Struggling
SEATTLE, WASH Aug 22. Possibly the best description of the White Pass Trail from Skaguay is given in a letter from Duke Prigmore received in this city yesterday. It was brought down by the steamer Starr. After leaving camp on Saturday, Mr. Prigmore says, ‘The first three miles is a fairly good wagon road, which leads to the Skaguay river, a rather shallow but very swift stream. There the miners have erected an improvised bridge, over which only one horse can be taken at a time. Beyond the bridge for three miles horses and wagons can be used. Devil’s Hill is then reached. The trail is not over two feet wide here, while the climb is at an angle of 45 degrees. At the summit of the hill horses are compelled to make a jump of nearly two feet high only to alight on a slippery rock. Further on the trail is a steep incline, on which logs have been laid forming a kind of ladder.
After crossing the first hill a half mile of fairly good traveling is encountered when the big hill is reached. The path over this hill can scarcely be called a trail as Mr. Prigmore says it is quite narrow and at places is almost impassable for horses. The formation is of a soft and slippery slate rock. The trail winds crookedly around the hill or rather mountain while below it sheers off 500 feet to the river. At this locality many horses and packs have been lost. It is almost impossible for horses to pack any considerable amount of supplies around this bluff. After traveling several miles of this kind of road the big marsh is reached.
Here the packers become frightened as a horse will either flounder and roll in the mud until he gives up from sheer exhaustion, or else loses the pack and breaks a leg. This bog is one and a half miles long, and many of the miners are here camped waiting for the winter freeze so they can get over it.
A party ahead on the marsh told Mr. Prigmore that very few had passed them and they were making but slight progress, which fact leads him to believe that scarcely ten parties have thus far this summer crossed the Summit by way of Skaguay.”
Well, Duke came south and got more horses to pack over the pass and in the winter of 1898 his father, Isaiah Daniel Prigmore, and Duke’s younger brother, Leroy, came along. It must have been on this trip that young Leroy succumbed to pneumonia and died in Skagway on April 2, 1898. Isaiah took his body back to Washington and buried him in Bayview Cemetery in Bellingham. Isaiah and his wife Francis were also buried there in 1926 and 1935. Although I could not find an age for Leroy, or “Roy” as his headstone says, he must have only been about 9. Duke was 22 when he started this adventure, but he too died (of typhoid) in 1903 back in Ellensburg Washington at the age of 28. In all Isaiah and Francis had 8 children, the rest of whom remained in Washington and had families.
Seen above is the lovely Bayview Cemetery in Bellingham, Washington.
Bayview Cemetery online; various news accounts, family rootsweb info; Skagway Death record.
On this day, August 11, 1897 Capt Constantine of the NWMP foresaw problems with the goldrush and instituted the requirement for each miner to bring 1000 pounds of supplies with him when crossing into the Yukon. An excerpt from Pierre Berton:
Despite the precautions enforced by the North West Mounted Police, there were many who made it to the Yukon without proper provisions. “[Charles] Constantine of the Mounted Police viewed the situation with foreboding. As early as August 11  he had written bluntly to Ottawa that `the outlook for grub was not assuring for the number of people here–about four thousand crazy or lazy men, chiefly American miners and toughs from the coast towns'” (p. 172). Company stores in the region were also aware of probable shortages. “The company clerks admitted only one man at a time, locked the door behind him as they would the door of a vault, sold him a few day’s goods, and sent him on his way. A man could have half a million dollars in gold–as many of them did–and still be able to buy only a few pounds of beans, but it was sometime before the newcomers could understand this. They found it hard to comprehend a situation in which gold by itself was worthless” (pp. 172-173).
Klondike Fever by Berton
Mr. Brooks came to Skagway in 1897 from Vancouver. He was a merchant and wrangler. His company “J.H. Brooks, Packer and Freight” was headquartered in the St. James Hotel.
He is famous for taking 15 mules over the Chilkoot Pass and later took 335 mules over. He claimed that he and a Mr. Turner had first blazed the trail. He returned to Skagway in 1934 to collect information for his book and died on this day, July 13, 1934 on the Chilkoot Trail. He was born about 1867 and was about 67 years old when he died and was buried in the Pioneer Cemetery. Pictured above is the St. James Hotel where it now sits behind the Hardware Store on 4th Avenue.
Dahl book; photo of his card on p.25 of Skagway, District of Alaska 1884-1912 by Robert L.S. Spude,; Minter; Pennington
Not a good day to be at the top of the Chilkoot Pass. Mr. Fetter died there on this day, March 22, 1898 and was buried in Dyea. He was born in Oregon and was only 36 when he died. His brother Vernor died two weeks later in the big avalanche of April 4, 1898. He too is buried in the little Dyea cemetery.
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.
Fred Funston was too short to get into the United States Military Academy in 1884 (he being only 5 feet 5 inches tall). But that did not stop him, he went to the University of Kansas worked on the railroad, as a reporter and then developed an interest in the sciences. Working for the Department of Agriculture, he came to Alaska in 1893 and described crossing the Chilkoot Pass with the Smithsonian expedition:
“we…divided our goods into seven packs and engaged five men and two women to carry these loads to the summit of the pass… The Indians supported the loads on their backs by the aid of deerskin bands, passing across the forehead. Several children carried on their backs light loads, consisting of food and cooking utensils for the use of the Indians, while two of the dogs also wore packs.” from Over the Chilkoot Pass to the Yukon, Scribners, November 1896.
After leaving here he joined the Cuban Revolutionary army and fought for independence there – see him in the Cuban uniform above.
Funston later fought in the U.S. Army in the Phillipines in the Spanish American war of 1898. For his bravery he was awarded the rank of Brigadier General of Volunteers and the Medal of Honor. Fort Funston in the San Francisco area is named for him. On this day, February 19, 1917 while relaxing in the lobby of a San Antonio, Texas hotel, Funston was listening to an orchestra play The Blue Danube Waltz. After commenting, “How beautiful it all is,” he collapsed from a massive painful heart attack and died. He was 52 years old.