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.

David Legg Brainard

David Brainard was born in 1856 in Norway, New York. On Sept. 13, 1876, 19-year-old David Brainard left home to travel to Philadelphia and view America’s first successful world’s fair, the Centennial Exposition. After taking in many marvels of the Machine Age, Brainard boarded a train for home. At New York City, he changed trains and reached into his pocket for money to buy a ticket, but there was none. Too proud to write his family for funds, Brainard took the free ferry to the US Army Post at Governor’s Island and joined the Regular Army. He didn’t know it, but David Brainard was on his wasy to becoming one of those rare individuals in military history who rose from Private to General by pulling himself up by his bootstraps.
When Brainard joined the Army, it had been only three months since Custer’s command was mauled at the Little Big Horn, and in no time, Brainard was sent to Montana Territory, to serve with the Second Cavalry against the Northern Cheyenne and Sioux Indians. The square-jawed Brainard was a keen soldier, who firmly believed orders clearly issued should be obeyed.
On May 7, 1877, Brainard participated in the Battle of Little Muddy Creek against the Sioux under Chief Lame Deer, and suffered wounds to his right hand and a gunshot wound to his right cheek, affecting his eye. Over half a century later, in 1933, he received the Purple Heart for his injuries.
He was a Captain in the 14th Infantry when he arrived in Skagway in February 1898. Captain Brainard was appointed Purchasing and Disbursing Officer of the Alaska Relief Expedition and was based in Dyea. Brainard’s relief expedition was intended to address the “sufferings” of the Dawson miners during the Alaskan Gold Rush, but they found the miners well supplied and needed no relief. He is most famous for being the last survivor (in 1935) of the United States’ Lady Franklin Bay Expedition (1881-84), an ordeal of unimaginable hardship. Only six survivors were rescued in 1884 after being stranded in the Arctic for two years in the harshest conditions.
Brigadier General Brainard died at the age of 90 on March 22, 1946 in Washington D.C. and is buried in Arlington.

military rec; bio; “Duty Station Northwest” by Lymon L. Woodman

Blowing Like Thunder

On this day, February 1, 1899, a U.S. Marine died in Skagway. He is buried in the Evergreen Cemetery in Juneau. I can only guess that he was part of the 14th Infantry that had arrived in December 1897.(The main body of the 14th Infantry, companies A, B, G, and H arrived in February 1898 from Fort Vancouver, Washington with orders from the War Department to stay “at least through the coming summer”.)

When the troops first heard of their destination, an air of excitement pervading the barracks. “All were wild to go, and each feared his company might be kept back to man the garrison at Vancouver.” Soldiers leapt into action, rapidly preparing equipment, supplies, and Klondike clothing for the journey. Throughout the Vancouver/Portland area, preparations and goodbyes began as the army prepared to move most of the 14th Infantry north.

Once they arrived, their enthusiasm turned to despair: “Colder than blazes and blowing like thunder described this place from one week’s end to another,” wrote one young soldier the following month. “You never saw a more disgusted set of fellows in your life than our men”.

Politically, the arrival of the troops was meant to cement the U.S. occupation and the boundary with Canada. When Colonel Thomas McArthur Anderson and the troops of the 14th Infantry arrived, they encountered a major of the Canadian Mounted Police – probably Zachary Taylor Wood, with five men and a British flag flying overhead. A potential international conflict began as Anderson ordered the major to remove the flag and move his men to the Canadian boundary, a division determined by the United States. Outnumbered, the flag came down and the Mounties shed their uniforms while in town.

The photo above is of a soldier (Ernest Rue Davidson) in 1899. He was part of the 14th Infantry that went to the Phillipines, so he may or may not have come to Skagway, but it is a good image of the uniform.

Juneau Evergreen Cemetery website; Ft Vancouver NHS online manuscript: “Part 2-The Waking of a Military Town, Fort Vancouver and the Vancouver National Historic Reserve 1898-1920”; Anderson, Arline, “Daughter of Uncle Sam”, Unpublished Manuscript (Vancouver, Washington: Fort Vancouver Regional Library, n.d.), 83.

James Kelley

Sgt. Major James Kelley married his sweetheart at the beginning of March 1898 in Vancouver Washington. He shipped out one week later and arrived in Dyea in March 1898. He was in charge of the 14th Infantry and as they were setting up the camp, he suddenly cried out in pain. He was struck with spinal meningitis and died on this day, March 19, 1898. His body was shipped back to Vancouver Washington and a large stone marker sits on his grave in the military cemetery there. Oddly, cemetery records show a dependent, an infant named James Kelley also buried in the same plot in March 1898. Although this could be a mistake, it paints an odd picture.

Sgt Kelley was born in Greggsville, Illinois on June 21, 1860 and was 38 when he died.

from newspaper article: Columbian of March 31, 1898
online cemetery records:
photo taken in the Vancouver Cemetery July 2010

Thomas McArthur Anderson

Happy Birthday to Colonel Anderson born on January 21, 1836 in Chillicoth, Ohio.

He came to Skagway in December 1897 with the 14th Infantry. Above, soldiers of the 14th Infantry parade in their superb dress helmets in downtown Skagway, Alaska, 1898. They were posted to Skagway at the request of Alaska’s territorial governor, John Brady, to protect Skagway from hordes of “gamblers, thugs and lewd women” – no doubt the sight of the serried ranks of pickelhaubes helped bring the gamblers, thugs, and those lewd women back to a sense of civic responsibility.

Anderson was the commander of companies B & H. He had a long military career and died a Brigadier General in 1917 in Portland, Oregon and is buried in Arlington.

from “Duty Station Northwest” by Lymon L. Woodman

Capt. Bogardus Eldridge

Capt. Bogardus Eldridge came to Skagway in December of 1897 with the 14th Infantry. He was commanded then to find a route from the Yukon to the Tanana River in 1898. When he left Alaska, he went to the Phillipines where he died in battle on this day, October 2, 1899.

He is buried in Arlington Cemetery.