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.

Edward James Gray

Mr. Gray was born in England in 1855 and came to Lake Bennett from Victoria where his wife was living. He was working on the sawmill when he had an accident, on this day, November 29, 1899 and died. His body was shipped back to Victoria and he lies with so many other gold rush unfortunates at the Ross Bay Cemetery.

Owaneco, Illinois

This photo was taken around 1898 in Owaneco Illinois. It is of the Johnson clan in front of a house (which still stands) there across from the cemetery. The handsome fellow on the far right with the bowler hat is my husband’s great grandfather, William “Honest Will” McCluskey with his bride in front of him, Mary Martin (nee Nichol) McCluskey. A few years after this photo, the McCluskeys moved to Arizona to grow cotton but were caught up in bank defaults and lost everything. Their sons stayed in the Mesa area and married the Goodwins who owned trading posts and movie theatres.
A few years ago I went to Owaneco and found the cemetery where Reed’s gggrandmother and uncles are buried. It was a beautiful little cemetery with nice stone markers. You learn so much from markers, very often the transcriptions leave off important details. The Christian County Historical Society in Taylorville had lots of really good documents also, most of which have not been scanned or transcribed.
So what does this have to do with Skagway and the Gold Rush. Well nothing really, but I’m still searching for a link! Let me know if you have one! Happy Thanksgiving.

What Trains Say

On my travels I picked up a great little brochure in an antique store which lists all the “Railroad Slang” and the meaning of the train horn toots. I will post some of those.

Red Onion in railroad terms means a railroad eating house. Who knew?

Seen above is the Bennett Station eating house.

“What Trains Say” by the Association of American Railroads.

Most disagreeable!

In the RCMP report written by Capt. Steele, he mentions Staff Sergeant James B. Hyles who served in Skagway from August 1897 to May 1898. Steele described it as “one of the most disagreeable detachments in my command. His duties were receiving and forwarding mails and stores, giving information to people entering the Yukon Territory…later working in the pay office at Bennett and discharging the duties of acting Sergeant Major at Tagish.”
Hyles had 15 years of service at that time in the NWMP.

Report of the RCMP 1898.

Deisheetaan family tree

Because the family tree is so confusing I thought I would post this nice family tree from Mrs. Angela Sidney’s recounting in “Life Lived as a Story”.

Michael Bernard McKanna

Michael McKanna was born in 1849 in Waterford County Ireland. He moved to Alaska with his family and went mining in the Yukon gold fields with his two oldest sons, Jim and Emmet. There, he came down with Brights Disease, a kidney ailment. Making his way back toward Douglas with Jim as his support, Michael died near the shores of Lake Bennett on June 13, 1899. When news reached Douglas, his daughter Elizabeth took a boat to Skagway and the White Pass train to Bennett. She and Jim buried their father’s body in the small Bennett cemetery.

family McKanna; familysearch; headboard 2009; listed in Atlin bios
The McKanna Family: Pioneers of the Northwest

Harry Huntington’s letter

Harry wrote a letter to his fiance (later wife) Jennie from Alaska which is dated 1897, but he must have meant 1898 as it is written on the back of a newspaper extra which has the date April 3, 1898 printed on it. The EXTRA published by the Dyea Trail is about the death of eighteen prospectors in a snow slide.

“Sheeps Camp April 7, 1897, My beloved Wife:-How I wish I was on my way to meet you My Love My all. If tomorrow is a good day we will bid adieu to Sheep Camp and take up our abode at Lake Linder Mon. We were on the summit yesterday, paid our duty and took most of our freight down the hill out to Crater Lake. Wolff and Percival will finish up today. I went as far as the stables and brought back the dogs. Yesterday I dug my freight out of about eight feet of snow, you can see men all over the trail digging out their “caches”, some will never find theirs. Today is warm and the sun shines brightly on the snow covered Peaks. Up to yesterday fifty one bodies have been taken from the snow slide, and some that are alive are in evidence now of the awful experience of being under the snow and couldn’t move a muscle. I talked with one man that was in 45 minutes. He said he could breathe alright and was very comfortable physically but not mentally.
The search for the misfortunate was kept up until last night no one being allowed to pass the Place with a pack or load. There is no one at work this morning and I guess they have given it up. The snow slide made no noise whatever and wasn’t even heard by the ones that were caught.
We never left our camp during the storm and don’t work any stormy days, we have lost a lot of time but it has given us an opportunity to get mail from our dear ones a home. I hate to leave on that account. I rec. a nice letter from Halla yesterday, and I got it by accident too.
One of the Crossley boys was down Sheeps Camp and saw my name on front of a store.(?) There are two places to get mail and I suppose they got it on account of having “Please Forward to Sheeps Camp” on it. You can address your letters to Takish House North West Territory from now on They come from Dyea the 20th of each month.”

from “The Descendents of Nathaniel Huntington” online genealogy book.

William J. Blackwell

William J. Blackwell was born in 1843 in New Jersey. He married Adelaide M. Blood in 1883 in California and owned bottling and brewing companies in Seattle and Slocan, British Columbia before he came to Skagway in 1898. Here he started the B&B Bottling company with Mr. S.E. Beazley. He moved on probably to Nome where he was a member of the Eagles until 1915. He was also a member of the Arctic Brotherhood from 1898 to 1902 in Skagway. One account says he died in Alaska on this day, October 5, 1922. Washington state census records show him in a Sedro Wooley mental institution in 1930 and that he died there in May 1930. Not sure which is correct, but nevertheless he did have a business here on 5th Avenue until 1907. He manufactured and bottled soda water, sarsaparilla, ginger ale, champagne cider, sarsaparilla and iron, as well as all kinds of mineral waters with syrup.

Washington state records; business directories; 1900 census; Daily Alaskan 1900.

The wreck of the Sternwheeler Columbian

The sternwheeler Columbian was lost in the worst accident in the Yukon River’s history on September 25, 1906. On the day of the accident, The Columbian was carrying only one passenger—Ernest Winstanley, a stowaway who had sneaked aboard, pretending to be the caretaker of the cattle on board. One report said he was kicked off when the ship docked at Tantalus, but another gave his medical condition while in hospital in Whitehorse.
The explosion happened at Eagle Rock when Phillip Murray showed a loaded gun to Edward Morgan, who accidentally discharged the gun into the load of blasting powder stored on deck. Morgan was killed instantly. Following the ensuing explosion and fire, the captain grounded the ship on shore and those uninjured or killed by the blast jumped ashore.

The explosion blew out the sides of the vessel, scattered men and cargo in the water, and in less than five minutes had involved the whole inside of the ship in a mass of seething flame.

The crew had no provisions and no way to easily go for help. The closest telegraph office was thirty miles away at Tantalus. A party of three set out on foot but they were overtaken by Captain Williams and Engineer Mavis in a canoe they had borrowed from a woodcutter.

Arriving at Tantalus after midnight, they woke up the telegraph operator who sent out a message about the disaster with no response—all the other operators were asleep. The first to receive the message, at 9:00 a.m. on September 26, was at Whitehorse. The first ship to arrive at the scene of the explosion was the sternwheeler Victorian, arriving at 7:00 p.m. Captain Williams had returned that morning to find that Carl Christianson and John Woods had died during the night. Phillip Murray died shortly after being carried aboard the Victorian.

Another sternwheeler, the Dawson, had been dispatched from Whitehorse with a doctor and nurses aboard. The Dawson had not received the news until 1:00 p.m. on September 26 and at 1:00 a.m. on September 27, the Dawson took the crew of the Columbian on board and returned to Whitehorse. Soon after, when Lionel Cadogan Cowper, the purser died in Whitehorse the death toll rose to six men.
The Whitehorse Star reported:
“Ernest E. Winstanley, the only survivor among seven victims of the explosion and fire on the steamer Columbian, which disaster occurred on the Yukon river on Tuesday, the 25th of September, is still at the general hospital at this place where, under the skillful treatment of J.P. Cade and careful nursing of the hospital corps, it is believed he will recover.
Winstanley displays wonderful fortitude and it is believed will be able to leave the hospital in another month or six weeks. His father Ernest Winstanley, arrived Sunday from Dawson and is spending much of his time at his son’s bedside.
The bodies of Mate Welsh and Fireman Morgan, who fell or jumped into the river after being horribly burned, have not yet been recovered.”
Then the Weekly Star reported on October 12, 1906:
“Today at 11:30 an artery in Winstanley’s neck burst and this may tend to complicate his chances for recovery.” Apparently they credited his long woolen underwear with keeping him from being burned over much of his body, but his face and hands were burned. He did survive and on September 31, 1906 he moved to Galiano in southern British Columbia where he was a farmer in the 1911 census.

Also lost was her cargo of 150 tons of vegetables and meat, and 21 head of cattle.
The disaster is described in “Fire on the Yukon” by Sam Holloway. A memorial to the victims was erected in the Whitehorse Cemetery by the employees of the British Yukon Navigation Company. The Columbian is seen above in better days in 1903.

Explore North; NWMP record; wikipedia; Dawson Daily News, September 26, 1906; Hougen group website; BC 1911 census online; Yukon Archives – Benjamin Craig’s list of people leaving the Yukon.