The first Postmaster (then called Postmistress) was appointed in 1897 in Dyea by President McKinley. That, curiously was a 51 year old woman who came up to Alaska from Boise, Idaho. Clara and her brothers Daniel and Arthur Allen Richards were from a large family. The 8 kids were all born in Middleburg, Ohio to their farmer father and mother, but they had moved to Idaho sometime in the late 1800’s. When the three siblings got to Dyea, Arthur Allen was appointed Deputy Marshal and Daniel was involved in some business.
The real story here was the scandal involving the Dyea post office. While Clara no doubt was working as hard as she could, the post office was a 14X20 cabin that by all accounts was deplorable. On most days the line stretched far and away with 300-400 men hoping to send and receive mail. Clara’s rule was that no man could ask for mail for any more that 2 people. So if a guy came down to get mail for his 8 companions, it would take him all day to get mail. The amount of mail going North from Seattle was stupendous: 8 steamers full per month docked in Dyea. One steamer alone carried 4000 pieces of mail.
Some men wrote to the Postmaster General in Washington that her volunteers were charging 10 cents a letter to patrons. Clara was accused of slackness and inefficiency as well as graft. It was charged that Clara knew about this, but she countered that it was impossible to do the job without additional funds and assistance from government officials in Washington. So the line stretched for hundreds of feet every day. Seen above is the Dyea post office, but I could not find a photo of Clara.
Clara Richards never married and died on December 28, 1928 at the age of 81 in Boise. She is buried in the Morris Hill Cemetery.
Jackson Family website; familysearch; a Marcuse letter of July 6, 1901 called the “Weekly Philatelic Era”; Klondike Saga: The Chronicle of a Minnesota Gold Mining Company By Carl Ludwig Lokke
Of the many schemes to get rich, Sylvester Scovel’s was unique.
Scovel was a reporter for the New York World, but he also brought two tons of blasting powder to Skagway in Sept 1897 for White Pass Trail construction. He arrived in Skagway with his wife, Frances Cabanne and went over the Chilkoot Pass with their provisions. When he and Frances reached Lake Bennett, they had intended to float up to Dawson, but when he heard that only three mail deliveries would make it to Dawson that winter, Scovel came up with an idea. Why not organize a regular dog team mail delivery service from Skagway to Dawson and thus deliver the “New York World” to miners who would happily pay for news? He told Frances that they would certainly get rich.
Skeptics pointed out that the 600 miles of snow covered trails, frozen lakes and sub-zero conditions would take 25-30 days.
Still, Scovel told his wife that it would be like an extended honeymoon with nothing to do but “hunt, fish, prospect for gold and write correspondence…”
He left Frances in a tent at Lake Bennett while he hiked back to Skagway and took a boat down to Seattle to wire his employers for support in this venture. The World took three days to respond and then turned him down flatly and ordered him back to New York immediately. He wrote to Frances to return to Skagway and take the first boat down to Seattle as he was returning to New York. He also wrote to William Saportas, an acquaintance and fellow reporter in Skagway (also friend of Soapy) to please go find the “madame” in Lake Bennett and take her down south. Meanwhile poor Frances had not heard from her husband yet and so related in a letter to her mother that Bennett was “awful, awful without him and in this hole – it is death.”
Sylvester’s relatives in Chicago were amazed and told him he should not have left Frances. His Aunt Belle even boxed his ears! To make matters worse, the World was not happy and accused him of “gross extravagance” having wasted too much money. Oddly, the only reason he was not fired was because Hearst was courting him to come work for the New York Journal. Scovel went on to be the World’s “man in Havana”, but died there in 1905 following an operation to his liver.
In the end the only one who came out ahead was William Saportas. He married the lovely widow Frances in 1917 and they presumably lived happily ever after.
Seen above are Scovel and his wife Frances in Skagway promoting his newspaper!
The Year that defined American Journalism: 1897 and the clash of paradigms by W. Joseph Campbell; Edmond Hazard Wells, Magnificence and Misery, page 32.
NY Times Sept 6, 1897
Constable Christiansen of the Northwest Mounted Police worked at Tagish in 1898 where he and Special Constable Loucks and Corporal Spreadbury took off on a little adventure on December 4th 1898. They left Tagish for Bennett to deliver the mail and pickup supplies for the division mess:
“After an arduous four-day trip, Spreadbury and Christiansen collapsed on the lake ice within sight of the lights of Bennett. Loucks pushed on to get help for his exhausted comrades. Fortunately, they soon revived under the medical care of police surgeon, Dr. Louis Pare.”
Christiansen later worked at the Customs Station at White Pass Summit in 1902.
Report of the RCMP 1898 and 1902; Helene Dobrowolsky “Law of the Yukon”;
Happy Birthday to “the kid” as he was known, born on this day, November 9, 1878 in Atwood Ontario. He was the mail carrier for the route Skagway to Dawson.
Samuel Graves, President of White Pass, praised “Mr. Little” in 1903 for work as second officer on the Columbian event near Dawson. (White Pass purchased the Columbian in 1901 but the Columbian was caught in Dawson for the winter in 1903 when navigation closed with no warning. It wintered in the ice in front of the BYN docks, receiving “nominal damage” in the spring.)
Soon after, George became tired of the hustle and bustle of the Yukon Gold Rush and headed for the Bulkley Valley in British Columbia. As he gazed over the beautiful Skeena and Kitsumkallum Valleys, decked in spring finery, he knew this was what he was searching for and stayed. When the government threw this land open for sale in 1905 George Little, the Founder of Terrace, staked his claim on acres of the heavily wooded timberland, including the site on which Terrace now stands today.
City of Terrace website; “On the White Pass Payroll” by Graves, 1908
Born in Clarion County Pennsylvania in 1853, Edward was a handsome fellow, over 6 feet tall and generous according to Wickersham. In 1880, Ed was working as an iron worker in Wheeling West Virginia.
He moved to Tacoma in 1888 where he became engaged in real estate and then became mayor in 1894. He came to Skagway around 1897 and hauled freight over pass with William Tukey.
Ed Orr left Skagway with his wife for Dawson in 1900. Later he started the Ed S. Orr Stage Company in Fairbanks and got the US Mail contract between Valdez-Fairbanks.
It was reported in the New York Times that in November of 1902 in Dawson, he joined 400 others to take the oath to become Canadian citizens in order to vote in the election there.
He died in 1926 in Chehalis, Washington. There is not a record of what became of his wife who apparently according to Pennington was from Pasadena, California.
Pennington; familysearch; 1880 census; NPS web page; Klondike Stampeders Register page 268; Fairbanks news list; Wickersham papers.
A bad weekend for the Atlin-Skagway Mail carriers. On the 28th of November 1902, John “Jack” McIntyre and Joseph Abbey and their mail team all drowned while crossing Atlin Lake at the “Golden Gate”. The Golden Gate is a narrow passage leading into Taku Inlet and Atlin, about 42 miles south of Tagish, an area said to have rich deposits of quartz gold.
The photo above shows the tramway that was built to connect the Taku Inlet with Atlin Lake. The little Dutchess engine which sits in Carcross used to be used on this line.
From the Geological Survey of Canada, 1926; ExploreNorth; Graves “On the WP Payroll”; rootsweb postings.