Frank Novak was born on April 5, 1865 in Webster County, Iowa. He ran a mercantile store in Walford Ohio. He suffered some “financial reverses” (actually a gambling addiction) and put the business in debt. So, in frustration he took out a $30,000 life and accident insurance policy on himself. Then, on February 2, 1897 lured his friend Edward Murray to the store, crushed his skull, robbed him and then burned the store over him to cover the crime. He fled the scene, I found some evidence that Novak’s wife, Mary had claimed that he died in the fire, thus claiming the life insurance. But insurance companies are not so easily fooled. He was pursued for six months across the continent and to Alaska by Detective C.C. Perrin of Chicago or Denver. In total they traveled 26,000 miles back and forth across the continent. Finally in Washington, Perrin discovered that Novak had taken the steamer Al-Ki at Port Townsend on February 23 to Juneau. Perrin took the steamer Mexico on May 24 to Skagway. Both men had to secure provisions to cross the Chilkoot Pass.
Detective Perrin spent many days on the Chilkoot Pass looking for Novak. He then briefly saw him as his boat passed Novak’s boat on Lake Bennet. He followed Novak to Dawson where he got a warrant from the Canadians to arrest him and take him back to Ohio for trial. Novak was claiming that his name was J.A. Smith. But when Captain Constantine compared the dental records (possibly dentures) of Novak with his dentists records from Ohio, the Mounties decided that they had their man!
On the way back through St Michael, Novak told Perrin that back in Iowa, he kept a bottle of whiskey impregnated with morphine in the store and found Murray drinking it. Later during the fire he tried to rescue him but was unable to (perhaps because he had first bashed in his skull). Such a story! Perrin was not swayed and succeeded in bringing the murderer back to Iowa for trial.
In November 1897 he was brought back, tried, and convicted of second degree murder and put in the Anamosa prison in Ohio. A second trial by the Supreme Court upheld the lower court decision. By 1903 he was involved in photography and was on the prison band being a model prisoner and his friends petitioned the Governor for clemency. Not sure if that happened as he was serving a life sentence. He died in Chicago on July 12, 1930 but was brought back home to be buried in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a few miles from the scene of the crime in Walford.
The Carroll Herald, April 1, 1903. The Baltimore Underwriter October 1897. Two Years in the Klondike and the Alaskan Gold Fields by Haskell.
P.C.H. Primrose was born on October 23, 1864 in Nova Scotia. He applied to the newly formed NWMP in 1885 and was commissioned then.
In 1898, at the outbreak of the Klondike Gold Rush, Primrose was assigned to the Yukon, where he was stationed at the H Division in Tagish. He became superintendent of that division in October 1899, then was transferred to become superintendent of the B Division one month later. In 1901, he was posted to Dawson, where he assumed responsibility for 43 Mounted Policemen and 4 other men at the Whitehorse station. During his time in the Yukon, the main role of the police was guarding people awaiting trials and prisoners serving sentences.
Primrose supervised the 1900 Yukon census, reporting to the Commissioner that the territory’s population was 16,463. On May 13, 1900, he fined 31 “members of the sporting fraternity” $55 each, boosting the territorial treasury. Other activities included more community-oriented tasks, such as firefighting when permitted. He returned to Regina in 1914 and worked in many different capacities including being the 5th Lt. Governor of Alberta. He married and had 4 children and died in Edmonton on March 17, 1937.
He is seen above as a young North West Mounted Officer.
Mae Field was born in Ramsey County Minnesota in 1873. Her birth name may have been Mary Lavinia Sullivan born June 20, 1873 in Ramsey but I can’t be sure. In any event, she was quite famous in the north. When she married Arthur Daniel Field in Hot Springs, South Dakota in 1897 she had already been married and divorced. Arthur was ten years older and had some wealth derived from bootlegging and brothels. The couple decided to go to Dawson to mine. They were able to get their mining equipment over the Chilkoot Trail, but lost most of it in Lake Lebarge in a storm. Arthur staked claims and got a liquor license, just in case the mining did not work out. Mae decided to return to balmy Minnesota for the winter. When she got to Skagway the only boat available was the somewhat dubious “Georgia” which she decided to take, despite no one else taking the chance. Her luck held, but on returning to Minnesota, her mother told her to go back to her husband. So she did. After many adventures and working as a nurse, a babysitter, and a dancer. She later had a rooming house, but she always seemed to live well and have money. She moved to Vancouver in 1911 after her husband left her and the Mounties found her in bed with an unmarried man. (Hmmm) Although they were never able to prove she was a prostitute, the Canadians imprisoned her for six months and told her to leave the country. She eventually settled in Ketchikan where she was living in the 1940’s helping the Sisters of Mercy, orphanages, friends and the poor.
Seen above, Mae Field during her Dawson days.
Good Time Girls of the Alaska-Yukon Gold Rush by Morgan; Rebel Women of the Gold Rush by Mole; familysearch.
James Morrow Walsh was born in Prescott, Ontario in 1840 to a Welsh-Irish immigrant family. Walsh joined the NWMP in 1873 when it was formed. He was known for his association with Sitting Bull in the 1880’s, and was appointed the first Commissioner of the Yukon Territory and also the Canadian Gold Commissioner of the Yukon in August 1897. He arrived on the S.S. Quadra to Skagway in 1897.
His fame during the Gold Rush was that he was the one who proclaimed that people needed to have 2000 pounds of goods to cross into Canada. Whether he did that for humanitarian reasons to prevent starvation of goldrushers, or whether it was a political decision to make it more difficult for the thousands of stampeders to overwhelm Canada, we do not know. We do know that Mounties were then equipped with gatling guns at the pass to enforce the law. After his decision, he did not serve very long and resigned soon after in 1898. He died on July 25, 1905 at his elaborate home called “Indian Cliff” in Brockville Ontario at the age of 62. According to his obituary he was sick for 10 days, from an “affection of the heart”.
Mount Walsh in Kluane National Park is named after him.
Mills p. 11, 61; Wikipedia; p59 of Klondike Stampeders Register; gent-family.com