Wilfrid Thibaudeau

Mr. W. Thibaudeau was a French Canadian engineer who came to Skagway in 1898 and helped Frank Reid to plat out the town of Skagway. He later went to Dawson where he was appointed the Territorial Engineer. I was amazed to see the map of the Dawson area roads, it looks like an ant hill of trails. Thibaudeau also did this map and signed it in December 1901.

Henry Darling

Henry was born on this day, February 27, 1863 in Port Chalmers, New Zealand. His father John Darling founded the Union Steamship Company which ran steamships from New Zealand to Vancouver, later known as the Canadian Australian line. Henry was schooled in London and then apprenticed to John Gwynes, an engineer there. He then went to India and worked for the British India Steam Navigation Company and the British & Burmese Company of British India. In 1891 he came from Glasgow, Scotland, to British Columbia as the superintending engineer in charge of the building of three steamships for the Union Steamship Company.

Around 1899 he became the general manager of the British Yukon Navigation Company, Ltd., organized by the White Pass & Yukon Route. By 1902 he and his family of four sons and two daughters, living in Vancouver, started their own business in wholesale paints, oils and varnishes. Henry Darling must have died in Vancouver April 6, 1926. The photo above was taken in 1925 and contributed by his great grandson Mark Darling.

British Columbia. from the Earliest times to the present vol 4 1914.

some information and photo contributed by Mark Darling, 2018.

more information can be found at:


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.

David DuBose Gaillard

Before the construction of the railroad, Gaillard led a team of engineers up to the White Pass to survey a route.
Gaillard was born in 1859 in Fulton, South Carolina. After graduation from West Point and promotion to first lieutenant in 1887, he married Katherine Ross Davis. The couple had one child, David St. Pierre Gaillard. By 1903 he was a Captain in the Army Corps of Engineers and in 1908 he led the Army Corps in building the Panama Canal.
Gaillard was in charge of the notorious Culebra Cut through the backbone of the isthmus. Men who worked with him said he gave 12 hours every day to the Culebra Cit, besides which, he took his share in the labor of general administration of the Canal Zone. He checked up expenses, even on small things and once it was computed he had saved the Government $17,000,000.
He succeeded, but did not live to see the job finished. Suffering from what was thought to be nervous exhaustion brought on by overwork, he returned to the United States in 1913. In fact, Gaillard suffered from a brain tumor.
Lieutenant Colonel David DuBose Gaillard died at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore on this day, December 5, 1913. He was 54 years old. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. The Panama Canal opened nine months after his death, and Culebra Cut was renamed Gaillard Cut in his honor.

Skagit River Journal website; NY times article 1903.

Michael James Heney

Having often referred to Mr. Heney, I looked back and found that I have never done a post just on him. So here is the brief biography from Wikipedia:

“Michael James Heney was born on October 24, 1864, near Stonecliffe, Renfrew County, Ontario. He was the son of Thomas Eugene Heney and Mary Ann McCourt, Irish immigrants. His family farmed in the upper Ottawa Valley.

At age 14, Heney ran away from home to work on the newly announced Canadian Pacific Railway. Though he was soon found and brought home by his older brother Patrick Heney, he stayed home only until 1882, when he left home to work on the Canadian Pacific Railway in Manitoba. He started as a mule skinner and gradually worked his way up through all the aspects of construction. In 1883 he was included in a survey crew, spending the next three years learning more about construction as the Canadian Pacific Railway worked its way through the mountains of British Columbia.

At 21, Heney was ready to set up as an independent contractor. He returned east to earn the engineering degree his father wanted him to have, but was too impatient and was soon back in the west. By 1887 he had moved his operations to Seattle, working on the final stages of the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway. The career of the “boy contractor” was launched. Many construction projects in Washington, British Columbia and Alaska followed.”

A chance meeting with the London financiers at the St. James Hotel in Skagway led to his most famous achievement, the building of the 110 mile track from Skagway to Whitehorse. Built in a record two years and two months it still runs today but only on the Skagway to Carcross length.

At the pinnacle of his career, Heney left Cordova, Alaska to complete some business arrangements in Seattle. On his way back north, his ship hit an uncharted rock and sank. Heney went under deck to rescue his horses, but the last boat left without him when he returned on deck. So he swam to a boat and held on to the stern while it was rowed ashore as there was no room on it. I read another account that said he swam back to help women swim to safety. In either case, shortly thereafter he developed pulmonary tuberculosis and died within a year, on this day, October 4, 1910 in San Francisco. He is buried in Calvary Cemetery Seattle.

The photo above shows him later in life with his cigar. I think it exemplifies his character more than the more common studio photo of him. He had a number of similarly strong men working for him who pushed the thousands of workers to finish the White Pass project. Seldom have I seen anything negative written about him, but I believe there was another side to management. Similarly, there has never been anything written about his private life. Heney never married nor did he have any women friends. I have seen references to his deep grief over the loss of two of his co-workers, Robin Brydone-Jack and Hugh Nelson Foy during the building of the railroad. During the reconstruction of the White Pass Depot building by National Park Service workers in the 1970’s, they found negative grifitti about Heney written on the boards under the subfloor. I believe he was a man driven to accomplish great things and was the inspiration if not the embodiment of Ayn Rand’s character of Howard Roark in The Fountainhead. However, that does not mean that he was loved by all. In those years, businesses did not have to worry about safety, insurance, worker’s compensation, or benefits. White Pass did have a hospital and they did bury their workers who died during construction. However, they did not tolerate strikes, and being a railroad town, workers and their families over the decades were at the mercy of the WP management.

Wikipedia; Minter.

Archie McLean Hawks

Archie McLean Hawks was born in Detroit in 1865 to a family with a long history of law and engineering. In 1886 he came west and worked as a construction engineer for the Union Pacific Railroad in Wyoming and Colorado. He later worked on the bridge in Kansas City and the waterworks in St. Louis. He worked in Arkansas and later Denver on electric railways. In 1891 he went to Tacoma and became the engineer in charge of the Tacoma Light and Water Company. He worked as an engineering consultant for the cities of Vancouver, Victoria and Juneau to supply hydroelectric power for the mines at Treadwell, Perseverence, and Sea Level Tunnel.
Hawks wrote a book called “Enchantment,” that described his 1870 train trip from St. Louis, Mo. to Bristol, R.I.

He is known in Skagway for being the Engineer for the CR&T Tramway which was on the Chilkoot Trail. The Chilkoot Railroad and Transport Company (CR&T) was the largest, most comprehensive, and last of the Chilkoot Trail tramways to be constructed.

At first, they toyed with a horse-drawn tramroad and even a railroad going straight up the Taiya River valley, but financial restraints tempered these plans. The company settled on a wagon road to Canyon City, a two-stage aerial tram system (Canyon City to Sheep Camp and Sheep Camp to Stone Crib), and contracted packing services from Stone Crib to Lake Lindeman. This system enabled the company to be the first to offer an integrated transportation option that would transfer prospectors’ gear from the wharfs of Dyea to Lindeman City.

Construction began in December 1897 and both trams began running by May 1898. While CR&T merged with the Alaska Railroad Transportation Company and the Dyea-Klondike Transportation Company just a month after CR&T opened its trams, its infrastructure was heavily used well into June 1899 when the White Pass and Yukon Route railroad construction reached Lake Bennett in British Columbia effectively rendering CR&T obsolete. Even then, however, CR&T’s freight rates were comparable to those of the railroad and so in 1899 White Pass and Yukon Route purchased the Chilkoot Railroad and Transportation Company’s trams and began dismantling them beginning in January 1900 and finishing by April of the same year.

Archie Hawks died on this day, March 8, 1963 in Santa Barbara at the ripe old age of 98. He is buried in the Madronia Cemetery in Santa Clara County.

A History of the Puget Sound County, 1903 online; Martinsen; California death index; the Winterthur Papers online


On this day, January 31, 1904, Thomas E. Briggs, a White Pass engineer, died of typhoid in Skagway. He was buried in the Gold Rush Cemetery by White Pass at the direction of Superintendent John P. Rogers (not to be confused with President Clifford Rogers). There were various epidemics of Typhoid in both Dawson and Skagway from 1898 through 1904.

1905 directory; Skagway death record;Crisis and Opportunity:Three White Women’s Experiences of the Klondike Gold Rush by Carolyn Moore

William Lucius Churchill

Mr. Churchill was a member of the Skagway Camp of the Arctic Brotherhood in 1898. Born on this day, January 25, 1871 in Montpelier Vermont, he came to Skagway from White Plains New York. He was an engineer, and as such was always looking for a better way to do things. He actually invented a hot water system for thawing frozen gold bearing gravel in the Yukon in 1912.
William L. Churchill’s collection of Alaskan photographs was donated to the State of Alaska Photographic Archives by his grandson, William L. Churchill, in 2006.
The photographs taken by Mr. Churchill depict placer mining, hard rock gold mining and related activities in 1912 and during the Klondike gold rush. Some images document mining engineering practices such as brush retaining walls on streams and thawing of frozen ground to accommodate dredging.
He died in 1936 in White Plains New York.

From: Who’s who in engineering, 1922 online; Alaska State library photo collection; 1912 directory online.

Capt. Wilds Preston Richardson

Captain Richardson got around! He arrived in Skagway in 1902 with the 9th Infantry.
He was originally sent to build Ft. Seward in Haines as an army engineer. He was also a Captain on the Yukon river and a Major for the Alaska Board of Road commissioners. He was a General in the Infantry Brigade in World War I in France and Russia.
The “Richardson Highway” is named for him. In 1900 he wrote “Relief of the Destitute in the Gold Fields, a compilation of Narratives of Explorations in Alaska, (Senate report 1023, GPO).
Richardson was born in 1861 in Texas and died on this day, May 20, 1929 in Washington D.C.

1905 directory; Navy history website; “Duty Station NW” by Lymon L. Woodman

Charles E. Namby Wynn-Johnson

Charles was born in March 1871 in Richmond England to R. Byron Johnson, an ambitious and energetic lawyer and promoter of British Columbia. R. Byron wrote “The Klondyke Gold Fields – how to get to them” in 1897 as part of his business’ promotion of the West. His business was the British Columbia Development Association.

Charles was trained as a civil engineer and worked for White Pass reporting to the financiers in England on the status of the plans for building the railroad. He stayed in Skagway for a couple of years as the Moore’s Wharf general manager and even working as the U.S. Marshal here. His is one of the few houses still standing in Skagway. It is boarded up, next to the Peniel Mission and across from what was the Pullen Hotel. He moved south to British Columbia and built a ranch he called the Alkali Ranch for his family where he lived until his death there in 1944.

In the photo above, you can see the Wynn-Johnson two story house behind the Moore House in the foreground. Both buildings are still standing, but only the Moore House is restored and open to the public by the National Park. The Wynn-Johnson house is privately owned.