Samuel Hall Young

One of the most famous of preachers, Samuel Hall Young was born in 1847 in Butler Pennsylvania and became a Presbyterian Missionary. He was recruited in Pennsylvania by Sheldon Jackson. Hall was a sickly child and saw going to Alaska as an adventure. It would either make him famous or kill him. He came to Alaska July 10, 1878 and was never afflicted with the headaches and pains which he described as “living at a poor dying rate” ever again.

He was the author of Alaska Days with John Muir (Hall was the owner of the little dog Stikeen who hiked with Muir). He was appointed superintendent of Presbyterian missions in Alaska.

He was hit by a streetcar in Clarksburg, West Virginia on this day September 2, 1927.

Read the entire story here:

Seen above is a photo of him taken in 1914.

Mission Klondike, Sinclair; Mills; Sheldon Jackson book; Fleming Revell Co NY in 1915; 1927 “Hall Young of AK: the Mushing Parson” Autobiography; 1916 The Klondike Clan a tale of the Great Stampede.

Robert McDonald

Robert McDonald was born in 1829 in Point Douglas, Manitoba.

In 1861 he became an Anglican missionary to Yukon. In 1862, McDonald established a mission at Fort Yukon. He began in earnest to learn the native language. His work was cut short when devastating epidemics of influenza and scarlet fever swept across the North. The diseases wiped out large populations of natives and McDonald himself became ill. Fearing he would not survive his illness, the Church Missionary Society (CMS) sent William Carpenter Bompas to replace McDonald. However, before Bompas arrived, McDonald had regained his health. He owed his recovery to a tonic the natives gave him made from a plant root called “Toayashi”. The English translation of this word meaning “it helped cure his uncle”. He went on to translate the entire Bible, prayer Book and 300 hymns to Tukudh and two other Indian dialects. He later became the Archdeacon of the Yukon.

Although not credited, McDonald is believed to be the first man to discover gold in the Yukon. In 1863, while visiting natives on Birch Creek, he reported seeing gold and scooped a spoonful which he sent to the British Museum for analysis. McDonald was interested to learn that the substance was indeed gold, but he did not wish to pursue the life of a miner. He was more concerned that news of a gold discovery would trigger an influx of gold miners and feared the devastating effects the miners would have on the native way of life.

McDonald died on this day, August 29, 1913 in Winnipeg and is buried in St. Johns Cathedral cemetery. He is pictured above, late in life.

Bishops Bompas and Stringer

This photo was taken in 1904 because the baby was born in December 1903. Bishop Bompas was 70 years old and died two years later in Carcross. Bishop Isaac O. Stringer took his place. Minnie Wilson on the far left looks a little naughty especially with Charlotte Selina giving her a firm sidewise look! The gal on his left is Gertrude Alice Bompas, his neice.

from “the Rush for Souls – Missionaries, Mayhem and Memories on the 100th Anniversary of St. Paul’s Pro-Cathedral, Dawson city, and St. Barnabas Church, Moosehide” 2002 by Ken Spotswood. I purchased this book in the Log Cabin Museum in Whitehorse on Monday. I will have other little stories from that in coming blogs.

John Hicks

On November 17, 1898 the Steamship Utopia caught fire while en route from Seattle to Skagway. During the excitement, John Hicks from Tacoma jumped overboard and everyone thought he had drowned. But Hicks managed to hold onto a capsized lifeboat and survive in the freezing water for 24 hours until the boat floated to Kake Island. He then wandered around for 8 days looking for some habitation until he returned to the beach to lay down and die. But no, he did not die there, as several local natives found him and took him to the local missionary, the Rev. Dr. Moon. Moon put him in a canoe to take him to Wrangell where he could receive proper care. But before they reached Wrangell poor Mr. Hicks died and Moon buried him on the beach.

Seen above, the Steamship Utopia was built in Seattle in 1893 and was captained by the famous Capt. “Dynamite Johnny” O’Brien. It was owned by the Alaskan Steamship Company until 1903 when it was acquired by the Puget Sound Navigation Company.

NY Times December 13, 1898; A Moment in the Sun by McSweeney online; Wikipedia

Skagway Churches in 1898

Despite the stories of murder, prostitution and robbery, there were also quite a few religious centers in Skagway in the 1890’s. Here is a list:

Fathers Tosi, Robaut, Seghers, Gougis, Rene of the Catholic Church

Rev. C.J. Larsen of the Norwegian Danish Methodist Church

Rev.’s Young, Dickey, Grant, Thwing, Pringle, Sinclair, Turkington, Cock of the Presbyterian Church

Bishop Bompas and Rev.’s Ridley and Rev. Richard John Bowen of the Anglican Church

Rev.’s Lyon, Carter, Howard, Cameron, Stuck, and Wooden of the Episcopalian Church

Ministers Dowell, McGill, Ellery, Kenny, Aitken, Ross and Booth of the Salvation Army

Rev.’s Jorden, Latourette, and Clevinger of the Baptist Church

Rev.’s Ulery, Kline, Tooley, Yorba, Barnett of Peniel Mission

Rev.’s Leach and Yokum of the American Episcopal

Missionaries Mr & Mrs White in Dyea in 1888

Independent Preachers Green, Williams, Mortimer, Gardiner, Sehlbrede, Leaman, Wright, Kiernoff, Warrens, Weavers, Rega, and Tourney.

I have found no reference to synagogues or Buddhist centers, but who knows?

Hope I haven’t missed any! I have written blogs on several people, but some disappear after the gold rush. I am reminded of Ray McKinnon’s wonderful portrayal of the real Rev. Henry Smith in the HBO series Deadwood, seen above.

many sources

The Saint of Dawson

William Henry Judge was born into a religious family in Baltimore, Maryland, April 28, 1850. In addition to William, four of his siblings also entered Holy orders.

As a youth, he was frail and sickly, but he survived, and at age 25, he embarked on years of study and teaching, in the Jesuit order. At the age of 40, in 1890, he volunteered for service in Alaska.

After a lengthy journey which lasted several months, he arrived at Holy Cross Mission, the principal Jesuit centre on the Yukon River, where he joined the Father Superior, two brothers, and three Sisters of St. Ann, who taught fifty resident school children.

Judge had acquired many useful skills before he became a priest: carpenter, cabinet-maker, blacksmith and baker. Later, at Nulato he spent his time teaching native children in their own language, constructing a church, and travelling widely to visit both whites and natives in a large region. Here he had established himself happily and was content with his assignment. From there he was sent to the small mining town of Forty Mile, hundreds of miles up the Yukon River from Nulato.

His fortitude was tested at Forty Mile, where he alone served the spiritual needs of the Catholic community. Father Judge noted: “…everybody is looking for gold, some finding it and some getting nothing, a few becoming rich, but the greater number only making a living, and all working very, very hard. You would be astonished to see the amount of hard work that men do here in the hope of finding gold… Oh if men would only work for the kingdom of heaven with a little of that wonderful energy, how many saints we would have.”

In March 1897, Father Judge went to Dawson and secured 3 acres of land near the north end of town. Once he was settled there, he set about building a church, a residence, and a hospital. The hospital was completed August 20th, 1897.

With harsh climate, poor nutrition and deplorable sanitation conditions in the new town, the hospital was in immediate demand. He was soon tending to 20 patients a day, which rose to 50 during the winter, then, with the influx of humanity and typhoid epidemic in the fall of 1898, 135 patients daily. This dramatic increase made necessary the construction of an addition to the hospital.
For two years, he worked without thought or concern for himself, devoted solely to the care of others. Worn out and exhausted by his own labors, in early January of 1899, he fell ill and for days battled pneumonia, finally succumbing at the age of 52, on January 16 1899.

When Father Judge died, the sadness was shared by the entire community, regardless of religious persuasion. His contributions to the community were widely recognized, as was his spiritual work. He was indeed a hero of the Klondike and is known as the “Saint of Dawson.”

At the north end of Dawson today you will find a quiet clearing overlooking the Yukon River near where his great works were performed. It is here that his grave is found, and nearby, a plaque, mounted on a huge block of stone by the people of Canada, which recognizes his contribution to the physical and spiritual well-being of the miners.

Michael Gates in an article for the City of Dawson history webpage; Pierre Berton; Charles Judge: An American Missionary – A record of the work of the Rev. William A. Judge, S.J. Catholic foreign Missionary Society, Ossining, NY; Mills.


So the other day on my daily trek between AB and city hall I passed a walking tour led by one of the RO girls. She was saying that Mabel could be called the biggest extortionist since she was getting something from someone relating to the Peniel Mission. I am intrigued! The only Mable that I have in my database is Mabel Ulery who was the Peniel Mission founder in 1898. She later became Mabel Holmes Cox and wrote a book in 1968 called the Lady Pioneer, which I have ordered and can’t wait to read! The “extortionist” is seen above….
If anyone knows the details of this intriguing story, please let me know!

The Princeton wreck

Today is Sheldon Jackson’s birthday and I was researching any connection he may have had with Skagway and found that in 1925 his mission purchased a motor vessel. This little 63-foot Diesel powered boat was used to transport orphans and students around Southeast Alaska. It was “a floating hospital, a children’s bus, and a gospel boat, which will cruise the perilous seas of the Alaskan coast. The little vessel is propelled by a gasoline engine and contains sleeping accommodations for nine persons besides a sick bay. It has been constructed of especially stout material to weather the rough waters of southeastern Alaska. The Princeton will regularly visit Alaskan Coast churches and villages, and in the summer season, the fishing canneries, where a large part of the native population are employed.”

The Princeton apparently was not quite stout enough for Alaskan storms because on a stormy day in October, 1939, it ran aground in Lynn Canal. The captain, John Falconer stayed onboard but the other passengers: two men and three Native orphan girls went ashore on the rocks. Fortunately, they were all rescued, but the ship was reported lost.

Ellensburg Daily record of October 13,; wikipedia

Rev. Wilmot Gladstone Whitfield

In the 1902 Report of the Commission of Education Rev. Whitfield was Superintendent of the “fine Methodist Episcopal Church and parsonage in Skagway”. They said it was worth about $4500, “In spite of the business depression in Skagway the church has been able to offset removals of valuable accessions to its membership, and is harmonious and hopeful for the future.”
Rev. M.A. Sellon was another preacher who worked with him and in Klukwan to “gather the Chilkat Indians into the Church.”
Wilmot Whitfield was born on this day, March 21, 1872 in either Luana, Clayton, Iowa or the Dakotas where his father, also named Wilmot Whitfield was the presiding Methodist Episcopal pastor for the Dakota territory.
After working in Skagway, Rev. Whitfield moved to Washington where he married and then became Superintendent of Schools in Yakima Valley, Washington in 1918. He died in 1931 in Tacoma.
Above is the Presbyterian Church in Skagway which I believe is the same church they are referring to here.

History of Yakima Valley online; famsearch; WA state records

Justina M. Dickenson

“Jessie” Dickenson or Dickinson was born on this day, February 17, 1888 in Sacramento, California or possibly Juneau. In the 1900 census in Skagway she was living in the Peniel Mission as an orphan, but her birth date and place were not given. It is assumed she came up in 1899 from Sacramento with Victorine Tooley, a missionary.
She was baptized on June 4, 1901 at St. Saviours Church, actually then just a tent, in Carcross, by Bishop Bompas.
A family site on Genforum says that her mother and father were William and Helen who died in Sacramento before 1900 and that she was baptised at St. Saviours Church in Skagway, but I believe the only St. Saviours (Anglican Church) was in Carcross. (There was a St. Saviours Episcopal Church in Skagway a few years ago, but has no members now, it was only open for a couple of years and met either at the school or at someone’s house.)
It is also possible she was the daughter of George Dickinson, a partner of John Healey’s in Dyea since 1886. George died in November of 1888 in San Francisco.
She died on November 9, 1918 in Portland, Oregon.