Once again I return to Maori sagas. In the diaries of William Hiscock, a New Zealander in 1898, he traveled with two Maoris on the trail. He later met up with them near Dawson and this little story:
“Coming back we called in to see the Maoris and found they were not doing too well. They were about two miles outside Dawson. Both of them had scurvy. They had built a nice cosy cabin, in appearance outside it was like an old-fashioned beehive. As so many cabins were being built logs soon became scarce and people had to go longer distances to get them, so the Maoris used willow sticks. They peeled the bark off them, and being only about one and a half inches thick they made the cabin round, about twelve or sixteen feet diameter at the base and brought them all to a point at the top. As there were plenty of will sticks at hand they placed them close together. The outside was first covered with a thickness of moss of which there was an abundance, and on that was placed a good thickness of turf and dirt. A nice porch over the door opening and the usual Maori figurehead on the porch finished it. It looked very nice inside. these two Maoris had a very hard time knowing nothing about mining and they suffered from the intense cold. They stayed in their cabin and with the plainest of food and lack of exercise they soon had scurvy nor did it leave them until spring came. They eventually got a passage on one of the steam river boats that came up the river from St. Michaels and then worked their way back to New Zealand.”
The only name he gave for one was “Bob the Maori”. So, looking at the records of the NWMP at the time of their crossing, there was a Robert Doe, a R. Kibblewhite, a R. Hisk and a R. Gane all from New Zealand. Kibblewhite and his traveling companion, C.V. Ledebur were both from Drury New Zealand which was a Maori community. So, by process of deduction, it might be them. Seen above is an African traditional twig beehive house which probably resembled the cabin that the Maoris built in Dawson.
Albert was born in Roxburgh, Otago, New Zealand in 1875. He paid his 20 pounds for passage and boarded the S.S. Monowai in January 1896 in New Zealand heading for San Francicso. From there he went to Alaska and on to Dawson. Though only 21, he was a blacksmith. Shortly after arriving in Dawson he fell ill with a fever, possibly spinal meningitis or typhoid and died. His friend, William Hiscock wrote in his diary that when he inquired after him with the local police they could not find a record, but he ran into a mate of Albert’s who showed Hiscock the grave and the headboard in the snow. This account is from the book “A Kiwi in the Klondike, A New Zealander’s Quest for Gold” published by his granddaughter, now 103 years old. Her daughter just gave me this book yesterday, so I will bring you more New Zealand stories in the coming days!
Seen above is the S.S. Monowai.
Stella M. Hull, 242 Hull Rd, RD 2. Waiuku 2682, New Zealand.(copies available for $20 pp); immigrantships.net – an online listing of people onboard ships.
Ropata, son of a Maori chief, left his home and family in New Zealand to go to the Klondike. He was one of the group of Maori’s that several goldrushers encountered on the trail. His eloquent account to his wife appeared in the New Zealand newspaper soon after he wrote the letter on April 18, 1898.
Timaru Herald, Volume LX, Issue 2798, 30 August 1898 Page 3
A Maori’s Journey to Klondyke.
From Ropata H. Manihera, of the Papawai Pa, Wairarapa, writes as follows to his wife: Port Wrangell, Haines and Skagway April 1898.
“O, my Pine, greeting. Great is my love for you and the children. Our steamer reached this town on Tuesday. This is the place where we go to the interior. Our party numbers 150. Today we are busy packing our provisions on pack horses, and will finish the work to-morrow, and then make a start. One hundred horses are to do the work. At the summit they will be abandoned, it being too expensive to continue them to Lake Bennet. The charge to the summit is 4d a pound; to Lake Bennet, 8d. We can’t pay the latter, so we shall have to drag the sledges to the lake ourselves. There we must build boats.
“Pine, you can scarcely imagine the great expense of carriage of freight here. You pay the steamer, you pay Customs, you pay wharfage and the tax. Even now it has not stopped. It’s pay, pay, pay, all the time.
“The best plan is not to bring anything but to buy here . It would be less trouble. Goods get stolen. On our arrival here, we found many of our things had disappeared. The country is all frozen over, making the drawing of our sledges very much easier.
“Pine, lots of gold came to this place. Many pakehas have returned with fortunes. Others again, have made nothing. This is a great country – the greatest gold land in the world.
“People run short of food, and are obliged to come back to fetch more. Some run short of money, and cannot pay the taxes, and are obliged to give up. As gold is found close to this place, these are engaged digging round about here. Thought this field is not yet developed, yet the whole of both sides of the river has been pegged out.
“I can’t build a canoe here the trees being too low.
“We intend to go on until our destination at the gold land is reached, where I will write again to you. I am all right, my mates too, and do not mind the cold at nights. It is nice and warm in the daytime.
“the strength of the sun is 90 degrees and more. But the land is all wrapped in snow. A great number of women and children have gone on. Some of these went by road.
“It is all nonsense and talk by the newspapers in saying that Maoris won’t be able to stand the climate here. In my opinion the Maoris can bear the climate best.
“Scarcity of food is the only draw-back here. Why women and children survive here, most of whom are from Australia. The rivers are fortunately well stocked with fish; also there are plenty of ducks, geese, and other fowls.
“O Pine, greeting to you and your children and the people. Long life to you all, and me. Again I send greetings to you, O my Pine. We sailed from Vancouver on reaching this town today. This is a small town, Our steamer passed many small islands coming up.
“This a snow land. On our arrival we looked around on shore, where we found many women and children. This very day four of our shipmates were robbed of their money. This is a notorious place for murders, and very dangerous to be out at nights.
“There were murders just a little while before our arrival. Five mates on the march had a dispute on the road. They parted, two going one way and three the other. In the night, while they were asleep, they were attacked, killed, and robbed, their bodies being chopped up to bits with an axe.
“Some of our contingent have gone by the road leading from here to the goldfields, while the majority of us proceed on by the steamer to Skagway, and take that route. Our steamer leaves again for that place today, getting there some time to-night.
“That is a worse place. Many pakehas have lost their lives there. There’s no law here – you have too much there.
“On our way up we met two steamers full of people returning from there. Their advice is “Go Back; don’t go to the diggings; people going there must be very careful.’ They gave some awful accounts. I scarce know what I shall do on landing – whether to make for the fields and trust to fate, or what; and if death overtakes me, well there’s no help for it.
“O Pine, this my letter to you all, and my love. Take it and show it to the home folk at Papawai, that they may see it and my love.”
The portrait above is of Ropata’s father:
Te Manihera Te Rangi-taka-i-waho was a noted chief of Ngāti Kahukura-awhitia. He helped broker the first Pākehā settlers to the Wairarapa and went on to sign numerous land deals. He died at Papawai, near Greytown, in 1885.
Following the death of Manihera Rangitakaiwaho, his son, Ropata Heketa Manihera, his brother, Hoani Rangitakaiwaho, and Hoani Te Whatahoro Jury presented the portrait to the Government who gave it to the Dominion Museum.
Timaru Herald, August 30, 1898; Auckland Art Gallery.
“Paddy” Slavin was a famous pugilist in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.
Born in 1862 in Maitland, NSW Australia, he was the Heavyweight Champion of Australia at one time hence his nickname the “Sydney Cornstalk”.
Slavin was a rushing, moving, boxer-puncher with skill and an extremely hard punch in either hand. He was much like Jack Dempsey, the heavyweight champion, in his skills, ability to take punishment, and killer-instinct. He came to the Klondike in 1898 and fought in matches until 1902 in Dawson and the Klondike. The New York Times of June 18, 1899 reported that he and his partner (Joe Boyle) had 37 placer claims in the Klondike. It also stated that he had gotten $100,000 in investment money to mine. He was also a “Commissioner for affidavits” in Whitehorse in 1908. Here is a letter he wrote to a friend in 1908:
“…Now old pal I am sending by this mail a couple of papers of our little town, and in the first noted you will see I am still on the track and can make they boys go a bit. I won the two mile walk in the snow here at our winter sports. I can still do my two miles in 18 minutes – not so bad for an old “has been,” though he was one of the smartest of the old bunch. Not a pound of surplus flesh on me. We are going to have a great country here in the Yukon Territory, Canada. The population of the territory is made up of people from all parts of t he world, and there is a very strong percentage of kangaroos and New Zealanders. Dawson City is 350 miles further down the Yukon River and north of this we have good sport-horse racing and cricket, base-ball, curling and skating and hockey matches. I had the privilege of being the first starter in this territory. I started the first horse race in this part of Canada and the farthest north in the world and on that part of the glorious Empire which the sun never sets on in 1898.
My son Frank is quite a good lad with the gloves. He is now 16 years old and I have apprenticed him to the engineering. He has now put in a year. He is a very big boy for his age 5ft 10 in high and weighing 142 lb and can go some but I will not let him go out of the amateur ranks. I have two girls, one 14 years and one 18 months – a native daughter.” Letter published in the New Zealand Truth, Issue 143, 14 March 1908 page 8.
He signed up for WW1 in Canada but because of his age was turned down. He then enlisted in the Western Scottish Battalion and worked first in recruiting, but then fought in Europe, suffering from shell-shock in 1917 after 57 days in the trenches.
Frank Slavin lived in obscurity until his death on October 17, 1929 in Vancouver BC.
New Zealand “paperspast” website; Wikipedia; Nytimes article-8/22/1897; 1901 Dawson Census online
“Over six feet tall with a mighty stutter and matching temper.”
George Herbert Kingswell was born on this day, July 20, in 1867, the last of ten children, in Kew, Invercargill, New Zealand. His father was both a very successful sheep farmer and equally successful business man with interests in fellomongery, local rail, and property development. But George was a wanderer and traveled the world (Australia, Hong Kong, San Francisco, Alaska and South Africa) as a reporter for various newspapers. His life is so extensive that books have been written about him.
As a freelance mining correspondent for the Australian Press he went chasing the gold rush in Klondyke Alaska. Reaching Dyea Alaska in August 1897. To support himself as a journalist he took to trading fur coats. By mid-1898 he was back as editor of the Coolgardie Miner in Western Australia. He died in 1931 in Capetown South Africa. The picture above was taken in 1915 of his family in South Africa.
austenfamily.org; Kingswell, War Correspondent the biography of George Herbert Kingswell, written by his daughter Elma Kingswell; The Dictionary of South African biography.
As a young man, Whitson ran away to sea and served before the mast around the world. He met Marion Horlock Smith in Auckland New Zealand and fell in love with her. He settled in New Zealand and took over as manager of the Albert/Whitson Brewery in Elliot St, Auckland in 1883, living at the Auckland Club until he and Marion were married in 1884.
In 1889 they moved to Melbourne, where James was promised a job with the Carlton Brewery, which ended him up in Hay, N.S.W. in 1890. His daughter Agnes was born there. He then returned to Auckland and because of his principles decided to find a new occupation. In 1895 went to Victoria, B.C. In 1896 he was an Accountant with British Columbia Cannery at Deas Island, Murray River, north of Vancouver.
Whitson’s final job was a “Customs Broker” at Log Cabin. He was actually a book-keeper in partnership with Messrs J.T. Bethune and Baker, a mineral exploration company in the Klondike. Soon after arriving in the North, he unfortunately fell ill with pneumonia and died on this day, April 28, 1899. He was 50 years old. After he died at Log Cabin, his body was shipped to Victoria and buried in Ross Bay Cemetery, Victoria (where Capt. Moore and his wife, and Nellie Cashman are also buried).
His widow Marion and four children lived at 7 Clarke St, Spring Ridge, Victoria, British Columbia. Apparently they decided to return to New Zealand soon after because this notice was in the paper there:
“May 12, 1899: – A few friends of Mrs WHITSON, whose husband recently died at Log Cabin, are endeavoring to raise sufficient funds to send her and her children home to New Zealand. Her goods and chattels will be sold by auction this afternoon at 2 at HARDAKER’s auction rooms.” [Victoria Colonist, May 9, 1899]
B.C. Voters List 1898 online and Skagway Death Record; Family of Thomas Whitson website
John Earnest Southerland or Sutherland died on this day, April 6, 1898 in the Bishop Rowe Hospital. Although we do not know how he died, it was most probably again from meningitis. He was born in New Zealand, perhaps Otago, in 1874, so he was only 24 when he passed away and was buried in the Gold Rush Cemetery.
A few days later, on April 15, 1898 a letter from the Right Reverend Peter Rowe, Bishop of Alaska was received in New York. In it he described the desperate situation in Skagway and the need for the hospital:
“…the people of Skaguay have been forced to start an emergency hospital. The need of it beggars description. It has relieved many cases of great distress. The people have responded to appeals to their humanity nobly. Impressed with the importance of the institution, representatives of the public have asked me to take charge of it, and I have done so. They have transferred it all into our hands.
“The emergency hospital is a low cabin 30 feet long and 18 feet wide. One room on the ground floor answers for kitchen and cots; one room above is but half-story or attic. In this room I found 12 cots, and 10 of them were occupied with men in all stages of pneumonia and meningitis. Yesterday while visiting it a young man was brought in from the summit, 18 miles, on a sled, tied on to keep him from falling off, having been dragged over rocks and through mud all that distance.
“Last night I was with a young man who died in my arms, from New Brunswick, telling me what to say to his father and mother and sisters. It was most sad, most pitiful. Sickness is ging to increase. The appeals to our humanity cannot be ignored. The sick are absolutely friendless, helpless, and without the hospital would simply die by the wayside. We have one woman nurse, two men, and a cook. Skaguay doctors are attending for little or nothing as expenses permit. We must build an addition if only of an inexpensive and temporary character.
“I am going to begin this immediately. Present accommodations are totally inadequate and unsuitable. We have assumed great responsibility.”
The author of this letter, Peter Trimble Rowe is pictured above.
-from the New York Times of April 16, 1898; Skagway Death Records; headstone.