Ezra Meeker

Another great character, Ezra Meeker was born in a log cabin on the family farm in Huntsville, Ohio in 1830. He married Eliza and moved to Puyallup Washington by covered wagon in 1852. They had a hops farm in 1891 but then in 1892 a plague of hop lice struck the Pacific Coast, devastating crops. Meeker’s crop sold for a fraction of the expected price. He later wrote, “All my accumulations were swept away, and I quit the business — or rather, the business quit me.”

In 1896 Meeker traveled to Alaska, opening a store in Dawson and filing a mining claim. Despite four trips to the Klondike, he never found gold, however, in 1898 at the age of 68, he formed a company with George Cline and John F. Hartman to dry vegetables for soups, Mrs. Meeker helped dry the vegetables for the Klondike Venture. In the spring, Ezra went north with his son Fred over the Chilkoot Pass with 15 tons of dried vegetables and chickens. On one stretch of 2000 feet they paid $40 a ton for freighting. They went down the Yukon in a flatboat where Ezra fell in the White Horse Rapids. They sold potatoes, onions, chickens, sugar and condensed milk. Later they sold fresh vegetables that were brought up individually wrapped.

In 1901 Ezra Meeker left the Yukon and came home to stay, arriving two weeks before his golden wedding anniversary, but without the gold. He made four trips to the Klondike and had saved possibly $19,000, which he lost in the final mining enterprise. A deep freeze came a month earlier than usual and prevented his thawing the ground, and cut off water for sluicing. A later report stated that the mine he lost proved profitable.

Meeker worked for many years to preserve the famous Oregon Trail (it became part of the National Trails System in 2004). In October 1924, he flew over a portion of the trail in a single-engine, high wing Army Fokker T-2. By ox, Meeker made two miles per hour crossing the Trail in 1852 with his family. His plane flew the route at 100 miles per hour.

Ezra said he never spent even one day sick in bed during his entire 58-year marriage. He died on this day, December 3, 1928 in Seattle (of senility) and is buried in the city he founded, Puyallup, Washington. He is seen above shortly before his death, in 1928 with his Model-A Ford with covered wagon.

historylink.org; Klondike Stampeders Reg p252; Yukon site; Washington state records;

Charles Davis

Charles Davis was born in 1840 in Ohio and claimed to have fought in the Civil War. He was a prospector and a laborer in Skagway from before 1910 to his death, on this day, November 22, 1938. His peculiar cause of death was detailed in Robert Dahl’s book. He said his father, Dr. Dahl, told the nurses to bathe him because he smelled bad since he never bathed. Davis thought that bathing would cause death. In his case it did.
He is buried in the Pioneer Cemetery.

1910; 1920 1929; Dahl book; Skagway death record

E. Leroy Pelletier

Mr. Pelletier came to Skagway from New York in 1897 to cover the Gold Rush. In addition to being a newspaperman, he was also a journalist. He was a man possessed of a small body, a large head, and nervous energy that was electrifying. As a newspaperman, he covered the Klondike stampede for The New York Times.
His dispatches to the Times, covering the period 1897 to 1900, provide enthralling reading: he narrated tales of precautions against starvation, delays due to selfishness, preventing a corner in supplies, smallpox comes to camp, getting ready for the greenhorns, pistols drawn many times, large loss of life and a murder, no time for legal trials. Sounds like an adventure movie.

Working for Henry Ford, first as a consulting engineer and later when it was obvious he was considerably more adept with words than machines, Pelletier worked as Ford’s private secretary and advertising manager.
He preferred the title “publicity engineer.” That he was. A brilliant intellect matched with a vivid imagination, he could think even faster than he could talk, and his conversation was routinely described as “rapid-fire.”

His September 5, 1938 Detroit obituary follows:
“E. Leroy Pelletier, 72, advertising manager for Henry Ford, died Sunday.
Pelletier was a former newspaperman who covered the Klondike Gold rush. He designed the first four-cylinder air-cooled automobile at the turn of the century and was president of the company which built his automobile the “Duquesne”.
Tales of Klondike veterans told how Pelletier, the energetic New York reporter, organized the “Jackson Money Exchange” and reputedly sold, through the agency, a third of the Klondike region.
Surviving Pelletier are his widow, Gertrude; 2 sons and a daughter; a brother Frank (Pelkey) of Vancouver,BC. Pelletier was a native of Houlton, Maine.”

In the fall of 1897 he founded the Yukon Telephone and Telegraph Company in Dawson w/big Alex McDonald.

photos from 1897-98: online from Tappan Adney; rootsweb; p206 The EMF co.book by Yanik

Major Lorenzo Dow Kinney

Major Kinney arrived on the Steamship Elder in 1897. He joined the Arctic Brotherhood and built a bridge over the Taiya River. He had the “Chilkoot Tramway Company” one of several companies that built tramways up the Chilkoot Trail. He later platted the little town of Atlin.
Born on this day, August 26, 1855 in Jacksonville, New Brunswick, Canada he moved around quite a bit. After leaving Alaska he moved to North Bend Oregon.

Sight unseen, Lorenzo singled out Coos Bay as a development plum ripe for the picking. Coos Bay was already a burgeoning seaport with lumber, shipbuilding and fishing as solid economic foundations.
Kinney was fresh from failures in Alaska and Canada, and had no money. Still, Kinney had rich friends and an intense personality plus a persuasive speaking style that readily secured money and credit. From 1902 to 1914, he was Coos Bay’s chief promoter and pitchman or “instigator,” as he preferred to be called. He was a man with a prolific capacity for words and whose name was a household word around Coos Bay. But by any measure, Kinney fit the category “odd.”

According to a posting on genforum, he was something of a rogue and spent time in the Oregon State Mental Hospital: Diagnosis: manic-depression. He died there of pneumonia on Aug. 9, 1920.

The book “Instigator: The Troubled Life of Lorenzo Dow Kinney”, 2008, by Richard and Judith Wagner chronicles Kinney’s life. It reviews his beginning in New Brunswick his time in Virginia, Utah, Alaska, British Columbia and focuses on his years 1902-1914 on the Coos Bay in Oregon where he promoted railroads, streetcars and land.

Picture above is of a Tram on the Chilkoot Trail, possibly his.

1900 census; National Park Service Dyea info; genforum Kinney family; Minter; Oregonlive article by John Terry from October 30, 2009.

Martin Wilburn Tarwater

Mr. Tarwater was born in 1876 in Santa Rosa California. He came to Skagway in 1897 and was a friend of Jack London who was also from that part of the world.
Martin was reportedly a shoemaker and kept busy making and repairing shoes of the men who walked to the Yukon. Jack London wrote a story about “Old Man Tarwater” called “Like Argus in the Ancient Times” in his book The Red One.
London completely fictionalized his life and family to the consternation of his descendents.
Martin Tarwater died on this day, July 29, 1948 also in Santa Rosa.

Aunt Phil’s Trunk by Carlson p 233 online; descendents in Sonoma Co:Rootsweb posting

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

Charles Henson Meadows “Arizona Charlie”

“Arizona Charlie” had a dance hall in Dyea in the goldrush. He also had a saloon at Stone House and then a Grand Opera House in Dawson. He was born in Visalia California in 1860. Charlie was tall, dashing, and flamboyant. He wore a flowing moustache and long hair, in the manner of the Wild West showman he was. He had a dozen careers and a thousand schemes. Occasionally, one paid off. He prospered during the Klondike gold rush. Charlie’s Grand Opera House, now called the Palace Grand Theater, is a landmark in downtown Dawson City. He was a legendary sharpshooter in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.
He apparently bled to death on this date, December 9, 1932 in Yuma Arizona while operating on his own vericose veins w/pocket knife.

lots more on Charlie at Wickenburg-az.com; Frank Norris 1986 article

Martin G. Itjen

Martin Itjen died on this day December 3, 1942 in Skagway. Born in 1870 in Germany, Martin was a showman who promoted Skagway in many ways. He arrived in Skagway in 1898 as a stampeder. He later worked as a White Pass laborer, he owned a transfer business, was an entertainer, owned the Bay View House hotel, and was even an undertaker.

In 1935, as a great publicity stunt, Martin took his “street car” to Hollywood to promote Skagway tourism. He called on big screen starlet, Mae West, to “come up and visit him sometime.” His image of standing in front of his bus with Mae West is the most famous image.

He is buried in the gold rush cemetery next to a large gold-painted boulder which is chained down.

A fellow bloggist has lots more info on Martin’s family: