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 1920 Census in Seattle listed her name as Mary E. Barton married to William Barton who was born in 1863 in Canada. Listed her as born 1862-3 in Canada. Two sons, Jack born 1904 and Stacy born 1906.

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. 1920 Census for Seattle.

Tom Williams


Although little is known of Tom William, one thing is sure, he died on this day, February 12, in 1887 in Dyea.
The circumstances of his death are extremely important to history. Tom was a mail carrier who, while crossing the Chilkoot Summit nearly froze to death on the mountain. “Indian Bob” helped carry him down to the Healy trading post in Dyea where Tom told a fantastic story of gold being discovered and that a fellow traveler Leslie had poisoned and shot his partners – perhaps to keep the location a secret.
Pierre Berton said that Tom had nuggets of gold on him, but died before he could give the exact location-but that it was near 40-Mile River in British Columbia, seen above. After that, stories persisted of gold in the Yukon and eventually sparked the gold rush of 1897-98.
Who knows, perhaps there is still a place in the north where gold nuggets lie on the sides of a stream. I’m thinking I might do a little more camping this summer…..

from: The Yukon p.379; Pierre Berton; and p. 183 of Alaska: Its History and Resources, Gold Fields, Routes and Scenery 1895.

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.

John Cleveland Kirmse


Jack Kirmse, son of Herman Kirmse, born in Skagway in 1906 died on this day, February 10, 1993 in Carlsbad, California, he was 87 years old.
Herman and his first wife Ida Shonknioler moved to Skagway in the gold rush in 1897 and established themselves as jewelers. Ida died of convulsions in 1900 and so Herman married Hazel Cleveland here in Skagway.
Jack and his wife Georgette lived in Skagway for many years. They owned the Moore House on 5th Avenue which had been in the family since 1907 when Ben Moore sold it to Herman. In 1977 Jack sold the house to the National Park Service and it was restored with antique furnishings. The house is open to the public in the summer to view.
Each year the Skagway school awards the “Jack Kirmse Scholarship” to a graduating senior, and in 2003, Arlen McCluskey (see January 20, 2010 blog) was awarded this scholarship which helped him pursue his educational goals.
This coming summer the Kirmse’s shop on the corner of 5th and Broadway will again be open for business by local residents Cara Cosgrove and Bruce Weber who will sell unique Alaskan crafts and jewelery made by local artisans. The totem poles on the south side of the shop and the clock face on the mountainside are popular for tourists to photograph.

In the picture above you can see both the shop sign and the sign painted on the rocks above town advertising Kirmse’s. The clock face on the clock shows the time of 7:20 which some have said is the time of Lincoln’s death, but actually it has another meaning: in the U.S. clockmakers will set the face of the clocks they are showing in the shop to 7:20 to show the symmetry of the clock face. A Swiss jeweler told me that in Europe they set their clocks to 10:10, the difference being that it makes a smile instead of a sad mouth – a “sourir” I think she said.

William Grant


On this day in 1898 a young man named William Grant died of meningitis in Skagway. His father was Captain William Grant and the family lived in Victoria where his body was shipped.
Meningitis was a real epidemic here in Skagway that winter, affecting young men and killing many. Dr. Emil Pohl treated these many cases, and after moving to Portland, he presented a paper there in 1906 relating the questions that he had and describing the symptoms (not for the squeamish):

“Since the mode of infection of Cerebro Spinal meningitis is still doubtful it is interesting to trace the disease as it appeared in the epidemic in the winter of 1897-1898 at Skagway, Alaska. The first case ws a man who had been in town for some time; his case proved fatal in a short time.
The sanitary conditions surrounding his home were not bad; with the assistance of cold weather no decomposition could take place. The water was supplied from the mountain side, the Skagway river and a few wells. No cases were reported from up the river, prior to the Skagway cases. I think we can eliminate water as a factor in the causation of Meningitis.
One case in particular that was admitted to the hospital, stated that he was careful even to wash in water that had been boiled. If we can accept the truth of his statement, that would proved almost conclusively that the disease was not transmitted through the intestinal tract, but more than likely through the nose and respiratory tract.
Following the report of the first case other cases were reported from various portions of the town. About this time we began to hear of cases at Dyea. First the cases came from near the town and other cases came from further distances. The disease then crossed the mountain range and appeared all along the trail to Lake Bennett, a distance of 40 miles from Skagway. Below this point I did not hear of any cases. The last case that I saw at Bennett was in the month of April. When the warm weather set in at Bennett the sanitary conditions were bad, the disease disappeared and did not reappear until the following winter at Skagway.
That year, I am told they had but three cases. It would seem that cold weather or exposure is an exciting factor, although cases of meningitis do appear in the summer. If the disease is contagious it must be very mildly so, as I know of no one attending on the cases taken down with the disease, and usually but one case appeared in a household.
In reviewing the morbid anatomy, I have selected a subject in which the pathological conditions are present in most autopsies. First I will briefly refer to the symptoms of this subject.
His previous history was good so far as aI could find out, for when I first saw him he was delirious. He was a powerful man, about 35 years of age weighing about 190 pounds. I saw him about the fourth day after he was taken ill. He had all the symptoms of meningitis. The excruciating pain in head and neck, stiffness of the muscles, deafness, strabismus, inequality of the pupils, hemorrhagic spots, herpes liabialis and delirium; his temperature was irregular as well as his pulse; he passed into coma and died seven days from the time when I first saw him. On cutting through the dura mater considerable serum escaped. The pia and arachnoid were so adherent to the brain in places that it could not be separated without tearing the brain substance.
The blood vessels of the brain stood out prominently, greatly engorged on the convexity of the brain; considerable sero-fibrinous deposit was present, especially in the depressions or fissures. By exposing the base of the brain, the optic commissure and its immediate neighborhood was covered with a pussy exudates, the exudates was more abundant at the auditory nerve just as it entered the internal auditory meatus. The medulla and pons were covered with pus.
The interior of the brain seemed quite normal with the exception of the choroids plesus, which was greatly engorged, the ventricles contain an extra amount of serum. The spinal cord showed the same pathological conditions as the brain, the pussy exudates seemed to be greater in amount on the posterior than the anterior surfaces of the cord. …
Of all the drugs recommended in this disease, opium and bromides seem to be the only ones of any benefit. The sooner the opium is commenced the results seem better, before marked exudation takes place; thereafter, bromides seem to act the best.”

Dr. Emil Pohl himself died only a few years later in Alaska from either spinal meningitis or an encephalitis epidemic. So much for his theory of “no one attending the cases coming down with the disease”. He was the real hero of Skagway during that winter-with his wife, also a doctor, Esther Clayson Pohl Lovejoy-but that’s another story.

Peter Edward Kern


On this day February 8, 1937, Peter Kern died in Tarrant County, Texas at the age of 76, being hit by a train while taking his morning walk.
Kern originally came to Skagway from El Paso Texas in 1897 and worked as a jeweler, designing the original logo for the Arctic Brotherhood – the gold pan with nuggets.
He was one of the original members of the Arctic Brotherhood. He was also involved with the Home Cable Company one of the original Tramway companies – there were several.
Born in New Ridgel, Ohio, he married Antoinette Sommer here in Skagway on May 21, 1902. In May of 1908 he built the famous Kern Castle on the hillside overlooking Skagway. Sadly it burned a few years later in 1912.
Peter and his wife and daughter left Skagway in 1910 and moved back to El Paso where he constructed Kern Place a unique and historic neighborhood located about one mile north of the downtown area.

Construction began on Nov. 21, 1914. Earliest construction began on Cincinnati Street, and by 1917 about 40 homes had been built. Though urban today, when Kern Place was built, it was on the edge of the desert and was well removed from the populated areas of El Paso.

The entrance to Kern Place was a lively arch built in 1916 and was designed by Pete Kern.

from: www.kernplace.org/forum and other sources

Floyd William Sheelor


Happy Birthday to Mr. Sheelor born on this day in 1878 in Nebraska. He came to Skagway about 1915 and produced the most amazing panoramic photos of town that can purchased from the Library of Congress. He registered for the draft for World War One and was here for the 1920 census. There was a Mrs. Sheelor who left the Yukon with him in 1916.

Before he came here he worked in California producing the largest photo ever made in 1913:
“From June 24 1913 Tonopah Bonanza:

LARGEST PHOTOGRAPH IN WORLD IS TAKEN IN TONOPAH BY CAMERA MANUFACTURED IN THIS CAMP

After laboring for 6 months and incurring an expense of $3000 F. W. Sheelor of Tonopah has constructed the largest panorama camera in the world, and the first picture, which also has the distinction of being the largest ever taken is now on exhibition. The picture is 12 feet 3 inches in length and 25 inches in width and shows a panoramic view of Tonopah district with over 2 miles of territory being clearly defined.

Sheelor is originally from Sisson Calif., and about six months ago started work upon the construction of what he declares to be the largest camera in the world. For a number of years he offered manufacturing firms a fancy price to make such a picture taking machine but the offer was refused. Every piece of the camera was made in Tonopah, except the lens, which was imported from Germany. The progress was necessarily slow, and it was not until a short time ago that the work was completed.

Last Thursday Sheelor carried the camera to the top of mount Brougher. The outfit was conveyed to the mountain top in sections and late in the afternon it was set up and the picture was taken. The sweep of the machine includes views starting below the Extension mine and ending with the old high school building. Practically every mining company in the district is included in the view while every building in the city stands out in prominence. The picture is clear in detail and shows people walking about the streets in every part of town. Two pedestrians are to be observed walking along the railroad track near the Montana mine practically a mile from the point where the view was taken, showint the clear manner in which objects were brought out.

One of the views has been purchased by H H Bacon and is now attracting attention at his place of business. It was inspected by a large number of people yesterday and declared to be a work of art.

Sheelor will leave shortly for Montana where he is under contract to take photographs for several of the leading railroads crossing that state and will probably use his new camera during the trip. The films used in the machine are of special manufacture and are imported from France.

The machine can take a picture 36 feet in length, which means a complete circle. The width will be the same in all pictures, or 25 inches. The mechanism is so adjusted that any fraction of the 36 feet of film can be exposed.”

William Henry Joy


[Fellow sleuths-happy to report an update to this blog: After some sleuthing and emails from descendants I have made some corrections here, as Mr. Joy was neither a Marshall nor a detective in New York as I had previously reported.]

Happy Birthday to William Joy, born on February 3, 1861 in Montague New York.

In 1899, during the Klondike gold rush, William and his wife Ida May Joy traveled to Skagway with their 4 children. On November 11, 1904 he and his 14 year old son Louis went out goat hunting near Denver Glacier. While trying to traverse a snowy scree covered slope, William handed his 45-90 Winchester rifle to his son Louis. The rifle went off and hit William in the cheek coming out near his ear. He then fell down the slope and hit his head. Although Louis stayed with him for 45 minutes, he eventually ran down the steep slope to the river (1200 feet) to find help. He found a couple of woodcutters who went back up to help, but when they got to the point where Mr. Joy was, they found he had apparently become conscious and then fell an additional 800 feet down the slope. He was not alive when they reached him. The next day, Dr. Brawand, H.D. Clark, Lee Gault, Robert McKay, Fred Buchanan and F.F. Clinton went to retrieve his body and brought it back on a railcar (the track runs near the area). The next day the members of the Chamber of Commerce wrote a resolution to honor Mr. Joy for his work with the Chamber and as an upstanding citizen of Skagway. They also acknowledged the heroic efforts that his son Louis went through to get help. The funeral service on Sunday November 6 was in the Methodist church and done by Rev. Dr. John Parsons. William Joy is buried in the Gold Rush Cemetery.

After the accident, Ida May and the children returned to New York state. In 1914, Mrs. Joy and her family came back to Alaska to settle in Fairbanks. She remarried Henry Berry in 1917 there and she died in 1920 in Fairbanks. Louis was on the Fairbanks School Board for many years. He ran the electric distribution part of the NC Company power plant/Fairbanks Municipal Utility System. In fact Joy Elementary School in Fairbanks is named for him. Lou was a representative in the Alaska Territorial Legislature (a photo of him is available at the State Museum website). He and his wife retired to Arkansas where he died in 1971.

Skagway news articles of November 2,3,4, 1904; information from descendants.

Thomas Clarke Noyes


Sadly, on this day Mr. Noyes passed away in 1916 at the age of 44 in British Columbia of pneumonia.
Thomas had fallen in love with his wife, Frances Patchen after seeing her on stage back east and they were married in 1897 in Minnesota. Mr. Noyes and his bride Frances came here in 1897. Later, after settling in Candle, Alaska, Tom established the T.C. Noyes Banking Co. and became associated with the mining industry. They went to Nome in 1900 where he became the U.S. Commissioner. Later, in 1905 he was appointed by Mr. Godfrey Chealander to be one of the directors of the famous Alaska Yukon Exposition Fair in Seattle.

from the Muncaster paper collection, Alaska archives