BC Historical Books

BC Historical Books

BC Historical Books

Reminiscences of the Yukon. Illustrated Tollemache, Stratford 1912

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1912 /s-3,a/ö
f ref fri. PREFACE
The following chapters relate to my experiences
in the Yukon from the spring of 1898 until the
autumn of 1909, comprising a period of over
eleven consecutive years. The first three years
were employed principally in mining in the Yukon
district, but owing to a severe accident, which
resulted in permanent lameness, I was obliged
to abandon mining altogether. For the next
two years I was confined to Dawson, but when
my foot became rather stronger I moved to the
Pelly River, a tributary of the Yukon, and remained in the vicinity for about six years, where
I gained my experience in fur and trapping.
So many books have appeared on the Yukon
and northern regions that the subject has possibly
become rather hackneyed. At the same time, I
became acquainted with incidents and methods
of life in those regions which I have not seen
printed in other volumes, and which to a few
people may possibly be of some interest.
As creeks are frequently alluded to in this
volume, it may be explained that the term involves a different significance in Canada and the vi PREFACE
United States to what it implies in England.
While in England the term is applied to small
bays, in Canada and America the word is used
for denoting a stream, such as Bonanza Creek or
Eldorado Creek.
The sketches contained in this volume were
drawn by Mr. Dutton of Chester.
December 29, 1911. CONTENTS
Description of Alaska—Yukon River—White Pass Railway
—Skagway—Soapy Bill—Aurora Borealis—Ice forming
in the Yukon—Ice breaking up in spring—Birds in the
Yukon—Climate—Man frozen in tent—Frostbites—
Fingers amputated—Adventure on Stuart River—Man
frozen on Klondyke River—Man frozen on Yukon—
Thermometers unreliable	
Forty Mile Creek—Discovery of Bonanza Creek—Staking
claims—The Klondyke boom—Departure from Victoria
—Journey up the Stickene River—Telegraph Creek-
Acquaintance with murderer—Arrival at Long Lake—
Teslin Lake—Death of three Englishmen—Naskutla
River—Quiet Lake—Starving Scotsmen—Dried meat
—Forest fire—Big Salmon River—Camp destroyed by
.wson in 1898—Dance-halls—Tragedies—Reported famine
in Dawson—Gold dust—Speculation in Dawson—
R.N.W.M.P.—Attempted murder in Skagway—Dawson
post office—Typhoid fever—Trip up Bonanza Creek— Cost of labour—Frozen gravel—Placer mining—Mammoth tusks—My host on Bonanza—Murder on the
Yukon — Rafts on the Yukon — Commencement of
Cabins in Dawson—Scurvy—Sleigh dogs—Cold weather-
Journey round the creeks—Hunker Creek—Road-houses
—Winter mining—The confidence trick—King of the
Klondyke — Mountain summits — Dominion Creek-
Panning for gold—Gold Run Creek—Sleighing down
Bonanza—Journey up Forty Mile Creek—Dog suns—
Breaking through the ice—The Dawson fire—Arrival
of spring	
Anxiety to acquire claims—Summer stampedes—Road-house
stampedes—Steamboat stampedes—Nigger Jim stampede—Severe weather—Camping in 500 below zero-
Frozen beans—Breaking trail—Ascending mountain
side—Staking claims—Return to camp—Return journey
to Dawson	
Hillside claims—Adventure on Chee-Chaco hill—The Prospector — Discovery claim — Juneau Joe — Thawing
gravel by steam— Sluicing—Quicksilver—Black sand-
Gold dust robberies—Circle City—Tailings—Quartz
Creek—Adventure on Calder Creek—Severe accident
—Richness of Bonanza and Eldorado Creeks—Quartz
mining—Bear's Nest swindle 130 CHAPTER VII
Dawson library—My two partners—Camping under difficulties—Pelly River—Partner falls overboard—Marking
out trap - line—Musquash—Wayside cabins—Setting
traps—Lynx—Wolverine—Foxes—Hawk in trap—Porcupine—Journey to Tatlaman Lake—Two old Indian
women—Fishing through the ice—Whitehorse—Crossing Lake La Barge—Hootalinqua River—Partner nearly
drowned—Return to Pelly River—Building a cabin-
Raw furs—Ermine—Slight accident—Trappers—Jim
Anomalies in colour protection—Ptarmigan—Chicken-
Mink and ermine—Arctic hares—Wapiti—Moose-
Cariboo—Mountain   sheep—Mountain    goat—Depre-
Journey up M'Millan River—Blazing trees—Trap-line—
Lynx—Baits—Dead-fall for marten—Nail and hole
trap—Dead-fall for bear—Wolves—Poisoned baits—
Mink—Tracks—Disappointments in trapping—Otter—
Lost in the woods—Beaver—Trapper's life—Murder
on Pelly River—Lynx climbs tree—River ice breaking—Fish Slough—Arrival at Selkirk—Selling furs-
Trapper weds Indian girl	 CHAPTER X
dians resemble Japanese — Mortality — Superstitions—
Missions—General character—Customs—Deer tracks
—Murder on Yukon—Indian honesty and patience—
Hostility—Missionaries—Indians gradually decreasing
—Indian legend	
Fort Selkirk—Selkirk trading post—Judging furs—Value
of skins—Insanity in Yukon—Salmon—Diphtheria—
Winter stage—Selkirk dances—Adventure on Yukon—
Robbery in Dawson—Marriage in Selkirk—Journey
to Vancouver—Future prospects of Dawson LIST   OF   ILLUSTRATIONS
The Trapper's Cabin
A Raft on the Yukon
The Dog-suns   .
The Prospector
The Trap-line .
Fishing through the Ice
Building a Cabin
Mould for Fur
Spring Snare for Rabbits
Cache Protected from Bears
Snare for Lynx
Dead-fall for Marten
Mechanism of Dead-fall for I
Bear Killed by Dead-fall
Tracks in the Snow
Roasting a Deer's Head
138 I I
If you examine a map of the north-western part
of North America, you will find that the territory
called Alaska not only comprises the large tract
of country adjoining Behring Strait, but also a
thin strip of coast-line extending down to about
the fifty-third parallel of latitude, all of which
belongs to the United States. This thin strip of
coast-line proved for several years a source of
contention between Canada and the United States,
the Canadians residing in the Yukon being naturally annoyed that their outlet to the sea was cut
off by it, especially as considerable doubt existed
as to whom it legally belonged. The dispute
was eventually referred to England for arbitration, and as the United States won practically
every point, a valuable tract of country was,
consequently, lost to Canada.
Alaska originally belonged to Russia. In
Alaska and the lower parts of the Yukon River
places  are still  called   by  Russian  names,  old 2 REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
Russian families still exist, while the orthodox
Greek Church is prevalent. The United States
purchased Alaska from the Russians in 1867 for
the absurdly small figure of ,£1,440,000. Besides possessing valuable gold-mining properties,
the country contains copper, fur, timber, and
coal, while it has also developed an enormous
trade in canning salmon. In 1909, the output
from Alaska in gold and fish amounted to
£6,000,000, while its total cash trade with
the United States amounted to more than
£"10,000,000. This valuable tract of territory is
equal in extent to Great Britain and Ireland,
France and Spain combined, so that Russia, by
disposing of the country for such an absurdly
small figure, became a heavy loser by the transaction.
The Yukon River rises in the mountains close
to the Alaskan coast, at about the sixtieth parallel
of latitude. It flows north-west as far as Fort
Yukon, which is just inside the Arctic Circle, and
then turns south-west and eventually flows into
Behring Strait. The total length of the river
is rather over 2000 miles long, of which the
upper part (called by various names) flows
for about 700 miles through Canadian territory,
while the lower part flows through Alaskan
territory. Dawson City, at the mouth of the
river Klondyke, a tributary of the Yukon, is
in Canadian territory, and about 60 miles from
the Alaskan boundary. The town is situated
on  about the  sixty-fourth  parallel  of latitude wmmmm
which would make it about 150 miles from the
Arctic Circle.
The scenery on the Yukon is striking at first,
but eventually becomes monotonous. The country
is entirely mountainous and densely wooded with
spruce trees, intermingled with birch and poplar.1
The whole of that northern part of Canada, for
hundreds of square miles, forms practically one
dense forest, almost entirely of spruce, and composed of mountains and valleys, rivers, streams,
and lakes full of fish. The only highways consist
of the main rivers and their affluents, so the scanty
population is necessarily confined to their banks.
To penetrate for any considerable distance into
this dense forest, conveying provisions and necessary outfit through the bush, over mountains and
across valleys, proves too difficult and hazardous
a task for many people to undertake, and there
must be hundreds of square miles in that northern
region practically unexplored.
The Yukon River is navigable for fairly large
steamers for a distance of about 2000 miles
from the mouth, but above that point steamers
are unable to ascend, owing to some bad rapids
called the Whitehorse Rapids. The small
town of Whitehorse is situated at the head
of navigation, and is connected by a railway,
no miles long, with a town called Skagway,
on   the  Alaskan   coast.     The   trains   on   this
1 The poplars in the Yukon are analogous to the cotton-wood
trees, so prevalent in Canada and the United States, and are
quite different to the tall poplars encountered in England. 4        REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
railway do not travel at express speed, as they
require nine hours to accomplish the no miles,
and although there is only one class—and that
one practically "third"—the exorbitant price of
£4 is charged for the journey
The scenery on the route is very striking, the
line being blasted out of the side of the mountain,
and winding along the valley with waterfalls and
mountain streams dashing down beside it. Any
one acquainted with Skagway, who keeps a sharp
look out of the carriage window, will notice lying
near the line a bare flat rock, on which a black
cross has been erected. The rock is about 7
feet square and about 3 feet thick, and is now
lying on its face, although at one time it was
standing upright on its end. During the construction of the line, two men who were engaged
in blasting had lighted a fuse and crouched behind
the rock for shelter. The vibration of the blast
overturned the rock, which must have been lightly
balanced, and it fell over on its face flat on the
two men. Their bodies were never recovered,
and they still rest under the rock with the black
cross surmounting it.
Skagway, at the time of the Klondyke boom
dien people were pouring into the
country by the thousand, was a thriving place,
composed of the "toughest" element, a term
which can be appreciated by those acquainted
with the ruffianism and lawlessness that usually
predominated in Western American mining camps.
Skagway was  then  practically  controlled   by  a THE YUKON VALLEY 5
gang of roughs headed by a gentleman named
Soapy Bill. They all, of course, carried revolvers,
and knew how to use them, and proceeded to
enrich themselves by holding up and robbing
people in the calmest manner possible. This
continued for a considerable time, until eventually
a man named Read, who was evidently a fine
character, was appointed sheriff of Skagway, and
determined to break up the Soapy Bill gang. In
Western American mining camps it is often a
difficult matter to induce the sheriff, who is
responsible for law and order, to take strong
measures against ruffians of this class, for the
simple reason that he is usually a "sleeping
partner " with the gang, and receives a share of
the loot. Soapy Bill became aware of Read's
intentions, and when they next encountered one
another in the street, both drew their revolvers
and commenced firing, and both were killed.
The Aurora Borealis, generally called in the •
Yukon the Northern Lights, is of course a well-
known phenomenon, but it forms such a characteristic feature of the North, that a short description
may not be out of place here. It usually consists
of a broad white band across the sky, which
constantly alters in shape and appearance. Long
streamers will dart out, and it will suddenly flash
from one part of the sky to another. The phenomenon is striking to watch, and is generally more
brilliant in very cold weather, probably because
the atmosphere is then clearer. The reflection
of the snow is the usual explanation for it in the 6 REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
Yukon; but this does not appear very plausible,
as the Northern Lights rarely occur in temperate
latitudes, and as snow would be reflected from
the surface, the depth would make no difference
in the reflection.
I remember reading an explanation several
years ago, which connected the Northern Lights
with the Röntgen or X-rays. The X-rays, as is
well known, are produced by forcing electricity
through a vacuum, and a Crooke's vacuum tube,
when electricity has been forced into it, bears
a strong resemblance to the Northern Lights.
According to the explanation, the earth receives
from the sun a vast amount of electricity, which
has travelled through the intermediate vacuum of
space; space, in spite of the ether, being a more
perfect vacuum than can be produced in a laboratory. The electricity is composed of positive
and negative poles, of which one set is drawn
towards the poles of the earth, and produces the
Northern and Southern Lights, while the other
set is drawn towards the Equator, and accounts
for the magnetic storms in the tropics.
The ice in the Yukon generally jams or becomes solid about the end of October, although
different winters vary considerably in severity.
Thin films of ice will first be noticed floating on
the surface of the water, and these will gradually
become larger and thicker, until eventually they
form great solid cakes of ice, which crash and
grind against each other as they float down with
the current.   At the same time, ice called "shore- -    THE YUKON  VALLEY 7
ice " is formed along the banks, which gradually
extends further and further into the river. Boats
sometimes cross the river under these conditions,
although rowing is of course impossible, the boat
being worked across by degrees, the man pushing
with the oar or paddle against the ice-cakes, and
guiding the boat between them. Care must be
taken to prevent the boat or canoe from becoming
jammed between two ice-cakes, as it might
crumple up like paper, especially where the
current is strong and the ice-cakes are moving
with considerable force. I have occasionally been
obliged to cross the river under these conditions,
when the ice is what is called "running thick,"
and although some people do not appear to mind
it, I do not personally consider it a very safe
Several years ago, three men were proceeding
down the Yukon in a small boat when the ice
was running thick, intending to land at Dawson,
but when close to the bank their boat became
jammed between an ice-cake and the shore-ice,
and was forced into such a position that it came
sideways to the current. The side of the boat
was broken in by the pressure of the ice-cake,
and the boat quickly swamped by the force of
the current, and although several people were
standing on the bank within a few yards of the
accident, the three men were swept by the current
under the shore-ice, and disappeared before assistance could be rendered.
The river eventually becomes so full of ice 8 REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
that the water is quite concealed, except for
occasional holes scattered about, and these huge
ice-cakes afford a fine spectacle, floating down
the river and grinding against each other and
the shore-ice, making a loud, grinding noise
somewhat resembling that of a saw-mill. As
they increase in size and thickness and become
more firmly wedged together, their motion becomes slower and slower, till eventually they
cease moving, and the river is said to be jammed.
People can walk across the river almost immediately after the ice has jammed, but considerable
nerve is required, except to those accustomed to
it, as many weak spots exist between the ice-
cakes, so that a pole must be carried to test the
ice in front. Except in eddies and places where
the current is slack, the ice is by no means smooth
when'the river is frozen over, as the ice-cakes
are piled up in hummocks, and a road must be cut
through them before teams can be driven over.
The ice in the spring becomes rotten and
honeycombed, until eventually it is broken up
by the force of the current. This is sometimes
a magnificent spectacle, when enormous blocks
of ice, which have reached a thickness of several
feet during the past winter, are banged together
by the current, and turn over and over, while
others come crashing down and pile on the top
of them. On these occasions the river sometimes rises very rapidly. The current becomes
blocked by an ice jam across a narrow place in
the river, and it will then occasionally rise 8 or THE YUKON  VALLEY 9
9 feet, and perhaps more, within a few hours.
When the current has forced away the jam the
river will fall again just as rapidly, leaving the
banks lined with huge blocks of ice.
On these occasions the river will sometimes
overflow its banks, which may be exceedingly
unpleasant for people residing in the vicinity.
The blocks of ice sweeping over the banks are
liable to demolish any cabin with which they may
come in contact. Near the mouth of the Pelly
River, an affluent of the Yukon, a road-house, or
way-side inn, is situated, and during one of these
ice jams the occupants were forced to retreat
hurriedly up the mountain side. The ice was
fortunately obstructed by a clump of trees in the
vicinity, but the cabin was partly submerged by
the current before the river had subsided to its
normal level.
In the Yukon there is a complete absence of
those singing birds which so greatly enliven the
woods in England, and when travelling through
the forest one is struck by the dead silence that
always prevails, and this, combined with the
dreariness of almost perpetual spruce trees, produces rather a depressing effect. The most
common companion in the woods consists of a
bird with a grey plumage about the size of a jay,
which appears to be ubiquitous in the Yukon and
other parts of Canada, and as soon as a camp is
pitched one or more of these birds is sure to
appear. The bird is a very bold and determined
thief, and goes by the name of the "camp-robber."
No crows exist in the Yukon, but ravens of a
large size are very prevalent, especially about
Dawson, where they feed on the garbage, and,
as they are useful as scavengers, the penalty of a
fine is imposed for killing them. They are extremely hardy, and can be seen perched on an
ice-cake on the river, when the temperature is
500 or more below zero, with complete unconcern. In the spring of the year some flocks
of birds about the size of sparrows appear, called
snow-birds owing to their white plumage. In
the summer they change their plumage and resemble sparrows, and during the spring, when
their colour commences to change, they assume
a curious mottled appearance, like sparrows with
white splodges.
Except the " camp-robber," only one species of
small bird remains in the Yukon during the winter.
It resembles a tomtit, and retains its summer
colouring throughout the winter, instead of assuming a white plumage like the snow-bird and the
ptarmigan. This variety is not very common,
but can occasionally be observed flitting about in
the coldest weather, and as no berries or insects
exist during the long winter months, I cannot
imagine what it feeds on unless it be the spruce
brush. A large species of hawk is fairly common
in the Yukon, while the beautiful large silver owl
is also occasionally encountered.
In some parts of the Yukon and its tributaries
the abundance of wild berries is extraordinary,
and forms a most useful substitute for fresh fruit, «.     THE YUKON  VALLEY n
of which only imported oranges and apples are
obtainable, and these can only be purchased at
exorbitant prices at Dawson and a few trading
posts on the Yukon. The principal wild berries
consist of strawberries, raspberries, cranberries,
and black and red currants, while on the higher
slopes blueberries, which are analogous to the
English bilberries, are found in abundance. They
do not become ripe before the middle of August,
so the season for gathering them does not last
very long. When travelling during the summer
or autumn to my winter quarters, I generally
supplied myself with an extra amount of sugar,
and if situated in a favourable locality, I was able
to make enough jams and preserves out of wild
berries to last during the ensuing winter.
During my last spring in the Yukon the ice
in the river broke up about the middle of May,
and as it was freezing hard about the middle of
September, we were only just over four months
without ice or snow. The summers in the Yukon
are to a great extent spoilt by the mosquitoes,
and although in a town like Dawson they may
not be so numerous, when travelling up the river
or through the woods they attack you in shoals.
I have experienced mosquitoes in India, Burmah,
and the Malay Peninsula, but in the tropics they
do not compare in numbers to the masses that
are encountered in Arctic regions, while their eggs
must possess extraordinary vitality, as they remain frozen solid for about six months of the
year.     Whether the   mosquito  responsible  for 12 REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
malaria exists in the Yukon I am not aware, but
such a dry, bracing atmosphere would afford no
foothold for such a disease, and its non-existence
there is due probably more to the climate
than to the possible absence of any particular
The Yukon is situated too far north to be of
much value for agricultural purposes, but in the
vicinity of Dawson and elsewhere several ranches
exist, while certain products like oats, potatoes,
and cabbages mature and become ripe. Unfortunately the prevalence of summer frosts,
although varying in severity in different years,
are a handicap to farming. A person might
wake up in Dawson in the middle of July and
find the ground outside the cabin frozen solid,
with the thermometer registering perhaps 200
or more below freezing point. When the sun
rises the temperature becomes warm again, and
although these summer frosts only last for three
or four days, they are quite sufficient seriously to
affect the crops.
The temperature during the winter varies
greatly in different years, and out of my eleven
consecutive winters in the Yukon, the winter of
1908 was the coldest experienced. For over two
months the temperature was seldom above 500
below zero Fahr., for a long time it was down to
6o° below zero, and occasionally it dropped to
75° below zero, while even up to the middle of
April the temperature fell to 300 below zero,
although during the middle of the day it became JTHE YUKON VALLEY 13
warmer. These temperatures were taken from
a Negretti and Zambra thermometer at Fort
Selkirk. The climate in the Yukon is, however,
exceedingly dry, and a dry cold is far less trying
than a- damp cold would be of the same temperature. Except early in the winter or late in the
spring, when the climate is warmer and more
damp, it would be impossible to make snowballs,
as the snow is too dry to stick together, so that
if a handful of snow is taken up and pressed, it
will not congeal, but simply crumbles away like
dry sand. I have never come across the Esquimaux who make snow-houses, but they may live
nearer the coast, where the climate is damper
and the snow more adhesive.
In 1898 thousands of people poured into the
Yukon, and as but few of them had ever experienced an Arctic winter, it was natural that
numerous accidents should occur. The following
incident was related to me by an acquaintance at
Fort Selkirk, who formerly conveyed the mails
between Circle City and Fort Yukon, and possessed a dog-team for the purpose. He was
travelling with the mails one evening, when he
came across a tent near the trail with a stovepipe projecting from the roof, and on looking
into the tent perceived a man kneeling down
facing the stove. He made some remark, but
not receiving any answer he touched the man
on the shoulder, and discovered that he was dead
and frozen stiff. He looked into the stove, where
he  found  two candles with  some  partly burnt i4      REMINISCENCES  OF THE YUKON
shavings under them, while some sticks had been
placed on the top. The man had managed to
erect the tent and fix the stove, and, as he was
probably cold and exhausted, he had evidently
put in two candles in order to accelerate the fire.
Other matches were found in his pocket, but his
strength must have given out or the cold made
him drowsy, probably both, so he knelt before
the stove, waiting to receive the warmth, and
when the candles failed to light he was frozen in
that position.
Nearly every winter a chenook or warm wind
suddenly springs up, which may last for three
or four days, and during that period the temperature will rise above zero, or even sometimes
above freezing point, so that a shower of rain has
occasionally been known to occur about Christmas time. When the temperature rises in the
winter to zero Fahr. the climate is by no means
pleasant, as the air becomes damp and feels
muggy and relaxing. A temperature of 250 below
zero is invigorating and pleasant for travelling, provided there is no wind. Forty degrees
below zero feels decidedly chilly, while 500 below
zero is extremely cold, and it is not then pleasant
to be out of doors for very long. This extreme
cold, which generally comes in snaps, does not
usually last more than about a week or ten days
at a time, and although the winter of 1908 was
exceptionally severe, these very cold snaps do
not generally occur more than two or three times
during the winter.    Some people in the Yukon THE  YUKON  VALLEY 15
try to pretend that they do not mind this extreme cold—500 or more below zero—but I
have always noticed that they are extremely
glad to enter a warm cabin when the opportunity occurs.
Thank heaven, in the Yukon we are not troubled
often with those blizzards so prevalent in Manitoba and the prairie parts of Canada. When the
temperature is very low the air is usually perfectly
still, the atmosphere clear, and the moon and stars
brilliant. It is never cloudy, and never snows
when very cold, but only when the temperature
has moderated.
Personally I have never been seriously frozen,
although my face and fingers have occasionally
been more or less frost-bitten. When frostbitten, or frozen as it is generally called in the
Yukon, a small patch as white as a table-cloth
will appear, and unless remedies are at once
applied, the frozen part will extend and the white
patch with it. It is not easy to ascertain when
the face becomes frozen, as the white patch cannot
be discerned, while the face will naturally feel
numb from cold before freezing commences.
When travelling, I would sometimes encounter
men with a white patch on their face showing
frost-bite, and would always inform them of the
fact, so that precautions could be taken, while
occasionally I have been given the same information myself.
A common remedy consists in rubbing the infected part with snow, but the rubbing must be i6      REMINISCENCES OF THE  YUKON
very gentle, as the skin when frozen easily
rubs off, and matters will then be considerably
worse. If a cabin is near, cold water will draw out
the frost, although in very severe cases coal-oil is
more effective. Cold and not warm water must
invariably be used for the purpose, while a person
when frost-bitten should not approach too near
a fire, as the frost must be drawn out gradually,
or blood poisoning will ensue. If a badly frozen
hand is placed in a basin of cold water, a film
of ice, produced from the frost drawn out of the
hand, will gradually appear on the surface of
the water.
Several years ago, while I was laid up in the
Dawson Hospital with a broken ankle, a man
was brought in one night with his fingers badly
frozen. The temperature was about 500 below
zero, and the man, who had been spending a
convivial evening, had become rather intoxicated.
He managed somehow to return to his cabin, and
had taken off his mitts to unlock the door, when
the cold combined with the whisky overpowered
him, and he fell down insensible on the snow.
Luckily, a man soon afterwards passed by with
a dog team, and observing him lying on the snow
with his mitts off, in a temperature of 500 below
zero, he promptly placed him on the sleigh and
drove to the hospital. The doctor was in bed
at the time, and the night attendant, who ought
to have known better, bathed his hands with
warm water, which was the worst remedy possible.     The   result was   that   blood  poisoning THE YUKON  VALLEY 17
shortly intervened, so that all his fingers and
both thumbs had to be amputated. Later on
another operation was performed, as the blood
poison had extended to one of his hands, and
about half of it was amputated. I never heard
what became of him afterwards, but as he was
a man of between fifty and sixty years of age,
who depended on manual labour for his livelihood, his convivial evening had proved a costly
It may here be mentioned that gloves with
separate partitions for the fingers are never worn
in cold climates, except during the summer, as
the fingers, if exposed on all sides to the air,
would soon begin to freeze. Coverings called
mitts are always worn in northern regions during
the winter, containing a separate partition for
the thumb only, the fingers being all enclosed
together in a kind of bag.
Being frost-bitten causes no pain whatever,
as the part frozen simply becomes numb and
loses all sense of feeling, but thawing out again
is a very different experience, and resembles
the application of a hot iron. A slight frostbite will be sore for perhaps a week, the skin
peels off, and the part affected must not be exposed too much to the cold, which might cause
erysipelas to set in. Being actually frozen to
death is a most painless operation, as a person
overcome by the cold simply becomes drowsy,
and feels an intense desire to lie down and sleep.
If this feeling prevails the only remedy is to fight i8      REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
against it, because if once any one gives way to
this condition and lies down, he will go straight
to sleep, and the chances of his ever waking up
again are extremely remote.
An acquaintance in the Yukon related to me
a very unpleasant experience of this description,
although fortunately attended with no fatal results. He was travelling during the winter with
a companion on the Stuart River, a tributary of
the Yukon. They had already undergone a long
tramp in severe weather, and his companion,
gradually overcome with exhaustion and the cold,
became drowsy and felt an intense desire to lie
down and sleep. As this would have been fatal,
he took his companion's arm, and by this means
managed to proceed for a considerable distance,
although he was obliged to shake him continually
in order to keep him awake. Fortunately a cabin
was now within a reasonable distance, but he
was himself exhausted from dragging his friend
along after a hard day's tramp, and realised that
it would be impossible to arrive at the cabin by
this means. He, therefore, placed the man down
with his back against a tree, and after making
a camp fire started off to the cabin for assistance. Two men were working there, who, on
hearing his story, promptly hitched up a dog
team and started off for his companion. They
found him fast asleep on the snow, but as the
camp fire was still burning they were in time
to save his life, and after placing him on the
sleigh conveyed him back to the cabin, ««£**-
In some places on the Yukon and its tributaries, the presence of warm springs produces
holes in the ice, which may remain entirely open,
or be covered with a thin layer of ice and snow,
and consequently a person travelling on the river
may walk into one unexpectedly. This may only
result in a wetting, but in cold weather the wet
feet will quickly freeze and the damp clothes become solid with ice. When travelling during
the winter, people generally carry a light axe
and matches in case of necessity, so that when
an occasion like this arises the only alternative,
unless a cabin is near, is to proceed to the bank,
and light a camp fire to dry the wet clothes.
During the winter of 1898, a man was frozen
to death through walking into a hole on the
Klondyke River. The hole was situated near the
bank where the water was not very deep, so he
was soon able to scramble out, but his wet trousers
and moccasins quickly froze solid and became like
bars of iron. He endeavoured to light a camp
fire, but a slight breeze must have prevailed at
the time, as, although he had plenty of matches,
he was unable to start the fire. He was probably
aware of his danger and lost his head, which made
him bungle, and as match after match failed, so
would his nervousness increase. His mitts had
been taken off to light the matches, so unless the
fire was started quickly, his fingers would soon
begin to freeze and become numb and useless.
He was eventually found on the snow, frozen
stiff as a board, while the shavings for the fire,
with his mitts and axe, were lying near him, and
matches strewn about.
It may here be mentioned that leather boots
cannot be worn during the winter, as the feet
in consequence would soon become cold, so the
usual footwear consists of Indian moccasins, made
of cariboo or moose hide without any soles, and
tanned soft, while three pairs of woollen socks
are usually worn inside them.
Another man was frozen to death in the
Yukon through getting his clothes wet, although
in this case the cause was sheer carelessness.
While resting in a cabin on his way to Fort
Yukon, he had walked down to the river in the
evening and fallen into a water hole, getting wet
nearly up to his waist. He scrambled out and
returned to the cabin to dry his wet clothes, but
being in a great hurry to reach Port Yukon, he
put them on again before they were thoroughly
dry. Another man in the cabin advised him to
make certain they were thoroughly dry, but he
insisted on starting, and his frozen body was
afterwards discovered on the trail, not very far
from the cabin which he had just left, and heading .
towards it. It was noticed from his tracks that
he had crawled the latter part of his journey on
his hands and knees. He had evidently found
his damp clothes beginning to freeze on him, and
must have decided that his only chance was to
retrace his steps and regain the cabin in time.
When he was no longer able to walk, with his
stiffened clothes and numbed limbs, he had still *<^*
made a desperate effort to regain the cabin by
In a country like the Yukon it is often difficult
to ascertain the proper temperature, owing to the
absence of accurate thermometers; and when I
was living in Dawson, several years ago, there
were dozens of thermometers in the place, but
very few were reliable. A mercury thermometer
becomes of course useless, as mercury freezes at
a temperature of about 400 below zero, so the
spirit thermometer is the only one employed,
and these vary to a large extent. Thermometers
by Negretti and Zambra and other well-known
firms can, of course, be relied on, but these are
expensive and are rarely used in Dawson. The
cheaper class of thermometers were generally
employed, which were fairly accurate until the
temperature dropped to about 300 below zero;
but below that temperature the alcohol, probably
owing to its impurity, appeared to congeal, so
that they recorded temperatures far colder than
the actual conditions.
It is curious what an effect can be produced
on the feelings by imagination. A man might
stroll down the street in Dawson, not feeling
particularly cold, until he happened to see a thermometer, probably a cheap one, which recorded
a temperature of perhaps 500 or 6o° below zero,
upon which he would immediately begin to shiver
and imagine he was freezing. Later on he might
meet a policeman and inquire the temperature at
the barracks, where they have  a  Negretti  and 22      REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
Zambra thermometer. The policeman would
probably mention that it was about 300 below
zero, upon which he would give a sigh of relief
and feel comparatively warm again. This may
appear an exaggeration, but many people—most
inhabitants of the Yukon, indeed—have experienced the same sort of sensation, only they do
not care to own it. CHAPTER  II
About sixty miles below Dawson a river called
Forty Mile Creek, about 150 miles long, flows
into the Yukon. For many years Forty Mile
Creek had been the centre of the mining district
in that part of the Yukon, and a number of
miners were congregated on the river, working their different claims. In 1896 a miner
started from Forty Mile Creek on an exploring expedition, and worked his way up the
Yukon, until he arrived at the mouth of the
Klondyke River. He proceeded up the Klondyke River for about five miles, when he arrived
at the mouth of a small affluent flowing
into it, which was afterwards called Bonanza
Creek. About ten miles up Bonanza Creek he
examined the gravel, and, on discovering rich
indications of gold, promptly staked a claim and
returned to Forty Mile Creek, where he reported
the matter. On hearing the news, the people
at Forty Mile Creek immediately rushed, or
stampeded, as it is generally called in the Yukon,
to Bonanza Creek, each one being eager to
arrive in time to choose his ground and stake
" Staking a claim " consists in cutting a stake
about four feet long and about four inches in
diameter, and driving it into the ground where
the claim is required. The top of the stake is
squared with an axe, and the miner writes on its
face, 11 claim 500 feet up stream," adding the
date with his name. He then paces 500 feet
up stream, drives in another stake, and claims
500 feet down stream in the same manner, after
which he proceeds to the nearest mining or
recording office, where he pays a fee and records
his claim. This gives him the sole right to mine
the ground between his stakes, on payment each
year of a certain fee and a percentage of the
gold excavated, while no one else is allowed to
interfere, or to mine the ground on his particular
The size of claims have varied at different
periods, but when gold on Bonanza Creek was
first discovered, each person possessing a mining
licence was entitled to stake a claim of 500
feet up or down stream, the breadth of the
valley between his .stakes being also included
as part of the claim. A mining licence, which
could be obtained at the mining office, cost
at that time £"2, and lasted for one year.
When a discovery of gold on a creek has been
reported, there may be three times as many
people stampeding to the spot as there are claims
available, so that the same ground during the
excitement may be staked three or four times
over by different people.    Of course, the person -#TÄfc-
MY TRIP TO THE  KLONDYKE   IN   1898    25
who stakes first is properly speaking entitled to
the ground, but this is often a difficult matter to
prove, and, consequently, there is not only a
stampede to the creek, but after the claims have
been staked, another stampede occurs back to the
recording office. This may be situated a long
distance from the locality, and the person who is
able to record the claim first will probably be the
one who obtains the ground.
About ten miles up Bonanza Creek a small
stream flows into it, which was afterwards called
Eldorado Creek. The first batch of stampeders
ignored Eldorado Creek, and chose their ground
on Bonanza Creek, but others who arrived afterwards, on finding that Bonanza Creek was already
taken up, staked their claims on Eldorado Creek,
which turned out to be the richer of the two.
Some parts of Bonanza and Eldorado Creeks
were undoubtedly enormously rich, and the usual
exaggerated reports eventually reached the outside world. A perfect fever of excitement prevailed, in consequence, both in Canada and
America, while the contagion spread to a large
extent even to Europe. Comparatively few of
those infected with the gold craze knew anything
about mining, while many even imagined that
on arriving at the Klondyke, they would promptly
proceed to dig up gold nuggets like potatoes.
The result was that numbers of people gave up
lucrative professions or sold their farms, in order
to enable them to reach this extraordinary country,
where, according to their ideas, fortunes could be
obtained without any trouble and within a few
The difficulties of getting into the country,
which entailed transporting an outfit and provisions, were considerable, while the journey as
far as Dawson could only be completed during
the summer months, when the Yukon was open
for navigation. A certain number of people
managed to arrive at the Klondyke in 1897, but
by far the majority made up their minds too late
to attempt the journey that summer, and consequently the great stampede into the country
occurred in 1898.
At the time of the boom I was staying at
Victoria, on Vancouver Island, and when marvellous reports were continually arriving and
being circulated, Victoria, like every other place,
naturally became infected with the gold fever.
There is no doubt that these exaggerated reports
did not all originate in the Klondyke, as in many
other places people were indirectly interested in
booming the country. The stores in Vancouver,
Seattle, and other Pacific towns procured large
extra supplies in provisions and outfits, and depended on the extent of the boom to enable them
to dispose of their goods. The steamboat companies also chartered extra steamers in anticipation of a huge influx of passengers for the Alaskan
coast, and consequently all sorts of glowing reports were manufactured in the towns on the
Pacific coast and circulated amongst the people,
which were utterly at variance with the facts. MY TRIP TO THE KLONDYKE  IN  1898   27
I had resided off and on in British Columbia
for many years before the Klondyke boom, and
had, therefore, experienced enough mining to
know that the reports must be greatly exaggerated. At the same time, opportunities for
making money might possibly exist, and accordingly I started off with two companions in 1898.
There were three or four routes available for
getting into the country, and the one we chose
was considerably advertised as being the best,
although it turned out to be about the worst.
It was very much longer than another route
which we might have taken, while it presented
greater difficulties.
After purchasing an outfit in Victoria, together
with three sleighs and twelve dogs, we proceeded
in a small and very dirty steamer to a place
called Wrangle, on the Alaskan coast, near the
mouth of the river .Stickene. The journey took
about four or five days to accomplish, and as the
steamer was frightfully overcrowded with excited
stampeders, we were simply packed like sardines.
We reached Wrangle about the beginning of
March, and here we hired a small boat to convey
ourselves and the outfit to the Stickene River.
This was still frozen over, so we pitched our
camp on the river bank near the ice.
Our intention was to travel with the sleighs up
the Stickene, till we arrived at a place called
Telegraph Creek, about 250 miles from the
mouth of the river. The trail here branched
off from  the Stickene River and struck across
country for about 150 miles, till it eventually
arrived at a small stream, which formed the
head waters of one of the branches of the
Yukon. This small stream is an affluent of
the Teslin River, which flows into the upper
end of a large lake called Teslin Lake, about
100 miles long, while at the lower end of
the lake the Hootalinqua River rises, which
flows into the Yukon. On arriving at the small
stream a boat would be built, so that when the
rivers were open for navigation, we could row
down the stream into the Teslin River and down
the river to Teslin Lake. After crossing the lake
we would row down the Hootalinqua River into
the Yukon, and then down the Yukon till we
eventually arrived at Dawson, the total boat
journey comprising a distance of about seven
hundred miles. The commencement of the spring
is generally a good time for travelling with sleighs,
as the sun then rises well above the horizon and
thaws the surface of the snow. This freezes
again at night, forming a hard crust, which is
slippery and perfect for travelling over early in
the morning.
On arriving at the mouth of the Stickene, we
found over a thousand people already encamped
there, while fresh parties were continually appearing. Tents were pitched among the spruce trees
by the dozen, a heterogeneous mass of articles
were strewed all over the place, while dogs tied
up near their masters' tents were barking and
howling in hundreds.   It was interesting to watch MY TRIP TO THE  KLONDYKE  IN   18
the different parties and their various methods of
preparing for the journey. Many were evidently
old campers, probably old stampeders, who regarded everything with perfect composure and
were thoroughly acquainted with the business.
To a vast number, fresh from the cities, camp
life and dogs and sleighs formed an entirely new
experience, so that they neither knew what to do
nor where to begin. Everything appeared to be
in a muddle, altercations and brawls were occasionally intermingled with free fights, and these,
mixed with the howling of the dogs, created a
perfect pandemonium.
It required about a day to complete our preparations, the outfit being divided into three loads
and distributed amongst the three sleighs. Four
dogs were attached to each sleigh, and they were
required to draw about 550 lbs., or about 40
stone per sleigh, which, on a trail in good condition, would be considered a fair load. Our journey
commenced each day at two o'clock in the morning,
which gave us the advantage of the hard crust on
the snow, so that we were able to proceed for
a considerable distance before the sun's heat was
strong enough to melt it. There was always a
considerable number travelling together and
camping in the same locality, so that each night
the camp would appear like a small city of tents.
We were no longer bothered by howling and
barking from the dogs. After their heavy day's
work they had neither bark nor howl left in them,
and   when   their   supper  was   completed   they
were glad enough to curl up in the snow and
For about a week progress was fairly satisfactory, but unfortunately the spring this year happened to arrive extraordinarily early, the warm
weather breaking upon us about three weeks
sooner than was anticipated, and we consequently
commenced the sleigh journey just about the time
when we ought to have been completing it. The
last two or three days had been cloudy and rather
sultry, which made people anxious, but the change
came very suddenly, and one day to everybody's
disgust it began to rain heavily, which turned all
the snow into slush, while at the same time it
ceased to freeze at night.
The difficulty of dragging the sleighs through
the heavy slush enormously increased the work,
and we were obliged to keep pushing the sleighs
with all our strength behind, while the dogs pulled
and tugged in front. Under such conditions progress was necessarily slow, especially as we were
repeatedly obliged to stop in order to rest both
ourselves and the dogs. After toiling along for
two days, it became apparent that to accomplish
the journey in this manner was absolutely hopeless. There were still about 300 miles of sleighing before us, and at this rate we would have
exhausted ourselves and our dogs and provisions
before we had accomplished half of it.
The only means of completing the journey was
to lighten the loads, so we accordingly dispensed
with everything except the barest necessities, in- MY TRIP TO THE  KLONDYKE  IN   1898   31
eluding a blanket apiece and nearly all our clothes,
except what we stood up in, while we reduced the
provisions both for ourselves and our dogs to
the smallest dimensions. All these were left on
the Stickene, and, consequently, their original
cost was absolutely wasted. The amount of merchandise abandoned on the Stickene River must
have been very large, the principal part being
eventually appropriated by the Stickene Indians,
who, as events turned out, were on the whole the
principal gainers from the Klondyke boom.
Of the other parties travelling with us, some retraced their steps and struggled back to Wrangle,
others lightened their loads by abandoning part
of their outfits and continued the journey, while
the remainder camped on the bank and waited
for a steamer to convey them to Telegraph Creek
after the river was open for navigation. Of course,
a considerable number who had started up the
Stickene, earlier in the winter, had managed to
accomplish the journey without much difficulty,
but of the crowds that camped with us at the
mouth of the river only a very small proportion
succeeded in accomplishing the journey on the
winter trail.
After lightening the sleighs our progress improved considerably, but travelling through slush
is anything but pleasant, while even with lightened
sleighs the journey entailed much labour. Eventually we arrived at Telegraph Creek, which is
a very old trading-post, and does a considerable
business in trading for fur with the Indians,    At 32      REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
that time the place was crowded with people who
had journeyed up the  Stickene,  while sleighs
and dogs were to be seen scattered about in all
The trail now diverged from the river, and
there still remained a journey before us of 150
miles across country before reaching the head
waters of the Yukon. A certain number intended to continue the journey on the winter
trail, but the majority, on observing the rapidly
melting snow, had temporarily abandoned the
enterprise and decided to wait for the summer,
so that they could continue their journey with
pack-horses. This could only be accomplished
during the summer when the young grass had
sprung up, as it would be impossible for horses
to carry the outfit and their own food in addition. The trip involved a by no means easy
task, as the melting snow transformed the country
into a marsh, while even late in the summer there
was much marsh land to be traversed. I met
people afterwards who had accomplished the
journey and described their difficulties, the horses
floundering in the mud, and the men tormented
with swarms of mosquitoes.
We remained two days at Telegraph Creek,
resting ourselves and the dogs, and then resumed
our journey, but the trail was daily becoming
worse, the snow all slush and rapidly disappearing. Although on the river the soft snow and
slush made travelling more difficult; at all events
there was ice underneath which the sleigh could MY TRIP TO THE KLONDYKE IN 1898 33
slide over; but now that we were no longer on
the river, the soft snow was sometimes churned
up with mud which acted like a drag. In many
places where the snow was all melted, we harnessed all the dogs on to one sleigh, and dragged
them over the bare spots separately, ourselves
pushing and tugging at the same time. Often
the bare spots were so muddy that to drag the
loaded sleighs over them would be too exhausting, so it was easier to unload the sleighs and
carry the packs on our backs to where the snow
recommenced. The dogs could drag the empty
sleighs over the bare ground, and on reaching
the snow again the sleighs would be reloaded.
This necessarily involved the expenditure of considerable time, as so many trips were required
before all the supplies were carried across, besides
the time spent in unloading and reloading the
Several other parties were travelling with us,
struggling along in the same manner, and each
night numerous tents would be pitched in our
vicinity. It is difficult to be jovial when travelling under such conditions, and during the
evenings, when the camps had been pitched, conviviality or conversation was seldom heard in the
different tents. Provisions had to be most carefully economised both for ourselves and the dogs,
so the meals were always scanty considering the
work we were undergoing, and every night both
men and dogs were completely exhausted.
People in this sort of predicament, when endur- 34 REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
ing a hard time themselves, are not apt to be considerate towards animals, so the dogs, underfed
and overworked, became utterly worn out. It
was impossible to stop, as the provisions would
soon come to an end, so all had to struggle on
to the best of their ability, while the wretched
animals were beaten and urged along till they
dropped in their tracks from sheer exhaustion,
and were then killed and boiled and given to
the other dogs. When our sleigh journey terminated, out of twelve dogs which had started with
us up the Stickene River only two survived ; the
remainder, after succumbing to fatigue, had been
eaten by the survivors.
On one occasion, while we were toiling with
our sleighs along a place where the ground was
almost bare, rather a curious incident occurred.
A man travelling behind with a sleigh drawn by
a white horse appeared, and, as he was evidently
in a desperate hurry, he soon caught us up.
Owing to a clump of trees on each side of the trail
he was unable to pass, so, in order to accelerate
our progress, he unhitched his horse and fastened
it to the leading dog, and by this means our
sleighs were soon dragged over the bad place to
a point where he could get by. After reharness-
ing his horse he passed our sleighs and gave us
a friendly "Good-bye," while we expressed our
thanks for the trouble he had saved us.
Later on in the day two policemen who had
come from Telegraph Creek overtook us, and
inquired after the man with the white horse.    We MY TRIP TO THE KLONDYKE IN 1898 35
informed them of what had occurred, and were
then told that he was wanted for murder. He
had murdered his partner on the Stickene with
an axe, robbed him of his money and possessions,
and had then concealed his body amongst some
brush near the river bank. A man happened to
camp near the spot soon afterwards, and noticing
some clothes in the brush, proceeded to investigate, and discovered the body.
The policemen were soon out of sight, and the
next day we met them returning with the horse
and sleigh and the man handcuffed. Later on,
when in Dawson, I inquired from a policeman
what became of the man, and was informed that
he was taken to Vancouver Island, where he was
tried and condemned to death. The evening
before his execution his wife came to the jail and
asked permission to cook his last supper. The
request was granted, and he died from poison.
No proceedings were taken against the wife,
although no doubt was entertained that she had
administered the poison in order to save her
husband from the gallows.
As provisions were continually consumed the
loads every day became lighter; but the snow
was daily disappearing till eventually the ground
was entirely bare, except in occasional spots, so
that very little sleighing was possible. However,
we were within a few miles of a creek which
would be still frozen over, so we struggled along,
packing the supplies over the bare ground and
placing them on  the  sleighs where patches of 36 REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
snow existed. This packing was particularly
trying, because so little progress was made in
proportion to the labour expended. Four trips
were necessary before all the supplies could be
transported in this manner, so that in order to
convey our supplies for three miles the distance
had to be traversed four times with a load and
three times back for a fresh load. This entailed a journey of 21 miles, a fairly heavy load
being carried over bad and muddy ground for
twelve of them, and when all this was accomplished we had only advanced three miles on our
Eventually we reached the creek, which was
covered with perfectly clear ice as the snow was
all melted, and the outfit was now so much
reduced that we discarded one of the sleighs and
loaded the supplies on the other two. Only four
dogs now remained, but two were harnessed to
each sleigh, which they had no difficulty in dragging over the clear ice. The creek led down to
a chain of small lakes covered with clear ice,
which helped us enormously; but the portages
between them were entirely devoid of snow.
There were about a dozen of these lakes, which
varied in length from a few hundred yards to a
couple of miles, with the distances between them
about the same. Dragging the loads across the
lakes was an easy matter; but the portages between presented the usual difficulties, and trip
after trip had to be made before all the supplies
were conveyed from one lake to another. MY TRIP TO THE  KLONDYKE   IN   1898   37
Eventually we arrived at a lake called Long
Lake, which was the last stage of our sleigh
journey. It was about six miles long, and at the
other end was the creek we were aiming for,
where the boat journey would commence. We
had only two dogs left, but one was harnessed to
each sleigh, which were now so lightly loaded
that there was no difficulty in dragging them
over the smooth ice to the other end of the lake.
The fact that the hard part of the journey was
now completed afforded us intense relief, as we
were as thin as skeletons and all considerably
worn out. Two months had elapsed since we
left the mouth of the Stickene River, although
the latter part of the journey had, of course, taken
by far the longest time.
About 300 people were camped here, all of
whom were busily engaged in building their
boats so as to be ready when the ice in the creek
broke up. They had all arrived from the mouth
of the Stickene; but most of them had started
before the snow began to melt, and consequently
had not experienced the same difficulties. One
man arrived at the lake with four goats harnessed to his sleigh instead of dogs, and judging
from his account they appear to have accomplished
the journey remarkably well. They pulled just
as heavy loads as dogs, while as it was not necessary to carry large supplies of food for them, he
was able to load his sleigh almost entirely with
his own requirements. He said that his goats
would nibble at the brush alongside the trail, and 38      REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
as they would eat almost anything, they were
able to feed themselves as they went along.
They were hard and sinewy, as was natural after
their long journey, but they appeared to be in
fair condition, very different from that of most of
the dogs.
There were plenty of spruce trees in the vicinity suitable for making boards, and we had
brought a whip-saw for sawing logs, besides
oakum, while pitch could be obtained from the
trees; and by the time the boat was completed
the ice in the rivers had broken up, so that the
creek was ready for navigation. The rivers,
owing to the force of the current, are open for
navigation about three weeks earlier than the
lakes. The lakes always commence by opening
round the shore, leaving a cake of ice in the
centre, and as the ice continues to melt the open
channel becomes gradually wider. Boats can
row along this open channel, but it is dangerous
to do so unless the channel is fairly wide, as a
wind might suddenly spring up which would jam
the ice-cake against the shore and crumple a boat
to pieces.
Among the people collected here was a party
of three Englishmen, who had just arrived from
England and were now engaged in building a
cabin, as they intended to remain here for the
winter. They were young and jovial and full of
bright expectations, and little anticipated that none
of the three would survive the ensuing winter.
The   creek  was  difficult   to  navigate,   being II
narrow and crooked and very rapid, besides
having numerous riffles and overhanging sweepers.
Many of the people who had come straight from
the cities had never experienced mountain rivers,
so it was natural that accidents should occur,
some of the boats being swamped and the supplies lost. Our boat floated down safely, and we
soon came into the Teslin River, which is wider
and easier to navigate, and eventually arrived
at Teslin Lake. Quite a number of people were
collected here, some of whom had started by the
Stickene earlier in the winter, before the snow
had begun to melt; while others had arrived
from another point called Taku Inlet, higher up
the Alaskan coast, which involved a much shorter
A trading post had been constructed here, and
during the summer a train of about forty pack
animals, consisting of mules and horses, arrived
from Telegraph Creek, conveying supplies for
the trading post. To buy a large outfit at Teslin
Lake would have been an expensive undertaking,
as the cheapest article was flour, which cost
2S. 6d. a pound, while sugar, rice, beans, &c, all
cost 4s. a pound. A two-pound tin of butter,
probably two months old, could be obtained
for five dollars or a sovereign, while boots,
blankets, clothes, and other articles were all priced
I decided to remain part of the summer at
the lake, which is about 100 miles long and the
largest lake in that part of the country.    My two 4o REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
companions departed in the boat to the lower end
of the lake, then journeyed down the Hootalinqua
River till they joined the Yukon, and, rowing
down the Yukon, eventually reached Dawson.
People arriving at Dawson quickly discovered
that gold could not be obtained in the Klondyke
so easily as was anticipated. My companions
soon became discouraged, and, after remaining
at Dawson for about a week, purchased some
supplies, and then rowed down in their boat
to the mouth of the Yukon, about 1600 miles
below Dawson. There they embarked on a
steamer and returned to Victoria, Vancouver
Island, a distance of about 3000 miles. One of
them was killed a few years afterwards in a
quartz mine on Vancouver Island while engaged
in blasting.
A number of people arrived at the lake during
the summer, several of whom began building
cabins, intending to pass the winter there. Two
men who were together building a cabin for the
winter I became fairly well acquainted with.
About two and a half years afterwards, I made
a trip during the winter with a dog team from
Dawson to Forty Mile Creek, about 60 miles
down the Yukon, and was surprised to meet one
of these men working a claim there. We recalled our sojourn at Teslin Lake, upon which he
narrated rather a gruesome story about the three
young Englishmen, who, as mentioned before,
were building a cabin for the winter at Long
Lake where we built the boat. ^
During that winter he made a trip from Teslin
Lake to Telegraph Creek, and as the trail passed
the Englishmen's cabin, he intended to spend the
night there. On arriving at their cabin in the
evening, he noticed that no light was inside, so
he entered the cabin and lit the stove, meaning
to await their return. He also lighted a candle
on the table, when he suddenly noticed that one
of the men was lying in his bunk with his face
towards him. He thought this extraordinary,
but on approaching the bunk he discovered that
the man was dead and frozen stiff. He examined
the other bunks and found the two other men
lying in them, also dead and frozen, so he hastily
extinguished the fire before the heat would thaw
out the bodies, and then camped outside for
the night. The next morning he returned to
Teslin Lake, where he reported the matter,
and afterwards returned to their cabin with a
party and buried the bodies. They had all
three died of scurvy, which was very prevalent
in the Yukon in those days and caused a
number of deaths. One of them had kept a
diary in which he had described their illness, his
last entry recording that his brother had died the
day before.
Amongst others who arrived at the lake during
the summer was a man with a bullock which had
conveyed his outfit from Telegraph Creek, and
which he now killed and sold. Meat was very
scarce at the lake so it was eagerly purchased,
but   as   the   bullock   had   recently   carried   the 42      REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
man's   supplies   for   about   200  miles,   it   must
have been all sinew and muscle and not very
After remaining at the lake for about two
months, I decided to make an expedition up a
river called the Naskutla River, which flows
into Teslin Lake about 40 miles down. My
intention was to proceed for about 100 miles
up  the  Naskutla  River, and  then  to  make a
! portage of about 7 miles across country, which
would' bring me to a lake called Quiet Lake.
The Big Salmon River, 180 miles long and a
tributary of the Yukon, flows out of Quiet Lake,
so on arriving at the lake I could row down
the Big Salmon River into the Yukon, and then
proceed down the Yukon to Dawson.
Another river which is difficult to navigate,
being very swift and full of bad rapids, flows
into Teslin Lake about five miles above the
Naskutla River. Two Swedes who had decided
on making the same journey, unfortunately proceeded up the wrong river under the impression
that they were on the Naskutla. After struggling
up for about 100 miles, according to their calculations, they struck across country in order to
find Quiet Lake, but instead of that arrived
at the Naskutla River. They then concluded
that they had travelled too high up the river,
and had, consequently, missed Quiet Lake and
were now on the Big Salmon River. They
accordingly proceeded to haul their boat and
transport their supplies over several miles of very MY TRIP TO  THE  KLONDYKE  IN   1898   43
rough ground, until they eventually embarked on
the Naskutla River, which they started down
under the impression that they would soon arrive
at the Yukon. The natural result was that after
all their labour they eventually arrived, to their
surprise and disgust, back at Teslin Lake about
five miles from the place they had started from,
and were then obliged to return to the trading
post for fresh supplies.
As the Naskutla and Big Salmon rivers flow
in almost opposite directions, it may appear remarkable that they should have made this mistake,
but a large number of Swedes are living in the
Yukon who, although good workers, are not
noted for being particularly intelligent. Also,
these rivers twist about so much that it would
be difficult to ascertain their general direction,
especially without a compass.
Two men accompanied me on the expedition,
and after building a boat and purchasing supplies
from the trading post, we started off for the Naskutla River. Beans formed an important item of
our provisions, and in the early days of the Klondyke boom, with the exception of bread, beans
comprised the principal article of food in the
Yukon, and to a large extent took the place of
meat. The usual beans consumed were the
brown variety, which exactly resemble the ordinary beans supplied to horses, and require boiling
for about three hours before they become sufficiently soft. They possess strong nutritive and
heating properties, and in those days, when meat u
could only be obtained at fabulous prices, were
consumed in enormous quantities. They were
not unpleasant to eat when there was nothing
else, and went by the name of the " Yukon
The Naskutla River is not difficult to navigate,
although occasionally the current is swift, especially in the upper reaches. We walked along
the bank and towed the boat up, except where
the bank was too much encumbered with bushes,
when we resorted to poling. The scenery on
the Naskutla River much resembles that of other
rivers in the Yukon valley. The stream is extremely crooked, winding about in every direction, and sometimes forming loops, so that we
would occasionally be travelling in a direction
exactly opposite to our destination. In places
the mountains on both sides approach right up
to the banks of the river, forming a canon, and
then widen out again till the valley might be
over a mile wide. The whole country is densely
wooded, principally with spruce trees intermingled
with patches of birch and poplar, while the valley
is studded with numerous marshes fringed with
grass and surrounded with willows.1 The country
was thickly populated with moose, and we saw
several on our way up the river, while their tracks
could be noticed constantly.
1 These consist of the bush-willows, which average about 4
feet in height, and exist in great profusion throughout parts of
Canada. They are quite different to the willow trees, which are
confined to the banks of streams and rivers. MY TRIP TO THE  KLONDYKE   IN   1898   45
In the evening after camp was pitched, as we
had no fresh meat, I strolled with my rifle up the
mountain side and looked over the valley. A
small cow moose was feeding on some willows
not very far off, which I managed to shoot, and
the meat was extremely acceptable, as, with the
exception of some fish occasionally purchased at
Teslin Lake, we had been living almost entirely
on bacon and horse-beans for over four months.
After travelling up the Naskutla River for about
a week, we arrived at our destination, where the
portage commenced over to Quiet Lake. There
was no difficulty in recognising the place, as some
trees had been blazed in the vicinity to mark the
spot; so we pitched the camp, and proceeded
next day to pack our supplies over the seven-
mile portage. The lake, which is called Quiet
Lake owing to the shelter afforded by mountains, extends for about 20 miles in length, and
forms the prettiest piece of water that I have
seen in the Yukon district. High mountains
rise steep up from the shore, densely wooded with
spruce, birches, and poplar. At that time it was
a most out-of-the-way place, and few people
except Indians had ever seen it.
On the fourth day after our arrival at the
portage, we had carried over the usual loads and
were resting by the lake, when three men suddenly appeared on the shore about two miles off.
They approached us, and on their arrival related
a doleful story about their boat having been
upset and swamped a short distance down the
Big Salmon River. They had managed to save
themselves, but their whole outfit was lost; and
when they eventually succeeded in scrambling
out on the bank, they possessed nothing but the
wet clothes that they stood up in. They had
since been working their way back to the portage
in the hope of meeting somebody, and as they
had been living for the last three days on wild
berries, which were not then ripe, they were in a
semi-starving condition.
All three were natives of Scotland, where orie
held a good position as schoolmaster in Edinburgh, but on hearing the glowing accounts from
the Yukon they had all abandoned their jobs,
and had journeyed out to this country expecting
to make their fortunes without difficulty. The
schoolmaster informed me that he had left a wife
and family in Scotland, and before his departure
had provided her with some money for present
necessities, saying that he would send her some
more from the proceeds of his gold-mine. Needless to say, neither of them knew anything about
the subject, and their chances of acquiring a goldmine of any value were infinitesimal. Later on,
when in Dawson, I met numbers of others who
had started out with the same expectations and
were then in a similar predicament.
Provisions at Teslin Lake cost such fabulous
prices that we had only purchased just sufficient
for our own necessities, and the sudden arrival
of three hungry men placed us in rather an
awkward  dilemma.     However, about two days MY TRIP TO THE  KLONDYKE  IN  1898   47
afterwards the difficulty was solved in a very
simple manner. The men had partly recovered
their strength, and, by way of paying for their
meals, had carried a load across the portage
with my companions. I remained that afternoon at the camp, and while sitting by the door
of the tent a large bull moose suddenly emerged
from the bush and began swimming across
the river about 150 yards distant. My rifle
was lying handy, so I waited till he had
landed on the opposite bank, and then shot him
from the tent door. He was a huge animal, as
large as a big bullock, with beautiful horns,
although they were still in the velvet. All we
required for our own use was a hind leg, as meat
will not keep very long during the summer
months, so the rest we gave to the three men.
A certain amount was retained fresh for present
necessities, while the remainder was cut up into
slices, which they hung upon poles in the air to
dry, a small fire of partly rotten wood being kept
burning underneath, in order to furnish smoke
to keep the flies away.
The Indians dry a large quantity of deer meat,
and as fresh meat contains about 70 or 80 per
cent, of water, when this has evaporated it becomes a highly concentrated form of food. Its
weight and the space it occupies are very slight
in comparison to fresh meat, a fact which proves
of great convenience in a country where transportation is often so difficult. Personally, I
cannot describe dried meat as appetising, being m
something like shoe leather, although such a
highly concentrated food is very sustaining, and
is therefore useful to carry in one's pocket to
chew at occasionally during a long tramp.
All our supplies were now conveyed to Quiet
Lake except the camp and the boat, and although its length was only 16 feet, a boat built
of one-inch boards in a green condition is not a
light article to drag up and down hill for seven
miles over rough ground. The three new arrivals
were by this time strong enough to help, so we
accordingly dragged the boat about half-way
across the portage to where there was a small
stream, also conveying and pitching the camp
there for the night. The next morning we
dragged the boat over the remainder of the
portage, and after re-caulking and pitching it,
launched it on Quiet Lake, and returned to the
stream in the afternoon for the tent and the
remainder of the supplies.
While consuming our lunch by the lake, one of
the men happened to look back and saw a dense
column of smoke rising up, showing that a forest
fire had been started, and as a breeze was then
blowing, it had already assumed considerable
proportions. We hurried back towards the
stream, but the nearer we approached the more
alarming the situation appeared, as the fire was
close to our camp, and, fanned by the breeze, was
rapidly approaching it. A small marsh was fortunately situated a short distance away, covered
with a weed called goose-grass, which grows in
I it'»' MY TRIP TO THE  KLONDYKE  IN   1898   49
damp places, so we tore down the tent, picked up
our blankets, tools, provisions, sacks, &c, and
rapidly conveyed them to a place of safety on the
other side of the marsh, and were considerably
relieved as we watched the fire sweep past the
spot which our camp had occupied only a few
minutes previously. Later on we experienced
another fire which we did not escape so easily.
Two Americans who had arrived at the portage
a couple of days previously were transporting
their supplies to the lake, and having made a
camp-fire to cook their midday meal had omitted
to extinguish it before leaving the place. The
fire must have spread to some dry brush, and as
practically no rain had fallen for a considerable
period, the brush had become as inflammable as
tinder, so that forest fires would commence very
Our boat and supplies had now all been conveyed to the lake, so we parted with the schoolmaster and his two companions. During their
stay they had constructed a raft at the portage on
the Naskutla River, which would enable them to
reach the trading post on Teslin Lake.
The next morning we packed our supplies in
the boat and started down Quiet Lake. The fire,
which had spread rapidly during the night, now
extended over a considerable area, and was
blazing and roaring and crackling, the sky being
shrouded with a dense smoke. One of the men
had brought a spoon bait, which we attached to
a, line and towed  behind the boat, and by this 5o REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
means we were able to obtain all the lake trout
we required. After reaching the lower end of
the lake we proceeded down the river for about
a couple of miles, and then reached another lake
nearly as large as Quiet Lake. After crossing
this we came to the river again, and in a short
distance arrived at a third and smaller lake,
which was the last we encountered.
The Big Salmon is much more difficult to
navigate than the Naskutla, the current being
very swift and the river encumbered with overhanging sweepers ; and although no bad rapids
were encountered, strong riffles were numerous.
The salmon were then swimming up the river, so
that numbers could be seen in places where the
water was shallow. Moose were not nearly so
plentiful as on the Naskutla, but bears were
several times observed on the river bank, and
as they are exceedingly partial to fish, the presence
of the salmon in the river had probably attracted
them to the vicinity.
Numerous streams flow into the Big Salmon;
so after travelling for about thirty miles down the
river, we walked a few miles up one of these
creeks and noticed the bed strewn with quartz
boulders, which is supposed to be a favourable
indication of the presence of gold. We therefore
decided to camp for a few days and sink a shaft
on the creek bank ; but after excavating to a
depth of about fifteen feet we were obliged to
abandon the work owing to an influx of water.
We proceeded for about another fifty miles down MY  TRIP TO THE   KLONDYKE  IN   1898   51
the river and then attempted to prospect another
creek, but this time our prospecting was brought
to an abrupt termination. We were working
about two miles up the stream, the camp being
pitched near the river bank. After working at
the shaft we were returning home one evening
at about six o'clock, and on our arrival discovered that the camp had taken fire, and was
now entirely burnt away, except some smouldering
cinders here and there.
This particular spot happened to be covered
with deep moss, which is always very treacherous,
as a fire will occasionally work along under the
moss in a smouldering condition, without showing
any indication on the surface, and may break out
again some distance away. In northern regions
the moss is extremely abundant and may extend
for a couple of feet or more in depth. In this
case we had apparently extinguished the camp
fire by pouring water over the spot, but some
sparks must have been smouldering underneath,
and had gradually extended until they reached
the tent and supplies. As the sacks had been all
burnt away, the flour, sugar, beans, &c, were all
mixed up together, intermingled with the charred
remains of sacks and canvas. After separating
what was eatable, we could only collect enough
for about three meals, the remainder being too
burnt and scorched for purposes of food, while
our tent, blankets, spare clothes, &c, had all
gone up in smoke.
The nearest trading post was Fort Selkirk on 52
the Yukon River, about 250 miles distant, and
our only resource was to arrive there as quickly
as possible ; so after raking out from amongst
the embers a dilapidated-looking frying pan,
we instantly cooked some supper, and then
adjourned to the boat and started off for
Selkirk. At that season of the year there is no
real darkness, so travelling day and night, sleeping in turns and only stopping to cook our meals,
we rowed down the Big Salmon River into the
Yukon, and then proceeded down the Yukon
until we arrived at Selkirk. Here we purchased
some supplies from the trading post, and then
resumed our journey. Eventually we arrived
without further mishap at Dawson, 180 miles
below Selkirk, and, including the expedition up
the Naskutla River, about 1200 miles from the
mouth of the river Stickene. CHAPTER  III
Dawson in the summer of 1898 consisted of
about 30,000 inhabitants, nearly all of whom
were living in tents, and presented an extraordinary appearance. The main street on my
arrival was already lined with shops and restaurants, installed in rough wooden cabins.
Public-houses, or saloons as they are called in
Canada and America, were numerous and densely
thronged, the bar-tenders busily engaged in
serving out very bad whisky at 50 cents (or
2S.) a drink, while behind the saloons was a
large room where poker, faro, roulette, and other
gambling games were in full swing. The roulette tables all contained two zeros, which gave
the bank a great advantage over the players.
There were several dance-halls in the place,
all of which were well patronised, each dance-
hall possessing a primitive sort of band and
from ten to twenty girls. Dancing commenced
at about eight p.m. and continued till about six
o'clock in the morning. Waltzes interspersed
with " kitchen lancers " were usually played, while
$i (or 4s.) was the recognised price for each
dance, the  owner  of the hall taking care that 54
the dances were extremely short, so that as many
dollars as possible could be collected. A drink-
ing-bar was attached to the place, and after each
dance the man was expected to escort his partner to the bar, and buy a drink for her and
for himself, which cost $i more.
The girls were paid $50 or £10 a week
by the owner of the dance-hall, while many
of them received valuable presents in the shape
of gold nuggets from different admirers. Introductions were unnecessary, as any one was
entitled to ask a girl for a dance who was not
engaged, and she was not allowed by the management to refuse. All drinks were 50 cents, or
2s., apiece, and, as they principally consisted
of cheap adulterated whisky manufactured on
the premises from a concoction of fusel-oil, the
profits to the bar must have been enormous.
These dance-halls presented a striking, though
not an edifying spectacle towards the early hours
of the morning, men being congregated there in
all sorts of wild outlandish costumes, some engaged in dancing, others standing about watching and smoking pipes, filling the room with
fumes of bad tobacco, while at the one end of
the hall was the bar, where men and girls were
toasting each other and calling for more drinks.
Tragedies, although rare, occasionally occurred.
I remember one of these dance-hall girls had
some quarrel over a love affair, and after one
of the dances she calmly walked round and said
" Good-bye" to her friends, as she intended to FIRST  EXPERIENCES  OF DAWSON      55
commit suicide. Nobody imagined that she was
in earnest, but she went straight up to her room
and poisoned herself with strychnine. An Englishman with whom I was acquainted was employed in charge of a mine owned by a company
in London. He arrived one evening in Dawson
with the proceeds from the mine, amounting to
several thousand dollars, which he intended to
deposit in the bank the following morning. That
evening he met numerous acquaintances, which
in Dawson generally involved numerous libations, and the result was that he became intoxicated, and dissipated the whole of the proceeds
from the mine in one of the gambling saloons.
The next morning, when he had become sober
and realised his position, he blew out his brains
with a revolver.
Of course, many of the inhabitants of Dawson,
especially the women, had not experienced when
coming into the country the rough trip described
in the previous chapter. Many of them had
taken their passage by steamer from Vancouver,
Victoria, Seattle, and other towns on the Pacific
coast to the mouth of the Yukon in Behring
Strait, and there embarked on flat-bottomed
river steamers, which conveyed them up the
Yukon to Dawson. As this entailed a journey
of 1600 miles against the current of the Yukon,
besides the ocean journey to Behring Strait, a
considerable time was required to accomplish
the voyage. However, a large number travelled
to Dawson by this route, and except for the dis- 56      REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
comfort of being pent up for a considerable period
on overcrowded steamers, there was no great
hardship to be endured.
Numerous steamers had been conveying supplies to Dawson during the summer months, so
no real scarcity existed, although, owing to the
cost of transportation, meals at restaurants were
both primitive and expensive. Eggs brought in
from the outside could be obtained, although
probably several months old, and as eggs can
only be poached when reasonably fresh, the
Dawson variety had always to be either boiled
or fried. One enterprising person managed to
bring in some chickens the ensuing summer, and
was consequently able to provide really fresh
eggs. A restaurant keeper bought him out,
and produced a large sign outside his place
announcing the fact to the Dawson public.
His customers were, however, expected to pay
handsomely for the luxury, as two poached eggs,
with some potatoes, tea, and bread cost $i|
or 6s.
In later years, after the White Pass railway from Skagway to Whitehorse had been
constructed, transportation became very much
facilitated, and provisions became, therefore,
considerably cheaper. There are now several
chicken ranches in the vicinity of Dawson,
although fresh eggs are still very expensive.
During my last summer in Dawson (1909)
eggs brought in from the Pacific coast cost
from 2s. to 3s. a dozen, although two or three 1
out of the dozen would probably be too bad even
to boil, while fresh eggs from the chicken ranches
near Dawson cost a shilling apiece.
During the autumn of 1898 a report was circulated in the outside world that supplies in
Dawson were extremely scarce, and that unless
relief was obtained during the winter a famine
in the Yukon would prevail. Quite a panic was
created in the towns on the Pacific coast, where
numbers of people had friends and relations in
the Yukon, so a subscription was started and a
large sum collected for sending supplies to the
starving inhabitants of Dawson. It was then
too late in the year to send supplies into the
Yukon by steamer, so a scheme was propounded
to purchase reindeer and sleighs, and to send
them loaded with provisions to Dawson after the
Yukon was frozen over. This scheme was considered exceptionally clever, because the reindeer,
besides conveying provisions, could themselves be
killed for food on their arrival at Dawson.
No possibility of a famine really existed in
Dawson, as supplies were amply sufficient for the
ensuing winter, and the whole scheme from the
very commencement was simply a fraud concocted by the promoters. Some reindeer and
drivers were obtained, who started off to the
Yukon, but most of them turned back before
they had proceeded far, while a very few ultimately arrived at Dawson in a semi-starving condition, and just in time to be relieved by the
people who were supposed to be starving. 58      REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
Later on I happened to be shown a copy of a
London newspaper which described that expedition. The reindeer, like the cariboo, which is
almost identically the same animal, possesses a
peculiar flat palmated horn about 18 inches
long, which commences from the base of the
large horn and projects right over the forehead.
According to the London newspaper, this horn
is described as a "plough," and is used by the
intelligent animal for shovelling away the deep
snow, so as to enable it to obtain the food underneath. I have met a number of people who
firmly believe in this theory, but the idea is, of
course, absurd on the face of it, because reindeer,
like all other deer, shed their horns at the commencement of the winter, and, consequently, they
would not possess the " plough " during the very
season that they were in need of it.
In Canada and the United States, whenever
a new town springs up, a local newspaper is
promptly started, even though the town may be
what in England we would term a mere village.
Dawson in 1898 possessed three local newspapers,
one of which published rather an amusing though
slightly exaggerated cartoon called "the relief of
Dawson." A party of men and reindeer were
standing on the frozen Yukon in a frightfully
emaciated condition, representing the relief party
having just arrived at Dawson. On the bank of
the river a number of enormously fat men were
congregated, looking very hale and hearty and
extremely amused at the new arrivals.    These FIRST EXPERIENCES OF DAWSON     59
were supposed to represent the starving inhabitants of Dawson, while other very fat men were
hurrying down to the river, conveying provisions
to the starving relief party.
Money in those days was plentiful in Dawson,
which accounted for the dance-halls and saloons
being so freely patronised. The mines were producing large quantities of gold, while nearly all
who had arrived at Dawson from the outside
possessed more or less money to spend. A large
number, who seemed bent on enjoying themselves,
were throwing away their money in the most
reckless manner possible, and, consequently,
Dawson during that first season was fairly lively.
In those days nothing could be purchased for
less than 25 cents or is., so that no currency of
less than that amount existed in Dawson.
Gold dust was accepted as currency at the
rate of $16 (or ,£3, 4s.) an ounce, and every
dance-hall, saloon, and store had its gold scales
on the counter, where the prices of dances,
drinks, provisions, clothes, &c, could be weighed
out and paid for in gold dust. The gold
dust was carried in small sacks made of soft
leather or moose hide, called " pokes," and a
man from the mines would walk into a saloon,
and drawing his " poke" out of his pocket
would throw it on the counter, calling for drinks
for his friends and acquaintances. The barman
would pour out on the scales sufficient gold dust
to cover the price, and the poke with the balance
would then be returned to the owner.
A valuable commodity like gold dust must be
weighed with extreme care, as a very slight difference in the scales will make a very large difference
in the result. This style of payment must, therefore, have resulted in enormous profits to the
saloons, as the men were often too careless or too
intoxicated to observe if their gold dust was
being accurately weighed, and the same drinks
must have been constantly paid for several times
The gold when extracted from the ground is
by no means in a pure state, but is mixed up
with silver and other ingredients, while the different creeks vary to a large extent in the purity
of the gold contained in them. The gold dust
accepted as currency in the Yukon at $16 per
ounce was styled " commercial gold," and was
supposed to represent the average value of the
gold dust in the country. The quality of the
gold extracted from Bonanza and Eldorado creeks
assays extremely low, namely $13 (or £"2, 12s.)
per ounce, while other creeks contain gold
assaying as high as nearly £"4 to the ounce.
However, the amount of gold extracted from
Bonanza and Eldorado creeks was so enormous
that it fully counterbalanced the poorness of its
Rain had been falling for the last few days
since my arrival, so the main street was several
inches deep in mud, while it contained no pavements for people to walk along. The place was
crowded with people standing about in groups in FIRST EXPERIENCES OF DAWSON     61
the mud or wandering in or out of the different
drinking saloons. From the interior of the saloons,
where men were thronged against the bar busily
engaged in tossing for drinks, the clatter of the
dice-boxes could be heard continuously.
Real estate agents were doing a thriving business, selling town lots at fabulous prices, and
mining claims on creeks which few people had
ever seen or knew anything about. Two of the
affluents of the Klondyke are named All Gold
Creek and Too Much Gold Creek, which proved
quite an incentive in booming the country and
attracting people to the vicinity. These creeks
are really by no means rich, but their beds contain a considerable proportion of mica schist, which
was mistaken by the Indians for gold, so they
christened them by the above names.
Numerous speculators, engaged by syndicates
and companies in Europe and America, were
wandering through the town and up the creeks,
making eager inquiries about mining properties
for sale. During the boom in the early years of
Dawson, the general public imagined that any
mining ground in the Klondyke, especially if
situated on Bonanza and Eldorado creeks, must
necessarily be fabulously rich. Numbers of
worthless claims were, consequently, purchased,
which were floated as companies in Europe and
America, and the shares palmed off on a gullible
public at ridiculous prices. This naturally resulted in a violent reaction, and the public, after
having been constantly swindled over Klondyke 62 REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
mining properties, began eventually to regard
mines in that quarter with extreme suspicion,
so that companies found great difficulty in obtaining money in London, even for legitimate
The population in the Yukon consisted principally of Americans, although nearly every nation
would be represented, including quite a number
of English. All sorts of languages were heard in
the street, and the town presented a most cosmopolitan appearance. A considerable number
of the North-West Mounted Police had been
drafted into the Yukon, so that crime was comparatively slight, although the population was of
the roughest description imaginable.
The Royal North-West Mounted Police, generally styled the R.N.W.M.P., forms a conspicuous
feature in north-western Canada, their headquarters being at Regina in the province of Assini-
boia, the prairie part of Canada. They patrol and
keep order over enormous tracts of country, and
occasionally when some trouble occurs will penetrate into the most out-of-the-way localities. A
strong bump of topography is required to ride
long distances over the prairie, when scarcely a
tree can be discerned ; while to patrol large tracts
of country during the intense cold of the winter
months, accompanied with occasional blizzards,
entails a considerable amount of endurance.
A notice appeared lately in a London newspaper
that four of the North-West Mounted Police were
discovered frozen to death while working their FIRST EXPERIENCES  OF  DAWSON      63
way overland from Fort M'Pherson to Dawson.
The R.N.W.M.P. are principally picked men
and noted for their efficiency, and the Cape
Mounted Police of South Africa were organised
on the same basis.
It is remarkable, although a well-known fact,
that none of that lawlessness prevails in the
Canadian mining camps which forms so conspicuous a feature in mining camps in the western
portion of the United States. The Soapy Bill
gang, described in the first chapter, would never
have pursued such tactics in any town in Canada,
as the R.N.W.M.P. would have promptly settled
the matter. Whenever a new gold strike is proclaimed in Canada, the toughest characters from
America pour into the country. The average
American entertains, however, a wholesome dread
of Canadian law, as he is thoroughly aware that
it will be rigidly upheld; so he finds it better
policy to leave his revolver behind when entering
Canadian territory.
Many years ago I visited a place called Juneau,
a mining town in American territory situated on
the Alaskan coast. Shortly before my arrival a
fire had broken out in the town, and while the
citizens were engaged in extinguishing the fire a
prominent member of the community sat upon
a wall busily employed in issuing directions to
everybody else. Later on the local newspaper,
when referring to the incident, suggested in sarcastic tones that if the individual had done some
work himself instead of giving directions to other
J f
people, he might perhaps have been of some
practical utility. By way of retaliating for the
sarcasm, he proceeded next day to the newspaper
office, walked into the editor's room, where he
found him sitting in an armchair, and promptly
fired two shots at him with a revolver. One
bullet lodged in the editor's thigh and the other
in his head, and for some time his case was considered hopeless. Luckily, he made an extraordinary recovery, and when I arrived at Juneau
about a month later, he was then walking about
the street, although a handkerchief was still tied
round his head.
His assailant was tried for attempted murder
and sentenced to six years' imprisonment; but as
he possessed a certain amount of influence, which
in a place like Juneau would naturally entail a
certain amount of money, at the expiration of
four years he was released.
A crime of that description, if perpetrated in
Canadian territory, would have been treated very
differently. About the winter of 1899 two Americans armed with rifles entered a saloon in Dawson
and forced the person in charge to deliver up the
proceeds of the till. They were apprehended
and tried, and sentenced to penal servitude for
life. Their sentence was received with considerable surprise by their compatriots in the Yukon;
but it acted as a powerful deterrent on the tough
characters over the boundary, and no subsequent
offence of that description was perpetrated in
Soon after my arrival I wandered down to the
post-office, composed of a ramshackle log building, with clerks who were entirely inexperienced
in the business. A long line of people were
waiting to obtain admittance, so I took up my
position at the back, and was soon wedged in
with people pressing behind. A dreary two
hours elapsed before I reached the door. A man
would sometimes arrive and secure a position
near the door by paying an occupant for his
place; but as five dollars, or a sovereign, was the
fee usually charged, this expedient was only occasionally resorted to. On approaching the door I
could occasionally hear lively altercations between
the clerks and customers expecting letters, which
further increased the delay. The postal arrangements appeared in a hopeless muddle, while the
office was not nearly large enough for the population. After a two or three hours' wait one would
often be disappointed by being told that no letters
had arrived for one, when the letters would, perhaps, be all the time lying unobserved in the
The mining or recording office was in the same
state of confusion, and was daily thronged with
people waiting to record or transfer their claims.
The officials in Dawson were not, however, usually
averse to earning something extra " on the side."
The recording office, therefore, contained a side
entrance called the " five dollar door," where
those who were willing to pay the amount received
better attention. 66      REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
The town of Dawson was built on a tract of
level ground at the junction of the Klondyke
River and the Yukon, while the lower end of the
town is terminated by a high mountain with a
steep bluff. At a former period an Indian village
was situated at the foot of this bluff; but one
night a heavy slide occurred, which destroyed
the village and buried a large number of the
inhabitants, so the survivors migrated to a safer
locality, about four miles down the river. The
town forms the base whence supplies for the
mines were transported to the different creeks, as
the Klondyke River is not navigable for steamers.
The locality of the town was the most convenient
position, being the nearest point of distribution ;
but in the summer of 1898 a more unhealthy
situation could not well have been imagined.
The site was composed to a large extent of
swamp, so that the mud in the street became
several inches deep ; and as no proper system of
sanitation existed, the refuse of the town was
eventually washed by the summer rains into the
Typhoid fever was the natural result and
became rampant. A cemetery had been marked
out at the back of the town, and funeral processions of the most primitive description were
constantly wending their way to the locality,
followed by a few friends in their rough, mining,
weather-beaten costumes. In civilised towns a
vast amount of the mortality occurs amongst infants and old or decrepit people, but in Dawson in FIRST EXPERIENCES OF DAWSON     67
those days these were almost non-existent. The
coffins winding daily to the cemetery contained,
almost without exception, able-bodied men in the
prime of life, although their constitutions may
have been impaired by over-exposure and bad
food, combined with the effects of the vile,
adulterated whisky so freely consumed in Dawson.
In later years sanitation was improved and the
town placed on a more healthy basis. Many
people now bring their wives and families into
the Yukon, while there is a public school at
Dawson for boys and girls, who are conspicuous
for their rosy cheeks, and form a striking testimony to the dry, bracing atmosphere of the
Soon after my arrival in Dawson I was introduced to a man owning a claim on Bonanza
Creek, who invited me to pay him a visit. One
morning I accordingly strapped a blanket on my
back and, after crossing the Klondyke by a
rickety foot-bridge, for which a toll of twenty-
five cents, or a shilling, was charged, started off
for Bonanza. The walk up the creek was not
an enjoyable one, as the lower part of Bonanza
is principally composed of swamp, so that one
had to wade above the ankles through soft mud,
or step along on " niggerheads " wherever patches
of them existed. These are round tufts of grass
and moss appearing above the water, and by
taking fairly long strides, one can step from one
to another. Their tops are wet and slippery,
which makes it difficult to preserve one's balance, r
while sliding off them entails sinking above the
knees in mud and water.
Strings of men were travelling up and down
the creek, some returning to Dawson for fresh
supplies, others with heavy loads upon their backs
toiling painfully through the mire or amongst the
niggerheads. Although a certain proportion of
the population were amusing themselves in the
gambling saloons of Dawson, many had arrived
with the fixed purpose of making their "pile"
and returning home to their families. Their
minds were intent upon their future prospects,
which were too serious to allow them to indulge
in diversions, so they staggered without complaint
through the mud, toiling under heavy loads, determined to endure any amount of hardship and
discomfort in their efforts to achieve success.
Eventually I arrived at the junction of Bonanza
and Eldorado creeks, where the richest mines
were situated. The locality presented a most
animated appearance, crowds of men being busily
employed up and down the creeks, excavating
the gravel and washing it in the sluice-boxes.
Owing to the enormous expense of labour
and supplies, only very rich ground could at
that time be operated successfully. Labourers
for pick and shovel work were then paid as
much as $15, or £"3, a day, besides board
and lodging, which cost about $5 a day per
man in addition. Ten hours were considered
the usual day's work, and although the wages
were   excessive,   the   men   were   expected   to FiRST EXPERIENCES OF DAWSON      69
earn it by working as hard as possible in
excavating and washing the gravel, so as to
enable the gold to be extracted as rapidly as
possible. Characters or testimonials, so often
required in England, were, of course, totally
unknown, and among the rough characters congregated in the Yukon they would probably have
been difficult to obtain. A strong, able-bodied
man would be engaged without any questions
regarding his character or previous position,
which would be considered matters of no concern to the employer. The law of observing
the Sabbath was not enforced during the earlier
years in the Klondyke, as the mine-owners were
much too busy scooping in gold to enable them
to afford a weekly day of rest to the labourers,
so the work continued on Sundays exactly the
same as on week-days.
After hunting about for a short period I
eventually found my acquaintance busily engaged
on his claim. A large stack of firewood was
lying in the vicinity, ready to provide fuel for
thawing out the gravel. In the Klondyke the
gravel is frozen continually into a solid mass, and
must be thawed out before it can be excavated.
During the summer months the surface of the
ground becomes thawed by the heat of the sun
for a depth of about 3 or 4 feet, but below that
depth the ground is frozen solid perpetually, both
summer and winter.
The gravel was formerly thawed by throwing
hot rocks into the hole, or large fires would be
lighted in the evening at the bottom of the shaft,
and the gravel thawed out by the heat would
be excavated the following morning. Bonanza
and Eldorado creeks after dark presented quite
an imposing sight, with the sky lighted up by
huge fires blazing away from the different holes.
When the thawed-out gravel had been excavated
a fresh fire would be lighted, and the process
continued until the bottom of the shaft was
attained. This naturally involved extremely
slow progress, but in later years, when transport
became cheaper and boilers were brought into
the country, the ground could be thawed out
much more rapidly by means of steam forced
through iron tubes, called "points," which were
driven into the frozen ground.
The gold-mining in the Yukon is confined
entirely to placer formations, a term implying
particles of gold found scattered loosely about
amongst alluvial deposits of gravel, which form
the bed either of an existing creek or an old river
channel. The valley of a river may possess, in
addition to the existing stream, one or more old
channels, according to the different courses pursued by the river in former ages, and in a gold-
bearing country each of these old river channels
may contain deposits of gold disseminated through
the gravel.
In some river valleys, like that of the Fraser
River in British Columbia, these old channels
become very apparent, as they form terraces or
benches, showing the different levels of the river at FIRST  EXPERIENCES OF DAWSON     71
various periods. The creeks in the vicinity of the
Klondyke, however, generally contain no surface
indications of old channels, and these can only
be discovered by sinking holes down to the bedrock at intervals across the valley of the creek.
The gravel excavated is carefully tested, and
when the presence of gold indicates that an old
channel has been discovered, it is called the
" pay-streak."
The shafts were sunk right through the gravel,
until they reached the solid rock lying underneath, which is called the "bed-rock." In former
ages, when the old river channels formed running
streams, the gold washed down with the gravel
would, owing to its heavy specific gravity, gradually work its way through the gravel until it
eventually rested on the solid rock beneath. The
upper portion of the gravel would, therefore,
generally be devoid of gold, while the lower portion containing the gold and forming the pay-
streak would seldom average more than about
3 or 4 feet in depth above the bed-rock. The
upper portion of the pay-streak would contain
the lighter and finer particles of gold, while the
lower portion adjoining the bed-rock would prove
far the richer, and contain the heavier gold and
the nuggets.
Mammoth tusks and teeth, besides bones of
other animals, have on several occasions been
excavated from the mines, buried in the frozen
gravel far below the surface of the ground. I
once arrived at a claim when the horns and part 72 REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
of the head of what appeared to be a bull, with
some skin attached, had recently been excavated
from the shaft, about 25 feet below the surface,
and when thawed out it emitted quite a strong
odour, so that a dog in the vicinity began eagerly
to gnaw at it.
My host escorted me over his claim and down
the drift, where he tested some of the gravel to
show its richness, and then we adjourned to his
cabin for lunch. He was dressed in a greasy old
shirt and trousers, freely splashed with mud, and
wore a soft felt hat with a very wide brim, which
had evidently seen better days. He spoke with a
strong nasal twang, with no pretence at grammar,
and without an H in his vocabulary, while his
face was partly concealed with a rough shaggy
beard. One would have hardly imagined from
his appearance that he was worth a large fortune,
and was what in America they would term a
" capitalist."
His cabin, roughly constructed of logs, was
about 12 feet square, and just high enough to
stand up in. The logs inside were almost black
with dirt and smoke, and freely interspersed with
cobwebs, and as the window was composed of
soda-water bottles fixed into a hole in the wall,
the place was in semi-darkness. The floor, composed of poles squared with an axe, had evidently
not been swept for weeks, while in the corner
were deposited some unwashed plates and dirty
cooking pots.
In spite of his uncouth appearance, which very FIRST EXPERIENCES OF DAWSON
much resembled my own, he proved very hospitable and entertaining. After lighting a small
stove to prepare some lunch, he placed a couple
of steaks in a dirty frying-pan, and, while the
meal was cooking, he produced some " pokes," or
small leather sacks, containing several thousand
dollars in gold dust, while from an empty tin,
which formerly contained preserved tomatoes, he
poured on to the small greasy table by the window
a large number of selected nuggets. In answer
to my inquiry, he informed me that he had not
yet thought of selling his claim, but if he were
offered a quarter of a million dollars he might,
perhaps, consider the matter, and judging from
the prices that were then being paid for claims
in that locality he was not over-estimating its
He was an old timer in the Yukon, even in
those days, as he had been mining on Forty Mile
Creek before Dawson ever existed, so when the
discovery of gold on Bonanza Creek was first
reported, he took part in the stampede that resulted, and fortunately succeeded in staking a
claim in a favourable locality.
He told me of an extraordinary instance of
fortune that occurred to a man when the claims
on Eldorado Creek were first staked. Two men
were talking and drinking whisky in a cabin, one
of whom happened to have just staked a claim on
Eldorado Creek. The creek was then entirely
unprospected, so when the glow of excitement
resulting from the stampede had evaporated, he i
entertained grave doubts as to whether his claim
would eventually prove of any value. He accordingly induced his companion, who was rather intoxicated, to purchase his claim for $300. The
next morning, on becoming sober, his companion
was very dissatisfied with the purchase, and
wished to have his $300 returned, but as the
other man refused to refund the amount, he was
obliged to stick to his bargain and keep the claim.
Later on, when the creek became thoroughly prospected, the property which he had purchased for
$300 when intoxicated, and against his will when
he became sober, proved to be worth about a
quarter of a million.
Parties occasionally worked their way with
dog teams from Dawson to Skagway during the
winter of 1898, although a journey of 600 miles
up the frozen Yukon and over the White Pass
involved a considerable amount of hardship and
endurance. Very few road-houses or wayside
inns then existed along the Yukon, while camping out in severe weather was not an enjoyable
occupation. Few people cared to undertake the
journey, which required from a month to six
weeks to accomplish, according to the condition
of the trail and the physical capabilities of the
About the winter of 1900, a murder was committed on the winter trail to the Alaskan coast,
which occasioned considerable excitement in the
Yukon. A large number of additional road-houses
had  by that  time  been constructed  along  the FIRST EXPERIENCES OF   DAWSON     75
route, so that travellers could usually avail themselves of one for the night, and camping out was
resorted to comparatively seldom. A party of
three men who were travelling from Dawson to
the coast arrived on Christmas Eve at a road-
house called Minto, about 20 miles from Selkirk.
The next morning they proceeded on their
journey, intending to arrive that evening at the
next road-house, but between the two places all
three mysteriously disappeared. Relations on the
Pacific coast being aware of their departure from
Dawson were surprised at their non-arrival, so,
as Dawson was now in telegraphic communication, inquiries were instituted. Some members of
the North-West Mounted Police were despatched
from Dawson to investigate the matter, and soon
discovered that the missing people had spent
Christmas Eve at Minto, but had never arrived
at the road-house adjoining, according to their
About 400 miles above Selkirk the trail crosses
Lake Bennett, at the head of which a road-
house and a police-station had been established, and one evening a man travelling with a
horse-sleigh arrived at the Lake Bennett road-
house to pass the night. Several police-stations
had now been established at different points along
the Yukon, and after the disappearance of the
three men, all were on the alert for suspicious
characters. A man travelling with a horse-sleigh
was an unusual occurrence in those days, as not
many people could  afford to maintain a horse.
J r
His replies to questions were considered unsatisfactory, so he was conducted to the police-station
pending further inquiries, while a large number
of bank notes found concealed in his boots
aroused suspicion.
The telegraph line was set in operation, and
it was soon discovered that his name was O'Brien,
and that he had employed part of the winter with
a partner named Graves in a tent not far above
Minto, with the avowed object of cutting wood
to sell to the steamers in the ensuing summer.
Their tent, which had been abandoned, was discovered by the police concealed from the trail
by a clump of trees, but the recently fallen snow
had effectually obliterated any traces of a possible
The mystery was solved by one of the police
dogs, which suddenly commenced digging into
the snow, until a large patch of frozen blood was
eventually disclosed. The freshly fallen snow
was then carefully removed round the vicinity of
the tent, with the result that other patches of
frozen blood were found scattered about, while
articles belonging to the missing people were also
discovered. All three had been murdered and
robbed, and their bodies thrown into the Yukon
through a hole cut in the ice, and the ensuing
summer the three bodies were all discovered
stranded on sand bars in the river, showing
evidence of bullet wounds.
O'Brien was tried for murder in Dawson and
hanged, but his partner Graves completely dis- FIRST EXPERIENCES OF  DAWSON     77
appeared. For over a year, with the aid of the
Government at Ottawa, he was searched for all
over the world; but, although his appearance,
his home, and his family were all known to the
police, not a trace of him was ever discovered.
It is generally supposed by the police that O'Brien
had completed his career by murdering his partner. '
They may have quarrelled over the division of
the spoils from their victims, and the large
number of bank notes found on O'Brien when
he was arrested lends colour to the suspicion
that his partner Graves had been effectually disposed of.
Road-houses are now obliged to keep a book
in which travellers are required to register their
names, showing the place they started from and
their destination, so that, in the event of their
disappearance, it may perhaps be possible to
trace them. In Dawson there is a perpetual list
of people missing in the Yukon, whose friends
or relations at home have been inquiring about
them. Many have been missing for several
years who were known to have been living in the
Yukon, but whose letters have suddenly ceased,
and not a trace of whom can be discovered.
The summer in the Yukon is soon over, and
at about the end of August the leaves commence
to assume their autumn tints. During the month
of September the vast expanse of forest provides
a lovely spectacle, when the willows, poplars, and
birches present a mass of golden colour, variegated
with the dark green spruces, which form such a 78      REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
striking contrast. The commencement of cold
weather warned the inhabitants of Dawson that
it was time to prepare for the long winter months.
Tents were beginning to feel uncomfortably cold
and draughty, so rough wooden cabins made of
logs were springing up in all directions.
Most of the trees in the vicinity of Dawson
had already been used up, but many men were
employed during the summer months in cutting
down clumps of trees in different parts of the
Yukon. These were hauled to the bank and
large rafts constructed, which were floated down
the river to Dawson. People in the Yukon were
permitted to cut down on Government land, without charge, all the trees they required for their
own use, either for building cabins or for purposes
of firewood, but they were not allowed to cut
wood for purposes of sale without a licence from
the authorities.
Floating a large raft down the Yukon for, perhaps, 200 miles or more demands a considerable
amount of skill. Huge oars about thirty feet
long, called "sweepers," are attached to each end
of the raft and balanced on pivots, so that each
sweeper can be operated by two or three men.
Great care is required in guiding the raft past the
different sand-bars on the river, and comparatively few men are capable of handling a heavy
raft with safety. The approach to Dawson involves an especially anxious moment for the
owners. A small rowing-boat with a heavy rope
is carried on the raft, which when close to Dawson 1
J  1
is guided as near to the shore as possible. One
end of the rope is attached to the raft, and at
the right moment a man pushes off in the boat
and rows rapidly to the shore, dragging with
him the other end of the rope, which he ties
round one of the posts driven into the bank at
intervals. Mishaps, however, often occur. Those
on the raft may be unable to guide it sufficiently
close to the shore, or the enormous force of its
momentum may cause the rope to break, and the
raft will then float down the current below Dawson, and may proceed for a considerable distance
before being finally stopped and secured to the
bank. If not too far away, the logs can be piled
on the bank and drawn back to Dawson on
sleighs during the winter; but all this entails a
heavy expense, which would probably absorb the
whole of the profits.
A heavy raft approaching Dawson affords
quite an impressive spectacle, the men labouring
with all their strength on the huge sweepers, and
the pilot standing in the centre issuing directions.
It would probably consist of about a thousand
trees, which for purposes of rafting are generally cut into 16-foot lengths. All this entails
heavy labour, as the trees when chopped down
must be stripped of their branches, and cut into
lengths suitable for the purpose. They may be
situated some distance from the river, and after
being hauled to the bank by horses, are made
into a raft and guided down to Dawson. The
owners  depend  on  the  sale  for their  summer
wages, and perhaps to enable them to purchase
provisions for the ensuing winter. It forms a
depressing, though not an unusual spectacle, when
through some mischance the rope has broken or
failed to reach the bank, and the raft with its
precious burden floats placidly past Dawson down
the current, the men standing disconsolate upon
it, knowing that their hard summer's labour has
been practically wasted.
About the first week in October the last steamer
left Dawson for the outside world, its decks
crowded with disheartened passengers. After
all their trials and expense in getting to the
Klondyke, they were now only bent on getting
back while the opportunity existed, and felt no
inclination to face a winter in the Yukon. When
eventually the ice in the river jammed and formed
a solid mass from bank to bank, a noticeable
feeling of depression pervaded the town. The
majority had never before experienced an Arctic
winter, but had passed their lives in civilised
localities, where railways, telegraphs, and newspapers had kept them in constant communication.
Many had left wives and families behind, and,
when the Yukon finally became frozen, all realised
that for the next six or seven months a 600-mile
barrier of ice and snow would intervene between
themselves and the outside world.
In later years the communication during the
winter became vastly improved. Dawson was
connected with the outside world by telegraph,
the railway was completed between Whitehorse FIRST  EXPERIENCES OF DAWSON     81
and the Pacific coast, a waggon-road was constructed across country from Dawson to Whitehorse, which- considerably shortened the route,
while regular stages consisting of four-horse
sleighs made the journey two or three times a
week, conveying mails and passengers. During
the winter of 1898 there was no telegraph line,
no railway and no waggon-road, while the mails
were conveyed for the 600 miles at uncertain intervals by dog teams driven by the R.N.W.M.P.
However, the feeling of depression in Dawson
soon disappeared. Some settled down to mining
or other business, while others repaired to the
drinking saloons and the dance-halls, where the
combined effects of dance-girls and bad whisky
soon obliterated any feelings of regret for their
wives and families on the outside.- CHAPTER  IV
By the commencement of October the weather in
the Yukon becomes exceedingly cold, so another
man and myself who occupied tents in Dawson in
1898, not far distant apart, decided to abandon
them and inquire for a cabin. Numerous cabins
had been erected in Dawson, for sale or hire
during the winter months, so we eventually hired
a small one about 14 feet square, which was
sufficiently large for two people. It consisted of
one room, the walls constructed with logs containing one very small window, as glass in those
days was an expensive luxury. A window sash
with six panes of glass, six inches by eight,
could be purchased in 1898 for £"4, so that in
many of the cabins in the Yukon the windows
were constructed by inserting empty bottles in
the wall in the place of window panes. Another
common device consisted in soaking some thin
linen in melted candle grease, and this attached
to an opening in the wall would allow a feeble
light to penetrate, while preventing the cold
atmosphere from entering the cabin.
Our furniture consisted of a rough table and
two  wooden  bunks  fixed  against the wall, on THE WINTER OF  1898 83
which we spread some hay purchased at an enormous price from a neighbouring stable, while two
empty boxes were substituted for chairs. Sheets
in the Yukon were, of course, practically unknown, but blankets feel much more cosy and
comfortable when one gets accustomed to them.
We washed our own clothes and did our own
cooking, which neither knew much about; however, the class of cooking required for that style
of life requires very little knowledge, and can be
acquired without much experience.
Beef had been landed in Dawson from the
steamers, while moose and cariboo meat brought
in by Indians and white men could occasionally
be purchased, but all were exceedingly expensive.
Bakeries had also been established in the town,
so that bread could be purchased at a shilling a
pound. No cows existed in the place, so fresh
milk or cream were, of course, unobtainable,
although tins of condensed milk and evaporated
cream could be purchased at the stores.
Water was obtained from the Yukon during
the winter by cutting a hole through the ice, the
same water-hole being used every day to prevent
the ice becoming too thick, although in cold
weather a considerable amount of chopping was
required in the morning before water could be
obtained. Boards were sometimes placed across
the water-hole and a blanket thrown over them,
which, to a certain extent, assisted to keep away
the frost, so that less chopping was required in
the morning.    The water-hole would eventually 84      REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
freeze up at the bottom, when a fresh one had
then to be cut; and as the ice during the winter
attained a thickness of about 5 feet, the making
of a fresh water-hole entailed a considerable
amount of labour. When the hole penetrated the
ice, the water, owing to the pressure underneath,
would immediately bubble up until it reached the
Logs for furnishing fuel for the stove were
delivered at the cabins in Dawson in 16-foot
lengths, and had then to be sawn up into lengths
suitable for the stove, and split into smaller pieces
with an axe. In very cold weather the stove had
to be kept at full blaze to preserve warmth inside
the cabin, so that it consumed a large amount of
wood in the course of the day. These roughly-
built cabins, composed of one room enclosed by
four outside walls, have numerous weak places
through which the cold atmosphere can penetrate;
and in very cold weather, when the thermometer
registers 500 or 6o° below zero, the temperature
inside our cabin in the morning, when the stove
had been extinguished for several hours, would
be about 150 below zero. Emerging from a
warm bed under such conditions in order to light
the stove in the morning forms one of the most
unpleasant features of the day's routine. In cold
climates like the Yukon, cabins would be difficult
to keep warm with merely open fireplaces, which
allow most of the heat to escape up the chimney,
so that stoves invariably take their place.
During the winter fur robes were generally THE WINTER OF  1898 85
used instead of blankets, but as the best ones,
made of fox or lynx skins, are very expensive,
cheaper robes made of wombat, an Australian
fur, or mountain goat were usually purchased.
These answer the purpose fairly well, though
they are not so warm and very much heavier
than fox or lynx robes. They are generally
made 8 feet square, which enables the wearer
to be completely enveloped, while they are also
sufficiently long to cover both head and feet.
In cold weather, to prevent the face becoming
frost-bitten, the head must be completely covered
with the robe before going to sleep, leaving only
a small air-hole by the mouth for purposes of
breathing; and this air-hole becomes fringed
with a coating of ice, owing to the breath condensing and freezing on the robe.
This description covers 80 per cent, of the
cabins in the Yukon, although some, especially
in latter years, were more elaborately constructed
and protected to withstand almost any cold. •
They would be provided with double doors and
double windows, while the crevices between the
logs would be hermetically sealed with cement.
In addition to the cook-stove, they would contain
one or more " heaters," which are air-tight stoves
large enough to hold a considerable amount of
wood, and when the draught is shut off these
will continue to smoulder all through the night,
so that the cabin remains continually warm.
My partner and  myself were both spending
our first winter in the Yukon, and being new to 86      REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
the business, foolishly hired a cabin built of green
logs, which we soon discovered to be a fatal
mistake. The heat from the stove during the
day drew the moisture out of the green logs, so
that the walls inside the cabin became saturated
with moisture, which during the night would
freeze into solid ice when the stove was extinguished and the cabin became cold. The result
was that the inside of the cabin became eventually
lined with a coating of ice, which every night
became thicker, while during the daytime the
surface of the ice would melt and trickle on to
the floor. The floor is always the coldest part of
a cabin, and this deposit would quickly freeze,
and so, besides the coating of ice round the walls,
a sort of skating-rink was formed round the floor,
which every day became wider. We therefore
searched about until we eventually secured a
fresh cabin constructed of dry logs, and were
much relieved when our goods and chattels had
been removed from the iceberg to our new
Typhoid fever, which was raging during the
summer months, quickly vanished when the
winter had commenced and the ground became
thoroughly frozen. Scurvy now appeared in its
place, and became very prevalent during the
winter, numerous deaths resulting from it. The
epidemic was assigned to various causes, according to the opinions of different people; some
attributing the disease to the scarcity of fresh
vegetables, others to the lack of fresh meat and THE WINTER OF 1898 87
insufficient exercise. Probably all these reasons
contributed to it to a certain extent, though cases
occasionally occurred most unexpectedly. An
acquaintance of mine was engaged in mining up
the Pelly River, where any amount of fresh moose
meat could be obtained. Working his claim
entailed a lot of exercise, and although he possessed no fresh vegetables, during the autumn
an abundance of fresh fruit in the shape of wild
berries could be gathered. In spite of this he
was attacked with scurvy, but quickly embarked
in his boat and proceeded down the Yukon to
Dawson, where he was treated in the hospital
and recovered.
Many people without employment were too
indolent to take proper exercise, and passed the
winter in stuffy cabins heated by an unhealthy
stove and with practically no ventilation. They
possessed neither fresh meat nor fresh vegetables,
and as their diet consisted principally of bacon
and boiled horse-beans, it is not surprising
that scurvy resulted. The first symptom of
the disease is a swelling under the arms and
knees, while the gums bleed easily. The skin
also loses its elasticity, so that a dent formed
by pressing the finger against it remains open,
instead of closing at once. The remedy is practically a matter of diet, and fresh potatoes eaten
raw, which will cure almost any scurvy, are
invariably given in the hospitals, while spruce
tea, which is made by boiling spruce brush in
water, is also to be recommended.    The disease
J f
is not dangerous, provided proper remedies can
be applied ; but many people living away in the
woods possessed neither the knowledge of how
to treat the disease nor the proper diet, and
consequently died in their cabins.
The road from Dawson to the Klondyke River
and up Bonanza Creek, during the winter of
1898, presented quite a busy appearance, people
continually arriving and departing with the necessary supplies to the different creeks, where their
mining claims were situated. Dog sleighs were
travelling to and fro perpetually, some with heavy
loads toiling at a slow walk, while others dragging
only their masters would be trotting or galloping
gaily along with sleigh-bells ringing. Many
who possessed no dogs and could not afford to
buy them, were dragging their loaded sleighs
themselves, one man pulling with a rope in front,
while his partner would be pushing behind with
a pole.
Comparatively few horses were then in the
country, owing to the scarcity of roads and the
enormous expense of buying food to maintain
them during the winter. A certain number were
employed in Dawson; and the cost of hiring a
team of two horses with driver and waggon
for the day amounted to between £"20 and
,£30. Dogs were almost universally employed
by those who possessed them; and there is
nothing more exhilarating and enjoyable than
driving in a sleigh behind a fast dog team over
a hard trail.    The dogs in the Yukon can be THE WINTER OF  1898 89
divided into two main classes, namely, " inside
dogs," which comprise those born and bred in
the country, and " outside dogs," which have
been brought into the Yukon from the towns
on the Pacific coast, or from other parts of
The inside dogs, which are called Malamutes
or Huskies, resemble in appearance the Esquimaux dogs, so well known from the illustrations
in books of Arctic travel. They are great
fighters amongst themselves, but almost invariably good tempered towards human beings. The
malamutes possess a strong strain of wolf, and
resemble wolves in many respects, as they never
bark like an outside dog, but invariably howl. A
trapper of my acquaintance owned a dog which
was half malamute and half wolf; it exactly
resembled a wolf, was perfectly good tempered,
and made a good sleigh dog. The outside dogs
and the inside dogs each have certain advantages, as the malamutes, being born and bred in
the country, can withstand the cold better and
require less food to keep them in condition, while
the outside dogs are generally faster. Although
a matter of opinion, many people prefer a cross
between the two, which appears on the whole to
afford the most satisfaction.
Their sleigh harness consists of a collar with
traces attached, and a strap round the body to
keep the traces in position. They are harnessed
one in front of the other, while each have buckles
behind the collar to which the traces of the dog if
in front are attached; the traces of the rear dog
being, of course, attached to the sleigh. By this
system a considerable amount of power is wasted,
as the leading dogs are pulling at the dogs
behind them, instead of exerting a direct pull on
the sleigh. In the lower Yukon a long rope is
attached to the sleigh and the dogs are harnessed
to the rope. This system affords each dog a
more direct pull on the sleigh, although, I think,
the best method prevails in Eastern Canada,
where each dog is harnessed direct to the sleigh
by separate ropes of different lengths. It is
important for dog collars, like horse collars, to be
well stuffed and the proper size, otherwise the
dogs' shoulders will become sore.
Reins are not required when driving dogs, as
they are trained to recognise certain words of
command. " Mush," a corruption of the French-
Canadian i marche," implies " go on," and
I Woh " is used for " stop," while " Gee " means
"go to the right" and | Haw " means "go to the
left." Some people, of course, are naturally cruel
and make frequent use of the dog-whip, but a
willing dog does not require to be beaten at all,
while a dog that is naturally lazy is not worth the
expense of feeding. An unwilling dog becomes
exceedingly sly, and will often learn to keep his
collar just tight against his shoulder, so as to put
on an appearance of working when he is really
not pulling a pound. A dog accustomed to being
beaten can generally be detected, as, instead of
keeping his attention concentrated on his work,
L	 1
THE WINTER OF  1898 91
he will be continually looking round to ascertain
if the dog-whip is uplifted.
The first cold snap during the winter made its
appearance early. On emerging from my bed
one morning to start the stove, the temperature
in the room appeared unusually chilly, so I lighted
a candle and donned some clothes as rapidly
as possible, and on glancing at a thermometer
hanging against the wall discovered that it registered 150 below zero. The crevices between
the logs were in places coated with large patches
of white frost, showing where the outside air had
penetrated through the moss, while the water in
the galvanised pail was frozen into a solid mass,
so that it was necessary to place the pail on the
stove, and wait until sufficient ice was melted for
the purposes of washing and cooking. On opening the cabin door, a thick white freezing fog
rushed into the room from the outside.
After breakfast was finished, I wrapped myself
up and wandered down the town. The temperature was over 500 below zero, with the atmosphere
perfectly still, while a dense mist prevailed, reminding one of the thick fogs which occasionally
visit the streets in London. In certain places on
the Yukon and its tributaries open spots occur
in the river, which remain unfrozen during the
winter owing to the presence of warm springs.
During very cold weather a thick vapour arises
from these open spots, produced by the contact
of the cold atmosphere with the water, and the
colder the  weather   the   thicker   becomes   the S »
vapour. Some of these open places are situated
near Dawson, so that when the temperature
drops to 500 or more below zero the town becomes
enveloped in a thick fog.
Not many people were to be seen in the streets.
When the temperature is very cold, people prefer
not to remain longer than is necessary out of
doors, and spend most of their time in the cabins
sitting round the stove. The stoves must be
kept in full blaze to maintain warmth within the
cabins, and consume a large amount of wood,
so from the different cabins the noise of large
' saws employed in sawing up the logs, and the
axes splitting them into smaller pieces, would be
heard unceasingly.
Occasionally a raven would be indistinctly observed flying overhead, its size greatly magnified
by the dense mist, so that it resembled a large
black kite floating through the still atmosphere.
Men could be dimly observed gliding through
the fog, well muffled up in furs; many of them
having coverings across their faces to protect
them from the freezing atmosphere. This, combined with their fur caps and mitts, and their
fur coats with the fur worn on the outside,
which is the custom in Canada, gave them a grotesque appearance, so that the town resembled a
menagerie of bears walking on their hind legs.
It entailed only a few minutes' walk from my
cabin to the nearest saloon, where I could enter
to warm myself, but on my arrival at the door my
moustache was already thickly coated with ice, THE WINTER OF  1898 93
caused by my breath congealing and becoming
frozen. The saloons during those cold snaps
were always crowded with human beings, some
standing at the bar, busily employed in tossing
with dice for hot drinks, while others were congregated round a giant circular stove like a
miniature boiler. This would be kept blazing,
and required continual stoking from a pile of
logs lying in the vicinity.
In those days the saloons were never closed
during the twenty-four hours, so that a man
might enter at any time during the night and
would find the dice-boxes still rattling, and the
gambling games in full swing. On Sundays
they were supposed by law to be closed, but they
all possessed a back entrance, where customers
could freely enter to procure libations. These
very cold snaps would usually only last for a
week or ten days at a time, and when the
weather had moderated my cabin partner and
myself fastened our sleeping robes, some provisions, &c, on a sleigh, and after harnessing
up some dogs started off on a tour of inspection round the creeks.
The temperature was just pleasant for travelling, about 25° below zero, and the dogs trotted
gaily through the town, and then dropped down
the steep incline on to the Klondyke River. The
trail was smooth and hard and slippery from constant use, so the dogs experienced no difficulty
in dragging the load, one of us riding on the
sleigh while the other ran behind.    Strings of
J 1
people were met travelling to and fro, some at
a brisk walk, others running behind or riding
on their dog sleighs. When the weather has
moderated after a severe snap, there is always
a noticeable feeling of gaiety and relief amongst
the inhabitants, and the people then emerge from
their cabins, like bears from their winter dens.
The dense fog which prevailed during the cold
weather had now entirely disappeared, and the
clear, crisp, invigorating atmosphere makes
every one feel hale and hearty and good-
After proceeding for two miles up the Klondyke River, a trail branched off to the right, leading to the mouths of the Bonanza and Eldorado
creeks. Our destination was Hunker Creek, so
we followed along the trail leading up the broad
valley of the Klondyke, where, owing to its
exposed position, a slight breeze was perceptible,
which necessitated our continually rubbing our
cheeks and noses with our fur mitts.
Eventually we passed a trail leading to a
small creek called Bear Creek, where some
rich claims have been located near the mouth.
About two miles above Bear Creek the trail
diverged to the right, leading to the mouth of
Hunker Creek, which, next to Bonanza and Eldorado, forms the most important creek in the
Klondyke district.
We soon entered the valley of Hunker Creek,
and finding shelter here from the cold breeze on
the Klondyke, we stopped to give the dogs a rest provided; but it was preferable to bring one's
own, as road-house blankets were not often
washed, and had probably been slept in by dozens
of people, who in the Yukon are not remarkable
for cleanliness.
The heat inside was usually oppressive, and
the room had no proper ventilation ; and as fifteen
THE WINTER OF  1898 95
and started a camp fire for lunch. Travelling in
that cold crisp atmosphere develops a marvellous
appetite, and by the time the moose steaks were
cooked and the tea water boiling we were both
simply ravenous. After lunch and a short smoke
we continued our journey up the creek, the trail
winding along the valley, sometimes traversing
the frozen bed of the creek and sometimes cut .
out amongst the adjoining bushes and spruce
trees. Eventually we arrived at a road-house or
wayside inn, and as daylight only lasts for a
short interval during the winter months and
we had been travelling through the darkness for
the last two hours, we decided to put up here
for the night.
These road-houses, where travellers can be
provided with meals or pass the night, are established at various points along the different trails.
In 1898 they were of a most primitive description, consisting of rough log cabins with wooden
sleeping bunks ranged round the walls, one above
the other in tiers, like third-class berths on board
ship; while in the centre was the stove, with
perhaps a wooden bench on each side of it.
Blankets were occasionally, though not always,
or twenty people, who seldom, if ever, indulged
in a bath, might be congregated round the stove
or reclining in their bunks, smoking pipes and
chewing tobacco, the atmosphere can be more
easily imagined than described. When travelling
during the winter we found lodging in road-houses
preferable to camping out of doors; but as they
were almost invariably infested with lice, they
did not form pleasant habitations.
The next morning after breakfast we hitched
up the dogs, and after paying our bill, which
amounted to $i (or 4s.) apiece for our bunks,
besides another $4 (or 16s.) each for a very
primitive supper and breakfast, we resumed
our journey up the creek. The valley had
now become quite narrow, the mountain sides
rising steep up from the creek valley. The
upper slopes were still thickly wooded with
spruces, intermingled with birch and poplar;
but the lower slopes and the creek valley were
almost bare, the trees having been principally
used up in the mines. In some places long
slides had been constructed up the mountain
side, and logs would be tumbled down the steep
and slippery decline into the valley below, where
the mines were situated.
Some rich discoveries had been made on this
part of the creek, so it was thickly studded with
miners' cabins, and claims were being worked at
high pressure. Below in the drift men were
excavating the gravel and wheeling it to the
shaft.    Others were standing at the mouths of "\
THE WINTER OF  1898 97
the shafts hauling up the loaded buckets with a
windlass, and depositing the gravel in a huge
mound on the ground adjoining. In the spring,
when the creek is clear of ice, this mound of gold-
bearing gravel, called the dump, is put through
a process of washing and the gold extracted.
The men continued their labours unceasingly
through severe snaps, standing stolidly by the
shaft for hours in temperatures of 50 and
6o° below zero, a great part of the time in
darkness except for the light of a small lamp.
They certainly deserved success for their perseverance. The arrival of spring, when the dumps
were washed and the gold extracted, was an exciting period for the miners, who were eager to
ascertain the results of their labours during the
long trying winter. The gold was by no means
uniformly disseminated through the gravel, so
that the amount contained in the dumps formed to
a large extent a matter of speculation. When
the dumps were eventually washed disappointments were frequent, and the gold extracted
proved often insufficient to recoup the mining
This method of mining necessitated handling
the gravel twicexiver, which considerably increased
the expense ; and in more recent years the mining
has been conducted principally during the summer,
when the gravel can be excavated and washed at
the same time. Some of the creeks become so
low in the summer that they hardly contain
enough water for mining purposes, and during mm
exceptionally dry summers the mines have been
considerably hampered, while in many instances
they have been obliged to stop working owing to
lack of water.
Several years ago, during one of those dry
summers, when the miners were unable to wash
their gravel and were all grumbling at the scarcity
of rain, an enterprising Yankee arrived in Dawson
and volunteered, in return for a considerable
sum, to produce rain by a chemical process.
The municipal government gave him $2000
or .£400, to perform the operation; upon
which he fired off some squibs into a cloudless sky, which, needless to remark, remained
equally cloudless, the squibs producing no
effect whatever. He then decamped with the
$2000, no doubt remarkably pleased at having
obtained such a large sum so extremely
easily. The confidence trick, of course, assumes
various forms; but it appears surprising that
a municipal government should have allowed
themselves to be inveigled by such transparent
Our dogs trotted gaily along the trail as it
twisted about among the dumps and the shafts,
some of which were belching forth great volumes
of smoke from the fires blazing within, thawing
out the frozen gravel. About noon we arrived at
Hunker's claim, where we stopped for lunch.
Hunker was the first discoverer of gold in the
creek, from whom it derives its name. He was
a typical example of a rough old miner, and was ^
THE  WINTER OF  1898 99
working a claim on Forty Mile Creek when the
stampede to Bonanza first occurred. As, however, he was too late to stake a claim on
Bonanza and Eldorado in a favourable position,
he travelled up the Klondyke until he struck the
mouth of Hunker, and staked a claim near the
head of the creek. He eventually sold his claim
for about $150,000, so he did not fare badly
for an old miner, who, before his arrival at the
Klondyke, was worth practically nothing.
A man named M'Donald, who gained the title
of the " King of the Klondyke," was at that period
by far the largest owner of mining properties in
the district. He was fortunate enough to acquire
an interest in a valuable claim on Eldorado when
Bonanza and Eldorado Creeks were first staked.
This was afterwards sold for, a large sum in
London during the boom, and formed into a
company, but as the principal proportion of the
gold had already been extracted by the original
owners, the investment did not prove remunerative for the shareholders in London.
M'Donald invested the proceeds of the sale
by purchasing a large number of mining claims
on different creeks in the vicinity, and as they
were all practically unprospected, and therefore sheer speculations, he was able to acquire
them for a comparatively low figure. At that
time he professed to be worth $20,000,000,
or £"4,000,000, and although this amount was
no doubt greatly exaggerated, he must have
possessed an enormous fortune, considering that
J 1
he was an ordinary labouring man who, before
his arrival in Dawson, was worth practically
nothing. Instead of being satisfied with his
good luck he attempted to increase his fortune
by speculation, but being totally uneducated and
unaccustomed to business he became entangled
in all sorts of wild-cat schemes, and when he
died, about eight years later, the King of the
Klondyke's fortune had practically disappeared,
and his assets barely covered his liabilities.
After lunch we continued our journey up the
creek until we arrived at a steep pass which
divides Hunker from Dominion Creek. The
ascent was almost precipitous for about iooo
feet, but an enterprising person had arranged a
windlass and a long rope at the top, operated
by a small boiler and engine, and on payment of a dollar and a half our sleigh was
hauled up to the summit, while we clambered
up the steep mountain side to the best of our
The scenery obtained from these mountain
summits in the Yukon is always entrancing. The
Rocky Mountains can be plainly discerned in the
far distance, with bare rugged peaks towering
towards the sky, while the nearer view comprises
endless mountain ranges densely wooded with
snow-clad spruces, and interspersed with valleys
and their frozen creeks. On looking back we
could trace Hunker Creek twisting and turning
till it joined the valley of the Klondyke, and the
snow-covered  cabins  looking  like   toys  in  the THE  WINTER OF  1898 101
distance, with miniature men and dog teams
travelling to and fro along the trail.
After crossing the divide the valley of
Dominion Creek spread out below us with its
frozen stream twisting about, until we could just
discern in the distance where it eventually flowed
into the Indian River, a tributary of the Yukon.
The trail leading down to the creek was decidedly
steep, but not so precipitous as the ascent from
Hunker Creek to the summit, so we fastened a
dog chain round one of the runners of the sleigh,
which acted as a drag, and by that means were
able to make the descent without difficulty.
Dominion forms a large creek with some good
claims in the upper part, but does not possess
such a high reputation as Hunker Creek, nor
one, of course, approaching to that of Bonanza
and Eldorado. Darkness had now come on,
so after travelling down the creek for a short
distance we came across a road-house where
we decided to spend the night. An influx of
travellers, lately arrived from Dawson, completely
filled the road-house, and as bunks were unobtainable, we spread our sleeping-robes in a
spare corner on the floor. The heat inside was
as usual oppressive, while a large number of
men were smoking and chewing bad tobacco and
spitting on the floor, which made the atmosphere
anything but agreeable.
The next morning we continued our journey
to the lower part of Dominion Creek. The
claims here are nothing like so rich as in the
upper part, and comparatively little mining was
in progress. Although no road-house had been
established down here, towards evening we discovered a cabin with a light burning inside,
where we obtained permission to pass the night.
The owner was very cordial, and as at that time
there was very little travel down Lower Dominion,
he appeared quite glad to receive visitors and
learn the news from Dawson.
His log cabin was a tiny little dingy hovel,
with a piece of linen soaked in candle grease
fixed into the wall in place of window panes.
We had brought provisions with us in case of
necessity, but he insisted on opening a can of
preserved tomatoes in our honour. He had previously staked a claim in the vicinity, and the
next morning he brought up from the bottom of
his shaft some gravel frozen in hard lumps, and
these he placed in a gold pan on the stove to
thaw out.
A gold pan consists of an iron dish which will
contain about a shovelful of gravel, and this is
washed in a stream or large bucket filled with
water. During the operation the pan is constantly
shaken, so that the particles of gold, owing to
their heavy specific gravity, fall to the bottom of
the pan, while the gravel and stones are washed
away with the water. Gold-panning requires considerable practice before proficiency is attained,
and if skilfully performed the smallest particles
of gold will all be separated from the gravel, and
remain in the pan when all the gravel has been ;
THE WINTER  OF   1898 103
washed away. When the gravel on the stove
was thawed out, our host, with the aid of a
candle, proceeded to wash it in a bucket filled
with melted snow. A few particles of fine gold
were ultimately recovered in the pan, but the
amount was not sufficient to be very proud
After hitching up the dogs, we proceeded down
the creek till we joined the trail turning into
Gold Run Creek, which flows into Dominion. A
quartz ledge had been discovered on this creek
which created quite an excitement in Dawson, so
that a company was promptly floated. I myself
amongst others was persuaded to buy shares in
the enterprise, which turned out a complete
The trail proceeded up Gold Run Creek for a
short distance, and then branched on to the side
hill and followed a zigzag course, until it reached
the summit. Here we made a camp fire for
lunch, and then followed along the trail until we
eventually arrived at a road-house. We were
now off the line of the most frequented trails, so
that the arrival of travellers was a comparatively
rare event.
The man in charge of the road-house when
we arrived was lying on a bunk perfectly drunk,
while the place was swarming with lice, and had
no pretensions to cleanliness. However, when
living continually in the Yukon, one gradually
develops a habit of "pigging it," because most
of one's associates have never done anything else, (i
and one naturally becomes habituated to one's
surroundings. The next morning we harnessed
up the dogs and proceeded on our journey, till
we eventually struck the main trail leading down
to the head of Bonanza Creek.
The descent was fairly steep, so my companion
lay down on the sleigh with his feet pressed
against the snow on each side, acting as a drag,
while I further assisted in checking the sleigh by
holding on to a rope trailing behind. By this
means we slid rapidly along with the dogs galloping down the steep incline, until, on turning a
corner, we suddenly encountered a glacier of clear
ice extending across the trail. There was no time
to stop, the sleigh promptly shot forward over
the clear ice, landing right amongst the dogs,
which were rolled over and dragged along, becoming tangled up in their harness in hopeless
confusion, until eventually we all landed in a confused heap in the deep snow at the side of the
After regaining our composure we soon
scrambled to our feet and shook the snow off
our garments, and when we had disentangled
the dogs and extricated the sleigh, which was
completely buried in the deep snow, we proceeded
to drag it back on to the trail. We then fastened
a dog-chain round one of the runners as a further
precaution, and proceeded without mishap down
the trail to Bonanza Creek. On arriving at the
forks of Bonanza and Eldorado we hunted up
my   former   friend,  whom   I   had   visited   the THE WINTER OF  1898 105
previous summer. He was busily engaged on
his claim, scooping in gold by the ounces, and
paying frequent visits to Dawson, where his gold
dust was rapidly dissipated in the drinking saloons
and dance-halls.
We lunched at his cabin, and after a chat and
a smoke proceeded down to the foot of Bonanza.
As we slid smoothly and rapidly along the trail,
with the dogs increasing their pace as we were
nearing home, I thought of the vast contrast between travelling at this period of the year and
travelling during the summer time. Now we were
gliding swiftly along over a snow trail hard and
slippery from constant use, while the preceding
summer I was struggling hot and weary up
Bonanza, through the mire and the niggerheads,
amidst the continual buzzing of mosquitoes. On
reaching the mouth of Bonanza we joined the
trail on the Klondyke, and after gliding down the
frozen river for a couple of miles the dogs quickly
dragged the sleigh up the steep bank of the river
and through the streets of Dawson until we arrived
at our cabin.
During the winter we made several excursions,
either alone or together, to the different creeks,
A moment would, if possible, be chosen when
the weather was moderate, but cold snaps occur
very suddenly, so that we would occasionally be
caught by one, and travelling in severe weather
is not an enjoyable occupation.
On one occasion during the following winter
I experienced quite a ducking, although attended
with no serious results. I was then travelling
by myself to visit an acquaintance, who was
mining on Forty Mile Creek, about 80 miles
from Dawson. This was towards the spring, .
when the sun's warmth begins to exert an appreciable effect, and travelling with a dog team is
delightful. The mouth of Forty Mile Creek,
about 60 miles below Dawson, was formerly an
important town, as it formed the base of distribution for the mines in the district. The Klondyke boom had, however, denuded the creek of
a large proportion of its inhabitants, and on the
occasion of my visit the town was undergoing a
general slump, and deserted cabins were dotted
about in all directions.
After proceeding up the creek for a few miles, a
cabin appeared with a tall flagstaff in front flying
the Stars and Stripes, while an official in uniform,
who was standing by, informed me that I was
now entering the American territory of Alaska,
so that it was necessary to examine my baggage.
However, my small outfit did not require examination, and the official, after inquiring about
the news from Dawson and recounting all the
gossip on Forty Mile Creek, allowed me to proceed on my journey.
Occasionally through an opening in the mountains I obtained a glimpse of the dog-suns; a
feature of the North, which is not so often observed as the Northern Lights, though I have
occasionally seen them towards the spring when
the sun is well above the horizon.    They consist. 1
1 THE  WINTER OF  1898 107
of four sham suns, one above and one below the
real sun, and one on each side, the five suns forming a cross. Two of the sham suns are usually
very distinct and two rather indistinct. The
phenomenon is rather striking to watch, and I
have not heard any explanation of it.
One afternoon, while progressing up the creek,
I came upon a weak spot in the ice, probably
owing to the presence of a warm spring. The
dogs and the sleigh had passed over safely, but
I happened to be running just behind the sleigh
when suddenly both my feet broke through the
ice into the river. Fortunately a rope was always
trailing behind the sleigh, which I held on to
when descending steep grades, so as to prevent
the sleigh from running on to the dogs. On this
occasion the rope came in extremely handy, as I
quickly threw myself forward on my .chest and
clutched tight hold of the rope, at the same
time yelling to the dogs to " mush." The dogs
promptly exerted an extra strain, and pulled me
out of the hole and along the trail until the firm
ice recommenced. The trails on the creeks often
have to be changed, especially towards the spring,
so as to avoid treacherous places which occasionally appear.
I was, of course, soaked nearly up to the waist,
but the weather was not then very cold, about
200 below zero, so I promptly proceeded to the
bank and lighted a camp fire while I changed my
wet things. I had brought some extra socks and
moccasins, but possessed no other trousers, so after io8    REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
tying my wet clothes on the sleigh, I lay down
on it wrapped up in my sleeping robe, until I
arrived at the cabin.
On reaching my destination, I found my acquaintance hobbling about on a crutch in a very
bad humour, as he had frozen one of his feet
badly about three weeks previously. He had
broken through a weak spot on the ice, and
having omitted to bring any matches was unable
to light a camp fire, so that his foot had become
badly frozen before his arrival at his cabin. The
frozen flesh had partly sloughed away, and as he
anticipated not being able to work for another
six weeks, his mining prospects had been considerably damaged.
On my return journey, I travelled down to the
mouth of Forty Mile Creek, where I joined the
trail up the Yukon on my way to Dawson.
When about 12 miles from Dawson, I stopped
at a road-house for some lunch, leaving the dogs
to wait for me outside. Dogs do not require,
like horses, to be tied up when left alone, but
will lie down in the snow and wait patiently
until their master is ready to proceed. At the
same time, when headed towards home, they will
occasionally become impatient and suddenly start
off, which may prove extremely inconvenient.
On this occasion, having completed my lunch and
a smoke, I emerged from the road-house to con-,
tinue my journey, but discovered that the dogs
had already started for home, and could just be
discerned  trotting gaily along the trail in the
! THE WINTER OF  1898 109
distance, and I never saw them again until my
arrival at the cabin in Dawson.
A town like Dawson, constructed entirely ot
wood, was particularly susceptible to fires, and
during its early years a winter seldom passed
without the town being devastated by fire, and
a large portion of it destroyed. Fires usually
occurred in the winter months, when so many
oil lamps were employed during the long winter
evenings, and stoves were kept continually burning to counteract the cold outside. In the large
stores and saloons the stoves were never extinguished day or night, so that the interior
fittings became so dried up and inflammable from
the constant heat, that when once alight they
burned like tinder.
During the summer of 1899 a fire-engine was
imported into Dawson at a large expense, while
a special staff of firemen were engaged, so as to
be ready in case of emergency. The first fire-
engine in Dawson received quite an ovation on
its arrival, as it was now anticipated that the fires
. in future would be attended with less disastrous
results. When the Yukon was frozen over, the
engine was placed under shelter on the ice, while
a large hole was continually kept open, so that
water, when required, could be obtained without
The firemen's services were soon put to the
test. One cold winter night, at about ten o'clock,
a cry of "fire" was raised, and flames were seen
to shoot up from a building about the centre of no    REMINISCENCES OF THE  YUKON
the main street, in the busiest part of the town.
The street was quickly crowded with people
muffled up in their winter garments and fur caps,
who came scrambling out of the drinking saloons,
gambling places, and dance-halls, some sober,
others more or less intoxicated. They were
thoroughly well aware of the inflammable nature
of the buildings and how rapidly a fire would
spread, and not knowing where it had originated
or how soon it might envelop them, all were bent
on escaping from the buildings as rapidly as possible. Those possessing cabins in the vicinity
immediately rushed off in the hope of saving
their effects before it was too late, while others
lent willing hands in removing articles from the
buildings adjacent to the fire.
Anxious eyes were now directed towards the
fire-engine which had been brought into Dawson
at so much expense and received with so much
applause, but, although every moment was so
important, the expected stream of water failed to
appear. No one could imagine the cause of the
delay, until it eventually transpired that the firemen, who had been detailed to be ready for any
emergency, had recently gone " on strike " owing
to arrears of wages, so that by the time negotiations with them had been hurriedly completed,
the houses were in full blaze and the fire had
already gained considerable ascendency. However, no time was now lost in getting to work,
several hundred feet of hose being quickly dragged
by numbers of willing hands along the street, "^
THE WINTER OF  1898 111
and when the steam was applied, those in the
vicinity eagerly watched the hose expanding
under the pressure of the water.
The nozzle was directed towards the flames,
but, instead of a strong stream issuing from it,
the steam applied had been insufficient for the
purpose, so that only a feeble splutter appeared,
which in a few minutes ceased altogether. As the
temperature was about 400 below zero Fahr., the
water in the hose, when its force had slackened,
quickly froze solid, so that before sufficient steam
could be obtained, the interior of the hose became
a mass of solid ice from end to end. The expanding force of the ice soon broke through the
hose, and great rents suddenly burst forth with a
loud crackling noise in all directions.
Now that the fire-brigade was hors de combat,
the flames simply swept from house to house,
until eventually the whole of that portion of the
town became a huge blazing mass. It was certainly a magnificent spectacle, the flames roaring
and blazing and crackling amongst a pile of dry
wooden tenements that burnt like matchwood.
Men were working like bees in the bitter cold,
rushing in and out of the houses which the flames
had not yet reached, and conveying what they
had time to save to a place of safety. The heat
from the fire, coming into contact with the cold
atmosphere, had shrouded the street and vicinity
in a dense mist, imparting a weird and ghostly
aspect to the flames and surrounding objects.
The  Bank   of   British   North America was
situated not very far distant, and as the fire
rapidly approached it the officials became more
and more alarmed, while the manager was offering $1000 to any one who would save the building.
The progress of the fire continued unchecked, so
the bank was soon afterwards enveloped in flames,
and being, like the rest of the town, constructed
of wood, it was completely consumed. The safe,
containing a large amount of gold dust, had burst
open from the heat expanding within, scattering
the gold dust far and wide. Later on, when the
fire had died down, a police guard was placed
over the premises of the late bank, and for the
next few days an interested crowd of spectators
resorted to the spot, and watched the bank
officials scraping the ashes, gravel, and cinders
together, and collecting the debris, so that it
might be washed with water and the gold dust
Of course, a number of cabins situated in more
remote places had escaped the flames; but a
large area in the central and busiest part of the
town had been reduced to ashes. A vast amount
of stores had also been burnt up with the blazing
houses, the total loss being estimated at over
,£500,000. The next morning the fire, owing to
lack of further material to feed upon, had died
away, except for smouldering logs scattered
about; and the large area of blackened logs and
smoking embers presented a striking contrastto the
collection of saloons, trading stores, and restaurants
which had occupied the spot a day before. THE WINTER OF  1898 113
The river bank was littered with bedding,
clothes, provisions, and articles of every description, which the owners had been able co save
before the fire had reached them. Muffled up
people were busily employed in searching about
for fresh premises, while others were hastily
loading horse-sleighs and dog-sleighs with their
belongings and transporting them to their new
abodes, or to warehouses where they could be
temporarily stored. The saw-mill was fortunately
not involved in the disaster, and although the
price of boards promptly rose enormously, the
task of rebuilding the burnt-out area was immediately commenced. Wooden houses do not
require long to construct, while the town was
composed almost entirely of active and able-
bodied men ; so that the charred logs and debris
were rapidly removed, fresh premises erected,
and within a surprisingly short period the town
had resumed its normal appearance, and one
could hardly have realised that a fire so disastrous
had occurred so recently.
During the earlier years of Dawson a conflagration consuming a portion of the town took
place almost every winter; but latterly the fire
brigade was placed on a more satisfactory basis,
while the firemen received their wages regularly, so
that the danger of a strike at critical moments was
eliminated. A number of the wooden structures
were also in later years replaced by galvanised iron
buildings, and consequently the danger to property
arising from fires became greatly minimised. ii4    REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
The winter in the Yukon possesses one great
advantage, as certain provisions can then be kept
indefinitely in a frozen state without spoiling,
which proves often of great convenience. In a
temperature far below zero there is no difficulty
in freezing articles, and anything kept in a shed
where there is no fire will freeze solid in a very
short time. A supply of meat or fish can be laid
in and kept in a frozen state during the winter,
and thawed out for consumption as required.
Bread will also keep indefinitely in a frozen
state, and when thawed out will be perfectly
fresh. Most of the berries lose their flavour
after being frozen; but cranberries can be kept
frozen solid for months, and when thawed out
will still retain their original flavour.
Hunters, during the winter, worked their way
far up towards the source of the Klondyke, and
returned with their sleighs laden with moose and
cariboo. The butchers' shops in Dawson displayed frozen carcases of beef, cariboo, moose,
and occasionally mountain sheep ; besides frozen
grayling and trout procured from the lakes. In
1898 all meat was retailed at 50 cents, or 2s. a
About the middle of April the sun rises high
above the horizon, and its warm rays are highly
appreciated after the long cold winter. The
snow then begins to melt, and people can be seen
on the tops of their cabins busily employed in
shovelling the snow off the mud roofs so as to
prevent the melted snow from penetrating the THE WINTER OF  1898 115
interior. The spring forms a most unpleasant
time for travelling, as the melting snow transforms
the country into a marsh, while the streets in
Dawson become a mass of deep and sticky mud.
During the third week in May the ice in the
river began to move, at first very slowly; but
presently the ice broke up into huge blocks,
which turned over and over and crashed and
ground against each other as they swept rapidly
past the town in the swirl of the current. About
a week later a long shrill whistle echoed through
the town, and the excited inhabitants promptly
came pouring out of the saloons and the cabins
and hurriedly lined the bank of the river.
For the last seven months the inhabitants of
Dawson had been practically shut out, like a
beleaguered garrison, from the outside world;
while the mails had been conveyed to the coast
over the 600 miles of ice and snow at long and
uncertain intervals by dog teams. Consequently,
after the lengthy period of isolation in a semi-
barbarous locality the sight of a steamer appeared
as an emblem of civilisation. Many were waiting
eagerly for the opportunity of rejoining their
families on the outside, while all were anxious
to hear the latest news and enjoy the novelty of
examining fresh faces. The appearance of the
first steamer during the season, therefore, occasioned quite a respectable amount of enthusiasm,
and as it swept rapidly down the current towards
Dawson loud cheers were raised by the inhabitants along the river bank to welcome its arrival. 1
Among the crowds who arrived at Dawson in
1898, only a very small proportion were able to
secure claims which appeared from their positions
likely to become valuable, as the ground in the
vicinity of Bonanza, Eldorado, and neighbouring
creeks had already been taken up. A certain
number of the inhabitants had migrated to
Dawson for the purpose of establishing stores
or engaging in trade; but these constituted only
a small minority. By far the greater proportion
of the population had become fascinated with the
glamour of digging up gold, and had started for
the Klondyke purely for that purpose, so that
having now reached their destination, after considerable trials and expense, their main ambition
was to acquire a claim and become the owners
of gold-mines. People were loitering about, constantly on the qui vive, in the hope of obtaining
information of some fresh locality where gold
had been discovered; and whenever a report
was circulated of a new gold strike in some
remote spot, a fever of excitement would ensue,
and a rush or stampede would promptly occur
to the vicinity, which might be situated 100 miles
or more from Dawson. STAMPEDES 117
Stampeding is not a particularly enjoyable
occupation; and as the number of people engaged
were usually far in excess of the claims available,
the stampede would devolve into a race, each
striving to be amongst the foremost to secure a
claim in the most favourable locality. Supplies
for double the distance would generally have to
be transported, as provisions would probably be
unobtainable before returning to Dawson. A
few people might be able to employ pack-horses
during the summer, but the majority would have
to convey the supplies on their backs. Only the
barest necessities could by this means be taken,
as the loads must necessarily be reduced to the
smallest possible dimensions; and engaging in a
race under such conditions, packing supplies day
after day, up hill and down dale, through thick
brush or marshy ground, clambering over fallen
timber, and tormented all the time by swarms
of mosquitoes, involves a considerable amount of
endurance and determination. During the winter
the circumstances would, of course, be different.
Blankets or a fur robe would be necessary, and
supplies would probably be conveyed by means of
dog teams ; but freshly broken winter trails are not
often easy to travel over, while the temperature
may be 500 or more below zero.
During the first two or three years of Dawson's
existence any report, however vague or unreliable, would be sufficient to start a crowd of people
rushing off to the locality, so that stampedes were
constantly occurring, of which only a very small n8    REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
proportion proved ultimately of any value. By
far the majority of stampedes resulted in a row
of claims being staked which would turn out to
be utterly useless, and were, consequently, soon
abandoned. In the earlier years, when supplies
were so expensive, only very rich ground would
prove remunerative, and therefore numbers of
claims were staked and abandoned, which in later
years, when mining operations became cheaper,
were re-staked by other people and worked at
a profit.
Many of these stampedes were arrant swindles,
some of them being termed road-house stampedes
and steamboat stampedes. In the former instance, a road-house keeper situated in some
remote locality, perhaps several days' journey
from Dawson, on finding trade rather dull, would
bribe somebody in Dawson to circulate a report
that a rich gold strike had been recently discovered in the vicinity of his road-house. This
report would be invented and circulated during
the cold winter months, while the road-house
keeper would be careful to procure an extra stock
of supplies, so as to be ready for the excited
crowd which he knew would shortly arrive.
In a temperature of 40° or more below zero,
people prefer passing the night in a warm cabin
to camping outside in the cold, especially as
on their arrival they are probably hungry and
exhausted; so the road-house keeper would
provide very indifferent meals for 6s. or 8s.
apiece, and wooden bunks placed one above the STAMPEDES 119
other in tiers for another 4s., and when the
bunks were all occupied he would allow people
to sleep on the floor, without providing any
mattress, for another 2s. A row of claims might
be staked which would naturally turn out to
be perfectly useless, and although the labour,
privations, and expense incurred by a number of
people had been absolutely wasted, the road-
house keeper would have the satisfaction of
deriving a handsome profit from the transaction.
Steamboat stampedes, which occur during the
summer, are started on much the same principle.
The mines are worked principally during the
summer months, so that a large number of people
leave Dawson late in the autumn, and spend the
winter at their homes on the outside, returning
to Dawson in the spring when the Yukon is clear
of ice. The middle of the summer, therefore,
constitutes the slack period for passenger traffic
on the Yukon, and by way of compensating for
the deficiency, a report would be spread about
Dawson that a man had just arrived from some
place far away up the Yukon, or probably one
of its tributaries, and had reported a rich discovery of gold. A special steamer would undertake to convey passengers to the locality, and
although the report would probably be a pure
invention, a large crowd of excited people would
promptly engage passages, to the great advantage
of the owner of the steamer.
During the winter of 1898 a celebrated stampede occurred, which originated from the report i2o REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
of a well-known character in Dawson, who indulged in the pseudonym of Nigger Jim, although
he really possessed no nigger blood whatever.
Nigger Jim was an old timer, who had mined
in the Yukon before Dawson ever existed, and
was, consequently, regarded as a great authority
on the subject; so when rumours floated about
that he had secretly departed with a party of
friends for some recently discovered diggings
down the Yukon, people imagined that such an
old miner would never be involved in a wild-
goose chase, and that his source of information
was therefore probably reliable.
Nigger Jim and his party had expected, by
slipping away quietly in the evening, to escape
observation, but his dog team had been detected
gliding silently down the bank on to the Yukon,
and swiftly disappearing in the darkness. In
those days suspicions were easily aroused, and the
fact of well-known miners like Nigger Jim and his
party disappearing so mysteriously was sufficient
evidence for people to conclude that something
exceptionally rich had been discovered.
My cabin partner and myself became aware
of his departure a few hours later, so we loaded
the sleigh with our sleeping robes, some provisions, cooking-pots, and necessary supplies,
and after harnessing up four dogs, started off in
pursuit. The temperature was about 500 below
zero Fahr., but when indulging in a stampede
people are too much excited to wait till moderate weather intervenes, as in  order  to arrive STAMPEDES 121
in time to stake a claim one must start off
promptly, however low may be the temperature.
It was then about nine o'clock in the evening,
but in spite of the darkness the trail could easily
be distinguished in that cold clear atmosphere,
with the stars shining brilliantly and the Northern
Lights flashing. It is never cloudy in the Yukon
when very cold, but only when the temperature
has moderated.
The sleigh was lightly loaded for four dogs, so
they travelled at a good swinging trot, while we
kept ourselves warm by running behind. Occasionally one of us would jump on the moving sleigh
to regain our breath, and lie down on the canvas
sheet which covered the supplies, our hands enveloped in fur mitts clutching tightly at the sides
of the sleigh, while it bumped over the uneven
places and twisted round the sharp curves, as the
trail wound amongst the ice cakes on the frozen
river. The temperature only permitted riding
on the sleigh for short intervals, so when the limbs
commenced to feel numb we would roll off into
the snow on the side of the trail, and a sharp run
to overtake the dogs soon restored the circulation. There was no danger of becoming wet when
rolling in the snow, as in severe weather the snow
is perfectly dry, and shakes off one like dry sand.
The trail constituted the only highway to Forty
Mile Creek, Circle City, and other communities
down the Yukon, so the snow was well beaten
down, and the track, which was in hard condition
through being frequently travelled over, avoided ill
when possible the rougher portions of the river.
As we sped along through the night, voices both
behind and in front could be distinguished in the
darkness urging along their dogs, indicating that
other parties had also joined in the pursuit of
Nigger Jim, in the hopes of acquiring a share in
the new diggings.
Hour after hour we travelled through the night,
our fur caps just above the eyes, with the flaps
drawn over the neck and ears, until eventually
a bend in the river disclosed the glare from numerous camp fires illuminating the sky in front. On
reaching the vicinity, about forty miles from Dawson, we found Nigger Jim and numerous others
encamped among the spruce trees on the river
bank, some comfortably ensconced within their
tents with a warm stove inside, while the majority
who, like ourselves, were unprovided with tents
or stoves, were sitting in the open before their
camp fires.
After selecting our camping ground we cleared
away the snow with our snow-shoes, cut down
some dry trees, and soon had a camp fire blazing.
A green spruce tree was then felled and stripped
of the green brush, which we spread in a thick
layer before the camp-fire, and our sleeping-robes
were then laid on the spruce brush, which forms a
warm protection from the frozen ground. Supper
quickly cooked is essential when travelling, so we
had brought some frozen cooked beans which
were always kept in a shed near the cabin, so as
to be ready for emergencies.    Beans require boil- STAMPEDES 123
ing for about three hours, so during the winter
we were accustomed to boil a large quantity in
the cabin, and when cooked they were spread
outside on a canvas sheet to freeze. They soon
become frozen solid, and can then be carried
about in a sack like marbles, and when placed
in a frying-pan over the fire quickly thaw out
and become warm, so that supper is ready in a
few minutes.
Numbers of dogs were scattered about, but
there was no barking or fighting after their
forty-mile journey, and when their supper was
concluded they buried themselves deep in the
snow, which formed a shield between their
bodies and the freezing atmosphere. Our sleeping-robes of mountain goat were not so warm
as fox or lynx robes, and hardly suitable for
sleeping out of doors in a temperature of 500
. below zero, as the part of the body turned away
from the fire soon became cold, which necessitated continually turning round. However,
numerous other parties were in the same situation, and as it was too cold for much sleep,
the remainder of the night was principally
passed in receiving and returning the visits of
our fellow-travellers. We would sit round the
different camp fires and smoke while we discussed where Nigger Jim was leading us, and
whether after all this bother the new diggings
would be likely to prove of any value. People
under these conditions are generally sociable, and
on approaching a camp fire, although a perfect må
stranger, a cordial invitation would be extended
to join the party, where all sorts of anecdotes
and strange adventures would be related.
Eventually a lighted candle was noticed in
Nigger Jim's tent, so we promptly cooked some
breakfast and loaded up the sleighs, and then sat
patiently round the camp fires and smoked, waiting to follow Nigger Jim as soon as he was ready
to proceed. The weather showed no indications
of moderating, the atmosphere remaining as clear
as ever. The climate in the Yukon sometimes
changes very rapidly, while the appearance of a
small cloud on the horizon provides a sure indication that the weather will shortly moderate.
A small cloud discerned in cold clear weather
will invariably extend; and as it gradually expands over the sky the thermometer will gradually rise, so that a temperature of 500 or 6o°
below zero may change to one of io° or 150 below
zero within a few hours, when it will generally
commence to snow.
Nigger Jim now diverged from the main trail
down the Yukon, and headed for the mouth of
a tributary on the other side of the river, which
necessitated breaking an entirely fresh trail, involving heavier travelling and harder work.
Several of the parties now abandoned the expedition and returned to Dawson, having no relish
for sitting all night before camp fires in a
temperature of 500 below zero, especially as no
one was aware of Nigger Jim's destination, or
for how many days this might continue.    The STAMPEDES 125
remainder proceeded towards the tributary, some
walking in front to break the trail with snow-
shoes, while the remainder with the dog-sleighs
followed in their tracks.
Breaking a fresh trail through deep snow
involves considerable labour, especially for the
man walking in front; so when several are travelling together they relieve each other in turns,
the man in front when fatigued dropping behind
where the trail is already broken, while another
takes his place. To those following behind,
walking entails no difficulty if provided with
snow-shoes, but a freshly broken trail must be
travelled over frequently before the snow becomes sufficiently hard to enable snow-shoes to
be comfortably dispensed with.
After proceeding up the tributary for several
miles, we diverged into the woods and headed
for a mountain some miles distant. Our progress
was now encumbered by thick patches of willows
and alder, so that axes were busily employed
cutting out a passage for the sleighs, though as
we receded farther from the creek the alders
disappeared, and young spruce trees intermingled
with fallen timber predominated. The fallen
timber presented no great obstacle, as the deep
snow enabled the sleighs to be dragged over
without much difficulty; but the young spruces
growing close together in bunches had to be
felled by dozens, the dogs lying patiently in
the snow till the axes had hewn out a track
sufficiently   wide  for   the   sleighs   to   traverse. m
Eventually  we  camped  near   the  foot   of   the
mountains, the  night  being   passed  as  before,
occasionally in drowsing, but principally in smoking and chatting beside the different camp fires.
We were now informed that our destination
was a creek on the farther side of the mountain,
so the next morning the dogs were left tied up
in camp, while we carried with us some lunch,
a tea-kettle and frying-pan, besides an axe and
our snow-shoes. Nigger Jim now entered a
gulch on the side of the mountain, which, although
full of drifted snow, slightly lessened the declivity
of the ascent. We staggered up the gulch,
following each other's tracks, while the drifted
snow formed a steep bank on either side, which in
its dry powdery state kept tumbling back on us
almost as fast as the snow-shoes trampled it
The summit of the mountain was eventually
gained, and consisted of a bare plateau about a
mile and a half wide. Owing to the exposed
position a slight breeze was very perceptible,
which made the crossing rather disagreeable, and
resulted in several faces becoming frost-bitten.
As we trudged across in single file, one hand was
held across the face on the windward side to
protect it from the cold breeze, while occasionally,
when a frost-bite appeared, the affected part
would be rubbed gently with the fur mitt or with
a handful of snow.
On arriving at the other side of the plateau
the valley with its frozen creek spread out like STAMPEDES 127
a panorama below us, and as all were anxious to
escape from the cold breeze which kept freezing
our faces, no time was lost in making the descent
until shelter was attained amongst the spruce
trees below. Nigger Jim and his party proceeded down the creek for about three miles, and
then commenced cutting stakes and marking out
their claims, while the others followed their example, some staking below and others higher up
the creek according to their fancy. When the
staking was completed all were glad to start the
camp fires and warm their limbs, and remove the
thick lumps of ice congealed on the moustaches.
The tea-kettles were quickly filled with snow and
placed over the fires till the snow was melted
and the water boiling, while the frozen beans
were soon thawed out and warmed up in the
frying-pans. After lunch the return to camp
where we had left the dogs was accomplished
without delay, and as the trail had already been
broken our progress was considerably quicker,
while we all hurried across the bare plateau on
the mountain summit, where a slight breeze was
still blowing.
The distance from Dawson was about 60 miles
—rather a long day's journey for the dogs ; however, they had travelled constantly during the
winter, and were therefore in good condition ; so
at about six o'clock the next morning we cooked
breakfast, and after loading up the sleigh started
back for Dawson. Dogs, like Indians, work
better on an empty stomach and are fed only 128    REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
once a day—in the evening when their day's
work is completed. The return journey down
the creek was easily accomplished, as the trail
had already been broken and cut out two days
previously, and eventually we arrived at the main
trail on the Yukon, which was hard and slippery
from constant use, so that snow-shoes could be
dispensed with, and our progress became faster.
The stars gradually faded away as dawn approached, and towards noon a glimpse of the sun
occasionally appeared between an opening in the
mountains, but so low down on the horizon that
its feeble rays presented a sort of ghostly aspect,
and produced no effect on the surrounding
atmosphere. We stopped for half an hour to rest
the dogs, while we lighted a camp-fire on the
river bank and cooked some lunch. We were
also glad to enjoy a smoke, as when travelling
during the winter the moisture in the stem of the
pipe becomes frozen solid, and must be thawed
out in front of a fire before a smoke can be
After a short interval we resumed the journey ;
but the daylight during the winter months lasts
only for a short period, and soon after two o'clock
the stars commenced twinkling and the Northern
Lights flashing. Hour after hour we travelled
along the trail, sometimes running and sometimes
riding on the sleigh, until eventually a bend in
the river disclosed the lights of Dawson. The
dogs promptly raised their heads and quickened
their pace, realising that the end of their journey STAMPEDES 129
was approaching and that supper would soon be
at hand. The trail after a short interval diverged
straight towards the river bank opposite the
town, and the dogs quickly dragged the sleigh
up the steep incline to the top of the bank and
through the main street, amidst the glare from
the drinking-saloons and the dance-halls; and
after traversing some side paths we arrived at
the cabin.
The interior of the cabin, after being for nearly
four days without a fire, was as cold as the outside
atmosphere. Before our departure we had therefore left some dry kindling wood by the stove,
which would enable it to be quickly lighted,
and a small cabin soon warms up again. The
next morning we wandered down to the recording office and paid $15, or £2, apiece for
the privilege of recording our claims. All was,
however, entirely wasted, as when the creek was
eventually prospected, although small quantities
of gold were found scattered through the gravel,
nothing was discovered in paying quantities.
The claims were all ultimately abandoned as
valueless, and consequently the Nigger Jim
stampede resulted, like many others, in a complete fiasco. CHAPTER VI
When the rich discoveries on Bonanza and
Eldorado Creeks were first reported, the claims
in the creek valleys were rapidly taken up in the
wild stampede that resulted, but the mountains
adjoining were at first completely ignored. Later
on, when people turned their attention to the hillsides sloping down to the creek valleys, old river
channels were discovered imbedded in the mountains, containing pay-streaks which in some places
proved extraordinarily rich, and a large number of
fresh claims, called hillside claims, were consequently taken up. These hillside pay-streaks,
high up in the mountains, were the beds of
primeval rivers in bygone geological eras, when
the summits of the present mountains were
valleys, ages before the country had been worn
down by denudation to its present level.
An acquaintance of mine, named Senator
Lynch, purchased a hillside claim in 1899 on a
mountain called Chee-Chako hill, situated near
the junction of Eldorado and Bonanza Creeks.
A long tunnel penetrated from the side of the
mountain into the mine, the gold-bearing gravel
being excavated from the drift and wheeled in THE  MINES 131
small cars to the entrance of the tunnel. The
gravel in some places proved exceedingly rich,
and on examining the drift at the end of the
tunnel with a candle, gold nuggets could be
often observed lying near the bed-rock, partly
imbedded in the frozen gravel.
The claim was situated about 400 feet from the
creek below, and as the side of the mountain was
extremely steep, clambering up involved quite a
hard climb. On one occasion during the winter
I paid Senator Lynch a visit at his mine, where I
stopped for dinner, and after spending a convivial
evening started at about 11 p.m. down the mountain side for home. The hard snow trail was
smooth and slippery, which necessitated extreme
caution while descending the steep decline, and
in places that were almost precipitous the snow
steps that had been cut out had become partly
worn away by frequent use.
The descent was not an easy undertaking at
the best of times, but on the present occasion the
intense darkness added to the difficulty, while the
convivial evening had not assisted in steadying
my nerves. After groping my way down for a
short distance, I sat on a snow step and contemplated the situation. Far below me the
howling of a melancholy dog echoed through the
darkness, while above could be seen the lighted
window of the cabin I had just vacated. I felt
too ashamed to struggle back to the cabin and be
ridiculed for being afraid, but my nerves were
becoming decidedly shaky, while I was wondering 132    REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
how long it would take me to arrive at the creek
valley below.
A few minutes later the difficulty was solved
in an unexpected and very simple manner, and
instead of the descent occupying a considerable
time, it only took a few seconds. I had continued my journey down the steep decline, keeping myself in a sitting posture on the smooth
trail, and feeling my way down cautiously in the
darkness with my feet, when I suddenly slipped
upon one of those snow steps, which had been
almost worn away, and was as hard and smooth
as ice. The next moment I shot rapidly down
the mountain side, turning over and over in
every imaginable position, until eventually I
arrived in a confused heap at the bottom. Fortunately I landed in a bank of soft snow, which
completely buried me, and, except for a severe
shaking, was none the worse for the adventure.
After regaining my breath, I struggled out of the
deep snow and searched about until I found the
trail, and felt considerably relieved at having
completed the journey so rapidly and with such
extreme ease.
The term § prospector" is applied to a person
who travels to some out-of-the-way creek, and
sinks holes across the valley in the hope of discovering a pay-streak. The old river channel
in which the pay-streak is located will extend
for a considerable distance down the valley,
though it may vary in richness and dimensions.
When  the  discovery of a pay-streak  in  some 1  THE MINES
locality is first reported, a stampede promptly
occurs to the vicinity, as those who are able to
secure a claim near the point of discovery are
aware that the pay-streak is pretty certain to
extend over their particular ground, and that to
find the spot is merely a question of sinking
Only a small proportion of creek valleys contain a pay-streak of any value, so that the man
who first prospects a new locality takes part in a
far greater gamble than subsequent stakers, as
he is totally unaware if a pay-streak even exists.
As a reward for his enterprise, and also to
encourage others to prospect over new localities,
the person who first reports the discovery of gold
in a creek valley is, therefore, entitled to the
"discovery claim," which consists of a far larger
extent of ground than other claims which may
subsequently be staked in the same vicinity. An
individual is only allowed to stake one claim on
a creek, although those possessing capital may
purchase any number of claims from other
A prospector leads by no means an easy
existence, and is entitled to a considerable
amount of admiration for his doggedness and
perseverance. He is generally " broke," which
is the term usually applied to people without
money, so he works for wages until sufficient
money has been saved to buy himself a "grubstake," that is to say, enough provisions, &c, to
enable him to travel to some distant locality and 134 REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
prospect for gold. Occasionally he may be able
to procure a pack-horse, but this is extremely
rare, as horses in the Yukon are expensive.
The prospector will generally place his outfit
in a rowing-boat and proceed up or down the
Yukon, and then work his way up one of its
tributaries until he arrives at the mouth of some
small creek flowing into it. Most of the rich
discoveries have been made on small creeks, such
as Bonanza, Hunker, Quartz Creek, and others
which flow into the affluents of the Yukon.
Sometimes he may be accompanied by a partner,
but usually he will travel by himself and do his
prospecting alone, his principal companions being
On reaching the mouth of the creek he desires to prospect, his boat journey will terminate,
nearly all the small streams in the Yukon being
unnavigable for boats, and the outfit has now to
be transported on his back to his destination. He
accordingly trudges with his pack up the creek
for, perhaps, io or 15 miles, pushing his way
through the thick bush, and clambering over fallen
timber, until he has discovered, according to his
fancy, a favourable location for prospecting. The
boat remains at the mouth of the creek, and
several journeys will be required before his tent,
provisions, blankets, cooking pots, mining tools,
&c, have all been conveyed thence. A rude
windlass will now be erected over the spot where
he imagines it most likely that he will strike the
pay-streak, which is generally pure guess-work; THE MINES 135
also a rough bucket is constructed, and a ladder
for ascending and descending the shaft, while the
rope for hauling up the bucket will have naturally
formed part of his outfit.
The shaft is now commenced, which may be
20, 30, 40 feet deep or more before the bed-rock
is reached, and as every inch must be thawed
out, either by fires or hot rocks, before being
excavated, a considerable amount of time and
labour is necessarily involved. It is very improbable that the first shaft will strike the pay-streak;
and, if not, the prospector will then proceed to
sink others across the valley, the number of shafts
that he is able to sink depending on the extent of
his provisions. The valley may not contain a
pay-streak rich enough to prove of any value,
while, even if one exists, it may be situated
higher up or lower down, and may not extend
to the place where he is prospecting; so, after
his provisions have become exhausted, he will
generally return to Dawson, " broke " as usual,
and feeling that the whole of his labour has been
The genuine prospector has experienced these
conditions so frequently that he is not easily disconcerted, and simply hopes for better luck on a
future occasion. He hunts about for employment, and having earned sufficient wages to buy
another " grub-stake," promptly throws up his job
and starts off on some other prospecting adventure as before. He is thoroughly optimistic, and
is always expecting to "strike it rich" on the 136    REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
next occasion. The wild, independent life, combined with a gambler's excitement, exerts a certain
fascination, and after pursuing this vocation for
a certain period a man becomes too restless to
settle down and work for regular wages, and is
always anxious to resume the wild nomadic life in
the woods where he can search for gold.
Occasionally the prospector may make a fairly
rich discovery and realise a considerable sum by
selling his claim, but he very seldom manages to
retain his money for any length of time. It is
soon dissipated in gambling and drinking, and
after indulging in a short "flutter" he becomes
again "broke" as usual, and returns to the woods
to prospect. I have encountered old men who
have spent their whole lives in this fashion. Some
of them have been great travellers, and are
acquainted with the Mackenzie River, the Great
Slave Lake, and all sorts of practically unexplored
regions in this Northern country. Their stories
are, no doubt, often exaggerated, but they must
have experienced all sorts of strange vicissitudes, and are able to relate many interesting
About fifteen years ago, during my sojourn in
Juneau, a mining town on the Alaskan coast, I
became acquainted with a well-known character
of this description, named Juneau Joe. He was
an old man of over sixty years of age, and
supplied a typical example of those hardy old
prospectors; but, as he resided in a quartz-
mining district, he prospected for quartz forma- THE MINES 137
tions instead of for placer. Occasionally he had
succeeded in making a lucky " strike," but being,
like most of his class, of a generous and improvident nature, the proceeds were soon exhausted
in dissipation, and he would then resume his
wild solitary existence, roaming about among the
mountains prospecting.
Shortly before my arrival in Juneau, he had
succeeded in making a "strike" of an exceptionally rich character, and by selling his claim
had realised quite a large sum, sufficient to have
maintained him in comfort for the remainder of
his existence. His final lucky strike had not,
however, altered his temperament, as he had evidently no intention of making provision for his
old age, and when I was introduced to him in
Juneau he was accompanied by some admiring
and impecunious friends, who were quite ready
to assist him in squandering his money as rapidly
as possible. I was informed that when his claim
was disposed of, and a substantial fortune placed
at his disposal, the old man was quite overcome
with emotion, and sat down on a log complaining
bitterly, that at his advanced age he might not
live long enough to " blow it all in." However,
old Juneau Joe's constitution lasted longer than
he anticipated, and when I last heard of him,
which is many years ago, he had managed to
"blow in" every sixpence; and, being now too
old for further prospecting, he was earning a
scanty existence as night watchman on a wharf
in Juneau.
J ii
When a claim is considered sufficiently rich to
pay a fair profit, a number of men are engaged,
cabins for boarding and lodging them erected, a
boiler and hoisting-gear placed by the shaft,
sluice-boxes for washing the gravel constructed,
and the necessary preliminaries executed for placing the mine in working order. During the night
steam is forced through the "points" into the
gold-bearing gravel at the bottom of the shaft,
and the next morning the portion thawed out is
excavated and conveyed in wheelbarrows to the
entrance of the shaft, where it is hoisted in a
bucket to the surface and washed in the sluice-
boxes. When the pay-streak round the shaft
has been excavated for a considerable distance,
another shaft is sunk, the hoisting-gear and sluice-
boxes are removed to the new locality, and the
process continued as before.
The gold-bearing gravel, after being hoisted
to the surface, is emptied from the bucket into
the "sluice-box," which consists of a long square-
shaped trough with small pieces of wood, called
"riffles," placed about two inches apart transversely across the bottom. The sluice-box is set
at a particular slope or fall, about one in eight,
and a stream of water is conducted from the creek
into the upper end, so that the gravel and stones
are washed right through the box and out at
the lower end by the force of the current. The
particles of gold, owing to their heavy specific
gravity, quickly sink to the bottom and are retained in the sluice-box by the riffles.   Quicksilver  I
is often deposited in the sluice-box between the
riffleB in order to catch the lighter particles of gold,
which otherwise might be washed away with the
Quicksilver and gold possess a chemical
affinity which causes them, when coming in
contact, to form an amalgam. The former, as
everybody knows, if placed in the palm of the
hand will always assume the form of a quivering
globe, but when amalgamated with gold its consistency somewhat resembles the appearance of
putty. The amalgam is deposited into a retort
with a spout at the top, and when heat is applied
the quicksilver, being easily evaporated, escapes
in a gaseous state through the spout, while the
gold is retained within the retort. The spout is
constructed with a curved end, which is placed in
a pail of cold water, so that the quicksilver, when
coming in contact with the cold water, becomes
condensed into its original form, and can then be
replaced in the sluice-box. A certain amount of
care is necessary when opening the retort, while
those watching the process must be careful to
stand on the windward side. Some remnants of
quicksilver gas will probably still be enclosed
within the retort, and if the fumes come in contact with the face, the results may be exceedingly
unpleasant. People, when opening these retorts
or watching the process, have occasionally discovered their teeth getting loose, if precautions
are neglected, owing to their becoming impregnated with the fumes of the quicksilver. I40    REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
Placer gold is always associated with a very
fine species of sand, called black sand, and, as
this contains a heavier specific gravity than ordinary sand or gravel, a certain amount remains
scattered amongst the gold dust after the ordinary gravel has been separated and washed away
with water. As black sand comprises an iron
formation, it can be separated by stirring amongst
the gold dust with a magnet, when the particles
of black sand will adhere to the magnet and can
be drawn away, while the gold dust remains
Robberies would occasionally occur from the
sluice-boxes when laden with gold, so that in the
earlier years it was not uncommon to see a man
guarding the sluice-box with a loaded rifle. A
gold sack was on one occasion stolen from Senator
Lynch's claim on Chee-Chako Hill, containing
several thousand dollars in gold dust. His cook
obtained access to a safe in the cabin, and after
purloining the gold sack, absconded to Dawson,
where he embarked down the Yukon in a rowing-
The American boundary commences about 60
miles below Dawson, so when robberies are committed on the Canadian side of the boundary,
the thieves invariably endeavour to escape into
American territory. Although extradition treaties
were supposed to exist between the two countries,
the Canadian officials always experienced great
difficulty in securing a criminal who had succeeded in crossing the boundary.   The American THE MINES 141
officials in those oudying districts resorted to all
kinds of " graft" and corruption for obtaining
plunder. The thief who escaped into Alaskan
territory would be quickly fleeced of the greater
portion of his ill-gotten gains, but provided that
the amount stolen was sufficient to bribe the
sheriff and other guardians of the law, he would
undergo no danger of being handed over to the
Canadian authorities.
The robbery on Senator Lynch's claim was
not discovered until some hours later, but the
Dawson police were then informed of the matter,
and two of them promptly embarked in a canoe
in pursuit of the culprit. He had, however,
managed to cross the boundary in time to avoid
capture, and the two policemen eventually came
upon him in Circle City, a small mining town on
the Yukon in Alaskan territory.
Circle City, so called because it lies close to
the Arctic circle, formed the rendezvous of the
worst ruffians in the country. Besides being the
refuge for criminals escaping from justice in the
Klondyke, it also provided a congenial home for
many other suspicious characters in the Yukon.
The police authorities in an isolated region like
Dawson possessed a very wide authority, and
could render matters exceedingly uncomfortable for people who came under their suspicion.
Notorious characters of both sexes, whose absence
was considered preferable to their company, were
served with an official notice on blue paper,
called in Dawson a " blue pill."    This gave them 142    REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
warning to leave the country within a few days,
or sometimes within a few hours, and those who
did not comply with the request would soon find
matters exceedingly uncomfortable.
Many of them, therefore, migrated down the
Yukon to Circle City, where they found a lax
community more congenial to their requirements.
The arrival of a robber with a large sack of gold
dust, stolen from the Klondyke mines, was always
considered a justifiable windfall by the inhabitants
of Circle City, so he was sure of a cordial welcome.
Besides the officials, there were other desperate
and notorious characters in the place, both men
and women, and unless he was extremely liberal
with his ill-gotten gains, these would soon begin
to make themselves truculent.
Although the Canadian police were able to
identify the robber and prove his guilt, the
officials in Circle City steadily refused to extradite
him, while the policemen themselves were not
in a very pleasant situation, as the desperadoes
in that lawless place objected to their interference,
and were becoming openly hostile. Fortunately
Senator Lynch, being an American citizen with a
considerable influence in Washington, threatened
to make things unpleasant for the officials in
Circle City. He was, therefore, able to recover
a certain amount of his gold dust, although a
considerable proportion had already disappeared,
but the culprit was allowed his liberty without
any penalty whatever.
Another  mine owner  in  the   Klondyke  was THE  MINES 143
robbed of $40,000, or £"8000 worth of gold dust.
The culprit managed to escape down the Yukon,
and although he was discovered in Circle City,
squandering his stolen gold dust amongst the
gambling saloons and dance-halls in the most
flagrant manner possible, the Canadian police
were unable to secure his extradition, or to
recover any of the gold dust.
The term " tailings " is applied to the waste
gravel which has been washed through the sluice-
boxes and the gold extracted. In the earlier
years of the Klondyke a considerable amount of
the finer particles of gold were lost owing to being
washed with the gravel right through the sluice-
boxes and deposited amongst the tailings. This
was due partly to the sluice-boxes not always
being set at the correct slope, and partly because
quicksilver was so scarce and expensive that it
was seldom employed. Many huge mounds of
tailings which had been abandoned by the
owners as being of no further value really contained a considerable amount of gold which had
escaped the riffles in the sluice-boxes. These
tailings were afterwards taken up by other people,
who derived a handsome profit by shovelling
them into sluice-boxes and re-washing them.
Portions of Bonanza, Eldorado, and other
creeks were so extraordinarily rich that, although
the mines were operated in a most extravagant
fashion, with supplies, wages, and transportation
at exorbitant prices, the claim owners were still
able to derive  an enormous  profit.    In a  few 144 REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
years the very rich portions became worked out,
and the lower grade gravels were then brought
into requisition. However, by that time the
country had become more settled, transportation
was facilitated by the construction of roads and
the White Pass Railway, the price of labour
and supplies was reduced to a more reasonable
figure, and consequently the lower grade gravels
could then be worked at a profit, which a few
years previously would have been regarded as
Mining claims were purchased on the different
creeks by several members of the English community in Dawson, and worked with more or less
indifferent success. I eventually bought a claim
on a tributary of the Indian River called Quartz
Creek, about thirty miles from Dawson. Parts
of it were fairly rich, but the fact of its being a
hillside claim made it difficult to obtain sufficient
water to wash the gravel. A claim was also
being worked on Quartz Creek by some Japanese,
although their mining operations did not prove
very successful. No Chinese were allowed in
the Yukon owing to the antipathy which prevails
against them both in Canada and the United
States; but there was quite a large Japanese
community in Dawson, who employed themselves
principally in restaurants and laundries.
Two English friends of mine were working a
claim on the upper part of Eldorado, and although
that part of the creek was nothing like so rich as
the section near the junction of Eldorado and
j 1
Bonanza, they were fairly successful in their
operations. Their claim was situated very conveniently for my purpose, being about half-way
between Dawson and Quartz Creek ; and as I
often required to make journeys to and fro, it
made a convenient half-way house.
On one occasion, while proceeding to their
cabin on my way to Dawson during the winter, I
was walking down a stream called Calder Creek,
which flows into the upper part of Eldorado
Creek, when one of my feet broke through a weak
spot in the ice and went into the water slightly
above the ankle. A cabin was situated not far
away where some men were mining, so I proceeded there as quickly as possible. The weather
was rather severe, about 400 below zero ; and
my moccasin with three woollen socks inside,
all saturated with water, quickly froze into solid
ice and became like a bar of steel, making it both
difficult and painful to walk. Fortunately the
cabin was not far distant, and on my arrival my
foot was slightly touched with frost-bite, although
not sufficiently to cause serious results.
One of the two Englishmen on Eldorado was
afterwards obliged to abandon mining owing to a
nasty accident. He was engaged in splitting up
some wood with an axe, when a chip of wood
suddenly flew up into his face and damaged one
of his eyes so severely that he was obliged to
have it taken out.
My own attempts at mining were also brought
to a sudden termination owing to a severe acci- w
dent. One evening after dark I was walking
along a trail not far from Dawson, when I suddenly tumbled into a hole that had been recently
dug just on the edge of the trail. The hole was
not very deep, as I only fell about 4 or 5 feet;
but one of my feet happened to strike the edge
of a rock, and I sustained a compound fracture of
the ankle. I managed, however, to scramble out,
and crawled on my hands and knees to a cabin that
fortunately was not very far distant. Some men
who were living there constructed a litter and carried me to the hospital at Dawson ; but it was two
months before my foot was out of splints, and
nine months before I was able to dispense with
crutches. Another man fell into the same hole
about a month later and injured his head rather
severely, so the authorities then considered it
time to place a fence round it.
Unfortunately, my ankle had not been set
properly, which made the foot crooked, so that
when I commenced to put pressure upon it the foot
became gradually more and more out of place.
This necessitated further operations, and I have
never regained the proper use of my foot. During
the next two years I was only able to hobble
about very slightly, and as I was four times under
chloroform for different operations a considerable
portion of my time was spent in the hospital. I
was therefore confined to Dawson during those
two years, and my mining operations came to a
The upper Yukon contains several large tribu- THE  MINES 147
taries besides the Klondyke, while quantities of
small streams, like Bonanza Creek, flow into
them. It is therefore a curious coincidence that
the first creek which was prospected for gold
in that district proved to be far richer than
any creeks which were prospected subsequently.
This circumstance principally accounted for the
great boom in 1898, as people* were fully aware
of the vast area of gold-bearing territory in the
Yukon, and imagined that numbers of other
creeks would also be discovered containing gold
in the same proportion. Rich prospects have
been discovered on Hunker, Dominion, Quartz
Creek, and others; but Bonanza Creek, with its
tributary Eldorado, has probably produced more
gold than all the rest of the creeks combined.
The people who originally staked the rich claims
on Bonanza and Eldorado were principally uneducated labouring men, worth practically nothing,
and it was a curious change for them to become
suddenly possessed of enormous fortunes. However, this sudden acquisition of wealth proved in
many cases of no advantage to the owners, as the
majority knew neither how to retain their money
nor how to spend it judiciously. This led to the
natural result, that in three or four years they
discovered their claims worked out and themselves as poor as before, while their fortunes had
been recklessly squandered among the dance-hall
girls and gambling saloons in Dawson.
In later years the Klondyke region has been
principally operated by large companies.   Bonanza If
and Eldorado, besides other creeks, still contain
a vast amount of low-grade gravel, but these
can only be worked profitably by introducing
extensive machinery and operating on a large
scale, and the days of the individual miner are
practically over.
Quartz-mining only occupies a very insignificant
part in the Yukon, so that very little need be
said upon the subject. According to the general
theory, quartz ledges originated in very ancient
days, when the crust of the earth was commencing
to cool. The process of cooling caused the crust
to contract, and in localities where the shrinking
became too pronounced the crust split open,
forming cracks or dykes. Subterranean springs
of hot water containing silica and gold in solution
were forced up into these crevasses by their own
pressure, like the water in an artesian well. The
crevasses, therefore, became filled with silica and
gold in solution, and in process of time, when the
crust of the earth became sufficiently cool, the
silica hardened into the form of rock and became
a quartz ledge.
Quartz veins can, of course, be discovered all
over the world, but a very small proportion are
gold-bearing, while a still smaller proportion are
sufficiently permanent or contain gold in sufficient
quantities to prove of any value. The gold discovered in placer-mines is supposed to have
originated in pre-existing quartz ledges, which
have been worn away with the ancient hills by
denudation until they finally disappeared.    The THE  MINES 149
gold contained in them was washed by streams
and surface water into the valley below, and the
country has, therefore, become changed from a
quartz-mining to a placer-mining district. Many
of the nuggets collected from the placer-mines
in the Yukon consist of pieces of quartz impregnated with gold, showing that they must
have originated from pre-existing quartz ledges.
In the Klondyke district, gold-bearing quartz
veins were discovered in several places, and
companies and syndicates organised, and for a
short period there was quite a " boom " in Yukon
quartz-mines. Unfortunately the veins, although
occasionally very rich, were not sufficiently permanent to prove of any practical value. After
sinking for a short depth they finally tapered out
and disappeared, without revealing a sufficient
body of ore to recoup the expense of placing
them in working order; so the companies and
syndicates gradually tapered out and disappeared
with them.
Although quartz-mining in the Yukon has
proved at present so disappointing, on the
Alaskan coast, which is not very far distant,
several quartz-mines have been opened up and
worked with great success. Juneau is the
principal quartz-mining centre in Alaska, and
on an island close by is situated the famous
Treadwell Mine, which is considered the largest
quartz-mine in operation.
Next to the Treadwell is situated the Bear's
Nest property, although " Mare's Nest" would s
have been a more appropriate appellation, as
about twenty years ago it formed the scene of a
famous swindle. This, like the Treadwell, contained a huge ledge of quartz, but unfortunately
it happened to be " barren quartz," which is the
term applied to quartz devoid of gold. Some
Juneau celebrities became owners of the ground,
and inveigled a London company into purchasing the property by representing that the ledge
was a continuation of the Treadwell, and would,
therefore, contain the same proportion of gold.
Experts were, accordingly, despatched from
England to examine the property and to procure
specimens of the ore, and on their arrival some
samples of the quartz were blasted out of the
ledge and packed in sacks for transmission to
England. These were placed on the wharf
pending the arrival of a steamer, but through
some extraordinary oversight no precautions were
taken to prevent the sacks being tampered with
during the interval. The result was that during
the night the sacks were pushed off the wharf
into the sea, while some good samples of ore,
obtained from the Treadwell Mine, were packed
into similar sacks and deposited on the wharf in
their place.
On the arrival of the steamer, these sacks
were conveyed on board and transported all the
way to England, under the impression that they
contained ore belonging to the Bear's Nest.
The ore was carefully analysed in London and,
as it consisted of picked samples from the Tread- THE MINES 151
well Mine, the assays proved so satisfactory that
a large company was formed on the strength of
it. The owners of the Bear's Nest were accordingly paid a magnificent price for their worthless
property, while a large sum was also expended
in purchasing extensive machinery and erecting
it in the locality. When this was completed and
the mine put into working order, quartz was
blasted out of the ledge and conveyed to the
mill, but being, as before stated, absolutely
barren, there was no gold to be extracted, and
the operations came to a sudden conclusion.
When I was in Juneau, many years ago, portions of the machinery still remained neglected
on the site, although a certain amount was afterwards purchased by the Treadwell Mine. The
affair was commonly known in Juneau as the
"Famous Bear's Nest Swindle," while the perpetrators were not regarded by the inhabitants
as dishonest rogues, but were greatly admired as
being extremely smart business men.
1 w
I had now been hobbling about a semi-civilised
town like Dawson for two years, and was naturally becoming anxious for a change of residence,
especially as there had been no diversion to
occupy my time, except an occasional operation
on my foot accompanied by a few weeks' residence
in the Dawson hospital. A reading-room with a
very primitive library had been established in the
town, which afforded a certain amount of entertainment, although books, with the exception of
the usual trashy sixpenny novels, were then extremely limited. In later years, Mr. Carnegie
was induced to donate a certain sum towards a
free library in Dawson, which now forms quite
an imposing building with a fairly good supply
of reading matter.
Two French-Canadians resided in a cabin not
far removed from mine, so when my ankle became sufficiently strengthened to enable me to
move about rather better, we formulated plans
for making an expedition up the Pelly River,
which flows into the Yukon about 180 miles
south of Dawson. My two companions could
both talk  English fluently,  and,  in  fact, it is THE  PELLY  RIVER 153
very exceptional to meet a French-Canadian in
Western Canada who is unable to converse in
English. When the plans for the expedition had
been definitely decided upon we purchased about
a year's supplies, together with two sleighs, about
300 traps, some lumber for building a boat, and
five sleigh dogs. Our total outfit amounted to
rather over two tons, and when the numerous
packages had all been collected together and
checked, we embarked on a steamer for the Pelly
The journey up the Yukon occupied about
three days, and we were then landed with our
supplies on the bank of the river at about ten
o'clock at night, in pitch darkness and pouring
rain. The start of our expedition did not appear
very propitious, with the rain pouring down on
our provision sacks and other articles, which were
lying strewn about the river bank. Before starting we had procured some canvas sheets, so after
piling the stuff together we covered it over as
much as possible, and then groped about among
the trees and the bush in the darkness, endeavouring to find some poles for pitching the
tent. Eventually the tent was erected and the
blankets arranged inside, with a tarpaulin spread
out underneath to protect them from the wet
ground, and we were then glad to discard our
drenched clothes and retire into our blankets,
while we smoked and discussed our plans.
The next morning we commenced operations
on the boat, which was completed and caulked T
with oakum in the course of about a week, and
when a layer of pitch had been spread over the
seams, we dragged it on skids to the edge of the
bank and launched it in the river. A couple of
oars and a paddle for steering had been fashioned
out of some dry spruces in the vicinity, and, after
loading up the boat with our two tons of supplies,
we started up the Pelly River.
The river is about 400 miles in length, while
about 80 miles from the mouth a large tributary
called the M'Millan River flows into it, which is
almost as large as the main river. Only a small
amount of mining prevails on the Pelly, and
although in some places fine gold has been extracted from the gravel, nothing has yet been
discovered which approaches in richness the
produce of the creeks flowing into the Klondyke.
However, the Pelly River held a high reputation
as the abode of fur-coated animals, and was
therefore a favourite resort for trappers.
The current in the Pelly and M'Millan rivers
is not regulated with locks, like the Thames, and
is far too swift to row against, so the trappers
transport their boats and supplies up the river
either by poling or towing with a rope where the
bank is not too much encumbered with bushes.
Poling up the Pelly River is somewhat similar to
punting on the Thames, except that the current
is much more rapid, especially towards the upper
end, while riffles large and small have constantly
to be negotiated. A person may imagine himself
an excellent puntsman on the Thames, especially THE PELLY  RIVER 155
in a small light punt with no load inside, except,
perhaps, an acquaintance ensconced amongst some
cushions, but if he was placed on the Pelly River
with perhaps a ton or more of supplies in his
boat, he would find poling a very different proposition. Punts are not considered most suitable
for poling in the Yukon, as they swing round too
easily in a fast current, so the boats generally
employed are termed " double-enders," where the
stern and the bow are both sharp-pointed. Many
trappers employ large Canadian canoes, which
will hold a considerable amount of supplies,
and whose shape renders them suitable for
The autumn was now rather advanced, so we
were happily not bothered with mosquitoes,
while the river at that period of the year is
always low, and the beach therefore unencumbered with bushes and convenient for towing.
My lame foot prevented my being able to walk
very much, so the two men hauled on the tow-
line, while I sat in the boat and steered. Occasionally we encountered riffles, or small rapids
extending partly across the river, and were often
obliged to cross to the other side in order to
avoid them. Rowing a heavily-loaded boat
across a river with a fairly swift current entails
the loss of a considerable amount of ground,
and as this had to be repeated several times a
day, the journey was appreciably lengthened in
consequence. In the evenings when it was
getting dark we moored up to  the  bank, and If
removed from the boat our tent, blankets, and
articles  required   for  the  night,   while  the  remainder of the supplies  remained in the boat,
covered with a canvas sheet in case of rain.
High banks forming steep gravel slides, where
rocks and stones came rolling down into the
river, would sometimes intercept our progress.
We had therefore made three poles out of small
dry spruces, and my two partners would sometimes get into the boat, and we would all work
with the poles until the boat was punted past the
dangerous spots. On one occasion we were all
labouring with our poles, and exerting all our
strength in slowly working up the boat with the
two tons of supplies past a spot where a slide
occurred, and where the current was exceptionally
strong. We had almost reached the end of the
slide, where towing would recommence and our
heavy poling be over for the time being, when
one of the poles suddenly broke with a loud snap
under the heavy strain, and my partner who was
working with it promptly overbalanced himself
and fell overboard into the river. Fortunately he
managed to clutch hold of the side of the boat,
so we went to his assistance and pulled him on
board. In the meantime the bow of the boat
had swung round towards the middle of the river,
and was floating rapidly down the current, so that
by the time we had got out the oars and rowed
back to the bank, we had lost about half a mile of
ground. We then searched about until we found
a small spruce tree suitable for another pole, and THE  PELLY RIVER 157
after whittling it down with a draw-knife to the
required size, recommenced our journey up the
river, and succeeded in poling past the bad place
without further mishap.
Our journey had commenced rather too late
in the season to enable us to proceed very far up
the river, so after travelling for about a week we
decided to stop and establish our winter quarters.
The valley and the adjoining hillside were
densely wooded, so there was ample material for
building a cabin, while in the middle of the river
was a small thickly-wooded island.
The following morning we set to work cutting
down dry trees and hauling them to the site
of the cabin. It was composed of one room,
12 by 14 feet, the crevices between the logs
being "chinked" or filled with moss. We had
brought some panes of glass for forming the
window, while the flooring was composed of
poles roughly squared with an axe. Bunks constructed of dry poles were arranged against the
walls, with some dry grass spread over them to
form a mattress, while the indispensable stove
of course occupied a prominent position. Three
empty boxes were provided in place of chairs,
and when we wished to smoke and be comfortable we reclined upon our bunks. We also built
a shed for keeping tools and articles not required
in the cabin, besides a small house for the dogs.
The cold weather had already commenced,
and soon after the cabin arrangements were completed, films of ice which gradually increased in
size and thickness came floating down the current,
grinding against the shore ice and the frozen
eddies. Our boat had already been hauled out
of the water to prevent it from being damaged
by floating blocks of ice, and was deposited safely
on the top of the bank. The country was by
this time covered with snow, so one morning we
harnessed up the dogs, and after placing our tent,
blankets, and some provisions on the sleighs, we
proceeded up a gully in the mountain side, in
order to mark out a line along which to set the
traps for the ensuing winter. In some places
the country was fairly open, so that the trail did
not require much attention, but in others our
progress was impeded with thick brush and
bunches of young spruce trees, so that our axes
were busily employed in hewing out a trail for
the sleighs to traverse.
In about four days we had cut out a trail as
far as a small lake, about 25 miles from the
cabin. Small heaps of leaves could be noticed
dotted about in different places over the frozen
surface of the lake. These had been collected
and conveyed to the spots by the musk-rats, with
the object of protecting the ice under the leaves
from the cold atmosphere, so that it would not
become too thick and prevent the rats from
gaining access to the water.
Musquash, generally called in Canada musk-
rats, are large water-rats, inhabiting the different
shallow ponds dotted about the Yukon Valley,
but not so numerous in the Yukon as in parts THE  PELLY RIVER 159
of Manitoba and other districts of Canada, where
they are trapped by thousands. The musk is
contained in two bags inside the body, and forms
a peculiar feature in certain different classes of
animals. Besides the musquash there is also the
musk-ox, inhabiting a country called the Barren
Grounds in the north-western part of Canada,
and the musk-deer, which is found among the
Himalaya Mountains.
Over the spots on the ice where the leaves
have been collected the rats construct their
houses, composed of leaves cemented together
with mud, where they reside during the winter
months protected from the cold atmosphere. The
houses, resembling small domes, may each be
occupied by several rats, and are built round the
water-hole, but constructed of slightly larger
dimensions. A platform of ice, which is covered
with leaves, therefore, extends round the hole
and forms a comfortable bed for the rats to lie
upon when not in the water.
Musquash are often trapped during the winter
by breaking into their houses. A small piece is
cut out with a knife from the bottom part of the
house, and the traps are inserted through the
hole and laid on the platform inside. The part
cut out is then replaced in its former position,
the chains of the traps with sticks attached protruding outside the house. During the process
of cutting into the house the rats inside, on
hearing the noise, will escape by jumping into
the water, but when the piece has been replaced i6o    REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
and everything appears quiet, they will return to
their house arid step on the traps inside. Rats,
when trapped, will bite off their feet and escape
unless drowned, but, as a rule, when caught in
a trap a rat will promptly spring into the water,
and the weight of the trap is sufficient to prevent
it rising again to the surface. The sticks attached
to the trap chains will remain outside on the ice,
and enable the trapper to secure the animal.
We built a small cabin near the lake, 6 feet
square inside, so as to provide a warm place for
passing the night when one of us happened to
be travelling round the trap line. These small
wayside cabins are roughly constructed of logs
chinked with moss, and can be built in a day,
an axe being the only tool required for their
construction. We only possessed one stove,
which was required for the main cabin by the
river, and as several stoves are rather cumbrous
to transport and expensive to purchase, we had
brought some extra stove pipe and some empty
five-gallon coal-oil tins, which can be converted
into excellent stoves. A round hole is cut at the
top of the tin near one end, on which is placed
the stove pipe, while the other end is formed
into a door, which can be opened and shut when
replenishing the stove with wood. As wayside
cabins are only used occasionally, these stoves
made of coal-oil tins will last during the winter,
although, being very thin, they soon burn through
if used constantly.
About   12  or   15   miles  is   supposed to   be THE  PELLY RIVER 161
sufficient for a man to travel and attend properly
to the traps during the short winter days, so on
our return journey to the river we built another
wayside cabin about half-way, and placed in it
another coal-oil stove.
During the winter, the trail along the trap line
will be kept more or less hard through being
constantly travelled over, and as animals find it
easier to walk along a hard trail than travelling
over soft snow, on encountering a trap line they
will nearly always walk along it for a certain
distance, and will be sure therefore to pass one
or more of the traps set alongside the trail.
The fur-coated animals in the Yukon comprise
different species of foxes, besides marten, mink,
musquash, ermine, lynx, wolverine, otter, beaver,
wolves, and bear. These animals have been
principally trapped out in the lower regions of
the Pelly River, so the trappers now travel far up
towards the head waters of the Pelly or M'Millan
rivers, where furs can still be obtained in considerable quantities.
The different fur animals possess different
habits, some being much more cunning than
others, and therefore, when trapping them, different methods must be employed according to
the nature of the animal to be trapped. The
traps are similar to ordinary gins, except that the
jaws are provided with plain bars instead of teeth
like gins. They can be purchased at the trading
posts in different sizes, and to each trap a chain
is affixed, so that when setting the trap the chain i62    REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
can be attached to a pole, which is laid on the
snow alongside. An animal when caught may
drag the trap for a few yards, but the pole soon
becomes entangled amongst the bushes, which
prevents the beast from escaping.
When setting traps for marten, mink, or ermine,
sticks are placed upright in the snow, forming a
small house close to the side of the trail, the top
being covered with brush to keep the snow from
the interior. The bait is placed inside the house
at the back, while the trap is set across the doorway, so that a marten, on scenting the bait, is
obliged to enter the house in order to secure it,
and will therefore walk on to the trap placed
across the entrance.
When setting traps, a hollow is first formed in
the snow, and the trap placed within the hollow
and covered with a piece of thin paper, in order
to prevent the snow from clogging it. The paper
is then covered over with a thin layer of snow,
which is made to appear as similar as possible to
the surrounding surface, so that the trap becomes
effectually concealed. The chain and the pole
affixed to the trap are also concealed with snow,
in order not to arouse the suspicions of the animal.
(In the illustration the traps are placed far closer
together than would be the case under natural
Traps for lynx or wolverine are usually set
about a foot from the side of the trail, while the
bait attached to an upright stick is placed behind
it, and although in this case a house is not usually —\  THE PELLY RIVER 163
constructed, the bait is often enclosed on three
sides with brush, in order to guide the animal to
the trap, which is concealed beneath the snow at
the entrance.
A lynx resembles a huge Manx cat, about the
size of a retriever dog, and possesses no tail
except a short stump about 3 inches long. When
caught in a trap it will make a brief struggle for
liberty, but soon loses heart, and will then sit
down quietly and await the arrival of the trapper.
On approaching a lynx caught in the trap, the
animal assumes a crouching position, and presents a beautiful spectacle with its deep growls
and hairs bristling. Care must be taken not to
approach the lynx too closely. A trapper always
carries with him a light axe, so he simply cuts
down a pole about 6 feet long, and as lynx
possess thin skulls, one blow on the head will
stun it and another finish it off.
A trapper of my acquaintance had rather a
narrow escape from a lynx caught in a trap, as
he foolishly attempted to kill the animal with his
axe, instead of taking the trouble to cut a pole of
sufficient length to prevent the lynx from reaching him. The result was that the lynx suddenly
sprang forward and bit him severely on the leg,
a small artery being severed, which bled profusely. Fortunately his sleigh was close by, so
the dogs dragged him to the cabin, but as a lynx
bite is rather poisonous the wound festered, and
it was another three weeks before he recovered,
and, being entirely by himself, without any com- I
panion to attend to him or any means of communication with  the outside world, the results
might have been much more serious.
The wolverine averages about the same size
as a lynx, but is more strongly built, while the
colour of its coat is black with brown splodges.
Wolverines are very strong and fierce, and are
sometimes a cause of considerable annoyance to
the trappers, as when proceeding along a trap
line they will attack and kill a lynx or other
animal, which they may encounter in a trap, and
tear its fur to pieces. Traps for wolverines are
set on the same method as those for lynx, but a
wolverine is a very determined animal, and when
caught in a trap it will not sit down quietly like
a lynx, but struggles desperately to regain its
liberty. The chain must be, therefore, very firmly
attached to the pole, while care must be taken
that the pole is sufficiently thick. The wolverine
will persistently gnaw at the place where the
chain is attached, and if it eventually succeeds
in biting through the pole, it will escape with
the trap on its foot, when the trapper will discover that he has lost the wolverine and his trap
as well.
Foxes are much more cunning and suspicious
than lynx or marten or wolverine, and are
consequently far more difficult to trap. When
trapping foxes, a dry stick on which some beaver
castor or other scent has been rubbed, is placed
upright in the snow about 3 feet from the side
of the trail, while the trap, carefully concealed with s
3 placed near the bottom of the stick.
The bait is not partially enclosed with brush or
in a house, as the fox would then become suspicious, while a slight fall of snow after the trap
has been set is also an advantage, so as to cover
up any traces of the ground having been disturbed.
When sorting fox traps in the cabin, gloves should
be worn in order to avoid handling them with the
bare hands, as otherwise some scent from the
hands will be imparted to the trap, and is very
liable to arouse the suspicions of the fox.
Arctic hares, or rabbits as they are called in
the Yukon, existed in abundance in the woods,
and as moose in the lower regions of the Pelly
are very scarce, the rabbits formed a useful addition to our larder, besides assisting us in feeding
the dogs. Some thin wire for making rabbit
snares had been included in our outfit, and after
visiting the snares in the morning we would often
return to the cabin with perhaps a dozen rabbits.
For trapping purposes the rabbits were rather a
nuisance, as they would run along the trap line
and get caught in the traps, which were then
rendered unavailable for the fur animals for which
they were intended.
On one occasion when visiting the trap line I
came across a rabbit which had been caught in
one of the traps, and just as I was approaching it
a large hawk suddenly swooped down and seized
the rabbit with its talons, hoping to make off with
it before my arrival. It was, however, unable to
carry off the rabbit with the trap and the pole I
attached, and as the rabbit was required for my
own supper I drove the hawk away. The rabbit
was then extricated from the trap, which was
then reset, and I then continued my journey.
The hawk, after my departure, had evidently
returned to investigate the cause of the rabbit's
disappearance, but it must have looked into the
matter too closely, as on my return along the trail
a short time afterwards, I was surprised to find
that the hawk was also caught in the same trap.
Quite a number of porcupine reside in the
Yukon, and they do not hibernate like some of
the smaller animals, but wander about during the
winter months, climbing up the spruce trees and
feeding on the green brush. They possess long
black quills with yellow tips, and when boiled
they are not unpalatable, though moose or
cariboo would be preferable. When attacked
by a dog they roll themselves up like a hedgehog, and although experienced dogs will be
cautious, they sometimes return home after
attacking a porcupine with their nose and mouth
so full of quills that they resemble a pincushion.
The yellow tips easily break off from the rest of
the quills, and remain imbedded in the dog's
skin, and as they possess a faculty of working
themselves in, like some species of grass, they
are often difficult to extract. Festering will
ensue unless the quills are removed, and people
have occasionally been obliged to kill their dogs,
owing to the quills imbedded in their mouths
and noses after attacking a porcupine. THE  PELLY  RIVER 167
About sixty miles from our cabin, a lake called
Tatlaman Lake lies ensconced among the mountains, and as we had been living for some weeks
principally on rabbits, which were becoming
rather monotonous, we decided to make an
excursion to the lake for a supply of fish. Two
men who were ranching near the mouth of the
Pelly River had informed us of the lake and the
best means of getting to it, and also of a cabin
they had built there, which they placed at our
disposal. The lake extends for about twenty
miles in length and is well stocked with white
fish, which is considered about the best eating
fish in Canada. The fish are of two species, of
which the smaller averages in weight about a
pound, while the larger averages about five
pounds. The fish feeds by suction like a roach,
and rather resembles it in appearance, although
possessing a very different flavour.
The men at the ranche had provided us with
a net suitable for catching white fish, so one
morning we loaded the sleighs with our sleeping
robes, a few provisions and cooking utensils, and
started off for Tatlaman Lake. We followed the
trail of the river for about twenty miles, and then
branched off towards the mountains adjoining the
river valley. An Indian trail led from the river
bank to the lake, and as this had been blazed,
and in thick places fairly well cut out, we found
no difficulty in ascertaining the proper route.
On arriving at the foot of the mountain, the trail
followed a steep zigzag path up the mountain
1 i
!    I
side, and, as it was now becoming dark, we
decided to camp here for the night. A snowstorm came on during the night, and all the next
day it was snowing hard, which made the trail
rather heavy. My two partners therefore walked
ahead with snow-shoes, while the dogs and sleighs
followed in their tracks. As we relied on obtaining fish at the lake we had only brought a small
supply of provisions, so the sleighs were lightly
loaded, and on reaching the summit of the mountain the dogs found no difficulty in dragging our
small outfit and myself as well.
The summit consisted of the usual bare
plateau, and on the opposite side the trail wound
down into a gulch densely wooded with willows
and alder. The bottom of the gulch opened into
a valley with its frozen creek, and after travelling
along the creek for a few miles, the trail again
branched off into the woods, and followed a long
gradual ascent, twisting and turning amongst the
heavy timber, until it finally dropped into another
valley, which eventually led to the lake. We
were still about twelve miles from our destination, so we camped for the night among the
spruce trees on the creek bank with the dogs
chained up to trees or bushes adjoining the
That night, when supper was finished, we were
smoking and reclining on our sleeping robes with
the camp fire opposite the doorway, when the
dogs suddenly commenced whining and appeared
restless.    At first we concluded that a moose was 1
wandering about which the dogs had scented,
but soon a long howl echoed through the woods,
followed by other howls from different quarters,
showing that a band of wolves had arrived in the
vicinity. We all sat quiet and listened, and soon
afterwards we distinguished some slight rustling
among the bushes not far distant, and on looking
out of the tent door we discerned, about ten
yards away, a pair of eyes gleaming through the
darkness. We did not consider ourselves in any
danger, but those peering eyes produced rather
an uncanny feeling, gleaming probably from the
reflection of the camp fire, and watching us
intently. A rifle was lying in the tent, and while
we were reaching for it a loud dismal howl suddenly rose from the place we had just been gazing
at, while other howls were promptly raised in
chorus by the other wolves near by. The eyes
had disappeared by the time the rifle was ready,
but my partner aimed and fired in the direction,
and the noise probably frightened away the
wolves, as we heard no more howling during
the night.
The wolves in the Yukon district are either
of the grey or black variety, whose skins, worth
about £"2 apiece, provide warm and handsome
coats or robes. They are not often seen near the
Yukon River, but towards the head-waters of the
Pelly and M'Millan rivers, where moose and cariboo abound, they exist in considerable numbers.
They travel in bands of perhaps a dozen, or
generally less, and are never found in huge bands 170 REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
of a hundred or more, as appears to be the case in
certain parts of Russia and Siberia. Although
when meeting a band of wolves I would prefer to
possess a rifle, I am not aware of any authenticated instance in the Yukon where people have
been attacked by them.
The next morning we continued our journey
up the creek, and came across the tracks of the
wolves we had heard the preceding night. There
appears to have been about eight or nine of them,
and after following along the trail for a short
distance they had branched off into the woods.
After proceeding for a few miles along the trail
we came across two very old Indian women, and
a small boy of about eleven years old, who were
spending the winter encamped among the spruce
trees. The men of their tribe had departed to
another locality for the winter, and as these two
women were too old to accompany them, they
were left alone by themselves with a small boy to
look after them. They were sitting in front of a
camp fire without any tent or covering, while
behind them was a flimsy brush shelter, about
three feet high, which acted as a partial protection for their backs from the cold atmosphere. A
roasted rabbit was lying near them on the snow,
and as they were devoid of plates or knives and
forks they were tearing it asunder with their
fingers. They possessed no food whatever
except rabbits, which the small boy snared for
them, so when we presented them with a little tea
and sugar these were highly appreciated.   We told -^
them about the wolves, but they did not appear
frightened, and simply pointed to the camp fire,
which would probably be sufficient to keep them
at a distance. The weather was not then very
cold, about 250 below zero, but cold snaps of 500
and 6o° below zero would occasionally occur, and
it is extraordinary how those two old women
could exist exposed to an Arctic winter under
such conditions.
After leaving the old women we continued our
journey up the creek, and soon afterwards arrived
at the cabin by the lake. Tatlaman Lake, like
most of the lakes in the Yukon district, is beautifully situated in wild mountain scenery, while a
feeling of remoteness in that outlying region, far
removed from habitation, lends an additional
charm to the locality.
The cabin was already provided with a stove,
so we quickly cut down some dry spruces, and
chopped them up into smaller pieces for firewood.
When the fire was lighted we filled the teapot
with snow, and placed it on the stove till the
snow was melted and the water boiling, while we
also produced from a sack some pieces of frozen
cooked rabbits, which were placed in a frying-pan
to warm up.
The cabin had not been occupied lately, so
some of the moss chinking between the logs had
fallen out, leaving numerous holes and crevices
where the outside air could enter, which in a
temperature of 300 or more below zero feels
uncomfortably draughty.     Moss is not easy to 172
obtain during the winter, but we found some old
discarded clothes and dirty rags scattered about
the floor of the cabin, and these we cut up into
pieces and pushed them tightly into the holes
and crevices until the outside atmosphere was
fairly well excluded.
The next morning we wandered down to the
lake and commenced to set the net. Setting a
net through the ice involves a considerable
amount of trouble, especially in the middle of
winter, when the ice has attained a thickness of
several feet. A pole about 20 feet long, and
attached to a rope, is conveyed to the locality
where the net is required to be set, and several
holes are cut through the ice at the same distance
apart as the length of the pole. Nets 200 feet
in length are generally employed in the lakes, so
if the pole is 20 feet long it will necessitate
cutting eleven holes through the ice at intervals
of 20 feet apart.
The pole with a long rope attached to it is
then inserted through the first hole, and pushed
under the ice in the direction of the second hole.
The man then walks to the second hole, and as
the holes are the same distance apart as the
length of the pole, he will there find the end of
the pole, which he works along under the ice in
the direction of the third hole. This process is
repeated from hole to hole, so that the pole is
gradually worked along under the ice until it
eventually arrives at the last hole, and it is then
drawn out of the water and the rope secured.    A J mm TI
green pole is better than a dry one for the purpose, being more easy to push along, as it floats
deeper in the water, and therefore presses less
heavily against the under surface of the ice.
A man at the first hole then attaches one end
of the net to his end of the rope, care being
taken that the net does not become entangled
when being inserted through the ice, while at the
same time the man at the last hole, by pulling
the other end of the rope, gradually draws the
net under the ice towards him. As the white
fish reside at the bottom of the lake, the net
must be sunk to the bottom by means of heavy
sinkers attached along the bottom of the net.
When the net has once been set, only the end
holes are required to be opened for raising the net
and extracting the fish, so that the intermediate
holes, being no longer required, are allowed to
freeze up and become covered with snow.
In the mornings when the net is being raised,
the end holes are cleared with an axe of the ice
which has formed in them during the night, and
the ends of the rope, which have been attached
to two poles pardy inserted through the holes,
are then secured. One end of the net is then
pulled up and drawn through the hole in the ice,
while the fish are extracted and thrown on the
snow, where they quickly freeze solid. When
all the fish have been extracted the net is reinserted through the ice, while the man at the
further hole pulls at the rope and draws the net
under the ice towards him, and it is then reset 174 REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
as before. The fish can be packed in sacks or
rolled up in a canvas sheet and deposited on a
sleigh in the vicinity, and hauled by dogs to the
cabin. Extracting the fish from a net during the
winter is not a comfortable occupation, and very
trying on the fingers, especially as only the bare
hands can be employed during the operation.
However, a tent with a stove inside is occasionally erected on the ice over the hole where the
net is raised, and the fish can then be extracted
with comparative comfort.
The fish were fairly abundant, and on raising
the net in the mornings a good quantity of white
fish would be secured, besides occasional pike
and lake trout. Quite a large number were
required every day for ourselves and for feeding
the dogs, which when working hard in a cold
climate possess vigorous appetites, and require
a large amount of food to maintain them in condition. Fortunately the fish were so plentiful
that in the course of a few days we had secured
about enough for a sleigh load. The temperature
had now suddenly dropped to about 6o° below
zero, which considerably increased the discomfort
attached to standing about on an exposed lake
extracting fish from the ice; so we decided to
abandon the fishing and return to the Pelly River.
We accordingly loaded one sleigh with the fish,
while the other sleigh was reserved for the
blankets, with myself perched on the top of them,
and after harnessing the dogs proceeded back
along the trail. THE  PELLY  RIVER 175
The cold snap continued throughout our journey ; however, when the tent was pitched for the
night we cut down a green spruce-tree, which
was stripped of the green brush, the brush being
then spread in a thick layer under the sleeping
robes, which furnished a soft and springy mattress,
as well as a protection from the cold ground.
The camp fire was made opposite the tent door,
which was kept open, while a canvas sheet was
propped up on the further side of the fire. This
acted as a screen, which deflected the heat
towards the interior of the tent. We slept of
course with our clothes on, and during the night
one of us would occasionally get up and replenish
the fire with dry logs. On our way back to the
Pelly River, we again passed the two old women
and the small boy crouching before their camp
fire. They were now engaged in roasting a
rabbit by means of a stick pierced through its
body like a spit.
The remainder of the winter was employed in
trapping; but as fur animals in the lower regions
of the Pelly are rather scarce, we were not very
successful, especially as this was our first attempt
at the business, trapping, like most other things,
requiring a certain amount of experience before
proficiency is obtained. When the spring came
and the river was clear of ice we caulked and
pitched the boat, and after launching it in the
river placed in it the few furs we had been able
to obtain, together with the remainder of our
supplies, and proceeded down to Fort Selkirk, 176    REMINISCENCES  OF THE YUKON
situated on the Yukon near the mouth of the Pelly
River. Shortly after our arrival rowing-boats
appeared from time to time, emerging from the
mouth of the Pelly River and making their way
to Selkirk. These were the trappers arriving
from the upper regions of the Pelly and M'Millan
rivers, where they had been trapping during the
preceding winter, who were now returning to
the trading post at Selkirk to dispose of their
The trappers on the Pelly and M'Millan rivers
leave Selkirk for the trapping grounds about the
middle of July, and return about the middle of
May when the rivers are clear of ice. They are,
therefore, absent in the woods for about ten
months, and as during that period they may be
300 miles or more from their source of supplies
and completely isolated from communication, it is
necessary for them to obtain everything likely to
be required before starting. They are also careful
not to purchase more supplies than are absolutely
necessary, both owing to the initial expense and
the difficulties of transportation. After a certain
amount of practice a trapper or prospector can
calculate very closely how many provisions he
will consume in nine or ten months, and can produce a list of articles required in the woods
within a few minutes; while nothing essential,
such as tobacco or needles and thread for patching his clothes, will be forgotten. Besides provisions for about ten months, he also requires his
blankets,  winter   clothes,   stove,  cooking   pots, THE PELLY RIVER 177
plates and cutlery, candles for the long winter
evenings, tools and nails, ammunition for his
rifle, snow-shoes, salmon net, &c.; as well as about
300 traps. When all these have been deposited
in his boat or canoe, he has quite a heavy load to
pole and tow up the river for perhaps 300 miles
or more against a fairly swift current.
On their return to Selkirk after their long
isolation trappers resembled the typical " wild
man of the woods," with their clothes in tatters
from tramping through the bush, and their shaggy
beards and long unkempt hair, which had not been
combed or trimmed for the last ten months.
However, they gave me lots of tips regarding
the habits of the different fur animals and the
most effective means of trapping them; and for
the next few years they formed practically my
only companions. My two partners of the preceding winter embarked on a steamer for Whitehorse and proceeded to Quebec in Eastern
Canada, which forms the principal resort of the
French Canadians.
Soon after the departure of my late partners,
myself and another man who had lately arrived
in Selkirk decided on making an expedition up
the Hootalinqua River, which flows into the
Yukon about 250 miles above Selkirk, so we
embarked on a steamer for Whitehorse, the head
of navigation on the Yukon. The steamer took
about five days to plough its way against the
current of the Yukon, and crossing Lake La
Barge and then proceeding again up the river at 178    REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
the further end, we eventually arrived at Whitehorse.
Whitehorse on our arrival was indulging in
the luxury of a boom owing to the discovery of a
large amount of copper ore in the vicinity, so that
the town presented quite a busy appearance and
was endeavouring to emulate Dawson in 1898 on
a very diminutive scale. Unfortunately for the
residents the Whitehorse boom differed essentially
from the Klondyke boom, as the Klondyke possessed something substantial on which to base its
pretensions, while the mines there were producing large quantities of gold which was freely
circulated in Dawson. . The Whitehorse mines
were producing nothing of any practical value,
so the boom was being conducted principally on
credit, assisted with effusive proclamations about
the glorious future, while ready money in the
town was exceedingly scarce. On the arrival of
a train from the coast the passengers were eagerly
scrutinised, and any one who gave the appearance of possessing a certain amount of means
was considered a " capitalist," and was therefore
promptly pounced upon by real estate agents and
other hungry sharks, eager to palm off town lots
and mining claims on any gullible new arrival at
exorbitant prices. The term " capitalist" is a
common denomination in Canada and the United
States, and may include any one possessing
$100 or more in ready cash. The existence
of an extensive copper ledge near Whitehorse
was certainly genuine, but owing to the depre- THE  PELLY RIVER 179
ciated value of copper and the heavy cost of
production in the Yukon the mines were not
sufficiently rich to prove remunerative, and the
boom gradually subsided into a general slump.
My partner and myself remained at Whitehorse for about three days while we purchased a
year's outfit, and after loading our supplies into
a rowing-boat started down the Yukon for the
Hootalinqua River. The current in the upper
waters of the Yukon is fairly swift—about 6 miles
an hour, so we soon rowed down the 30 miles
which intervened between Whitehorse and the
upper end of Lake La Barge. The lake extends
for about 25 miles in length, and, like all lakes
in mountainous districts, is very susceptible to
sudden squalls, which make the crossing in a
small rowing-boat rather precarious. We rowed
down the side of the lake for some distance,
myself in the centre with the oars and my partner
in the stern with a' paddle, and as the weather
appeared nice and calm we then proceeded to
cross over to the other side, which was the nearest
way to reach the river at the further end.
Our hopes of being able to cross the lake
without interruption were doomed to disappointment. When about two miles from the opposite
shore a squall suddenly bore down upon us, and
within a few minutes the smooth surface of the
lake was transformed into a nasty choppy sea.
Rowing a heavily-loaded boat in a choppy sea
is not a very easy undertaking, so our progress
was necessarily both slow and laborious, while i8o    REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
the waves were continually breaking over the
side and threatening every moment to swamp
us. F"or some time matters appeared exceedingly ugly, and we were both wondering what
the betting was on our being able to reach the
other side before being swamped. However, I
tugged with all my strength at the oars, with the
perspiration streaming down my face, while my
partner was busily employed in bailing out the
water with a saucepan. Eventually, to our great
relief, we arrived partly under the lee of the shore,
where the sea was not so rough, and after rowing
down for a short distance we came across a small
bay which was sheltered from the squall. Here
we camped, emptied the water out of the boat,
and examined the wet supplies. Some of the
provision sacks containing flour, sugar, rice, &c,
had been soaked by the waves and the water in
the boat, and the contents considerably damaged.
We therefore laid out on the ground a canvas
sheet, and spread over it some of the damaged
provisions, so as to enable them to dry before
becoming mouldy.
The next morning we continued our journey
down the lake until we arrived at the river flowing out of the lower end, and then continued our
journey down the river until we eventually reached
the mouth of the Hootalinqua. This river flows
out of the lower end of Teslin Lake, so we intended to travel up the river until our arrival
at the lake, and there to build a cabin and to
spend the winter trapping in the vicinity.    Un- "^\
fortunately, this particular summer happened to
be extremely rainy, so that the water in the
Hootalinqua River was exceptionally high, which
made the journey up much more difficult and
laborious. Owing to the high water there was
no convenient beach to walk along, while the
top of the bank was too much encumbered with
trees and bushes to allow of the use of a tow-
line. Poling a heavily-loaded boat against a
fairly swift current is not an easy undertaking
even for two men, and as it is also impossible
to exert a heavy weight on the pole without
incurring a severe strain on the feet, I found
my weak ankle a perpetual handicap.
We accordingly struggled along for a few
days, one of us poling in the bow of the boat
and the other in the stern ; bothered all the time
by swarms of mosquitoes, and soaked day after
day in torrents of rain which fell continuously.
Owing to the heavy strain on my bad foot we
were only able to travel each day for a comparatively short distance, and were both becoming decidedly sick of the journey when an
incident occurred which completely altered our
Occasionally while slowly poling up the river
some sweepers overhanging the bank would force
us to keep farther into the river, where the current was stronger and the water rather deep,
which made our progress more difficult. On one
of these occasions, encountering an overhanging
tree about six feet above the surface of the water, i82    REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
my partner, who was in the bow, caught hold of
a small branch to assist in pulling up the boat.
Unfortunately he pulled the boat sideways across
the stream, so that the bow became subjected to
a far stronger pressure from the force of the
current. The result was that the boat was suddenly swept away from under him, and he was
consequently left suspended above the water,
hanging on to the small branch with his hands.
The trunk of the tree was too large to enable
him to get his arm round and climb on to it,
and as he was totally unable to swim his position
was precarious.
I was standing at the time in the stern of the
boat, so when the bow swung round and the boat
began drifting rapidly down the river, I clambered
over the supplies to the middle of the boat and
got out the oars. A heavily-loaded boat requires
some time to manoeuvre in a swift current, and
by the time I had got the oars in position and
had managed to gain the shore, and tied the
boat up to the bank, it had already proceeded
for some distance down the river, while a considerable time had elapsed. I then scrambled
on to the bank with a pole, and pushed my way
through the bushes towards my partner. He was
now yelling at the top of his voice for me to
hurry up, as his arms were already aching and
he would not be able to hold on much longer.
On arriving at the spot I held out the end of
the pole which he was able to reach, and he
then dropped into the river.   Luckily he managed  ill THE PELLY  RIVER 183
to cling on to the end of the pole, so I pulled
him up to the bank.
His nerves were considerably shaken by this
adventure, and he refused to continue the journey,
saying that he had experienced quite enough of
the Hootalinqua River. For my part I was not
sorry to turn back, as owing to the high state
of the water the difficulties were greater than
we anticipated, while my weak ankle had become
rather swollen from the continual strain on it.
We accordingly adjourned to the place where
the boat was moored and camped there for the
night, and the next morning started down to
the mouth of the river. On reaching the
mouth of the Hootalinqua my partner waited
for the arrival of a steamer to convey him to
Whitehorse, while I purchased his share of the
boat and supplies, and rowed down the Yukon
for about 250 miles, until I eventually arrived
at Selkirk.
For the next two years I remained principally
on the Pelly River. Part of the time was
spent in an old deserted cabin which I repaired
sufficiently to render habitable, while at different
times I built myself other cabins rather higher up
the river. A small cabin, 12 feet square inside,
was sufficiently large for my requirements, and
was composed of one room which formed the
bedroom, dining-room, workroom where I skinned
the animals and dried the furs, sitting-room, and
kitchen. The only tools required for constructing these cabins are an axe, a large cross-cut saw 184 REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
for sawing logs, and an inch and a half auger for
boring holes through the logs when forming the
gable. When constructing the interior fittings,
a small saw, hammer, and nails are needed for
making the door, window-sash, bunk, table, &c.
I generally brought sufficient boards in the boat
to make a door and table, while the flooring was
sometimes composed of poles squared with an
axe, although in many trappers' cabins the floor
is simply the bare ground. Panes of glass for a
window can be purchased at the trading posts,
and may be included in a trapper's outfit, but
otherwise a piece of linen soaked in candle grease
would serve the purpose of a window.
For the construction of a cabin only dry logs
must be employed, and these ought to be a fair
size, not less than 10 or 12 inches in diameter, in
order to prevent the outside cold from penetrating within. When starting the cabin two logs
are placed on the ground parallel to each other
to form the bottom logs of the two opposite walls,
their distance apart being regulated according to
the dimensions of the cabin required. At the
end of each log notches are hacked with the axe
down to the centre of the log, the notches being
of sufficient size to enable the ensuing logs to be
fitted into them. The next two logs are then
placed transversely in the notches (see illustration), and form the bottom logs of the other two
sides of the cabin. Notches are again hacked in
the ends of these logs, two other logs fitted into
them transversely, and in this manner the walls of THE  PELLY RIVER 185
the cabin are gradually built up to the required
height, and by means of the notches become
securely dovetailed.
If 12 feet square is the required dimensions for
the interior of the cabin, the logs must be about
15 feet in length, so as to afford sufficient room
for cutting the notches. The crevices between
the logs are " chinked " or tightly filled with moss,
while the door and window are cut out with the
cross-cut saw after the walls have been completed. Care must be taken that the logs are
placed above each other exactly vertically, otherwise the cabin will lean at a slight angle, and as
the weight will not then be evenly distributed,
the angle will gradually become more pronounced,
until eventually the cabin, unless propped up with
poles, will tumble down like a pack of cards.
The logs forming the gables at the two ends
of the cabin are sawed into shorter lengths as the
height of the gable proceeds. They are fastened
one above the other by boring holes through
them with the auger, and hammering wooden
pegs tightly into the holes, thus securing the gable
logs firmly in position. A log is then laid across
the tops of the gables at each end of the cabin,
and the poles for the roof are laid against it. A
thick layer of earth is shovelled on to the roof, a
layer of moss being first spread over the poles
in order to prevent the earth from falling through
the crevices into the cabin. It is important that
the layer of earth should be sufficiently thick,
otherwise   the   cold  atmosphere   will   penetrate i86    REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
through the roof, while the bottom of the cabin
is also banked round with earth, so as to prevent the cold from penetrating under the bottom
The period required for building a cabin of this
description will depend on the proximity of dead
trees suitable for the purpose. If the logs have
to be conveyed for a considerable distance, a
certain amount of extra time and labour will be
involved. When, however, the trees have been
cut down, and the logs deposited by the site of
the cabin, an ordinary able-bodied man should
complete the cabin and interior fittings in about
ten days.
During the winters I resided principally by
myself in the woods, occupying my time in trapping, although occasionally I would take a trip
down to Selkirk with the dog team, in order to
replenish supplies and look up acquaintances. In
the lower regions of the Pelly River, where I was
situated, the fur-coated animals were not plentiful,
although at that time there were a fair number of
lynx, while mink, ermine, and foxes would also
occasionally walk into the traps. Occasionally
Indians, when travelling up the Pelly River during the winter, would enter the cabin to warm
themselves and beg for a meal. I generally gave
them a cup of tea, some beans, and some homemade bread baked by myself, which weighed on
an average about a pound to the cubic inch.
Late in the autumn they would often arrive,
floating down the river on rafts laden with bear THE  PELLY RIVER 187
or moose meat obtained from the upper regions
of the Pelly, and I would then purchase from them
a supply of meat for the ensuing winter..
During very severe snaps, such as 500 or 6o°
below zero, I abstained from travelling far from
the cabin, as it was then too cold to ride much
on the sleigh, while my lame foot prevented my
being able to run or walk fast and thus keep
myself warm. At such times I employed myself
in replenishing my wood supply. Cutting down
trees affords good exercise, while, as the cabin
was not far distant, I could always return there
to warm myself, and to keep the stove well supplied with wood. When choosing out a site for
building a cabin, a clump of dry trees in the
vicinity is an important element to consider, both
for furnishing logs when building the cabin, and
also for purposes of firewood during the winter.
A trail would be cut from the cabin to the dry
wood supply, and when it was too cold for travelling round the trap-line I employed my time in
cutting down some dry trees, and after chopping
them into lengths which I could handle, would
carry or drag them to the edge of the trail. A
large pile of logs would here be deposited, so
that when required for consumption they could be
loaded on to the sleigh and hauled by the dogs
to the cabin.
When travelling round the trap-line, a lynx or
other animal which has been caught in a trap is
promptly killed, and the trap is then reset and
concealed with snow, so as to be ready for the
J Il
next occupant. The animal is conveyed on the
sleigh to the trapper's cabin, which is a more
comfortable place to work in than the outside
cold. The skin is then removed and stretched
on a mould, until the moisture has completely
evaporated, and this is termed a " raw fur."
When skinning deer or bears a cut is first made
through the skin, which extends down the legs
and along the centre of the underneath part of
the body. The skin is then detached from the
animal, and during the process of drying is
stretched against a flat surface, such as a wall
or paling, while nails are driven into the paling
through the edges of the skin, in order to retain
it in position, and prevent it from shrinking as
the moisture evaporates.
Fur-coated animals, except bear, beaver, and
occasionally wolves and wolverines, are skinned
and stretched in a different manner. In their
case, the cut is only made down the hind legs,
and the skin when detached from the hind legs
is then pulled back over the body and head, in
much the same manner as a man pulls off a football
jersey. Very little knife-work need be resorted
to, although when drawing the skin over the
head, the knife is necessary for freeing the eyes,
ears, nose, and gums; while care must be taken,
especially when freeing the eyes, not to cut the
The mould consists of two flat pieces of board,
varying in size according to the species of the
animal.    The skin is drawn over the mould, and Wedge.    C.  Fur stretched on Mou
0   D.
0°      E.
H        F.  THE PELLY RIVER 189
a wedge is then inserted between the two boards,
which are thus forced farther apart, until the
skin becomes tightly stretched. The skin when
stretched on the mould appears inside out, the
fur being on the inside next to the mould, while
the inside skin, called the pelt, becomes exposed
on the outside, and as it will contain a certain
amount of fat and greasy substance, this must
be scraped off until the pelt becomes thoroughly
clean. The skin remains on the mould for
perhaps two or three days, until the moisture
has completely evaporated, and the pelt somewhat resembles parchment, and it is then ready
to be sold as a raw fur. This method of skinning
and stretching skins is termed " casing," and cased
furs will usually command a higher price in the
market than skins which have been cut down
the centre of the body and stretched on a flat
The ermine, the marten, and the mink resemble
in shape an ordinary ferret, and in fact the
marten, sable, mink, ferret, weasel, stoat, polecat,
and ermine all belong to the same family, and
merely vary in size and colour. The ermine is
considerably smaller than the marten or mink,
and during some seasons fairly large quantities
are caught in the Yukon district. Unfortunately,
their white coat is rather spoilt by a yellow stain,
which appears to become more pronounced after
the fur has been tanned and made up, as ermine
furs worn in the street generally show the yellow
to a greater extent than when the animal has
been recently trapped in the woods. Their
favourite diet consists of mice, which during
some years simply infest the Yukon district,
causing considerable damage to provisions in a
cabin; so, if an ermine is residing near one's
cabin, it is sometimes wiser to leave it alone,
as the mice will then be quickly cleared from the
vicinity. Personally, I always included a cat in
my outfit, when leaving Selkirk for my quarters
up the Pelly River. Besides affording a certain
amount of companionship when living alone in
the woods, a cat is also extremely useful for
protecting one's supplies against the depredations
of mice.
On one occasion I met with a rather nasty
accident while travelling during the winter,
although the result was fortunately not serious.
The sleigh was descending a steep bank, so
I lay down on it with my feet pressed into the
snow behind, in order to check its velocity. This
expedient answered all right for a time, but on
rounding a curve the descent suddenly became
very much steeper. The result was that the
sleigh shot rapidly forward, rolling over the dogs,
until its wild career was abruptly stopped by
plunging against a stump on the side of the trail.
The sudden jar shot me straight out of the sleigh,
and I landed violently against a tree in front.
For a few moments I felt slightly stunned, while
my face was badly bruised and scratched, and
my nose bled profusely. Fortunately it was not
then very cold, so after pulling myself together I THE PELLY RIVER 191
disentangled the dogs and continued my journey.
Eventually the dogs arrived at the cabin, but my
face was too sore and swollen to enable me to
travel again for about a week.
In the spring, when the ice in the river had
broken up, I launched the boat and rowed down
to Selkirk, where I met the trappers returning
with their furs from the upper waters of the Pelly
and M'Millan rivers. Many of the trappers lived
entirely by themselves in the woods, perhaps
300 miles or more from Selkirk, being entirely
cut off from communication or intercourse with
other people. After their solitary life for the last
ten months they were extremely glad to meet
acquaintances, and when they had congregated
in the spring at the trading post and their furs
had been disposed of, they generally considered
themselves entitled to what they call a "good
time," which entailed dissipating their money in
gambling and drinking. Trappers spend a lonely
ten months in the woods, travelling to their
locality in the summer, building their cabins and
preparing their trap-lines during the autumn, and
trapping during the winter. Late in the spring,
when the rivers are clear of ice, they return to
the trading post where they sell their furs, and
after a dissipated existence of about two months'
duration, depart again with their supplies, probably in debt at the trading post, for another ten
months in the woods; and this process is repeated
for years.
An old man named Jim Grew, about seventy i
years of age, was one example of an old trapper,
and when I last saw him in Selkirk he had just
completed a lively two months' existence in the
place, and was departing for his trapping-ground
up the Pelly River. He had evidently a premonition that his life would soon terminate, and
when bidding adieu to the residents in Selkirk,
mentioned that he was doubtful whether he would
ever live to return. Although situated nearly
300 miles up the Pelly River, he was not entirely
isolated, like many trappers, as another man had
built a cabin more or less in the vicinity, and the
two used occasionally to meet each other. However, Jim Grew's premonition turned out quite
correct. One day during the winter his acquaintance called to visit him, and on entering the door
he discovered the old man lying dead and frozen
in his cabin, so he buried him out in the woods
amongst the spruce trees close by. 1
In the Natural History Museum at South Kensington a study described as " colour protection "
is exhibited, in which stuffed specimens of the
Arctic fox, the Arctic hare, the ermine, and the
ptarmigan are portrayed in their white winter
coats inhabiting their snow-covered localities.
The figures ensconced amidst their white surroundings are well represented, but nature occasionally produces some striking anomalies, and
it is a curious incidence that other species, although belonging to the same family and inhabiting the same district, and presumably requiring
colour protection to an equal extent, do not
assume a white fur or plumage during the winter
months, but retain their dark summer colouring
throughout the year.
Animals like the Arctic hare and the ptarmigan,
which are continually preyed upon, require their
white colouring during the winter as a form of
concealment from their enemies, but the Polar
bear, the Arctic fox, and the ermine are not
preyed upon by other animals, and have few if
any enemies to contend with, except the hunter
and the trapper, so that the advantage of their il
white coats is not to afford them a protection
against their enemies, but to enable them more
easily  and  effectually  to  approach  and   secure
their victims.
The ptarmigan, although adopting a white
plumage in the winter, during the summer
months assumes a buff-coloured plumage, and
early in the spring or late in the autumn, when
their feathers begin to change, they present, like
the snow-bird, a curious mottled appearance,
their plumage being speckled with brown and
white splodges. The ptarmigan and another
game bird which exists in the Yukon, called by
Indians "the chicken," both belong to the grouse
family, the chicken being a rather larger bird,
while its colouring is slightly darker. The ptarmigan resides principally on the higher slopes,
though it may occasionally be observed in the
river valleys, while the chicken is more prevalent
in the valleys, although I have also encountered
it high up in the mountains. Both birds belong
to the same family, inhabit practically the same
district, and have the same enemies to contend
with, but while the ptarmigan assumes a white
plumage during the winter, the chicken retains
its dark summer colouring throughout the year.
To take another example, the ermine, the
mink, and the marten all belong to the same
family. They all traverse the same district and
live on practically the same food, so they presumably each require the same advantage of
colour protection ; and yet the ermine is the only . The Spring Snare set.    ii. Th(  COLOUR PROTECTION AND BIG GAME   195
one of the three which assumes a white colouring
during the winter months.
The Arctic hare, or rabbit as it is called in the
Yukon, is an important feature of the country,
and in districts not frequented by moose or
cariboo, furnishes a welcome addition to the
larder. Its colour during the summer closely
resembles an ordinary rabbit, but during the
winter its coat changes to pure white. It does
not burrow like an English rabbit, but when the
snow becomes deep forms regular run-ways
over which it constantly travels, and can then
be easily caught by means of wire snares, which
are placed in these run-ways. Rabbits run with
their heads rather high up; it is therefore important to place the snare at such a height above
the ground, that the rabbit will be caught by
the neck. If the snare is placed too low, the
rabbit will often attempt to jump through, and
will then be caught by the hind leg, and as wire
in very cold weather becomes extremely brittle,
the rabbit during its struggles will generally
manage to escape by breaking the snare.
The most satisfactory method of snaring these
rabbits is to attach the snare to a spring pole,
which is constructed by cutting down a pole
and then placing it on a tripod formed of three
sticks, or the fork formed by a branch with the
tree will answer the purpose, if conveniently
situated. One end of the pole is attached to the
snare by a string, which is also attached to a
stake in the ground, a particular kind of slip- 196    REMINISCENCES  OF THE YUKON
knot being employed, simple to construct but
difficult to describe. (See illustration.) The
pole is adjusted on the tripod, so that the end
farthest from the snare is much the heavier, and,
consequently, when the slip-knot is released, that
end of the pole will fall to the ground by its own
weight. The struggles of the rabbit when caught
in the snare releases the slip-knot, and consequently the further end of the pole drops to the
ground like a see-saw, while the end attached
to the snare is raised up and hauls the rabbit up
with it, which remains suspended in the air by
its neck, and is quickly strangled.
It is a curious fact in connection with the
rabbits in the Yukon and other parts of Canada,
that they invariably become almost entirely extinct at the expiration of every seven years, only
a few remaining to enable them to breed again.
About four or five years ago the rabbits were
in great abundance in the Yukon, and the woods
were simply full of them, especially during the
early part of the winter. In the ensuing spring,
however, when the snow had melted, dead rabbits
were constantly encountered, and the next winter
hardly a rabbit was ever seen. Some disease
breaks out amongst them, probably owing to over
population, which sweeps them nearly all away,
so that they require another seven years before
regaining their former populous condition. This
is well known in the Yukon and other parts of
Northern Canada, and both Indians and white men
who have resided long in the country affirm that TI
the sudden disappearance of the rabbit invariably
recurs at the expiration of every seven years.
The big game in the Yukon consist of the
moose, cariboo, mountain sheep, and bear. The
moose, which is practically the same animal as
the Norwegian elk, forms the largest species of
the deer family, a big bull moose being of about
equal size to a large bullock. The animal called
the elk on the North American continent is very
different to the Norwegian elk, while the nomenclature appears to be really a misnomer, because
the American elk, if called by its correct name,
should be the wapiti deer.
The three species of deer, namely the moose,
wapiti, and cariboo, although they all belong to
the same family, each require a different substance
for their food. The moose feeds on willows, the
wapiti on grass, and the cariboo on lichen; they,
therefore, each frequent different haunts, where
they will find their particular food in most abundance. The moose and the cariboo range over
more or less the same district, but the moose will
generally frequent the low flat ground in the
river valleys, where willows grow in profusion,
while the cariboo is usually found high up on the
mountains, the abode of the lichen, which they
will also gather from the trees.
The wapiti deer ranges further south than the
moose or the cariboo, and does not exist in the
Yukon district. In certain portions of Vancouver
Island they exist in considerable numbers, but
the interior is very thick and difficult to penetrate, 198    REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
and I was never successful in shooting wapiti on
the island, although I have shot them many years
ago in Wyoming in the United States.
The broad valleys of the Yukon and its tributaries contain numerous marsh-lands, while lakes
great and small exist in abundance throughout
the Yukon district, and as the moose possesses a
strong partiality for water, it occupies during the
summer months a considerable portion of its
time standing in the lakes or wallowing in the
ponds to keep the flies away. It possesses an
extraordinary power of scent and hearing, and
being the most shy and cunning of all the deer
tribe, proves a most difficult animal to stalk, and
when startled will always run down wind, so that
it can detect by scent the approach of its pursuers.
An experienced moose hunter would not attempt
to follow up its tracks, but would diverge to the
right or left, making a wide detour, so as to avoid
being scented.
During the autumn, when the bulls are searching for the cows, they utter a loud sort of grunting
noise which can be heard for a considerable distance. In some parts of Canada, principally the
eastern part, the moose are often killed at this
season by means of " calling " them, a horn being
sometimes used for the purpose which emits a
sound similar to the noise of the animal. A considerable amount of skill is required to mimic the
sound correctly, and the moose on hearing the
I call" imagines the presence of another moose
in the vicinity, and being eager to fight any rival, COLOUR PROTECTION AND BIG GAME 199
rushes heedlessly towards the spot and can then
be easily shot.
On the arrival of spring a hard crust is formed
on the snow owing to the action of the sun's
heat, which melts the surface of the snow during
the day-time, while it freezes again into a hard
cake during the night. At this period a moose
can often be overtaken and shot by the hunter on
a pair of snow-shoes, as the hard crust will then
bear the hunter's weight, while the moose breaks
through at every step and eventually becomes
exhausted. Moose are also hunted with dogs,
a good moose-dog affording quite a valuable
asset to a man trapping or prospecting in a
district where moose are plentiful. The dog on
scenting a moose will pursue and soon bring it to
bay, and the two will stand facing each other, the
dog barking, until the hunter, who is guided to
the locality by the barking of the dog, arrives on
the spot with his rifle and shoots the moose.
At the commencement of the autumn when
their horns have become hard, the bull-moose
contract a habit of rubbing and banging them
against the trees in order to divest them of the
velvet. The noise can be imitated by striking a
tree with the back of an axe, and this method
is occasionally employed for attracting the animal
to the vicinity. The moose being under the impression that the noise is produced by another
moose, is attracted to the spot by the sound, and
on arriving near the locality is easily shot by the
hunter, who remains concealed behind a tree. 2oo    REMINISCENCES OF THE  YUKON
During the winter, when the bulls have
shed their horns, the moose are sometimes
snared like rabbits, the size of the loop being
three or four feet in diameter, and arranged
above the ground at about the height of the
animal's head. The loop can be constructed of
half-inch linen rope, which is sufficiently strong
for the purpose, as linen rope is much stronger
than ordinary hemp, while the other end of the
rope is attached to a stout pole, placed on the
ground alongside the snare. In districts where
moose are plentiful, regular moose trails are
formed during the winter months, the snow along
the trail being trampled down through frequent
use. A spot for arranging the snare is chosen on
a moose trail, where the brush on either side is
high and thick, so that the snare can be more
effectually concealed. The moose when walking
along the trail inserts its head through the loop,
which quickly tightens round the animal's neck,
while the stout pole to which the rope is attached
becomes soon caught and entangled amongst the
trees and bushes, so that the moose in its frantic
struggles to escape eventually strangles itself.
These methods of killing moose may not be
considered " sporting," but the trapper or the
prospector does not reside in the Yukon for
sport, but for a living, and when endeavouring
to obtain a moose, he is not thinking of the sport,
but of his supper—which is much more important.
After all, the methods of nine-tenths of those
sportsmen who bring the heads of the animals COLOUR PROTECTION AND  BIG GAME    201
they have secured home to England, and after
having them mounted by Rowland Ward point
them out with pride to their friends, are no more
"sporting" than the methods just described.
Even presuming that, instead of purchasing their
heads from taxidermists, they have shot the
animals themselves, they engage a hunter in
America or a shikari in India, who discovers
where the game is located and informs them how
to approach it, tells them where to go, when to lie
down and when to get up, and in fact does all the
hunting for them.
Moose, when searching for cows in the autumn,
possess, like other deer, a keen predilection for
fighting, and such an incident as is depicted in
the well-known picture by Landseer of two stags
lying dead with their horns interlocked occurs
also occasionally amongst moose. Several years
ago, when I was residing in Dawson, two moose
horns with part of the skulls attached were
brought into the town in that condition, and
judging from their appearance they must have
been lying on the ground for many years. The
horns were most firmly interlocked and wedged
together, and I have seen two big men take up
the heads and exert all their strength to try and
pull them asunder, but without being able to
move them a fraction of an inch. The horns
were of quite a fair size and must have originally
belonged to two large bulls, who had evidently
engaged in the fatal fight for possession of the
harem, and being unable to extricate their inter-
J Ii
locked horns, had eventually died together from
hunger and exhaustion.
The tracks of a large animal, like a moose or
a cariboo, will remain in the snow for quite a long
period, if sheltered from the wind, even after
fresh snow has fallen. The fresh snow when
falling into a track will obliterate the details, but
will not necessarily obliterate the track. This
will then assume a cup-like formation, and
hunters often find it difficult on these occasions
to determine the direction in which the animal is
travelling. This, however, can be ascertained
by a very simple method, it being not even
necessary to examine the track itself, because an
animal, when raising its foot out of the snow,
will always kick up some of the snow with the
front part of its foot. Some mounds of snow
can, therefore, be observed scattered in front of
the track, which will indicate the direction in
which the animal is travelling. The smaller
particles of snow will be thrown some distance
in front of the track, while the larger and heavier
mounds will remain near the place from which
they were dislodged.
It is important when hunting deer to ascertain
from the track whether the animal is walking or
running, because these animals only run when
startled; and so, if the track discloses that the
animal is running, the hunter's approach has
probably been detected, and he can then arrange
his plans accordingly. An animal when running
will, of course, take longer strides, while its dis- COLOUR PROTECTION AND BIG GAME   203
turbed condition can also be detected by the
particles of snow, which will then be kicked
for a considerable distance in advance of the
Towards the end of November the moose shed
their horns, which late in October become a light
greyish colour, and a big bull moose with its
massive horns, standing perhaps knee deep in
the water amongst its native haunts, presents a
grand and imposing spectacle.
The cariboo is a species of reindeer, the two
animals being very similar, while their horns,
although palmated like moose horns, are very
different to the latter in shape and appearance.
The cariboo, although smaller than the moose,
forms a large and handsome member of the deer
family, a big bull being fully equal in size to a
large red deer stag amongst the Highlands of
Scotland. The cariboo can be divided into two
main species—the Woodland cariboo and the
Barren Ground cariboo, of which the latter species
is much the smaller. The district called the
Barren Grounds, the home of the musk ox, is
a vast treeless tract of country in the very
northern part of Western Canada, and the Barren
Ground cariboo migrate in enormous bands when
changing their summer or winter quarters, and
are then killed in large numbers by the Indians.
Those frequenting the Yukon district, British
Columbia, and Alaska belong to the larger species,
namely the Woodland cariboo; but Barren
Ground  cariboo have often been  brought into m
Dawson from the head-waters of the River Klondyke and sold in the butchers' shops.
It appears rather remarkable that cariboo are
not more generally trained for sleighing purposes,
like the reindeer, especially as they exist in such
abundance in the Yukon district, as well as in
British Columbia and other parts of Canada. I
have heard of the cariboo being trained amongst
certain tribes of Esquimaux, but I am not aware
of any Indians who employ them for that purpose, except a tribe residing on the Peel River,
a tributary of the Mackenzie River, members of
which have occasionally arrived in Dawson during
the winter with toboggans drawn by Barren
Ground cariboo.
The cariboo, like other deer, possess a keen
sense of smell, but they are not so shy or cunning
as the moose, and provided that care is exercised
regarding the direction of the wind are much
more easy to approach, especially as they reside
higher up on the mountain and are generally
found on more open ground. The moose, ensconced among the willows and bushes, is more
difficult to observe ; while to walk amongst thick
brush without making a certain amount of noise
is not an easy undertaking, and the moose with
its fine sense of hearing would instantly detect
any rustling amongst the bushes. The bull
cariboo, like all the deer tribe, is very jealous of
his harem, guarding his wives as vigilantly as
any Moslem in Cairo or Constantinople, and if
any of the cows wander too far away will instantly COLOUR  PROTECTION  AND  BIG GAME    205
pursue and drive it back to the herd. It may
here be mentioned that the female moose and
cariboo are not called hinds, but cows.
Many years ago, when hunting cariboo in
British Columbia, an Indian and I crouched concealed behind a rock while we watched the
approach of a bull cariboo accompanied by a herd
of seven cows. As the wind was blowing in the
right direction, our presence remained undetected,
and after approaching to within a comparatively
short distance, the cariboo suddenly lay down to
take its noonday rest. This was on a bitterly
cold day towards the end of October, high up on
the mountain, which was perfectly bare, with a
strong biting wind blowing; and although the
shelter of the spruce forest was not far distant,
the cariboo appeared perfectly contented to lie
down on the snow in the open. When the bull
lay down to rest the cows promptly stopped, some
lying down at the same time, while others grazed
about in the vicinity.
I watched them closely for a short period, and
noticed that although the cariboo were taking
their noonday sleep, their ears were constantly
twitching and turning about, showing that they
were ever on the qui vive for enemies. I also
noticed that the bull, before lying down, made a
detour by walking to the leeward side of all the
cows, which would enable it to retain their scent.
It probably derived a certain satisfaction from
their scent, while also, according to the Indian's
explanation—and as the Indians are continually «
hunting them, they ought to be acquainted with
their habits—if any of the cows wandered too far
away, the bull by missing the scent would detect
its departure, and instantly pursue it.
On another occasion in British Columbia, two
Indians and I were packing supplies on our backs
through an open space, with high bush which
extended nearly up to our shoulders. One of
the Indians was carrying on his shoulders the
head of a cariboo with the horns pointing upwards, when to our surprise a large bull cariboo
suddenly emerged from the spruce forest which
was not far distant and walked directly towards
us. It had evidently noticed the horns, while the
high brush partially concealed us, and imagining
the presence in the vicinity of another cariboo,
it was approaching in order to make its acquaintance, either friendly or otherwise.
We promptly stopped and crouched down, leaving only the horns exposed; while the cariboo,
after approaching to within about 200 yards,
evidently became suspicious and stopped to gaze
at us. After gazing for a few moments it commenced at a slow walk to make a detour round,
stopping every now and then to gaze, so that by
reaching the leeward side of us it would be able
to obtain our scent. Of course, if its object had
been accomplished our presence would have been
instantly detected, so I shot the cariboo before it
had time to complete its investigations.
The mountain sheep in the Yukon comprise a
species of the Ovis montana or Rocky Mountain COLOUR PROTECTION AND BIG GAME 207
sheep, and closely resemble the Ovis ammon of
the Himalaya Mountains, although on an average
the former are not quite so large, a Rocky Mountain sheep with a horn measuring 16 inches round
the base being considered a good head. The
white sheep occasionally appears in Dawson,
brought in by hunters from the head-waters of
the Klondyke River. Their heads are very
pretty, the hair being pure white, with the horns
long and forming a beautiful curve, although not
usually quite so massive as the horns of the
Rocky Mountain sheep. The meat of the wild
sheep makes excellent mutton; but it seldom
appears in the market at Dawson, as their ranges
exist some distance from the Yukon, and wild
sheep are not always very easy to obtain.
During the summer the rams reside high up in
the mountains, so the best period for shooting
them is early in the winter, as the rams then
descend to the lower slopes and do not require
climbing after so far. They are more difficult to
approach than cariboo, their sense of sight and
hearing being very keen, and are often found on
difficult and rocky ground. However, they do
not usually look high up, so if one can manage
to make a detour round and climb above them,
and the direction of the wind is favourable to
avoid being scented, a reasonably close shot can
generally be obtained.
The mountain goats do not range so far north
as the Yukon, although in certain portions of
British Columbia they exist in abundance.   These HW
animals are very large goats, attaining about the
size of a small calf, the colour being pure white
with short jet black horns, while they possess
a long shaggy coat which is often made into
robes for winter use. Of course, like all wild
animals, they can smell; but their senses are by
no means keen, and after a hard climb over difficult ground and suitable precautions being taken
about the direction of the wind, they are not
difficult to approach. They are nearly always
found on rocky ground on the mountain side, and
like the wild sheep descend lower down towards
the valley at the commencement of the winter,
when therefore the best opportunity arises for
obtaining them.
The upper regions of the Pelly River have
gained quite a notoriety for big game, and every
year parties arrive from England and the United
States to collect specimens of heads from the
head-waters of the Pelly. The moose on Cook's
inlet are supposed to possess the largest heads;
but the Pelly moose are considered fairly good
specimens, while cariboo and mountain sheep
can also be obtained. Trappers, prospectors,
and those residing in the country are allowed to
shoot all the game that they require for their
own use; but hunters arriving from the outside
for the purpose of collecting heads are obliged to
obtain a permit from the Government at Ottawa,
for which a certain fee is charged, and are also
restricted to a certain number of each variety.
Some of the residents in the Yukon complain COLOUR PROTECTION AND BIG GAME 209
of these big-game hunters on the ground that, as
only the heads are required, they waste a considerable portion of the meat, while they help to
destroy the game. These complaints, however,
are much exaggerated, as the upper regions of
the Pelly are too remote and the journey too
expensive to tempt a large influx of hunters.
The animal that destroys the game far more than
all the trappers and head hunters combined is
the wolf, and wherever moose and cariboo exist
wolves are always found in the vicinity. If the
moose or cariboo migrate from the district the
wolves will follow them; and the amount of
game they destroy, especially cows and young
calves, must be enormous.
Bears are very plentiful all over the Yukon
valley, but owing to the dense forest and thick
brush they are not so often encountered as might
be expected. Several different species are found
in the Yukon, namely, the black bear, the grizzly,
the cinnamon, and the bald-face bear, the latter
being a large dark brown bear with a white face-
Over twenty years have elapsed since my shooting days amongst the Himalaya Mountains in
Kashmir and Astor; but from what I remember
the black bears of the Himalayas were on the
average just as large and as dangerous as the
brown bears, while on the American continent
the brown bears are on an average considerably
larger and more formidable than the black bears.
The great brown bear of Alaska is considered '
the largest specimen on the American continent, IH!
Kodiak Island off the Alaskan coast being especially noted for the size of its enormous brown
Bears " hole up " or hibernate during the winter
months, which implies that they choose some convenient crevice, such as the hollow where a tree
has been uprooted. Here they form a comfortable bed, and allowing the place to be covered
with snow remain in a semi-dormant condition
without any food whatever until the ensuing
spring, a period in the Yukon of about five or six
months. Some people assert that during this
prolonged retirement the bears occupy their time
by licking their paws, which contain a certain
amount of greasy substance that assists in keeping them alive. The truth of this appears to be
rather doubtful; it is, however, a curious fact
that the cubs are born while the mother bear is
in this semi-dormant condition. The cinnamon
and the grizzly can withstand the cold rather
better than the black bear, and therefore hole up
rather later in the winter. In the spring, when
they feel the sun's warmth, the bears will emerge
from their holes and take a walk; but if, as occasionally happens, another cold snap occurs, they
will retire to bed for perhaps a week or two and
wait for more favourable weather.
These winter quarters have occasionally been
detected by following the bear's tracks, which, as
already explained, can sometimes be distinguished
for a considerable period after the animal has
forrrfed them.    A bear wandering about at the COLOUR  PROTECTION AND  BIG GAME    211
commencement of the cold weather is probably
searching for a cosy spot, so the track can be
followed until the position of the bear's den has
been located. The place will be marked and
remembered ; but the animal will not be immediately disturbed, as time will be allowed for the
fur to grow, which late in the winter becomes
longer and more valuable.
I have never witnessed the occurrence, but have
been informed that on being suddenly rousted
up with a pole thrust through the snow the semi-
dormant bear becomes very wide awake, and,
judging from the subterranean growls, is extremely
irate at being disturbed during its beauty sleep,
and on subsequently emerging from its snow-
roofed den is evidently in a thoroughly bad
humour, and quite prepared to argue with any
one in the vicinity. However, the wretched beast
is not afforded much opportunity, as some men
will be standing a few yards off with rifles ready,
and on its first appearance above the snow the
unlucky bear is promptly greeted with a volley
and rapidly demolished.
On emerging in the spring from their winter
quarters bears feed on roots and a certain kind
of weed, called skunk weed, while they are very
fond of wild berries when they become ripe, and
on encountering an ant-hill will promptly tear it
up and devour the inhabitants with avicTity.
When the salmon are swimming up the river the
bears become carnivorous, and stationing themselves by the riffles, pounce upon and clutch the 212 REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
fish with their claws. They will also eat the
dead salmon stranded on the banks, and the
more gamey the salmon the more the bears
appreciate them. There is no better bait for
enticing a bear than a thoroughly gamey salmon.
The meat of a young bear, when feeding on roots
or berries, provides excellent eating, and is of a
rather darker colour than beef or moose meat,
but when the bears are feeding on gamey salmon
the flavour of the meat becomes strong and is
quite uneatable.
Bears possess a poor eyesight, but their sense
of smell and hearing are very keen, and, as
they reside principally amongst the brush, are
not very easy to approach, as they will quickly
detect any rustling in the bushes. They are
often hunted with dogs, which on scenting a bear
will pursue and soon drive it up a tree or bring it
to bay and remain barking until the hunter arrives
at the spot with his rifle. A really good bear dog
is not very easy to obtain, and will always command a good price. Small dogs are more active
than large dogs, and, therefore, more suitable for
the purpose, as they are more easily able to avoid
the bear's claws. The bear when brought to bay
will strike at the dog with its long sharp claws,
and a successful stroke will tear the flesh to
ribbons. However, a good dog will manage to
avoid the strokes, while it keeps barking and
bounding round the bear, and whenever an
opportunity occurs it will promptly rush in, and
after taking a bite at the bear's  hind quarters COLOUR PROTECTION  AND  BIG GAME    213
will quickly jump back again before the bear can
strike it. The bear in this predicament squats
down on its hind quarters in order to protect
them from the dog, and with growls and snarls
continually turns round like a teetotum, while the
dog keeps bounding round it. In the meantime,
the hunter with his rifle is guided by the growls
and barking towards the spot, and as the bear's
attention is already concentrated on the dog it
can easily be shot.
Another method of obtaining bears, although
not often resorted to in the Yukon, is by means
of a small keg in which large sharp nails are
driven round the open end, so that the points
protrude into the interior and slant towards the
bottom- A bait, such as rotten fish, which bears
can smell for a long distance, is then placed in
the bottom of the keg. The bear can push its
head into the keg to obtain the bait, but when it
wishes to withdraw the sharp points of the nails,
which are slanting inwards, come in contact with
its skin, so that its head becomes firmly secured
within the keg. I have never witnessed the
occurrence, but have been informed that a bear in
this predicament employs its time in rolling over
and over, with the fore-paws against its neck,
endeavouring to release its head. The harder it
pushes with its paws against the keg, the farther
are the nails driven through its skin, so that its
snarls and growls can be heard for a considerable
distance. The trapper or hunter, guided to the
locality by the pandemonium, soon arrives at the Iff
spot with his rifle and shoots the unfortunate
A i cache," derived from the French-Canadian
" cacher," to hide, is a term frequently employed
by those residing in the woods in Canada, and
denotes any supplies deposited by a person in
some locality, either near his cabin or at any
spot in the woods which he may intend to revisit
on a future occasion. Bears are exceedingly
destructive animals, and as they occasionally
obtain access to the interior by tearing down the
caches if not strongly built, these, as a further
precaution, are sometimes erected on trees. For
this purpose four trees situated together are
selected, forming approximately the shape of a
square, and a platform about fifteen or twenty
feet from the ground is constructed between
them. Small trees are advisable, as bears
require a fairly large tree to climb easily, while
as a further precaution the bark is peeled off
below the platform, which will render the trees
slippery, so that the bears are unable to climb
up. The goods can be placed on the platform,
or, as a protection against rain, a small cabin is
occasionally constructed on the platform in which
the supplies can be safely deposited. Access to
the cache is obtained by means of a ladder, which,
when not required, can be placed on the ground
or against another tree in the vicinity.
Bears are not usually dangerous, and, unless
wounded or suddenly encountered at close
quarters, will nearly always run away on detect-  Ill COLOUR  PROTECTION AND  BIG GAME   215
ing the approach of a human being. The most
dangerous of the bears is supposed to be the
bald-face, which, according to tradition, will
promptly attack any one discovered in the
vicinity. These bears are comparatively rare
in the Yukon, and the report of their ferocity
is probably exaggerated, while even the famous
grizzly, on detecting the presence of a human
being, will generally retire gracefully. At the
same time, although the occurrence is comparatively rare, people are occasionally mauled
by bears, generally when wounded, and while I
was residing at Fort Selkirk one of the Indians
arrived at the place after having become entangled
with a wounded bear, and was rather badly hurt
in consequence. The other Indians, on hearing
his story, immediately started with their rifles in
pursuit, and after tracking the bear for some
distance eventually succeeded in killing it. They
then proceeded to cut up the body into tiny
fragments, which they scattered far and wide,
and when this feat had been successfully accomplished the wounded Indian was considered by
his fellow Indians to have been completely
compensated for his injuries. CHAPTER  IX
Steamboat stampedes, as explained in a previous
chapter, originate from a report being circulated
about Dawson of a rich gold strike having been
discovered somewhere on the Yukon or one of
its tributaries. A special steamer undertakes to
convey passengers to the locality, and although
the report is probably a pure fabrication, the
owners of the steamer derive a handsome profit
from the deluded passengers. One of these
stampedes occurred from Dawson to a place
situated far up the Pelly River, and a steamer
one afternoon arrived at Selkirk with a number
of passengers on board, who were anxious to
secure claims in the locality. Some trappers
from the Pelly River were then residing at
Selkirk who would probably have known of a
recent gold discovery if such a thing existed, and
as they were totally ignorant of the occurrence,
the report was received in Selkirk with a considerable amount of scepticism. The stampede
resulted in a complete failure for those engaged
in it, as no mining ground was discovered of any
value ; however, the presence of a steamer on its
way up the Pelly River proved extremely con- THE M'MILLAN RIVER 217
venient to some of the trappers, as it saved them
a long and tedious tramp when returning to their
trapping grounds for the ensuing winter.
The journey involved by no means a cheap
undertaking, as the charges, like all expenses
in the Yukon, were excessive in comparison to
prices on the outside. Many of the trappers who
were unable to afford the passage money had
already departed up the Pelly in their rowing-
boats, while those who could scrape together
enough to pay for their journey on the steamer
had waited for its arrival in Selkirk. I had
never yet been able to travel far up the river,
and was therefore glad of an opportunity to see
the upper regions of the Pelly or M'Millan
rivers ; so, after purchasing provisions for about
ten months at the trading post, and paying about
,£35 for a ticket for myself and outfit and sleigh
dogs, I accordingly embarked on the steamer
and started up the Pelly River. The steamer
was smaller than the regular steamers on the
Yukon, and therefore more suitable for navigating the tributaries. It was fiat-bottomed, and
possessed one large paddle in the stern, like the
paddle-steamers on the Nile.
Wood instead of coal was used for fuel, and
when the supply on board ran short the steamer
moored up to the bank, and we would then all
turn out with axes and spend perhaps an hour or
two in chopping down trees near the river bank.
These would be cut up into suitable lengths and
conveyed on  board  the steamer, and  when a HI
sufficient supply had been obtained the steamer
proceeded on its journey. When embarking on
these expeditions a mutual understanding was
observed that the passengers worked with the
crew when their services were required, and
assisted in replenishing the wood supply. In
places where the current was exceptionally strong,
a long cable would be dragged along the bank
and fastened round a tree in front. The other
end would be secured to the capstan, which would
then be put in motion, and the steamer would
slowly drag its way up against the rapid till the
bad spot had been surmounted.
On one occasion, when it reached a small rapid,
the steamer attempted to make its way up without
the assistance of the cable, but was soon forced
back by the current, and the stern was, consequently, driven against some rocks, several of
the paddle blades being broken and the ironwork twisted. Matters for a few moments looked
rather serious, as the rocks threatened to knock
a hole in the bottom of the boat. Fortunately,
the bow swiftly swung round in the swift current,
so that the steamer veered away from the rocks
and was eventually moored to the bank some
distance below. Some extra paddle blades were
stored on board in case of emergencies, so the
remainder of the day was employed in straightening the ironwork and renewing the broken
Eventually we arrived at the junction of
the  Pelly  and M'Millan rivers.     Most of the THE M'MILLAN  RIVER 219
passengers had embarked at Dawson and were
destined for the upper waters of the Pelly River,
where they hoped to acquire some valuable
mining ground. I myself and some trappers on
board were too sceptical of their mining prospects
to be induced to accompany them, so we here
disembarked and waited for the steamer to
return and take us up the M'Millan River. We
therefore camped on the river bank, and employed the intermediate time in cutting down
trees and chopping them up into suitable lengths,
so that the steamer would be furnished with fuel
on its arrival.
The steamer returned in about three days, and
when the wood had been conveyed on board
we started on our way up the M'Millan River.
For the first 20 miles the river was broad and
extremely shallow, besides being studded with
numerous mud bars, so that it was often a difficult
matter to find a channel deep enough to navigate.
The flat-bottomed steamer drew less than 4 feet
of water, and as it slowly ascended amongst the
shoals, a man with a long stick stood in the bow
and sounded the depth of the river while we
cautiously advanced. Every now and then we
would ground in the mud, and the steamer would
then work away with the paddle reversed until
we were clear, which sometimes took a considerable time. Other places in the river would then
be attempted, so that an hour or two would
occasionally elapse before a channel was found
sufficiently deep to navigate. 22o    REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
After proceeding up the M'Millan for about
ioo miles, we overtook a couple of trappers who
had journeyed up from Selkirk with their boats
and supplies. One of them owned a cabin on the
river, which he had built a few years previously,
and which I had arranged to share with him
during the ensuing winter. He had invested
most of the proceeds from his last winter's furs
in general dissipation at Selkirk, and had, consequently, been unable to afford a passage on
the steamer. However, now that the steamer
was nearly empty, the captain was glad to pick
up some stray passengers at reduced rates, so,
after considerable bargaining, some terms were
eventually agreed upon, and the two trappers
with their boats and supplies were taken on
On one occasion, while proceeding up the
stream, we came to a place where the river
forked, and the captain unfortunately chose the
wrong channel, which ended in a cul-de-sac. The
channel gradually became more and more narrow,
until the ends of the branches from the trees
overhanging the banks began sweeping over the
deck, so that we were obliged to take refuge in
the saloon, where some of the windows were
broken by the branches striking against them.
It was impossible to turn round, and considerable
difficulty was experienced before we were finally
extricated. The paddle was accordingly reversed,
and the steamer gradually backed its way towards
the mouth, every now and again colliding with THE  M'MILLAN  RIVER 221
the banks or sticking in the mud and becoming
entangled amongst the overhanging branches.
Eventually we managed to blunder our way
back to the entrance and into the main channel,
after having broken several windows and more
paddle-blades, and the rest of the day was employed in repairing damages. On arriving at our
destination my cabin partner and I disembarked
with our supplies, while the steamer proceeded
with some other trappers higher up the river.
My partner's cabin was in a most dilapidated
condition, so the next few days were employed
in collecting moss and jamming it into the
crevices between the logs, besides repairing
the roof and making the cabin as air-tight as
possible for the ensuing winter.
The scenery on the M'Millan River much
resembles that of the lower regions of the
Pelly, except that the valley is rather more
narrow, while the mountains rise up to higher
altitudes and are more rugged. The country,
like most parts of the Yukon district, is thickly
timbered, and the mountain ranges, with their
lower slopes densely wooded and their bare
snowy peaks towering up towards the sky, form
an imposing spectacle. Wild berries grew in
profusion round the cabin, consisting principally of black and red currants, strawberries,
raspberries, and cranberries, all of which could
be gathered in abundance. I had brought an
extra supply of sugar in anticipation, so I occupied myself for a few days in wandering through Ill
the woods with a bucket and gathering wild
berries, which I afterwards converted into jams
and preserves for the ensuing winter.
When the cabin arrangements had been completed, my partner went off amongst the mountains to prepare his trap line. He had spent
previous winters trapping in the locality, so his
line had already been marked out by blazing
trees along the route. Blazing trees, as is well
known, consists in hacking off a piece of bark
with an axe, and as the bark will not grow
again an old blaze can be distinguished for
many years. A blazed tree must be, of course,
within sight of the next blazed tree adjoining,
which will indicate the proper route, while trees
must always be blazed on both sides, so that
the blazes can be distinguished when travelling
in either direction.
A trap line may extend for seventy-five to a
hundred miles in length, and as this will take
about a week to traverse small wayside cabins
will be constructed along the route, where the
trapper may find a warm place to pass the night.
My own trap line was on a very diminutive scale,
as my lame foot disabled me from cutting out
a long line for sleighing purposes. The main
cabin was sufficient for my own requirements,
and three lines would branch off from it in
different directions, so that the dogs could pull
me along one of the lines and back to the cabin
during the day, the total length of the three
lines   being about twenty  miles.     They  were   THE  M'MILLAN  RIVER 223
cut out principally after the snow had commenced, so that the dogs could drag me from
the cabin to the place where I was working,
and when a certain amount had been completed
I got on to the sleigh and drove back to the
cabin. This process would be continued from
day to day till the lines had been completed.
My trap lines were necessarily confined to the
vicinity of the cabin in the river valley, but my
partner's trap line extended far back amongst the
mountains, where the fur animals had been less
molested, and were consequently more abundant.
I, therefore, seldom saw him during the winter,
although he would occasionally return to the main
cabin for fresh supplies. Although we shared the
provisions and the main cabin, we trapped independently, and each owned the furs which he
secured. Two trappers will occasionally place
their furs together and divide the proceeds, but
with my diminutive trap line I was only able
to secure comparatively few skins, so I would
have been hardly suitable as a partner on such
terms. However, a fair number of lynx, besides
foxes and other fur animals, would occasionally
wander down my lines and walk into the traps.
Lynx, besides being trapped, are also caught
by means of snares made of strong cord, the
loop being about fifteen inches in diameter, and
placed across the trail at about the height of
the animal's head. A spot on the trail is chosen
where thick bushes prevail on each side, so
that the snare can be made to harmonise more r
effectually with its surroundings. Brush or sticks
are placed upright across the trail, leaving an
opening where the snare has been set, while
one end of the cord is attached to a pole which
is placed across the trail above the snare. A
lynx, on approaching the opening in the trail,
places its head through the loop, which promptly
tightens round its neck, so that the animal during
its struggles to escape is quickly strangled.
Lynx are infested with fleas, which makes the
process of skinning them rather disagreeable, as
the fleas jump off the lynx on to one's body and
are most unpleasant companions. It is preferable to let the lynx freeze outside for a few days
before skinning them, as the fleas, having then
no longer the warmth of the body, become dormant and can to a great extent be shaken off.
The fleas possess considerable vitality, as they
will remain in a frozen state for several days,
and when the lynx has been thawed out in the
cabin for skinning purposes will soon become
lively again and as active and voracious as ever.
Although a species of the cat family lynx are
not averse to water, and think nothing of swimming across the rivers. Their coat contains a
long silky fur providing a beautiful coat or
robe, but in latter years they have become very
scarce, which makes the fur extremely expensive, a prime full-grown lynx skin being worth
about £"9. They are all of the same colour, a
sort of light tabby; but the skins when made
up for commercial purposes are generally dyed . THE M'MILLAN  RIVER 225
black, so that when the animals were more
common " black lynx" robes were occasionally
seen advertised for sale, while in reality a black
lynx does not exist. Trappers occasionally eat
the lynx they have killed, while some people
consider them quite a delicacy, although, as
they belong to the cat family, I could never
manage to eat them myself.
Numerous baits are employed for enticing
animals to the traps, while the best baits are,
to a great extent, a matter of opinion, which
varies considerably amongst different trappers.
Fish kept for several days in a closed jar, until
it ferments and becomes absolutely rotten, forms
a most disagreeable bait to employ, but during
the early part of the winter or towards the
spring, when the cold is not so severe, rotten
fish is most effective, and will entice animals
from a considerable distance. During the middle
of the winter, when the temperature is about 300
below zero and often a great deal colder, meat
or fish baits become of very little use, as they
do not retain their smell when frozen solid.
Strong smelling scents, called scent baits, made
of essential oils, such as oil of anise, &c, are
often employed, a few drops of the scent being
poured on to a rag, which is attached to a small
stick placed behind the trap. An animal on
smelling a strange scent will proceed to investigate the cause, hoping probably that it may be
something edible, and will therefore be guided
towards the trap.    These essential oils, although
J 5* 5SS5££E^*=*SSR==
they do not freeze, are very expensive in the
Yukon, and also quickly evaporate; so unless the
traps are revisited at very short intervals, which
with a long trap-line is not often possible, their
scent will not always be retained for a sufficient
This particular winter happened to be exceptionally severe, the cold snaps recurring more
frequently than usual, while the main cabin where
I resided was extremely cold and draughty, which
made matters considerably more uncomfortable.
We had omitted to bring any window-panes, so
the window was composed of a piece of linen
soaked in candle grease, which only excluded the
cold air to a very limited extent, while the rough
home-made door fitted extremely badly, so that
a strong draught from the outside atmosphere,
which ranged between 300 and 700 below zero,
was continually entering the room. On one
occasion, after retiring to bed, I had foolishly
omitted to cover up my face sufficiently with my
robe before going to sleep, and the result was
that the next morning a portion of my nose and
face was affected with frost-bite. Fortunately the
frost-bite was not very severe, but the skin peeled
off; my face was too sore and tender to be exposed much to the cold atmosphere, and for about
ten days I was confined to the precincts of the
Besides traps and snares, animals are also
secured by means of " dead-falls," which consist
of bait attached to what is termed the "trigger," Dead-Fall for Marten.
The Dead-Fall set.    ii. The Marten killed.  THE  M'MILLAN   RIVER 227
so that when the animal pulls at the bait the
trigger is released, and a weight which is arranged
above promptly falls upon the victim and kills it.
The amount of weight required will, of course,
vary according to the size of the animal for
which the dead-fall is set, while the trigger is
arranged on the same principle so often employed by boys when constructing a trap composed of four bricks for the purpose of securing
small birds.
When arranging a dead-fall, two poles and two
small sticks are required, one pole (A) (see illustration) being laid on the ground, while the other
pole (B) is placed above it in a slanting position,
so that the lower end of (B) rests on the pole
lying on the ground, while the upper end is
supported by an upright stick (C) placed between
the two. The second stick (D) is arranged so
that one end rests on the bottom pole (A), and
is retained in position by the upright stick (C)
resting upon it. The bait (E) is attached to the
other end of the stick (D), which is set horizontally and pointing away from the trail. The
stick (C) is arranged to just balance itself on the
end of (D), so that when the bait is pulled by
the animal, a slight movement on (D)'s part will
cause the supporting stick (C) to upset and the
weight to fall. A house (F) of upright sticks is
also constructed round the bait, so that the
animal, in order to secure the bait, is obliged to
place itself underneath the dead fall. An animal
travelling along the trail is attracted by smelling 228    REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
the bait placed under the dead-fall, but when it
pulls at the bait the stick (D) forces away the
supporting stick (C), and, consequently, the pole
(B) falls upon the animal, which becomes pinned
between the two poles and is promptly crushed.
Foxes are generally far too cunning and suspicious to allow themselves to be inveigled into
either a snare or a dead-fall, and although I once
happened to secure a fox in a snare set for lynx,
the occurrence is very exceptional.
Besides traps and dead-falls, another method
of securing marten is sometimes employed, a hole
about 4 inches deep being bored into a tree with
an auger, and the bait deposited at the back of
the hole. A couple of nails are then hammered
in near the edge of the hole in a slanting position,
so that their points intrude into the interior
and slant towards the back of it. Marten are
good climbers, and spend a considerable portion
of their time up the trees, so they will experience
no difficulty in reaching the mouth of the hole.
On scenting the bait the marten shoves its head
into the hole in order to secure it, but when it
wishes to withdraw, the back of its head is brought
in contact with the sharp points of the nails, so
that the animal is effectually secured.
As bears hibernate during the cold weather,
their skins are seldom obtained during the winter
months. Their furs are in the best condition
when they have first emerged from their holes
in the spring, but their winter coats soon begin
to rub off after they have commenced wandering  I THE  M'MILLAN  RIVER 229
through the brush, and a bear killed after the
middle of June seldom proves of much value.
Although usually shot, they are occasionally
trapped; but bear traps, being very large and
heavy, are awkward things to convey about,
and are, consequently, not often employed by
Bears are occasionally killed by means of deadfalls, but a dead-fall of sufficient weight to kill
a bear requires considerable time and labour
to construct, while the method applied is rather
different than when constructing dead-falls for the
smaller animals. When arranging a dead-fall for
bears a hole is first bored into a tree with an
auger, and a wooden peg (A) (see illustration)
is hammered tightly in, while a short pole (B),
with a hole also bored through it, is then fitted
on to the peg. The peg thus forms a pivot on
which the pole (B) will easily swing. To the
bottom of the pole is attached the bait (C), which
may consist of rotten fish, which bears are exceedingly fond of and can smell for a long distance.
This can be enclosed in a sack, which is firmly
tied to the pole, so that considerable force would
be required to detach it.
Near the top of the pole a notch is cut at (D),
which forms the trigger. The pole (E) is placed
in position, so that one end is inserted into the
notch at (D), while the other end passes under
a short pole (F, F), to which it is attached by
means of a rope tied round the two poles at (H).
The weight (J) is placed in a slanting position
over the end of the pole (E), so that when the
trigger at (D) is released, the pole (E) will swing
round, which will enable the weight to fall. The
weight can be indefinitely increased by placing
other logs against it, such as (K, K). The deadfall is enclosed by a palisade, leaving an entrance
at (M, M), so that the bear is obliged to place
itself under the dead-fall in order to secure the
bait. In the first illustration on the subject the
palisade has been omitted, in order that the
mechanism can be more easily observed.
The bear is attracted to the spot by scenting
the bait, and enters at the entrance (M) in order
to secure it, but when it pulls at the bait (C) the
trigger at (D) is released. The pole (E) then
promptly swings round, so that the whole weight
of the dead-fall falls upon the bear, which becomes
firmly pinned between the two logs .(J and L),
and crushed to death. In Fig. 2 of the first
illustration on the subject, the dotted lines show
how the trigger is released when the bait is pulled
at. When the dead-fall is set a heavy pressure
is exerted on the notch at (D), so in order to
produce a strong leverage the distance from the
pivot (A) to the bait at (C) is made considerably
longer than from the pivot to the notch at (D).
The bear, when pulling at the bait, is now assisted
with a strong leverage, which enables it easily
to release the trigger and cause the weight to
Another trapper was situated in a cabin about
ten miles higher up the M'Millan River, whom   THE  M'MILLAN  RIVER 231
I used to meet occasionally. He was an old
trapper, who had occupied his time in this fashion
for the last twenty years, and had penetrated all
sorts of out-of-the-way places both in the upper
and lower portions of the Yukon, besides the
Mackenzie River, Great Slave Lake, and other
remote districts in this Northern region. He was
accompanied by four children and a wife, who
was half-Indian and half-white. She was a great,
strong woman, who could accomplish any amount
of work, and was, therefore, a most useful companion for a trapper. She had spent all her life
in the woods, and was thoroughly acquainted
with the methods of preparing a camp or laying
out traps and dead-falls, while she could chop
down trees or saw up logs just as well as a man.
My cabin partner and myself had arranged to
dine with them at Christmas; so on Christmas
Day we harnessed up the dogs and journeyed off
to his cabin. To our great surprise he brought
out a bottle of rum, which he had religiously kept
intact to celebrate the occasion, while his wife
produced for dinner a plum pudding made with
moose suet and wild currants, which, under the
circumstances, formed quite a work of art.
Our host was a good moose hunter, and killed
nineteen moose during that winter, and might
have killed several more if he had required them.
This may appear to be something like slaughter,
but not a pound of meat was wasted, as, besides
himself and his family, he owned five sleigh dogs,
and it is extraordinary what amount of food dogs 232    REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
will consume when working hard in a severe
climate. Moose existed in great abundance on
the M'Millan, and when travelling round the
trap-line their fresh tracks were constantly encountered. Occasionally I would happen to run
across a moose, but I was not able to hunt them
regularly, as travelling on snow-shoes through
deep snow exerted a severe strain on my weak
As moose were so abundant on the M'Millan,
it was natural that wolves should also exist in
considerable quantities. Like all wild animals,
they roamed about principally at night, so I did
not very often see them, but their fresh tracks in
the snow were constantly observed, while occasionally I would hear them howling round the
cabin. Wolves are more cunning and suspicious
even than foxes, and are not often trapped except
by a fluke, but are usually caught by means of
poisoned baits.
Strychnine is the poison generally employed ;
a deer, after being shot, being sometimes impregnated with the poison, and left on the snow to
attract the animals. If deer are not available for
the purpose, a small piece of poisoned meat or
lard is sometimes deposited on the snow, the
amount of strychnine required being only a few
grains, which can be retained on the end of the
blade of a pocket-knife and inserted into the bait.
A few other small pieces of meat or lard ought to
be strewed about near the poisoned bait, as the
wolf, on finding several morsels, will proceed to THE  M'MILLAN  RIVER 233
sniff about the vicinity in hopes of discovering
some more, so that the poison will then have
time to act before the animal has wandered far
The spot where poisoned baits have been deposited should be carefully marked by blazing a
stick in the locality, and before the trapper leaves
the country great care must be taken to pick up
and burn all the poisoned baits no longer required.
This rule has not always been rigidly observed,
so that sleigh dogs have occasionally been killed
through eating poisoned baits which have been
left strewed about by former trappers. An Act
has, therefore, been passed in the Yukon forbidding the use of poisoned baits, but they are
still sometimes employed in remote localities for
the purpose of securing wolves or foxes.
Omitting the use of poisoned baits, which are
only occasionally employed, a trap-line will consist of traps, snares, and dead-falls distributed at
intervals along the trail, and if the line extends
for seventy-five or a hundred miles in length, the
traps, snares, and dead-falls will total in number
about six or seven hundred, or perhaps more.
The mink, being fond of the water, inhabits
the banks of streams and rivers. It much resembles the marten, except that the marten is
slightly larger, with longer and rather more valuable fur. The mink in the Yukon district obtain a
high price in the market, as their fur is almost
invariably of a dark colour; and in fact, as a
general  rule,  the  farther  north   the  fur-coated 234    REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
animals reside the darker and therefore the more
valuable are their skins. Mink range backwards
and forwards up and down the streams and rivers,
and when a mink track is observed in the snow
the animal will probably return over more or less
the same ground in the course of about a week.
A trap in the vicinity with a strong scent bait
has, therefore, a favourable chance of eventually
securing it. Mink are fond of peering under
roots or fallen trees in the hope of finding a
concealed mouse; so if a mink track is observed
where the animal has entered one of these places,
a trap should be set near the spot. The mink,
on its return, is very liable to remember this
particular place as affording a favourable hiding-
place for a mouse, and is therefore likely again to
revisit it.
These fur-coated animals are not absolutely
impervious to the cold, and when a very cold
snap prevails they prefer not to wander about
much, but remain curled up in some sheltered
spot until the weather has moderated. On occasions when the temperature reaches 500 or more
below zero travelling round the trap-line, besides
being then by no means a pleasant occupation,
becomes of very little use, as the animals are not
often moving about, and the chances of observing
a fresh track on the trail or finding an animal
secured in a trap become exceedingly remote.
A trapper, however, might be staying at one of
his wayside cabins and become short of provisions.
In that case he would naturally be obliged to THE M'MILLAN  RIVER 235
travel back to his main cabin in order to replenish his food supply, however low might be
the temperature.
Some people may be interested in the different
tracks impressed on the snow by the various fur-
coated animals inhabiting the Yukon. The lynx,
possessing big feet, forms a track which is large
in proportion to its size, the toe part being almost
square. The wolverine possesses long hair at
the back of the fetlock, so the snow at the back
part of its track is brushed away. The toe part
is also not quite so square as the lynx, and, unlike
the lynx or the wolf, the wolverine places one
foot on the ground exactly in front of the other.
The wolf and the fox form the same shaped
track as a dog, except that the wolf's is of course
larger, while it is also more pointed than either lynx
or wolverine tracks. The smaller animals, such as
the marten, mink, and ermine, always advance at
a jump, and at the end of each jump their hind
feet are placed in the same spot formerly occupied
by the front feet. The ermine and the marten
form the same shaped track, except that the
marten's track is larger—about the size of a two-
shilling piece ; while both the ermine and the
marten always place one of their fore-feet slightly
in advance of the other. The mink jumps like
the marten and ermine, except that it places its
feet together instead of one being placed in front
of the other. The inside part of a mink's foot is
also more straight, so that its track will not be
round like that of a marten or ermine. 236    REMINISCENCES  OF THE  YUKON
When travelling round the trap-line the trapper
is eagerly on the qui vive for any fresh tracks
that may appear on the trail, and as the species
of the animal can always be recognised by its
track quite a thrilling sensation is experienced
when a fresh track is encountered, and it is eagerly
followed in the hope of finding an animal secured
in the next trap. Disappointments are, however,
frequent. An animal will not proceed far along
the trail unless it leads approximately in the
required direction, and may, therefore, turn off
again into the woods before reaching the vicinity
of a trap or dead-fall. Or it may arrive at a trap
placed alongside the trail and be attracted by the
bait; but its feet may be placed too much on the
edge of the trap, which will then sometimes spring
without securing the animal. Or perhaps a heavy
fall of snow has recently occurred, and the trap
will then often not spring, although the animal's
foot has been placed over it.
Of all these disappointments the most annoying
is when the bait fails to attract the animal, owing
either to evaporation or because it is too much
frozen to retain its scent. After the traps have
been arranged and concealed beneath the snow
with so much care and the most alluring baits or
scents employed to attract the animal, there is
nothing more irritating than to follow a track
along the trap-line and to discover that the animal
has passed trap after trap with complete indifference and without taking the smallest notice of
the baits placed so enticingly behind them. THE M'MILLAN  RIVER 237
Not many otter exist in the Yukon, though a
few skins are brought in every year to the trading
posts for sale. The value of the skin varies
according to the size and colour, a fairly dark
prime otter skin being worth about .£3. The
animal spends a large portion of its time in the
water, living on fish ; while its presence can often
be detected by a slide made on the bank, as it
amuses itself by climbing repeatedly to the top of
a steep bank and sliding down head foremost
into the water. During the winter spaces often
remain open in the ice owing to the prevalence of
warm springs, and these open spots, if close to the
shore where the water is shallow, form a likely
place for otters. Where the track of an otter is
thus observed is a favourable place for setting
a trap, as the otter will probably return before
long, and is liable to remember this open spot
and again revisit it.
Trappers, from travelling so constantly alone
in the woods, do not often become lost, as they
imperceptibly acquire a habit of observing their
surroundings, while their bump of locality becomes naturally developed. During the winter
months there is no danger of becoming lost, as a
person can always return by following his back
tracks, although, of course, this does not necessarily apply to the prairie parts of Canada, where
blinding blizzards occasionally prevail, and tracks
may become obliterated in a few moments. In
the summer people occasionally become lost, and
often make matters worse by roaming about with-
1 Iff
out knowing their direction, the result being that
they wander farther and farther away from their
destination. When thoroughly lost in the woods
a person generally becomes confused, so that he
eventually loses all idea of his proper direction;
and as there are 3600 in a circle the chances are
extremely remote that he will happen to strike
the right course. If companions are residing in
the vicinity who will notice his disappearance and
institute a search, his best method, on discovering
that he is completely lost, is to remain where he
is. People in the woods generally carry matches
and a light axe, so he can proceed to light a big
camp fire, which will probably guide his companions to the locality.
A man lost without companions to notice his
disappearance or to institute a search is naturally
in a more precarious predicament. He may,
however, come across a stream or remember one
which he has lately passed, and by following its
course, which would entail pushing his way
through tangled brush, provided his strength is
maintained with probably nothing to eat, will
eventually arrive at the river. Amongst such
a scanty population, he may still be situated a
long distance from an inhabited abode, but as he
will probably possess a light axe, a raft of logs
can be constructed and bound together with
willows, as is often done by Indians. A pole
can be cut for guiding himself past the sand-bars,
so that by floating on the raft down the river he
will probably,  either  dead  or alive,  eventually
^JLl 1
arrive somewhere. A person of my acquaintance
was on one occasion lost in the woods for four
days, and succeeded in saving himself by the
above method.
Personally, my bump of locality is not strongly
developed, and I have managed to become lost
in the woods on two occasions, both times in
British Columbia, although in different districts.
The first occasion was insignificant, as I was not
far away, and two companions who were in the
camp, on noticing my non-arrival, fired off their
rifles and that indicated their whereabouts. On
the second occasion I was considerably farther
away, about ten miles from camp as it afterwards
transpired, and remained lost in the woods from
about five o'clock in the evening until about eleven
o'clock the following morning. I was then on a
shooting expedition after cariboo, accompanied
by an Indian, and occasionally I used to carry
some lunch in my pocket and wander off with a
rifle, while the Indian remained in camp.
On one of these occasions, when returning to
camp, I was unable to discover certain expected
landmarks, so I tried two or three other directions
in the hope of being able to see them, but without success. At last it dawned upon me that
I had not the faintest idea of the direction of the
camp, and as wandering aimlessly through the
woods would have probably resulted in my getting
farther away, my only resource was to remain
in my present position. The autumn was then
rather advanced,  so a fire was   necessary  for
J Ill;
purposes of warmth, as well as to attract attention. When leaving camp a light axe was
fastened to my belt, so after starting a fire I cut
down several dry spruce trees and piled them
upon the flames, until eventually a huge bonfire
was blazing. Some live spruce trees were also
cut down and stripped of the green brush, which
I threw from time to time on the flames. This
produced a dense column of smoke which could
be observed for a considerable distance.
Being lost in the woods naturally produces a .
sort of uncanny feeling, while the dark sombre
spruces probably increase the depression, and'
although I knew that the Indian was pretty
certain to find me, especially as I owed him
some wages, there was at the same time a certain
element of doubt which it was difficult not to
brood over. However, I had brought a pipe
and plenty of tobacco, and smoking in that predicament not only helps to soothe the nerves,
but to a certain extent alleviates the pangs of
hunger. When it became dark, and it was
evident that the Indian would not arrive that
night, I allowed the fire to die down, only keeping up sufficient for purposes of warmth, and
passed the night in occasionally drowsing, but
principally in smoking vigorously. The next
morning at dawn I cut down numerous dry trees,
which soon formed a huge roaring blazing mass,
while I also tore up from the ground the half-
rotten remains of decayed trees, partly imbedded
in the deep moss, and these  I piled upon the- THE  M'MILLAN  RIVER
flames, producing a dense column of smoke. The
Indian had not suspected my becoming lost until
it was nearly dark, but the next morning he
started off in the direction that I had taken when
leaving camp, and after proceeding for some
distance arrived at the summit of some rising
ground, where he caught sight of the column of
smoke curling up in the sky. This guided him
to the spot, where to my great relief he eventually
The beaver have been practically exterminated
on the lower waters of the Pelly River, but on
the M'Millan River they still exist in considerable
numbers. Their coats are covered with long
coarse hair which conceals the fur underneath,
but when tanned and made up into articles of
clothing this long hair is plucked out, so that the
beaver skins, when sold in their raw state, appear
very different to the fine fur displayed in made-
up articles. Beaver are extremely shy animals,
possessing keen powers of scent and hearing,
and as they work principally at night, they are
not often observed except when caught in traps.
They are remarkable for their industry, so that
the expression "to work like a beaver" forms
a common saying in Canada, and they certainly
manage to accomplish an extraordinary amount
of labour, cutting down trees for building their
dams and houses, and storing up sticks for their
winter supply of food. They possess two very
long, strong, and sharp front teeth in the upper
and lower jaws, which  the beaver employ for
J 1
scraping off the bark for feeding purposes, and
also for cutting down the trees.
Their dams, often constructed across large
streams, are composed of sticks cemented together with mud, and are marvels of industry
and engineering skill; and if a portion of the
dam gives way at a weak point, the beaver on
noticing the water falling will promptly hasten
to the spot and commence repairing the broken
part. A trapper, on discovering a beaver dam,
will occasionally break it through at a certain spot
and set traps in the vicinity, knowing that the
beaver will soon approach the place to investigate
the matter, and will probably be caught in a trap.
Their object in constructing dams is to furnish
themselves with a place where their winter supply
of food can be stored. The beaver feed on the
tender green bark which they gnaw off young
poplars and willows, but during the winter months
the bark becomes frozen hard, and is therefore
unsuitable for their food. However, the animals
are fully aware that materials kept under water
will be prevented from becoming frozen, so they
construct a place where their winter's food can
remain under water in a soft and palatable condition. The shallow creeks or streams in a
severe climate like the Yukon and Northern
Canada become frozen solid from top to bottom
during the winter months, and would consequently be rendered useless to the beaver. They
accordingly construct a dam across the stream,
by means of which the level  of the water is
raised, so that it becomes too deep to freeze
solid to the bottom, and some clear water will,
therefore, always remain under the ice, where
provisions can be stored.
The beaver also show remarkable ingenuity
when depositing their winter supply in the water,
so that the sticks will remain together at the
bottom instead of floating about under the surface of the ice. They commence by imbedding
a number of sticks firmly in the mud in a slanting position. More sticks are then conveyed to
the spot, which are entangled and intertwined
amongst the first lot, so that eventually their
whole winter supply of food is thus firmly
riveted together at the bottom of the water.
Their houses, built on the edge of the bank,
are strongly constructed of sticks cemented together with mud, so that the cold atmosphere
outside is effectually excluded. There is no
entrance from the outside, as the only opening
consists of a channel at the bottom of the house
leading to the water, into which they can dive
when they require a swim, or to obtain a stick
from their food supply. They occasionally
cut down trees of remarkable size, and on the
M'Millan River, and in certain parts of British
Columbia, I have noticed the stumps of trees
twelve or fourteen inches in diameter which have
been felled by beaver. It is easy to ascertain
whether a tree has been felled by a beaver or
by an axe, as the animal will continue to gnaw
all round until the tree has fallen, so that the
stump will rather resemble the sharp point of a
pencil, while a tree felled by an axe is only cut
at the side on which the tree is desired to fall.
Two or three beavers will assist each other when
cutting down a tree of considerable dimensions,
and it is a well-known fact that by gnawing more on
one side of the tree than the other, the beaver will
cause it to fall in whatever direction they require.
The female beaver gives birth to two young
Ones, one of which is always a male and the
other a female, while a beaver house may contain six occupants, consisting of the two parents,
the two eldest children, and two babies. Inside
their bodies they possess two substances called
"castors," which are eagerly purchased by the
Chinese, as they are included amongst the drugs
in the Chinese pharmacy. These castors contain a strong scent, and they are therefore extensively employed by trappers for use as " scent
baits " in order to attract the fur animals towards
the traps. Beaver meat is occasionally eaten,
although not usually considered a great delicacy,
but beaver tail soup is highly appreciated, and
possesses a very rich and delicate flavour.
A beaver colony may consist of several houses,
whose occupants will all make use of the same dam.
Each family will occupy its own house, but the
different families will freely intermingle, and assist
each other when building or repairing the dam.
Beaver are occasionally trapped by cutting
their dams, when, as before explained, the
beaver are   attracted  to the spot for the  pur- THE  M'MILLAN  RIVER 245
pose of repairing the break, and traps are set
in the vicinity. This method, however, is not
usually resorted to by experienced beaver
trappers, as it has the effect of frightening away
the animals. Beaver are often trapped in the
autumn, but the best time is in the spring,
about the end of May, as their fur is then in
better condition, and consequently more valuable. A trapper rowing down the river, or
walking along the bank of a stream, will readily
distinguish fresh beaver cuttings amongst the
willows and poplars, and also the marks formed
on the bank at spots habitually used by the
animal for sliding down into the river. Slides
are chosen out which from their worn appearance
are frequently made use of, while the trap is set
at the bottom of the slide, just under the water,
which effectually conceals it from the beaver.
When caught in a trap the beaver will often
bite off its foot, and consequently escape, unless
precautions are taken, so a bag filled with stones
is attached to the trap, while a rope with plenty
of slack is tied by one end to the trap chain, the
other end of the rope being secured to a stake
driven into the bank. A beaver when caught
in a trap will immediately make for the deep
water, and the slack in the rope will enable it
to attain a certain distance. The animal will
have no difficulty in dragging the trap and the
bag of stones down the steep decline into the
deep water, but when wishing to return for
breath will be unable to drag them back again.
It is, therefore, eventually drowned, and when
the trapper visits. the locality he draws in the
rope attached to the trap, which enables him to
secure the animal. Beaver castor, which is rubbed
on a stick placed by the slide, is the scent invariably employed for attracting the animal. The
beaver possesses a very keen scent, and on
scenting the beaver castor will immediately detect
that the smell does not belong to a member of
the community, and, expecting the arrival of a
strange beaver, will promptly swim to the slide
in order to investigate the new acquaintance, and
on its arrival steps into the trap.
In remote localities, such as the upper regions
of the Pelly River and other affluents of the
Yukon, the beaver still exist in considerable
numbers, but their colonies are rapidly disappearing before the ravages of the trapper.
Unlike the fox or the lynx, which are wandering animals, the beaver, residing in the vicinity
of their dams and houses, are entirely local
animals, and this makes it all the easier to
obtain them. Like the otter they form slides
on the bank which, together with their dams,
houses, and fresh cuttings amongst the poplars
and willows, indicate their presence, and once
these signs have been detected by the trapper
the colony is soon trapped out and destroyed.
During my peregrinations in the Yukon district and the more remote portions of British
Columbia, I have often encountered old beaver
cuttings and the remains of their dams, showing the presence  in former days of a thriving n
population ; but all have now been completely
obliterated. It is rather pathetic to think that
such an industrious and intelligent animal as the
beaver should fall a victim to fashion, and that
because it has the misfortune to possess a
warm and handsome fur it must therefore be
exterminated for the demands of society.
The trapper and the prospector both lead the
same sort of wild solitary existence, except that
as trapping is conducted during the winter, the
trapper is usually more completely isolated by
a barrier of ice and snow from communication.
Prospecting for gold is usually conducted during
the summer time, so that the prospector is not exposed, like the trapper, to the intense cold and
the danger of being frozen, and as he is probably
in the vicinity of the Yukon or one of its tributaries, by embarking in a boat or floating down on
a raft he can always return to some trading post.
Trapping is not a sociable occupation, because a trapper prefers the animals to walk
into his own traps instead of into other peoples',
and the more territory he can cover for himself the more furs he is likely to obtain. Two
trappers may sometimes arrange to form a partnership by placing together their furs and dividing
the proceeds ; but although they may arrange to
meet occasionally during the winter, they will
probably occupy separate cabins a considerable
distance apart so as to enable them to cover
more ground. My cabin partner had been trapping by himself the previous winter, and from
the time of his departure from the trading post 248    REMINISCENCES  OF THE YUKON
up to the time of his return to Selkirk, about
ten months later, he had not seen a vestige of a
human being.
Living entirely alone in the woods for months
together is not very safe, especially during the
severe winters in the Yukon. The story of Jim
Grew's death has been narrated in a previous
chapter, and other men have occasionally been
found lying dead in their cabins, simply because
there was nobody present to attend to them.
Personally I was seldom entirely .isolated for
more than three weeks or a month at a time,
and except during one winter on the M'Millan
River was never very far from Selkirk, so that I
would occasionally harness up the dogs and drive
down there for a visit. Owing to my lame foot
I was unable to lay out a long trap-line or to
penetrate into very remote localities, so that my
trapping was more of a pastime than a business
enterprise, while the value of my furs obtained
during the winter did not really compensate for
the cost of my supplies.
When the temperature is 500 or 6o° below
zero, the roughly built trappers' cabins, composed of one room with four outside walls
chinked with moss, quickly become cold unless
the stove is continually replenished with wood,
so that considerable labour is involved in cutting
down trees and chopping them up in order to
obtain sufficient fuel. A man temporarily disabled by illness or accident may, therefore, freeze
to death within a short period. THE  M'MILLAN  RIVER 249
About two winters before Jim Grew's death
two men were trapping in partnership up the
Pelly River, and in the following spring one of
them returned to Selkirk with rather an extraordinary story, that his partner had left the
country by another route. As any other route
would have involved a most arduous undertaking,
the story occasioned a considerable amount of
surprise, and eventually other circumstances transpired, which caused very little doubt that the
man had really murdered his partner up the Pelly
River and that his story was a pure fabrication.
The upper regions of the Pelly are so remote
from regular communication, that considerable
time had elapsed before suspicions became
thoroughly aroused, and the man had then departed from Selkirk down the Yukon. The
police proceeded to search for him, but the next
summer had commenced before they discovered
his destination, and it was then too late to arrest
him, because during the preceding winter he had
been trapping on the Porcupine River, a tributary
of the Yukon, and, having evidently met with
some mishap, his dead body was discovered lying
frozen on the trail.
The trapper, as a rule, can only manage to
earn a meagre existence, and in a country like
the Yukon, where supplies and provisions are so
expensive, must work hard at his trap-line in
order to obtain sufficient furs for his support.
Although he remains for ten months away in the
woods, the trapping season only lasts for about Ill I
five months, and during that period he must
secure sufficient skins to maintain himself for the
whole year. People, when purchasing furs from
the shops in London or elsewhere, may admire
their beauty and, perhaps, grumble about the
price, but few probably realise what it has cost
the trapper to procure them. The ordinary
labourers in England are probably married or
have people to look after them, and on returning
home in the winter evenings after their day's
work they will find a warm fire and supper
awaiting them, while in case of illness they can
procure doctors to attend them. The trapper
possesses none of these advantages, and if seized
with illness must take his chance of being able
to provide entirely for himself. During his
solitary life through the long winter, he is entirely cut off from letters or communication with
the outside world, and must often expose himself
for many hours in temperatures of 500 and
6o° or more below zero, while he is in constant danger, through accident or illness, of being
frozen to death on the trail, or of dying alone in
his cabin.
Soon after the commencement of April the sun
rose high above the horizon, and the surface of
the snow began to melt during the daytime, although the nights were still so cold that in the
mornings the half-melted snow would be frozen
into a hard, solid cake. The fur animals now
commenced to shed their winter coats, so that
their skins were of no further value to the trapper. THE  M'MILLAN  RIVER 251
I, therefore, made my final journey round my
trap-lines, collecting all the traps and depositing
them on the sleigh, while I also sprung the
different snares and dead-falls, so as to render
them innocuous to future animals which might
happen to wander by.
On one occasion when travelling round the
trap-line, I noticed that a trap was missing from
the place where it was set, while the disturbed
state of the ground showed that a lynx had been
secured, but had managed to disappear. I
searched about amongst the bushes adjoining
without being able to find the animal, and began
to fear that the pole had become detached from
the trap-chain, and that the lynx had consequently
escaped with the trap on its foot. Eventually I
happened to look above me, and discovered the
lynx, to my surprise, ensconced amongst the
branches of a spruce tree. It had managed to
climb up a tall spruce tree with the trap on its
foot, besides dragging up with it the pole attached
to the trap-chain, and was now sitting on a branch
far above the ground with the pole dangling below it. An axe was tied on to the sleigh, so I
proceeded to cut down the tree, as being the only
means of securing the animal. The lynx did not
appear to be injured by the tree falling, and on
reaching the ground it attempted to escape, but
the pole attached to the trap-chain soon became
entangled amongst the brush, and effectually
secured the animal. I always carried with me a
light pole, about six feet long, which assisted me 252    REMINISCENCES  OF THE  YUKON
when walking, and also came in handy for killing
animals which I found in the traps, and with this
the lynx was quickly demolished and deposited
on the sleigh.
The result of my winter's trapping amounted to
about what I expected, which was nothing very
grand. Lynx formed the principal item amongst
the furs, as during that winter there were quite
a large number wandering through the woods.
Marten were very scarce in the river valley, and
I only obtained an insignificant quantity. A few
mink, ermine, and wolverine had also been obliging enough to walk into my traps or be killed by
the dead-falls, whilst I had also secured a solitary
otter and a couple of red foxes, besides some
wolves which I managed to poison. My cabin
partner had obtained a much larger supply of
furs, as he was trapping in a better locality, while
his trap-line extended over a much wider area of
ground. Besides a fair number of marten and
other furs, he had also been lucky enough to
secure a fine silver fqx, which is a comparatively
rare occurrence, and very valuable.
About the middle of May the ice in the river
had become rotten and honeycombed, until it
finally broke up from the force of the current.
The huge blocks of ice swept swiftly by, grinding
against the shore and turning over and over as
they crashed and jammed against each other.
At first their motion was fairly rapid, but soon
an ice jam occurred across the river below, and
the current gradually became almost stationary, THE  M'MILLAN   RIVER 253
while the river commenced rapidly to rise. In a
very few hours the river had risen about 8 or
9 feet, and was rapidly approaching the top of
the bank, so that we were half afraid that it
might overflow and inundate the cabin. However, a spur jutting out from the mountain side
approached to within about 30 yards of the
cabin, and then it would have been easy to
obtain refuge in case of emergency. The furs
constituted our principal assets, so we tied them
together and also made up into bundles our
blankets and other articles, so that they could
be quickly transported to a place of safety on
the mountain side. The river rose steadily to
within about 3 feet of the top of the bank, and
we were then glad to notice that the level of
the water remained stationary, showing that the
ice jam was broken through.
When a jam of ice across the river commences
to weaken, it soon gives way under the pressure
of the water and the ice blocks piled against it.
The jam will then sometimes burst with a sudden
crash, and the pent-up waters, now suddenly released, rush seething through the open channel,
while the huge blocks of ice are banged and
tossed against each other like marbles. Shortly
after the jam broke the river commenced to fall
rapidly, leaving the banks lined with huge blocks
of ice, which remained jammed and piled together
in a serried mass. Our next business was to
launch the boat, so we set to work with axes
and hewed a path through the ice blocks, until 254    REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
we had gained access to the river.    For a couple
of days the ice  from the upper waters of the
river continued floating past, and when the river
eventually became clear we launched the boat.
The next afternoon our host of the previous
Christmas arrived in his boat with his wife and
family. They remained at our cabin for the
night, and the next morning we collected our
furs, traps, and the remains of our supplies, and
after depositing them in our boat we all proceeded together down the river. Except on the
mountains and in sheltered places the snow had
by this time entirely melted, so that with the
hot sun high up in the sky the country now
presented quite a summery aspect, forming a
remarkable and striking contrast to the huge ice
blocks lining the river banks on either side.
After proceeding down the M'Millan for a
short distance we arrived at a place called Fish
Slough, a favourite resort for fish. The steep
side hills here reach "almost to the river bank,
while the slough is connected with the river by
a narrow channel cutting its way in between the
hills, which form a gorge on either side. This
narrow channel extends inland for about 50
yards, and then opens out into a basin, forming
a round lake of about a quarter of a mile in
diameter. The entrance was now clear of ice,
but the lake inside was still frozen over, except
for an open channel that extended round the shore,
leaving in the centre a huge flat cake of ice.
We camped here for about three days, and set
a net across the entrance, and caught quantities
of fish, principally pike and white fish. Only a
small proportion was required for our own consumption, so the remainder we cut up and hung
over poles in the air to dry. In a country like
the Yukon, where supplies are so expensive, food
for the dogs is always an important element to
consider, and sometimes a matter of considerable
anxiety, so that a supply of dried fish is always
After leaving Fish Slough we continued our
journey down the river, and on arriving near the
mouth discerned a moose feeding some distance
away on the mountain side. We accordingly
rowed to the bank and moored the boat, while
the two men departed with their rifles to stalk
the moose. Eventually, some rifle shots being
heard in the distance, we got the dog packs out
of the boats, and after adjusting them on the
dogs' backs, the wife started off with them in
the direction of the hunters.
Dog packs must be made of strong canvas,
otherwise they will soon become torn when
travelling through the thick brush. The pack
is fastened over the dog's back like a pannier,
and is provided with a bag on each side in which
articles can be deposited. When travelling
through the woods during the summer time the
sleigh dogs can then be converted into pack
dogs, a fair-sized dog being able to carry about
40 lbs., or more in case of emergency. Later
on the party returned laden with moose meat, 256    REMINISCENCES OF THE  YUKON
and as the evening was now rather advanced
we camped for the night, and the next morning
proceeded down the M'Millan River until we
eventually arrived at the Pelly.
Moose are very scarce in the lower regions of
the Pelly River, as they have been principally
hunted away. We therefore came across no
more moose during the journey, but while rowing
down the Pelly we saw a bear swimming across
the river some distance ahead. We accordingly
commenced rowing as hard as possible, but when
the bear landed on the opposite bank it was still
a considerable distance away, and an accurate aim
is very difficult when firing from a moving boat.
However, we blazed away with our magazine
rifles and succeeded in hitting the bear, although
it managed to scramble up the bank, and quickly
disappeared amongst the bushes. On arriving
at the spot the boats were quickly tied up to the
bank, and the dogs placed on the bear's tracks.
The two men followed quickly after the dogs
with their rifles, and as I wished to see the results,
I scrambled and hobbled along behind. Soon
afterwards the dogs were heard barking vigorously. The bear had not proceeded very far, and
when pursued by the dogs had managed, in spite
of its wounds, to climb up a tall spruce tree, while
the dogs remained barking below. A rifle shot
soon put an end to the wretched beast, which
fell to the ground with a loud thump. It possessed a fine black coat, which was soon stripped
off and  conveyed to the river, while  the dog THE  M'MILLAN  RIVER 257
packs were taken out of the boats and brought to
the spot where the bear was lying.
We had already a fair supply of moose meat
in the boats, but a considerable number of Indians
reside in Selkirk, besides a small white population, so that a supply of meat is always acceptable.
We accordingly loaded up the dogs with bear
meat, and after returning to the river continued
our journey down the Pelly. Eventually we
reached the mouth, and after rowing across the
Yukon at last arrived at Selkirk, on the opposite
side of the river.
The inhabitants of a small isolated place like
Selkirk have not much variety in the way of
diversion, so that the return of the trappers after
their long absence produces quite a commotion
in the place, and when we emerged from the
mouth of the Pelly into the Yukon, the bank was
quickly lined with Indians and the white people
•residing in the place anxious to welcome our
arrival. I had built myself a small cabin in
Selkirk a couple of years previously, so when the
boat was moored to the bank I conveyed my
things to the cabin, and then adjourned to the
trading post to hear the news. For the last ten
months we had been completely cut off from
communications or news of the outside world,
and were all very interested to learn what events
had been happening in the meantime.
The next day we proceeded to dispose of the
furs which we had obtained during the preceding
winter.    In  addition  to the  inhabitants of the 258    REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
trading post, some fur buyers from Vancouver
and other towns arrive during the spring, so as
to be ready for the trappers on their return from
the woods. The furs are all sold by auction,
which is conducted by means of sealed bids. The
trappers bring their furs to the trading post, and
each in turn spreads his furs out on the floor.
The furs are then divided into groups to separate
the different species, while the different groups
are graded and subdivided according to the size
and quality of the furs. Each buyer is provided
with a pencil and a piece of paper, and when the
furs have been carefully counted and examined,
he writes down the amount he is prepared to
give, and the paper is then carefully folded up.
When this is completed the pieces of paper are
handed to another person, or perhaps to the
trapper, who then proceeds to read out the
figures, and the buyer who has written down the
largest amount obtains the furs. Another trapper
then spreads out his furs on the floor, and the
auction proceeds in the same manner. When
the furs have been finally disposed of the whole
party adjourns to the drinking bar, where the
sale is consummated by means of numerous
Among the arrivals in Selkirk during the
summer was a young trapper from the Pelly
River, accompanied by an Indian girl whom he
had recently purchased from her parents, on their
way to Dawson to be married. The girl belonged to a band of Indians residing amongst
the upper regions of the Pelly River, who scarcely
ever appear in Selkirk. This was her first experience of a white community, and she could
not talk a word of English, and was dressed entirely in blankets, with moccasins on her feet
and an Indian handkerchief round her head.
The couple remained in Selkirk for a few days,
and then departed down the Yukon for Dawson.
About three weeks later they returned to Selkirk, on their way back to her tribe up the Pelly
River; but during their honeymoon in Dawson
they had evidently seized the opportunity of doing
some " shopping," so that her appearance was
now considerably altered. Her blankets, moccasins, and handkerchief had all been discarded,
and she now appeared in a cheap but very gaudy
bodice and skirt, with an enormous hat decked
out with brilliant feathers, while her bodice,
fingers, and wrists were adorned with a profusion
of cheap but gaudy jewellery. Her feet were
ensconced in a pair of dainty boots, which she
must have found most uncomfortable after wearing
moccasins; and, in fact, everything was in the
latest Parisian- style. Her altered appearance
occasioned a considerable amount of surprise and
merriment amongst the inhabitants in Selkirk.
After remaining in the place for a few days, she
and her husband departed from Selkirk for her
tribe up the Pelly River, where her fellow Indians,
on her arrival, must have viewed the transformation scene with mingled feelings of surprise and
admiration. CHAPTER   X
The Indians residing in the Yukon, besides those
inhabiting the Pacific coast, are very different in
appearance from the Red Indians of the prairie,
and, as they bear a strong resemblance to the
Japanese, the ancestors of the present Indians
probably migrated from Japan by way of the
Aleutian Islands. Many tribes inhabit the Yukon
valley, so that several different dialects are
spoken, and although people acquainted with
their language have characterised it as being
fairly rich, the Indians possess no literature or
written vocabulary. The Indians inhabiting the
Yukon and other parts of Canada, except the
tribes in very remote localities, have experienced
so much intercourse wifih white people that nearly
all can talk a simple sort of English, much
resembling the Chinese "pidgin" English, while
some are able to speak quite fluently. Occasionally one meets an Indian who has been educated
at a missionary school, and has, therefore, learnt
to read and write a very simple English, resembling that of an ordinary child of eight. However, these specimens are rare, and when they
wish to correspond amongst each other, Indians YUKON  INDIANS 261
nearly always obtain the service of a white man
to read and write their letters for them.
A considerable mortality exists amongst the
Indians, especially among the children, due principally to lung troubles, such as pneumonia, and
as they seldom, if ever, produce large families,
they are gradually disappearing. The North
American Indians were probably never very
numerous compared to the inhabitants of other
countries, owing to continually being decimated
in tribal wars, although in former days they were,
no doubt, far more numerous than at the present
time. The supremacy of the white man has
caused their internecine wars to cease, but the
Indians have gradually adopted a portion of the
white man's habits, and the result has proved
fatal to their constitutions. Instead of pursuing their former hardy existence, dressed in
blankets and deer skins and living continually
in the open air with brush shelters and camp
•fires, they now adopt the white man's garments
and spend their time in very dirty unventilated
cabins, heated by a hot and stuffy stove. Also
they possess no idea of taking ordinary precautions, and an Indian drenched to the skin would
scarcely ever take the trouble to change his
clothes, even if he had another suit to change,
but would stand before the stove or a camp fire
and let the clothes dry on him.
The Selkirk Indians number about sixty, including men, women, and children, while a missionary is stationed at the place with the object mm$
of providing for their religious and moral welfare.
The missionary, no doubt, performs his task to
the best of his ability, but the raw material is so
unsatisfactory that the business of providing for
their future welfare must be most disheartening. Although missionaries have resided in the
country for a long period, and the Indians have
been converted into nominal Christians for a
number of years, they still rigidly adhere to their
former heathen superstitions. When an Indian
dies his blanket and rifle will still be placed
within his coffin to accompany him to the Happy
Hunting Grounds, while his grave is still adorned
with cooking pots and other articles, which may
be considered useful to him in another world.
The Indians still retain their "medicine" man
to drive away the evil spirit, and, when seized
with illness, an Indian would much rather prefer
the " medicine " man to shout and dance before
him to the services of the most experienced
physician. A few years ago an epidemic of
diphtheria broke out in Selkirk, which resulted
in the place being quarantined for a certain
period. A doctor arrived from Dawson to
examine some cases, but many of the Indians
disappeared in the woods sooner than allow
him to treat them.
The mission at Selkirk belongs to the Protestant denomination, and although a Roman
Catholic chapel was formerly erected, no priest
is now attached to the place, so that the religious
instruction of the Indians is left entirely to the YUKON  INDIANS 263
Protestants. Throughout the Yukon and other
parts of Canada between the Protestant and
Roman Catholic churches there exists a mutual
understanding regarding the Indians, and consequently the two denominations refrain from
hampering or interfering with each other.
Many years ago, when hunting in British
Columbia, I camped one evening close to a band
of about eight Indians, composed of men, women,
and children, who belonged to a Roman Catholic
mission in the district. That night they were
sitting round their camp fire, about thirty yards
away, when to my surprise they suddenly commenced to chant their evening vespers. The
effect was somewhat weird, those semi-savages
chanting vespers round their camp fire amongst
the spruce trees in the forest. However, judging
from the Indian character, I am very doubtful
whether they really appreciated or understood
the meaning of their action, and as Indians, like
most savage tribes, are naturally fond of singing
and making a noise, it is more probable that they
were nonchalantly chanting their vespers on
much the same principle as a Thibetan Buddhist
revolves a prayer-wheel.
The Indians, being steeped in ignorance, are
naturally extremely superstitious, and if an Indian
is lying in a cabin desperately ill, his fellow
Indians will always remove him from the cabin
and deposit him in a tent. One can imagine
that during the winter in a severe climate like the
Yukon, the fact of removing a sick person from 264 REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
a hot stuffy cabin into a cold draughty tent would
be quite sufficient to destroy any chance of his
recovery. This procedure is not due to any
affectionate regard towards the Indian ; but they
imagine that if he happened to die in the cabin,
it will afterwards be inhabited by his ghost, so
that no other Indian would dare to occupy it.
The result is that his son or legatee, who will
afterwards inherit the cabin, is most anxious to
have him removed before his death occurs.
Some years ago, when travelling in British
Columbia accompanied by two Indians, I wished
to hunt on a mountain some distance ahead, but
the Indians refused to approach the spot, explaining that it was inhabited by bears who were
all man-eaters. It appears that some years
previously, a Chinaman had been killed by a bear
and partly eaten, so that ever since that event
the mountain had been religiously tabooed, as it
was supposed that all other bears that might
happen to be wandering there must necessarily
be imbued with the same proclivities.
Regarding their general character, there is a
well-known saying in Canada and the United
States, that "the only good Indian is a dead
one," and those who have been brought much in
contact with them can appreciate the truth of this
remark. The influence of the white man, on the
whole, has certainly not been of moral advantage
to the Indians, partly because the class of white
people in the Yukon are not often inspired with
high  principles,   and   also   because   the   Indian YUKON  INDIANS 265
possesses an extraordinary capacity for rapidly
absorbing all the vices of the white man without
being able to acquire any of his virtues. They
are devoted to alcoholic drink, and would starve
both themselves and their families in order to
provide money to obtain it. An excellent law
therefore prevails in Canada and the United
States, making it a criminal offence for a white
man to provide an Indian with alcohol, while an
Indian discovered intoxicated or with whisky in
his possession is promptly sent to prison.
The Indians, like the Chinese, are inveterate
gamblers, and as playing-cards can be purchased
at the trading post, they occupy a considerable
portion of their time in gambling in their cabins or
hunting camps, and if they possess no money for
the occasion, will produce some tea or sugar, &c,
as an equivalent. When meat or fish prevails in
abundance, during the salmon season or when
moose have lately been killed, they will gorge
themselves in the most extraordinary fashion,
rising several times during the night in order to
satisfy their appetite. At the same time, they
have no idea of being provident or laying by for
a rainy day, and consequently they are often
obliged to go hungry. Some of them prove fairly
good workers, but as a rule they are naturally
lazy, and prefer to remain gambling in their cabins
unless forced to work by lack of provisions.
When 1 was residing in Selkirk the Indians,
principally the women folk, would often walk up
to my cabin and pay me a visit.    At first I used
J Ill
to give them some tea and bread and butter, but
they were so constantly paying me visits in consequence that it became rather a nuisance. I
therefore discontinued giving them anything, but
they would still sometimes walk into the cabin,
generally two or three together, without taking
the smallest notice of me, and would stand in
the corner jabbering away in their lingo and
peering about, while I would continue my reading
or occupation, as if utterly oblivious to their
presence. This would continue for about ten
minutes, and they would then open the door and
walk out without making any remarks, and without either of us having taken the slightest notice
of one another. As there was nothing new in
the cabin for them to look at, I do not quite
understand the object of these visits, unless they
were hoping to be given something.
When living in my cabin on the Pelly River,
an Indian arrived one cold winter evening, and
asked permission to sleep in my cabin for the
night, so I gave him some supper and let him
spread his blankets on the floor. A red fox was
lying in the cabin which I had recently trapped,
so by way of paying for his board and lodging,
I told him that he had better skin the fox for me
and put it on the mould—a task which would
have taken him about twenty minutes. However, he promptly refused, saying that it was not
his business to skin my animals, so I told him
that under the circumstances he had better clear
out of my cabin.    He accordingly rolled up his _J IM
blankets and walked out into the darkness, and
I could hear him chopping down wood for his
camp fire. It was then about 400 below zero,
and I was surprised that he preferred sleeping
outside in the cold to doing a small amount of
work for me, especially when preparing his camp
and keeping up the fire entailed more labour
than skinning the fox. The most curious part
was that the next morning he came into the
cabin to warm himself and appeared perfecdy
good humoured, and when I sarcastically inquired
if he was comfortable last night, he did not
appear to be in any way annoyed at having been
turned out of the cabin the previous evening.
Boiled salmon-heads are considered a great
delicacy amongst the Indians, while deer heads
are also regarded as particularly appetising, a
point of view with which I rather agree. I have
occasionally in British Columbia hunted black-
tail deer and mule deer, both being smaller
species than the moose or cariboo, accompanied
by one or two Indians packing supplies, and
when a deer has been shot they will cut off the
head, and then drive a stake into the mouth till
it protrudes through the back of the neck. The
stake will be driven into the ground adjoining
the camp-fire, and when the head has been
sufficiently roasted we will gather round with our
knives, and hack off dainty morsels from the
cheeks and other tender portions in the vicinity.
Although people who have hunted big game
are naturally aware of the fact, it may as well 268 REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
be mentioned that when heads are required for
purposes of mounting, it is not necessary to
preserve the skull. Deer horns, especially those
of a big deer like the moose or cariboo, prove
most awkward articles to pack through heavy
brush, while the skull adds considerably to the
weight, and when tramping through the woods,
packing supplies and horns upon one's back,
every ounce is of importance. When the horns
have to be conveyed for a considerable distance,
involving perhaps several days' journey, I only
preserved a small portion of the forehead, and
this would be sawn in half so as to separate the
two horns, which can then be tied together and
carried with comparative ease. The skin, of
course, would be removed from the head and
preserved. A good taxidermist will construct a
skull out of plaster to which he will attach the
horns, and when the skin has been laid on, the
head will appear just as natural as if the original
skull had been preserved.
During the winter the tracks of an animal in
snow are naturally easy to distinguish, but to
follow an animal's track during the summer,
when the ground is hard, becomes a very different
undertaking, which few white men can accomplish.
The Indians who spend their lives in the woods
naturally become expert trackers, although some
are far more proficient than others, and a tiny
broken twig or a tuft of pressed-down grass will
instantly attract their attention, and disclose the
ground over which the animal has travelled. YUKON  INDIANS 269
Some years ago, in the Yukon, three white
men arrived at Fort Selkirk in a small rowing-
boat on their way to Dawson, and, after purchasing some supplies from the trading post, continued
their journey down the river. A ranche is situated
about three miles from Selkirk, and on the following day one of the three men suddenly appeared
at the ranche, exhausted and terror-stricken, with
a bullet-wound in his cheek. He was conveyed
to Selkirk, and explained that himself and one of
the men were acquaintances, who had travelled
together from Seattle, a town on the Pacific coast.
On arriving at Whitehorse they had purchased a
small boat with the intention of rowing down the
Yukon to Dawson. Just before leaving Whitehorse, the third man, who was a total stranger,
had approached them, and asked permission to
accompany them in the boat to Dawson, and they
all travelled together down the Yukon to Selkirk.
After leaving Selkirk they had camped about
twelve miles down the river, and the stranger
and his friend had then wandered off with their
rifles into the woods on the chance of securing a
The stranger returned later on, saying that
they had succeeded in shooting a bear, that his
friend was employed in skinning it, and that they
required his assistance. Without suspicion he
accompanied him towards the spot, but after proceeding for a certain distance the stranger, who
was walking a short distance behind, suddenly
shot him in the head.    Fortunately, the aim was 270    REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
miscalculated, the bullet entering the cheek, so
the two men promptly grappled, and after a short
and fierce struggle the wounded man succeeded
in throwing him down, and then rapidly disappearing in the thick bush he made his way to the
ranche near Selkirk. He entertained no doubt
that his friend had been murdered by the stranger,
who attempted to murder him as well, with the
object of stealing their money, possessions, and
their boat.
The news was quickly telegraphed to Dawson,
while a policeman who resides at Selkirk, accompanied by another man, started off in a canoe in
pursuit of the stranger. They arrived late in the
night at a spot where his boat was perceived
moored up to the bank, while his tent was pitched
in the vicinity; and, as the man was found fast
asleep inside, he was easily arrested. Indians
were then engaged to search for the missing person, and, after tracking his footsteps through the
bush for about three miles, they eventually discovered his murdered body. Three bullets had
been fired into him, and the stranger was, needless to say, conveyed to Dawson, where he was
tried and hanged.
The Yukon Indians manage by different
methods to collect a fair amount of money from
the white people. They bring in moose meat
and wild berries for sale, while many during the
winter lay down traps, and sell the furs which
they have secured to the trading posts. They
are also occasionally employed in cutting wood YUKON   INDIANS 271
for the steamers on the Yukon, wluch usually
burn wood instead of coal, while some of them
construct rafts which they float down the river to
Selkirk or Dawson, where they sell the wood.
They are almost invariably paid by the amount of
work produced, instead of by the length of time
employed, as very few can be relied upon, and
if paid by the day or week, would probably shirk
their work whenever an opportunity occurred.
Indians employed to accompany one on hunting
expeditions are usually paid by the day, but a
satisfactory or reliable Indian is most difficult to
obtain. On these occasions it is a great mistake for
the white man to set an example by working extra
hard himself, as an Indian is not troubled with a
feeling of esprit-de-corps, or with a sense of pride
in performing his proper share. By his peculiar
method of reasoning, he will consider the completion of a certain amount of work sufficient
for two men within a certain period, so that the
harder he observes the white man working,
the less he will consider it necessary to do
Ideas of gratitude or altruism are practically
unknown amongst them, and although a white
man saved an Indian's life, the Indian would
never think of rendering the slightest service in
return, except when he was paid for it. The
same idea appears to prevail amongst themselves.
When they render each other any service they
expect to be paid, either in money or its
equivalent, while I have been informed by those il
acquainted with their language that it contains
no words expressing thanks or gratitude.
Although, when suffering from illness, they
generally prefer their " medicine man" to any
white practitioner, at the same time they will
often appear at the white men's cabins complaining of illness, and begging for drugs or medicine.
However, to supply an Indian with drugs, especially if the symptoms are at all serious, is a most
unsatisfactory task, because in the event of his
recovery he will entertain no feelings of gratitude,
while, if he happens to die, his fellow Indians will
invariably attribute the result to poison.
A policeman, stationed at Selkirk, told me
about a letter shown to him by an Indian, which
had been recently received from the Stuart River,
a tributary of the Yukon. The letter had been
written by another Indian in doggerel English, and
contained the following rather startling remark:
" My brother die, Stuart River, white man kill
him, poison." The real facts were very simple.
The white man who resided in the vicinity of
the sick Indian had attempted to be of service by
attending to him, but not having succeeded in
saving his life, was naturally accused by the other
Indians of having poisoned him.
The Indians, especially those not contaminated
by white men, are generally credited with being
extremely honest, and although this characteristic
is true to a certain extent, it appears to result
more from force of necessity than from any high
ideas of principle.    An  Indian, when hunting, YUKON  INDIANS 273
might kill a moose or a cariboo, but in a country
where transport is often so difficult it might be
impossible to convey all the meat to his destination. He would, therefore, construct a cache,
in which would be deposited whatever was not
temporarily required, besides, perhaps, other supplies in his possession. The locality of the cache
will be remembered, and, on his return to the spot,
provided that the cache has not been tampered
with, supplies and provisions can be readily obtained. It is of extreme importance, perhaps a
matter of life and death, that their caches should
not be molested, as an Indian might return to his
cache tired and hungry in a locality where other
food was unavailable, and if his cache had been
disturbed starvation might ensue. They have,
therefore, been habituated through many generations not to steal from one another, and white
people residing amongst Indian tribes in remote
localities will seldom find their property stolen or
molested. However, as before explained, the
Indian possesses a marvellous aptitude for absorbing the white man's vices, and among the Indians
now residing in Selkirk and other communities
there are few who will not steal if an opportunity
An Indian is supposed to be imbued with the
most ideal patience, which may also be true to a
certain extent, although their natural propensity
for laziness will partially account for it, and,
owing to their primitive existence, the value of
" time"  is   to  an   Indian   an   unknown   thing. 274 REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
During the winter an Indian will occasionally
cut a small hole through the ice on a lake, and
will squat beside it for hours enveloped in a
blanket, while he holds a piece of twine with a
baited hook submerged in the water on the
chance of securing a stray pike. In a severe
climate like the Yukon, to continue this occupation for a prolonged period on a cold and
draughty lake requires an amount of stolid
patience which few white people could display.
At the commencement of the Klondyke
boom, before the Yukon Indians had become
so thoroughly accustomed to the white man and
the North-West Mounted Police, they were inclined occasionally to be hostile, and at Teslin
Lake a white man was murdered by the Indians,
while another was wounded, but managed to
escape. Some police were promptly despatched
to the locality, with the result that the two culprits were arrested and conveyed to Dawson,
where one of them was hanged, while the other
died in prison. Since that event the Indians
have entertained a wholesome dread of the law
and the police. They entertain an intense dislike to prison, as they are naturally averse to
systematic and continual labour, while to be
forced to undergo considerable hard work without even being paid for it, appears to their
methods of reasoning as the height of injustice.
While residing at Selkirk, I asked one of the
Indians, who had recently undergone a term of
prison life for drunkenness, how he enjoyed his YUKON  INDIANS 275
enforced retirement. Indians are not voluminous
in their conversation, so he merely assumed an expression of disgust and said, " Plenty work, no pay."
The Indians all possess sleigh dogs, which they
feed sufficiently well provided that meat is plentiful. On the other hand, they do not follow the
example of the white people by laying up supplies of food in order to enable them to feed their
dogs when scarcity prevails. Their wretched
dogs are, consequently, often seen wandering
about Selkirk in a terribly starved condition, and
completely neglected by their owners. The
policeman stationed in Selkirk is authorised to
shoot a dog when in a very bad condition and
likely to die, but to anybody without authority
this expedient would be extremely risky. No
matter how emaciated or hopeless might be the
condition of the wretched animal, if once it was
shot, the Indian owner would promptly put in
an appearance and demand heavy damages for
destroying a valuable sleigh dog.
The missionaries in the Yukon deserve every
praise for their efforts and self-sacrifice, and
although numerous criticisms are directed against
them by the white population, their failure to
produce more satisfactory results is not due to
their lack of zeal, but to the difficulties against
which they are forced to contend. The ordinary
white man in the Yukon, although possessed of
some fine qualities, is usually absolutely ignorant,
and, being accustomed from his infancy to a
rough, hand-to-mouth sort of life, cannot under- 1
stand the trials undergone in those isolated Arctic
regions by an educated missionary. In a country
where the "Almighty Dollar" forms practically
the only god that is worshipped, he envies the
missionary for always appearing in comfortable
circumstances and possessing ready cash, which
he attributes to his large salary, while he completely forgets the simple fact, that the missionary
does not, like himself, dissipate his money in
gambling and drinking.
The Indians, to whom the missionary has
devoted his life, will resort to him for assistance,
and are not hampered by feelings of bashfulness
in obtaining as much as possible ; but they regard
favours merely as part of his business, and entertain no feelings of gratitude or affection for his
services. Their views of religion must be a most
discouraging proposition to the missionary, because, although they can easily be taught the
forms of Christianity, they appear completely
incapable of assimilating its ethics. The idea of
altruism is wholly incomprehensible to Indians,
and whether their characters have been elevated
since their conversion to Christianity is usually
considered by those acquainted with them to be
an extremely doubtful matter. They formerly
possessed a pagan religion which, although extremely crude, was probably better than nothing,
while now they have become imbued with a hybrid
religion, composed of a sort of Christianity intermingled with their ancient paganism, which is a
very bad imitation of either. 1
In the Yukon district, as in many parts of
British Columbia which I have visited, the
Indians are gradually decreasing, while people
acquainted with them elsewhere in Canada and
the United States have informed me that the
same state of things is taking place. Certain
tribes appear to be holding their own with regard to population, and a few instances may,
perhaps, be cited where they are slightly increasing, while occasional Indians employ their time
in cultivating ranches, and appear to have developed into fairly respectable members of society.
These examples, however, are comparatively
isolated. The gradual decadence of the Indian
is more generally noticed and commented on, and
whether their ultimate disappearance will prove
of any loss to the general community is usually
considered extremely doubtful.
A curious legend prevails amongst some of the
Red Indians of the prairie, although it must have
originated since the advent of the white and
negro races into the country. According to the
legend, the Great Spirit fashioned man out of
clay and placed him in the oven to bake. As
this was his first attempt, he was naturally very
uncertain regarding the proper period required
for the baking, and on withdrawing the figure
from the oven, he discovered to his disgust that
this first attempt had proved a failure. The
proper period for the baking had been completely
underestimated, and instead of possessing a nice
healthy brown colour, the figure consisted of a II
nasty pasty white, and from that figure originated
the White Race or the Pale Faces.
The Great Spirit then fashioned another man
out of clay, and again he placed him in the oven
to bake. This time he was determined that his
human being should not prove underdone, so he
retained it in the oven for a considerable period.
Unfortunately, the proper time required for the
baking had now been overestimated to just
about the same extent as it had before been
underestimated. The result was that the figure,
on being withdrawn from the oven, now appeared
all charred and burnt and blackened, so that the
second attempt resulted in a failure just as dismal
as before, and from that figure originated the
Black or Negro races.
The Great Spirit was, however, very persevering, so a third time he fashioned a man out of
clay, and again he placed him in the oven to
bake. By this time he was becoming more
acquainted with the business of man-making, or,
to use a slang expression, he was now "getting
into his job." This tiirie the figure was baked
for exactly the proper period, and when removed
from the oven it possessed a beautiful healthy
brown colour, so that the Great Spirit perceived
to his delight that he had now produced the
acme of his ambition—the Noble Red Man. CHAPTER XI
On my return from the M'Millan River I purchased a half interest in a trading post at Selkirk,
and for the next two years my time was principally employed there, which was more suitable
for my lame foot than trapping through the woods.
The trading posts—composed generally of rough
log cabins, which are scattered along the Yukon,
where the trappers can sell their furs and obtain
supplies—are something similar, on a very diminutive scale, to Whiteley's or Harrod's, where
anything can be purchased that is likely to be
required. Their stock of supplies include provisions, clothes, blankets, tools, cheap jewellery for
the Indians, &c, &c, besides a drinking bar,
where the trappers are cordially invited to dissipate the money which they have just obtained
for their furs after their hard winter's work.
In a remote locality like the Yukon, the trading
posts naturally expect to derive a handsome profit
on their goods, although this varies according to
the nature of the article. Their supplies are
obtained from the towns on the Pacific coast
during the summer months when the Yukon is
open for navigation ; but as the railway between 28o REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
Skagway and Whitehorse, besides the steamers
on the Yukon, are all owned by the Yukon and
White Pass Company, a monopoly has been
established, so that transportation is still very
expensive, which further increases the cost of
living. Flour, for instance, which could be purchased at Vancouver for about 14s. per 100 lbs.,
cost in Selkirk as much as 28s. per 100 lbs., and
sometimes rather more. Out of this amount the
trading post only gained about 10 or 12 per cent,
in profit, the remainder being appropriated by
the White Pass Company for transportation. On
the other hand, the trading post would derive a
profit of from 60 to 100 per cent, on clothes,
tools, and other articles, while cheap gaudy rings
would be purchased by the gross for about 2d.
apiece, and sold to the Indians for is. each.
Fort Selkirk is a very old-established place,
having been formerly a trading post for the
Hudson Bay Company, which was suddenly
attacked and destroyed by the Indians, although
the white people in charge managed to save their
lives by escaping in a boat down the Yukon.
The place now possesses a trading post and a
telegraph office, besides a policeman and a missionary for the Indians. A few married people
reside there, and the white population, not including some children, would total on an average
about a dozen people, although others are
scattered about through the district. During
part of the summer, which corresponds to the
" season " in London, the population is increased, THE TRADING POST 281
as some trappers are then staying in the place
before leaving for their winter trapping grounds.
It may appear strange that a telegraph office
should be required for such a small population as
Selkirk, but the telegraph line from Dawson to
the outside world traverses over 1000 miles of
dense forest, and as the electric current is constantly being broken or interrupted owing to trees
falling against the wire, it is necessary to establish
stations at regular intervals, where men are ready
to sally forth and repair the damage. Telegraphing in the Yukon is rather an expensive
luxury, as a telegram from Dawson to Selkirk, a
distance of 180 miles, costs 6s. for twelve words.
The Selkirk trading post comprised a general
store business, official post office, hotel, public
house, and social club combined. White people
and Indians residing in the place would congregate there, topics of interest would be discussed,
and the social gossip freely elaborated and commented on. In such a small community the
different families were intimately acquainted with
one another's private affairs. The few women
folk residing in the place had very little to occupy
their time, except in quarrelling and circulating
scandalous stories about each other; and, considering the diminutive population, the number
of " causes celebres " that were continually occurring and being discussed at the trading post was
The building, which was constructed of wood,
had a ground floor with an attic above.     The 282 REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
beds for the hotel were placed in the attic, which
was simply one large room, about eight beds
being ranged side by side like a dormitory, while
the other end of the room formed a lumber place
for groceries and other articles. The " guests "
frequenting the hotel would not expect to be
furnished with sheets, although the beds would
be provided with blankets, which were generally
of a dark blue or grey colour, thereby requiring
to be washed infrequently. There were two
small private bedrooms about the size of cubicles
on the ground floor, reserved for those who preferred a certain amount of privacy and were
willing to pay for it. Personally, I resided in
my cabin, which was about 50 yards distant,
while my partner with his wife and some children
lived at the trading post. During the "season,"
when the trappers were living in the place, games
of " poker" would be started at the trading post
almost every evening, and the gambling would
continue until the early hours of the morning.
The purchase and sale of furs form an important adjunct of the trading post, as the trader
derives a double profit from the transaction. He
expects to realise a profit of about 30 per cent,
from the sale of the furs which he obtains from
the trappers, while the trapper will invest the
money which he has just received in merchandise
and whisky, which the trader will supply at a
profit of 60 per cent, or more in addition. The
traders despatch the furs which they have bought
from the trappers to different centres either in THE TRADING POST 283
Europe or America, where large consignments
of raw furs are sold by auction. These are purchased wholesale by fur houses and companies,
who tan the skins and convert them into muffs,
coats, or anything else that is required by the
The value of the fur of any particular animal
varies according to the size of the skin, and also
according to the primeness and colour of the fur,
and a really good judge of fur must possess a
considerable amount of knowledge and experience.
The primeness of the fur depends on the period
of the year when the animal was killed; and
although the period varies slightly according
to the species, a prime skin, as a rule, can only
be obtained when the animal has been killed
between the end of November and the first week
in April. Early in the spring most of the fur
animals commence to shed their winter coats, so
that when judging and buying furs care must be
taken to ascertain that the hair has no tendency
to become loose. A fur obtained during the
spring might resemble, on first appearance, a
long-coated prime winter skin, but after a short
period the fur, if commencing to shed, would
gradually fall out, until the skin would eventually
resemble a door-mat and become valueless.
Some animals, such as foxes and wolves, have
a habit of sitting on their haunches, and these, if
killed too late in the spring, can be easily detected,
as a bare patch can be observed on the haunches
where  the  fur has  begun  to  rub  off.     Skins »,
obtained rather too early in the winter may have
already acquired their winter coat, which will
remain fast, and will therefore be of more value
than when obtained too late in the spring. However, the fur if obtained too early in the winter
will not have acquired its full length and fine
texture, and will therefore be less valuable than a
thoroughly prime winter skin. The primeness of
a skin can be ascertained not only by examining
the fur, but also by the colour of the inside pelt.
During the summer time the pelt is of a dark
bluish colour; but as the winter advances the
pelt becomes lighter, until eventually, when the
skin is thoroughly prime, the colour of the pelt
becomes a pure white.
Animals which habitually frequent water, such as
beaver, otter, or musquash, retain their primeness
later than exclusively land animals ; and the skins
of beaver, even when caught as late as the middle
of June, will still be quite prime and obtain the
full market value. The value of an animal's fur
also depends upon the colour, and amongst most
fur-coated ^animals, such as foxes, marten, mink,
&c, the darker the colour of the fur the higher
the price it will obtain in the market.
The white fox ranges farther north than
Dawson, and the foxes in the upper Yukon consist of the black, silver, cross, and red fox, of
which the black and the silver are by far the most
valuable. The fur of the black fox, which contains no silver hairs except at the end of the tail,
is extremely rare and probably the most valuable THE TRADING POST 285
fur in existence. A full grown prime black fox,
even in its raw state, would sell in the market for
at least .£200, and probably for more ; and when
this has been tanned and made into some article
of clothing, the price would be considerably
higher. The value of a silver fox depends, of
course, on the primeness ; but presuming that the
skin has been obtained at the proper season of
the year it will vary greatly according to the
colour, and the nearer the colour resembles a
black fox the greater will be its value in the
market. A dark silver, which contains comparatively few silver hairs, is of considerably more
value than what is termed a " pale silver," where
the white hairs exist in large quantities.
Valuable raw furs, like black or silver fox, must
be examined with great care, as high prices have
to be paid for good ones; so that an inexperienced
purchaser, by overestimating their value, might
become involved in considerable loss. Some of
these black and silver foxes are termed " rusty,"
implying that the fur possesses a reddish tinge,
and when the tinge or rust is extremely slight an
inexperienced buyer might not detect it. This
rust, even when so slight that the reddish tinge
may not easily be apparent, will have the effect
of destroying the gloss, and therefore to a large
extent diminishing the value of the fur.
The value of silver fox skins varies to a very
large extent, since the silver hairs in different
skins vary so greatly in numbers and distribution.
A prime dark silver fox skin might be worth in ill
111 i
its raw state anything from £"8o to .£150, according to the colour; while a pale silver would not
fetch more than £"30 to £40, and perhaps less.
These values, of course, do not apply to the
imitation silver foxes, which are now so fashionable in the street and which cost about £"15
apiece. These simply consist of a red fox which
has been dyed black, with the white hairs, probably rabbit hairs, fastened in.
The red fox of the Yukon resembles in appearance the ordinary English fox, but as the animal
resides in an Arctic region the fur is very different
from the species in England. The value of the
skin varies like other furs according to the colour,
a dark red being more valuable than a pale red.
A prime full-grown skin is worth from about
25s. to £"2, although exceptionally fine specimens
may obtain, perhaps, as much as 50s. The cross
fox is an intermediate breed between the red and
the black or silver fox, the skin generally resembling that of a red fox with black and silver
splodges. These different species of foxes interbreed like different species of dogs, while the
black fox appears to be more of a freak than
anything else. A litter of five or six fox cubs
might contain one black or silver fox, although
this would be an uncommon occurrence, as the
animals are comparatively rare, especially the
black; while the remainder of the litter would
probably consist of either cross or red foxes, or
more probably of both.
The values of the different furs vary consider-
ably in different seasons, according to the fashion
which happens to be in vogue. In recent years
the prices of furs in general have been steadily
rising; and in some instances, where a particular
fur has suddenly become fashionable, the rise has
been remarkable. About three years ago musquash skins could be purchased by the thousands
for a shilling apiece; but latterly the fur has been
employed in imitating sealskin, which has rendered it extremely fashionable, and consequently
the value has risen about 500 per cent.
The rise in the value of furs is not necessarily
due to the animals becoming extinct through
being over-trapped, but simply because the public
are becoming more luxurious, and furs are therefore more in demand. The furs brought into
the market have not sensibly diminished in quantity within recent years, although the trappers, in
order to obtain their skins, must penetrate farther
back into the wilds. However, a vast amount of
territory in Northern Canada still remains almost
unexplored, with the fur-coated animals practically
untouched ; so that many years will elapse before
they become extinct or the supply of raw furs
sensibly diminishes.
The lynx provides a notable exception; but
their present scarcity is not due to over-trapping
but to the fact that their principal food supply
consists of rabbits, which, as explained in a
previous chapter, disappear every seven years,
so that the lynx periodically disappear likewise.
About fifteen  years  ago lynx skins were only
1 it
worth about 5s. apiece; but the introduction of
motor cars brought lynx furs into fashion, as lynx
robes dyed black became greatly in demand for
motorists, especially in the United States. The
value of the skins, consequently, increased from
about 5s. to a sovereign ; and as within the last
few years the lynx have again become very scarce,
owing to the temporary disappearance of the
rabbits, their skins, which about five years ago
could be purchased for a sovereign, are now
worth about ,£8 or £"9.
A considerable amount of insanity used to
prevail in the Yukon, which is rather surprising considering that the population consisted
principally of healthy men in the prime of life.
Every summer, when the river became open
for steamboat navigation, a certain number of
insane people would be escorted outside to the
lunatic asylum at New Westminster in British
Columbia. An acquaintance named Corning
underwent rather a disagreeable experience with
a lunatic, when living right away in the woods
^ where communication with other people was impossible. Corning and another man were working a mining claim in a remote part of the
country, about 200 miles up the Pelly River.
His partner, who professed to be a Roman
Catholic, was suddenly seized with insanity,
which took the form of religious mania, so he
constructed an altar in a corner of the cabin
out of empty boxes, on which six candles were
constantly kept  burning, and  although he had THE TRADING POST 289
not previously shown any religious proclivities,
he now remained kneeling in front of the altar
for several hours a day.
A miner does not purchase more supplies than
are absolutely necessary, both on account of the
initial expense and the difficulties of transportation, so Corning not only lost his partner's assistance—who persisted in praying when he ought
to be working—but the candles were also being
consumed upon the altar at an alarming rate.
His insanity eventually assumed a more aggravated form, as he threw several articles belonging to the cabin down a shaft hole, and
afterwards climbed to the top of a cliff and
jumped off it. His injuries from the fall were
severe, so Corning conveyed him to the cabin
and attended him until he recovered.
The spring had by this time commenced,
and when the Pelly River was open for navigation Corning, who was anxious to convey his
partner to where assistance could be obtained,
persuaded him to start for the river, which was
some distance from the cabin. His partner was
still as mad as ever, and after proceeding for a
short distance he suddenly sprang at Corning
and attacked him. Fortunately Corning was
well acquainted both with boxing and wrestling,
and although physically smaller than the madman,
who was a great strong German, he proved himself quite equal to the occasion. He administered to him a sound hammering, and after that
experienced no further trouble, as his partner, 290 REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
in spite of his madness, was quite sensible enough
to understand the meaning of a thrashing. On
arriving at the Pelly River they embarked in
their boat and rowed down to Selkirk, where
the madman remained under supervision at the
trading post until the arrival of a steamer which
conveyed him to Dawson.
The salmon arriving on the Pacific coast are
far more abundant than those frequenting the
Atlantic, and at the mouths of certain rivers,
such as the Fraser River, the Columbia, and
some of the Alaskan rivers, salmon canneries
have been established where they catch them
by the thousands. They are caught partly in
nets by the Indians, who are paid about five-
pence per fish, and partly by means of traps,
which consist of a large wheel continually revolving with troughs attached to it, the bottom
troughs being placed just below the surface of
the water. The trap is arranged at the entrance
of the rivers, so that the revolving troughs pick
the salmon while swimming up, and deposit
them into a receptacle placed conveniently for
the purpose. The salmon are then cut up,
cleaned, boiled, and packed in hermetically
sealed tins, all by machinery, and are then forwarded to different quarters of the globe, a
considerable number finding their way to
Several different species of salmon swim up
the rivers, their runs generally taking place at
different periods during the summer and autumn THE TRADING  POST 291
months. The sockeyes, cohos, and king salmon
are considered the best species for eating purposes, while other species, such as the humpback and the dog salmon, are not deemed
palatable for human beings, and are, therefore,
only caught for purposes of dog food, and by
the Indians, who will eat anything.
Two species of salmon swim up the Yukon,
namely, the king salmon, which arrives at Fort
Selkirk about the middle of July, and the dog
salmon, which arrives about the middle of September. The king salmon is a magnificent fish
which provides excellent eating, occasionally
attaining a weight of 50 lbs. or perhaps more,
and although its colour is dark when residing
in the sea, after travelling for a long distance up
the Yukon its skin becomes a bright red. As
the mouth of the Yukon is situated in Behring
Strait the salmon are obliged to wait until it
is clear of ice before commencing their long
journey up the river. On arriving at Fort Selkirk they have already travelled up the river for
about 1800 miles, although some of them go
very nearly up to the head-waters of the Yukon,
involving a journey of over 2000 miles.
Dawson is situated some distance below Selkirk, and as the two places are connected by
telegraph the inhabitants in Selkirk are promptly
informed when the salmon first make their
appearance at Dawson. New nets have been
constructed or old ones repaired in anticipation
of the event, and when the arrival of the salmon 292    REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
at Dawson has been telegraphed to Selkirk, we
promptly pack up our tents and supplies and
deposit them in a boat, and then repair to one
of the large eddies on the Yukon or the Pelly
River. An unwritten law exists in the Yukon
that when a person has set his net in a particular eddy, no other person is supposed to
interfere with him, but must proceed to some
other eddy in a fresh locality; so on arriving
at our particular spot, we quickly pitch the tent
and set the net before any one else arrives, and
are then ready to receive the salmon when they
make their first appearance.
The upper end of the net is always placed in
the river at the top of the eddy, and attached by
a rope to a stake driven into the bank. The
remainder of the net is then laid out in the river,
as near as possible along the line where the eddy
and the current of the river meet, thus forming
a V shape with the shore. When this has been
done the net is anchored in position by means
of a sack filled with large stones, which is sunk
to the bottom of the river, and attached to the
lower end of the net by a rope.
The task of setting or laying out a net in the
river is a simple one if two people are in the
boat, as one man can then guide the boat while
the other attends to the net, but when entirely
alone, which with myself has generally been the
case, the operation is by no means such an easy
matter. The net is placed in the bow of the
boat, and the man, while laying out the net in
I      H4   U
the. river, has not only to prevent it from becoming entangled with itself and the boat and the
floats, but must also guide and handle the boat
in a fairly swift current at the same time. The
fact of the current in the eddy and the current of
the river travelling in exactly opposite directions
makes the operation all the more awkward, as
the boat is, therefore, more liable to be swung
round; there is consequently always a feeling of
relief when the net has eventually been laid out
in the river, and securely anchored in the proper
A large king salmon in the net, with its bright
red skin, provides a splendid spectacle, and if
recently caught, care must be taken when landing
it in the boat, as its frantic struggles are very
liable to tear the net. Gaffs are not obtainable
in the Yukon, so a stout stick about 3 feet long
is kept handy in the boat, and after gently drawing up the head of the salmon, in a sort of coaxing
manner, on to the edge of the boat, a sudden
heavy blow on the head with the stick will stun
it, and two or three more will finish it, after
which it is hauled into the boat and extracted
from the net.
The salmon run lasts for about a month, the
middle portion being the most plentiful, while
the abundance of salmon varies considerably in
different seasons. The worst salmon run in my
experience occurred about the year 1906, being
the same year that a large barge, while proceeding up the river laden with coal oil, was wrecked 294 REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
in the lower regions of the Yukon. The river
was covered for a considerable distance with
floating oil, and as salmon when swimming constantly appear above the surface of the water,
the paucity of the salmon during that particular
year was attributed by many to the destruction
of the barge.
After the salmon caught in the net have been
deposited by the tent or cabin, the portion required for the day's food is put aside, while the
remainder is cut up for purposes of drying. The
Indians are extremely fond of dried salmon, and
every year they catch and dry large quantities.
They do not generally fish alone like the white
men, but construct a central camp where they
dry the salmon, their nets being set in different
eddies in the vicinity. Visiting an Indian fishing
camp during the salmon season would provide
quite an interesting and novel experience to
people unaccustomed to the spectacle, the men
working at the nets and catching the salmon,
while the women are employed in cutting them
up and hanging them on poles to dry.
Dried salmon is not often eaten by white men,
but as the fish contains about 80 or 90 per cent,
of water, the salmon when dried becomes a highly
concentrated form of food, and in a country where
transportation is often so difficult and weight so
important, affords an excellent form of dog food.
Dried salmon is extremely nourishing, so that
sleigh dogs working hard can thrive on it, and
as catching salmon costs nothing, except one's THE TRADING POST 295
time and a certain amount of trouble, people
possessing sleigh dogs are always eager for the
salmon run in order to enable them to replenish
their supply of dog food.
The other species of salmon which swims up
the Yukon, namely the dog salmon, arrives at
Fort Selkirk about the first week in September.
The fish are of a dark colour with white splodges,
while their size is much smaller than that of the
king salmon, the average weight being about
eight pounds. For purposes of food they cannot
be compared to the king salmon, and in fact are
only eaten by the Indians. However, they are
far more numerous than the king salmon, so their
appearance at Selkirk late in the autumn proves
most convenient, as it enables people to provide
a large supply of dog food for the ensuing winter.
They can be caught in large quantities about the
third week in September, when it is freezing
hard, and the trouble of cutting them up and
drying them becomes then unnecessary. I used
generally to net about 500 of them, and as at
that time of the year they quickly freeze, it was
only necessary to slit them down the throat, and
to deposit them in a cache or shed where there
was no fire, and during the winter they could be
boiled up for the dogs as required.
Sleigh dogs in the Yukon being fed to a large
extent on fish, become very clever in manipulating the bones. I used to serve out fish to my
dogs, bones and all, and they were never bothered
by the bones sticking in their throats.     The 296    REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
head and the large backbone would be eaten by
the dogs,  while the small rib bones would be
separated from the meat, and all licked clean and
left in the bottom of the dish.
The eggs of the salmon are laid during the
summer or autumn according to the species, and
after hatching out, they swim as small fry down
to the sea where they remain for five years, and
at the end of that period, by some extraordinary
instinct, return to the very spot where they were
originally hatched. The truth of this may appear
questionable, but it is a well-known fact among
those acquainted with the salmon on the Pacific
coast—while probably the same rule applies to
the Atlantic—and has been constantly proved by
marking the fish. Salmon, like other fish, lay
an enormous quantity of eggs, of which only a
small proportion arrive at maturity, as both the
eggs and the young fry are eagerly preyed upon
by pike and other fishes. The parent salmon
form a nest by scooping with their noses a
hole in the sand, and when the eggs have been
deposited within the hollow they are carefully
covered over by the parents, so as to conceal
them from their enemies.
The adult salmon do not return to the sea, but
after the eggs have been deposited and fertilised
they become diseased, white spots breaking out
on them which gradually extend over the body,
and after floundering about for a short period
they die. The life of a salmon, therefore, extends
approximately  to   five  years.     The   eggs  are THE TRADING POST 297
hatched in the summer or the autumn, according
to the season of the salmon run; the young fry
swims down to the sea where it remains for five
years, and then returns, a full-grown adult, to
the place of its birth, and after propagating its
species, dies.
It may, perhaps, be remarked that if the salmon
are all of the same age, each species ought also
to be of the same size, but the discrepancy is not
so great as might at first be imagined. The
male salmon is on an average considerably larger
than the female, while the salmon which breed in
the Yukon average a larger size than those which
breed in its tributaries. If, therefore, the two
sexes are separated, and the salmon breeding in
the main river or its tributaries be taken into
consideration, the discrepancy in sizes is probably
not more pronounced than those between other
animals of the same species, or even amongst
human beings.
The salmon possess another peculiar feature,
which is that the young fry after their return to
the sea completely disappear. They are never
observed or caught in nets, and nobody knows
where they go to or what becomes of them, until
five years afterwards at an appointed period
during the season, which varies according to
the species, they gradually reappear in shoals,
returning to their birthplace.
One summer after the salmon fishing was concluded, I returned from the Pelly River where I
had been fishing, and on arriving at Selkirk dis- r
covered that the place was in quarantine, so I
was obliged to remain there until the quarantine
was abolished. An epidemic of diphtheria had
recently broken out, two people having died of it,
while others were infected. No physician resided
in the place, so news of the occurrence was
telegraphed to Dawson. A doctor was accordingly despatched to Selkirk with some antitoxin,
and managed to stop the epidemic and cure the
remainder of those infected. The steamers were
allowed to call at Selkirk for discharging mails
and cargo, but while the quarantine was in force,
none of the inhabitants was allowed on board.
On one of these occasions, a passenger on
board was unaware of the quarantine, and while
the steamer was discharging some cargo, happened to go on shore unobserved and strolled
into the trading post. At first we concluded
that he intended to remain in Selkirk on some
business, but when he mentioned that he was on
his way to Dawson, we informed him of the
quarantine regulations. He promptly returned
to the steamer in a state of great trepidation,
but the captain refused to admit him on board.
His luggage was accordingly handed out to him,
and to his great disgust he was obliged to remain
in Selkirk for about three weeks, until the quarantine was abolished.
The waggon road from Dawson to Whitehorse
crosses the Pelly River near the mouth, and a
road-house has been established at the crossing,
about four miles from Selkirk.    The road-house I
is only kept open during the winter months, as
the waggon road is not made use of in the
summer time. Stages, consisting of four-horsed
sleighs, make regular trips two or three times
a week between Dawson and Whitehorse, conveying mails and passengers. The arrival of
the stage at the Pelly road-house, with its passengers well muffled up in furs, forms quite an
interesting spectacle. The horses also present a
curious sight in severe weather, as the steam
from their bodies immediately condenses, so that
they appear enveloped in a thick fog. The stages
cease to run when the temperature drops to over
700 below zero, because inhaling such extreme
cold while trotting along the road proves fatal to
the horses.
No bridges exist over the Pelly, and the stages
cross the frozen river on the ice. Late in spring,
when the ice becomes dangerous, the mails are
deposited in a canoe which is placed on a sleigh,
and drawn by men across the ice to the further
side of the river, so that in the event of the ice
breaking under them, they can still save themselves by clambering into the canoe. Horse
stages travel to and fro between the rivers, so
that on reaching the bank the mails are conveyed
on the stage to the next river, when the process
is repeated. This method of conveying mails
across the rivers, when the ice becomes rotten,
appears to be rather hazardous, though I have
not heard of any fatal accidents resulting
By way of enlivening our small community
during the winter months, dances were periodically inaugurated, which were held alternately at
the Selkirk trading post and the Pelly River road-
house. The two places are situated about four
miles apart, with the river Yukon intervening,
and on dance nights the inhabitants in the vicinity
would transport themselves on sleighs to their
destination. The music was provided by a
gramophone belonging to the trading post, the
dances commencing at about seven o'clock in the ■■
evening, and continuing until the early hours of
the morning. Kitchen lancers composed the
principal part of the programme, one of the party
being told off to act as master of the ceremonies.
During the lancers he would be employed in
shouting out the changes, such as " Gents to the
right, ladies to the left," " Now swing your
partners," &c, &c, which is a common device
in Canada and the United States, the words
of command being usually emphasised with a
strong nasal twang.
During these dances the white female element
was naturally rather scarce in Selkirk, so Indian
girls would be called in to increase the number
of lady partners. The trading post or the road-
house, at whichever place the dance was held,
would supply the supper, but as each place was
provided with a drinking bar, the guests were
expected to pay indirectly for their entertainment
by investing in occasional libations. As the ball
progressed   the   kitchen   lancers,   consequently, .    THE TRADING POST 301
became more and more " kitchenified," and
towards the close of the ball they would assume
rather a boisterous character.
During my last winter in Selkirk my trading
partner had rather a narrow escape from being
frozen. He had driven across the Yukon one
evening on his dog sleigh in order to dine at
the Pelly River road-house, and after indulging
in a convivial evening, was returning home to
Selkirk at about twelve o'clock p.m. in rather an
intoxicated condition. While proceeding across
the Yukon his sleigh bumped against a cake of
ice, the jar tumbling him out into the snow on the
side of the trail. The dogs being headed for
home, and finding the sleigh suddenly lightened,
promptly started off at full gallop, and never
stopped until their arrival at the Selkirk trading
post, while my partner was left in the snow on
the Yukon. Fortunately some people were in
the trading post engaged in a game of poker, and
hearing the dogs shuffling about outside were
surprised at the non-appearance of the owner.
One of them consequently opened the door and
walked out, and on seeing the empty sleigh with
nobody about, his suspicions were aroused. He
accordingly turned the dogs round and proceeded
with them backwards towards the Pelly road-
house. The missing person was soon discovered
floundering in the snow, and was conveyed on
the sleigh to Selkirk. The temperature was
then about 400 below zero, so that if the arrival
of the dogs had not been remarked, the man 1
would have been frozen to death within a very
short period.
The principal supply of furs is obtained in the
spring, when the trappers have returned with
their winter's proceeds; but during the winter
Indians will often arrive at the trading post with
a few skins, which they have recently caught and
wish to dispose of. Conducting business with an
Indian involves the expenditure of a considerable amount of time and patience. When their
furs have been examined and a price offered, they
will stand about cogitating the matter and chewing tobacco, while every now and again they will
commence jabbering to each other in their lingo,
so that, perhaps, half an hour or more will elapse
before they have made up their minds, and the
negotiations are finally completed.
During the summer of 1908 an extraordinary
robbery of gold dust occurred in Dawson, amounting to over $20,000. The robbery had been very
skilfully conducted, and for a considerable period
eluded the vigilance of the police. The perpetrator did not abscond down the Yukon to Circle
City, according to the usual custom, but continued
to reside in Dawson, as he hoped to remain undetected. Eventually a man, who had long been
regarded by the police as somewhat of a shady
character, came under suspicion as being concerned in the robbery, owing to his extravagant
manner of living. The man became suspicious
that the police were watching him, and embarked
on a steamer for Whitehorse, but the telegraph
was brought into requisition, and he was accordingly arrested on the arrival of the steamer at
Selkirk. He remained at the trading post at
Selkirk under supervision for a couple of days,
until the arrival of a steamer to convey him back
to Dawson. During his stay at the trading post
he made no allusion to the robbery, but was very
conversational, and appeared perfectly unconcerned, although he must have already premeditated suicide. He embarked on the next steamer
for Dawson, but had managed to secrete some
laudanum which the police when searching him had
not detected, and the following morning was found
in his bunk on the steamer dying from its effects.
Indian couples would occasionally get married
by the missionary residing in Selkirk, but a white
wedding in the place forms an extremely rare
occurrence. I only know of one occasion when
such an event occurred, and it took place during
my last winter in Selkirk, between a French-
Canadian who owned a ranche on the Pelly River,
about a mile from the Pelly road-house, and a
white lady who resided in the vicinity. They
were both well known amongst the residents in
Selkirk, and in such a small community everybody
is supposed to know all about each other's affairs.
However, nobody had the smallest suspicion of
their engagement, until one winter's day they
arrived together in a sleigh at the missionary's
house in Selkirk, and informed him that they had
just become engaged and wished to be married
that afternoon. 304    REMINISCENCES OF THE YUKON
The proclamation of banns is not a necessity
in the Yukon, so the arrangements were rapidly
concluded, and about an hour later the wedding
ceremony was conducted in the church, attended
by the fashionable society of Selkirk. When the
wedding was concluded the whole party, except
fortunately the missionary, repaired to the trading
post, where a reception was held, and although no
wedding breakfast was furnished for the occasion
the guests were provided with whisky ad libitum
at the expense of the bridegroom. The result
was that a heated altercation eventually broke
out between two of the people, which suddenly
devolved into a free fight. Some of the others
joined in, and the place was suddenly in an uproar,
and resembled a bear garden. The bridegroom
very sensibly adjourned with his bride to the
stable, where he quickly got ready his sleigh
and drove off to his ranche, leaving his wedding
guests to fight the matter out to their hearts'
Late in the autumn, after my second year at
the trading post, I decided to pay a visit to the
outside world for a change. I had now been
absent from England for thirteen years, eleven
years of which had been spent in the Yukon, so
my original intention was to pay a visit to England for the ensuing winter, and return to Selkirk
the following spring. It was then about the third
week in October, with the country covered with
snow, while ice had commenced floating down the
Yukon.    The last steamer of the season was now THE TRADING POST 305
proceeding from Dawson to Whitehorse, and was
expected to arrive at Selkirk the following morning, so there was only a short interval for making
up my mind on the subject. Accordingly, the
next day, I locked up my cabin and nailed some
boards across the window, and having sold my
sleigh dogs, embarked on the steamer for Whitehorse.
On about the second day after leaving Selkirk
we arrived at the Five Fingers, which, except for
occasional sand-bars, forms the only obstruction
between the mouth of the Yukon and Whitehorse.
The Fingers are formed by five huge rock pillars
extending across the river, which present rather
a striking appearance. The river, in consequence,
becomes banked up for about a foot or so, forming a slight rapid. A wire cable had therefore
been laid down between one of the openings in
the pillars which form the regular channel, so •
that steamers could pick up the cable and
adjust it round the capstan, and then proceed
to pull themselves up until the rapid had been
For about four days the steamer slowly proceeded against the current of the Yukon and
pushed its way through the ice-cakes floating
down the river, and after crossing Lake La Barge,
and then proceeding up Thirty Mile River at the
further end of the lake, we eventually arrived at
Whitehorse. The railway here commences, the
line being cut through the dense primeval forest,
skirts along the shore of Lake Bennett, and then 3o6    REMINISCENCES OF THE  YUKON
puffs slowly along up rather a steep incline, until
its arrival at the summit of the White Pass.
Here commences the valley where form the head
waters of the main branch of the Yukon. A small
mountain stream, which one could almost jump
across, was flowing rapidly towards the North,
and gurgled and bubbled amongst the rocks and
boulders. One could hardly realise that this tiny
stream was the commencement of the mighty
Yukon, which continues its long journey of over
2000 miles, until it ultimately arrives at Behring
The White Pass is an opening in the mountain
range which divides the Yukon territory from the
Alaskan coast. The scenery on the summit is
wild and dreary in the extreme, as we are now
above the timber line, and the country is mainly
composed of rocks and scraggy bush. During
the Klondyke boom in 1898 the White Pass was
one of the principal routes into the Yukon, and
people came pouring through it in thousands.
This was before the construction of the railway ;
and the task of transporting themselves and their
supplies over the summit of the pass proved an
arduous and difficult undertaking. The route
was lined with the corpses of hundreds of horses
which had died from injuries and privation. An
avalanche swept down the mountain side which
buried a number of people, while many others
succumbed and died on the trail from hardship
and exposure.
During  our  progress men were  occasionally THE TRADING  POST 307
passed trudging along the line with packs strapped
on their backs. These were people proceeding
from Whitehorse to Skagway who could not
afford to pay $20 for accommodation on the railway. The summit of the pass is the boundary
line between Canadian territory and Alaska, and
United States officials here boarded the train in
order to examine the passengers' luggage. This,
however, did not take much time; and the train
then proceeded down the valley on the other
side of the pass, the line winding along the
mountain side amidst beautiful mountain scenery,
and occasionally passing over high trestle bridges,
where the passengers almost shuddered as they
peered from the carriage windows down a rocky
chasm with a mountain torrent roaring far
On arriving at Skagway I embarked on a
steamer for Vancouver, and skirted down the
Alaskan coast amidst innumerable densely wooded
islands as though traversing a network of canals.
The steamer called on its way at Prince Rupert,
the Pacific terminus of the future trans-continental
railway. The town appeared like all Western
American towns which have suddenly sprung into
existence through the occurrence of a " boom " of
some description. The dense spruce forest had
been cleared away in the vicinity, although the
stumps of trees were still scattered about through
the compounds. The main street was unpaved
except for a wooden footpath, and led at a steep
angle up the hill side ; while it was lined on either »H^M
side with rough wooden cabins. These appeared
to be principally drinking saloons and real estate
offices, where people were busily employed in
trying to dispose of prospective town lots at
exorbitant prices.
After leaving Prince Rupert the steamer skirted
along the coast in a perfectly calm sea, being
protected on the windward side by the islands,
until we arrived at the open channel off Prince of
Wales Island. This open sound only extends
for a few miles, but the sea is apt to become exceedingly nasty, as it is here exposed to the full
breadth of the Pacific Ocean. Luckily, on this
occasion the weather was comparatively calm,
and on about the fifth day after leaving Skagway
we eventually arrived at Vancouver.
The population of Dawson in 1898 consisted
of about 30,000 inhabitants; but in 1908, or ten
years later, had dwindled down to about 3000.
During the Klondyke boom thousands of people
poured into the country expecting to secure rich
claims without any great difficulty; but when
they discovered that these could only be obtained
by a few lucky individuals they became discouraged, and numbers of them flocked back to
civilisation. Gold discoveries in other parts of
the Yukon also tended to diminish the population of Dawson. Every mining town consists
of' a large number of disappointed individuals,
so whenever a fresh  strike   is   reported,  they THE TRADING POST 309
immediately hurry off to the new diggings, where
they hope to obtain better luck.
A few years after the Klondyke boom a rich
discovery was reported at Nome, situated at the
mouth of the Yukon, and a stampede promptly
occurred from Dawson for 1600 miles down the
Yukon to the new locality. Shortly after the
Nome boom people rushed off to Fairbanks,
another place on the Yukon where a gold discovery was reported; and later on a boom
occurred on the Tanana River, a tributary of the
lower Yukon; and, just before leaving Selkirk,
I heard that another migration had taken place
to some fresh discovery somewhere down the
Yukon. Each of these places became suddenly
invaded with stampeders from the old mining
camps, and also with crowds of fresh enthusiasts
from the towns on the Pacific coast. The place,
hitherto nothing but jungle, was conseqently
transformed into a large city of perhaps 30,000
inhabitants within a few weeks, and remained so
until a fresh boom was started in some fresh
locality, upon which the city was promptly forsaken by a large proportion of its population,
and deserted cabins could be counted by the
The Yukon district is situated too far north
for the production of wheat, and is not likely ever
to develop into an agricultural country. A few
ranches are cultivated in the river valleys, where
potatoes and oats form the principal item of production ;   but  the  ranchers  have   only a   very
j gffT*
limited and continually decreasing market for their
crops. The localities suitable for cultivation are
confined to favourable spots in the river valleys,
so that only a very small proportion of the country
is of any use whatever, except to the miner and
the trapper.
Ideas have occasionally been mooted of connecting Dawson by railway with the new transcontinental line, which is now under construction.
The undertaking, however, appears to be extremely improbable, as the line would have to
traverse about 1000 miles of mountainous and
densely wooded country; while the Yukon district affords nothing to warrant the support of
anything except a most scanty population. The
timber in the country, although enormous in extent, would be of very little value for commercial
purposes, as the trees in northern regions do not
approach in size that of the timber growing farther
south. The low grade gravels in the Klondyke
district will probably continue to be mined by
large companies for a certain number of years;
but both the mining and the trapping are decreasing factors which will gradually disappear, and
the Klondyke district will then revert to the
Indians, or will probably be inhabited by the
Numbers of old mining camps, after becoming
worked out and abandoned by the white men,
are taken over by the Chinese, who indulge
extensively in gold mining and can thrive on
a pittance where a white man would starve.    I THE TRADING POST 311
have occasionally come across some of these old
deserted mining camps in the districts of Cassiar
and Cariboo in British Columbia, and have
watched the Chinamen prowling like wild animals
among the abandoned cabins and old mining
plants, and pawing about amongst the debris
which have been forsaken by their former owners.
The spectacle is somewhat depressing, and rather
reminds one of the deserted cities in India and
elsewhere, formerly the scene of a thriving population and now abandoned to the wolf and the
coyote. 1 INDEX
Agriculture in the Yukon, 12,
Alaska, 1
Arctic hares, 165, 195
Auctions, fur, 258
Aurora Borealis, 5
Autumn in the Yukon, 77
Baits for trapping, 225
 poisoned, 232
Bank of British North America
in Dawson, destroyed by fire,
Beans, nutritive value of, 43
Bear Creek, 94
Bears in the Yukon Valley, 50,
Berries, wild, 121
 frozen for winter food, 114
Big game in Pelly river region,
Big Salmon river, 42, 50
Birds, scarcity in the Yukon, 9
Black fox fur, value of, 285
Blazed trees, 222
Bonanza  Creek, riches of, 23,
143- 147
 visit to, 67
Bread, price of, 83
Cabin  building,   82,  85,  157,
" Caches," 214
Calder Creek, 145
Camp life, 28, 63, 122, et passim
" C amp-robber,"   bird   of   the
Yukon, 9
Canadian mining camps, 63
Cariboo, 197, 203
Carnegie   library   in   Dawson,
"Casing" furs, 189
" Castor," beaver, 244
Chee-Chako hill, 130
Chinese in the Yukon, 310
 antipathy to, 144
Circle city, 141
Claims, discovery, 133
 staking, 24
Climate, 12
 contrasts of, ioS
Cold, deaths from exposure, 13,
19, 20, 41
Cold snaps in Dawson, 91
Colour protection, animal, 193
Communication, means of, 80
Company promoting, 61
Dance-halls in Dawsc
Dances, road-house, 30c
Dawson city, 2, 40, 53
 fires in, 109
 libraries, 152
 newspapers, 58
 population of, 308
 sanitation, 66
 school, 67
 situation, 66
" Dead-falls," traps, 227, 22c
Deer meat, dried, 47
Diphtheria in Selkirk, 298
Discovery claims, 133
Dog, bear, 112
Dog-suns, 106
Dog-teams, 29, 88
 harness, 89
Dogs (malamutes), 89
Dominion Creek, 101
Drinking saloons, 93
108, 255
J ^^r
314 IN
Eldorado Creek, gold found
in, 25
 mining operations in, 144
 riches of, 143, 147
Eggs, Dawson varieties, e6
Ermine, 189
 trap for, 162
Extradition    treaties    between
America and Canada, 140
Fairbanks, 309
Fire-engine, the first, 109
Fires at Dawson, 109
 Slough, 254
Fishing in Lake Tatlaman, 1
—— Indian camp, 294
Five Fingers, 305
Flour, price of, 280
Footwear, 20
Forest fires, 48
Forests, Canadian, 3
Fort Selkirk, 52, 176, 191   2
279, 298
Forty Mile Creek, 23, 106
Fox, 164
 black, 285
 silver, 285
French Canadians, 153
Frost-bite, 15, 145, 226
Frozen berries for winter fo<
t, 114
Fuel, winter,'84"'
 casing, 189
 purchase and sale of, 2.
 robes, 84
Fur-coated   animals   of
Yukon, 161, 186
 methods of skinning, i{
 tracks of, 235
Gambling in Dawson, 53
 fondness  of  Indians
Goats used for sleigh dragging,
Gold " booming," 26, 61
 discovered    in     Bonanza
Creek, 23
Gold dust as currency, 59
 extracted   with   magnets,
140 ; with quicksilver, 139
 panning, 102
 placer, 140
 prospectors, 132
 Run Creek, 103
Greek Church in Alaska, 2
Grew, Jim, trapper, 191
Harness for dog-teams, 89
Hawks, 165
Hillside pay-streaks, 130
Hootalinqua river, 28, 177, 180
Horse stages, 299
Horses, scarcity of, 88
Hudson Bay Company, trading
post of, 280
Hunker Creek, 94
Hunker's claim, story of, 98
Hunters in the Yukon, 114
Ice in the Yukon, 6
  jams, 252
Indian fishing camp, 294
 river, 101
Indians on the Pelly river, 186
 Selkirk, 261
 Stickene, 31
 Yukon, 260
Insanity in the Yukon, 288
Japanese, mining   operations
by, 144
 community in Dawson, 144
Juneau, 63, 136
 quartz mining in, 149
Juneau Joe, prospector, 136
" King of the Klondyke," 99
Klondyke river, 2, 23, 93
Labourers, wages of, 68
La Barge lake, 177, 179, 305
Legend of Red Indians, 277
Libraries in Dawson, 152
Long Lake, yj
Lynch, Senator, 130
 robbery from, 140
Lynx, 163
 snares for, 223
 trap for, 162
 value of fur, 288 M'DONALD, " King of the Klondyke," 99
M'Millan River, 219
Magnets, used in gold-extracting process, 140
Mails, conveyance of, 115, 299
Marten, trap for, 162
Meat, cost ofin Dawson, 114
 dried, 47
 frozen, 114
Missionaries in the Yukon, 262,
Mines, placer, 148
 quartz, 148
Mining camps, Canadi;
 companies, 147
 licences, 24
 operations, 68, 96,
Mink, 233
 trap for, 162
"Mitts," 17
Moose in the Yukon Valley, 44
 hunting, 197, 198
Mosquitoes in the Yukon, 11
Murders in the Yukon, 34, 74,
Musquash, 158
Naskutla river, expediti
 scenery, 44
Newspapers in Dawson,
Nigger Jim stampede, 12'
Nome, 308
JKX 315
Quartz mining, Treadwell, 149
Quicksilver, used in gold-extracting process, 139
Quiet Lake, 42
 scenery, 45
Raft-building, 79
" Rafting," 78
Railway, proposal for, 310
—- White Pass, 56, 144
Railways, in Alaska, 3
Ravens, penalty for killing, 10
Red fox fur, value of, 286
Red Indians, legend of, 277
Road-house stampedes, 118
Road-houses, 77, 95, 101, 103
Robberies, 140, 143, 302
Rocky Mountains, 100
 sheep of, 207
Royal    North-West   Mounted
Police, 62, 75
Russians in Alaska, 2
I Salmon canning  on   Alaskan
Otter, 237
Pay-streaks, 130
Pelly river, 9, 152, 183
 region, big game in, 20
Placer gold, 140
Poling on the Pelly river, 15
Population of Dawson, 62, 3
Porcupine, 166
Postal arrangements, 65
Prince Rupert, 307
Prospectors, gold, 132
Ptarmigan, 194
- in the Yukon river, 291
- method   of   fishing,   290,
School at Dawson, 67
Scurvy in Dawson, 87
I Selkirk, see Fort Selkirk
- Indians, 261
Sheep, Rocky Mountain, 207
Silver fox fur, value of, 285
Skagway, 3, 307
Sleighs, travelling with,  28 et
I Snares for Arctic hares,)
- for lynx, 223
Spring, difficulties of travelling
in, 115
" Staking a claim," 24
I Stampedes, 116, 216
-Nigger Jim, 120
- road-house, 118
- steamboat, 119, 216
Steamboat stampedes, 119, 216
I Stickene Indians, 31
I Strychnine for baits, 232
Supplies, cost of, 39
I Swedes in the Yukon, 43 ffåf?-
"Tailings," 143
Water, method of obtaining in
Taku Inlet, 39
winter, 83
Tanana river, 309
Wedding in Selkirk, 304
Tatlaman lake, 167
Whisky in Dawson, price of, 53
Telegraph Creek, 31
Whitehorse, 3, 177, 178, 305
White Pass, 306
Teslin, river and lake, 28,
 railway, 56, 144
Winter in the Yukon, 80
Thermometers,     absence
 travelling, 105
Wolverine, 164
Thirty Mile river, 305
 trap for, 162
Timber in the Yukon, 310
Wolves, 169
Tracks of fur-coated animals,
Wrangle, town on the Alaskan
coast, 27
Trading posts, 279
Trap, " dead-fall," 227, 229
Yukon, agriculture in the, 12,
Traps, for ermine, 162
 Chinese in, 144, 310
 for foxes, 164
 climate, 12, 105
 for lynx, 163
 cosmopolitan     population
 for martens, 162
of, 62
 for mink, 162
 fur-coated animals in, 161,
 for salmon, 290
 for wolverine, 162
 Indians in, 260
Trappers, life of, 191, 247
 insanity in, 288
 on the Pelly river, 176
 Japanese in, 144
Trapping, 159 et seg.
 mining operations, 68, 96,
Treadwell quartz mine, 149
138 et passim
Typhoid in Dawson, 66
 missionaries, 262, 275
Victoria, Vancouver Island
 source of, 306
Wages of labourers, 68
 Swedes in, 43  mjM:
-I Place of Purchase.
Prtcr^/ «— 	
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Later Catalogued Prices 


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