Arborian karma

Mr. Edwin Ridd was born in 1860 in Dover England and ran the Hastings Sawmill in Atlin in 1906. As a lumberman he regularly must have cut down trees and cut them up for lumber and firewood. And so, it is perhaps karmic that on this day, December 18, 1906 he was hit by a falling limb from a tree and killed. He is buried in the Atlin cemetery.
In honor of Ridd and his run in with the avenging tree, we decided not to go out and murder a young tree and drag it into the house this year. Or maybe it is just in respect of the ancient Celtic Druid beliefs that everything in the universe is alive. Whatever, we will still observe the ancient Druid rituals of hanging the mistletoe over the doorway and call it good.

Atlin 2011 newspaper.

Cartographer from Purgatory

William Yanert was born in 1864 in Prussia, or Poland. He was a cartographer with the 14th Infantry and arrived in Skagway on this day, December 16, 1897 to map things. He left the army and made his way to a remote spot in Alaska in 1901 where he built a cabin and called it Purgatory. When asked why he named it so, he said “It was a hell of a place to live.” It is 45 miles downstream from Beaver, Alaska on the Yukon River. In 1910 his brother, seen with him above, joined him and he lived there for thirty-seven years. During that time he hunted, fished, wrote poetry and created art carvings which he sold to tourists who happened by on steamships up the river. They were entertained by his harmless pranks, his wit and gentle spirit. How many times have you heard people say they just want to go live in a cabin in the woods? Seems he did and enjoyed his life there. He died in 1941 in Portland but was buried in Beaver, Alaska.

online obits; Lung-Trail to north Star gold p 323; “Sergeant William Yanert, Cartographer from Hell,” by Thom Eley, Professor at Univ of Alaska, Anchorage.

Michael James Heney

So a descendent of Mr. Heney has said that the previous photo of Heney in which he is smoking a cigar is not actually M.J.
Coming from a descendent, I have to concur and so have removed the offending photo and am now replacing it with one of him at a luncheon given to him by his workers, seen above. Heney is on the far right with a natty little beard. Notice how the workers on the left look just a little uncomfortable though.

The Glacier Queen

While on the subject of little warships, there is the case of the little Canadian HMCS (Corvette Castle Class) ship built in 1944 in England at Smith’s Dock Co. Ltd. She was the next to last ship of its class finished before the end of the war when the others were cancelled. Of the Castle class ships, three were sunk in enemy action but they sunk seven u-boats. They were underpowered and tended to turn into the wind despite everything the helmsman tried.
First named the Walmer Castle, she was renamed the Leaside before being sold to the Union Steamship Company of Vancouver where she was renamed the SS Coquitlam around 1955. Then sold to the Alaska Cruise Lines in 1958 where she was renamed the Glacier Queen. Here you see her at Skagway as a nice little cruise ship in the 1960’s.
In 1970 she was bought by Stanley M.J. and hulked as a floating hotel near Vancouver B.C.
On the 8th of November 1978 she sank at Anchorage off Seldovia Bay, but was later raised and scuttled by the U.S. Coast Guard about 100 miles west of Cape Elias.


M.V. Wheeling

I happened to see a photo of the Wheeling online and wondered what it was, as it looked a bit different than the other ships.
Turns out it was a little U.S. warship that was sent around the Pacific to intimidate locals.
In October 1897 it arrived in Hawaii and gave the Hawaiians quite a shock, until they learned that the President had sent it with important communications for Admiral Miller, in command of the naval forces at Honolulu and Mr. Sewall the U.S. Minister.
Six months late, in March of 1898, Governor Brady was on his annual inspection of the Alaska ports aboard the Wheeling.
After leaving Dyea they sailed to Hoonah and found the local community all inflamed about a recent homicide and subsequent intentions to make the mother of the 6 year old child who had supposedly committed the murder pay up in blankets. Governor Brady told the local tribe that they could not do that anymore. At Yakutat he found another case of a witch hunt that nearly killed three people. To reinforce his word, he had Captain Sebree practice the guns of the Wheeling as an object lesson.
Governor Brady said that the trip had “done much good for the Natives as they dreaded a gun boat more than anything else.”
Shortly thereafter on July 25, 1898 it was reported that Canadian sealers were raiding the rookeries of the islands of St. Paul and St. George. Stationed at Unalaska, the gunboat Wheeler certainly had her hands full patroling the entire Bering Sea.
On January 26, 1911 there was a report that the Wheeling had suffered an explosion while enroute from New York to Cuba. She must have survived that because in 1915 she was at the ready in Haiti when President Wilson was having some problems with Mexico. That article mentions that the entire Atlantic fleet of 21 warships was at the ready.
Seems the little Wheeling got around!

The Morning Herald March 23, 1898; Evening Post, January 26, 1911; Clinton Mirror, March 13, 1915; The Philadelphia Record, Sept 25, 1897.

First ship to Skagway?

MJ Kirchoff, noted Alaska history author and “Alaska Historian of the year” for 2008 and 1993 has written this excellent review on the subject of the first ship to land in Skagway during the Gold Rush:
“I recently found an August 2, 1897, letter written from Camp Skagway for sale on the internet, and from that posting I made the following discovery. I assumed the letter must have been written by one of the early arrivals from the steamer Queen, as many websites and print sources cite the Queen as being the first vessel to land at Skagway Bay during the Klondike Gold Rush, on July 29th, 1897. As it turns out, the Queen didn’t land on the 29th, nor was she the first. The Queen landed at Skagway Bay on July 26th, and she was preceded in by the steamship Al-Ki.

One of the Queen’s passengers, a Rev. Alfred Kummer, said in an interview on his return to Puget Sound that the Queen landed 200 passengers at Skagway, “who, with the small party left by the Al-Ki, comprised the gold seekers at the place.” (San Francisco Call, Aug 4, 1897). The Al-Ki arriving first is also mentioned by a Queen passenger named Lancelot Pelly, who wrote from Dyea on July 29: “Her [the Al-Ki’s] passengers were not all off the rocks when we arrived.” (San Francisco Call, August 12, 1897)

When I mentioned the Al-Ki coming in first to historian Karl Gurcke of the Klondike National Historical Park, he asked a good question. How did I know that the Al-Ki landed her passengers at Skagway, rather than at Dyea? Well, I don’t, at least not yet, but there is an interesting reference in the July 24, 1897, issue of the Juneau Searchlight that helps shed light on that: “The steamer Al-Ki, Capt. James Patterson, arrived here from Puget Sound ports yesterday noon with a full cargo of merchandise and live stock and the following passengers: . . . For Dyea-H.R. Raymond, Miss Annie Hughes, and twenty-eight second-class. For Skagua Bay-Dr. J. Brown, Fred Banner, C.J. Rowine, Miss K.M. Smith, D.W. Ward, P. Schoock, A.K. Taber, E.M. Ward, T.J. Harris, Robt. Evans, T.B. Carey and seven second-class.” It seems probable that if the Al-Ki had passengers booked for Skagway, she would have landed them at Skagway, particularly when Skagway was an easier port to get into than Dyea.

There’s one more twist to this story.

Even though the Al-Ki beat the Queen into Skagway, she still wasn’t the first steamship to land stampeders there. That honor would probably have to go to one of the small steamers operating from Juneau. When William Moore announced on July 14, 1897, that the trail over White Pass was going to open, Juneauites immediately took notice. On July 17, 1897, the Juneau Searchlight reported: “Several men are busy at work this afternoon loading a scow with lumber and feed for Skaguay. The horses which will arrive on the Topeka will be put on this scow and the steamer Rustler will take it in tow as soon after the arrival of the Topeka, as the passengers can get ready to leave.” Soon thereafter, on July 19, the Rustler did go to Skagway, and by July 24 the Juneau Searchlight reported that there was quite a little crowd at Skagway. George Rice and his wife had arrived with 9 head of horses to be used in a pack train, and there were at least 22 other stampeders on the beach, including a Mrs. Ed Lord, who was proclaimed to be “the first woman ever over the White Pass.”

To summarize then, on July 26, when the Queen arrived at Skagway Bay, Skagway and the White Pass trail was not the wilderness sometimes portrayed. Rice’s horses were already packing, several dozen stampeders from Juneau and Puget Sound were already on the beach (delivered by the Rustler and the Al-Ki), and Moore had close to 20 men employed building his sawmill, planking his wharf, and blasting rocks out along the trail. Skagway was a busy place!

Respectfully submitted, MJ Kirchhoff”

We’re hoping that any other history sleuths out there have some more clues to offer!
Seen above is a scan of the Steamer AL-KI. probably at Skagway.

Christmas Mail

It has always been and still is a challenge to get mail to Skagway. Today we rely on small planes to fly our mail in from Juneau and if they can’t fly for three days, they put it on the ferry. Numerous times I have had retailers tell me they either don’t deliver to Skagway or they send it the dreaded FedEx way: which is, they send it to Anchorage and then hand it over to the post office there which puts it on the barge as parcel post. Recently I had a computer delivered this way that arrived with a big hole punched in the side of the box. Fortunately it hit only packaging material. There is no direct mail delivery on the road to Whitehorse, so if you send a letter there, it goes to Seattle, maybe to Ottawa and then back to Vancouver and then to Whitehorse. And takes 3 weeks. So here is what they did in 1898:

“The amount of mail stacked up on the Skagway dock that Christmas of 1898 was too much for one man to carry, however. The North-West Mounted Police took over the job of delivering the backlog of mail to the Klondikers. They formed relay teams of men and dogs to carry the mail in 30-mile stretches. Traveling day and night, the Mountie teams could complete the one-way 600-mile trip in an average of seven days. The use of dog teams on the Dawson-Skagway route ended in 1901 when the White Pass and Yukon Railway was completed. But dog teams were responsible for mail delivery in most parts of the Alaska Interior for another 30 years.”

Alaska History

Albert Graham Mosier

Mosier was born in 1866 in Des Moines Iowa. He attended Iowa State School of Engineering at age 16 and graduated in 1885 at age 19. He worked for railroads in Iowa until he moved to Seattle in 1888. The Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern hired him to work on the route near Snohomish. He went to Alaska in 1896 to report on a disputed waterway, but got involved with the gold rush and stayed, surveying from White Pass to Skagway, working for Captain Gaillard (who we looked at a couple of days ago).
The route that the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad takes today is a result of his survey in 1897.
In 1898, Mosier went to Dawson by way of St. Michael and the Yukon and spent ten years in the Klondike and adjacent territories, making his mark as one of the most successful drift miners in the region.
He returned to Washington in early 1924 just before his wife died, and he never returned to Alaska. Albert was a U. S. Deputy Mineral Surveyor and a U. S. Deputy Surveyor in Alaska in 1914. He died on this day, December 8, 1955 in the town that he platted: Sedro Wooley, Washington.

Seen above in his 80’s still using his surveying equipment.

Skagit River Journal website; glosurveyorsnotes.pdf; webpage on him as Washington pioneer.

Sylvestor Scovel

Of the many schemes to get rich, Sylvester Scovel’s was unique.
Scovel was a reporter for the New York World, but he also brought two tons of blasting powder to Skagway in Sept 1897 for White Pass Trail construction. He arrived in Skagway with his wife, Frances Cabanne and went over the Chilkoot Pass with their provisions. When he and Frances reached Lake Bennett, they had intended to float up to Dawson, but when he heard that only three mail deliveries would make it to Dawson that winter, Scovel came up with an idea. Why not organize a regular dog team mail delivery service from Skagway to Dawson and thus deliver the “New York World” to miners who would happily pay for news? He told Frances that they would certainly get rich.
Skeptics pointed out that the 600 miles of snow covered trails, frozen lakes and sub-zero conditions would take 25-30 days.
Still, Scovel told his wife that it would be like an extended honeymoon with nothing to do but “hunt, fish, prospect for gold and write correspondence…”
He left Frances in a tent at Lake Bennett while he hiked back to Skagway and took a boat down to Seattle to wire his employers for support in this venture. The World took three days to respond and then turned him down flatly and ordered him back to New York immediately. He wrote to Frances to return to Skagway and take the first boat down to Seattle as he was returning to New York. He also wrote to William Saportas, an acquaintance and fellow reporter in Skagway (also friend of Soapy) to please go find the “madame” in Lake Bennett and take her down south. Meanwhile poor Frances had not heard from her husband yet and so related in a letter to her mother that Bennett was “awful, awful without him and in this hole – it is death.”
Sylvester’s relatives in Chicago were amazed and told him he should not have left Frances. His Aunt Belle even boxed his ears! To make matters worse, the World was not happy and accused him of “gross extravagance” having wasted too much money. Oddly, the only reason he was not fired was because Hearst was courting him to come work for the New York Journal. Scovel went on to be the World’s “man in Havana”, but died there in 1905 following an operation to his liver.
In the end the only one who came out ahead was William Saportas. He married the lovely widow Frances in 1917 and they presumably lived happily ever after.

Seen above are Scovel and his wife Frances in Skagway promoting his newspaper!

The Year that defined American Journalism: 1897 and the clash of paradigms by W. Joseph Campbell; Edmond Hazard Wells, Magnificence and Misery, page 32.

NY Times Sept 6, 1897

Frank Hawley Darling

On December 5, 1898 there was a snow avalanche at Crater Lake that buried 5 people, among whom were Mrs. Lizzie M. Clay Darling and her husbands two sons who were teenagers. She and Frank Hawley Darling were married on May 23, 1891 when she was 21 years old. Possibly Frank had been married before but I could only find the marriage record for Lizzie.
Frank was born in 1855 in New York and it is possible that he was an artist in California early in his career.
He waited for Lizzie and his sons to arrive at Lake Lindeman, but they never made it. After losing his family he returned to Seattle and worked as a clerk until his death on this day, December 6, 1925 – 27 years and a day after the tragedy.

P.S. Although the newspapers reported that he had two sons that died, the NWMP report stated there were 4 men: Warren, Rouhl, Johnston (Bert Jones), and Harry Shaw as well as Mrs. Darling. She was too young to have two teenage sons even from a previous marriage. If Frank had two other sons, then their names would have been Darling also. I checked the censuses in Washington and did not find that he had been previously married or that he had sons. Furthermore, if he took his wife down to Washington to bury her there, why not take these sons too? So in the end I think the newspapers made up the boys to make a more dramatic story. I have not yet found any information on Warren or Rouhl.

Seen above is the cemetery at Lake Lindeman. Perhaps the boys were buried here, but Lizzie was buried in Edmonds, Washington at the Edmonds Memorial Cemetery.
RCMP report online.