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In the Klondyke; including an account of a winter's journey to Dawson Palmer, Frederick, 1873-1958 1899

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U Y°r Kim vu&y levef  Vi&ve   &t   Inys V>edcie5  Keed
mm  V
he Chilkoot Pass. ..   FW
ijt—*rf nBRmnnimi IN THE KLONDYKE
NEW  YORK  1899 Copyright, 1899, by
Choosing Comrades—Jack Beltz and his Dogs—Fritz Gamble—From
Sheep Camp to the Summit—Packing over the Chilkoot Pass—
The Halt at Lake Linderman—A Night in a Sleeping Bag—Coasting down the Frozen Yukon—Half Way to Dawson  .   .   Page i
Personalities—The Forebears of Jack and Fritz—Good Camp Manners
—Dog Individuality—Dude—The Team of Huskies—Wayfarers
at Five Fingers—Fort Selkirk and Pelly—The Thanksgiving
Turkey that Did Not Get to Dawson—A Diet of Flapjacks—Suburbs of the Klondyke Capital—The Passing of the Trail. Page 36
Social Aspects of Dawson—Cornering the Tinned Food Market—
Cheechawkos and Old-Timers in the Early Days    .   .   Page 61
The Beginning of Mining in Alaska—Forty Mile Creek—Canadian
and American Deposits—The Largest Log-Cabin Town in the
World—Life of the First Adventurers—The Superfluity of Six-
Shooters—Leaving the Latch-Strings Out—The Way of the
Transgressors—Indian Charley and his Nugget  .   .   .   Page 66 CONTENTS
Reaping the Gold Harvest—Thawing and Sluicing—Miners and their
Theories—The Dome—Expensive Timber—Empty Pockets but
Dollars in the Dumps—The First Millionnaires—Color in the Pan
—Once a Prospector Always a Prospector—Figuring Fortunes
—Capitalists in Demand—The Forty Happy Kings on Eldorado  Page 85
1 he Fool and his Lucky Friends—More Theorizers—Joe Staley and
Billy Deddering—French Gulch Bench—Good Fortune that
was Deserved—Neighbors and Twins—No Cure for the Gold
Fever Page m
Mr. and Mrs. " Meenach " and their Menage—The Juvenile Mining
Company, Limited—Voss—The Arch-Deacon—A Sour-Dough
Stiff—A Dalmatian and a Turk—Siawash George and his Steam-
Engine—Miss Mulrooney at The Forks—The Price of a " Square "
with Trimmings Page 126
Daily Life in Dawson—Renting a Cabin—Circumventing the Huskies
—Joey Boureau and his Restaurant—The Faro Dealer's Wife and
her Bakery—The Laundryman and his Claim—Jack Beltz's
Schemes—A Pair of Dreamers page 153 CONTENTS
Itineraries—Alleged Unimportance of Experience—The Case of Father
Stanley—Press Agents and Primers of Wealth—The Secretary of
the Seattle Chamber of Commerce his own Convert—Pardners
and Promoters—Outfits—Home Comforts for an Arctic Climate
—Heterogeneous Boat Loads—The Nancy G—Tragedies of the
Passes Page 163
Newspapers as Profit-Winners—Hearing about Dewey—A Drop in
Eggs—Market Items—Lemons against Scurvy—The Mercury at
110 Degrees—An Averted Moving Day—Industrious Scavengers
—The Klondyke Itself—Aspects of Summer—Bandanna Hats and
Pink Lemonade—A Restaurant Trust—The Grasshoppers and
the Ants—Disillusions Page 181
The Canadian Policy in the Yukon Province—Taxes and Fees—The
Gold Commissioner's Office—Conflicts between Territorial and
Dominion Governments—Timber Grants—The Value of the
Mounted Police—The Newly Rich at Dawson—The Order of
the Yukon Pioneers—Mrs. Constantine Page 200
Good-By to Dawson—The Extinction of the Unfit—Steamboating to
St. Michaels—Mosquitoes and Sandbars—Pilgrims by the All-
Water Route—Behring Sea—Civilization Once More . Page 212
The Chilkoot Pass Frontispiece
"Packing" Timber 8
Pilgrims Resting on the Chilkoot 8
A Halt 14
Guiding the Team 18
Borrowing a Hint from Ice-Boats—Just Above White Horse
Rapids 22
Over the Bench Ice of Thirty Mile River        .      .      .      .26
Crossing a Brook 32
In Camp—The Dogs' Porridge 40
The First Boats 54
A Typical Pilgrims' Boat 66
Yukon Indians 78
On the Creeks 88
A Flume on Bonanza Creek 102
Cleaning Up 108
Shovelling a Clean-Up into a Gold Pan 108
The Discoverers of French Gulch Bench at Work   .      .      . 124
Pardners and Twins for Forty Years 124
Miss Mulrooney of The Forks 142
Jack Beltz 156
"The Huskies" 156
On the Pass 164
Caches of Pilgrims' Outfits at the Summit      .      .      .      .172
Bargaining for a Newly Arrived Boat-Load, Dawson       .      . 182
In the Camps of the Cheechawkos 188
A Yukon Steamer l§8
The Main Street of Dawson 208
Choosing Comrades—Jack Beltz and his Dogs—Fritz Gamble
—From Sheep Camp to the Summit—Packing over the
Chilkoot Pass—The Halt at Lake Linderman—A Night
in a Sleeping Bag—Coasting down the Frozen Yukon—
Half Way to Dawson.
ORIGINALLY, I had intended to accompany our Government expedition for the
relief of the miners of the Klondyke, which
was in part mobilized at Dyea when I arrived
there late in February. As it never went any
farther, for the good reason that Dawson had
been rescued from famine by the migration of
a portion of its population, I was left to my
own resources. Wholesome fatigue and clean
camps on the snow were better than the hospitality of a mushroom town built of rough
boards and tar-paper; a little adventure was
better than watching for two months the thou- IN THE KLONDYKE
sands of pilgrims of fortune in the desperate
and monotonous labor of putting their outfits
over the passes; and I determined, rather than
to wait with them for the opening of navigation, to undertake with dogs and sleds of my
own the untried journey of six hundred miles
over the ice-fields of the Lewes lakes and the
ice-packs of the Yukon River which the Government expedition had contemplated.
Whoever was to go with me must be companionable, industrious, and loyal, lest in pitching a tent in a storm, when limbs ached from
the strain of the day's tramp, an unruly temper
might lead to the crisis of blows or separation.
In turn, I must work as hard as he; for we
could not afford to carry food for a stomach
that nourished idle hands.
Precisely the right kind of comrade, equipped
with experience, I had hoped would be forthcoming from among the men who had violated
the traditions of the early communities of gold-
seekers in regard to winter travel. Some members of this hardy little army were almost daily
arriving in Dyea. But their dogs were worn
out, and they themselves were inclined to
laugh at my suggestion, more particularly at
my money.    Having pointed out the greater
difficulties of ingress than of egress, they asked,
with a touch of sarcasm, if I thought that they
had made the journey out from Dawson for
the purpose of immediately retracing their steps.
Meanwhile, adventurous spirits but lately arrived from Seattle or San Francisco came to
offer their services with all the self-confidence
characteristic of a floating population. The
references of some were belied by their demeanor, and the demeanor of others by their
references. All were further belied by their
dogs—Newfoundlands, setters, and what not—
which had received a few days' training for
market purposes in Seattle. In consequence,
I was almost despairing, when I was accosted
by a powerfully built, blond-haired, blue-eyed
fellow who impressed his personality upon me
at once.
" I hear you're lookin' for a dog-puncher,"
he said, awkwardly. "My name's Jack Beltz.
I've been a cowboy, and done a good many
other things in the West, and now I'm up
against it with the crowd in Alaska. I think
I could do what you want"—and then with
sudden fervor, § but come around and look at
the dogs ! If the dogs are no good, you don't
want me, that's sure."
" Any further references ? "
" Well," after a moment's thought, " there's
Bangs, up at the Miner's Rest. He knowed
me when I was on a ranch in Nebrasky.
Dunno what he'll say. You can ask him,
though. Anyhow, I'd be obliged if you'd see
the dogs 'fore you make a decision."
He waited outside the Miner's Rest while I
spoke with Bangs.
"Jack Beltz!" exclaimed Bangs. "Well,
Jack Beltz's a fool when it comes to hosses
and dawgs. He thinks they can talk. But
Jack Beltz'll stick to a thing that's hard—he
don't like things that ain't—till he comes out
of it or goes down with it, and all the mules in
the army couldn't make him mad."
Then I followed Jack to a woodpile in the
outskirts of the town, where five fat and sleek
huskies awoke at his approach, and at his command lined up like so many soldiers, wagging
their bushy tails over their backs and watching
his every movement with their sharp eyes.
From their mothers, who were native Indian
dogs, they had inherited their affection for
man, however poor the specimen, and from
their fathers, who were full-blooded wolves of
the forest, their strength and endurance.
In an hour after I had met him I had engaged Jack Beltz on the strength of the fat on
his dogs' ribs, of his blue eyes, and of Bangs's
candid recommendation. Placing my theoretical knowledge of the needs of an arctic climate
against his experience as a frontiersman, we
quickly made out a list of the supplies which
were to be packed on our sleds, minimizing
everything in weight and bulk as far as we
dared, but being very careful to consider that
while we might go hungry the dogs must not.
In all, we took eleven hundred pounds, four
hundred of food and bedding for ourselves and
seven hundred of food for the dogs.
Chance made the choice of a third member
of the party, whose assistance was necessary, as
happy as the choice of its second. This big fellow, over six feet in height, was Frederick
Gamble, known to his friends as Fritz, who
had given up a career as an artist and had
already spent one unprofitable season with a
pick and a pack in the Cassiar district. No
pilgrim accustomed to good living ever accepted a diet of bacon and beans with better
It was already the 18th of March. If, as the
old-timers said, the Yukon became impassable IN THE KLONDYKE
by the 20th of April, we had little time to
spare. There was much in our surroundings
on the day of our departure to lend credence
to their opinion. The sun, at midday, which
turned the blue of the little glaciers over our
heads into a red, united with the wind blowing
from the ocean to thaw the snow on the mountain sides. In the many places where the winter
trail had been worn down to the sand of the
flats which the Dyea River overflows in the
freshets of spring, the pilgrims had to turn off
to the still intact but spongy ice of the winding: little stream of the autumn and winter to
find a better track for their sleds.
Canyon City, where the comparatively level
stretch of eight miles of the flats is at an end
and the real ascent of eight miles to the summit of the Pass begins, had grown into a little
village with three saloons since I had last
visited it, only two weeks before. Here the
river is a thundering cataract in spring, dashing
through a narrow gorge of rocks which rise to
a height of from twenty to a hundred feet.
The sled road of trodden snow with a basis of
ice had become so mushy that the men who
panted forward, dragging their sleds and asking
with their eyes, if not with their tongues, for
a hand to help them out of ruts, were wondering whether they would not be forced to take
to the summer trail running over the wall of
the canyon on the morrow.
Beyond the canyon was a community of
thousands of tents, Sheeps Camp, a halfway
station in the work of transportation from
Dyea to the Summit if not in the number of
miles. It had doubled if not trebled in population since I had last seen it, which meant
that the bulk of the pilgrims had their outfits
this far on their journey. I slept here, the
guest of some friends who had an excellent
bed of fir boughs. Before I was up I knew
that the day on the Summit was fair by the
tramping of the packers and the howls of the
dogs in the main path, or street, of the I town."
At this time, most of the days on the Summit
were fair, and it behooved the pilgrims to
make the most of them. In midwinter it
often happened that intense cold and a fierce
storm of fine snow, resembling a blizzard in
the Dakotas, made the Summit impassable.
The series of steep ascents leading from
Sheep Camp to the base of the final, long,
and much steeper ascent, called as a whole
by the pilgrims the Summit, was a struggling
line of men and dogs, drawing sleds, and of
horses with packs. Oaths and howls were so
numerous that no one oath or howl came to
the ear distinctly. You heard only noise, as
you hear an uproar of individual shouts at a
national convention. In the early days the
pioneers had given to the little plateau at the
base of the final ascent the name of the
Scales, because at this point they were wont
to balance their packs and readjust them for
the last grim effort. Beyond this neither
horse nor mule could carry nor dog could
draw a load. The more supple animal man
took his place.
If you would see the Pass, of which so
much was written when so little was known
of the Klondyke itself, you have only to
imagine a broad incline at an angle of nearly
forty-five degrees, seven hundred feet in height,
running between two snowy peaks at its summit, with men in the foreground bending
under the weight of heavy packs, and gradually growing smaller as they ascend, until,
finally, they seem like ants dangerously near
toppling over with their loads, though, to your
relief and amazement, crawling off the white
blanket into the sky.
i iMwwwumiijDjjui i .mi »mm n i MS*
Pilgrims Resting on the Chilkoot.
"Packing" Timber.
In the hard, well-packed snow, steps had
been cut, making it a case of walking upstairs rather than of climbing. At intervals,
more welcome than the chairs on the landings of an apartment house which has no
elevator, seats had been cut. Men stepping
out of the slow-moving line found rest in
these. It was not " game " to groan, but purple faces and lungs gasping for more power
for bodies quivering with excess of strain
told of misery that was felt if not expressed.
When a man did break down he collapsed
utterly, and sometimes he wept.
Fifty pounds was the usual weight of a
pack for all who did not take pride in exhibiting their brute strength. These, and the
professional packers who bore the outfits of
pilgrims who could afford this luxury, often
labored under a hundred pounds or more.
The hero of the day was an Indian. He took
up a barrel weighing three hundred and fifty
pounds. A Swede who crawled up on his
hands and knees with three six-by-four timbers
strapped on his back shared honors with him,
however. The descent to the Scales was delightfully simple. You sat down and tobogganed, using your  heels   as a brake, without
any unpleasant results if you had well-riveted
On the crest were piled hundreds of pilgrims'
outfits, separated one from another by narrow
paths, making the whole seem like a city in
miniature. Buried under the seventy feet of
snow which had fallen during the winter were
two other such cities, which their owners hoped
to recover in the summer. Beyond floated
a larsre British flag: over the little block-house
where the British Northwest Mounted Police
had established themselves to collect customs
and to see that no one not having a special
permit entered Canadian territory with less
than a year's supply of food.
Jack labored for two hours in bringing up
the dogs with the empty sleds, while our goods
came on the backs of the ants, who charged
three cents a pound for the service. Aside
from the five huskies hitched to a large basket-
sled, we had two St. Bernards, " Patsy" and
"Tim," who were born in the country, and
duly christened and acclimatized there. With
"Patsy" and "Tim," and my hand on the
"gee-pole" by which the sled was guided, I
went under fire for the first time in descending:
the inland side  of the pass.    Man and sled
were put hors de combat again and again, while
the dogs, who managed to keep erect, looked
back on me with professional disgust. I
wanted to blame my misfortunes to my moccasins, but Jack wore moccasins as well and
maintained his footing easily. Fortunately
for the novice there are three small lakes—
at the time they were three fields of snow—
in the nine miles from the Summit to Linder-
man, and he could take advantage of the respite when he was trotting across these to
think out, in the hard-and-fast civilized manner, how to avoid his frequent loss of equilibrium.
We spent the night "at home" with Jack
in his own camp on the shore of Lake Linder-
man. Jack and his " pardner" Cliff had been
among the pilgrims who had attempted to
reach Dawson in the same summer that the
news of the great " strike " was received by the
outside world. The ice formed in the lakes
and rivers before they could build their boats,
and there had been nothing to do but to wait
eight months until the ice was gone. Once
he had bought a team of dogs, however, Jack
became enamoured of making the journey now
at last before him.    On the other hand nothing
apparently had disturbed the patience of Cliff,
who was a broad-shouldered giant, over six feet
in height. The pair had first met in Seattle,
formed an alliance " for dust or bust," as Cliff
said, and had thought more of each other "every
minute ever since." Cliff was to stay at Lin-
derman now, but their alliance was resumed
later in Dawson, when Jack, Fritz, and I dissolved partnership.
While we were putting our outfits straight
and Jack was writing a letter—from his sighs
I concluded that it was to his best girl—Cliff
cooked flapjacks and fried bacon, sang snatches
of what had been the latest popular songs when
he left Colorado, and talked to his favorite dog;,
a Great Dane, who was as scarred as a veteran.
" Think you're going to be slighted, don't
you, Maje ?" he rambled on. " Froze off your
ears already, ain't you ? 'Tain't no country
for short-haired dogs, is it? Don't want to
lose your tail, too. No, sir. You're going
to sleep in the tent same's ever, and if they
don't like it I'll tell you 'sickum,' and they
won't be with us long;."
Major curled up at Cliff's feet as usual that
night. Inasmuch as he had a snow-bath whenever he was caught in a storm, he was more
agreeable than many human beings whose
bodies had not touched water for months.
In a day we had passed over the only portion of our journey on land, and we were
henceforth, as Jack put it gayly, to proceed
downhill with the current of the river at the
rate of eight inches to the mile, which is fast
enough as currents go, but rather poor coasting. The course of the Yukon through the
heart of Alaska is in a semicircle, with one
end at the coast and the other end as near to
the coast as the head-waters of a stream can
be, unless it flows on the level. Once he has
reached the lakes, the prospector may float for
2,600 miles to Bering Sea, and but for this
one of the two friendly deeds of nature in
Alaska—the other is abundant firewood—it is
questionable if the gold in the Klondyke would
have been discovered in our generation. De
Soto's exploring party would have had a similar
advantage if the Mississippi had risen within
thirty-two miles of Cape Hatteras, and they
would have needed it if the valley of the Mississippi had been like the valley of the Yukon.
In harnessing our dogs at dawn, as we
looked out across Lake Linderman from Jack's
camp, the only color in sight in the vast ex-
panse of white was the needle-like fir-trees,
cropping through the snow on the mountainsides, and the outlines of a few pilgrims in
advance of the main body, already astir, dragging their sleds on to Lake Bennett, where,
with whipsaws, hammers, nails, oakum, and
pitch, was to be built out of the forests the
unique and variegated flotilla which was to
line the river-banks in front of Dawson in May
and June. Jack snapped the long lash of his
whip, shook the "gee-pole" to free the runners,
cried " Mush ! "—a Saxon contraction of the
" Marchons / " brought into the country along
with many other words by the French Canadians—and seven gallant four-footed comrades and three figures in parkees looking like
hooded night-shirts began in earnest their
journey over the trail hardened by the pilgrims' footsteps. By the wayside we passed
caches of waterproof bags, one of them at
either end of a pilgrim's route of daily toil in
moving his outfit forward by relays, his own
ambition making him undergo longer hours
and greater strain than he, a free citizen
(U. S. A.), would have endured for any other
Linderman is only four miles long, and we
14  iijiiiiuiJiiiJ4i.iji.uini mmmmmmmw THE START FROM DYEA
were soon on Bennett, where the afternoon
brought, in sharp contrast to the keen atmosphere of the morning, a blowing storm of
moist snow which wet us to the skin. When
Jack halted the dogs for our first and our
worst camp, whose only consolation was a
water-hole that had been made by some pilgrim, they set up a howl of knowing delight.
With the snow up to my waist I cut firewood out of the abundance of dead timber,
and then cut green spruce-boughs, which, when
laid tufts upward on the snow that was packed
down as a floor for our seven-b.y-seven tent,
made a soft bed. Then I went for a pail of
water and brought in my sleeping-bag, and my
work was done. The air had cleared suddenly,
and the weather had turned so cold that my
parkee had frozen as stiff as a board. I pulled
it off, substituted dry moccasins and socks for
my wet ones, left the rest of my clothes to be
dried by the warmth of my body, and then,
huddling myself up with my sleeping-bag as a
seat, I watched my comrades finishing their allotted tasks.
Fritz, who had been chosen cook, was sitting
with one leg on either side of the little sheet-
iron stove, smoking  a cigarette and  making
flapjacks. Outside, by the light of the crackling blaze, I could see Jack stirring something
in a pan over a roaring fire with a big ladle
that he had whittled out of a sapling. Weirdly
presiding over this operation, their bodies in
shadow and their wolf-noses thrust forward
with epicurean relish, were the huskies. Jack
fed them only once a day, but then all that
they could eat of tallow, bacon, cornmeal, and
rice, thoroughly boiled in the form of a porridge. When he took the pan off the fire he
put it, safely covered, in the snow to cool,
while the dogs mounted guard over it, glaring
at one another; and then he came to sit on his
own bed, and together we ate by the light of a
candle hanging by a piece of wire from the
top of the tent. As I had my granite-ware
plate filled with beans the second time and
took my fourth flapjack—a flapjack an inch
thick and seven inches in diameter—a twinkle
came into Jack's eyes.
11 like to see a man in earnest," he said.
Then he relighted his pipe and went back to
his dogs. Having filled a two-quart tin pan
for each of them, with the ardor of a child he
heaped more timber on the dying fire, and,
turning his back to the cheerful glow, began a
technical conversation on the state of the trail
with sleek old Dude, the leader of the team.
Later, when he returned to the tent, the dogs
were so many balls of fur, their noses snuggled
under their bushy tails. If two feet of snow
had fallen during the night it would not have
disturbed the serenity of their slumbers, and in
the morning at the call to harness they would
have dug their way out and shaken themselves
ready for duty. Jack explained, as he pulled
off his moccasins, that they had eaten only half
their usual rations. Having been treated to
beefsteak in Dyea by their generous owner,
they rather resented marching fare; but they
would come down to it as soon as they felt the
pangs of hunger, he added.
" Are you tired ? " I asked him.
" Me ?    No," he drawled.
He filled up the stove—he must always
have a fire of some kind going—and, leaning
back on his robe, his hands behind his head,
he looked up at the top of the tent dreamily.
He was still in this attitude when I crawled
into my sleeping-bag and quickly fell asleep.
The sleeping-bag did well enough for that
night,-but I soon repented of it. With no opportunity for airing it properly, it soon collect-
ed moisture and became as a uncomfortable as
a coating of ice. After I had been kept awake
for a night by the colder weather that followed
the storm, I ripped it open and used the furs as
. a robe, which, with the assistance of a heavy
blanket, kept me as warm as toast, though,
when I awoke, there was a glacial path through
the space I had left open for breathing. The
wonder to me was that Jack did not freeze his
nose—it was a large nose—for he always slept
with his head completely outside of his covering^, his beard becoming; as white with ice as
that of Father Christmas.
" Blister me if I want to smother!" was his
The first one to awake in the morning
crawled half-way out of his robe, and, dexterously leaning over, put the coffee-pot on the
stove and made the fire out of the kindlings
which were always ready. To dress was to put
on your footwear, which had been drying—if it
had not been burning—before the stove. Then
the robes and blankets were rolled up and
strapped to serve as seats for breakfast, and you
stepped outside into the invigorating air and
did what you might in the way of cleanliness.
For my part, I washed my hands in the snow,
using soap liberally, with astonishingly efficacious results. After breakfast we had to pack
all the things that we had unpacked the night
before back on the sleds and lash them.
On the Lewes lakes, and the streams which
join them in a chain, one day was quite like
another, with the exception of a single event of
importance to ourselves. At daybreak we
were on the level trail, now trotting and then
walking, until our stomachs cried a halt. On
three occasions we had luncheon in the tents
of pilgrims who, not having been able to bring
their supplies over the pass in the rush of
the previous autumn before winter was at
hand, were making for the foot of Lake Le
Barge to take advantage of the three weeks by
which the clearing of the ice in the river
precedes the clearing of the ice in the lakes.
While his partner was dragging his sled, one of
our hosts was suffering in his tent the torture
of snow-blindness as the penalty of having
gone for a day without glasses. Another host,
an old Dane from San Francisco, had no companion, not even a dog.
" Sometime I do get mad," he said, " when
the sled pull so hard, and I say, 'Yohn, you
are a big fool to start for Klondyke when you
are sixty-nine.' But we do not like to gif up.
Nefer do we get so old we tank it too late to
make a fortune. If a man know as he would
drop dead on top of the Pass, I tank a man
gfo on to see the t'ing; out I make a fortune
t'ree time, and efery time I haf many pad lucks
—yes, very many pad lucks. Sometime I get
lonely, and then I say, ' Yohn, there is your
wife, there is your shildren; it is Sunday dinner, and you are home with a pile of gold.''
How we relished the one rapidly diminishing
ham that we had brougdit with us for our first
luncheons, followed by the perfect relaxation
which comes with good digestion and physical
fatigue, glorified by a pipe, before we arose
and turned our steps toward the brown line
of sled-track which stretched out over the expanse of white until growing darkness made
it dim, and Jack began to look out for the
first favorable place for a camp !
At this time it .was reported that  a great
"strike" of $2.50 to the pan had been made
on Walsh  Creek, a tributary of the Yukon
near   Big   Salmon.     The   rumor   afterwards
turned out to be an exaggeration—only thirty
cents a pan being the amount actually found,
which had grown as it travelled up the lakes.
Many of the pilgrims, among them ourselves,
who already had their year's supply of food
over the Pass, and some who had not but were
able to elude the police, leaving their caches
in charge of friends, put a tent, half a side of
bacon, a few quarts of flour, and a few quarts
of beans on a sled behind z lean house-dog,
and hastened toward Walsh Creek without
regard to fatigue or exposure. A sallow and
swarthy Quixote who had not made even this
provision for his stomach and none for his
back except a small blanket, called upon us
one morning when we were at breakfast. Before he asked for something to eat he introduced himself, as a Cuban who had been a
cook in New York, but had concluded to be
a cook no more now that fortunes were to be
had for a little hard travelling.
" You see, gents," he further explained, assuming a serene air of fellowship, " I've been
walking at night so's to get past the police
stations. They won't let a feller by when he
ain't got any grub. If I carried grub I'd be
too late for the strike, mebbe."
I But you'll observe, I'm thinkin'," Jack
suggested, I that hotels are few and far between
in this region."
" Oh, I'll manage to get on somehow.
There's a lot of luck in this world if you dodge
about so it'll hit you. I didn't know where
I'd get my breakfast, but I've got it, that's
He wished us much happiness, put his
blanket on his back, and walked on as unconcernedly as if he had a whole baggage train at
his heels. But this was not until he had suggested with the aplomb of the Bowery that
we would do well to take him on as a " pard-
ner." What became of him I do not know.
Possibly his body lies among a pile of driftwood on some sandbar in the river. On the
other hand, I should not be surprised to see
him one day on Broadway, a huge diamond in
his shirt bosom and a blond lady on his arm,
or to read an account of him in a newspaper
under the head of "From Cook to Millionaire."
The Walsh Creek digression caused two
weeks' delay at a time when we felt the need
of every day to complete our journey, and I
accept the awkward responsibility for it. At
White Horse Canyon we were offered the
hospitality of a large cabin with a kitchen in
one end and bunk-room in the other, occupied
by some workmen engaged in building a tramway around the rapids. Jack suggested that
we stop here for a day because the dogs needed
rest, he said, but really on my account, I think.
I had contracted a bad cough, and my legs
ached like two great teeth. In the afternoon
I lay down on the cook's bunk, and toward
evening Fritz started down the trail to a distant camp to find a doctor who had turned pilgrim of fortune. Meanwhile Jake, the cook,
dosed me with tea made of sage that he had
gathered on the mountain-side.
"Your pulse is up to a hundred and ten,"
the doctor said; "but all that you've got is a
plain, old-fashioned case of measles. You
must have caught them in Dyea, and you've
greatly exaggerated them by physical strain."
My comrades put up a tent in another cabin
which still wanted doors and windows, thus
ensuring a soft light for the protection of my
eyes, which the doctor feared might be affected. They nailed some saplings together
for a bedstead, and were so ingenious in many
ways, so kind in keeping the temperature the
same night and day, and in attending to my
wants generally, that I felt like a king in his
private hospital.    Jake came in every day to IN THE KLONDYKE
make sure that I was taking the doses of sage-
tea that he sent in morning, noon, and night;
while the big workmen came in to hint that I
must not let Jake have his own way too much.
And I lay on my back and thought of two
things—strawberries and pineapples. I would
have given all my wealth for either—but not a
five-cent piece for a pear.
My convalescence was not so dull as I sat on
a bench in the kitchen, learning, under Jake's
tutelage, how to cook oatmeal properly, how
to bake bread and to make good pies out of
dried apples, and listening to him expound his
ideas of the world. He was a great cynic. If
you believed in one thing, he was sure to believe in another. One of his favorite remarks
with which he baited me was that " everybody
is out for the stuff ; there ain't no honor nowadays ; and you don't catch me missin' no
dollars." His boarders excused him by saying,
" Any cook that's been in a minin'-camp or a
lumber-camp is always a blisterin' crank." On
the morning of my departure I held out a bill
to Jake in partial remuneration for what he
had done for me. He stirred the contents of
his pot this way and that, viciously, without replying.    I protested, and then he growled :
4 Gwan !    What d'ye take me for ? "
As I waved him a good-by he called out:
" Young feller, you're all right, but you won't
In two days we were at the foot of Lake Le
Barge, and on the second of these we had
travelled thirty-five miles, which made the dogs
very unfit for service on the day following.
So all of another two days' hard work was
required to go from the foot of Le Barge to
the junction of the Hootalinqua over a portion of the Yukon known from its length as
Thirty Mile River, and certainly worthy of some
distinction on account of other characteristics.
Many more boats of the pilgrims' flotilla were
wrecked in the spring on its hidden rocks than
in the White Horse Rapids, which, I may add,
have received undue celebrity. If an average
temperature of thirty degrees below zero continues for several weeks, the current may
freeze over, but rarely is there more than
bench ice along the shores; and this, owing
to the increasingly moderate weather and the
falling water, was fast breaking away in huge
cakes, which fell into the stream with a splash.
Over that which remained, slippery, sometimes
sloping  toward   the   river   at  a  considerable
angle, and often only a foot or two in breadth,
we must make our way. When there was no
footing; below the sled, we attached one end
of a rope to it, wrapped the other end around
our waists, and if one of us slipped and fell
in the soft snow of the steep hill-side above,
luckily the others maintained their hold and
were able to prevent both sleds and dogs from
going into the river and putting an end to our
little expedition there and then.
There was only one accident, and that not
alarming;. Fritz thought that he did not need
our help to bring the St. Bernards over a
place that the big sled had safely crossed with
Jack's back and mine against it and with the
heavy steel prongs strapped to the heels of our
boots dug into the ice. We heard a cry of
" Hurry up ! This is cold !" and looked around
to see Fritz standing in a shallow eddy up to
his waist, his parkee blown up about his head
like a veritable balloon, while he braced himself against the sled. 11 had to jump in to
save our bedding," he said. We hurried on
the faster so that he might keep his blood in
circulation, and he merely took the trouble to
change his socks when we made a camp on
a fairly comfortable  ice-cake, after having as-
ansa >
sured ourselves that it would not float away
with us during the night.
Near the Hootalinqua the current slackens,
and we crossed where the stream was completely frozen over. Above us was a great jam
of cakes that had floated down, some of which
rumbled under our feet, came out in an open
place below, and then went on to form another
jam. A few minutes later there was a boom
and our bridge moved downstream with the
noise of a medley of bass drums. At noon on
this day the sun had made the trail so soft that
we sank into it up to our knees. We halted a
little later, determined to start at one o'clock
in the morning and take advantage of the
crust frozen during the night; and we had
what seemed at the time the good fortune to
put up in a cabin which had been abandoned
by the mounted police. Having had an early
dinner, we were thinking of bed at six o'clock
when two ragged men, their faces blackened
by cooking over camp-fires, came in. They sat
down, and when they had eaten with the heartiness of famished beings some things that we
had left on the table, one of them, whom his
companion called " the Doctor," became explanatory :
" You mustn't mind our appetites," he said.
We've just come from Dawson. My pardner
there, Yukon Bill, hain't been out of the
country for eight years. Go easy there, Bill!
Your manners are bad."
" Shut up ! " roared Bill, looking as wild as
a hungry lynx.
"Oh, he ain't as crazy as Jim," continued
the Doctor. "Jim was a sight uglier 'n Bill,
an' you can see what Bill is. He took his
share of the bacon on his back an' started out
for himself this mornin'."
"No packin' fer me!    We kept the dogs,
you bet, by ," put in Bill through a mouth*-
Jim arrived three hours later. Without paying any attention to the presence of other
persons, he dropped his pack as if it were of
lead, fell down on the bench, pushed back
his unkempt hair, and looked vacantly at the
" Hello, Jim, you loon !" the Doctor called
out. " As long's we've said quits, I ain't goin'
to be mean.    Have one of our flapjacks!"
"Eat yer own dirt," replied Jim. "I kin
cook, an' I've got just as much right in this
cabin as you have."     And Jim  put   a skil-
let with a piece of dirty bacon  in it on the
" Don't push my pan off there, you eight-
footed elephant!" cried the Doctor.
Jim lifted his skillet and turned on the Doctor. Then he set the skillet down again with
the action of one who is too tired for further
effort, and fell back onto his seat.
" You Siawash sons of the devil," he said between his teeth, " if I ever git my strength on
the outside I'll lick both on ye till ye bawl like
a calf." And brushing back his hair again he
added, in a protesting voice, after a moment's
pause : "I kin do it, too !"
" Bully old Jim !" observed the Doctor.
It was plain enough that the minds of all
three of our visitors, especially Jim, had been
affected by the hardships that they had endured
on their long tramp, with only snow, trees,
dogs, and their own quarrels for companionship. Most of these grim travellers whom we
met coming out from Dawson—now and then
one was limping from scurvy—had neither tent
nor stove, quite inadequate robes, no dishes
except skillets and cups, and no food except
bacon, flour, and beans, and not always beans.
Earlier in the winter they put up a barrier of
boughs against the wind, and slept between two
great fires, kept up by the member of the party
whose nig;ht it was to watch.
At eleven o'clock the Doctor stopped talking, and we slept for half an hour, only to be
awakened by the arrival of another equally
worn-out party, and almost the last one from
Dawson that we met. By the time we were
fairly asleep again these tired beings set the
cabin on fire, and Jack, in his good-natured
way, put the flames out for them.
At daylight I was awakened by Fritz, who
was grumbling to himself about the audacity
and the stomachs that some people must have.
I arose to see him looking into two empty pails
which he had left full of apple-sauce and beans.
" I was hungry as a dog in the night," the
Doctor explained, a little later, " and I couldn't
help it"
Fritz replied by looking daggers at him.
Then the Doctor offered a pair of snow-shoes
to Fritz as an olive branch.
" If I thought that what you've eaten would
make you downright sick, I'd take 'em," said
■ 'Twon't," replied the Doctor, in all honesty.
■ Nothin' makes me sick."    And he g;ave the
snow-shoes to Jack, whose eyes were twinkling
in appreciation of the conversation.
As we started out, five or six hours later
than we had planned, we resolved to eschew
cabins hereafter. We had not done a half-
day's work when a heavy wet snow set in,
and the condition of the dogs compelled us
to rest.
I Wear 'em out," said Jack, " and it's all up,
anyway. We'll boil some beans and lay up
some sleep ahead against a freeze."
Accordingly, dogs and men slept for thirteen
So slight was the freeze at night that the
sun, now rising at four o'clock, soon thawed
the crust. The Big Salmon was already open,
its current destroying the trail and leaving a
field of slush with many places too deep for
passage for a distance of five or six miles, which
was as wearing on the dogs as a full day's journey under ordinary circumstances. We only
hoped that the Big Salmon was alone in its
enmity to our plans, for once the ice is out of
the tributaries, the ice in the Yukon cannot
last long. It seemed to be imperative that, in
order to take full advantage of the slight crust
which formed, we should travel nights.    We IN THE KLONDYKE
made this experiment once,  starting out at
10 p.m., and once was quite enough.
The thawing snow had fallen away from the
path, which was hardened by travel from
Dawson and therefore the better resisted the
sun's rays; but when frozen it was as slippery
as ice. In so far as you were able to keep the
sled from slewing on this razor's back, that
much you aided the dogs. At intervals you
walked outside the trail, plunging with every
step through the crust down to the slush
underneath, while, with body bent and arm extended with all the rigidity at your command,
you endeavored to hold the lurching ". gee-
pole " steady. Early in the evening the great
darkness seemed the more dense to visions
strained by the sun beating on the expanse of
snow by day. With their eyes bloodshot and
almost closed with snow-blindness, the St.
Bernards continually stumbled and fell as they
leaped from one side of the trail to the other,
blindly and vainly seeking a better footing.
When we rested we dug holes in the crust, and
throwing ourselves prostrate, drank our fill.
At first, I tried to use a telescope drinking-
cup, but soon I regarded it as tawdry, inefficient, and unworthy of the occasion, and fol-
lowed the more robust custom of Jack, who
enjoyed to the full the pleasure of having
made a convert. For one who had left White
Horse with a bad cough on the heels of the
measles, such indulgence would seem to be the
height of indiscretion. But the cough was
completely gone, no room having been left for
it in the development of every muscle of my
body by the handling of the " gee-pole."
At these times we would pay our respects
with some bitterness to the man who had
made this strange and lonely trail, though in
better moments we were willing to admit that
he was a pioneer and a pathfinder. As soon
as the ice would bear him, when the wind had
drifted the snow here and there and lifted the
slush ice up to be frozen into rifts, with his
dogs and sleds he set his face toward the coast,
winding in and out between these rifts, back
and forth across the stream and along its
banks, wherever he could find the best footing; and all who came afterward followed in
his footsteps. He was making a path for himself and not for us, and it was to his interest, if
not to ours, to have it as crooked as the track
of a snake, and on the most crooked of rivers
at that.
With the falling of the water as the winter
advanced, the ice was rent with cracks. It fell
away from the shores, leaving cakes on end
and fissures. You must toil up one side of a
pyramid to slide down the other; you held
your sled up literally at an angle of forty-five
degrees, and sometimes you dropped up to
your hips into the fissures, for the thin covering of snow often made them invisible even
in the daytime. Yet to step away from the
trail was like stepping off a bad corduroy road
into a swamp.
In the darkness the trained eye of the
master had to trust to the halt and whine of
the brave little Dude when we came to a
place where the surface water was deep or the
ice had given away entirely. While the master
went ahead with a pole to make soundings,
Fritz seized the opportunity to roll a cigarette
and to say in a drawl, as he sat on his sled,
I If I were in town I would call a cab."
Jack had discarded his boots with sharp pegs
—the three of us had worn boots since it became warmer—to put on moccasins. These
were soon wet and quickly froze, giving him
a sole of ice with which to walk on ice.    In
uH..WLUwiMHuuiiiuiiiJiuiiiiiuiiii.1111 ui\mmnmmmmmmmmmm^mT THE START FROM DYEA
utter exhaustion, once the big fellow threw
himself upon his " gee-pole " and gasped out
something about not caring whether he went
any farther or not.    Then he added:
| Well, we'll outlast this trail, anyway. I
guess I'll light my pipe."
Confessedly, I was rather glad of the incident. It is good to see giants nod when you
have nodded yourself. Only on the previous
day, over a mile of sidling trail, leaning on my
sled to keep it from upsetting, and righting it
when it did upset, I had momentarily, I am
ashamed to say, turned cynic and protester.
An hour before dawn a scimeter of light
shot across the heavens, followed by broadswords, fans, daggers, waves, and streaks of
light, dancing sometimes in playful panic and
again moving in a sweep of dignity. With
the aurora borealis as our candle, we passed
around Freeman's Point, built a fire for luncheon in a cove, and enjoyed keenly the fact that
we were half way to Dawson.
35 II
Personalities—The Forbears of Jack and Fritz—Good Camp
Manners—Dog Individuality—Dude — The Team of
Huskies—Wayfarers at Five Fingers—Fort Selkirk
and Pelly—The Thanksgiving Turkey that Did Not
Get to Dawson—A Diet of Flapjacks—Suburbs of the
Klondyke Capital—The Passing of the Trail.
AS we moved on slowly at dawn to make a
few more miles before camping, we saw
the penalty of this savage run, which human
stubbornness had insisted upon making, in the
blood left on the trail by the wounded feet of
our dogs.    Jack at once covered them with the
moccasins which he had brought for the purpose.    It was plain enough that the continuance  of night marches was unfeasible if we
desired our brave steeds to hold out as far as
Dawson.    While the sled slid easier at nig;ht,
the excrescences of ice were as sharp as lances,
and though the mushy trail of mid-day made
the sled harder to pull, it was like a cushion
for a wounded foot.    We compromised upon
mmmmmmmmm ON THE TRAIL
a portion of both evils by determining to start
at dawn and travel as fast and as long as we
could, practically. This gave only seven or
eight hours on the road as against the twelve
or more that we had originally planned, and
in order to make the most of them we made
the sacrifice for the dogs' sake of drinking ice-
water for our luncheon instead of taking the
time to boil chocolate. Fritz preferring to
handle the I gee-pole," and I preferring to
assist in keeping the equilibrium of the big sled
by holding the handles at the rear, each settled
down to this as his definite labor.
. We now had more time for our camps;
more time for our pipes of relaxation as we
sat on our beds around Jack's bonfires after
the dog;s were fed and dinner was eaten. On
one of these nights we were talking of ambitions.
I As a boy, I wanted to drive a street-car,"
said Fritz. "When I grew older they still
called me Freddy, and I made pictures for a
living. That is enough to ruin any man ; and,
foreseeing this, I concluded that I'd live on flapjacks and go unwashed, and be called ' pardner,'
or Pete, or Bill, or make baking-powder dough,
or anything, till I found a good placer mine.
Then I'm going around the world, smoking
the best brand of Turkish cigarettes, and looking at other people's pictures."
Jack had run away from home at the age
of thirteen to the land of the Indians that had
been revealed to him in a dime novel secreted
in a haymow, and had earned his own living
ever since. Meagre as was his early education,
he had picked up a surprising amount of information from reading; and from association.
His eye was that of a scout; his knowledge of
birds and animals that of a naturalist; his love
of flowers that of a sentimentalist. He had
varied his life as a cowboy by many other occupations. At one time he had been a private
coachman in Omaha, just to see how it would
" I was gettin' pretty sick of the job," he explained, "when the old lady I drove about
leaned over to me one day, confidentially.
'I'm goin' to get you a fine livery to wear,' she
said. Then I realized how low I had fallen,
and that evening I was a free man again."
He was longer on the Government survey
than in any other employment, rising until he
filled a position of considerable responsibility.
Possibly it was then that he learned the ethics
of camp-life ; more likely they were innate.
He adhered to his own soap, his own towel,
and his own bedding, and was more observant
of the small niceties of life than are most of the
men who wear the high collars that he despised.
In all of his seventeen years of wandering his
greatest source of sorrow was that he had never
made enough money, according to his ideas, to
return home, though his pay had been as high
as a hundred and fifty dollars a month. He
must have a few thousands, and treat the little
Pennsylvania village that was his birthplace to
such extravagance as it had never seen before.
If he made a I stake" in the Klondyke, he
had planned to drive right up to the old folks'
door with his team of huskies and a little red
cart, distributing candy to the children as the
procession moved forward.
The dogs, which at first seemed to me to be
only so many domesticated wolves of like dispositions, had now assumed strong individualities. Dude, the leader, was worthy of the
name g;iven to him, on account of his sleek coat
of thick gray fur, by the frontiersman who had
instilled into him the wisdom of the trail and
soldierly spirit and obedience. He was the
sergeant-major among Yukon dogs, far from
being a pup in years and far from having lost
his vigor. When called to harness in the morning he would stretch his body, arch his neck,
throw his handsome tail over his back, deliver
himself of a peculiar little wolfish whine, and
trot straight to his place. Though your old
sergeant-major may feel a little stiff when he
g:ets out of bed, he isn't stiff when he has his
tunic on, especially if there are any recruits
about From the moment that Jack called
" Mush !" until he called " Halt!" Dude pulled
steadily. All the others shirked at times and
needed the crack of the whip to remind them of
their duty, but the traces between Dude and
the dog behind him were always taut. He
had the natural dignity requisite to his position.
The other dogs attempted no familiarities with
him, such as eating out of his dish or trying to
bowl him over in sport After an unusually
hard day's work, before lying down to rest, he
would gambol a little with them as a relaxation
from the steady strain in harness, but not in a
manner of equality.
During their conversations while the master
was stirring the porridge he asked the sergeant-major what he thought of the prospects
of reaching Dawson before the ice went out of
«HF tajs^sssf "W*?**
In Camp—The Dogs' Porridge. ■HI
the river, Dude replied, on the authority of
Jack's translation :
I Don't ask me! I can make it all right.
But we ain't certain of anything as long as we
have those house-dogs on the hind sled."
Next to Dude was Fox, a nondescript, who
remained in good flesh up to the last. He
waddled and puffed in trying to keep up when
Dude trotted. Fritz said that Fox reminded
him of a fat school-girl, her cheeks daubed with
molasses candy, and two braids down her back.
Behind Fox was Jack, a pup, a mischief-
maker, a rascal, and an actor. All husky dogs
are thieves. Some will take a pot off a stove
by its handle and hide it safely out of sight in
the snow while they wait for its contents to
cool to their taste. Jack promised to become
the most accomplished of the clan. His wolf's
nose always told him where our bacon was
stored and his wolf's eyes told him when his
opportunity had arrived. Once he had the
meat out of his own basin of porridge eaten,
he looked up to see which dog had any left and
got it before the other dog realized what was
up. He would scent an Indian camp even
before Dude, sometimes at a distance of two
miles.    In the traces he forgot to pull while he
looked at the ravens flying overhead or listened
for noises in the forest. Then the whip descended upon him and he would seem very
crestfallen for a moment, only to be at his old
tricks and to have his tail in the air in the next.
The more he was punished for dereliction during
the day, the greater was his affection for his
master in camp. On the warmer nights when
Jack slept outside of the hut for the sake of
elbow room, he would put himself on guard at
the head of the master's bed of boughs and
allow no other dog except Dude to come near.
Dude was partial to him. He regarded Jack
as a wayward but clever pup who was sowing
his wild oats, and he knew, as an old sergeant-
major, that this would make the best kind of a
dog in the end. Often the master took hold
of the ne'er-do-well's ears and shook him, say
"I guess I like you best, after all, Jack.
That's the way of the world. You're a rascal,
but you're clever."
Next in line was Tommy, Jack's brother.
Jack enjoyed getting Tommy into scrapes and
then leaving him to get out of 'them the best
he could. Tommy was forever sneaking about
the tent, and he was so impolitic in his choice
of his moment of action that he was usually
caught red-handed and cuffed. Though he
never succeeded in stealing half as much as
Jack, he came in for a great deal more enmity
from Fritz than all the rest of the team. Jack
used to approach Fritz gayly as Fritz sat with a
leg on either side of our little stove, turn his
coyote's head to one side, cock up his ears, and
assure Fritz of his friendship for a good cook
and his contempt for all such curs as Tommy.
He might go and come many times in this way
before Fritz's back was turned. When it was,
however, he seized his spoil and trotted away
in the businesslike manner of a dog who is doing an errand for his master. At a safe distance,
he neatly dodged all missiles and smiled mockingly back at the cook. When Tommy was
licked in the traces he howled for half an hour
and his tail did not ascend for the remainder
of the day. None of the other dogs would
make friends with so sour a fellow. Perhaps
he was only oversensitive and introspective,
and I do him wrong. I fear, however, that he
will be sent to the penitentiary at Forty Mile
for a long term one of these days.
Shorty,   the end dog (wheel horse) of the
husky team, was born in Spitzbergen, where
dogs are so white that when they are on a
background of snow you know of their presence only by the black spots for their eyes and
a bigger black spot for their noses. An
equality in breadth and length gave Shorty his
name. Like some fat old gentlemen whom
we meet at the club, he was the more comical
because he was unconsciously so. He didn't
believe in being a martyr, and he always carried
his head so that one of his eyes was on Jack.
When the master was about to touch up Jack
and Tommy, Shorty would begin suddenly to
pull very hard. His legs were so short and his
body was so chunky that if the team turned a
sharp corner around a cake of ice he would
often roll over like a ball of fur; or, in trying
to keep up he would slip and fall down a fissure,
hanging suspended by his collar while he looked
around at Jack, saying :
" Oh, I know I'm the snapper of the whip !
What next?"
He blinked so oddly, there was such an expression of disgust in the very way in which he
lolled his tongue out, that you laughed at him
as you would at the old gentleman who finds
another club member in his favorite chair and
reading his favorite paper.
Tim, the larger of the two St. Bernards,
was a sober, phlegmatic dog of noble mien,
who was funny only when he ate so much porridge after a hard day's work that he groaned
with pain.
1 You needn't look at me so reproachfully,
Tim," Jack would say, i I know I'm to blame.
But I'd feel just as mean if I didn't feed you
all you wanted."
The St. Bernard is too high-spirited for the
work of a draught animal. At first Patsy
seemed the better dog of the two. But Patsy
wore himself out by fidgeting, and then it was
his turn to soldier while Tim did his work.
Toward the last they were in such bad shape
that we dared to put only fifty pounds on their
In the neighborhood of Five Fingers we met
a dozen stranded pilgrims whose desperate
efforts to reach Dawson in the previous autumn
had been put to naught by the summary approach of the arctic winter when they were
within a few days of their destination. They
had built cabins on the banks of the river,
wherever their boats had been inextricably
caught in a jam of ice, and settled down to the
prospect of playing checkers and fighting off
scurvy for eight months, until summer came.
Of those who were unsuccessful in the battle,
the most afflicted was an old forty-niner who
accepted with better grace than any of the
others a diet of spruce tea and rice, which he
hoped would undo the work of too much
bacon. A few prospect holes had been sunk
without any reward except " colors," because,
as they explained, they were, in keeping with
their general ill luck, just outside of the gold
belt. For selfish as well as sentimental reasons
we were glad that these unfortunate fellows
were not more numerous. We had always to
tell them some of the news, and then to leave
their hospitality rather offended despite our
explanations that we could not afford to tarry
with them for a day's rest when the trail was
At one of the cabins a boy of seventeen years
hobbled out to the bank to greet us. He and
his uncle had left Dawson for the coast in
December, drawing their own sleds. Hardship
had so affected his uncle's mind, as the story
was told to me, that to escape from the country
had become a brutal and selfish mania with
him. He forced his nephew, even at the point
of the revolver, it was said, to do all the work
of making and breaking camp. The boy was
so tired one night that he crawled under his
blankets without changing his moccasins, which
had become wet by the slush snow about the
fire. He awoke in the morning with his feet
frozen. When they were overtaken on the
trail by a man with a dog team, the next afternoon, the boy, goaded on by his uncle, was
plodding along on legs which were frozen stiff
up to his knees, experiencing, he said, much inconvenience but no pain. The fellow-traveller
gave him a ride behind the dogs to the nearest
cabin, where, later, a doctor on his way to the
coast found amputation necessary to save the
boy's life. As for the uncle, he delayed only a
few hours, and hastened on his journey more
energetically than ever.
A little hunting had been done by the
stranded pilgrims, but with no success. We
had hoped to obtain some venison from the
Indians, but though we passed many of their
deserted camps between the Hootalinqua and
the Pelly, we came to only one that was occupied. Here two families were sitting around
a small fire with their backs protected on all
sides from the wind by a wall of brush about
waist high.    We secured a few pounds of ex-
47 p&*
tremely tough steak in exchange for some corn-
meal. A small boy who looked quite like a
young Jap knew a few English words and had
the gift of making comprehensible gestures.
He explained that he had heard his father's gun
go " boom !" far off on the mountain-side, a few
hours before. No chaffing could shake his
confidence in his father, whose name was
Chook, as a great hunter. One boom, he told
us by signs, and the moose or caribou always
tumbled over into the snow. The temptation
to wait and see if Chook would return with
fresh moose or caribou meat was great, but we
resisted it. When, however, we were at the
other end of the semicircle formed by the curve
of the river beyond the camp, a cry from the
bank showed us Chook, who had hastened
through the woods by a trail known to himself,
bearing a fine caribou steak and a piece of
liver. With him, besides the little boy we had
seen, was an elder brother who had been out
to learn the way in which Daddy crept up
quietly until he was within a few steps of his
prey. Chook wanted sugar in exchange, but
we had none to spare. Finally his obduracy
was   overcome   and   he   accepted  corn-meal.
Long after we had passed on, he stood watch-
ing us, and presumably he was grinning over
his bargain. We enjoyed part of the steak;
Jack, the pup, stole the rest with such finesse
that we forgave him.
When we had passed one point which we
recognized as a name on the map, we looked
forward from day to day, as we lessened the
distance, until we should arrive at another. In
camp we compared our opinions of how many
miles we had made that day, and soon our
estimates became surprisingly accurate. After
leaving Five Fingers, all our thoughts were
bent on reaching Fort Selkirk, where the Pelly,
a great river of itself, joins the Yukon. The
trail for this distance was better than for the
fifty miles that had preceded it and the colder
weather made sledging better. Moreover, our
new plan of shorter hours and harder work was
succeeding admirably.
Long before placer mining was thought of
in Alaska or in the British Northwest Territory, representatives of the fur companies were
stationed at Fort Selkirk. The present post
is across the river from the upper ramparts of
the Yukon's bank, whose towering walls of
rock resemble the walls of old-time forts, even
to the embrasures.    In a break in the ramparts
49 p-
is the mouth of the Pelly, which is to the
Yukon what the Missouri is to the Mississippi.
Mr. Pettit, the trader at Selkirk, had only
Indians for companions. The aspect of this
little man's loneliness was heightened by his
slight form and his pallor, so out of place in a
country where bare existence is supposed to
demand so much vigor. In summer he busied
himself with a little garden, which was an absorbing occupation because upon its success
there possibly depended immunity from the
dreaded scurvy. In winter he sat by his stove
smoking when he was not sleeping. Watching
the Indians g;o through the ritual of the Rus-
sian Church in their original manner, or dance
around a dying fellow to keep off the evil spirit
of death, were diversions which must by this
time have lost their novelty for him. He had
had nothing to sell for more than a year. This
was a great disappointment to his customers
who were short of those great requirements of
aboriginal happiness, tobacco, sugar, and gay-
colored clothes.
While we were at Pelly, the Indians became
excited over the arrival of news that one of
the tribe, Ulick, had shot ten caribou and two
moose,  I one  sleep "—or more than  a day's
travel—down the river. We made careful
calculations as to how much tobacco we could
spare, and kept a sharp lookout for Ulick,
whom we met with his family dragging some
of the moose back to camp. For forty-five
cents' worth of tobacco we secured thirty
pounds of steak for ourselves and the dogs.
To offers of as high as a dollar a pound for
more, he merely made the reply :
I Got heap money !    Want ' baccy!'"
Your husky dog is no vegetarian. Once we
realized how much additional pulling-power
our team could get out of a little fresh meat
we denied ourselves for them.
The height and the character of the mountains towering over our heads told us that we
were coming; into the reg;ion of the Rockies.
Every turn of the river brought into view a
panorama of low wooded islands made in later
times by a change of current; of islands that
were Cyclopean masses thrown up by chaos,
and the nesting-places of eagles; of mountains
on either shore, whose strata seemed to have
been kneaded and stirred when soft as dough,
and afterward, upon solidifying, to have been
rent by convulsions of the earth's crust.
But one was too busy with the handles of
f ~>l
the sled fully to enjoy scenery. You only
knew that the vista seemed to be frowning
upon the impudence of you and your sled and
dogs breaking in upon great solitudes. Thankfully, the weather was more in our favor and
the trail was harder, as it had been between the
Big Salmon and Pelly, and not so sliding. At
times it was as smooth as a skating-rink for
a few hundred yards where it was protected
from the sun by the shadow of the mountains
and the forests ; again, there was glare ice,
where we might ride for a little distance, jesting merrily about private equipages and driving-parks ; and, again, we drove flocks of wild
ducks away from open places, making us regret that we had only revolvers with us. Far
over our heads against the background of the
blue sky we saw great flocks of wild swans and
wild geese moving northward in stately procession, reminding us that summer was near at
hand. At 2 a.m. the thermometer was at from
10 to 20 degrees below zero; at noon, 80 degrees above, and the crust of dawn had become
like porridge. I had one ear blistered by the
frost and the other by the sun in the same day.
But we little minded these extremes ; for the
trail continued to be good, until one morn
ing we arrived at the cluster of cabins called
Stewart City, at the mouth of the Stewart
River, where we rested for a day. Of the in-
' mates of the cabins we bought enough rice to
piece out the rations of our dogs.
A mile out of Stewart we met Anders, of
Bay City, Michigan, who was drawing his own
sled as he swung along in great strides in the
company of an elderly man who had one dog.
An idea for making a fortune had occurred to
him and to carry it out he had started for
Dyea at once, regardless of the season of the
year. He was " going outside " to bring in the
stock for a poultry farm which he proposed to
establish on an island near Dawson.
" Fresh eggs will bring ten dollars a dozen
any time," he said, " and a spring chicken as
much. I ain't going to let anybody get ahead
of me, you bet. I've got a side of bacon and
a sack of flour. I'll sleep by day and go without a blanket. I'll make it to Five Fingers
with my sled and then I'll take what's left of
my grub on my back and skin along the shore
till I get to the lakes, where I can get some
more grub off the boats that are coming in,
snake a canoe somewhere, and paddle up to
I saw him in Dawson two weeks after the
pilgrims' flotilla began to arrive. The ice in
the river had broken before he reached Five
Fing;ers. He had climbed over mountains'
and beaten his way through underbrush until
he sprained his ankle. Then he crawled to
a ledg;e of rock overlooking; the stream and
waited until a pilgrim in a passing boat saw
the red bandanna which he waved as a signal
of distress.
"And I guess Dawson won't have turkey
for Thanksgiving this year," he added. " You
remember the old feller that was with me ?
We got separated. He couldn't keep up with
my gait Well, our boat passed his dog running up and down the shore howling, but we
couldn't find a sign of him. I guess he was
It took us six days to make the remaining
seventy-five miles to Dawson, though now
our outfit, including bedding and kit-bags, did
not weigh more than two hundred pounds.
The weather at night had suddenly moderated,
as if the arctic winter, after a spasmodic resistance, had given way entirely to the tropical
summer. Henceforth, it was needless to put
up our tent, and we slept and cooked entirely
54 ■    CO  ON THE TRAIL
in the open, drying our wet footwear by the
heat of the sun in the late afternoon.
Starting at 2 a.m. with the first light, we
plodded straight ahead through the snow up to
our knees, until the dogs gave out. We followed the trail where we could; followed
it until it led us to the flowing river, and
then we made a detour around the open place.
The snow-shoes which we had brougdit thus
far without having once put them on, now became invaluable in making a path by slow and
arduous tramping, as monotonous as the beating of time, but a little more tiring, I assure
you. Without the relief of the color of the
dogs or of the man in front of you upon which
to rest your eyes, little red spots would dance
in the glare on the snow even through heavy
green glasses. Often the rest of the party
had to wait while Jack, who never tired, went
on ahead to see if, in case we should go around
this or that island, we should be obliged to retrace our steps. Again, in little side channels
where the water was deep only in a freshet, we
hitched all the dogs to one sled at a time
and they dragged it over the sandy bottom and
up on the other side, where we were likely to
strike out on an old Indian trail bare of snow,
55 $&
and to have to lift the sleds from side to
side to avoid saplings.
It was our boast that only once had we unpacked the sleds except to make camp. This
was at Five Fingers, where we had to carry
our baggage piece by piece up an ascent of
forty feet. Even there we had sent the dogs
up with the small sled on bare ground. But
now we could lift the sleds and contents; or
if the bank or ledge of rocks which we wished
to gain was very precipitate, we could slide
them up on skids. Dude, the old leader,
would crawl up by himself without a whine,
like a true soldier. Jack threw the other
huskies up bodily, and the clumsy St. Bernards were pushed and pulled and coaxed up.
Just when we had to undergo the greatest
physical labor, and the greatest strain from
climate, our food-supply, so astonishing had
been our appetites, had dwindled to flour and
bad bacon, and we had remaining only a pipe
of tobacco apiece, which was religiously saved
for our last camp. We missed most keenly
our chocolate, of which we had eaten half a
pound apiece a day. With a slab of it for
luncheon, and only two flapjacks and a slice
of bacon, we were not hungry again for five
'"■■» m»" ON THE TRAIL
or six hours. Consume all the flapjacks and
bacon that we could without suffering from
that excess of quantity which is the foe of
exercise, in three or four hours our stomachs
would be calling for more.
On the afternoon of the fourth day out
from Stewart, when the dogs pulled up after
one of the rushes they were never too tired to
make on scenting a camp, we looked up to see
some figures standing on a pile of logs which
they were cutting for a raft of timber for a
Dawson saw-mill.
■ How are ye ? " they called. " Goin' to
We had reached the suburbs!
"Well," replied Jack, "we've been thinkin'
some of it.    How far is it ? "
" 'Bout twenty miles. But you won't make
it.    The ice is likely to go out any minute."
On the day following we passed still another
camp of rafters, who said that the river was
open in front of Dawson. They advised us to
make camp and accompany them when navi-
tion opened.
I We'll be old inhabitants by that time," said
Every creek flowing into the river was a
torrent, eating up the ice and flooding its surface. We could see that the river was rising,
which was a sure sign that its days were few.
However, we were confident of reaching our
destination on the morrow, though we had to
desert our sleds, put some flapjacks and slices
of bacon in our pockets, and climb over the
mountain which hid " town " from view.
Our last camp was on a wooded island
where some prospector had built a brush-
house. Jack's bonfire, especially large in
honor of the occasion, extended to this house,
and we thought it rather g;ood fun that we had
to save our bedding from the flames. But our
jubilation was not unmixed with sadness. We
should not make another journey together, and
we had been g;ood comrades, always venting;
our anger, when it insisted upon expression,
upon our sleds, and never blaming one another.
Our hair and beards were long and unkempt ; our trousers were the color of mahogany ; but we felt strong enough to go up
the side of a mountain on the run, and we had
been so near to nature that we could truly
claim her for next-door neighbor.
In the future, the numerous police stations
built in the summer (1898) will furnish food
for travellers and their dogs. Already, therefore, our journey in the manner that we made
it is a thing of the past, and, accordingly, one
feels as he looks back on it a little of the pride
of the pioneer.
I We can sleep as long as we want, to-morrow," said Fritz, pulling his robe over him,
"and we won't care whether it is going to
freeze at night or not."
" And we won't have wet feet," Jack added.
" I guess it's been twenty days since they
wasn't sopping 'fore we'd been out two hours,
and that slush does feel rather clammy when
the sun's blisterin' overhead."
Ten miles in ten hours was the record of
our last day's travel, over the worst trail we
had encountered. At dusk we rounded an
island, and to our right, on a small flat across
the river (which here had been opened by the
current of the Klondyke), we saw the cluster
of cabins which was the pilgrim's Mecca.
There was glare ice, however, above the Klondyke across to the little suburb of Dawson,
Klondyke City. For the first time in many
days we rode on our sleds, finishing our journey in triumph.
I Don't you know that it's too late to travel
on the river ?" asked the foremost man of the
little crowd that came out to meet us.
" Yes," replied Jack, " and we've just made
up our minds to quit"
Four days later, as if it had broken away all
along the shores at the same moment, the ice
moved on toward the sea like a great white
procession, halted now and then by a jam, but
not for long.
" It's a pleasure to see that trail go by," was
Jack's comment, as he watched it from our
cabin-door. 11 only wish I might pay it back
in its own kind by tripping it up a few times."
60 Ill
Social Aspects of Dawson — Cornering the Tinned Food
Market—Cheechawkos and Old-Timers in the Early
AT this season of the year the inhabitants
of Dawson were passing out of the chrysalis of fur caps into soiled, broad-brimmed
hats resurrected from cabin-shelves; out of
winter clothing generally into what remained
of their last summer's clothing. Along the
thawing bog called the main street, littered and
odorous from sanitary neglect, were two rows
of saloons and gambling-halls, with mining-
brokers' offices and the stores of shrewd speculators in food-supplies, who always had one
can of condensed milk for $2.50, one can of
butter for $5, and one pound of sugar for $1.50,
and assured you that they were the last in the
country. To look out across the flat toward
the mountains was to see scattered cabins and
piles of tin cans, which at once let one into the
61 0^
culinary secrets of an isolated community composed largely of men. At the restaurants,
bacon and beans and coffee cost $2.50.
For a time in the winter in fear of famine
the well-to-do hoarded food as they hoard gold
in a financial panic, and the restaurants were
closed because supplies were not procurable at
prices that made catering profitable. Then, a
fifty-pound sack of flour sold for as high as
$100; but at the approach of spring the little
capitalists who had planned to sell their " corners " at great profit were glad enough to dispose of such surplus as they had beyond their
own needs at a loss. To them the departure of
hundreds of mouths which otherwise would
have been fed out of Dawson's granary was as
great a disappointment as a report that Hungary's wheat crop would greatly exceed expectations is to the bulls on the Chicag;o Ex-
change. All of the luxuries and many of the
necessities of life were scarce; but, withal,
there was quite enough of bacon, beans, and
flour to have satisfied the appetites of the
whole community for a month after supplies
arrived. According to the philosophy of the
old-timers, there is never any danger of a man's
starving as long as he will look ahead a little.
So easy is it to sleep and so little does one eat
when one is not working that he can live on a
pound of food a day, if need be, and take the
remainder of his nourishment in slumber. On
the other hand, vigorous labor in winter demands at least three pounds a day, and it is
upon this basis that estimates have always been
made in the valley of the Yukon.
With a tiny can of cocoa, which I pounced
upon in a store as if it were an Elzevir in a
junk-heap, and a few staples bought at extravagant prices, we were able to prepare a superior
meal in the cabin that I had leased. But this
was not until we had slept gloriously for sixteen hours. There remained the problem of a
bath, which was serious, as the one bath-house
in Dawson was closed for repairs. I solved it
legitimately, if uncomfortably, in the wooden
tub which was lent to me by a neighbor.
The saloons had only a substitute for whiskey, of home manufacture. The dance-halls
were not open. All the men whose dust and
presence would make the camp lively were at
the mines—or " up the creeks," as the saying
goes in Dawson—preparing for the "clean-up."
In winter and in summer the trail leads up
the Klondyke to the mouth of Bonanza, three
miles from Dawson, and thence up Bonanza
to the working-claims, about three miles farther on. In the spring, when the currents are
swollen, you must go over a high mountain by
a path in the soft snow. If you have a pack,
this is hard work. On the way I met a blue-
faced old fellow—by his look if not by his limp
he had the scurvy—who promptly put me in
my proper social status.
" Are ye a Cheechawko ?" he asked.
" I don't know, I'm sure."
" Well, then, ye are, and the river must 'a'
broke. Any man's a Cheechawko until he's
been in the country when the ice goes out. In
the old days we could lick the Cheechawkos
into shape; larn 'em to leave their latch-strings
out fur a passin' stranger when they was away
from hum, and larn 'em to eat what they wanted
and to use the best blanket in a cabin, but to
lug nothin' away. Fifty thousand of 'em, they
say—clerks and farmers and dudes. They're
too many fur us. Civilization's here, and it's
a case of locking up yer dust after this. But,
young man, ye can't be an old-timer, never!
Ye can't be an old-timer, 'less ye've lived in the
camps in the old days when a man was a man
and his neighbor's brother."
And without giving me time to reply to his
little lecture, he hobbled on toward the hospital.
Cheechawko is the Indian word for stranger,
or, more literally, tenderfoot, which has come
into general use in the Klondyke; and toward
the Cheechawko, bringing in the more penurious ways of the outside world, along with ignorance of mining, the old-timer feels a genuine
resentment. I was glad of the opportunity to
see the veterans ere the recruits had arrived.
65 jjti^
The Beginning of Mining in Alaska—Forty Mile Creek—
Canadian and American. Deposits—The Largest Log-
Cabin Town in the World—Life of the First Adventurers—The Superfluity of Six-Shooters — Leaving
the Latch-Strings Out — The Way of the Transgressors—Indian Charley and his Nugget.
A LITTLE history of placer mining in the
Yukon valley, at this turn of my narrative,
will be of importance, I think, in making what
follows more comprehensible. It was early in
the eighties, if not before, that the first prospectors, armed with Indian tales, faith, and a
" gold pan," packed their supplies to the shores
of the Lewes lakes over the passes which were
the means of communication between the
Indians of the coast and those of the interior.
They followed the ice out of the lakes and
down the river into a practically unexplored
country, panning out of the gravel at the
mouth of each tributary.
At first, these and the other brave spirits who
66 o
were encouraged to follow their example arduously poled their boats back up-stream in
September, with the result of their summer's
labor, to spend the winter in one of the towns
of the quartz-mining region in southeastern
Alaska or in the Pacific Coast States. Some
had three or four hundred dollars; others, who
had impatiently disregarded certain "pay" on
the bars of the tributaries and had prospected
in the hope of making a great "strike," returned with little or nothing.
Soon they began to take in enough supplies
to last them through the winter, and to build
cabins for their protection. A little settlement
sprang up on the site of the "diggings" of
Forty Mile Creek. All of the rich deposits
thus far have been found not on the tributaries
of the Yukon but on the tributaries of the
tributaries. (The wealth of the far-famed Klondyke is not on the Klondyke River but on
Eldorado and Bonanza, which flow into it.)
So the next progressive step was a discovery
which led to the working of the frozen ground
in the vallevs of the numerous little streams'
tributary to Forty Mile, by stripping off the
dirt as fast as the very hot sun of the long days
of the arctic summer thawed it.    This process,
however, was feasible only when the " pay-
dirt" was near to the surface, and the season of
activity was still restricted to four or five
months of the year.
As the prospectors moved on down the
river, gradually widening the circle of their
labors and their experience, deposits considerably richer than those of the tributaries of
Forty Mile were found on the tributaries of
Birch Creek in American territory. Here, for
the first time, an innovation, which did not
appeal to everybody, made it feasible to work
twelve months in the year. An energetic man
sank a shaft to bedrock with fires. Then he
drifted out his " pay-dirt" in the same manner
and piled it in dumps on the surface to be
sluiced out in summer. By the autumn of
1896, when the great discovery of Bonanza
Creek was made, Circle City was said to be
the largest log-cabin town in the world, and
from twenty-five hundred to three thousand
white men dwelt in the Yukon valley.
Experience in placer mining counted for
little in a region where conditions were so
different from those of the Pacific Coast
States. There was no sprinkling of capitalists
or   mining   engineers   among   those   robust
pilgrims of the early days. Many of the hardships which they endured are already a memory. They were cheered in their combat
with nature by no such tales as lured on the
Cheechawkos of 1897-98. The majority of
them came from the frontiers of the United
States; a smaller part, generally of French
descent, from the frontiers of Canada. All
.were peculiarly the product of the Anglo-
Saxon bent for overcoming obstacles. Not infrequently there were fugitives from justice,
who, having the inclination and the energy to
undergo great physical trials rather than serve a
term in prison, and learning a lesson in manhood by bitter retrospection, have often become
heroic pioneers. More numerous than the inhabitants of the old centres of civilization would
suppose were those recluses who are ever seeking lonely refuges out of touch with the advance
posts of organized society.
There was no prospect, especially when no
" big strikes" had been reported, to attract
the idle and the dissolute who infest similar
settlements in more hospitable countries. Relieved of the parasitic class and being interdependent in isolation from the outside world
under the most rigorous conditions for eight
69 fpp
months in the year, their inhabitants, despite
the " pasts " of some of them, made Circle City
and Forty Mile the most peaceable of mining
camps. Captain Constantine, of the British
Northwest Mounted Police, with a few men,
had plenary powers at Forty Mile, while Circle
City was nominally governed by a United
States Commissioner and a United States
All the white women in both communities
could be counted on the fingers of two hands.
Mrs. Constantine, the wives of a few missionaries and of a few leading men, had come in
on steamers up the river in summer to join
their husbands. Half a dozen half-breed women, with more or less of the blood of Russian
fur traders in their veins, composed the demimonde of either camp. Full-blooded squaws
performed the household duties in some cabins
for a civilized lord and master. But the
" squaw man " was the exception. In no part
of the world where isolated white men live
among aborigines was the man who had a native mistress held in greater disrespect than
As a rule, the miners did their own washing;
and mending.    Their amusements were card-
playing and checker-playing. The climate
seemed to exercise a softening effect upon bellicose natures, and even intoxication seldom
carried quarrels beyond a dispute of words.
Whoever struck the first blow had the consensus of opinion of the camp against him.
| We've got enough to do fighting Alaska,"
was a saying which sententiously expressed
the general feeling, " without fighting one
To the new-comer it was hinted that a six-
shooter, which fiction makes the inseparable
companion of all men in a new placer mining
camp, was a superfluity that would keep him
out of trouble only when he kept it at all times
hanging on a peg in his cabin. Its weight
alone was equal to two days' rations in a
country where the prospector had to dispense
with his helpmeet, the mule or the burro, and
carry his grub for a tour on his back. There-
fore, arms were never carried unless there was
a chance of meeting with game.
The essence of the "free miners' law" was
being on the " squar'," which, after all, is a
rough equivalent of the brotherhood of man.
Between the disputants as to the ownership of
a claim the § miners' meeting " decided which
one was in the right. All offenders were
brought before the bar of their fellows. A
man accused of theft, after an examination of
witnesses, was acquitted or convicted by the
holding up of hands. If guilty, he was, according to the circumstances, either warned
to leave the country for good—no slight penalty in midwinter with only the hospitality of
Indians to depend upon—or else ostracism
was postponed pending good behavior. " Miners' meeting law" is unscientific and rarely
commendable, but here it served its purpose
well because its methods made it so seldom
Under the force of self-interest a universal
good-will prevailed. Whatever a miner had
—perhaps the increment of a summer's earnings which was to pay for another year's supplies—he kept in tomato cans on the table of
his cabin with impunity. When he went away
from home on a journey to some other creek
he left his latch-string out. On the very evening of his absence, while his cabin was occupied by another, he was, perhaps, sleeping
in someone else's without an invitation. By
the unwritten law of the land he enjoyed
whatever luxuries of food and rest the cabin
afforded ; but, likewise by the unwritten law
of the land, he washed any dishes that he had
used and put them and all other things that
he had disturbed back where they belonged,
folded the blankets on the bunk, cut firewood
in place of that which he had burned, and laid
kindlings by the stove ready to make warmth
and cheer for the owner when he should return,
cold and weary.
Cheechawkos who came down the river in
the spring in their rough boats at first, through
ignorance, were often transgressors of the unwritten laws. But so few arrived at a time
that the majority were soon able to convince
them of the folly of courting trouble for themselves. Anyone with a bad record could not
obtain favors or a loan when he needed it.
After he had consumed the supplies which he
had brought into the country with him, he
must rely upon the transportation companies,
established to meet the demand of the new
settlements, whose river steamers connected
with ocean-going vessels at the island of St.
Michael in Norton Sound. When a man
had been unfortunate in his summer's work,
a reputation for probity would secure from the
companies a year's outfit on a simple promise
to pay. In treating generously the real prospector who sought new fields, they only had
an eye to their own interests in the development of the country. Every canned and preserved delicacy was included in a year's supplies, costing from $500 to $600. Canned
plum pudding was a treat for the holidays ;
and more than one miner ate pdti de foie gras
for the first time in Circle City or Forty Mile.
These luxuries, however, were no substitutes
for fresh fruits and fresh vegetables.
The flat-bottomed river steamers continued
on their course until the ice in the river led
them to seek a slough or side channel for
safety, all hands preparing to spend the winter
housed up on board. Then no more Cheechawkos' boats could arrive, and the camps
were as completely separated from the outside world as a whaler caught in the ice of
Bering Sea. To all men, including the recluses, a "pardner" was essential. For the
recluses were recluses from civilization and not
from fellow-men of their own tastes ; and no
one, except a few of the most perverse, undertook single-handed to put up a cabin or to live
in it alone.
The I town " was on the river bank at the
most accessible point to the creeks whose
wealth was responsible for its existence. Its
cabins clustered around the commercial companies' stores and the saloons. To one side
was a camp of Indians and the mission station
which ministered to their spiritual wants and,
following the paths of diplomacy, to the spiritual wants of the miners—upon request. Fuel
was brought from the hill-sides and food was
taken to the cabins on the creeks by teams of
husky dogs.
When the winter settled down in serene
triumph in December there was not even the
falling; Of snow to disturb the calm atmos-
phere. The fine white particles under foot,
which seemed as sharp as powdered glass to
the touch, were precipitated invisibly, like
frost. They glistened on the mountain-sides
without a breath of air to stir them. In the
few hours of gray light out of the twenty-four,
men welcomed the sound of their own voices,
or even the howl of their dogs, to break the
silence which was the fit companion of the dry,
biting cold. At night they forgave the still
and merciless panorama of the day as they
watched out of their cabin-windows the play
of the Northern Lights, in which nature has
furnished for the eyes a greater treat than is
the breaking of surf for the ears.
With the coming of spring, when the sun
mounted so rapidly in the heavens, every man
had his opinion and his reasons for it as to the
exact date when the ice should go out of the
Yukon. After this—the greatest event of the
year—had taken place, all eyes kept a lookout
up-stream for the first pine-colored boat that
should dart around the bend with the rapidity
of the current The Cheechawko was surrounded by a little crowd which asked him
about the result of the previous November's
elections, or if France and Germany had gone
to war as indicated by an August paper which
the community had been reading for eight
As a rule, the early arrivals had been in the
country before. They knew the channels and
the currents of the river, and could resist the
temptation of stopping to pan the gravel of
the bars in search of colors, for the old-timers
had long since concluded that the travel-worn
particles of dust to be found at the mouths of
all of the tributaries of the Yukon which are
in the so-called gold belt, were vagrants and
not the advance guard of a floating pilgrim-
age. They had poled weary miles in their
long boats and carried packs for wearier ones
without finding at the head-waters of the tributaries, which were named by them and still
await accurate mapping by geographers, any
original deposits. The shallow bedrock in the
neighborhood of Forty Mile put the original
deposits there within reach of the summer's
sun and the superficial investigation of the
hurrying prospector, and opened the way to
the discovery of richer original deposits at
Circle City at a slightly greater depth of bedrock.
So the miners had concluded that the next
great strike, following the progress of development down the river, would be made below
Circle City. On account of an Indian's keen
glance the contrary happened, and they retraced their footsteps to find fortunes at a depth
of thirty feet under soil whose surface they
had trod before. The sharp-eyed Indian was
a brother-in-law of " Siawash George,", and
■ Siawash George" was an outcast, whose
nickname was given to him by his fellow white
men. The Siawashes are one of the lowest
orders of the American Indians, and the old-
timers, so largely men from the Pacific Coast,
use Siawash both as a noun and as an adjective
to signify contempt One of the first white
pilgrims to cross the passes, Cormac, was now
the father of three or four half-breed children-
He had planned that his marriage to a princess of the tribe would be the stepping-stone
of his ambition to become chief of the Sticks.
In the autumn of 1896 he and his family and
retainers were encamped at the mouth of the
Klondyke, gathering from the land and the
water, according to aboriginal custom but with
modern riffles and hooks, their winter supply of
The Klondyke is one of the best rivers in
the neighborhood for fish, much better than
the Indian River, which flows into the Yukon
between thirty and forty miles above it. At
the summit of the water-shed between the
Indian and the Klondyke is a great mountain,
which, from its shape, the miners have named
The Dome. In the snows of its sides six
creeks have their origin, three flowing into
either stream. The longest of these is sixteen
miles. They wind through beds of black
muck, ranging from fifty to two hundred and
fifty yards in breadth, which lie between steep
embankments.    It is presumed that the em-
bankments are the walls of an ancient river
channel. They are indented only by the
gulches cut by tributaries which once were
mighty but now have dwindled to little torrents which flourish only with the first warmth
of spring or after a heavy rain in summer.
The great heat of June, July, and August drew
out of the muck with a growth of tropical rapidity a rank grass upon which the moose fed
in peace, fattening his sides, made lean by
winter's privations.
Here " Injun Sharley," as he called himself,
came to look for moose, and here he found instead, as he was crossing the first tributary of
the Klondyke at a point where its bending
course had dug a niche out of the side-hill, a
glistening nugget of gold. According to all of
the preconceived ideas of the placer mining
prospectors, no creeks in the region were so unpromising as these. Those few prospectors
who had tramped up this valley, finding a few
colors in the shoals made by washing the earth
of the embankment, had passed them by with
the ever-ready expression of the country:
I Oh, well, you can find colors anywhere."
If the turn of the creek had not washed one
stray nugget as well as stray colors out of a
79 p^
bench which no one found worth working two
years after discovery, the moose might still be
feeding undisturbed in the valleys of Eldorado
and Bonanza creeks, which are now as expressive of man's handiwork as the rear of a row of
tenement houses, and certain unhappy newspaper correspondents would not have missed
the Spanish-American War.
There is no reason to believe that " Siawash
George," personally, had any great confidence
in the "strike." Rather—after having staked
creek claims for himself and " Injun Sharley "
—he thought it worth advertising, when advertising was so cheap because of the expert
canoists and good pedestrians in his family.
He was further assisted in spreading the news
by Joe La Due, another " squaw man," who
has been erroneously called Father of the Klondyke, just as | Siawash George," and not " Injun Sharley," has been called its discoverer.
La Due staked out a town-site on the flat
which had been formed in the course of time
by the alluvial deposits of the Klondyke at its
mouth. He was fond of "booms," and as a
part of his plan of promoting his latest boom
he offered lots for five dollars apiece to all who
would stake claims on the new creeks.   Neither
he nor " Siawash George " had much to lose
and they might gain a great deal if shafts were
sunk to bedrock with fires after the plan that
had lately come into vogue at Circle' City.
When an Indian arrived at Forty Mile and
then at Circle City with a tale out of all proportion to the actual size of the nugget that
"Injun Sharley" had found, the miners received it with that garlic cynicism which has its
natural abiding-place in the unkempt beards of
hardened frontiersmen. They had become so
used to strikes with no foundation except an
irresponsible imagination, as nominally to believe in nothing that a man said about any find
he had made. So they told the Indian that he
was a liar pure and simple, who had been
primed by an ambitious brother-in-law. The
Indian had been told to expect this reply and
was not the least disturbed in mind by it. But
no miner acts upon his convictions in such a
matter. He usually hurries off to the reported
scene of the find because, after all, "mebbe
there might be somethin' in it." But such
were the reputations of Joe La Due and Cor-
mac that many of the earlier pioneers refused
to budge. Their superior wisdom was as unfortunate for them as absence from the settle-
ments was for those at work on the creeks.
The two or three hundred, lounging in the
saloons and the stores or resting in their cabins,
who made for the mouth of the Klondyke in the
mood of men who are playing a joke on themselves, became rich.
There were not enough claims on the discovery creek, Bonanza, for all of them, so the
later arrivals, just for the sake of staking something, contemptuously staked a tributary of
Bonanza, which they called in their phrase a
" pup." Then there was naught to do but to
wait until a few of the more energetic fellows
sunk holes on Bonanza. No one was more-
surprised at the result than " Siawash George."
Bedrock on Bonanza showed the richest placer
dirt yet found in Alaska or the British Northwest Territory. Those who had been in time to
stake claims on Bonanza settled down to work
at once, incidentally extending their pity to the
fellows on the " pup." The claim-owners on
Eldorado, where no shaft had been sunk, accepted the pity in good part and offered their
claims at various prices, ranging from one hundred to five hundred dollars. Most of them
were so lucky as to be unable to make a sale,
and are now worth from five hundred thousand
to a million  dollars apiece.     The "pup" is
the richest placer mining creek in the world.
Nine months after I Injun Sharley" had
brought home a nugget instead of a moose, the
outside world heard of the great discovery.
Such pilgrims, attracted by the news, as succeeded in reaching Dawson in the autumn of
1897 found that all creeks rising on the slopes
of The Dome and all other creeks at that time
proven to be worth the working, had already
been staked by'the old-timers who had followed
the advance guard from Circle City and Forty
Mile. Feverish stampede followed on feverish
stampede to new ground. That putting down
four stakes in a creek-bed anywhere in the region was equal to drawing a fortune from a bank
became the gospel of the hour, which received
its authority from the original attitude toward
the I pup I of the men who had staked Eldorado. A man needed only to come into a saloon with a pack on his back, and, being tired,
appear silent and mysterious, to excite the suspicion that he had made a " strike." | Only an
affidavit" of having found " color " was necessary to have a discovery claim recorded, and a
discovery always meant a stampede. Having
received a hint from a friend, or overheard a IN THE KLONDYKE
whispered conversation in the street, a pilgrim
would rush off for a distance of more than a
day's travel, without food or blankets, trusting
to luck to feed him and keep him warm.
Death was often the result.
Having staked the remaining creeks in a radius of from thirty to sixty miles of Dawson,
some of the new-comers rested in their cabins,
eating their winter's supply of food. Others
found employment on the work-claims; and
still others departed over the ice to escape
starvation and to thrill their neighbors at home
with the information that they owned claims.
As the humor of the saloons went, there remained for the oncoming host of May and
June an expanse of unexplored territory sufficient to keep a hundred times their number
busy prospecting for a century, but no gold at
all, unless they could find it for themselves.
84 V
Reaping the Gold Harvest—Thawing and Sluicing—Miners
and their Theories—The Dome—Expensive Timber—
Empty Pockets but Dollars in the Dumps—The First
mlllionnaires—color in the pan—once a prospector
Always a Prospector—Figuring Fortunes—Capitalists
in Demand—The Forty Happy Kings on Eldorado.
IT was just on the eve of harvest-time when
I first visited the creeks. In a day or two
the flow of water from the gulches where the
snow lay thickest would make a head sufficient
to wash the yellow grain out of the dumps.
Along the four miles of Eldorado, or its full
length, and the ten miles of working claims on
Bonanza, lines of flumes and their dependent
sluice-boxes—the lumber for which had been
drawn on sleds from Dawson by husky dogs,
or cut with whipsaws—formed a network
around the string of cabins occupied by claim-
owners and their workmen and around the
piles of clayish-colored dirt, thawed out inch
by inch during the short winter  days, which
contained virgin wealth amounting to ten million dollars. The hill-sides, once covered with
timber, were bare of all except stumps and
scarred by broad streaks from top to bottom,
showing where logs for building the cabins
and for feeding the fires in the drifts had
been slid down.
If you descended by the shafts beside the
dumps to the drifts, you soon comprehended
that reaping the harvest, once you have a
claim, is not so easy as picking wild cranberries. It is dogged work to build fires day
after day, running; the risk of suffocation and
permanent injury to the eyes by the smoke,
and pulling up the dirt, bucketful after bucketful, by means of a windlass, with the thermometer forty below zero—and the prospect of
cooking your own dinner. The rising steam
from the thawing pay-dirt of the drifts, which
fills the valley with mist, adds the discomfort
of humidity to the biting cold. Though the
man who turns the windlass may have to beat
his hands and dance about to keep warm, he
is never in positive danger as is his partner
below, who, in returning to relight one of the
series of nicely arranged piles of wood which
have failed to ignite, is likely to be suffocated,
or, barring such slips as this or any consequent
accident, is sure to suffer continually from
soreness and smarting of the eyes, if not to
have them permanently injured by the smoke.
In one spot of three or four square feet on
Eldorado, the nuggets are so thick that you
can pick them out by hand as a farmer's boy
picks potatoes out of a hill. In juxtaposition
there may be as many more square feet which
are not considered worth thawing and sluicing;
and so the angles of the drifts seem like the
path of a man of vacillating mind trying to
make his way to the light in darkness. From
two to three feet above the real bedrock is the
false bedrock, a stratum of stone broken into
angular fragments, apparently by some great
force passing overhead. Between the two is
the best paying-dirt, and occasionally here is
found, perhaps with particles of gold sticking
to it, the tusk of a mammoth who was the
ruler in the valley before the days of the moose.
In the angular fragments of the false bedrock the miners who are fond of making out
the reason of things over their cabin-fires, with
diversified reading in newspapers or even a
dip in a text-book of geology at school as basic
knowledge, find support for their favorite the-
ory as to how the yellow particles came to
their resting-place. Gold had never been found
before in such incongruous surroundings.
Therefore, they contend, it must have been
borne from its point of precipitation by some
force worthy of the situation and of Alaska,
where nature has a gift for seemingly paradoxical performances done on a Brobdingna-
gian scale. What else but a glacier was equal
to the feat? It had scattered wealth in its
progress like some good Lady Bountiful, crushing with its great weight the false bedrock
between whose frag;ments the dust had fallen
by force of gravity to the true bedrock.
Another, a smaller and perforce a more confident school of thought, holds that an ancient
volcano "coughed" the dust out of the bowels
of the earth.
For my part, inasmuch as the geologists
themselves have come to no certain conclusion, I hold that all the gold which has been
found in the Klondyke and Indian River districts was smelted in a great pot in The Dome
and has leaked out of its cracks. Then, as a
fitting corollary, I desire that one day an old
forty-niner, as sturdy and as fine as an old
weather-beaten oak, shall discover the pot and   MINERS  AND  MINING
find a leverage strong enough to lift the cover
off it; whereupon, a good guardian, gently
reserving enough of his millions to give him a
certain annuity for life, he may spend the rest
in 'Frisco after the manner of his own choosing as quickly as he can. But I am certain—
such is the irony of fate—that, instead of him,
the happy man will be an Oklahoma " boomer,"
the father of several strapping daughters, who
never panned a handful of dirt before he
mortgaged his all in order to buy a Klondyker's
outfit. He will set his daughters up in the
capitals of Europe, where they will marry
continental noblemen, while the whole family
will be miserable for life.
In candor, I must say that with mine as
with most theories there are facts which go
to contradict it. The claims on the upper
reaches of the creeks, which have their origin
on the slopes of The Dome, are much richer
than those on the lower reaches, where the
dust is finer and more travel-worn as well as
more scattering;. But in the head-waters noth-
ing has yet been found which is worth the
working. So either all the gold leaked out
some time before this force that carried it
ceased   to   operate,  or   the   mythical   person
who has charge of the pot mended the cracks,
or, possibly—and this is my hope—the fortunes which have already been brought to light
were only an overflow, the palpable result of
the chemist in charge of the vessel having
misjudged its capacity.
By the fifteenth of May the drifts were filled
or partly filled with seepage which had frozen
below a depth of a few feet, where the temperature is never above freezing. Work in them
was at an end by the first of May, when the
surface earth had begun to thaw a little at midday. Then the plane, saw, and hammer took
the place of the pick and shovel. If they had
used rosewood at New York or London prices
the miners could not have built their flumes and
sluice-boxes out of more expensive material
than that they had in the warping, knotty fir
boards which were condescendingly sold at
$250 a thousand by the three saw-mills in the
country. Once the flumes were laid to the
gulches and to the dams in the creek itself, the
sluice-boxes were properly laid on the dumps
which were to be washed first and the g;ates
between the two were made tight, the community  was  ready to  reap  the reward of  a
winter's toil as soon as the sun should thaw
the drifts of snow on the mountain-sides sufficiently to make a sluice-head of water.
There followed a brief period of inactivity
like that between sowing and harvest for the
farmer. Every man had his opinion of how
much the output of all the creeks would be,
and the estimates varied from six to fifteen
millions. Within the big world of speculation
there were the small worlds of the groups of
cabins which clustered around that of the
owner of each claim on Eldorado and Bonanza. For the laymen who had taken portions
of claims to work on shares and for the claim-
owners, especially those who had employed the
workers on their claims at daily wages, it was
an interval of some anxiety. They would
soon know in what measure the estimates that
they had made from specimens of pay-dirt
panned out in buckets of water in their cabins
during; the winter would be verified. Men
who had more than a hundred thousand dollars in their dumps possibly had not five dollars
in cash in their possession.
The members of no community had ever
been submitted to a greater burden of usury.
They bore it with rare good-nature. What
else  were   they to  do ?   they  asked.     They
needed money for wages, for food for their
men, and for lumber, and those in town who
had money knew the value of it. The regular
rate in the winter was ten per cent, a month,
and some of the so-called millionnaires who
had owned nothing except an outfit two years
before were owing as much as $25,000 on
from three to six months' time.
A spirit of optimism and good cheer prevailed. A sun bath, lounging in a home-made
chair on the stoop of a cabin (perhaps with a
pair of moose horns forming an ornamental
back), was a luxury better appreciated in the
Klondyke than in a temperate clime. Sometimes a breeze, with a faint odor of fir-trees
and of the many wild flowers which spring up
in tropical luxuriance in the spring, came
down the valley. Over the hills were young
birches which yielded a delicious sap for the
tapping. There was even gratitude to the
tyrant windlass of the winter days in that it
had supplied exercise, given an appetite, kept
the blood circulating, and prevented the scurvy,
which is to be dreaded only by the man who
lounges in his cabin, does not wash himself,
does not cook his food properly, and endeavors generally  to  imitate  the  bear.    Nearly
everyone could hope, if he did not expect, that
his claim or his lay would turn out as well as
he had estimated. At all events, he would have
some spending money. He knew that the
early boats from Lake Le Barge would bring
in many luxuries just at the opportune moment when the " clean-up " was about finished
and he might go to "town." He smacked his
lips in anticipation of the day when he would
have all the eggs that he could eat, regardless
of their cost.
One day the sun suddenly beat down with
great fierceness, which was unabated for several
days. Then the water came gushing down the
flumes in greater quantity than was needed,
and the men picked up their picks and shovels
again and began peeling off the dirt on the
dumps and tossing it into the sluice-boxes.
The warmth was prolonged through the night,
so that the dirt continued to thaw as fast as
they could strip it off, and on many claims—
whose owners had foresight or were in luck, as
one pleases to put it—there were two shifts
working all the time except when, once or
twice a day, the boxes were being " cleaned"
of the accumulation of gold and the sand which
sinks with it between the cleats.    The snow-
drifts were melting as if they were under a
blowpipe. Even the tiny streams of the gulches
become torrents, dams had to be opened,
and some sluice-boxes floated away from their
moorings. Only too soon was the loss of the
wasted energy brought home. With the snow
gone and rains and the seepage from the thawing surface the only source of water supply,
the currents dwindled until many claims had
not a single sluice-head. The claim-owners on
the tributary Eldorado, with as much dirt to.
wash as the main stream Bonanza, particularly
had cause to resent the prodigality of nature in
expending all of its ammunition at once. Instead of having finished their washing in June
as they had confidently expected, all through
July they were measuring the head of water
from hour to hour with the care of a physician
feeling a patient's pulse.
When the " clean-up " of a day's shovelling
was made, you might feast your eyes on the
consummation of the harvest. The water was
shut off and the cleats in the boxes were lifted
and rinsed, leaving a residue which glistened
with yellow particles. Just a small stream
was turned on by the' man at the water-gates,
who was probably making the most of his rest
from shovelling by smoking a pipe of cut plug,
and then turned off again, or on a little more
or off a little less, while the most expert miner
on the claim pushed the speckled sand-pile
back and forth with a common brush-broom
until all the foreign particles had floated off, except a sprinkling of the heavy black sand which
is invariably the companion of placer gold.
Three or four or five thousand dollars—perhaps ten or fifteen or twenty thousand if the
" clean-up " be on Eldorado—which is three
or four or five double handfuls, is put into
a pan with an ordinary fire-shovel. The sight
is bound to make your blood run faster and
to color your reason with an epic enthusiasm. That little yellow pile, you know at a
glance, will stand the test of chemicals. It
must also accept the concrete responsibility
for all the disappointments, sufferings, and
deaths of the pilgrims on the trail and the
worries of their friends and relatives at home.
Once you have seen a § color " in the bottom
of a pan with the black sand following it
around like a faithful servant, you can never
again be deceived by the glitter of any false
gods. You would know it if you saw it between cobblestones on Broadway, or if it were
95 II
no larger than a pin-head at the bottom of a
It is small wonder that once a man is a prospector, in good faith, not a child of a wild stampede, he is always a prospector. There is an
heroic aspect, the more charming in contrast to
the complexity of civilization, in going from
creek to creek which have no place on the
maps of geographical societies, taking a pan of
dirt here and a pan of dirt there, breathing
fresh air, a zest given to your exercise by the
hope of success.
For the moment, the yellow pile makes you
feel like seeking a claim of your own and harvesting its treasure for yourself. But when
you look at the miry path along the base of the
mountain by the creek-side, and think of following it with a pack on your back until it
is no more, and a wilderness begins; of passing on over the mountains until you come to
what you consider a likely place, and thawing
through thirty feet of earth at a rate of a foot
a day in the hap-hazard possibility of finding
" pay-dirt," you conclude that the poetry of the
thing can be better appreciated by sitting on
someone else's dump.
Besides, as one who did a little prospecting
on his own account and is proud to say that he
found a few "colors "—which is just what anyone else can do in the Klondyke region—I
observed that the recent arrivals of Nestorian
prospectors who took a delight in quoting to
you from Emerson when their hands were
reeking with clay and their gray locks were
sticking through the crowns of old hats, do not
like Alaska, though free to admit its material
opportunities. They could not be weaned
from the temperate climate and the skies of
California, and were determined to return to
their old stamping-grounds, where any honest
prospector can get a grubstake from a speculative city man, and needs nothing more to
make him happy and free.
After a few days' washing the hopes of most
of the laymen were shattered; and so far as
their peace of mind was concerned,- the worst of
it was that they had only their own lack of foresight to blame. They had learned that even in
the Klondyke men do not make a practice of
giving fortunes away to strangers—except to
music-hall artistes—though, as in the centres
of civilization, they often negotiated a bargain
with an air of self-sacrifice which is an assumption of as much.
Such was the attitude of many of the claim-
owners below the discovery claim on Bonanza
and of a few above who had prospected their
claims well enough to have some idea of what
was in them. They concluded to let out their
ground to be worked on shares, two men to
each section, which is called a lay. Many, especially those who had come in with the little
pilgrimage that reached Dawson in the autumn
of '97, were enraptured over the chance of getting a portion of a claim on the original creek
and not far from "discovery," at that.
The number of applications quite exceeded
the number of lays to be let, and all through
the winter the laymen on Bonanza were the
envy of their fellows. The samples which they
washed out in their cabins had the peculiarity
of bringing promises up to original expectations, because the laymen had the weakness
of selecting the samples from their best dirt.
When the man who was in the drift came to
one of those rare spots in the pay-streak of
Lower Bonanza where he could see the tiny
particles shining in the wall of earth like golden hoar-frost, he gleefully called out to his
"pardner" at the windlass to take it into the
cabin so they could see how much it ran to the
bucket. In the evening the happy children,
upon the result as a basis, quite overestimating
the amount of dirt they had in their dumps,
figured out small fortunes for themselves, spoke
of the claim-owner as a good angel, hugged
their knees fondly, as if they had materialized
into dust, and saw brilliant pictures in their
smoke rings.
In their letters, detailing their success to the
folks at home, they promised their wives new
gowns and their daughters pianos. They were
doing so well that they felt that they could
afford holidays. They fell into the way of
" knocking off " by mutual consent at noon on
days when they had to bake bread. If it was
a little colder than usual in the morning they
succumbed to the temptation of making more
figures and dreaming more dreams by the fire
and postponing work until the morrow. " The
gold's in the ground ; it's ours. All we've got
to do is to take it out, and we've got to stay
here two or three winters, anyway," was the
argument with which they excused themselves.
The size of their dumps beside those excavated
by employees who worked by the hour was a
silent commentary on the value of discipline.
Mid-July found them in Dawson in a mood
to afford at least one more dish of eggs, one
more dinner at the restaurant before they settled down to the economical life which their
necessities required. Occasionally they took
out of their pockets, to amuse their friends,
clippings from the home paper, in which they
saw themselves made out millionnaires. They
reread the letters from home which had come
along with the clippings in the first mail down
the river, and confronted deep perplexities. It
was only human that they should wish that the
wife had not gone so far as actually to order the
piano and the gown. While they calculated
how much they would need for their winter's
outfit and how much they could send home—
if that fund did not all g;o for eg;g;s before the
problem was settled — they formulated the
wording of their replies by which they should
explain the situation.
To the credit of the sex be it said that the
wives of some of the unfortunate laymen knew
their husbands' weaknesses. One optimist,
who had taken only $900 out of his claim instead of the $10,000 that he had anticipated,
received this reply from home :
"God bless you, Charlie, but we've made too
many ten thousands without ever getting them
for me to count my chickens before they're
hatched. I'm being as economical as I can,
and telling the neighbors that I hope you'll
make a good year's wages, but that it's too
early to tell yet for certain."
Most of the laymen, if they had worked
steadily for eight hours a day—more are scarcely practicable on account of the long nights—
would have had more than the equivalent of the
prevailing rate of wages. Those who had felt
themselves to be unfortunate in not getting;
lays and had sought employment, because they
had someone to tell them to go to work in the
morning, were in the mood of the school-boy
who had studied during the term and passed
his examination as opposed to the boy who
had not. Their employers were better satisfied because their claims had been worked with
more system and thoroughness than the others,
and were more than glad to pay the interest,
heavy as it was, on their borrowed capital.
While the laymen were inclined to exaggerate the amount of their earnings in order
to decrease the discrepancy between their winter boasts and their spring returns, the claim-
owners themselves, who early in May were
serene optimists and put the total output of
the country at $15,000,000, by the end of
May were dour pessimists, asserting their unbounded faith that the total output would not
be more than $6,000,000. Early in May, you
see, there was an impression that the Government royalty of ten per cent, on the gross
product of all claims had been repealed. At
the end of May, Major Walsh, the Commissioner of the Yukon District, arrived with the
positive information that the royalty would be
collected. Most of the claim-owners on Bonanza had suffered the same disillusion as their
laymen ; but most of them, if the Government
had not decided that they would have to pay
the royalty on the laymen's gold as well as
on their own, would have put on a bold front,
especially as their claims were for sale.
When claim-owners met on the trail, after
comparing notes   as to the  number  of eggs
eaten at the first sitting, the invariable remark
11 don't suppose you've heard anything
about your claim being sold ! I
For no one was certain whether he or
some stranger owned the wealth of his dumps.
Without any property under consideration by
the capitalists of London or New York, you
102 1
were a kind of social outcast. Claims that
were under options were as common as mortgages formerly were on farms in Kansas.
The prospect of famine during the winter
had been responsible for this. Some enterprising fellows, who were among the first to
go out over the ice, made the best of their
opportunity as connecting links between an
isolated community and civilization.
I Here you are," they said to the claim-
owners on Eldorado and Bonanza, " paying a
dollar and a quarter and a dollar and a half
an hour for labor and thawing the dirt out
by inches, when capitalists, with cheaper labor
and improved appliances, can take it out for
half the money. Why, it's a case of the old
stage coach against the lightning express. If
they can block a number of claims and work
'em together, they'll gladly pay you on the
spot more'n you can get out of your claim
the way you're working it, and make a
good thing out of it too. The whole out-
side's wild over the Klondyke. The capitalists are longing for the chance. All that's got
to be done is to lay it before 'em. You name
your price  and give  me  six  months' option
and we'll  take 'em out and sell 'em.    What
we g:et for 'em's our affair. We'll make our
commission out of the difference."
The enthusiasts believed what they said.
They assured themselves and the claim-owners
that none of the arguments which held good
in other mining camps could apply in this
instance. The Klondyke was a law unto itself in all matters of investment, they said.
They put dust from each of the claims which
they were to sell in a separate bag, and this
they were to offer to the simple-minded financiers of London and New York as a g;uaran-
tee of the correctness of their several representations. Each zealous miner being desirous that his claim should show up well on the
list, some of the promoters obtained several
thousand dollars in nuggets.
Such examples of success were not without
their effect upon those who went out over
the ice at later periods. The field of all the
claims on the creeks as yet demonstrated to
be valuable having been worked, they turned
their attention to those creeks which had been
staked on unfounded rumors by stampedes,
and possibly were worth no more than the
beds of so many creeks in the valley of the
Hudson River.    They neglected none of the
details. Because it looks better to the lay eye,
they chose dust from Eldorado as examples of
the product of these "wild oat prospectors."
The moral effect of the option craze was
unfortunate in more respects than one. Men
who owned claims on stampede creeks felt
that they could afford to waste their winter in
idleness in their cabins as long as they had
property in the hands of New York capitalists.
They could not escape the heresy that a claim
in the Klondyke, no matter what its location, was regarded by the outside world as a
valuable piece of property. It was especially
hard for those who had not funds enougdi to
buy their winter's outfit, as they inquired along
the river bank, day after day, as the boats came
in, to learn finally that the promoters to whom
they had intrusted their claims had arrived
on the Pacific Coast just at the time when the
Klondyke was forgotten and all public interest
was centred in another subject, and, accordingly, had enlisted in the volunteer army.
Those promoters with small ambitions fared
the best. In London they sold a few of the
cheaper claims, which, as a rule, were disappointments to the purchasers. But sometimes
it is better to be trusting than to be wise.    One
young Englishman bought a claim on Sulphur
for $2,000 which would not have sold for $500
in Dawson at the time. When he arrived to
take possession of it in June, its value had
risen so rapidly on account of the later development of the creek that he sold it for
$20,000. The anxiety of the claim-owners on
the new creeks, as Sulphur, Dominion, and
Hunker—all having their head-waters on the
slopes of The Dome—were called, lest the promoters had sold their claims, was as great as
that of some of the claim-owners on Bonanza
lest their claims had not been sold. Perhaps
as many as thirty claims on the new creeks
had been worked to any extent during the
past winter, with such results as to increase
their speculative value by five hundred per
The forty happy kings of the forty claims
on Eldorado also preferred not to sell. That
" pup I returned good for evil. It heaped
satire upon the satirists who had given it its
name as a joke, and continued to surpass all
expectations. The optimism which overestimated Bonanza under-estimated Eldorado.
These forty kings, as they compared the output with their figures, concluded, with   some
pride, that all born mathematicians are inclined to be too conservative.
You could see the dust glistening in the
dumps of the " pup." The water gurgling
over the cleats in the sluice-boxes seemed to
sing a merrier song than on Bonanza. Every
shovelful which it bore chuckling over the
cleats yielded up a dollar or more. It licked
twice as much off rocks that had to be lifted
out of the sluice-boxes by hand because its
current was not strong enough to carry them
on down to the waste pile. At intervals, nuggets of some size were unearthed by the spade
and were tossed into a pan at one side. If
you were a friend of the claim-owner he would
beg you to take your pick of the lot as a
souvenir of the day. But you would not get
one worth more than ten or fifteen dollars,
even if you were greedy enough to choose it
for its size rather than for its beauty. The
giants—one was found worth $600 and those
worth from $50 to $100 were not infrequent—
had been spied in the drifts in the winter.
A magnificent carelessness of details prevailed. A scientific miner who had seen fortunes made in California out of a cent a pan
would have regarded the forty kings in the
light of infants making a holiday.with a tack
hammer and a gold watch. They could afford
to laugh back at him in return. There is some
reason in their philosophy that one cannot
afford to pay men a dollar and a quarter an
hour to pick up stray pennies, and more in
the philosophy that when you have a fortune
you have enough.
It was not yet in the old-timer's nature,
rapidly as his character was changing, to
squeeze the last cent out of Mother Earth,
in the manner of some hard taskmaster, when
she had g;iven to him such a bountiful harvest.
A little line of dust, like a braid of gold lace,
remaining on either side of the sluice-boxes
after a day's clean-up was dismissed with the
remark that it would " come out in the wash "
next time. If the workman who had the uncomfortable and unhealthy position—especially when the sun was directly overhead—of
standing in the dump-box, took a few minutes'
rest, he shrugged his shoulders and said that
any dust that was lost in the meantime could
be a boon to the Chinamen who, coming; hum-
bly after the white man's departure, would
patiently take fortunes out of the white man's
tailings—unless the capitalist should make the
108 Shoveling a Clean-Up into a Gold Pan.
valley resound with the toil of machinery
manned by cheap labor, thus cheating poor
John out of what he has come to regard as
the right of his race in placer mining countries.
There was not one strong box for the safekeeping of the daily harvest of thousands on
all of the creeks. The bags of dust were kept
in the little cellars which the miners had excavated under their cabins for the preservation
of their food. There was a joke which went
the round of the firesides during the food-panic
that it would be cheaper to fry the dust and
save the hams. For the bags, made of roughly tanned moosehide, the Indians received
prices in keeping with those of other things.
They bore the owner's name printed in ink, if
ink could be obtained; their capacity was
about $5,000 each, and they were not unlike,
in their freshness as well as in their size, the
dirty, worn, brown little bags which were
carried in lieu of purses. Three or four of
them were all that you cared to carry on your
back. When you met men on the trail bending as under heavy packs of slight bulk, you
knew their business. If there were many bags
there might be an escort with a rifle and there
might not.    Most of the claim-owners thought
nothing of sending several thousands by their
employees, unaccompanied, to be deposited in
one of the Commercial Companies' stores ; but
once the " Cheechawkos" began to arrive, all
sought locks for their cellar-doors.
no VI
The Fool and his Lucky Friends—More Theorizers—Joe
Staley and Billy Deddering — French Gulch Bench
—Good Fortune that was Deserved—Neighbors and
Twins—No Cure for the Gold Fever.
IT was the greater world of the Klondyke
that was bounded by the creek claims. A
smaller world was bounded by the hill-sides
where there were many fresh mounds of earth,
suggesting that the population might be digging their graves one by one. Graves of ambitions most of these mounds were, in all truth.
A few, readily distinguished as far as you
could see the two figures hovering over them,
were the birthplaces of the fortune which
the figures were exhuming with the orthodox
The original nugget washed out of a bench
and deposited where Indian Charlie's gaze
would light on it did not lead, even indirectly,
to the discovery of the wealth of the benches.
in mmmm
This honor belongs to a stalwart Swede, whose
race in the Klondyke is the general butt of that
fine wit of our own race which makes a mark
of a foreigner's broken English and his efforts
to understand strange manners and a strange
language. One day in the spring of 1897 he
went up the slope above his cabin near the
mouth of Eldorado and began to strip off the
muck as fast as the sun thawed it. Directly
his neighbors saw what he was doing they began to compose satirical remarks against the
time when he should come down.
" Why don't you go looking for gold up a
tree ?" they asked him.
" I tank gold no grow on trees," he replied,
in all candor.
" Say, did you ever hear," they continued, as
they held their sides, " that the weight of gold
makes it sink ? I suppose you think the
glacier walked up on the hills and left a few
millions there. The millions didn't roll down ?
Oh, no ! That's why we have to sink through
thirty feet in the creek bed to pay dirt. Better
try the trees ! You might find a bear up the
trees and bear meat would be worth three
pennyweights a pound in town."
"If you don't  dig some hole you no find
By tarn !    I dig a
hole if I vant to," he
as he went into h
is cabin.
"Well of all the fools,'
they said, "it takes a
to beat the lot."
passing on the trai
Is stopped to look up
to the
point where the
"fool" was working;,
grew fi
iendly in despising him, and carried the
joke to the ends of the creeks and to Dawson,
where it was elaborated over the bars.
One evening the § fool" quietly called on all
of his friends among his fellow Scandinavians, as
well as upon certain Anglo-Saxons who had
not made fun of his English. They followed
him up the hill and drove stakes in the neighborhood of his prospect hole. The twinkle in
his blue eye was not unkind, though suggestive, the next morning when he showed to the
scoffers a handful of nuggets from a claim
which was worth $50,000. But scoffers accept nothing on faith. They would not believe that he took the nugget out of the hill
until they had panned some of his dirt themselves.
" Well, of all the lucky fools," they said, j it
takes a Swede to beat the lot! Here's millions
been lyin' within ten rods of us for a year and
we never knowed it."
Those who had sharpened their wits at the
discoverer's expense now hastened to get a
claim as near as possible to his, until a mile of
Bonanza on both sides of the creek was taken
up, from the point where the slopes meet the
creek bed to their summit. Theories about the
habits of the glacier were qualified by the experts. Thenceforth, it stood to reason that the
breadth of no glacier of such importance would
be limited to that of a creek. The scoffers
soon found themselves saying that this had
been their opinion all along, and eventually became so imaginative as to hint that they had
advised the Swede to make the experiment.
Poetic justice attended the immediate outcome of the stampede. The pioneer and the
parasite got their fit rewards. There was less
than an acre of good pay dirt on Skookum
Bench, as it was called, and this mostly fell to
the discoverer and his friends. Here and there
in the neighborhood good day's wages could be
made with a rocker, and nothing more. Enthusiasm over bench claims languished.
I It was just like a Swede to strike the only
rich bench in the whole country the first time
that he put his pick in the ground," said the
scoffers.      In   their    pessimistic   philosophy,
which exults over deserted prospect holes, the
latest strike is always bound to be the last.
They are the very ones who were the greatest
optimists when they left home to try their luck
in the North against the advice of their friends.
This weakness is likely to grow on Klondykers
who become too fond of a sedentary life, unless their supply of bacon runs out and forces
action, or they awaken to a sense of their
growing degradation when they eat fresh eggs
in Dawson and then see the world in bright
colors again. But long after the cynics are
dead, strikes will be made in Alaska by the
class of real prospectors who cheerily face all
hardships and get out of them good digestions
for anything from flapjacks to moose gristle or
even boiled willow roots.
Joe Staley and Billy Deddering, who discovered French Gulch Bench, the richest of all
the benches, the spring following the discovery
of Skookum Bench, were of the order of real
prospectors. They had served their apprenticeship in various parts of the Rockies, which
are the playground of free men from end to
Fond as I am of the California prospector, I
am unwilling to accept the verdict of his squint
"5 r-
whenever he brings it to bear on a portion of
the earth's surface, though Billy Deddering, I
admit, as he understands relative values, has
reason to believe in his. But, in one sense, I
rejoice with him in his faith, inasmuch as the
scoffers, who want to make out that all success
in the Klondyke comes from luck, and that they
have failed because they never had any, spun
the yarn that a log which he was shooting down
the hill for a cabin knocked a nug;g;et out of the
ground and thus became the godfather of his
Some two miles above the mouth of Eldorado, French Gulch splits the embankment
which forms the western wall of the valley of
Eldorado. Billy's squint, when he brought it
to bear on the rounded corner of the embankment on the lower side of the gulch in something of the manner of an old-fashioned marine covering a sail with his telescope, told him
that this was exactly the place where gold ought
to be found, even if it was not. The first hole
that he sunk yielded only colors. A clerk from
London or the Eastern seaboard of the United
States might have gone back down the hill with
his pick and shovel in a fit of blues and never
come up again.    Billy was not in the least dis-
couraged. He merely readjusted his squint,
and concluded:
■ If 'tain't here it must be farther up."
So it was. In the next hole he took $187
out of his first pan on bedrock. Joe was with
him at the time, but at the request of Joe I
give all the credit for the discovery to Billy.
" It was Billy's idea entirely," Joe said. " He
spotted the ground first."
I What did you do," I asked Billy, I when
you struck it after all your years of buffeting
about from one camp to another?"
" Well," he replied, " I looked around to see
if anybody had seen us."
I Nobody did see us, so far as we could make
out," Joe put in, "but they must have noticed
that we went down the hill as light as if we was
walkin' on feathers, though we was tryin' to look
very solemn, like we was at a funeral. When
somebody asked us if we had found anything I
reckon we kind o' started, though we was careful to say, 'Jest a few colors.' But durned if
the crowd wasn't up there 'fore the few friends
we had among our neighbors had fairly got their
stakes in the ground."
"And  you,  Joe? What  did  you think of
that night before you turned in ? "
"Old's I am, and long's I've been knockin'
about the world, I've never been married, and
naturally I thought what a surprise it would be
to mother, when she got a letter sayin' that her
oldest boy was comin' back to 'hio with a pile
to pay off the mortgage and spen/d the rest of
his days on the old homestead."
"And you, Billy?"
" I wished I was in 'Frisco with that hundred and eighty-seven."
Many times I climbed the hill to have a talk
with Joe and Billy. They were a relief from
the loungers and speculators in the hotel at the
Forks, who seemed to think that the business
of a newspaper correspondent was to expound
the possibility of the schemes for enlisting capital which they were promoting. It was a pleasure to look into the good faces of Joe and
Billy, and to shake their hands, caked with
clay. I sat on a stone and smoked my pipe,
while Joe carried buckets of dirt to Billy, who
looked up with a smile on his round German
face, which was spattered with drops of mud
that had splashed out of the rocker when he
shook it, or when he ladled water on to the dirt
with a dipper made out of a butter-can. Joe
said that he didn't mind if the fact that he
had struck it was published in the Sydney (Ohio)
Journal, but beyond that I knew he had no
axes to grind, and my highest ambition for the
moment was that they should think me a good
fellow, while their greatest fear was that I was
starving because I would not go up to the tent
and have a cup of coffee and a " bite to eat" in
the middle of the afternoon.
The sun was accommodating enough to thaw
the dirt as fast as Billy could rock it, and Joe
could bring it a little faster than either the sun
could thaw it or Billy could rock it. This allowed Joe intervals in which to rest, to entertain me, and to relight his pipe. I used to offer
my pouch to him, telling him that he would get
more smoke if he used tobacco.
"Couldn't think of it. There's nothin' so
sweet as the heel," he would say. " It gives
me a puff, and that's all I want."
It was not surprising that he wondered why
the supplies of tobacco which other men had
brought in with their outfits were long ago exhausted, while he had plenty left. He protested, notwithstanding Billy's denials, that he
filled his pipe every morning—at least, almost
every morning.
The  experience  of  seeking  with his  own
hands wealth direct from the hands of Mother
Nature had chiselled out the lines of his face in
distinct, unqualified characteristics, without any
of the doubtful gingerbread work which we
find on faces in civilization. It was like the
weather-beaten image on * some old ibhurch,
careless of the storms which make a new image
streaked and mean. He and his " pardner "
were " rocking; out " five hundred dollars a
day; he was no man's servant and no man's
master, and more of a king than kings. I
have gathered nuggets on his claim as easily as
I have picked up white pebbles on the beach
in boyhood.
The great difficulty is in developing such a
wonderful squint as Billy Deddering's and in
finding the exact spot where such nests of nuggets are located. If ever there was a poor
man's claim it is the bench claim. All you
need to work it are a rocker, which costs fifteen
dollars, and your pick and shovel. A blind
ditch whose frozen walls are as tight as a porcelain bath-tub will catch the seepage from the
pay dirt, which is thawed by the sun as it is
gradually exposed. So you have all the water
that you need, without too much. If the bedrock be at some depth, you can work in winter
as well as in summer. A year at the most will
suffice to take out your fortune; and you have
no worry over borrowed money, flumes, sluices,
or dams.
If Billy had not already staked his bench
claim rights for the Bonanza Creek region, he
and Joe would not have had to be content with
a single claim, and one of them would have
got the claim just above discovered, which
was even richer, two men taking as high as a
thousand dollars a day out of it. Here was
dirt richer than any on Eldorado itself, twenty
of whose forty working claims, probably containing thirty million dollars, stretched out
in a panorama before you when you looked
either up or down the creek. If one could
have had a claim oi the bench of the size of
the creek claims, instead of one only a hundred
feet square, he would have been more than a
millionnaire ; and by hiring labor he could have
left the country in three months after the discovery with his money in his pocket.
Sad to say, there was not room for all on
French Gulch Bench any more than on Eldorado. The whole extent of the pay dirt was
not more than two or three acres. It was
just as large as the dip in the hill-side, which,
according to the theory of Billy, caught and
held the gold when it was travelling, while all
that passed over the rim went on down to the
creek bed below, leaving only an occasional
color in its track. But I disagree with Billy.
I think that all is accounted for by the giant
keeper of the pot in The Dome having thrown
out a handful of the overflow across the hills.
This makes the presence of wash-gravel, which
is absent, unnecessary, and reconciles itself to
the presence of nuggets in rotten mica shist,
which is the most inexcusable of all the paradoxes in Alaska, the old prospectors say.
Aside from Billy and Joe, I came to know
some of their fortunate neighbors. Dan Saunders probably had the best claim of all. He
was at the hotel at the Forks one day, and in
his cups when a man offered in the bar-room
to sell a claim on French Gulch Bench for a
hundred dollars. The Forks is the Stock Exchange of the creeks, and at that moment, on
account of some rumor, the opinion ruled that
the bench had been salted. The claim-owner
believed it. Dan said he would give fifty
down and the first fifty out of the claim, and
the offer was accepted. The morning after,
when Dan's wit was not so brilliant, but his
reasoning faculties had improved, he went up
to look at his elephant. He came down a
week later and tried to spend the two or
three thousand dollars he had taken out in the
meantime. He could dispose of only part of
it, and returned to his claim in despair, somewhat disgusted with city life.
Burke, who owned the claim next to Saunders, was a type of the runaway boys from the
East who have turned up in She Klondyke
after having served an apprenticeship in the
West. This one reaped among the harvest
of his wild oats the largest nugget that was
taken out of French Gulch Bench. It was the
shape of an oblong pancake, without any
quartz in it, and worth $210. When* I met
him in Dawson one morning, he was gleeful
over the joke he had played on the old folks at
home. For the first time in five years he had
written to them. They had as good reasons to
suppose that he was dead as that he was in the
" Won't their eyes pop and won't they have
something to tell the neighbors when they find
out that their worthless Tom is comin' home
with fifty thousand cold !"
That same day I dined with Joe Staley at
the foremost restaurant in town. When we
had eaten fresh eggs and other luxuries which
had just been brought in from the " outside,"
as he pushed his plate away from him he shook
his head dubiously :
" I dunno as I'll be so happy as I thought,
when I settle down among the cows and
chickens," he mused. I This grub don't taste
the way I thought 'twould. Darned if I don't
like the beans and bacon that I have up at
the claim better, and I'll be glad to be back
carryin' dirt to the rocker for Billy to-morrow.
They say once the gold fever's in a fellow's
bones it sticks like the rheumatiz, and I believe it I reckon it's the only thing I'll be
satisfied with in this life. But I won't prospect in this godless region. I'll go back to
On my way to see Joe and Billy I often
stopped for a chat with Ned and Fred Beck,
who were sinking a shaft to bedrock at the
base of French Gulch Bench hill. These
twin brothers had been " pardners " for forty
years. They had the vigor which comes from
living among the Rockies. Their faces,
framed in white beards, were fresh and smiling.     The archaic  furnace   which  they had
124 The Discoverers of French Gulch Bench at Work.
Pardners and Twins for Forty Years.  SOME KLONDYKE TYPES
constructed for sharpening their tools, if not
their age and personal resemblance, would
have attracted attention.
" Have you never quarrelled ? " I asked.
I Oh, yes, lots of times," said Fred, 1 and
agreed on quits lots of times, too. After
Ned's had a drink or two he always gets
cranky and wants to start out for himself."
" Not much crankier'n you do," Ned put in.
" That's right," Fred assented. " But when
we're sober we make it up again and are
ashamed of ourselves. We may be twins, but
we're just fitted for each other."
" That's right, too," Fred assented.
125 VII
Mr. and Mrs. "Meenach" and their Menage—The Juvenile Mining Company, Limited—Voss—The Arch-Deacon
—A Sour-Dough Stiff—A Dalmatian and a Turk—Siawash George and his Steam-engine—Miss Mulrooney at
The Forks—The Price of a "Square " with Trimmings.
ONE day, if the quartz claims which have
been staked should fulfil the hopes of
their owners, the Klondyke will become a
place of managers and workmen, of stamp
mills and chemical processes. To-day, there
is very little to say about the working of the
mines, which is as simple as building a fire,
digging a well and doing the week's wash,
but much to say about my friends and acquaintances there, who came from the ends of
the earth and represented most of its employments. Without knowing individuals, the
pilgrimage of the Cheechawkos would have
meant no more to me than a motley procession seen from a balcony. Those leading
citizens and well-known characters whom|||
met, under the guidance of Captain Hansen
in a round of the town on the evening after
my arrival, are worthy of a chapter by themselves. If I had taken advantage of all the
letters of introduction to claim-owners that
they gave me I think that I should have
been three weeks in travelling the length of
In return for hospitality that did not stand
upon formality but laid its hand on my shoulder
and insisted, I could offer nothing except the
news from the | outside," the bad news that
there was no escape fipm the royalty. I
registered a vow that if I were to make the
journey over the ice again I would find room
among my supplies for one more article of
luxury, or else forego the privilege of introductions. I saw in my dreams the smiles
with which my hosts would have greeted the
offer of a good cigar, until I had the conscience of a highway robber.
"Don't forget to call on Meenach!" said
Captain Hansen. " He's the luckiest man in
the country without exception. He doesn't
have to darn his own socks and cook his own
bacon and beans and you'll know him because
he's sleek and fat and clean-shaven.    I walk up
the creek when I can get the time just for
the privilege of poking my head in at Mee-
nach's door. To a poor devil of a Klondyker
it's a peep into paradise."
It was not enough that the fortunate Mee-
nach should have his wife ; he had also his
little boy of six and his two little girls, one
of four and the other of two years, with him.
After he wrote to Mrs. Meenach that he had
killed his lion, she came on to him; and she
brougdit with her such thing; as sheets, table-
cloths, and pillows, and a regulation cooking-
stove. He never dared to compute just how
much the stove had cost him, preferring not
to have his enjoyment of the luxury allayed.
The mere expense of bringing it up from
Dawson would have boug;ht two or three g;ood
ones at home.
To the miners the most wonderful feature of
the Meenach cabin was the carpet on the floor.
Some of them wanted to take off their boots
before entering, and one suggested that if he
were younger he would walk in on his hands.
I If you don't mind," he added, I I'll sit
with my back to the sheets on the bed. It's
too much at a time. I want to drift into this
easy like."
" Folks who live in castles may be bothered
by having too many rooms to care for," said
Mrs. Meenach, "but not I, in my cabin. I
could put the children to bed with one hand,
stir something on the stove with the other,
and set the table with the third, if I had it.
It's no trouble to go to the market in the
morning. All our fresh vegetables are in tin
cans in the cache just outside the door. Oh,
yes, there is much to be thankful for if I look
at it in the right light. We kept our condensed
cream, our canned asparagus and our canned
peas all winter without being frozen. Then,
please heaven, something green grows in this
country. I have a little cranberry sauce from
the poor cranberries on the hill-side, and I
agree with the children that it is ' gooder'n'
anything I ever tasted. If I could get a fresh
cabbage I think I should eat it all without
waiting to put salt on it. Now I live from
day to day on the hopes of the eggs which are
expected in on the first boats."
Thus she chatted while she warmed the
tinned roast mutton in the frying-pan, boiled
the evaporated potatoes and the tinned sweet
I I'm not going to say that dinner, such as it
129 P"™
is, is ready," she said, " because, in the Klondyke, that is quite superfluous."
It is good when you have eaten beans for a
month off a tin plate balanced upon your knee,
to look upon a clean table-cloth again, to sit
by the window of a cabin in blissful certainty
that your journey is at an end, and have a
good and gentle woman pour you a cup of
tea. I remember the meal as a banquet, not a
dinner. After it was over, the lord and master
and I smoked our pipes until the little ones'
heads began to nod, when I went into the
cabin of one of his laymen to roll up in my
The children had reason to think that they
were the only children in the world and to be
as proud as princes. But Mrs. Meenach's
fears lest they should be spoiled by the adulation of the miners were equally vain with her
fears about their health. The extent of their
illnesses was a day's indisposition on the part
of the baby. Swathed in furs and scarfs until
only their noses were visible and their limbs
were as stiff as a doll baby's, they might go out
to play with their sleds for a few moments at
a time.    Listening to the cries of the  dog-
drivers and the howls of their steeds, which
had turned their mother's nerves on edge, had
been as good as the kuh-chuk-chuk-chuk of a
railroad locomotive to them. The miners,
with frost-encrusted beards, were so many
Father Christmases who rarely forgot to bring
a present of a nugget when they came.
With the coming of spring, an old Califor-
nian took the baby in his arms while the
brother and sister followed at his heels up the
hill-side to his bench claim. He showed them
to a log, where they sat very gravely while he
unfolded to them a mighty scheme. In return
for three kisses apiece, one to be delivered
when the bargain was struck and two when
the goods were delivered, he agreed to build
for them a small rocker, so that they could
start a Mining Company (Limited) on their
own account.
Their dividends were large until one of the
laymen found out that they were using the
best portions of his dumps. Then the total
income fell to a dollar a day, which the boy explained was due to laxness on the part of the
president—his elder sister—and gross negligence on the part of the assistant manager—the
baby—who insisted upon turning the gold pan
bottom  side up at  critical  moments.    Their
father played the part of the unskilled laborer,
and sometimes when he was ordered to work
he said, I In a minute !" an excuse which had
to be accepted. The time came when the old
Califoraian could no longer keep his joke to
■ Meenach, seems to me I 'member tellin'
the youngsters that you'd carry water for 'em
to work the rocker with," he chuckled.
It was by a diversion from my programme that
I spent the next night with Voss. His name
was not on my list, and I had never heard of it
until I drifted into his cabin. I was attracted
by his speech, which sounded a little unnatural
in a community where expressions are intended
to convey a meaning and not to subserve the
rules of grammar. Despite his education, Voss
was an old-timer among old-timers, greeting
them all by their first names. The most ferocious of them, out of whose mouths an oath
rolled with the ease and deliberation of their
tobacco smoke, regarded him as a personal
I He looks stuck up, but he ain't stuck up,'
they said.    "He's clean all the way down and
all the way through and game as a grizzly bear,
and we know. We've followed him on the trail."
The sincere fellowship which he felt for them
in return belongs to that philosophy which
makes of the young men of old but impoverished families, good and cheerful prospectors,
ranchers, and cowboys. Not in fancy—which
misled so many poor souls among the Chee-
chawkos—but in fact, they prefer the independent life of a mining camp to working for a salary in a city; prefer washing their own dishes
and rising at 3 a.m., and harnessing the dogs to
start on the trail to going to an office every
morning and leaving it every afternoon at a
certain hour. By all the manners that stamp
the man, Voss was a child of civilization, and
such a child as was equal to carrying out his
determination not to return to it until he was
master in his own right of the little luxuries
that keep the taste of ashes out of the mouth.
Often he spoke of these, then ran his hands
into the pockets of his overalls, took a pull at
his pipe, and looked at his dumps with an
anticipation as keen as that of some naval captain of Drake's day in sight of the chalk cliffs
of England, after years in foreign countries on
rations of hard biscuit.
I But even before I carry out my plans of
travel," he said, 11 shall buy a ranch, where I
shall have a home with no other habitations in
sigftt; where I shall have a good saddle-horse
waiting for me, whenever I shall grow tired of
town. Once you have become accustomed to
the silence of the plains, the mountains, and the
trail, mere country houses will not satisfy you
—something gets into the blood."
"You all catch it, I see," I interrupted.
"Joe Staley says it's like rheumatiz' and it gets
not into the blood but into the bones."
" Yes, bones—blood and bones, both !" was
the reply.
He had four retainers, who lived in his
cabin: the boy, the Archdeacon, Jim, and
Grouse, the fox-terrier. The boy was sixteen
or seventeen. He had gone to the Klondyke,
against his parents' wishes, to find himself nonplussed by the necessity of a food supply for
the winter months. Voss put him on his feet.
The Archdeacon was of the Established Church
and a graduate of Oxford. He did not seem
to be, but he must have been, older than the
boy, for he was gray and the father of three
children. Shortly after he was ordained archdeacon the something had "got into " his blood
and bones, and he vacillated between the
church and travel until his meanderings brought
the promise of a brilliant career to the guardianship of a flock of Indians, halfway around
the world. He baked the best bread that I
ate in the Klondyke. Though he accepted
praise on that score as quietly as he did everything else, I could see that it pleased him—
better, perhaps, than the praise of a bishop.
In getting breakfast, which he had taken upon
himself as one of his tasks, his slippered feet
moved about so softly that you were not awakened until his voice called you at the right
" It is good to see many kinds of men and to
do many things," he volunteered, as he lifted a
flapjack from the skillet to my plate. " When
all the world was going to the Klondyke, I had
to join the throng. I got a lay on Bonanza
and put some men to work on it. But, unfortunately, I had no food for myself. Mr. Voss "
—the Archdeacon never omitted the Mister—
■ asked me to come and live with him through
the winter. What a pity it is that there isn't
such a good fellow as Mr. Voss to take care of
every unfortunate fellow like me!"
Jim, in the language of the Klondyke, was a
"sour-dough stiff," and he was certainly an
unhappy  man.     A   "sour-dough stiff"  will,
under no circumstances, eat baking-powder
bread. This eccentricity, developed in the
later years of a prospector's life, generates
others which are its natural companions. He
thinks that baking powder in the smallest
quantity is poisonous, and, therefore, is as
finicky and miserable as any other man who
becomes a victim of dyspepsia through forever
thinking of some means to avoid it
In addressing his employer Jim uttered the
word " Voss " in a harsh voice, as if calling attention to its nudity and implying that he
would not subvert his rights as a free man by
using " Mister," though he were to hang for it.
He was the first to rise in the morning and he
always prepared his own breakfast
" Some folks don't like my cookin', an' I
don't like some folks' cookin', either," he explained.
On some occasions, when he felt a little lazy,
he would condescend to eat at the table with
the others, but with an expression of martyrdom on his thin, old face. Voss told me that
Jim would probably confide to me at the first
opportunity how grossly the claim was mismanaged, and so he did. Voss forgave his eccentricities partly  because  they  amused him
and his friends, and partly because Jim was an
expert in saving fine gold from floating down
to the waste pile.
Jim's contempt for the Alaskan miner's
knowledge of sluicing was pleasant to hear unless you had to hear it often. He had a miniature sluice for treating the residue which contains the lighter particles. It were better to
step on the hem of your wife's skirt on the way
to the theatre than to lay your hands on this
fine gold machine, as he called it. Whether or
not it was worth the time that Jim had spent
in building it, was a grave question with Voss.
In making the " clean-up " Jim was the general in charge of the field. The best-natured
men on the claim were selected to assist him,
and even their patience sometimes gave out.
Voss himself, accompanied by the fox-terrier,
who was general superintendent of the claim,
winter and summer, used to take up his station
at the water gate. He did not always interpret Jim's orders satisfactorily, and I overheard
this grumbling complaint:
" A man can't play with a dog an' pay
'tention to business at the same time."
Everybody about the claim except Jim was
the slave of the fox-terrier's moods.    In New
York or London you could have bought
Grouse for five dollars. Voss was offered $200
for him by another claim owner, but would as
soon have parted with his claim. I knew of
only one other terrier in the Klondyke. He
was a companion, deserving the affix of bull, of
a doggy-looking man who walked up and down
the river front of Dawson. pHe was usually
limping on three legs, but not infrequently on
two. He seemed to realize his position as the
sole representative of civilized dogdom among
thousands of savages, and he no more thought
of surrender than a Roman prefect. The boast
of his master that he could whip any two or
three of the huskies was well founded. Even
when he was attacked by a dozen he gave more
wounds than he received, retreating with the
dignity of one who belongs to a ruling race.
Provincial as Voss's claim was in its isolation
from the world, its surroundings were cosmopolitan enough. Among his employees, aside
from Germans, Swedes, and French-Canadians,
were a Dalmatian and a Turk. The Turk was
a good workman. When he had made his
" stake I he was going to buy a fig orchard in
southern California.
On the day that I visited the discovery claim
of Siawash George, which is only a short distance beyond Voss's, several Cheechawkos
were panning some gravel at the very point
where Indian Charlie had found the famous
nugget. They did not wash out a single color,
and passed on in disgust to do more prospecting on ground whose stakes—for the most part
fallen down—had been driven so long ago that
the weather had washed off the writing on
their four hewn sides. Siawash George had
expended several thousand dollars in buying
and bringing an old boiler and engine up to
his claim from Forty Mile. Owing to a fatal
defect in its pumping gear it would not supply half a sluice-head of water or do the work
of a small dam ; but the noise of its puffing
and his ability to hire an engineer to superintend it at $15 a day greatly amused a mind
which had become aboriginal from family associations.
Money playing an important part in the
politics of Alaska as well as in other countries,
poor George had acquired a fortune only to
find that it was two-edged and might be an obstacle, as well as instrumental, in the fulfilment
of his royal ambition. On a fatal day he had
brought from Dawson to his wife some little
brown things in a box which was lettered in
gilt. She had found them so superior to plain
brown sugar that they had opened a new world
to her. She gave over her rights to a throne
to dream of the day when she should take passage on a Yukon steamer to the land where
shops were filled with chocolate bonbons.
Joe Powers was a near neighbor of Siawash
George. As both had squaw wives there was
a bond of union between them, and they visited
back and forth a great deal. Joe could not
read or write, I was told, but his good fellowship shone out of his ever-grinning face.
" Some of the boys I knowed down in Circle
and Forty Mile that's struck it big," he told
me in confidence, "is going into s'ciety when
they get on the outside. But I ain't. How I
would look in s'ciety, wouldn't I ? The rest
of the boys are about on the same pattern, too,
I guess, only they can't see it when they look
into a pool of water. I'm thankful I know
them dodgers on the outside are too clever for
me. I'll buy a fruit farm in Californy. Nobody can beat me out o' that."
However dangerous a little learning may be
to some of the old-timers, one does not envy
them their dust, spend it how they will.    It is
140 mnnmnrai
fitting that they who bore the brunt of the
robust business of pioneering should occupy
the cabins of the masters on the Eldorado and
the Bonanza claims. Graduates of colleges
and universities, who work for them with pick
and shovel for a dollar an hour, arrived on the
scene after the great strikes, and must take the
It is scarcely half a mile from Siawash
George's to the cluster of cabins at the mouth
of Eldorado; and Eldorado flows into Bonanza
about midway of its working claims, making of
The Forks, as the confluence of the two
streams is called, the hub of a wheel with three
spokes. When Miss Mulrooney came up to
The Forks in the autumn of 1897 she appreciated the mathematical advantage of the situation at once, and acted upon her perception
with such decision that the news of her wonderful undertaking went up and down the
creeks that very day.
" Boys,"   said  the  heralds to  the  scoffers,
■ there's a new woman up to The Forks with
a bit of an Irish brogue and the tongue of a
lawyer, that's goin' to show us old moss-backs
how to get rich.    Hanged if she ain't got so
much money to lose that she's goin' to build a
141 '
two-story hotel bigger'n any in Dawson right
up here on the creeks."
" Strange things was to be expected from
the Cheechawkos once the news of a strike got
into the newspapers all over the States," said
the scoffers; while the saloon-keepers, being
specialists on the subject, apprehended with
professional disdain that Miss Mulrooney
might as well start a hotel at the head of the
Stewart or at the North Pole.
The next instalment of news related that
Miss Mulrooney was up on the hill-side superintending the labors of the one lone mule surviving; of those broug;ht  down the river on
© O
rafts in the summer, which she had hired for
$20 a day to drag logs to the site of her
building. That class of women who are too
common in the Klondyke are not given to
this sort of thing; and, moreover, they wear
bloomers, while Miss Mulrooney wore long
skirts. A new woman deserved punishment
for such folly, but a good woman who wore
long skirts was entitled to the friendly advice
which one of the leading claim-owners undertook to supply.
" I've been in the country some time,"  he
told Miss Mulrooney, "and I don't mind tell-
ing you for your own interest that Dawson's
the place, not The Forks, for a hotel."
I Now, that's kind of you," assented Miss
Mulrooney. "And may I ask if you would
like something to drink ? "
" Er-r-r, well," stuttered the Committee of
One, as he tried to get his bearings, i well, I
admit I sometimes do, like the most of the
boys—but I didn't know as you'd be mention-
in' that."
I Oh, I'm not, and I'm not likely to," with
a toss of her head, " when I know there's no
chance of your accepting. Of course, if you
or any of the other boys was hungry or thirsty
you wouldn't think of buying a drink or a
meal up here. You'd walk sixteen miles to
Dawson and back for it, wouldn't you ? And
the boys going over the divide to Dominion or
Sulphur when they break the journey at The
Forks would hang up in a tree over night before they'd sleep in a hotel, wouldn't they, now?"
A light burst upon the Committee of One.
"You'll pass, Miss Mulrooney, you'll pass,"
he said. "You kin take care o' yourself all
right. With that head of yours, you'll own the
Klondyke by the time you've been in the country as long as I have."
And the word that Miss Mulrooney was all
right was passed along the line. Every man
on the creeks looked forward to the date of the
opening of her hotel. A democratic community could not confer titles, but it might call her
Miss Mulrooney of the Forks, and thus she
will be known for all time among Klondykers.
Meanwhile, she expected that every day
would be the lone mule's last. There was
neither hay nor oats in the country. As the
story was told to me, he held body and soul together on birch bark and willow sprouts until
the final log was dragged to the foundations,
and then promptly expired.
" He had nothing- to live on," as Miss Mul-
rooney expressed it, " and nothing to live for,
and I'm thinkin' the poor fellow was so slow
because he just knew that his interest in the
enterprise was all that kept him up; and, like
the rest of us, he wanted to postpone the last
hour as long as he could."
The third night after the hotel was opened
the Committee of One, himself, had to sleep
on the floor because the bunks were all taken.
Nothing could have served  Miss Mulrooney
better than the food-panic of midwinter.    She
had bought a full supply before everyone be-
gan to hoard whatever beans or flour or
whiskey he could get. All but two of the
restaurants in Dawson had to close their doors.
The two exceptions on fSte days gave butter
and apple sauce along with bacon, beans, and
coffee. Their owners grew to regard Miss
Mulrooney as their animate consciences whose
voice was that of every miner who ate a meal
in Dawson when he was down from the creeks.
" I don't mind paying double," said the Committee of One, to a Dawson waiter, " s'long
's I get suthin to eat. Just bring that dinner over again. Then I'll have only half a
square meal for $5, not to mention that no
fixin's go with it. Miss Mulrooney charges
$3.50 for a square, but she gives you canned
beef, canned mutton, and ham, and fixin's, and
keeps askin' you if you won't have more and
you keep acceptin' till you have to send for
a drink 'fore you're strong enough to get up
from the table. Jumpin' John Rogers ! How
you fellers must suffer when you pass out a
bean and a rind and think of what a woman
is doin' up there to The Forks! "
If you want to reach a man's heart through
his stomach in a scurvy-stricken country, feed
him, if it is the best you have, with sauce made
of dried apples. Miss Mulrooney kept a great
bowlful of this on her table. The transient
ate of its contents with the ravenousness of
the thirsty traveller drinking from a spring of
cold water. No sooner was it emptied—
I know by actual observation of a quart of
apple-sauce having been eaten by two persons
—than it was filled again by the cook, rapid
if rough in his movements, who picked it up
and put it down as if it were a red-hot ingot
The ground floor of the hotel was divided
into the bar-room and the dining-room. Cards
were permitted, but no gaming-tables were
maintained. Upstairs was a tier of bunks
running along the wall, with a passageway between them. The blankets seemed cleaner
than elsewhere—no hotel had sheets—and the
bunks had curtains. Either a nice sense of
individuality or sheer fatigue restrained the
guests from removing their socks, and I have
known miners who were over-tired by a long
tramp not to remove their boots. They had
enough respect for Miss Mulrooney to hang
the soles of them over the edge of the bunk,
however, though, if in their dreams they should
participate in a stampede to some new creek,
their good intentions were sadly belied.    The
sole occupant of a lower bunk, which was supposed to accommodate two in case of necessity, might be awakened at any hour by a
nudge, and :
■ Pardner, sorry to trouble you, but I guess
you'll have to move over a bit to make room
for me."
In winter the curse of a Klondyke cabin,
banked with snow, chinked with moss and
dirt to the last crack and knothole, is lack of
ventilation. In summer, when there is no
night and no two men quite agree on their
hours of sleep or hours for travelling, it was
as good as reading a local newspaper to try
to sleep at Miss Mulrooney's. The widening
cracks between boards of fir (put into the
floors and partitions while yet green) never
permitted the slightest details of conversation
over the card-table or over the bar to be inaudible, except during unavoidable and scarcely
welcome intervals when you heard the tramping and scuffling of heavy boots. I could discern the direction the traveller was going upon
entering the dining-room door ; whether he
was coming up stairs to bed, or was going to
call out to the cook for a " squar " or I half a
dozen eggs."
Andrew, a quiet, soft-voiced, obliging young
man, who wore a white shirt and was solicitous about keeping his tie straight, had charge
of the bar.    According; to all the traditions of
new placer mining camps he was as much out
of place as the average bartender would be in
a chair of moral philosophy. He was so -essentially lacking; in combativeness that no one
J ©
ever thought of picking a quarrel with him.
Luck and whiskey, however, despite the Northwest Mounted Police, will generate in miners
a surplus energy which they are inclined to expend upon furniture if not upon one another.
Miss Mulrooney did not depend for purposes
of pacification upon a huge St. Bernard who
was always at her side when he was not drawing her upon her sled up and down the creeks
in winter, but rather upon her blarney. She
knew when, where, and just how much to
" I always appeal to their best instincts," she
said. I It's easy to lead and hard to drive.
That's what you men don't understand. You
try to drive."
I saw her theory put to the test of practice.
A giant who was so well on in his cups that
he could  scarcely walk, concluded, only half
an hour after he had finished one, that he
wanted another meal. When it was placed
before him he seemed to think that the cook
was trying to hurt his feelings by making him
eat twice, and with an oath he threw a dish of
stew on the floor. Miss Mulrooney happened
to be passing through the room at the time.
She stepped over to him and told him in her
pleasantest tone that accidents would happen.
1 Accident ? " he asked, dazedly.
"Of course," she said. " I know you're too
much of a gentleman to do such a thing purposely."
" Coursh ! Coursh it was ! " he kept repeating, as he dropped down on to his knees and
tried to scrape the stew up into a little pile,
despite her protests.
Then out of the maze of his crippled memory another horror presented itself suddenly
and prompted him to arise.
■ Miss Mulrooney," he asked, his face very
red, I did you hear me swear ? "
■ A little one—a slip," she replied.
He told her that it was only a real lady who
would put so liberal a construction on what he
called a breach of f ettykit." Fearful, nevertheless, that she might secretly think ill of
■in «tm wmmti IN THE KLONDYKE
him, he followed her about the hotel with apologies and dripping hands while he kept repeating how a poor devil might be a little weak, so
rarely did a good bench claim fall to a poor
devil's lot, until the inner workings of his conscience culminated in a full confession that the
plate had not been broken by accident but intentionally. She forgave him even this, and
then he went up-stairs and to sleep.
" What I want to do is to make money, you
may be sure," Miss Mulrooney would say if
you persuaded her to tell you her story. " I
was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania. I had
to earn my own living before I was out of
short skirts, and I kept on doing a little better
from one thing to another, till I was stewardess of a steamer on the Pacific Coast.
There's nothing like being a stewardess to develop your wits when you're just a bit too
independent for the job and you have to give
the passengers as good as they send when
they're sassy. I remember an old Englishman
who expected me to black his boots. I told
him I wouldn't, and I told him if he put 'em
outside his door again I'd be thinkin' he was
wantin' ice-water and turn a pitcherful into
'em.    He went to the captain.    The captain
was a Scotchman and he didn't believe in put-
tin' on airs ; and when the captain sent for me
and I went to the captain's room I found the
old gentleman there. Before we came out I
had him laughin', and I'd never blacked his
boots, either. But runnin' errands doesn't suit
me. I started for the Klondyke as soon as I
heard of it, and like the rest I'm going back
either rich or broke."
The last time I saw Miss Mulrooney she
was in Dawson searching for a good location
for a hotel which was to have sheets and be
positively palatial. Three weeks later, so I am
told, it was completed. Once her first venture
succeeded, she had begun to speculate in mining properties. Her position at The Forks
gave her exceptional opportunities for inside
information, and she was a " pardner" of a
dozen leading citizens in as many enterprises.
■ If you ever go to Chicago or New York,"
I suggested to her, " the women's clubs will be
making a heroine of you as an example of what
their sex can do."
I Not if I know it," she replied. I They
won't, I'm thinkin', if they hear I sold whiskey.
Besides, there's nothin' new about me. I'm
Without abusing a much-abused word, I
think that Miss Mulrooney may be called a remarkable woman, more particularly as her own
opinion of herself is quite the contrary.
is* VIII
Daily Life in Dawson—Renting a Cabin—Circumventing the
Huskies—Joey Boureau and His Restaurant—The Faro
Dealer's Wife and Her Bakery—The Laundryman and
His Claim—Jack Beltz's Schemes—A Pair of Dreamers.
IT depends upon the season of the year
whether the town-site of Dawson is liquid,
mushy, or as flinty as frozen ground can be.
At one time in the summer of 1898 most of it
was under water. Two weeks later, the Yukon
having fallen some sixteen feet, this same town-
site was at a respectable height above the level
of the stream. The smaller sandbar on the opposite side of the mouth of the Klondyke, which,
out of respect to the cabins which cover an area
of six or seven acres, has been called Klondyke
City, is without the surface layer of muck which
held sewage as in a sponge under the noses of
the residents of Dawson. The good nature'of
the fellow, known as I Dud," who keeps the sole
saloon  and  hotel at Klondyke City, was as
largely responsible for our choice of abode as
the healthfulness of the location. Empty cabins were scarce. "Dud" said he had one to
rent. When I asked him the price, I offended
" You walk right in and stay till I tell you to
get out," he said. " But if you go shakin' your
dust in my face I won't let you have it at all."
So we stood our sleds up beside the door, set
up our little Yukon stove, threw our blankets
on the floor, and were at home. The comfort
of my daily existence I felt to be great compared with a bunk in a bunk-house for $2.50 a
night, or a room with cloth partitions over a
bar for $10 a night.
Fritz, who liked movement and life, went over
to town to live in the cabin of a friend, leaving
Jack and me to do our own cooking or to eat
at the restaurant when we were of idle mind.
The dogs also patronized the restaurant without standing on ceremony. " Jack " carried off
almost the last ham in the camp, having lifted
it from a nail with the unostentatiousness of
an expert thief. The proprietors of the restaurant would not listen to reimbursement.
They explained that anybody who had been
in the country for six years and let a husky
dog get the better of him deserved to be mulcted. It is out of deference to the husky dog
that the miner builds little caches, set on poles,
for storing food, which make the town look
like a Bornese village, whose inhabitants have
deserted their old homes to live in cabins.
The proprietors of the restaurant, in my
opinion, were well worth knowing. Joey Boureau—undeniably French-Canadian, but forever
repeating that he was a citizen of the United
States—was almost as dark as a Moor, with the
torso of a Turkish wrestler. He yielded neither
to excess nor fatigue, blustered at times, never
cared for to-morrow, and was possessed of a
ready wit. His blague had a counterpart in the
blarney of his partner, Tim, undeniably Irish
American and proud of it. This pair had been
inseparable for the many years that they had
sought gold with the pick and in all the ways of
camp life. Upon the scales at the end of the
oilcloth-covered dining table they weighed out
$2.50 worth of dust out of your bag whenever
you ate off their board. Whichever one happened to be in did the cooking, and if both were
in, one told stories to amuse the guests and
acted as cashier.
But both were seldom there.    One was usu-
155 I
ally at " Dud's " faro table. The other, when
he grew tired of working brought his " pardner "
home on his arm, installed him in the kitchen,
and immediately went out to enjoy a little recreation on his own account As he took with
him whatever dust there was in the tomato-can,
which served as their cash-box, we heard frequent excuses for the absence of moose steak
on the table because of lack of funds to purchase it. Just as their business was beginning
to prosper they sold it for a song to a Cheechawko whom they met on the river-front. A
week in town sufficed to spend the song, and
then they put packs on their backs and started
over the hills, whistling as they went.
In one of the neighboring cabins the wife of
a faro dealer had set up a bakery. We paid her
fifty cents apiece for pies and fifty cents for
loaves of bread, and had to order them beforehand to make sure of getting; them.
Our laundryman had staked a claim in which
he placed great hopes; but his invariable charge
remained seventy-five cents a garment. He related with a realism almost tragic the details of
the processes by which he had arrived at the
original color of the khaki trousers that I had
worn on the trail.    Jack Beltz, for his part, se-
156 Jack Beltz.
The Huskies."  mflHBH
cured the loan of an old tub and a washboard,
and after a day's labor surveyed bandanna handkerchiefs and what not hung out on the line
with the mien of a conqueror.
Economy, however, was always a matter of
necessity with him. On the first night of his return from town he said, with some pride, that
he still had most of the dust which he had received in conclusion of our contract. The next
night before going to bed he built a fire in the
stove out of the driftwood which he snaked out
of the river for fuel, and sat for a long time in a
"Well, I'll have to earn some more," he
said, finally, to himself, and dropped upon his
In the morning, followed by his troop of
dogs, who had regained their spirits and their
flesh, because he had fed them so bountifully,
he went up on the mountain side, where he
picked a great bouquet of the wild flowers which
spring up in such profusion in summer. He
never told me of his losses, and I tried to avoid
the appearance of suspecting the truth, at the
same time that I took practical measures to
obviate an effort to dispose of his robe for cash
and to hypothecate his year's outfit, which was
to be brought down.the river by his " pardner,"
Meanwhile, he revolved in his mind many
schemes for making money. The price of
moose steak, $1.50 a pound, suggested to him
that a fortune might be made in moose hunting. Learning that Dawson had no bowling
alley, he so far arranged to start one as to find
that balls and pins could not be obtained
nearer than Seattle. This scheme was succeeded by the more alluring prospect of taking
dogs, which are valueless in summer, as they
are valuable in winter, to an island in the river
to feed for so much a month. Always before
his dream had taken definite form he dismissed
it by saying he was no city man. He recalled
his experience in keeping the restaurant in a
British Columbia mining town, and he reverted
to a proposition that was to the liking of his
love of robust vagabondage :
" I'll get a pardner and take the dogs and go
up to the head-waters of the Porcupine and
cross over to the Mackenzie. It would be a
rattling trip!"
As if in excuse of his venture he would add
that he was certain to find gold in that region.
One day another  dreamer,   Kidd,  came to
join us. He was a protege* of Jack, who had
found him trying to put his outfit over the
Pass. There must have been such giants as
Kidd, with such straight noses, curling black
hair and curling black beard, in the phalanxes
that confounded the Persians. But this type
of the freshness and strength of country life
was quite modern. He slouched into the
cabin with his hands in his pockets, and included in the drawl with which he greeted us a
Missourian " Doggone it! " Like many other
unfortunate fellows, Kidd had been obliged to
spend the whole winter in the neighborhood of
the Pass. Jack and his partner had made him
a tent-mate in their camp on the banks of Lin-
derman, during the dreary period of waiting.
Going on to Le Barge after our departure from
Linderman, he had arrived in Dawson before
"That boy comes from a good family," said
Jack; I and I'll bet they're proud as anybody
that ever had a grand-dad who owned a lot of
niggers and went stone broke after the war.
He don't say nothin' about it, but it sticks out
all over him. He didn't know how to hitch a
pack on a mule's back when I first met him.
But though he was green, he wasn't fresh; and
when tenderfeet are that way they'll learn and
you like to learn 'em. When they ain't, you
like nothin' better than to give 'em the worst
bronch' on the ranch and leave 'em to find out
things for themselves."
It was not until after considerable urging
that Kidd would consent to share our cabin.
His character was in sharp contrast to that of
another young stranger who entered and threw
his blankets on the floor for the night without
any formalities. In the morning, picking up
certain articles of my kit which were lying
beside my bed, he said :
"You're goin' out on the first steamer.
Don't suppose you want these, do you? I'll
take 'em along. They'll come in handy next
" He'll get on," quoth Jack, " but I'm ding-
donged if he'll get on with my help."
Jack now included Kidd in his schemes,
which became more and more attenuated.
Kidd would walk back and forth for some
time as if in deep thought, and finally drawl:
" Gee-mo-nee ! We must do something,
Jack !"
And Jack, as he looked out upon the rapidly
flowing river, would agree, and relight his pipe.
Kidd admitted that he was homesick, " dog-
goned homesick." He had a right to be, for
he left home with a thousand dollars and his
mother's blessing, instead of finishing his education and studying for the country bar.
" Gee-mo-nee !" he exclaimed. " I was
green, wasn't I, Jack ? I thought you'd just
pick the gold up once you got here. But dog-
goned if I'll go back broke. I'll have as much
as I had when I left or stay forever. I've got
three hundred of that thousand and I'll make
seven hundred and my fare out some way this
One day the dreamers found employment on
the log booms for the new saw-mill that was to
be built on the island in the Klondyke between
Dawson and Klondyke City. Jack was as
much at home on a rolling log as on the back
of a broncho. Poor Kidd fell into the water
often, but showed great persistence until the
rise in the river made work impossible and left
them idle again. So Jack sat by the cabin door
keeping a lookout for Cliff, the third giant of
the trio, who arrived one day, with a broad grin.
" Gosh ! " he exclaimed, as he grasped Jack's
hand. 11 was washed out of the boat when
we came  through   Five Finger Rapids, and
blamed if I wasn't washed in again! How's
that for luck ? "
There was something of the New England
Yankee in him, though he had been born in
" I'll bet you've give your money all away,
ain't you, Jack ? " was his next remark. " You
wouldn't be Jack if you hadn't"
I Weeks ago," was the reply.
They secured a contract with one of the
saw-mills to cut rafts of logs sixty miles up the
river. Here was a chance for Jack to swing an
axe, to build bonfires, and to do what he called
an honest man's work. With his dogs around
him on the day of his departure I said a regretful good-by to the vagabond.
162 IX
Itineraries—Alleged Unimportance of Experience—The
Case of Father Stanley—Press Agents and Primers
of Wealth—The Secretary of the Seattle Chamber of
Commerce His own Convert—Pardners and Promoters
—Outfits—Home Comforts for an Arctic Climate—
Heterogeneous Boat Loads—The Nancy G—Tragedies
of the Passes.
NEXT to taking part in some event chronicled on the bulletin boards your average
pilgrim of fortune best enjoyed being near
them. Least of all he liked waiting in latitude
64 degrees for a month or more for news of
progress of the only war yet waged by his
country in his generation. When he left home
the Klondyke was the ruling general topic of
the hour in the newspapers. When he reached
his destination he was quite forgotten, and public interest was entirely absorbed in the invasion
of Cuba.
Viewed in one light, there was good reason
for the pique which he naturally felt  toward
Shaffer's army. He might see many wars, for
instance, before he saw the like of this Dawson
pilgrimage again. Thirty-five thousand generals,
each one his own quartermaster, packing a
thousand pounds of food apiece over a rugged
coast range of mountains, building a flotilla
with axe and whipsaw out of the primeval forest,
and travelling six hundred miles into a country
having an arctic climate in winter and a tropical climate in summer and yielding no food except a little game, presented a spectacle more
romantic, if not so exciting, as the massing of
an army corps under one general, its extension
into a battle line, and the capture of the
enemy's outposts.
The old prospector from California, British
Columbia, Australia, or South Africa formed
only a small percentage of those who entered,
with the enthusiasm of children, a world of
effort quite new to them. The village loafer
and the ne'er-do-well son of the banker became
partners on the trail. Mechanics who had
mortgaged homes bought with savings from
their wages to buy an outfit, rubbed elbows with
broken-down speculators and business men who
hoped to recover all that they had lost by finding a placer mine.    The farmer, the clerk, the
artisan, and the city or the provincial day
laborer of the Eastern States, Eastern Canada,
and England, were as confident of success as
their associates who had learned in the severe
school of the plains, the veldt, or the bush how
to preserve life and health in a new country.
If they had not swung a lariat or a pioneer's
axe, they had at least beaten someone in walking or rowing or had gone longer without eating than any of their immediate friends.
Of the eighty thousand who left their homes
for the Klondyke in the winter of 1897-
98 and the spring of 1898, some thirty-five
thousand arrived at Dawson. The battle was
not always to the strong. More important
than physical strength were determination and
cheerfulness. Those who failed were as peculiarly Anglo-Saxon as those who succeeded;
for they had the restlessness which impels
one to seek obstacles but does not necessarily
provide the force to overcome them. Most of
those who had endeavored to reach Dawson in
the autumn of 1897 were stranded on one side
or the other of the passes, where they had to
wait through a dreary winter until the ice
which had arrested their progress should go out
of the river.    But only a small proportion of
the whole number of pilgrims made this attempt The great majority planned to transport their outfits over the passes in the early
months of 1898 and build their boats on Lakes
Linderman and Bennett in the interval between good travelling in a snow-bound country
and the opening of navigation.
All pilgrims, whatsoever their itineraries,
were grist for the mills of the towns of the
Pacific Coast States and of British Columbia,
bringing welcome relief from a period of commercial depression. Enterprising merchants,
chambers of commerce, and steamship companies scattered broadcast throughout the
United States (whence came seventy per cent,
of the pilgrimage, ninety per cent of it being
Anglo-Saxon) pamphlets, well written for the
purpose, telling I How to Get to the Klondyke."
The career of " Father I Stanley, of Seattle,
was used as a stock illustration of the unimportance of experience to the prospector. This
lame old bookseller, having the enthusiasm of
the fanatic in place of real strength, had gone
to the Klondyke in the spring of 1896. For a
time he worked on the bars of Stewart,
taking out $10 a day.    If he had not  been
166 iHtMMtt
deformed he would have packed more food
over the Pass. Fortunately, his supply ran out
in September, and on his way down stream to
Forty Mile, where he hoped to get more, he
happened to arrive at the mouth of the Klondyke just as the first miners from Forty Mile
were hurrying to the scene of Indian Charlie's
" strike." As he could not walk as fast as the
others, they got all the claims on Bonanza, and
he had the good luck to get one of the best
claims on Eldorado.
A year later, returning on the treasure ship
that brought the news of the great strike, when
he entered his house with a small portion of his
fortune—a hundred thousand dollars in cash—
his good wife, as the story goes, was at the
washboard, where she had spent a deal of her
time during her husband's absence, earning a
living for a large family. Her customers coming to make inquiries about their clothes were
told to take whatever was in the tub which
they could identify as their own. As for herself, she was boarding at the hotel, sending
such of her apparel as she had not thrown away
to the laundry, and, moreover, was too busy
with the dressmaker to attend to any trifling
details which might have concerned her past life.
" In the frozen fastnesses of the far North
fortunes nestle in nuggets of glittering gold
for all"—but the press agents were too well
versed in human nature to say that these fortunes were to be had for a pleasure trip.
They mentioned hardships which put up a
price of success, thus making the nuggets more
attractive, and, in a sense, supporting the assertion of their existence. Anyone who would
overcome the hardships might have a competency for the trouble of thawing it out of
the frozen ground. No pilgrim felt himself to
be less courageous and vigorous than " Father''
Stanley; and the wives of all pilgrims were
equally certain that, under similar circumstances, they could conduct themselves with
quite as much dignity as Mrs. Stanley.
As became a primer to wealth, the pamphlets told just how much it would cost to reach
Dawson with the all-necessary year's outfit,
going to the trouble, in a spirit of solicitude
and rectitude, of setting down opposite each
article of food and each utensil, whether spade
or gold-pan, or oakum or pitch, or nails for
boat-building, its cost in dollars and cents,
and adding up a fascinatingly small total
from a very tall column of figures.    With a
receipted bill for this, and having paid his fare
to Dyea or Skaguay, where he would disembark on the mainland of Alaska and begin the
transportation of his outfit over the passes, the
pilgrim, although he was supposed to have expended only $300, needed no more money to
take him to his mine.
It was not to the credit of the calculations
of the pamphlets, and not testimony, in all if it
was in some instances, to the success of the
numerous gambling establishments that sprang
up at the point of mobilization of the army of
fortune-seekers, that the Seattle post-office did
an overwhelming business in money-orders in
December, 1897, and January and February,
1898. The authors of the pamphlets were not
called to account for their errors. Rather,
they received the thanks of their employers.
Once he was on the coast, it stood to reason
that while he was yet sleeping between sheets
and eating meals cooked by someone other
than himself the pilgrim would not retreat because he needed a few more dollars which were
obtainable from friends or relatives at home.
Seattle's success beyond all other towns in
attracting trade was due to a university graduate and an author of works on art.    Having to
give up journalism in the East and seek
health in the West, after some severe tests of
versatility of earning a living, he became Secretary of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce.
Such were the results of his knowledge of the
peculiarities of the Easterner, the Westerner,
the Canadian, and the Englishman, which he
incorporated in separate pamphlets, that his
employers continued to raise his salary from
week to week until the war broke out and he
relieved them of the embarrassing consequences
of their transports of generosity by resigning
and starting for the Klondyke himself (regardless of his doctor's advice) as a convert of his
own arguments.
The camp-followers of the host of individual
quartermasters which Seattle equipped and
embarked, besides the gambler and the pickpocket, included many men of elastic consciences and elastic schemes, who had no capital
but were ambitious to become capitalists.
Those promising large dividends on properties
yet to be purchased or staked were common ;
those proposing such grand things as running
snow and ice locomotives over the hummocks
of the Yukon in winter were in some measure
distinguished.    In the corridors of the crowded
170 tmsmm
hotels you overheard the consultations of
"pardners" as well as the harangues of promoters.
Sacks of flour, bacon, and beans, the chief
constituents of the Yukon outfit, were piled on
the sidewalks. In the windows of the stores
were samples of various improved edibles and
home comforts for an arctic climate. Fakirs
on the curbs proclaimed the merits of patent
sleds, portable boats, and devices for thawing
frozen ground. In selecting his outfit, the pilgrim experienced the same emotion as the
young wife who furnishes a flat. When he
had settled on the kind of sled, the kind of
stove, and the kind of tent that he was going
to take, he faced the important question of
buying dogs or of drawing his own supplies
from Dyea or Skaguay to the lakes. If he
had money enough he usually fell a victim to
the speculators, who sold the house dogs that
they had shipped into Seattle, after a few days'
training in harness, for fifty dollars apiece.
The last article of his outfit bought, he
waited for his steamer to sail, while his hotel
bill grew apace. Liberal navigation laws, at all
times carelessly enforced, in these piping times
of prosperity became  a dead letter.    Every
I li
available sailing and steam craft in the Pacific
marine, which is comparatively small and is
largely recruited from the Atlantic seaboard,
was called into service by the demands of the
pilgrimage. Fortunes were made in two or
three trips of vessels, which had been condemned as unseaworthy years before. To get
all the passengers they could carry they had
only to offer transportation for a pilgrim and a
ton of supplies at a little less exorbitant price
than any of their rivals.
Inexperienced pilots steered many vessels on
to rocks in the tortuous and narrow channels
between the barren and mountainous islands of
the Alexander Archipelago which skirt the
coast of British Columbia and the adjoining
territory of southeastern Alaska. Pilgrims not
yet embarked were too anxious about their own
departure to think of the miseries of those who
had suffered from exposure and lost their outfits, if not their lives. Rarely did the best
steamers leave within less than a week of their
appointed sailing time. In loading them there
was little discrimination or even classification.
Quarters of beef for the restaurants of Dyea
and Skaguay, dogs in crates and in leash, mules
and bales of hay, were put on the decks after
the hold was filled. Considering the experiences of a volunteer army with a single quartermaster, better things were scarcely to be expected of a volunteer army composed entirely
of quartermasters. The chaos had the sole
attraction of not bearing the stamp of officialdom.
As an example of what a pilgrim might
suffer, there was the case of the Nancy G.
When I left Seattle on February 15th, on the
Nancy G.'s mast still fluttered the torn ends of
a cloth sign with fast-fading red letters : " This
fine schooner in the tow of a powerful ocean
tug, will positively sail for Dyea on January
25th." Every day the passengers went down to
the pier to see if their outfits were still on
board and to see how repairs were getting on.
A man with a hammer in one hand and some
oakum in the other came out of the hold.
" You needn't cuss me," he said. 1A
schooner that's been resurrected after five years
in the graveyard, ain't what she was when she
was new, and you oughter know it. Every
minute I lose caulkin' up the old girl 's corn
out of your own crops."
Afterward they went to see the owner, who
received their complaints with an air of disdain,
refused to return the amount that they had
paid in fares for the good reason that he had
their signatures to a contract for January 25th
or thereabouts, and warned them in their own
interests that "thereabouts" was a very elastic
" And I'll tell you something else," he said.
" If you talk to me in this way much more, I'll
have you up for riot. If you want to lose a
gold mine and go to jail, that's your business
and not mine."
The owner was a small man—a small man
who had spent his life in the new towns of the
West The passengers were mostly hulking
Swedes from the lumber camps of Minnesota
and Wisconsin. They longed to lay their
strong hands on him for just a moment But
it was hard to lose a gold mine, and they hadn't
enough money to pay for passage on another
steamer. So they slouched out of the owner's
presence more in sorrow than in anger. I
heard afterward that the Nancy G. finally
started on February 20th. Fate was so kind to
her passengers that she did not sink until the
return journey. They were more fortunate
than two hundred of their fellows, who saw
their outfits burned on the vessel which had
reached Skaguay just in time to have disembarked them in safety.
To meet the demands of the migration to
the interior, Dyea and Skaguay had sprung up
as quickly as a house of cards. When Indian
Charlie found his nugget there was no building
at Skaguay and only a trading-store at Dyea
for bartering with the Indians and furnishing
any supplies to an old-time prospector which
he had neglected to buy at Juneau. The two
towns are situated at the heads of either of two
arms of the Lynn Canal, which nature has cut
through the rock as man cut that of Corinth,
upon sandy deposits at the mouths of the
Dyea and Skaguay Rivers, and separated by a
distance of a mile in a straight line over a
mountain spur or of three miles around the
point of the spur by water. This spur, rising
into high peaks as it reaches the summit of the
main range, is a barrier separating the two
rivers and the two passes.
Dyea is the gateway to Chilcoot Pass, which
leads to Lake Linderman, and Skaguay is the
gateway to the White Pass, which leads to
Lake Bennett. They were not, as it appeared
to the superficial observer, trying to excel each
other in wickedness, but in the amount of bus-
iness that they could do. Anyone who had
been a resident of either town a single day
considered it his duty to warn you as a friend
against the rival town and the rival pass. In a
week he had become an old citizen. The small
proportion who were on hand for the rush of
the late summer and autumn of 1897 were as
proud as Lord Mayors. Then, thousands of
pack-horses, earning as high as $50 apiece
a day, died from the exertions to which they
were forced by their owners. In the winter their bones sticking up through the snow
were snags to catch the sleds of the pilgrims.
Instead of a series of steps, the packers on Chil-
coot had to walk around bowlders, slipping on
the fragments of crumbling rock, and possibly,
after all their exertion, reaching Linderman and
building their boats only to have them blocked
by ice half way to Dawson, where they were
effectually stranded with their outfits.
Perhaps every fifth or sixth house in the
main streets was not a gambling hall or a dance
hall. With these and a large idle population it
is easy to understand how men who had a few
dollars in cash when they arrived were obliged
to sell their outfits and return home. The enforcement of law was in the hands of a United
States commissioner and three or four deputy
marshals. The commissioner was a gentle optimist who spent most of his working-hours in
an office with a window looking out on the
river and the mountain side, where he might
see no wrong-doing. § Soapy I Smith, gambler,
by self-appointment, was Mayor of Skaguay and
General-in-chief of the Army of Disorder, composed of characters from San Francisco and
Seattle, who had no money left after their
fare to Alaska was paid and were looking for
something to turn up. When an atrocious murder was committed by one of his followers,
" Soapy " told a body of protesting citizens that
they would better mind their own business. As
his army outnumbered theirs and was better
armed, they accepted his advice. The United
States sent out two companies of infantry, with
instructions from the authorities at Washington
that they should not interfere with the affairs
of the two towns unless there was a riot. The
Commissioner, seeming to regard their presence
as an intrusion on his rights, never asked for
their assistance. No murders or highway robberies were committed within sight of his little
window. In time, however, "Soapy" Smith
met the death that he deserved at the hands
of one of his followers, and through the efforts
of the merchants and the better element the
towns became more orderly.
Not every pilgrim who returned home was
the victim of gamblers and other parasites.
For two or three days he might stop at one of
the hotels until he selected the parcels of his
outfit from the piles which had been thrown
indiscriminately on the shore by common carriers in haste to have done with their contracts.
Then, with his tent, his stove, and a cook-book,
which was the gift of a baking-powder company, his journey began in earnest. The novelty
of making his first flapjacks wore off by the
time he had washed his dishes the second or
third time. It was not long; before he came to
the conclusion that the fellow whom he had
chosen to share all of his sorrows and joys was
lazy. He blamed his own disinclination to rise
in the morning and all his little failures upon
him, as some men do upon their wives. Whenever he had a chance he solaced his wounded
spirits by telling a stranger that he had put up
with doing all of the work of his party about
as long as he could.
Partnerships formed so gayly in Seattle by
men who thought that being a partner was be-
ing a playfellow, could not be expected to last
long at pulling sleds through the slush and going to bed in a robe or a sleeping-bag which
was cheap and inefficient, with a supper of
sandwiches made of sticky flapjacks and cold
bacon. As he grew more angry with his partner he grew fonder of his dog. Jim might
beat his poor Newfoundland, who was too nervous to pull even if he had ever been taught
how; he might put up with a poor dinner ; but
if Tom, who was cooking, kicked the Newfoundland for stealing the bacon off the plate
or sticking his nose in the butter, it was the
last straw. He demanded a division of goods
on the spot. But quarrels seldom resulted in
blows, because they occurred when the men
were too tired to do more than join in a contest of forcible language.
It was the man who leaves the door ajar
at home who went to bed without washing
his dishes. The Easterner now learned that,
while he might know things that the Westerner
did not, the Westerner knew better than he
how to take care of himself. The Westerner
always cooked a warm supper, and dried his
footwear before going to work in the morning;
while the self-neglect of the Easterner made
hundreds of doctors at Dyea and Skaguay the
busiest in the world. Spinal meningitis was
often the penalty of sitting down to rest when
dripping with perspiration without throwing a
coat over the shoulders.
Even after their goods were on the summit
of the Pass and the worst of their labors were
over, many pilgrims gave up the battle. One
by one they were thinned out until only thirty-
five thousand were ready with their boats when
the ice broke in Bennett. This far I had
shared their experiences and then had gone
on ahead. Mine was the. privilege of having
been a Cheechawko and at the same time
standing on the river bank as an old-timer
or among old-timers, to watch the arrival of
the pilgrimage in its unpainted, unique flotilla.
180 X
Newspapers as Profit-Winners—Hearing about Dewey—A
Drop in Eggs—Market Items—Lemons against Scurvy—
The Mercury at iio degrees—An Averted Moving Day
—Industrious Scavengers5—The Klondyke Itself—Aspects of Summer—Bandanna Hats and Pink Lemonade
—A Restaurant Trust—The Grasshoppers and the Ants
JT was only to be expected that the first boat
of the season to shoot around the bend
above Dawson and raise a shout which would
bring all the population to the shore would be
manned by a resident of Seattle with the name
of his beloved town painted on a huge streamer
flying from the mast. Enterprising citizens
of the far West such as he owned the stores
at Dyea and Skaguay, the pack-mules on the
trail, the restaurant tents which had sprung
up in Sheep Camp, and then, following the
pilgrimage on to Linderman and Bennett,
generally made money out of the Klondyke
without having to use a spade, because of their
knowledge of the life and necessities of new
communities. This proud Seattleite with the
boat had two hundred dozen of nominally
" fresh" eg-grs to sell, for which he received
$3,600 within less than an hour after he had
landed. Those of the crowd who could afford
it hurried off to the restaurant for a " squar''
composed entirely of "ham and". The others,
having; to bide their time until luxuries were
cheaper, found compensation in the items of
news which were passed from tongue to tongue
—for it had not occurred to the Seattleite to
bring a newspaper with him.
" Thought there was more money in eggs,"
was his aggravating explanation. " 'Sposed
you fellers wanted to eat, not read."
As he had heard it, within a week after the
declaration of war with Spain, the cruiser New
York, Captain Evans in command, had reduced the fortifications of Havana in three
hours. The second Cheechawko to arrive
assured us that this was quite untrue, and that
two of Admiral Sampson's squadron had been
sunk and the Spaniards were winning on every
hand. The crowd refused to believe anything
of the kind, and the second Cheechawko received only $14 a dozen for his eggs.
182 T3
With the next boat came a single newspaper,
soiled with bacon grease. A curbstone speculator bought it for $15, stuffed it instantly into
his inside coat pocket, and a few minutes later
was posting signs to the effect that all might
hear the news of Admiral Dewey's victory read
by paying a dollar a piece that evening. His
entertainment would have netted him twice as
much as it did if more than three hundred
and fifty people could have been packed in the
hall in which it was held. Some of the wealthy
men considered this proceeding an outrage on
personal liberty and made it a point to buy between them any single copy of a paper later
than any others that had arrived and have it
read at once in the streets.
Never did contrast better illustrate the comparative reliability of even the most unreliable
of modern newspapers. All winter the camp
had not had so much as a small hand printing-
press, and news was carried solely by word of
mouth. Most miners have the weakness of
exaggeration. With some it is unconscious.
Others enjoy testing a hearer's credulity.
Twice, up the creeks, I heard that the Continent had declared war against England and the
United States; in the second instance, the de-
tail of an Anglo-American naval victory off the
coast of Bohemia perhaps was supplied. Such
rumors were the natural fruit of the desire of
Americans and Englishmen to pay compliments to one another at a juncture when the
Anglo-Saxon alliance of the Klondyke was
quite ready, without any assistance from London or Washington, to stand in arms against
the whole world.
Within a week some thirty boats all bringing merchandise had arrived. In momentary
anxiety of being lodged on a sandbar, wifhout
stopping to make camps, their crews bending
to the oars night and day, they had raced with
one another to the goal of high prices. Too
many had placed their speculative trust in eggs.
After all, there were only four hundred working claims, and the stomachs of each of their
owners, and of the chief gamblers and business
men, were little if any larger than that of the
average human being. Eggs fell in five days
from $18 to $4 a dozen and finally to $3.
A stock of fine millinery and ladies' apparel,
sold to the women of the town, gave to
one fellow a profit of $5,000. The first condensed milk to arrive brought $ 1 a can; the
first butter,   $2.50 a  pound; the first ham,
184 tsm
$1.25 a pound, and the first sugar, $1.50 a
pound. Lemons were more in demand in a
scurvy-ridden country than oranges and bananas and sold for double their price, which
was seventy-five cents apiece. But the happiest
of all the newcomers was the one who had the
only boat-load of boots for a community which
was miserable in moccasins in warm weather.
He received $15 a pair for fifteen hundred pairs
which had cost him $1.75 a pair in Montreal. A
five-cent bottle of ink cost $1 ; a fifteen-cent
golf cap, $2.50; a pen-holder, fifty cents—the
smallest amount of dust that anyone cared to
weigh out; socks $2 a pair ; a broad-brimmed
summer hat, $20 to $40 ; a small whisk broom,
$2.50; a ready-made suit of clothes, from $50
to $200; canned roast beef, $2.50 a can;
canned oysters, a great luxury, $5 for a pound
or pint can, and cigars, fifty cents to $1 apiece.
Against the profits which such prices represented the speculator had to set the original
cost of the articles, the expense of transporting
them to Dyea or Skaguay and over the one
hundred and seventy-five miles to the foot of
Lake Le Barge, his own fare on a steamer out
of the country, and the loss of from three to
six months' time.
During: the lull between the arrivals of the
few speculators from Le Barge and the main
body of the pilgrims from Linderman and
Bennett, it seemed at one time not unlikely
that Dawson might be carried down the river
and a new town established on some sandbar.
But there was not enough snow left on the
mountain sides to allow the tropical sun, shining eighteen hours out of the twenty-four and
raising; the mercury to no degrees, to accom-
plish its apparent purpose. Never had the old-
timers known it to be so warm so early in May,
and never had they known the river to be so
high. They held that the Lord was displeased
with the prospective defilement of the country
by an army of " clerks, farmers, and dudes."
The Indians knew better. White man mig;ht
be very cunning in making a boat go up stream
by burning wood in an iron box, but Indian
could tell him some things besides how to kill
moose. Old Indian could count off on his
fingers some twenty years ago when the canoeing was good on the whole town-site of Dawson. That was why Indian never lived in
Dawson but at Klondyke City.
Day by day we saw the water approaching a
few inches nearer to our door-sill.    It began to
fall just as we were thinking of putting up our
tent on the mountain side. Only the roofs of
some cabins in Dawson were above the level
of the stream. The suspension bridge between Dawson and Klondyke City, whose
woven wire cables were earning two or three
hundred fifty-cent tolls a day for their owners,
was carried away along with a great pile of
debris that it had collected. You paid fifty
cents for being ferried from one island to another in the main street. Along the bank, standing in their boats, pike poles in hand, were those
easy-going ones of the inhabitants who raised
husky dogs for sale, did a little freighting in
the winter, and took naturally to odd jobs—
and I might say to squaw wives—now, in the
heyday of importance, as they rowed out in the
strong current and brought in a tree which had
been uprooted by the flood. If the tree was
suitable only for firewood it was probably
worth a quarter of an ounce, or four dollars;
if large enough for sawing, half an ounce.
The average Klondyker's dislike for such work
being quite as strong as that of the average
man at home for scavenging, the easy-going
had a free field and earned enough in a few
days to buy winter outfits for themselves and
187 ^^
their families. A few had even better luck.
They caught portions of rafts—in two instances whole rafts—which had slipped their
moorings up the river, and steering the sum of
two or three months' labor of men probably
unknown to them up to the bank, let the
owners of the saw-mill have it at a bargain.
A source of amusement if not of income
was a ditch in one of the back streets, hidden
under three or four inches of water. As you
stepped into it up to your thighs you heard a
roar of laug;hter from several men sitting; on a
prominence near by.
" If you don't tell your friends, pardner,"
said one of them, " there's room up here for
another, and you can enjoy yourself watchin'
the others tumble in."
With all the snow gone and no rainfall, the
Yukon fell as rapidly as it had risen. The
thawing and crumbling soft earth of the embankments of the upper reaches made it muddier than the Missouri at its worst. For drinking water one had either to resort to the
rivulets on the hill-side, amber-colored from
the moss, or go to the Klondyke, which, once
sluicing was nearly finished, became so clear
that the bottom was visible at a depth of ten
or twelve feet, while the eddies and rapids of
its current as seen from the mountain tops,
left a dark, comet-like streak, stretching; from
its mouth for a distance of two or three miles
on the cafe-au-lait surface of the mother stream.
By the fifteenth of June the river-bank was
lined with the boats of the pilgrims, two or
three deep. A city of canvas, with the old
cabins and buildings as its heart, extended
until the neighboring heights were dotted with
tents. Knowledge of boat-building had turned
out to be a misfortune, if anything, for the
scows moved just as fast with the current and
proved quite as easy to manage, I was told, as
smaller craft pointed at both ends. The bow
of each vessel bore the number which had been
put on by the Mounted Police when they
examined outfits for a second time for custom
purposes at Le Barge or Tagish. Beside it
was the name of the pilgrim's home town, of
his sweetheart, his wife, or his daughter, put
on with coal if he had no paint. From the
mast fluttered a red bandanna, a towel, or possibly some absurdly elaborate flag which had
been made in the idle hour between the completion of the boat and his embarkation. If
there were three in a boat, which is the best
working number for a Klondyke party, one was
in the bow on the watchout for sandbars, the
second was at the oars, and the third in the
stern with a sweep. Navigation had its perils,
too. The river as well as the Pass had
claimed its victims. You heard on every
hand tales of wrecks in White Horse Rapids
and in Thirty Mile River, whose hidden rocks
had proven even more dangerous than the
White Horse Rapids. Many a scow with
merchandise which had cost its owner his last
cent was split in two, and those on board
were thankful to find themselves on shore
In their camps, the pilgrims found the mosquitoes of summer worse than the cold of
winter. Fevers and headaches upon their arrival in Dawson were the consequences of
exposure under the sun. It was even the fate
of a few to be taken at once to the big; log;
hospital on the hill-side which already had
more patients than it could accommodate ;
and of a part of these to be buried in the
little cemetery beyond the hospital, which gives
to relatives of the deceased the sombre satisfaction of knowing that its inmates, lying at
a  depth  where  the   earth  never  thaws,  are
preserved for all time—unless  the town-site
itself one day is marked by hydraulics.
Between the pilgrims when I met them in
Seattle and when I met them again in Dawson
there was all the difference of volunteers in
new uniforms going forth to war and the
dust-stained men who return. Their tents, so
white and new in Dyea, had patches where
holes had been burned by sparks or by carelessly hung candles. Their canvas bags of
provender were the color of the Yukon.
Their cheap sheet-iron stoves were so badly
warped that the oven had ceased to bake well.
Their beards were unkempt, their faces tanned.
The knees of their trousers proved again how
helpless a man is when alone with a needle.
Many were still wearing caps. A few had
made substitutes for summer hats out of wire,
straw, fir twig;s, and a bandanna. If the Seattle
and the Vancouver merchants could have seen
the outfits which they had sold after three or
four months' usage, they themselves might have
wondered at the skill of the manufacturers in
making little seem a great deal by the use of
Very wisely the Canadian Government had
provided that every pilgrim entering Canadian
territory must have eleven hundred pounds, or
a year's supply of food. Flour was the cheapest thing to bring an outfit that lacked two or
three hundred pounds up to the requirements.
Almost without exception the pilgrims had
failed to realize the importance of luxuries in
contributing a healthful and sustaining diet in
the North. Flour sold on July ist, after the
commercial companies began to receive supplies, for $6 a sack, but white sugar sold
for fifty cents a pound. Everybody had enough
of staples, but many had eaten all their sugar-
the larger part of their dried fruits, soup prep,
arations, and canned delicacies and smoked or
chewed all of their tobacco. It was easy to
promise themselves on the trail that if they
indulgfed themselves in "something; g;ood"
after a hard day's work they could buy more
of the same article in Dawson. For they were
certain that a great many of their comrades
intended to sell their outfits and leave the
country at once—so many of their comrades
did. But they, too, had eaten all their butter
and evaporated eggs and kept any tobacco they
had lest they should run out of it on the way
Pilgrims who had goods to sell hastened to
find a niche for a booth on the busy main
street, where you could buy peanuts and pink
lemonade, or the substantials of eating; patent
leather shoes, yellow-backed novels, and cheap
jewelry, or the substantials of wearing apparel.
The six restaurants formed a trust and kept the
price of a meal up to $2.50. In furnishing
them with meat, the men who had used oxen
for drawing their outfits up to the Scales and
again to draw them over the lakes, now had
reason to laugh back at the friends who had
scoffed at them for thinking that any animal
except a dog or a mule was useful in Alaska.
An ox sold for $700 or $800 and was butchered
at once before it had a chance to eat any more
hay—which was worth $100 a ton—while the
rich men stood by to see that they got the tenderloin. Besides beefsteak, we had moose-
steak. One moose, who had possibly come
back to his old pastures out of curiosity, was
shot with a revolver only a mile out of town.
His slayer, who met him ambling along the
white man's trail as if he were on a stampede
to some new creek, sold his carcass for $500.
Carpenters got employment at $15 a day
on some one of the new dance halls, saloons,
and stores which were being built as fast as
green lumber for their construction could be
obtained. Pilgrims without any trade, if they
were wise, immediately secured logs and built
a cabin, which served them at once as a temporary home, a storehouse for their supplies,
and assured them warmth and shelter when
winter should come. But the grasshoppers were
far more numerous than the ants. The debilitating climate of summer, joined with the indecision of whether to leave the country or
to remain, of whether to go down the river to
the American side or up the river to Stewart
if they did remain, supplied the majority with
a good excuse for idleness. Some did not
even put up tents on the shore, but kept house
in their boats which they had moored to the
bank. They sat on logs discussing their experiences in shooting the rapids, and they kept
watch of the new arrivals for the purpose of
guying anyone who had started before themselves but had arrived later.
There was something pitiful as well as ridiculous in the disappointment of the pilgrim
who had believed everything that he read in
the press-agents' pamphlets, to find that a rich
claim was not to be had for working it. When
he put his new gold-pan and a pack on his
back and went up the trail to the creeks, where
possibly he found a few colors in a rivulet, the
old-timers laughed at him and asked him if he
liked prospecting well enough to pan ground
that was staked two years ago. If he carried a
revolver they begged him, please not to shoot
them. Wearily, and with all his visions dispelled, he returned to Dawson. His tent was
no protection from the sun of midday. At
night the light made it difficult for him to
sleep. As he fried his fat bacon he could not
help thinking that it was just strawberry time
on the " outside."
Few pilgrims had any money and those who
had were inclined to spend it on the luxuries
which their palates craved. They walked up
and down the main street like the crowd at a
country fair; looked on at the drinking and
gambling of the successful miners and marvelled at the amount of dust that passed over
the saloon-keeper's scales; and slouched in and
out of the stores of the two commercial companies to see the bulletin board, which had the
list of names of men for whom letters had
been received. If they might not visit the
new variety theatre, with gambling hall and
bar attached, where actresses from 'Frisco and
Seattle sang the songs of a local poet containing spirited references to the rich claim-owners
—who, in return for the compliment, opened
champagne at $30 a bottle between the "turns,"
—they could at least enjoy the sights of the
river bank. In the absence of so great an
event as the arrival of a scow with mules or the
latest papers on board, some "pardners" were
either quarrelling or dividing their outfits preparatory to selling them. With the first
steamer from down the river came the news
from Circle City, which meant a great deal to
the old-timers. The Cheechawkos could not
understand it, but, as became a crowd which
gets only a glimpse into the inside world, they
made the most of the peeps and simulated
intense interest.
One day a midget of a steamer, the first to
shoot White Horse Rapids—her parts had
been packed over the Pass and put together on
Bennett—ran in between two scows and tied up
so quietly that not more than three or four hundred men saw it. Their pride was no greater
than the disappointment of the multitude, who
refused to forgive the captain until they learned
that his whistle was out of g;ear.
Next to knowing them personally, the Chee-
chawkos enjoyed having the leading citizens and
the foremost gamblers pointed out to them.
They knew the story of how the Eldorado kings
had made their fortunes, and how Jack Smith
had once bet $ 7,000 on the turn of a card. Now
and then they caught a glimpse of the tall, raw-
boned Scotchman who was the richest man in
the country. Two years before he had been a
day laborer at Circle City. When the value of
Eldorado claims was an uncertain quantity he
bought one of the best for $800. He spent
all the first year's output in buying undeveloped
properties, and then bought still others upon
his promise to pay, which the miners accepted
without any written word. The clean-up had
vindicated his judgment. Now the fact that he
had stopped on a trail to look at a claim was supposed to increase its speculative value.
And speculation still continued in both mining property and real estate. A French-Canadian who had paid $5 for a front lot just after
the town-site was staked still held out persistently for $20,000, with slight prospect of getting
it. The " bottom " was out of the I boom," as
every man who supported himself by gambling
or speculation well knew.    No new strikes were
made except on a few benches.   None could be
made on the creeks at a season of the year when
the seepage from the thawing earth would fill a
prospect-hole as fast as it was dug. Autumn and
winter have ever been the time for prospecting
in the Klondyke, and summer the time for cabin
building or for taking provisions to the heads of
some of the tributaries in poling-boats preparatory to prospecting.
Roughly but surely the lesson was forced
home to the pilgrim that a fortune cannot be
made in the Klondyke in a hurry. If he would
have a claim he must find it. Even after he has
found it, he must spend two or three years, unless he sells it, taking out its treasure. If it
were not for the humiliation of facing their
friends from whom they had parted with merry good-bys, nine out of every ten of the
pilgrims would have returned home at once.
Thirty per cent of them did, as it was. Two-
thirds would have gone if many had not loitered
on in their tents until it was too late to go except over the ice. The tenth man developed
those characteristics of patience and nonchalance in dealing with obstacles which the veteran
prospector possesses by experience and by nature. For such as lacked this spirit and remained in the country there was the prospect
of loitering in their cabins until their supplies
were eaten, in the hope of getting a good claim
on a stampede, or of going to work for wages.
In all, the pilgrims must have spent $30,000,-
000, or $40,000,000, on outfits and transportation. (The output of gold in the Klondyke
for the year was $11,000,000.) But they have
paved the way with their failures for the development of a vast expanse of country whose
abounding wealth is unquestioned. The hardships of a journey to Dawson are of the past.
An aerial tramway, without groans or perspiration, does the work of the packers at one-fifth
of the expense on Chilcoot, and a railroad carries passengers as well as freight over the whole
Pass. Steamers ply on both the upper and
lower branches of the river connecting at White
Horse Rapids with others plying on the lakes.
Hereafter, the mines of the Klondyke will be
an established institution, like the mines of California, and the prospectors who go there, better
fitted for their tasks.
199 XI
The Canadian Policy in the Yukon Province—Taxes and
Fees—The Gold Commissioner's Office—Conflicts between Territorial and Dominion Governments—Timber
Grants—The Value of the Mounted Police—The Newly
Rich at Dawson—The Order of the Yukon Pioneers—
Mrs. Constantine.
IN its policy the Dominion Government,
which took matters out of the hands of
the Territorial Government after the Klondyke
"boom" began, has apparently been largely
influenced by the predominance of aliens in
the Klondyke. At least three-fourths of the
2,000 men in and around Dawson in the
winter of 1897-98 and of the 35,000 pilgrims
of the spring of 1898, were citizens of the
United States. Naturally, the members of
the Canadian Parliament regarded with dismay the prospect that the new-found wealth
of a portion of their domain hitherto considered valueless was going to American mints,
and that their constituents would  be paying
the expenses of administration, which, owing
to the isolation of the region to be governed,
must be comparatively expensive, for the benefit
of another country.
Accordingly, the placer regions of the Yukon
Valley lying in British territory were created
a special province called the Yukon District,
under the jurisdiction of the Dominion Parliament. A Commissioner, with the powers of
a dictator, was appointed for the District, the
Judge of the district alone being responsible
to Ottawa and not subject to the Commissioner's orders. The other civil officials were
a Gold Commissioner, who had charge of the
recording of claims, a Crown Attorney, and
two Mining Inspectors for collecting the royalties. The opportunities of the officials for
their own aggrandizement were exceptional
by reason of the system of taxation devised.
On the output of all claims a royalty of ten
per cent, was collected. Every pilgrim had
to take out a mining license at a cost of $10.
For having a claim recorded a fee of $ 15 was
charged. Every alternate claim on all new
discoveries was reserved to the Crown, thus
depriving the community of half the reward
of enterprise.    These restrictions drove a great
many experienced American prospectors to the
other side of the boundary line and at the
same time served the inexperienced as an excuse for returning home.
Major J. M. Walsh, who was chosen Commissioner, did not go to Dawson in the autumn
of 1897. His corps of civil officials preceded
him while he remained behind in camp on the
Lewes Lakes, with a considerable force of
police, in order to escort to Dawson the United
States Relief Expedition.
Among; the foremost chargres of maladmini-
stration made against the civil officials was the
one in connection with the water front, data
of which were given to me bv several leading;
D J ©
men.    The  Canadian law provides that the
main street of a new town shall be at all points
a certain distance from the bank of the river.
In order  not to have a crooked main street,
the men who staked the town-site of Dawson
agreed to follow this measurement, from the
greatest indentation of the bank, in a straight
line.    Those who  bought lots  on the  main
street supposed that they were securing river
frontage, which is invaluable.    The spring of
1898 however, saw a  long  row  of  buildings
whose back-doors were toward the river and
which faced the original row. The officials
had let the water-front to an individual for a
nominal sum in the name of the Government.
The sub-lessees said, with a shrug of their
shoulders, that they did not care to say to
whom they paid their heavy rents, and that
they were satisfied as long as they were left
Captain Constantine, who had been transferred from the charge of the police at Forty
Mile to the same position at Dawson, was an
old fashioned executive. His departure in the
summer of 1898 was agreeable to him as well
as to the other officials, because he was alone
among uncongenial company. He understood
the miners; and they knew that, though gruff,
he was honest and incorruptible. Even the
lawless ones admitted this much; for in no
community is simple integrity enforced by a
strong will better appreciated than in a mining-
camp. Had he been retained as administrator
of the whole district, with the power to choose
his own assistants, Dawson would have been
a phenomenally well-governed settlement from
the start, and the development of the great
wealth of the region would have been less retarded.    Instead of men who had spent their
lives among pioneers, the Dominion Government sent, as the reward for party service, men
whose experience was limited to local politics
at home. With hundreds of experts to choose
from in British Columbia, an ex-captain of a
whaler and an ex-livery-stable-keeper were
made inspectors to collect the royalty of 10 per
cent, on an output of eleven millions of gold.
Considering the expense of recording a
claim, the owners of claims and the prospectors had at least the right to expect from the
Gold Commissioner's Office reasonable attention to duty. To have posted in a public place
a detailed map of the district, with all claims
and the names of their owners recorded, would
have required little labor and no expense; but
it would have ruined the business of the clerks
in furnishing information. Considering the
number of policemen with idle hands, mail received in the summer might have been sorted
with dispatch and distributed at different windows under different heads. But a delay of
two or three days, and the prospect of waiting
in line for several hours before one could even
ask if there was a letter for him, were strong
incentives, to miners who wished to hurry back to
their claims, to put a few dollars into an itching
palm, and in return to receive immediate attention at the side-door of the Post-Office.
Unfortunately the arrival of Major Walsh in
Dawson in the spring was not productive of
the reforms which an oppressed population had
hoped for. The acts of the officials, except
that of a representative of the Northwest
Territory in placing a tax of $2,000 each on
saloons and gambling-halls, seemed to meet
with the favor of the Commissioner. He maintained that the Territorial Government was infringing on the special powers granted to him
by the Dominion Government; and he issued an
order that anyone who chose might sell liquor
without any form of license.
The buildings on the water-front stood in
the way of even a primitive system of sewerage. Simple sanitary rules were not promulgated, much less enforced. Absolutely no precautions were taken against the epidemic of
fever, which was responsible for so many
deaths. Private beneficence built the two hospitals, and it now maintains them and carries
on all charitable undertakings. Whatever has
been done in the way of improvements has
been paid for by public   subscriptions.    The
full measure of the Government's public spirit
was the construction of the barracks and stockade for the Police on the Government Reserve.
Had some of the money collected from the
claim-owners and the prospectors been expended on constructing trails and on a system of
sanitation, there would have been less ground
for complaint Doing nothing itself, the Government often took the position of the dog in
the manger. The exorbitant price demanded
for a charter forced capitalists to give up the
plan of building a railroad from Dawson to the
mines, which would have been invaluable in
cheapening the cost of mining. After paying
for timber privileges in their licenses, the pilgrims found, to their dismay, that the Government, or the officials, had given enormous timber grants in the neighborhood of Dawson to
individuals, thus putting an artificial value on
logs for firewood and building purposes.
Very properly the loudest complaints arose
from Englishmen, Australians, and South Africans. If the new laws were directed against
Americans, they injured Canadians and other
British subjects equally as much, if not more.
From the first, London regarded the Klondyke
as a great field for exploration, and most of the
capital represented there last spring was British.
The royalty of 10 per cent, and the failure to use
the money so collected in constructing trails have
been, however, more injurious to capitalistic enterprise, which is largely British, than to individual enterprise, which is largely American. A
poor man who takes from $5,000 to $50,000 out
of a bench-claim with his own hands will not
be deterred from his labors by the royalty.
But 10 per cent, on the gross output makes
a majority of company propositions impracticable. Often it will wipe out a goodly profit,
and put a balance on the wrong side of the ledger.
As soon as it was known that the Dominion
Government would not heed the appeals for the
abolition of the royalty, the reaction from the
" boom " was complete. The appointment of
Mr. Ogilvie, the new Commissioner, who has a
reputation for probity, was as welcome to the
aliens as to the other residents. He at once
set about the work of making reforms.
Too much cannot be said in praise of the
personnel of the Northwest Mounted Police—
mounted only in name, for they have not a
single horse in the Klondyke—which is largely
drawn from the ranks of the young Englishmen who enjoy 1 roughing it." In preserving
order they are good-natured but severe.   Male-
factors are punished with the commendable
promptness of British justice ; and no murderer
in Dawson can snap his fingers in the face of
the law as one did at Skaguay. At Skaguay
there was no order; at Dawson too much civil
For the first winter, being populated entirely
by men from the old camps, Dawson was, of
course, largely a sociological counterpart of
Forty Mile and Circle City, except that the excitement and the feverish optimism, which increased as the new discoveries continued to
surpass expectations, had hitherto been unknown in the valley. The contamination of
the old customs began with the arrival of the
fifteen hundred madly hastening pilgrims who
succeeded in reaching Dawson before navigation was closed in the autumn of 1897. It was
complete with the arrival of the great pilgrimage with its element of toughs, gamblers, and
other parasites.. The time had passed when
every man nodded to whomsoever he met.
Dawson had become a settlement not of neig;h-
bors, but, like Mecca, of strangers. The old-
timers were developing those human weaknesses which are brought out in sharp relief by
the sometimes doubtful blessing of great and
208 Q
unexpected success. Practical communism
was easier for a man when he and his comrade were equally poor than after chance had
made him the owner of a plot of creek bed
worth from $500,000 to $1,000,000, while his
comrade, who had been too late in the stampede to stake a claim on Eldorado, was among
his employees.
There sprang up as a consequence an aristocratic social circle called the Eldorado King's,
suffering, in a measure, from the affliction of
the nouveaux riches of old communities who
live miserably under the suspicion that whoever
approaches them has an axe to grind. Yet they
did not forget their duties to their less fortunate fellows. They gave bountifully to the
churches, to the hospitals, and for the care of
those poor Cheechawkos who lay ill in their
tents. Upon a special occasion, the Order of
the Yukon Pioneers—perhaps the death of a
comrade or perhaps a church sociable, where
you bought ice-cream made from condensed
milk for $2.50 a plate—appeared together
wearing broad blue ribands. Foremost among
them was Jack McQuestion. He was keeping
a trading post when the first prospectors entered
the Yukon Valley.    The old miners came to
him to settle disputes, and the poorest of them
asked him for the loan of an ounce of dust.
On the day before the departure of our
steamer for the outside, attired in their best
clothes and wearing their ribands, the old-
timers presented to Captain Constantine an
address of appreciation and a peck of nuggets.
Then Jack McQuestion went over to the barracks and asked that Mrs. Constantine should
share with her husband the central position in
a photographic group of all the pioneers. She
The Captain's wife had been her husband's
companion during his service on the Yukon.
When she was quite ill one winter and had
to remain in her cabin from one short day's
end to another—with long, dark, monotonous
nights between them—the kindnesses shown
to her were not limited to the devotion of her
stalwart husband or the attention of ruddy-
faced privates, whose Cockney accent told
how far they were from the motherland of
commonplaces and restraints. The miners who
came to the door to inquire how she was get*
ting on, devised means of entertaining her over
their pipes and cabin fires, and then were sometimes too bashful to put them into execution.
For one thing they learned by heart the contents of some old humorous journals in camp.
Though she had been the first person to
receive the journals when they had been
brought down the river the preceding summer, she did not say so, and listened with
gentle patience to their jokes being retold
again and again.
" Mrs. Constantine," said one old-timer, as
he bade her good-by, I we ain't much on
manners, but we do know a lady when we
see one."
211 XII
Good-by to Dawson—The Extinction of the Unfit—Steam-
boating to St. Michaels—Mosquitoes and Sandbars—
Pilgrims by the All-Water Route—Behring Sea—Civilization Once More.
DESPITE the diet, the isolation, and the
inhospitable nature of the country, many
of the old-timers who had now realized the
material ambition which had brought them to
Alaska and were going home, saw the great
crowd which gathered on the river bank to bid
our steamer a pleasant voyage, disappear in the
distance with a feeling of regret amounting to
more than a momentary pang. From two to
ten years had passed since many of them had
seen a paved street
"You'll wish you're back," and, "You won't
feel natcheral," their departing friends called
out to them.
Out of deference to civilization everyone
had bought certain of its habiliments.    New
212 1
red ties stood out on the background of black
sweaters, and crumpled overalls drooped over
patent leather shoes. Some had taken whatever they could find to fit them, regardless of
cost and incongruity. Others had halted half
way in making out a wardrobe because they
feared that they might not be getting the right
styles or because they got indignant at the
prices charged by the DaWson speculators compared with those on the outside.
The dying woman who was the mother of
the first white baby born in Dawson, the sallow men who had limped down from the hospital just before the steamer sailed, and the
Cheechawkos who had sold their outfits for
just enough to pay for passage to Seattle,
where they would have to telegraph home for
railway fare—these had no regrets. We buried the woman half way down the river, two
of the men before we reached St. Michaels,
and a third at sea when only two days from
With good accommodations, the journey of
eighteen hundred miles from Dawson to St.
Michaels would have been a pleasure trip. It
was far from that with us, owing to the Spanish-American war and certain  other reasons.
B*flP I
The commercial company which charged us
$300 for transportation had two steamers at
Dawson. It held them there long enough to
give us the questionable satisfaction of seeing
the steamer of the rival company, which had
been delayed in coming up the river from its
winter quarters, arrive and cut prices before
our steamer, having room for seventy-five passengers, and one hundred and seventy-five on
board, started on ahead of her sister steamer.
We were to act as a reconnoitering force or
a buffer, or whatever you choose, for the sister
steamer, which had a dozen lonely, armed
passengers and $2,500,000 in dust on board,
with a view to saving her treasure from a
Spanish privateer if one were waiting for us
at the mouth of the river, as rumor from the
outside said. Therefore, one hundred passengers had to sleep on the floor of the dining-
room or on the lower deck among the Indians
and the piles of firewood.
Except when we ate, and when the steamer
poked its bow into the sand in front of some
piles of fire-wood on the bank, we could be
fairly comfortable lounging on the decks. For
the eleven days which the journey occupied,
we had one tablecloth for three sittings at each
214 5^,
meal. As the miners had a general disregard
for the utility of dishes for holding things, the
cloth did not preserve its original color, even
in spots, for more than two days. Our food
was bad rice, bad bacon and bread, and old
canned roast beef, which, however, did not
count, as we could not eat it. If the company
had only allowed us to use our fingers instead
of forks and knives which men who were
"working their fare" out as waiters washed
indifferently, I should have been much happier.
By July, moreover, the little mosquitoes were
out. They, and not the big ones which come
early in the season, understand flying straight
to the mark with rigid lance. They bit the
Indians as well as the white men, but to no
purpose so far as making them hurry in bringing on the wood. As soon as the steamer was
in midstream, the buzzing mists, which could
be resisted only by the finest netting drawn
over the head, disappeared.
Our principal stops in the eighteen hundred
miles were at Forty Mile and Circle City,
where the deserted cabins were being once
more occupied and there was a chance that
the old claims, which were good for their day,
Would be worked again, and of a recrudescence
of the boom; and at Minook, where important discoveries had been made in the past
winter. But we stopped also at every little
Indian village—to please the Indians, one presumed—where the inhabitants came out to
meet us in their light canoes and wanted to
sell furs and trinkets. At many of these villages there were mission houses. We had on
board a Russian priest, who had come up on
the steamer from Anvik and was now returning. He was bold enough to say that he
thoug;ht he needed this little recreation after
having been two years alone among the
We had left behind the great mountains
below Dawson, we had seen the midnight sun
across the vast stretches of flats below Circle
City, and were just congratulating ourselves
that our Indian pilot had led us through the
last of the many shallow channels in the flats,
when we ran on a sandbar. Our mate and his
Indian crew labored for twenty-four hours before we were off. The next day a hog chain
broke and our engines were helpless. For the
rest of the distance to St. Michaels we were
towed by the steamer which carried the treasure and had the misery of seeing the fellows
who had started two days after us and paid
less fare pass us on the steamer of the rival
At St. Michaels we met three or four
thousand pilgrims who were going into the
Klondyke by the all-water route. They had
bought transportation for themselves and outfits of new companies which had attempted to
tow flotillas of river steamers built in Seattle
to St. Michaels.]!'Almost invariably the river
steamers had been lost at sea between Seattle
and Unalaska, and those who depended upon
them for transportation to Dawson were only
better off than others who had attempted the
journey on decrepit sailing vessels that had
gone to the bottom. It was a little unkind of
our passengers, while we waited for transfer to
an ocean steamer, to enjoy setting before them
in the bluntest phrase an exaggerated account
of the desperate condition of all the newcomers
in Dawson.
Behring Sea was placid as a lake when we
crossed it. After two days for coaling at Unalaska and after five days on the Pacific, we
entered Puget Sound on the morning of July
19th. Every one on board was thinking of the
steaks and the fruit that  he would  eat  that
evening for dinner. The old-timers, who had
heretofore resented the steward's requests that
they should not expectorate on the decks, were
a little ill at ease at the prospect of the social
restraint of civilization. Civilization offers
many advantages over Dawson or Circle City
for spending a fortune, to be sure, but such of
the old-timers as were destined to become poor
again—and the majority were, I think—would
no doubt return to the pick and the pan as a
wanderer returns home.
A Book for Business Men
With 8 maps, 7 plans of cities, and 40 full-page illustrations,
and a Commercial  Directory  of Cuba.    Large 8V0,   $4.00
(t A THOROUGHLY good and useful book. We should
*» not know where to find within another pair of
covers so much and so carefully sifted information
bearing on this subject. Mr. Clark's painstaking account
of the railway and telegraph systems ; of highways and
harbors ; of rivers and water supplies, and lighthouses ;
of sugar and tobacco growing ; and his detailed description of each province and of every city of any size, together with a ' business directory ' for the whole island,
make his book one of great value for reference as well as
for practical guidance. In the present situation of Cuban
affairs it should command a wide sale. Its accuracy is
certainly of a high order."—New York Evening Post.
With 3a full-page illustrations from photographs
by the author. Seventh thousand, iamo, $1.50
jjTVTITH the observant and indulgent eye of an old
W traveller, Mr. Stevens has seen everything in
the islands worth seeing, and has described
what he has seen in a most interesting manner. . . . All
is set forth by the narrator in a breezy, chatty way that
would be entertaining under any circumstances."
—Philadelphia Evening Telegraph.
With 117 illustrations from photographs and with
4 maps.    Twentieth, thousand,    iamo,  $1.50
t, TLTEVER has a war been reported as this has been,
jLN    and never has a history been written like this,
by one who saw it all—while the blood was hot
and the memory vivid."—New York World.
««*¥*HIS is much the most vivid and readable of all
•l the books on the war that have appeared so far,
and it is full of life and color and incidents that
show the sort of stuff of which our soldiers were made.
The book is written with a keenness, a vivacity, a skill
and a power to thrill and to leave an impression which
mark a decided advance over anything that even Mr.
Davis has written heretofore."—Boston Herald.
Author of ** The History of Our Navy "
With 125 illustrations from photographs and
with  charts  and  diagrams.     iamo,   $2.00
<<\/|R. SPEARS has plainly put his best efforts into
•4.YJL that mighty combat, the sea-Gettysburg of the
war, the death-grapple of Cervera's ships and
Sampson's. His story of the action of July 3d is superb.
It is the most lucid and comprehensive description which
has yet been laid before the American people, and it is
made all the more valuable by the official chart of the
ships' courses which accompanies it. As a whole, Mr.
Spears's book is not only true to technical details, but it
is a spirited and admirable piece of literary workmanship.
It is one of the few volumes out of the many hurriedly
issued in the wake of the war which will endure the test
of time and stand as a faithful, competent picture to
future generations."—Boston Journal.
From ^LMJ^C^Jt^	
Place of Pttbpttasf r-Zkyi^/jft ^^j*^ Js**
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