Leonard Scofield Sugden

Doctor Leonard Sugden was born in June of 1873 in Scotland. He first came north on a whaling vessel and practiced in Juneau. In 1897, he headed for the Klondike but had to winter at Marsh Lake, where he built a cabin and worked as a doctor for the NWMP. When the real gold rush began in 1898, he helped pilot boats through Miles Canyon and the White Horse Rapids. Dr. Sugden stayed in the Yukon. He was the inspiration for Robert Service’s poem, the Cremation of Sam McGee when Service heard of the story of Dr. Sugden hauling a corpse to Tagish and contacting the family in Tennessee to get permission to cremate the remains.
Sam Steele mentioned in his memoirs that Dr. Sugden once hauled a woman 100 miles on a sled to get her to medical help and safety.
Dr. Sugden married in 1906 and moved to the Kluane area where he mined, hunted big game and bought a Prizma movie camera. With it he produced, in 1915, a film called The Lure of Alaska which played to rave reviews across America and Europe.

The film includes shots from the Seattle harbor and along the coast of Alaska and features scenes of Juneau, Sitka, Skagway, a midnight baseball game in Dawson City, a caribou herd swimming in the river, and icebergs calving from glaciers. The movie also includes scenes of Sugden piloting a raft through the Whitehorse Rapids.

The New York Times in 1917 wrote:
“Seldom have nature pictures been such a combination of thrills and wild beauty. They are a notable accomplishment of the camera and Dr. Sugden’s nerve.”

Unfortunately, Dr. Sugden’s life of adventure ended suddenly in 1923 when he fell off a barge into the Stewart River near Mayo and drowned. He was 50 years old.

A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin


Ok, two more good citizens duped into investing hundreds of dollars in the “Evanston Klondike Gold Mining Company”. The so called promoter convinced both George B. Winter Jr., a successful grocer and Dr. Josiah Jones, a physician and surgeon, both of Evanston Illinois to give him the money up front to purchase supplies and set up camp for them. He was also supposed to help them stake gold claims. When they arrived in Alaska, the promoter and their money was no where to be found. Shocking!
Seen above is their camp at Sheep Camp.

BL Singley photo of 1898 Univ of Fairbanks; Evanston directory 1897

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.

The Idaho

The sidewheeler Idaho was built in 1860 by John J. Holland when he was only 17 years old. Holland went on to build many more steamships.
It is said that the state of Idaho was actually named after this ship!
Anyway, it ran on the Columbia River taking passengers and cargo through the tricky rapids for many years. Captain John McNulty took her up and down the river for many years and made lots of money for the Oregon Steam Navigation Company.
In 1881 she was completely rebuilt with a new hull and paddle wheels at a cost of $20,000. In 1882 she ran the mouth of the Columbia several times before getting through, which was quite a feat at that time. She then made the fastest time up to the Puget Sound ever recorded. She worked various routes in the Sound until 1894 when she was sold to the junk firm of Cohn & Cohn. They removed the machinery and sold her to Dr. Alexander DeSoto. He refitted her as a charitable hospital for the returning gold rushers who were maimed and sick.
After 38 years of work it was fitting that the little Idaho served the poor as a hospital for 11 years. After that she gradually fell apart and became part of the harbor of the growing city of Seattle. There is a plaque there that remembers Dr. DeSoto and the hospital.


William Henry Chase

William Chase was a “self-taught” doctor who was here in Skagway during the meningitis epidemic. I’m sure the doctors here could use all the help they could get. “Dr.” Chase then went to Cordova where he was elected 14 terms to Mayor.
He was a prodigious author: “the Sourdough Pot”, Burton Pub. Kansas City 1923; “Reminiscences of Captain Billie Moore” in 1947 and “Pioneers of Alaska” in 1951. He was a delegate in 1932 to the Republican caucus. He died sometime after that.
The image above is probably not his, but who knows?

Pennington page 330.

Howard Atwood Kelly

While perusing Jeff Smith’s book today I found a reference to a doctor that I had not previously known of in Skagway. He was writing in his journal on March 25, 1898 about the shell games on the Skaguay and Dyea trails: “The most prominent feature of the landscape is the activity of the shell-game men and thier cappers. How any one can be deceived by these crooks is a mystery, but many are. They look evil, and are evil. Great numbers lose heavily and a good many have had to give up their journey and turn back, all funds being lost…Shell-game tables extend from Dyea to Sheep Camp and one comes across them every hundred yards or so…”
Well, when I looked up Dr. Howard Atwood Kelly wasn’t I surprised to find that he is not only the founder of the modern science of gynecology, but also one of the four founders of the Johns Hopkins Hospital where he stayed until 1919! Turns out he is another hero who passed through Skagway. Kelly was born on February 20, 1858 in Camden, New Jersy and died on January 12, 1943 in Baltimore.

Dr. Peter A.E. Boetzkes

There was an ad for Dr. Boetzkes in a Skagway Newspaper in 1898 so we know he was here. The funny thing is that a few months earlier, on June 20, 1897, he had taken a rifle and tried to kill his wife, Helen, and his 4 kids(Clara, Anna, Harry, Walter) in the delightful community of Bensonhurst-by-the-sea.
This was reported by the New York Times on June 21,1897: “TRIED TO SHOOT HIS WIFE; Dr. Boetzkes of Bensonhurst, Seized by Strange Frenzy, Aims a Rifle at His Family. RESISTS POLICE WITH PISTOLS Mrs. Boetzkes in Her Night Clothes Ran to the Station House for Help — The Doctor Was Arrested and Paroled for Examination.”
If you read the entire article online, it seems that he was sick with a cold and had been taking stimulants [???!!!] anyway, his lawyer, one Felix McCloskey (hopefully no relation) said he was ill and not responsible for his actions.
On July 10, 1897 he failed to show for trial and so his friends forfeited the $500 bail but apparently were happy to see him go. In 1898 he was also being sued for negligence. So, he went to Seattle where he got into a fight with Mayor Woods “his pugnacious spirit had effervesced” and so, then he set out for the Klondike.

Skagway would be like a great place for a gun-happy, incompetent doctor, I wonder where he went from here? Perhaps he got together with his wife in Washington, the Washington records show a Dr. Boetzkes dying in 1902 but the age is wrong. The 1910 census in Seattle definitely shows Helen his wife as a widow, and in 1926 she dies at the age of 73, also in Seattle.

Ny times articles of June 21 and August 26, 1897. Report of Cases Vol 26, New York Supreme Court. Washington census and death records.

Louis Alphonse Pare

Louis Alphonse Pare was one of the doctors assigned to treat the members of the NWMP in the Yukon. He was born in Lachine, Quebec in 1848 and was appointed assistant surgeon for the NWMP in 1887. In November 1898 he was sent to Tagish Post where he arrived on December 20, 1898. The post had been without a doctor for a year. Several men were laid up with or recovering from typhoid. Some were sent to Bennett or Skagway to be sent to Victoria.
During his first year at Tagish, he treated 274 cases ranging from typhoid to scurvy and frozen-amputated limbs. Dr. Pare stayed on in the Yukon until his retirement in 1911, being promoted to full surgeon in 1904.
Seen above in Whitehorse in the first electric car. Hmmm, way ahead of his time!

Dobrowolsky, Law of the Yukon; Quebec Heritage News Vol 3:1,2 2004-5 online; 1911 Whitehorse c; online civil servants

Clayton Leslie Polley

Dr. Clayton Polley was the dentist for Skagway. He was born in 1907 in Massachusetts and moved to Skagway in 1934 just after getting married in Juneau. He practiced dentistry in Skagway from 1932 to 1947. Doc opened his dental office in what was formerly the Peniel Mission. He had his dental office upstairs and the family lived downstairs. In 1936, their first child, Ernest Edward, was born.

While in Skagway, the Doc served as the School Board President for six years and three years on the City Council. He was president of the Skagway Chamber of Commerce for two years and secretary-treasurer for three years. During World War II, Polley was captain of the Territorial Guard unit in Skagway. He was president of the Eagles Lodge, and organized and played in a dance band called the Glacier Bugs. Doc was a charter member and helped organize the Alaska Dental Society and served as its first elected president in 1951, and as its secretary-treasurer from 1956-1959.

He died on this day, April 9, 1996 in Juneau.
Seen above is the Peniel Mission building on 6th before restoration by the Park Service, it is now seasonal housing for the park rangers that do the walking tours in the summer.

Dahl book; Juneau P&R site

White Pass Hospital tent

During this time in 1898 there were many deaths due to meningitis. Here is a Barley photograph of the interior of the White Pass Hospital tent. The beds are made of sticks and the supplies look rather bare. Dr Fenton Whiting, Dr. Isaac Moore, Dr. John Hornsby were all WP physicians at that time.