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[Across widest America, Newfoundland to Alaska, with the impressions of two years' sojourn on the Bering… Devine, E. J. (Edward James), 1860-1927 1905

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Array   &v
US~a<3    Across
Widest America    ACROSS
TO   ALASKA « * *
Nostra? vocationis est
diversa loca peragrare.
This volume embodies the substance of various articles
which appeared in the London
"Month" and the "Canadian
Messenger." To these some
new matter has been added,
and the whole has been recast
and thrown into a more permanent form. If its pages, on
which the author spent some
of the long winter nights in
his Alaskan cabin, should
bring to his readers even a
tithe of the pleasure which
they afforded him in the writing, their purpose will have
been amply served.    ::    ::    ::  I  TABLE OF CHAPTER;
\s^ I. Newfoundland—Orders for Alaska —
The Journey begins *1
II.  Towards  the   West — Manitoba and
its Wheat-fields .........    28
t^-HI.  The   Western   Prairies — Cattle   and
Cowboys 49
l^TV.  Through   the  Rockies — Resources   of
British Columbia 66
l-V. Seattle — Over the Racine — The Aleutian Islands 83
"xl.  The Russian Domination in Alaska.   . 101
*-^"vII. Failure of Russian Enterprise — Transfer of the Territory 123
^v III.  The Bering Coast — Placer Mining —
A Trip to the Arctic 141
IX.  Council Mining Camp — The  Life  of
an Inland Miner 169
X.  The Autumn Exodus — Preparing lor
Winter on the Bering Coast   .   .   . 178 Table   of Chapters
XI.  Winter   Isolation   in   Alaska — The
Great White Silence 195
Q?   XII.  The Alaskan Mail — Social Life in   a
Mining Camp 211
XIII. The   Aboriginal  Tribes   of Alaska —
History and Customs 224
XIV. Religion in Alaska — Missionary Work
and Its Results 253
XV. Last   Year on   the   Bering   Coast —
Homeward Bound 282
The Narrows — Entrance to the Harbor of
St. John's Newfoundland — St. John's,
Newfoundland Page   16
A Newfoundland Landscape       "       32
A Scene on the Canadian Prairies. — A Yista
in the Rocky Mountains       "       48
Alaska Building, Seattle      1       64
The "SS. Roanoke" — Nome, on the Bering
Coast      "       80
The Two Extremes of America: Cape Spear,
Newfoundland, Cape Prince of Wales,
Alaska       |       96
Council Mining Camp, on the Neukluk River.
— Chinik, on Golovin Bay 1     112
The  Sphinx  of Ophir.  — An   Ophir  Creek
Miner       "     128
Prospector "panning" for Gold. — Panning
for Gold in Winter       "     144
Sluicing   in  the  Neighborhood  of Nome. —
Miners enjoying a Friendly Game.   ...      "     160
An Autumn Sunset in Northwestern Alaska.
— Summer Travelling in the Interior   .   .      "     176
"Inside" for the Winter. — The Midday Sun
on the Shortest Day; a Miner's Cabin     .      "     192  ACROSS
Newfoundland—Orders for Alaska—The
Journey begins
TN the spring of 1902, I saw Newfoundland for
the first time. A visit to England's oldest
colony had been for many years no more than
cherished dream. To me that large Island lying
off the American coast was practically a foreign
country; so distant it seemed, and so isolated.
And this impression of its aloofness was still vivid
when our stout little packet Glencoe, bound for
Terra Nova, moved down the Halifax harbor
and steamed out into the Atlantic. Three days
later, however, when we answered the flags on
Signal Hill, rounded Cape Spear, the extreme
easterly point of the continent, entered the Narrows, and, after threading our way among warships and merchant-men, moored in the lovely,
land-locked harbor of St. John's, I felt that my
dream of years was about to be realized.
The two massive towers of the great Catholic cathedral, rising high above the city, are the Across   Widest   America
first objects that attract a traveller's attention.
Viewed from the Narrows they stand out boldly,
like sentinels keeping watch and ward over the
old city, and telling the world beyond that God is
worshipped in that remote outpost of America
in a temple of proportions worthy of its patron
saint, the great Precursor.
St. John's itself is the capital of the Island
colony and the chief seat of its commerce. The
story of its career as a centre of population
is the story of many another centre of small
beginnings and long periods of adolescence. It
rose from the ashes to which it was reduced in
the desastrous fire of 1892; its buildings are consequently modern and substantial. But notwithstanding its up-to-date aspect, there is a quaint-
ness about the city that is peculiarly its own.
With its South-side Hill and its enormous heaps of
cod-fish, its fresh salt breezes and its unsavory
seal oil, its generous hospitality and its insular
customs, its picturesque Quidi Yidi Lake and its
breakneck streets, its summer heat and its icebergs, St. John's is a city of contrasts.
Two very interesting events took place during
my stay -which gave me glimpses of colonial life.
One was the annual opening of the Legislative Across   Widest   America
Assembly and the delivery of the speech from the
throne. The formalities attending the reception
of the Governor of the Island, imposing and dignified as they seemed to me, were carried out with
great exactness. Church and State blending so
gracefully on that occasion denoted an ideal condition of things by no means common in this age.
The second event was the opening of the sealing season; and it was an interesting sight for
uninitiated eyes to witness the rush and bustle
preparatory to the departure of the sealing fleet.
An incident occurred which was not down on the
programme, but which lent additional interest
to the scenes on the docks. The sealmen went
out on strike for higher wages. Three thousand
daring, grim-looking Islanders marched up and
down the streets, clamoring for better terms for
their toil. This was a new event in the life of
the city; but the demonstrations were peaceful
enough, and, I believe, ended in a compromise.
From what I could learn, the claims of the
sealmen were few and reasonable; for the dangers attached to their life at sea are many and
acute. Quite a number of them have, in recent
years, lost their lives among the ice-floes
off the coasts of Labrador  and Northern New- Across   Widest   America
foundland. But dangers do not daunt a *jsealer";
the prospects of a good season's hunt keep his
courage up; and when March 10th comes, the
date fixed by law for the setting out, he is ready
to put up with the wretched fare and the uncomfortable berth aboard ship, and to brave the
hardships and perils of the hunt, if he can call fifty
or sixty dollars his own when the time is due for
sharing the profits of the season.
Two months in the active and consoling labor
of the ministry in the cathedral on the hill had
sped by all too quickly, and I set out on a seven
thousand mile journey to the other side of
America, orders having come to me to proceed at
once to Northwestern Alaska, to work among
the miners and Eskimos for two years.
Another dream of childhood was on the eve
of accomplishment. The prospect of a journey
across the entire continent, with its ever varying
scenes of land and water, its thickly settled eastern provinces, its prairies and its lofty mountains;
then over the vast expanse of the North Pacific
and through the Aleutian Islands, the stepping
stones to Asia; then up through the Bering Sea
to the Land of the Midnight Sun and midday
darkness,   forced   me  to   look  forward   to   the Across   Widest   America
various phases of the long trip with all the emotions of a schoolboy. I was about to cross
America at its widest point, to visit the region
where the ^Northern Lights" rise, the home of
the polar bear and the walrus, where the primitive Eskimos dwell, those little stout men of our
picture books, clothed in fur, who drive reindeer
and poulkehs, and who live under the ice and
Two years' furlough from the fatigues of the
ministry, to seek solitude in a mining camp on
the shores of the Bering Sea, to live the life of
a miner, inhaling meanwhile the air that gives
back health and strength; and,what is, perhaps,
just as precious, to garner in the experiences of
men and things which only travel offers, was a
programme generous enough to excite the en-
thousiasm of even a missionary; and with a
light heart, I set out on my journey of seven
thousand miles.
The four hundred and fifty miles across Newfoundland from St. John's to Port-aux-Basques,
was through a country still quite unknown to
the outside world. A new narrow-gauge railway —forerunner of wealth and prosperity —
runs from coast to coast through the very heart Across   Widest   America
of the Island; but with the exception of an occasional settlement along the right of way, the
country through which it passes is in its primeval wildness. The interior of Newfoundland is
still as wild and primitive as in the years when
the Beothuks roamed freely through its forests.
Trees and thick shrubbery still clothe its vallej^s
and fringe its streams — streams teeming with
speckled finny beauties. The little touches of
color put in here and there by Nature's incomparable brush, were so frequent along the line
that one wonderingly asks the question why a
land so favored, one that has been in the possession of England for over four hundred years, is
still so little known.
The answer, however, is evident to anyone
who is brave enough to venture around the
curves along its coast. Amid vistas of incomparable loveliness, and fiords and coves that
make the Island a rival of Norway, Newfoundland is hemmed in with rocks, fierce in their
solid massiveness, and laden, every one of them,
with memories of ocean tragedies. The wild
Atlantic waves lashing it, and the dangers attending the approach to it in ships, tell us eloquently why, up to a few decades ago, this land, Across   Widest   America
with its forty thousand square miles, was practically as inaccessible as any island in the South Seas.
But the age of the railway builder has come.
Modern enterprise is opening up this land pregnant with vast possibilities. Men are at work
changing the history of the Island, and perhaps
shifting the seat of its commerce. It is only
when you approach the Gulf of St. Lawrence, on
your way across the country, you appreciate the
conviction expressed so openly by many Newfoundlanders, that their west coast is the future
granary of the Island colony. There the soil is
better, the mineral resources more promising, the
seasons more favorable to navigation. When
Newfoundland ceases to play -with Fate and enters the Canadian Confederation, where she
rightfully belongs, the problem of the future of
the colony will solve itself. Meanwhile, printer's
ink and the advertiser—those heralds of empire—
are actively at work. The fragrance of Newfoundland's pine woods, laden with game, and
the wealth of its waters, are drawing thither
every season sportsmen and hunters. These in
turn will be followed by the miner, and the timber
cruiser, and the farmer; and the age of prosperity
already dawning in Newfoundland, will have set in. Across   Widest   America
On reaching Port-aux-Basques, I bade adieu
to Newfoundland, and stepped into one of the
Reid steamers, the Bruce, a rapid, comfortable
vessel which in less than seven hours landed me
in Sydney, Cape Breton, where the Canadian
section—three thousand seven hundred miles — of
this interesting journey began.
An enterprising globe-trotter, who had been
over the ground himself, has suggested that the
Canadian Government could do nothing better
than to gave every young Canadian, on his
twenty-first birthday, a free trip to Vancouver.
Nova Scotia, with its vast mineral beds unexplored ; New Brunswick, with its farms and forests
and waterfalls still undeveloped; Quebec, the home
of civil and religious liberty; Ontario, the garden
of Canada; and finally, and greater than all,the
boundless prairies and mountains of the West to
the Pacific Ocean, would pass in turn, like a
superb panorama, before the young Canadian's
admiring eyes. A journey across the continent,
even in a railway train, would reveal the resources of the great Dominion, and stimulate the
budding patriotism of those who, a few years
hence, will be entrusted with the responsibilities
of citizenship.   The old saw that flying behind a Across   Widest   An.
locomotive to study a continent is doing things
superficially, would have no application in a
young Canadian's case; for the Government is
always supplying him with rich sources of supplementary knowledge to make for the deficiencies of observation on the trip.
There are obvious reasons why the globe-trotter's very practical suggestion will never be carried out; but the spirit that prompted it was a
good one. If you want to get a true idea of the
size and wealth of Canada, you must cross it
from ocean to ocean.
From Sydney westward the Intercolonial railway carried us over Nova Scotia, through a land
of weird beauty, where chains of lakes and arms
of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, dimly seen through
veils of mist, receded as we passed.
It was to this region of Cape Breton and to
the large Island—Prince Edward's—lying to the
north of it, that, in the third quarter of the
eighteenth century, the chivalrous Laird of Glena-
ladale, whose memories of Culloden Moor must
have been still vivid, brought his colony of Scots
for purposes of settlement. Those sturdy Highlanders sailed along the jagged coasts of the
New Scotia that recalled the Old, cut their way 10
.cross   Widest   America
through forests and over hills and valleys, counterparts of their native glens, and set to work to
till the ground and prosper. Their descendants
are still there, thousands of them, distinguishing*
themselves in the various walks of life.
After a few hours' further run, we crossed the
narrow neck of land that separates the Bay of
Fundy from Northumberland Strait; we were in
New Brunswick. Only a part of this rich Province, with its twenty-eight thousand square miles,
is under cultivation. There are still vast primeval forests, the home of the moose, awaiting the
brawny arm of the woodman. The abnormal
height of the tides in the Bay of Fundy used, in
years past, to cause the water to flow over whole
sections of the country. But this tide-swept land
has been reclaimed by human industry. While
our train glided along, miles of earthen dykes
could be seen following the curves of the creeks
filled with ebbing tide-water, and leaving rich
alluvial farms which are to this Canadian Province, an old traveller tells us, "what the carses
of Gowrie and Faldkirk are to Scotland, and the
warped lands of Lincolnshire are to Eastern
The farmers who till those dyked lands, and Across   Widest   America
who are penetrating the New Brunswick forests
still further yearly, are the Acadians, a French
race whose history is a tragedy written, not in
blood, but in tears. Longfellow's "Evangeline,"
though meant for fiction, is the true story of the
fourteen thousand victims whom the heartless
British Governors, between 1755 and 1763, drove
from their homes along "the mournful and misty
Atlantic." The remnants of those brave Acadians
now number one hundred and forty thousand,,
out the nine hundred thousand who people the
Province. They are relatively prosperous, tenacious of their Faith and national traditions, yet
trying to forget the tragic dispersion of the
eighteenth century. Their homes and villages,,
hidden away, many of them, among pines and
hemlocks, laden with long waving tufts of hoary
lichen, give a charm to their settlements hard to
be duplicated. Church spires surmounted with
glittering crosses, peeped out here and there
through the trees as we passed, and offered a
picture of quiet and contentment typical of a
people whose desire is to be let alone to work
out its own destiny.
Night came on while we were speeding along"
the shore of theBaie desChaleurs and through the. 12
Across   Widest   America
valley of the Metapedia; the morning after, the
Gulf of St. Lawrence was rolling before us. For
eight hundred miles we were carried westward
along the south bank of that monarch among
rivers, the mighty St. Lawrence, through quiet
French Canadian villages and farming-scenes,
until we saw standing out on the opposite bank
the old rock on which Quebec is built. On the
summit rests the citadel, once the Gibraltar of
America, now a trysting-place for tourists; beside it, the Plains of Abraham whereon the destinies of Canada were decided in 1759. Every
square foot of that old French city teems with
souvenirs of the religious and political history of
the country. There the heroes of the French regime lived and died; thence set out for the unknown West those intrepid missionaries and explorers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, who have left their impress on the history
of Canada, and blazoned their names on its maps.
A couple of hundred miles further west, we
crossed the St. Lawrence, on a bridge of colossal
proportions, and stepped out of our coach in
Montreal, the metropolis of the north.
It was at Montreal that I completed my preparations for the   trip across   the continent,  a Across  Widest   America
journey wearying enough for one who was about
to cross it for the seventh time. The route that
gave the least fatigue and the quickest transit
was the one to be selected; and the facilities
that came to me, quite unexpectedly, were readily
acccepted—nothing less than a berth in a private
car. This car was the Rosemere, one of those
railway coaches set aside for the exclusive personal use of American railway officials, wherein
they are gliding almost continually over the
country in the interests of their companies.
Ordinary mortals, even in America, do not indulge frequently in luxuries of this nature ; but
there were strong motives urging me to accept
the kind invitation of Superintendent Spencer of
the Canadian Pacific railway. He and his party
were going direct from Montreal to the Pacific
Ocean. And from the Rosemere's windows we
should have the rare privilege of contemplating,
without let or hindrance, the rugged shores of
Lake Superior, inspecting a thousand miles of
prairie, and, while viewing the green wheatfields
of the Northwest, preparing ourselves for the grandeurs of the Rocky Mountains. With these visions
in store for us, the Rosemere started out on a bright
June morning, on its transcontinental journey. 14
Across   Widest  America
The run fgr the first few hundred miles west
Montreal would be monotonous enough, were it
not for the scenery and the historical souvenirs
of the Ottawa valley. The builders of the Canadian Pacific railway sought no new route when
they decided to bind the continent with their
steel. They simply followed, for over three hundred miles, the natural waterstretch that Cham-
plain followed in 1615, that the fur-traders and
missionaries followed after him for two hundred
and fifty years, on their way to the Great Lakes.
This is the route of the proposed Georgian Bay
Canal, on which enthusiastic capitalists wish to
spend fifteen millions to turn our large inland
cities into seaports.
You hardly make a hundred miles up the valley when you catch a first glimpse of the towers
of the Canadian parliament buildings, at Ottawa, rising up against the blue sky. After another run of a few miles, you move into the
Province of Ontario, over an iron bridge spanning the Chaudiere Falls, where nearly beneath
you the whole volume of the Ottawa river rushes
downward with a deafening roar between two
rocks, and plunges into what some people believe to be a subterranean channel; for it surges Across   Widest   America
again to the surface farther down the stream.
The Chaudiere Falls are the famous astikoa of
the Algonquins, who, a couple of centuries ago,
never passed eastward or westward on their
expeditions, warlike or peaceful, without throwing a tribute of tobacco-leaves into the seething
waters, to appease the angry genius of the place.
This body of water is furnishing motive power
for large milling industries in the neighborhood
and for one of the most brilliantly electric-lighted
cities in the world. Ottawa is a rising city of
nearly seventy thousand, very fascinating to
visitors, not merely for its site, which is unique,
but also for its people, especially during the sessions of Parliament, when the intellect and culture
of the Dominion assemble there for a part of
the year.
When the present Prime Minister, Sir Wilfrid
Laurier, took up the reins of government, he
promised to make Ottawa the home of art and
litterature in the North, and the citizens are incessantly reminding him of his promise. The city,
modern in every respect, still bears the traces of
the military precautions which cost England four
million dollars in the early years of the last century, when Colonel By opened independent com- 16
Across   Widest   America
munications with the St. Lawrence, in anticipation of any unpleasantness that might arise with
our southern neighbors. The old Rideau military
canal and the Sapper's bridge, the one dividing,
the other uniting again, the upper and lower
portions of the city, still remain as relics of the
stirring times of the first half of the nineteenth
Fifty years ago, the pine and hardwood forests
of the Ottawa valley were supplying the markets
of Europe with timber; but the axe of the modern woodman has changed all that. The forests
have disappeared, and little towns like Renfrew,
Pembroke, Mattawa, and others, prosperous and
growing, have risen up here and there along this
fertile valley. Vast clearings, snug homes, spacious barns, greeted us along the way, while the
growing fields of grain revealed the secret of the
Canadian farmer's prosperity.
The Rosemere quitted the Ottawa valley at
Mattawa, where the river turns to the north,
and after a brief hour's run, began to glide along
the shore of Lake Nipissing. Three hours later
we entered the nickel and copper region, of-which
Sudbury is the centre, four hundred and forty
miles from Montreal.   Across   Widest  America
It was in 1882 that the Canadian Pacific
syndicate laid its rails through the Sudbury
mining country, and a more uninviting region
it would be hard to find. What the Nipissing
forests were in times long past, the number and
thickness of the ruined trees are still there to attest ; the writings of the early missionaries describe, more than once, the magnificence of the
forests and hills along the shores of the lakes
and rivers of New Ontario. Twice or thrice in
the past century, fire carried desolation into the
very midst of this country peopled by the Otchip-
ways; and of the dense forests, with their wealth
of fur-bearing animals, nothing remains but
bared rocks and myriads of branchless stumps
and tree-trunks. In the neighborhood of Sudbury, thousands of those charred monuments are
still standing to tell the story of their ruin. To
make them still more conspicuous, they stand,
most of them, on the top and sides of what were
once fertile hills and mountains. The forest fires
burned the very sod away, leaving the bare rock
visible everywhere; and people passing ask, in
all sincerity: " What can such a desolate region
be good for anyway ?" But those barren Sudbury hills reminded the railway engineers of the 18
Across   Widest  America
old miser who dressed himself in rags, the better
to hide the treasure he carried in his pocket.
The existence of native copper and other metals
was known to the Otchipways long before any
white man set foot on the shores of the great
lakes. There are ridges, evidently artificial in
construction, on Isle Roy ale, in Lake Superior,
and elsewhere, -which are supposed to be relics
of aboriginal mining operations. The early Jesuit
missionaries, in their writings, speak very frequently of copper in those regions. In the Relation
of 1659-60, we read that " Lake Superior is enriched in its entire circumference with copper of
such excellence that pieces as large as one's fist
are found all refined." The missionaries taught
the Ottawa tribes how best to obtain and reduce
the ore from the copper deposit. An Englishman,
Alexander Henry, engaged in trading -with the
Indians, passed the -winter of 1767 on Michipi-
coten Island. He, also, reported the existence of
native copper along the shores of Lake Superior.
The following year, Captain Jonathan Carver, in
a paper on the subject, predicted that in future
times, an advantageous trade would spring up.
" The metal," he wrote, K will be conveyed in canoes
through the  Falls of Ste-Marie,  and thence  in Across   Widest  America
larger vessels to the Falls of Niagara. After
being carried by land across the portage, it wall
be easily transported to Quebec."
The captain's forecast that an advantageous
trade would spring up came true to the letter;
but it can hardly be said that it was not one of
those prophecies that come true despite the
prophet; for there were no data in 1768, beyond
the bare existence of the metal, on which to base
such a prediction. If we were to judge of Carver's
plans by present standards of transportation
and profit, we should find them very primitive
indeed. Imagine our modern lake steamship
companies carrying ore in canoes down St.
Mary's River, and then hauling it across the
Niagara portage on its way to Quebec. The
world and its methods of doing business have
changed since Captain Carver's time.
Nickle mining had certainly not entered into
his calculations. It -was only in 1883 that those
mines began to attract attention. When the engineers were pushing the Canadian Pacific railway through the Sudbury region, what appeared
to the navvies to be huge masses of white iron
were thrown out of the rock-cuts by dynamite.
Assays  revealed   rich   specimens of nickeliferous 20
Across   Widest  America
pyrrhotite. The news spread abroad and capitalists flocked in. These secured large tracts of
land around a future town; a Cleveland company
alone buying eighteen thousand acres. Diamond
drills went down here and there; veins were located, and shafts sunk, at various points of the
district. Hundreds of men were set to work;
millions of tons of the ore were brought to the
surface, formed into beds of about eight hundred
tons each, and roasted to get the sulphur out;
then thrown into water-jacket smelters, to flow
out again in the forms of matte and slag. This
work has now been going on for over twenty
years; and experienced eyes were there still,
when the Rosemere passed, watching the glowing stream of matte running into vessels in the
average proportions of fourteen per cent, nickel
and twenty-six of copper. Only practised eyes
can distinguish between the brilliant colors of
the molten, valueless slag and the matte worth
a thousand dollars a ton. When the matte cools
off, it is crushed and packed into barrels to await
final reduction at home or abroad.
The Rosemere soon carried us far to the wrest
of the Sudbury mines, and we retired for the
night, to escape the monotony of a wilderness, Across   Widest  America
and to shorten the three hundred and sixty miles
to Heron Bay, where the traveller gets his first
glimpse of Lake Superior. For many hours we
skirted the shores of beautiful lakes, sheets of
water of little value to except to the fish that
swarm in them, but that would be simply priceless near our eastern towns; we passed through
trackless wastes of muskeg and stunted vegetation, utterly unfit for farming purposes, and waiting only for enterprising prospectors to sink
drills through coal beds, and, perhaps, through
veins of gold quartz.
Travelling in a private car and talking with
railway people are privileges not to be despised.
While you are flying comfortably in the darkness
past semaphores and stations, over bridges and
through rock-cuts, and have half a dozen officials
giving you the benefit of their rich stores of information, you can learn in a short time a great
deal about the railway world and its inner -workings. Few railways have shown more enterprise
and activity than the one over whose line we
were at that moment gliding.
The story of the building of this great Canadian road is the story of railway construction
in any country where Nature shows her  teeth. 22
Across   Widest  America
Nor can we recall any line, except perhaps the
Trans-Siberian route, where the difficulties of
construction were so continuous or so great.
Hundreds of miles of trackless wilderness, wrapped in ice and snow in -winter, and in summer,
intersected with rivers and brawling torrents;
ravines blocked with gigantic rocks and boulders,
relics of the glacial ages; opposing mountain
ranges bristling with tall, ugly, branchless tree-
trunks, like monuments raised to desolation:
these were the every-day scenes that met the
eyes of the pioneer surveying parties. In their
work of tracing lines, and deciding on the route
the future railway was to take, those hardy
men forced their way through valleys covered
with a well-nigh impenetrable growth of underwood and muskeg, and, with incredible hardships, scaled mountains of bare solid rock, wrhich
ran sheer out into the lake and receded inward
for miles, growing higher as they receded. I
learned on the Rosemere that the early engineers
and chain-bearers, during their work along the
north shore of Lake Superior, had many a time
to climb those worse than Alpine hill-sides with
ropes and alpenstocks, in order to make some
progress in their work.   Shut out from all traces Across   Widest  America
of human habitation, and lost in the shrubbery
and broken rocks, they had frequently to find their
bearings by means of the sextant. At nightfall,
they pitched their tents on the banks of streams,
or under mountain ledges, and surrounded themselves with watch-fires to keep the wolves at
bay, or to protect themselves against the chilling
night air that rolled in from the lakes.
Once the direction of the line had been determined and marked out with grading pickets,
the surveyors' work was done; they pushed on,
and army of -workmen followed in their wake.
While squads of navvies, known as bush-gangs,
set to -work felling trees and clearing away obstructions, rock-gangs, equipped with drills and
dynamite, attacked million-ton monoliths, and
after untold labor and danger, and not a few
accidents, tunnelled them through and through
or rent them asunder. Other gangs, with pick
and shovel, ploughed up the soft muskeg, and
raised the level of the line. Others laid down the
wooden cross-ties and spiked on them the heavy
steel rails. And thus the line lengthened out day
by day, and the army of builders kept moving
westward, leaving behind them here and there,
along  the   freshly-laid  track,   little  mounds   of 24
Across   W^idest  America
earth covering the bones of poor nameless comrades, the victims of premature dynamite explosions or falling rocks.
There were forty thousand of those men employed during the construction of the Canadian
Pacific railway, and stern discipline had to be
maintained in order to prevent quarrelling and
sedition among such a motley gathering. Moral
restraint was brought to bear on the workmen,
the missionary being a necessary adjunct of this
efficient railway organization. Men of tact and
zeal, like Father Baxter and Father Lacombe,
followed the construction camps into the wilderness, shared the food and the isolation of the
workmen, and exercised an influence over them
that was loyally recognized by the builders of
the road. "The Jesuit and the Oblate Fathers,"
wrote Sir Thomas Shaughnessy, a few years ago,
"were important factors in the maintenance of
the good order which prevailed among the forty
thousand men who were employed on the construction of this railway."
One of the problems that confronted the
builders, as they receded from civilization, was
the task of supplying the physical wants of those
thousands of navvies.   The foresight of the com- Across   Widest  Americi
pany and the contractors was equal to the occasion. No expense was spared to prevent famine
or even dearth of supplies. Waggon ways, technically known as "tote-roads," folio-wed the line
hard by, and at different points branched off to
the lakes. In some instances, the cost of building
these purely temporary supply roads was enormous ; one of them from the main line to Lake
Superior costing over eighty thousand dollars.
Over this and similar roads, supplies wrere
brought for man and beast; and the work of
construction from Lake Nipissing to Thunder
Bay -went along rapidly, more rapidly, in fact,
than even the most sanguine of the promoters
would have dared to anticipate. Boarding cars,
railway supplies, etc., changed their base every
second or third day; so that the progress of the
dump-builders and track-layers was like the
advance of an army. The feat of carrying a
road through the six hundred miles of-wilderness,
once abandoned as impracticable, soon became an
accomplished fact. The young company, wath incredible energy and regardless of cost, was determined to reach the fertile prairies as soon as
possible, and refused to compromise for any
waterstretch route.   And as the Rosemere passed 26
Across   Widest  America
between perpendicular walls of granite, through
tunnels of the same material, along the edges of
cliffs, and over trestles and bridges perched in
mid-air, we could not help paying a passing tribute to the combined power of will and money.
When we retired to bed that night, it was to
dream of coves and culverts, steel rails and road
beds, and the thousand other things about -which
the uninitiated globe-trotter very rarely bothers
In the early morning, a few Otchipway wigwams were seen in the clumps of cedars near the
stations. The Indians themselves were on the
platforms waiting to see the Rosemere pass.
There are still a few reserves in that part of Ontario ; and the Canadian Pacific authorities had
the good taste to retain many of the soft-sounding
old Otchipway names for their stations, such as
Metagama, Biscotasing, Nemegosenda, Pogoma-
sing, Missanabie, etc.
The last-named station is on the Michipicoten
river, where the fur-traders leave the train for
Hudson's Bay and the North. Long before the
railway crossed the Michipicoten, this river was
a favorite route of the fur company. Sir George
Simpson, the old fur  governor, passed up and Across  Widest   America
down through those silent forests for many years,,
with his Indians and French Canadian oarsmen,
on his way to the various northern posts of the
Hudson's Bay Company. The railway people
did a great deal to deprive the Algoma and
Nipissing districts of their primitive seclusion:,
it would be too much to say that the fur company ever thankedjthem for it.
Towards the West—Manitoba and its
TT was shortly after noon of the second day
that we got our first glimpse of Lake Superior,
eight hundred miles west of Montreal, and began
to hear the ceaseless roar of the waves above
the noise of the engine. For two hundred miles
we followed the rugged north shore of this
greatest of inland seas, its green waters at times
almost dashing against the Rosemere1 s wheels.
It is here that the seclusion of a private car
is enjoyed. You have the whole lake and its
shores to yourself; nor are you boxed up with
fifty others, just as eager to see the sights as
you are. After a trip seated on the pilot of an
engine, or up in the cupola of a freight train,
experiences that have been mine more than once
along the shores of Lake Superior and in the
Rocky Mountains, there are not many things in
this world more inviting than flying west-ward
on the rear platform of an official railway coach.
We continued our way through tunnels of solid
rock, and across coves and valleys, on slender
skeleton trestles during the rest of the day.   At Across   Widest  America
night-fall we reached Port Arthur and Fort
William. I had completed two thousand live
hundred miles of my long journey.
We were on the shores of Thunder Bay. In
the distance, eighteen miles away, the night was
settling down on the hazy form of Thunder
Cape, the Sleeping Giant of the Otchipways. A
passage five miles wide, between the cape and
the mainland, opens the way out again to the
waters of Lake Superior, through which, on
clear days, may be seen the hills on Isle Royale,
in Minnesota, forty-five miles away.
There is an islet in the lake, just under the
shadow of Thunder Cape, that deserves a more
than passing mention. For centuries it lay there,
a small rock, with a surface measuring hardly
eighty feet square. When the wind blew away
from the shore, the rock appeared a few feet
above the water; when the waves were at rest,
the rock w^as completely submerged. Tradition
has it that the hidden -wealth of Silver Islet was
known to the Otchipways, who drew large quantities of the metal from it for their own use. It
was only in the sixties that John Morgan, a
prominent explorer in that region, gathered
samples of the ore, and  had them assayed.   In 30
Across   Widest America
1864, the Montreal Mining Company sent men
to -work on the narrow rock; but the result -was
•a failure. The slightest movement of the waters
flooded the shaft; and the prospects of success
were so slim, that the work was abandoned.
The islet -was then sold to Colonel Sibley, of
Detroit, who sent a specialist, Captain Frew, to
superintend a new effort at mining for the
precious metal. A sixty-thousand dollar cofferdam, built by him around the protruding rock,
was swept away by the waves of the lake; but
a second one, stronger than the first, was successfully laid. Notwithstanding this operation,
the water continued to flow into the mine; and
the Sibley company could say that they had the
upperhand of the waves only when they had
landed thousands of tons of waste rock to
strengthen the dam. I give these details to
show the trouble the owners had at the start;
but their enterprise and perseverance were
magnificently  rewarded.
Mining was not begun in earnest until
1878-9, when the output of Silver Islet ore
created a great sensation. No such ore had
ever been taken from the bowels of the earth.
The   pure  metal  was   found  running  in  veins Across   Widest  America
through the rock, and could be had from the
quartz by merely crushing it with a hammer. I
have handled ore taken from that islet, when
the quartz fell readily from the hand, leaving
the metal holding itself together in silver
branches. The mine was worked in a series
of pockets; and after the ore had been passed
through the smelter, it yielded from one
thousand to seven thousand dollars a ton.
The fame of those silver veins spread far and
wide; Silver Islet stock went up from zero to
two hundred dollars a share. One of the richest
lodes was struck in the spring of 1878, and was
successfully -worked for months. In one week,
in the September of that year, the silver yield
was forty-three thousand dollars; in the week
ending October 5th, seventy-three thousand
dollars; October 12th, sixty-seven thousand
dollars; October 19th, one hundred and three
thousand dollars; October 26th, eighty thousand
dollars; all of which wras shipped as picked ore,
and worth from fourteen hundred dollars to
seven thousand dollars a ton. In one famous
shipment, ten thousand dollars' worth of the pure
metal was obtained from two barrels of Silver
Islet ore, 32
Across   Widest  America
Mining under these conditions was so satisfactory that the work progressed rapidly beneath
the lake. But the whole enterprise came to a
sudden and inglorious end in 1883. The coal
supply gave out in the autumn; the pumps
ceased wrorking; and the mine was flooded in a
short time. This proved to be an insuperable
obstacle; Silver Islet had to be abandoned. The
Crown Lands and Mines agent, to whom I am
indebted for many of these details, told me that
when the water came rushing in, the silver
in actual sight was estimated at two hundred
thousand dollars. It is still there waiting for
some one to instal machinery powerful enough
to pump the water out.
Prospectors set about looking for new beds
of silver, and located several in the neighborhood of Port Arthur. The Rabbit, Beaver,
Badger, Gopher, and others, proved to be rich
pockets. They were yielding a great quantity of
the metal, and were giving employment to a
large number of -workmen, when the lowering of
values in the -world's silver markets, a few years
ago, made silver mining unprofitable, and work
in the Thunder Bay district ceased definitely.
This was a serious set-back to the rising town A  NEWFOUNDLAND   LANDSCAPE  Across   Widest  America
of Port Arthur, as it was the ruin of the farmers
in the neighboring townships.
There are few places in America more prettily
situated than Port Arthur. It is built on a
series of plateaus arising from Thunder Bay, the
whole expanse of which may be seen from any
front window in the town. Port Arthur had
sweet hopes and vain imaginings in the early
days of its settlement. It dates back to the
years 1868 and 1870, when Dawson was building his road to the Selkirk settlement, on Red
River, and when Lord Wolesley and his soldiers
were on their -way to Fort Garry to quell the
first Riel uprising. The silver excitement, which
gave it prominence in those early years, was just
dying out when the building of the Canadian
Pacific railway and various Northwest colonization schemes again brightened its prospects.
But its citizens did not grasp their opportunities.
The extortionate prices of a few short-sighted
land speculators clashed with the business
instincts of the railway builders—those men who
make and unmake towns as well as nations.
Sir William Van Home pulled up stakes one day
and planted them at Fort William, five miles
away.     A rival town began to rise under the 34
Across   Widest  America
shadow of Mount Mackay; and Port Arthur, in
its struggle for life, was thrown back at least
twenty years.
Fort William possesses none of the scenic charms
of its rival. It is, in fact, nothing more than a
common, every-day railway terminus, with gigantic grain elevators, hideous to the eye, and miles
of side-tracks running along the Kaministiquia
River. It was evidently the pocket, not the picturesque, that took the railway company to
Fort William. But for the antiquarian the site
has a more than passing historical interest. The
banks of the Kaministiquia, or Caministogaya,
were the scenes of many exploits done by Indians
and fur-traders in the years gone by. When
Greylonson de la Tourette, brother of Daniel
du Lhut, built his trading post at Lake Nepigon,
in 1683, hardy bush-ranger that he was, he must
have continued his explorations sixty miles westward along the north shore of Lake Superior,
till he reached the Kaministiquia. In 1717, the
French government gave Sieur de la None trading
privileges at the same spot. So that the fort at
the mouth of the river had a reputation among
the fur-traders long before William McGillivray
gave his name to it in 1803. Across   Widest  America
The brilliant epoch of its history began with the
establishment of the North-West Fur Company.
Fort William was the principal factory of that
powerful organization, during the years of its
rivalry with the Hudson's Bay Company; and
even after the amalgamation of the two companies, in 1821, the old fort was governed with
regal splendor. No less than three thousand
traders, trappers, and their families, used to assemble during the bartering season on the banks
of the Kaministiquia. Washington Irving and
Ballantyne have left us, in their works, pen-pictures of Fort William during the reign of the
lordly Nor'-Westers. Irving never saw the place,
and he drew largely on his imagination for facts;
but traditions of the glory and the splendor that
once held sway are still preserved among the
Otchipways in the Jesuit mission across the river.
When the railway people took possession of that
historic ground, they covered it with coal-docks
and freight-sheds; they dredged the little river
out, and made Fort William the terminus of
North-west grain transportation. Other rail-way
and steamship companies have since established
themselves along the banks of the Kaministiquia;
and the bark canoes of the aborigines which for- 36
Across   Widest  America
merly glided so lightly over its surface, have given
way definitely to the great iron vessels of the
lake service.
The Kaministiquia is the first link of a long
-water-chain stretching from Lake Superior, up
through Dog Lake, Rainy River, Lake of the
Woods, Winnipeg River, Lake Winnipeg and Red
River to Fort Garry, at the mouth of the Assi-
niboine, a distance of six hundred and forty-
seven miles. Notwithstanding its two hundred
and seventy miles of currents and rapids, and
its fifty portages, it was navigable with canoes
and north-boats. This was one of the water-paths
long famous as the Nor'-West route, used by the
Hudson's Bay and North-West Companies. It
was over this route that LaVerendrye made his
way, in 1732, to the then unknown western prairies. Lord Selkirk and his Scotch settlers travelled over it several times, in the begining of the
last century, in their heroic attempts to found a
colony at Red River, attempts which were frustrated in every way by the heartless fur companies. Forty years ago, expeditions were sent
by the Canadian government to report on the
practicability of opening up a highway from the
great  lakes to the prairies;   but  the Canadian Across   Widest  America
Pacific company came on the scene twenty years
later, and solved the difficulty; at the same time
shortening the distance to Winnipeg by over two
hundred miles.
The run from Fort William to Winnipeg is four
hundred and twenty-six miles, through a vast
lone land, mostly flat and wooded, and covered
here and there with large tracts of muskeg.
The whole country is drained by small lakes and
by the streams forming the water-chain mentioned
a moment ago, whose borders are thick-set with
millions of trees waiting to be felled and floated
down to Lake Superior, thence to eastern pulp-
mills. The Rosemere crossed several rivers and
ran along lakes large and small. Six miles to
the left of us, hidden away in a forest, is
Niagara's only rival, the Kakebeka falls. The
Kaministiquia River had been, for centuries,
tumbling down a mountain-side, its giant power
running to waste, and awaiting only capital and
energy to be chained to the service of man.
These two indispensible elements of modern enter-
terprise have at last been found. At Kenora, we
caught a glimpse of the incomparable Lake of
the Woods, filled with islands, the summer homes
of Winnipeg.   The trip to the Red River was made 38
Across   Widest  America
in fifteen hours, when we left Ontario and entered
Manitoba, where the really novel features of this
long journey were to begin.
Winnipeg is the heart city of the Dominion,
but its history is so w^ell known, its marvellous
growth and prosperity have been so often
written about, that it hardly comes -within the
scope of these pages to give it more than a
passing mention. Suffice it to say that what
was nothing but Fort Garry, an old Hudson's
Bay fort out in borderland, a few years ago, is
now a bustling city of eighty to ninety thousand
people, with a university, parliament buildings,
daily papers, trolley-cars, railroads, and all the
other appurtenances of modern civilization.
It -was in Winnipeg that we got the news of
King Edward's illness, and the postponement
of the coronation ceremonies. Hundreds of
people struggled about the bulletin-boards,
anxious to read the latest despatches, as they
were posted up, and wondering what on earth
perityphlitis was.
But the news that came home vividly to me
was a despatch from Vancouver, reporting the
loss of two Alaskan steamships, the Portland
and the Jeanie.     Those vessels were bound from cross   Widest  America
Seattle to Nome, laden -with passengers and
freight, and when last seen were drifting in the
ice up through Bering Strait into the Arctic
Ocean. If they had had the misfortune to get
crushed in the ice-floes, it was already all over
-with them, and another ocean tragedy would
have to be recorded. The same day, information
came by wire that a third Alaskan steamer, the
Senator, having on board four Sisters of Providence from Montreal, was quarantined for smallpox, somewhere in the Bering Sea.
The Rosemere stayed only a few hours in
Winnipeg; long enough, however, to enable me
to visit the old town of St. Boniface, with its
cathedral, of whose bells Whittier sang, and to
renew acquaintance with the Fathers of the Jesuit
college there. It was a pleasure to -witness the
vast strides this latter institution is making
towards prosperity. It is, even now, one of the
chief intellectual centres of the North-west, with
a great future evidently before it. The Jesuit
Fathers have not failed to realize this. They
are taking time by the forelock, and are enlarging their building to double its present size, in
order to meet the demands of the students
whose number is increasing every year. 40
Across   Widest America
Though the city itself cuts a sorry figure beside
its sister-city across the river, I know of few
colleges more pleasantly situated than that of
St. Boniface. It is cosily nestled away in a little
forest, which almost completely hides the building from the avenue. The trees were' casting
their deepest shadows when I made my visit
there, *at the end of June; I had hardily entered
the gates when I realized that I was far from
the madding crowd and safe in the peaceful
atmosphere which surrounds a home of education and refinement. The students had just
gone away for their mid-summer holidays; and I
felt that the peacefulness of the hours I spent at
St. Boniface was intensified by the absence of
a few hundred playful young Westerners. Work
and play, however, are happily blended in that
home of learning. Every year, notwithstanding
their numerical inferiority, the students carry
off far more than their proportionate share
of honors and prize-money, in the examinations of the University of Manitoba. This very
gratifying success evidently depends upon the
thorough system of training the students of St.
Boniface receive. I saw some familiar faces there,
notably Fathers Blain, Drummond, and others; Across   Widest  America
devoted men, who have been for years giving
their time and energies to the cause of Catholic
higher education in the Northwest.
It -was growing dark when we moved out
towards the West and the wheat-fields. The
Rosemere had hardly quitted the borders of the
Red River when the horizon began to widen out
before us; we felt that we were really on the
prairies. It was too early in the season to see
Manitoba at its best; the monotony of the
prairies in June was positively oppressive. Not
a tree as far as the eye could see; nothing but
the tiny green blades thickly covering the wheat-
fields, which, two or three months later, would
ripen into an ocean of golden grain, and -wave
to and fro under the gentle pressure of the
evening breeze. The setting sun gave its brilliant
hues to this vast cyclorama, and we stood on
the rear platform of the Rosemere, until the
darkness sent us back to our berths, enraptured
at a sight which a few of the passengers had never
seen before. During the long night we sped
through the Manitoba wheat-fields, over the sites
of future prosperous towns and cities.
We were up bright and early next morning to
renew acquaintance with the boundless horizon, 42
:ross   Widest  America
a couple of hundred miles west of Brandon.
During that whole day, the fourth out from
Montreal, we flew through green and growing
fields of grain. We were told that if we desired
to get a fair idea of the vastness of the wheat
region, we should have to travel for -weeks on
both sides the track. The Rosemere's party declined to act on this suggestion, however. We
were satisfied with the information, freely given
to us, that many millions of acres were under
cultivation, and that the prospects for an abundant harvest were brilliant. Those prairies have
evidently a wonderful future before them. If we
consider the results already obtained, we cannot
but find it strange that starving populations
will persist in staying in the large towns of
the Old and the New World, to live and suffer
and die, while there are thousands of square
miles of fertile soil out in the Canadian Northwest, waiting to give them a maximum of profit
for a minimum of labor.
We were now three thousand five hundred
miles from Cape Spear, Newfoundland, and two-
thirds of the way across the Dominion. Here
and there bits of uncultivated prairie began to
show themselves, and told us that we were near- Across   Widest  Americi
ing the boundaries of the wheat-growing region.
Every year those boundaries are receding further
west-ward, thousands of acres of new land being
put under cultivation; but there are immense
plains in4 the West still, waiting for colonists to
try their fortunes. The great Regina plain was
there before us, level as a restful ocean, extending out to the horizon on every side, with not a
hillock or tree to destroy the uniformity. You
pass through this vastness for hours together,
watching for some object to attract your attention, a gopher or a prairie-dog, till sheer fatigue
drives you aft to the smoking-room or the
sleeper, where, with closed eyes, you sit and
live with your own thoughts, or, sad alternative,
listen to the chattering of your fellow-men.
The combined observation and smoking extension, at the rear-end of Canadian Pacific railway
sleeping coaches, is the one welcome refuge of
weary transcontinental travellers. It is there
that world-ramblers, commercial agents and farmers meet after meals, or in the prairie twilight,
smoke cigars, and recall their experiences, -wise
and otherwise, gained in various parts of the
world. The value of "No. 1 Hard" is an absorbing topic with the farmers; commercial tra- 44
Across   Widest  America
vellers discuss the Canadian tariff; while occasionally some .planet-circler, or other, chimes in
and changes the subject to Japanese chrysanthemums, or arbitration treaties.
After a travelling experience of over a hundred
thousand miles on this railway, I have remarked that religious controversy is left quite
alone, perhaps because, on the World's Highway
to the Orient, you hardly ever know whose toes
you may trample on, or whether you are talking to a Buddhist, or a Christian. One only
attempt was ever made to draw me into controversy. It happened a couple of years ago in
British Columbia, when I was indulging in an
interesting talk with a timber-merchant of that
Province. He was describing the great Douglas
firs and the giant cedars, and the manufacture
of red-cedar shingles, when a tall, thin individual
across the aisle stretched his neck out and tried
to catch bits of our conversation. Without success, however; he evidently thought we were discussing dogma; for, much to our surprise, his
shrill voice piped into my ear: "Don't your sect
adore the Virgin ? "
On one of my long trips, some years ago, just
before the Sino-Japanese unpleasantness  began, Across   Widest  America
I got into a rather lengthy conversation with
a young Japanese officer, who had been studying
the science of war in Germany, and who was
going home, by order of his government, to give
the Flowery Kingdom the benefit of his knowledge.
The young man spoke French fluently, and was
anxious to learn from me the Christian system
—as he called it—of saving the souls of men.
He admired the way things dovetailed in so
nicely with us; but he did not think Christian
missionaries were doing enough to popularize
the system in Japan. With him it was like introducing a new method of book-keeping; and
he spoke like one who cared little for Shin-
toism. As a wind-up to our interview, I lunched
with him in the dining-car, where he spoiled the
waiters with his princely tipping. Japanese and
Chinese are continually going and coming over
that line together, but there is nothing in common, socially, between the races as we meet
them there. The former are mostly students and
wealthy merchants; while the Chinese, if we except
rare magnates like Li Hung Chang and Kang
Yu Wei, are the dregs of Canton and the neighboring districts, on their way in bond to the
West  Indian  sugar  plantations, carrying  with 46
Across   Widest  America
them the irrepressible yang yin tong, and permeating the coaches with the fumes of their
When politics and the wheat-crops become
exhausted topics, the transcontinental traveller discusses the latest authors, — anything to
make the time fly. Killing time is, indeed, one's
chief crime on the way across the Canadian
prairies ; yet it is lamentable to see how easily
one becomes a past-master in the art. People,
after all, cannot be forever talking, and some,
for the sake of appearances, fall fast asleep;
others apply matches to fresh Havanas; others
bury themselves in that modern labyrinth, the
railway time-table. They work like galley-slaves
to find the station where they changed engines
last; where they are at present; where they
will be after the night's run. It is an easy
enough task to find the names of stations on the
tables; but it is when you start out to decipher
the time of day that you reach the brink of
despair. All American roads sin more or less in
their time-tables. Day and night with them are
all one, although some roads help you to distinguish the afternoon hours by using darker
figures. Across  Widest   America
Sir William Van Home, a former president of
Canadian Pacific, is responsible for a feature is
his yellow folders that simplifies matters greatly.
In 1886, he introduced the twenty-four hour system, counting the hours of the day from midnight
to midnight. The advantages of this system for
railway employees are evident, and for ordinary
travellers as well, when once they get used to it;
but it is the despair of the uninitiated globetrotter. He feels a chill running through him
when he hears the waiter shouting through the
train: "Dinner will be ready at 18 K." And he
is ready to jump out of the -window of the
smoking car, when the colored porter comes,
grinning through his ivory molars, and whispers
to him that it is 23 o'clock, a gentle hint to
retire for the night.
In those long journeys across America, there
is a strong tinge of the "happy family" about
us, just as on shipboard. But I could see that
things are different in private cars. If you have
not all the sources of distraction and time-killing
that are to be found in the coaches between you
and the locomotive, there are the other advantages of privacy that thoroughly make up for
them.   In the Rosemere, for instance, you are not 48
Across   Widest   America
the cynosure of every eye if you yawn; if you are
a bit odd, you may indulge in your whims to
your heart's content, without hearing people remark, and sometimes very audibly, too: " What
an old bear that man in the corner is!" I —'—'".••■...•.:
The Western Prairies — Cattle and
\ X rE were behind the scheduled time when
approaching Regina, and the driver made
a spurt to get us in on the minute. "Pulling
up time," is what the trainmen call it, a harder
task than impatient and fuming travellers dream
of, especially when trains are going at the rate
of fifty or sixty miles an hour. Happily, our
trainmen had not been trying to cross the
prairies so rapidly as that, and the half-hour lost
at Broadview was soon gained on a level stretch.
Regina, the former capital of the Northwest
Territories, is a small town planted and growing
in the middle of the plain. While the Rosemere
was standing at the station, a troop of red-
coated horsemen came cantering over from the
barracks, some distance away. They were members of the Northwest Mounted Police, a semi-
military force organized, in 1873, by Act of Parliament, for the preservation of order in the
Territories. Their headquarters are at Regina,
and the whole force is seven hundred strong.
The work that is yearly done by the Mounted
Police can   hardly   be   realized   by any one un-
4 50
Across   Widest   America
familiar with the enormous extent of territory
that they have to guard. The men patrol systematically the international frontier from Emerson to the Rocky Mountains, a distance of
eight hundred miles, keeping down raiding, cattle-stealing, and smuggling, as well as protecting
peaceable settlers along the border. They see
that the Indians do not leave their reserves ;
they maintain the ordinance against starting
fires on the prairies ; they have immediate charge
of the cattle-quarantine on the frontier; they enforce Canadian laws and regulations in the North;
they patrol the Yukon Territory ; they are, in short,
responsible for the preservation of law and order
over an area of more than three hundred thousand
square miles ; and, as a matter of fact, over
fifteen hundred thousand square miles are annually patrolled by the force in the discharge of
their duty. A mounted policeman, in his brilliant
uniform, puts as much awe into the heart of an
Indian, or an outlaw, as would a personal powwow with His Britannic Majesty himself.
Along the route between Regina and Calgary,
-we saw, at some of the stations, policemen and
Indians, the latter admirable specimens of the
Blackfoot   tribe,   tall   and   straight,   dressed  in Across   Widest   America
blankets and buckskin leggings. They strutted
along the platforms like old Romans in their
togas, utterly indifferent to the staring eyes of
palefaced eastern strangers. I think it was
at Swift Current, or at one of the neighboring
stations, that I saw a Blackfoot native, over six
feet high, covered with his many-colored blanket,
and with a dozen or so of brass rings hanging
from his ears. He was selling polished buffalo-
horns, when one of our passengers approached
him to buy a pair. The Indian put his price ;
the passenger offered less ; the Indian assumed
an air of injured dignity, threw his horns over
his shoulder, and sidled off, in a way that simply
disconcerted the would-be purchaser. The latter
then offered the Indian the full price, but he
absolutely declined further negociations.
Calgary is also a prairie town, rapidly advancing in population, and growing in importance
as a railway centre. A branch of the Canadian
Pacific runs through Calgary from Macleod to
Edmonton. During the building of this branch,
which was long before the excitement of the
Yukon goldfields, an arm-chair visionary, writing
in an American periodical, conjured up an Alaska-Siberian railway scheme. 52
Across   Widest   America
It may sound extravagant, he maintained,
to mention an all-rail American route through
Eurasia; but who knows what the present century may accomplish ? When traffic warrants
the expenditure, rails will be laid through the
Athabasca region to the Arctic circle, and beyond.
The great Russian road across Siberia will offer
an all-rail route from Paris to the Pacific Ocean.
The approach of the trans-Siberian road to the
coast of the Pacific, will undoubtedly stimulate
twentieth-century magnates to lay steel through
Alaska. The engineering difficulties are great, but
are they insurmountable ? Bering Strait could
be crossed by some powerful system of train-ferriage. We have here mapped out for us a railway
route from New York to Paris, one that -would
throw Jules Verne's calculations of an Around-
the-World trip into the shade. A scientific journal
estimates that the time from New York to the
Pacific coast would be five days ; six to Bering
Strait; fourteen from the Strait to London ; six
from London to New York. So that Mr. Phineas
Fogg would not have the slightest difficulty in
circling the globe in thirty-one days. This is the
substance of the visionary's scheme ; it sounds
plausible   enough,   and  might  carry  conviction Across    Widest   America
until one has seen and studied the climatic conditions of Alaska and the Bering Strait.
It was in the neighborhood of Calgary, and
west of it, that the frequent buffalo-trails, still
deep in the surface of the plains, leading to
ponds and streams, recalled the original possessors of the soil. There is no more curious—I-was
going to say, pathetic—page in the history of
the West than the Passing of the Bison. An old
report, the only one I happened to lay hands on,
from the pen of Henry Youle Hind, who crossed
the plains between 1857 and 1859, gives some
reliable data as" to the number of buffaloes
slaughtered yearly in British territory alone. He
estimates that about one hundred and forty-five
thousand were killed by the Hudson's Bay Company between the years 1844 and 1859, the
period when that company began to traffic to
any great extent in robes. In 1855, twenty thousand robes and skins -were received at York
Factory, on Hudson's Bay, for exportation to
Europe ; -which, making allowances, would give
about twenty-five thousand slaughtered the previous year. On the American side, the traffic
was pursued on similar lines. Thirty years ago,
four   or  five   million buffaloes roamed over the 54
Across   Widest   America
American plains. The building of the various
transcontinental lines divided the animals into
herds, which made them easier of access. The
work of final extermination then began; and the
rapacity displayed in the greed for hides is perhaps unparalleled even among African ivory-
hunters. All that remain of the lord of the
prairies are the water-trails, and the heaps of
bones bleached and gathered in beside the prairie-
stations, awaiting shipment to eastern sugar
The disappearance of the buffalo marked the
advent of the ranchman and the cowboy, both
representatives of an industry that has sprung
up in recent years. Several members of the
Rosemere party were looking forward, with not
a little trepidation, to the sight of cowboys, in
fringed, deer-skin breeches, weighed down -with
ammunition and Winchesters, hiding their bronzed
faces under broad-brimmed hats, and lazily lounging on their bronchos, in the midst of their herds.
My own expectations were, perhaps, more eager
than the others' ; for I recalled the first cowboy
I had met, a couple of years before at Schreiber,
on Lake Superior. He was a Blackfoot half-
breed, who had charge of a car-load of bronchos Across    Widest   America
on their way to Montreal. When the car entered
the Schreiber cattle-yard, the prairie stranger
was dressed in a perfectly normal fashion. He
had such a splendid chance, there and then, to
show himself off in colors before us, and did not
do it, that I could not help admiring his good
sense. But the delay in Schreiber was two hours,
and the temptation was too great. An hour
later, he was done up in paints, and blankets,
and ear-rings ; while the mere sight of his face
was enough to send a chill down your spinal
The Rosemere's party was doomed to disappointment ; the cowboys we saw were dressed
like ordinary mortals. But we could not help
admiring their dexterous manoeuvring with their
bronchos. Theirs is a dangerous occupation,
and they fairly live on horseback; for they know-
that goring and certain death await them if
they venture on foot among the wild prairie
cattle. Thousands of long, sharp horns are ever
ready to be driven in between the ribs of a
luckless cowboy, and I learned that, notwithstanding the precautions that are taken, such
accidents occasionally happen. Before this standing danger, as well as for other reasons, it is a 56
Across    Widest   America
problem why ranchers do not consult their own
and their employees' interests and dishorn cattle
while they are still calves. The operation is only
a slight one, and experience has shown that
where this custom of dishorning prevails on
American ranches, less damage is done to hides,
cattle fatten more rapidly, are more docile, are
mastered more easily, and their shipment to seaboard on the stock-cars is very much more
readily done than with horned cattle.
During the fattening season, ranchers and cowboys move with their herds hundreds of miles in
every direction, when thousands and tens of
thousands of cattle belonging to various ranches
may be seen browsing together in utter promiscuity, the owner's private mark burnt into their
hides being relied on for their identification.
These marks form what a recent -writer calls the
heraldry of the plains; and when the fattening
season is ended, and the time for the "round-up"
and shipment eastward to Europe arrives, they
make it an easy task to single out the property
of the various owners. It is precisely during the
"round up," that the cowboys show their marvellous skill; it is then that the traditional red-
rag is frequently brought into play. Generally, the Across    Widest   America
task of corralling cattle, prior to shipment, is simple enough. But sometimes the herds grow- uneasy
and agitated, and appear jealous of their liberty.
One of the prettiest movements on the plains,
rarely seen now, is what is known as "balking a
stampede." Thousands of cattle, as if conscious
of the fate that awaits them, and as if to protest against their forced trip to seaboard, gallop
over the prairies in various directions, coming
together, time and again, without order or design.
Presently, an old bullock, wiser than the rest,
whose wide-spread horns had often made the
prairie dust fly, and laid bare the ribs of many
a rival, comes out from the middle of the herd,
raises his proud head, sniffs the air, places himself like a chief at the front of the army, and
starts off at full gallop. Hundreds, sometimes
thousands, follow the leader, quite unconscious
of any destination, having a world of prairie
before them, with no reason for stopping till
they drop, as many of them do, or till the Rocky
Mountains, or the Arctic snows, bar their passage. When they are well under way, a daring
cowboy drives his spur into the flank of his^fleet-
footed broncho, and flies like the wind in the
direction of the cattle.   Gaining slowly   on   the 58
Across    Widest   America
old chief, he flaunts a red flag before his eyes,
attracts his attention, and then usurps the
leadership himself. Describing an immense curve,
sometimes enclosing miles, the better to hide his
plan, he draws the whole army galloping after
him to the corral, where they are lodged, while
waiting to be divided up according to their
owners' brands. One of the practices cattlemen have to contend against is "re-branding."
Dishonest ranchmen and traders find nothing
easier than to augment the number of their stock
by catching a calf already branded, and adding
a dash or a dot to the owner's mark ; it is so
easy to make a Q out of an 0, or a T out of an
I. This is frequently done, I was told; but on
the plains cattle-stealing is looked upon as a
very infamous crime in the cowboy's Decalogue;
and those who want to engage in it and live,
must take their precautions.
The Rosemere had been out from Winnipeg
already thirty-three hours, so that even the ranches were growing monotonous. But there was
to be an end of it. The air had taken on a sensible chill, and mists hung low over the lakes
and ponds. The hours of the afternoon were
fast  dropping away, and we could not help re- Across   Widest   America
marking that the sun was setting earlier than
usual. A glance westward showed us the snowcapped Rockies, with the foot-hills at their base,
already plunged in darkness, and we retired for
the night to dream of glaciers and grizzlies, with
the firm conviction, however, that the morrow
would mark an epoch in our lives.
The hundred-ton iron monster that bore us
onward so rapidly had left the plains and the
foot-hills far behind it, and had already passed
through two lofty vertical walls when we rolled
out of our berths next morning. This was the
"gap," or gate, of the Rocky Mountains, that
we missed seeing. Running along the edge of
the Bow River, the Rosemere had already slowed
up at Canmore before I took my first peep
After the monotony of a thousand miles over
the level plains, the colossal upheavals that suddenly meet your gaze, make you think that the
world itself had turned on end. The Three Sister
Peaks, towering over Canmore station, with
their snow-capped top-knots piercing the clouds,
was the first bit of scenery demanding our attention. But when you have six hundred miles of
sublime   mountain   views  before  you,   you can 60
Across    Widest   America
afford to wait; and after a wholesome -whiff of
the bracing morning air, I returned to the car,
promising myself a passing glance at Banff, the
Wonderland, the choicest bit of the Rocky Mountain Park. It was only a passing glance, however. The sulphur hot-springs and the big railway hotel, which I should like to have seen
more closely, are some hundred yards up the
valley; but the Rosemere, like the tide, waited for
no man. So that I could seize only the outlines
of the castle-shaped building, large and inviting,
and crowded with guests. But what a pigmy it
was beside the enormous Cascade and Inglis-
maldie Peaks standing up behind it!
The scenery from this point onward to the
coast baffles description; never before had such
sights met our eyes. Chasms and canyons yawning before us, ready to engulf us, Rosemere and
all; rocks bigger than castles, that in by-gone
ages had broken away from the mountain-sides,
and, like avalanches, came crashing down with
terrific force, carrying all before them to the valleys, thousands of feet below; torrents pent up
in bottomless gorges, chafing and foaming
against their prison walls, seeking an outlet ;
and   above  them   all,   in  profound  silence,   the
1 Across  Widest   America
snow-crested peaks of the Rocky and Selkirk
ranges: these were the views that we were to
meet during the next forty-eight hours. We followed the Bow River for a short distance, and
stood in the observation-car, which joined us at
Canmore, to sketch half a dozen old weather-
beaten monarchs, Cascade, Pilot, Copper, Temple and Lefroy, the last-named peak touching the
very skies.
We reached the base of Mount Stephen at
19.30 K., and found ourselves at an elevation of
five .thousand three hundred feet, just a mile
above the level of the ocean, and the highest
point at which rails were laid on the Canadian
Pacific. A short distance ahead, a rustic signboard, with colossal letters, called our attention
to the "Great Divide." The Rosemere slowed up
only an instant, but long enough to startle us,
for we were on the backbone of the continent.
A tiny stream was plainly seen dividing its
waters, one branch flowing to Hudson's Bay,
the other to the Pacific Ocean. We began to
descend the -western slope of the Rockies, Mount
Hector always before us, through the wild Wapta
Gorge or Kicking-Horse Pass. This name is a
suggestive one, which has at least the merit of 62
Across   Widest   America
being based on fact, and recalls a scene that
took place during the Palliser expedition of 1857.
Kicking-Horse Pass is a monument, more lasting
than bronze, raised to the hind leg of Dr. Hector's
broncho, with which the doctor came in contact
once too often, while exploring the Wapta Gorge.
Here lies another provincial boundary-line,
and we left the Alberta Territory and crossed
into British Columbia, that western colony so
distant, so unapproachable to eastern folk a few
years ago, when a trip around the Horn, or over
Panama, or across the plains in prairie schooners, was the only way to get there. But those
were the days of the Trojans. Modern invention
has done away with prairie schooners, and substituted vestibuled drawing-rooms, dining-cars,
consolidated engines and all the rest of it.
Men have made this continent smaller, and
easier to get over; the Canadian Pacific route
through the Rocky Mountains shows us how
they had to work to do it. If true railway
engineering is the economical adaptation of
means and opportunities to the end desired, the
men who built this road may boast that they
kept strictly within the definition. They made
the best of the obstacles that stood before them Across   Widest  America
at every step. When curves would exempt them
from tunnelling, they traced curves around the
mountain-sides, and relied on swivel-trucks to
guide the engine safely over them. When they
had to climb up mountains, they "zig-zagged"
till they made workable grades, and relied on
heavy engines and track adhesion to do the rest.
This was the only way out of the difficulty in
many places, chiefly at the "Loop," near Ross
Peak, where an enormous letter S, more or less
ornamental, had to be described in the road, in
order to overcome the difference of two levels.
The immense rock-cutting, and tunnelling, and
cove-filling; the snow-sheds and level grading;
the thirteen hundred trestles and iron bridges
through those passes and mountain-ranges, will
remain eternal monuments to man's victory over
Nature's obstacles. Six and a half miles of snow-
sheds, or artificial wooden tunnels with sloping
roofs, are built over the road, where it hugs the
mountain-sides. The massiveness and strength
of those structures is the first thing that strikes
one; but we w^ere told that only such could
resist the avalanches of snow and ice that fall
from a height of two or three thousand feet
above   the  track, not only cutting down every 64
Across   Widest  America
thing in their path, but, by the force of the side-
currents of air, breaking off trees two feet in
diameter. The moisture-laden winds from the
Pacific precipitate downfalls of snow, sometimes
amounting to forty feet in a single winter; and
the avalanches have been known to fill up
ravines below the railway-track seven and eight
hundred feet deep.
In several places in the Rockies, crib-work has
been built on the mountain slopes, which successfully diverts the avalanches into other valleys. To avoid an obstacle of Nature is sometimes better than trying to surmount it. And
seeing that something had to be done, it mattered little to the Canadian Pacific railway
officials -which method was adopted, provided the
company's traffic were not interfered with. The
best proof that Nature, in that rough section of
the world, has been mastered, we gathered from
a remark dropped by Mr. Marpole, an official
who joined us at Donald. Although tunnels and
bridges, and all manner of artificial work, follow
in rapid succession over the whole Pacific division, right to the coast; although trains have
been moving daily over them since 1885, -with a
mileage mounting into the millions, no passenger ■*"£*.
iKllr ^
ALASKA   BUILDING,  SEATTLE  Across   Widest  America
holding a ticket has ever lost his life. This is
certainly a remarkable railway record, but the
moral to be drawn would seem to be: Pay your
fare before you start to climb the Rockies. CHAPTER IV
Through the Rockies — Resources of
British Columbia
We crossed the Columbia River and entered
the Selkirk range. While the driver was busy
shutting off steam and turning on the air-brakes,
the Rosemere ran into Roger's Pass, a short cut
through the Selkirks, discovered during the
building of the road. The railway line had been
originally staked out by the Canadian government engineers, to run north of the great bend of
the Columbia River. Major Roger, one of the
new company's own engineers, a man of eccentric
habits, it is said, and adventurous, started out
one day, aimlessly, and followed a valley, up to
then untrodden by a whiteman. Much to his
own surprise and to the joy of the company, he
found a short route which enabled them to reach
the other branch of the Columbia without following the great bend. Roger's Pass lies between
what have since been called Mount Macdonald
and Hermit Peak, two bits of our globe which
had been forced apart in by-gone ages, to make
room for the future railway.
The discovery saved the young company
nearly ninety miles of the hardest railway build- Across   Widest  America
ing in the world, as well as several millions of
dollars, and it supplied the road with some of
its finest mountain scenery. The gigantic trees
for which British Columbia is famous, are there,
keeping the Illicilliwaet valley in almost perpetual
gloom. Only rare rays of sunlight ever reach
those moistened mountain-sides; yet the foliage
and underbrush are extravagant in their luxuriance. The fearful Albert canyon is also there,
where the Illicilliwaet River, nearly three hundred
feet below, rushes through a fissure twenty feet
wide. Looking down you see nothing but a
seething cauldron of dancing foam; there is a
deafening roar; your eyes follow the rushing
waters; you begin to grow dizzy, and you clutch
the balcony that has been built over the edge of
the ravine. If you then turn your eyes upward,
you will see at the summit of Hermit Peak, an
old cowled sentinel, who has been standing there
since the world was young. I asked myself, as I
looked at those cold, shrivelled features up among
the Selkirks, If the old monk could speak, would
he tell us when he went to live there? Would
he tell us when the Creator of the Universe per7
mitted the cataclysm that produced the Rockies
and the Selkirks ? t fi
Across   Widest  America
The Rosemere ran down along the Illicilliwaet,
and twisted and turned in the valley, until presently, ahead of us, glinting in the sunlight, vast
as all the ice fields of Switzerland combined,
stood the great glacier of the Selkirks, a glacier
that -was glinting while the Pyramids were
building, — vast, lofty, immense, buttressed, festooned, creviced — a sight unparalleled, perhaps,
in this world of ours. " Imagine," says Murray,
"you see jammed in between two mountains,
a section of the Mississippi, tilted up and frozen
solid ; or the St. Lawrence pouring boldly over
a moimtain range, ten thousand feet above you,
and turned, in an instant, into ice stiffened solid
at its maddest plunge, a creation of ten thousand
years, a monument of the past dead years, -which
all the rain and shine of other equal years to
come will not efface ; standing cold, monstruous,
motionless, silent, sublime, within a distance so
short from our parlor-car, that one might, by an
easy stroll, stand under its ponderous front. How-
small we -were beside that magnificent creation of
ages, that landscape of frozen force, that overhanging world of changed energy, which, should
Nature ever loosen the chilled links that bind it to
the mountain-side, would sweep all before it." Across   Widest America
The ding-dong of a dinner bell recalled us to
humbler work than that of contemplating Nature's grandeurs, and we headed for the little
Swiss-like chalet over beside the Rosemere. Here
we lunched, for it was nearly fifteen o'clock.
While sipping our tea, we took a final view of
the Illicilliwaet valley, with its seventeen miles
of mountain-sides, -with its thousand tints and
shadows of smoky purple ; we then boarded the
train again, and moved on towards the coast.
What an incomparable treat to have gone
through the Rocky and the Selkirk ranges !
So many mountains piled one on the other,
with such magnificent profusion, but, at the
same time, so little habitable country, led me to
remark to a neighbor in the observation-car,
that British Columbia was good only to be
looked at. But as chance would have it, I had
fallen in with an old-time resident, who, with a
look of positive disgust, silenced me with the
remark that every schoolboy knew that British
Columbia is good for three things, fish, trees,
and gold. And this he brought home to me
very forcibly before he had finished.
British Columbia, with its area of three hundred and eighty thousand square miles, was little Across   Widest  America
known till Vancouver and Cook began to sail
along its coasts, a hundred years ago, and the
hardy Scotch fur-traders to navigate its rivers
and attach their names to them. A rich and exclusive field for fur companies, during the first
half of the last century, it was only in 1857,
that the discovery of gold modified the then
existing state of things. In that year, ten thousand people entered the colony, chiefly from the
gold-fields of California, and took up the gold-
bearing lands on the Thompson and the Fraser
Rivers. Yale and Hope, two old towns that we
passed on the banks of the Fraser, are relics of
the gold fever ; and the old tote-road to the
Cariboo district, nearly three hundred miles long,
hugging the lofty cliff on the other side of the
river, was pointed out to us from the Rosemere's
The output of gold from British Columbia has
been, up to this, about seventy million dollars, all
but a fraction obtained by placer mining. But
this was not satisfactory. The extensive alluvial
deposits along the rivers and streams, indicated
not merely the grinding action of the glaciers,
and the washing out of the rocks by rain, but
bespoke   also  gold-bearing lodes somewhere in Across   Widest  Americi
those lofty mountains, if they could only be found.
Miners and prospectors have been for the past
forty years roving over the province looking for
the lodes ; the geologist, Dr. Dawson, catalogued
one hundred and five locations where actual
mining had been attempted previous to 1877. In
1890, prospectors were attracted by the out-
croppings of iron oxides on Trail creek, a small
stream in southern British Columbia. No one
had dreamt of finding gold there in combination,
but during the assays, the ore was found to be
rich with the precious metal. This discovery explained how gold reached the placers ; it had
leaked out of the iron sulphides, just as the
nickel did out of the iron and copper sulphides
at Sudbury. Steps were taken to develop those
Trail creek lodes, and explorations that have
been made during the past few years show that
not merely the large district watered by Trail
creek, of -which Rossland is the centre of activity,
but the whole Kootenay valley, are rich in auriferous ore.
Another source of wealth to this province is
the fishing industry. Salmon abounds in the
Fraser and Columbia Rivers, and even in the
streams of the Kootenay district.   Salmon from 72
Across   Widest  America
the Fraser is found six hundred miles inland,
wMe the other species of the finny tribe, such as
oolachan, sturgeon, herring, trout, etc., swarm
in the large riyers of the province. Fish is exported in vast quantities, salted, frozen, dried,
and canned, the value of the salmon exportation
alone, during the past twelve or fourteen years,
being over twenty million dollars. The Indians
also stow away large supplies for home use,
§sh being one of their chief articles of food. When
the Rosemere was running along the cliffs of the
Fraser, one of the interesting sights was to see
the Chinese washing gold on the sand-bars;
another, to see the Siwash natives, standing on
the ledges of the projecting rocks, scooping up
salmon and oolachan with their large dip-nets.
But the gigantic trees of British Columbia
throw everything else, literally and figuratively,
into the shade. Entire forests of them, the growth
of centuries, densely packed together, are still
standing, covering -whole sections of the country
with an almost impenetrable gloom, and assuring the world a timber supply for centuries to
come. The trees increased in size apparently as
we approached the coast; in Stanley Park, Vancouver, I measured a cedar trunk that was over Across   Widest  America
forty-five feet in circumference. After the fire
there, in 1886, the Crown Land Office was perched
on a stump, and remained in that position until
proper quarters wrere prepared for it. Adirondack
Murray gives us the interesting story of a tree
that was brought down during his visit to the
Pacific coast, to make room for an obscure
building. He counted six hundred and seventy-
four annual rings in it, which—those who pretend to know, say—gave the measure of its age.
The tree was still sound, and had it been kept
standing, had every prospect of living six hundred years more. It would suffice to have seen
those monuments of centuries to appreciate Mr.
Murray's indignation at their wanton destruction. He deplored the vandalism of the pioneers
of Vancouver, he tells us, as he would do that
of the Romans, were St. Peter's destroyed by
a mob.
A few more hours down the valley of the
Fraser, skirting along the borders of forests of
wondrous growth, beside lakes alive with great
fat ducks patiently waiting for the visit of
a sportsman ; then through a rough, wooded
country, with here and there bits of marsh,
and clearings,  and farmers'   houses,   till  finally 74
Across   Widest  America
we steamed along the shore of Burrard's
Inlet, the closing scene of the Rosemere's long
journey across the continent. It wras with a
feeling of satisfaction, akin to enthusiasm, that
Mr. Spencer's party stepped out at Vancouver,
and began in real earnest to bask in Pacific sunshine, four thousand five hundred miles from
Cape Spear.
The swarms of Chinese, pigtailed and bloused,
lazily watching all our movements with their
almond eyes, reminded us that we wrere next
door to China. Along the docks, whole families
of Sechelt Indians, dressed in brilliant colors,
wrere sitting in their fantastic long boats, and
chatting away in Chinook, giving us glimpses of
a new civilization. The cosmopolitan character
of coast-life was well illustrated next day when
I took the stage to visit the salmon-canning factories at Steveston. Seated with me in the
rickety, old leathern-springed coach, wrere two
white miners, two Chinamen, a Japanese, and a
Chinook Indian, the last-named puffing away at
a cigar.
Vancouver is a new city, growing like its
western neighbors at a phenomenal rate, The
site was under  a dense forest until  a  score of A cross   Widest  America
years ago, when the Canadian Pacific railway
people took it in hand and began to lay out
avenues in a wilderness. In 1886, a conflagration swept the rising town away, but the ashes
had hardly cooled when the young phcenix reappeared rejuvenated and resplendent. At the
present time, large blocks, palatial hotels,
churches, trolley cars, asphalt pavements, attest
the advances this western end of the great railway has made. The company's Chinese and
Australasian steamship service has its terminus
here also; and Vancouver bids fair in shipping
interests alone, to become a serious rival of the
American ocean ports further south.
I was now two thousand nine hundred miles
from Montreal, and there was still that distance
to cover on the Pacific Ocean and the Bering
Sea before I reached my destination. The Crow's
Nest railway, -which branched from the main line
near Medicine Hat, before we reached the Rockies, had tempted me to renew acquaintance with
Crow's Nest mountain, and to enjoy once more
the superb view of that massive three-storey
monument of vegetation, bare rock and perpetual
snow. But the unparalleled grandeur of the
Rockies and the Selkirks, and the persevering kind- 76
Across   Widest America
ness of mine host of the Rosemere, changed my
itinerary to Vancouver, where I met several old
friends, whose smiles of welcome were rays of
sunshine on that distant coast, and whose vigorous hand-shakes were things to be remembered.
My course now lay southward, and I started
from Revelstoke for Spokane. Stern-wheel steamboats, large and comfortable, ply through the
Arrowhead and Slocan Lakes, sheets of water
locked in among the Rocky Mountains, and reflecting on their glassy surfaces a dozen weather-
beaten, snow-capped peaks. Here and there on
the cliffs, hundreds of feet above the water, you
could see holes made, with picks and powder, by
men looking for that yellow metal called gold.
At Rossland, where a whole day was spent, a
visit to the well-known LeRoy mine was extremely interesting; and I had a splendid chance
to examine the ore and the treatment it receives
before it is sent to the smelters at Trail and
I followed the Columbia River for a few miles
down through the State of Washington, and
marvelled at the feats of the railway builders,
who had to pick their way through that mountainous country.   Some   of  the   spots   on   the Across   Widest   America
Spokane and Northern railway were simply
terrifying. The curves south of Rossland and at
Seven Devils, the only appropriate name for a
set of rocks overhanging the Columbia, would
unnerve the coolest vertebrate that ever lived.
But even here Nature offers compensations. A
beautiful waterfall was to be seen on the line, at
some distance before we crossed the Columbia.
And the startling feature of the view is that no
matter how the train twisted, we could not loose
sight of the trickling, snow-white stream as it fell,
ribbon-like, from a hill-top to the bottom of a
Colville, an Indian reservation, ancient and
picturesque, is on the same road. We ran close
to the buildings and schools, where the Nezqualim
and Poel tribes have been, for over sixty years,
under the care of the Jesuit Fathers of the Rocky
Mountain missions.
Spokane is a hundred and fifty miles from Ross-
land, and was merely a haunt of the Spokane
Indian, twenty years ago. It is now a flourishing city of thirty or forty thousand people. It
owes its present importance to the magnificent
water-power, furnished by the river of the same
name, which goes tumbling over rocks and down 78
Across   Widest   America
cliffs at various points within the limits of the
city; and although the water-power is only partially developed, vast commercial interests are
already centred there.
The Jesuits, who were the pioneer missionaries
among the Spokane tribes, have a large and
flourishing college there. I also met at Spokane
several Sisters of Providence and Sisters of the
Holy Names. These admirable Montreal communities have flourishing institutions there, and at
other places along the Pacific coast. By their
devotedness to the sick in hospitals, and their
success in their schools and convents, they are
doing a great deal for the Church in that western
We had our choice between the Great Northern and the Northern Pacific from Spokane to
Seattle. Both railways cross the Cascade range
of the Rockies; and the scenic grandeur of both
routes, we were told, is worth all the printer's
ink that is spent in describing it. The long tunnel,
recently completed under the Cascades, at a cost
of several millions, weighed in favor of the Great
Northern. I wished to see how Nature had again
been overcome in one of her most inaccessible
trongholds, and I did not regret the choices I Across   Widest   America
made. The Great Northern is the creation of
J. J. Hill, the railway king of St. Paul, who was
born near Guelph, Ont., sixty or seventy years
ago; and you may read in every rock-cut and
trestle, along the road, the energy of this prince
among railway builders.
Before you reach the Cascades, the road passes
through some strikingly beautiful scenery, especially through the Big-Bend wheat country, but
it also runs through some very dismal spots. It
seldom falls to the lot of any one to wander
through a more desolate region than the lava-
plains lying along the Columbia River. Everything you see, out of the car window, for many
miles, is a barren waste of bare rocks, covered
in spots with layers of drifting sand. Rising
here and there, among them, are huge rugged
columns of basalt, of all heights and shapes,
standing like silent monuments to an unknown
past. It would be hard to tell you the depressing effect produced on one by the utter helplessness and hopelessness of a scene like that.
Nothing growing, nothing going to grow in that
dreadful valley; and to think that a thousand
years from now, the same scene -will meet the
eyes of men.   The basalt pillars are, however, 80
Across   Widest   America
slowly crumbling away. The disintegrating
effects of frost and heat are plainly seen in the
cone-like piles that surround their bases; but they
have withstood the ravages of the centuries long
enough to bear testimony to the activity and
destructiveness of prehistoric volcanoes.
The rest of our journey from Spokane made
us forget all about the desolate lava-plain. We
crossed the Columbia and ran into a country
where everything was green and gay; and then
began to leave orchards and fruit-gardens beneath us, as we gradually approached the
mountain-range through gorges and canyons.
Climbing the Cascade range, and looking down
on the valleys, thousands of feet below you, was
a pleasant task when you could do -it in an
observation-car; you can still see, zig-zagging up
the mountain-side, the "switch-back," which
proved such an attraction to travellers over the
Great Northern after it was built. There is less
mountain-climbing along that railway now; the
long Cascade tunnel runs two miles and a half
through the very heart of the enormous mountain which our forbears had to ride over; and
we were left to imagine what the emotions of
climbing on a "switch-back" must have been. THE   "SS.   ROANOKE'
NOME,   ON THE  BERING  COAST ■M Across   Widest  America
It took us only ten minutes to go through the
tunnel from Cascade to Wellington; but as that
hole through the mountain brought the East a
couple of hours nearer the Pacific coast, it meant
a vast saving of time and money for the railway ; and that is precisely the reason why Hill
spent years and millions in digging it out.
Like the Canadian Pacific farther north, the
Great Northern displayed, everywhere in those
mountains, much ingenuity in overcoming the
difficulties which Nature had piled up so abundantly in its path. The marvels the engineers
have done in bridging and trestle-work, in loops
and tunnelling, is a credit to their skill and
daring. The loop in the Selkirk range on the
Canadian Pacific, and the other in the Crow's
Nest Pass, are wonderfully well-planned, especially the latter; but I do not know whether
either will compare with the twists and turns
on the Great Northern, which permit you to
descend imperceptibly and quickly from the top
of a mountain to the valley, a couple of thousand feet below.
When you are in the valley you are on the
western slope of the Cascade range, and you
begin to run through vast forests of Washington
L 82
Across   Widest   America
fir and cedar — formidable giants, straight as
plumb-lines and towering to the skies—whose
tops are covered with mantles of greenest verdure, and -whose feet are hidden in masses of
shrub-wood and gigantic ferns. The contrast between this scene of luxuriant vegetation and the
arid lava-plains, which I had just left behind
me, forces one to ask why Nature distributes
her favors so unevenly.
I had been so engrossed in singling out big
trees, and straining my neck trying to see their
summits, that the hours passeed quickly away,
and with them passed the miles; and before I
was quite aware of it, I had reached the borders
of Puget Sound. Along the edge of that noble
arm of the Pacific the train rolled through
Snohomish, Everett, and other small towns, and
finally brought me to Seattle, which was to be
the terminus of my land journey. m
Seattle. — Over the Pacific.
Aleutian Islands.
Seattle is a modern, go-ahead, American seaport, which is kept busy from morning till night
telling people all about its advantages, natural
and acquired. It is pronounced See-ah-tle, and
takes its name from an old Indian chief, whose
portrait is now a well-known curio on the coast.
The place is really forty years old, but, during the
first twenty, was little more than a respectable
site, with rare possibilities. It passed through
the usual ordeal of fire and recovered from the
effects rapidly. The last ten years, especially,
have witnessed a transformation in the city,
rarely seen even in western towns. Seattle is
advancing by leaps and bounds, in a -way that
makes the more enthusiastic of its citizens
already look upon it as a dangerous rival for
San Francisco.
The discovery of gold in the Klondike, nine
years ago, and a couple of years later in Northwestern Alaska, gave a tremendous impetus to
its commerce. Seattle had been waiting for just
such a windfall, and is still profiting by it more
than   any other western port.    Its warehouses 84
Across   Widest   America
and docks are filled with cargoes for the Arctic;
and vessels laden to the water-line, are constantly leaving it for northern points. Nine out
of every ten destined for Alaska sail out through
Puget Sound from Seattle.
The city is solidly and tastefully built on a
hill-side, which slopes down to the water's edge.
Its avenues run parallel with the Sound, and
rise like steps of stairs till they reach the summit. For hills, and steep places, and break-neck
spots, Seattle, I think, eclipses Quebec, and fairly
rivals St. John's, Newfoundland. But there is
this advantage over those two cities: you need
not climb hills in Seattle. You simply jump into
a cable-car, a gong rings, the grip-man pulls a
lever, and there you are, at the top of the hill.
Time is money in Seattle; everything is done
and said there with Spartan brevity. The way
of addressing you, the signs on the houses and
in the street cars, are all to the point—no useless prose in Seattle. At home, we read: " Don't
get off while the car is in motion." Out West
they simply print: "Wait till the car stops."
At home, we put on our doors: " No admission
except on business." In Seattle you read:
"Keep out! that means you!"    In a Spokane Across   Widest   America
car, I read the brief but ominous warning:
" Don't get off backwards." And above the four
words was the graphic sketch of what happened
to a man who did. Strangely enough, that man
was a Westerner!
Our stay in Seattle was gladdened with the
news, which came to us from the North, that
the two steamers, the Portland and the Jeanie,
reported lost in the ice for a month, had been
seen and rescued north of the Bering Strait.
This news brought great joy to thousands of
citizens; and extra editions of the dailies, giving
thrilling details of the rescue, were bought up
rapidly. But this was only another shocking
instance of the way vile, mercenary newspapers
will speculate on the emotions of heart-broken
friends and relatives. A few hours later, a second
report had to be circulated that the first one
was false. There was no foundation for the
rumored rescue, and when we started off, July
3rd; on our long journey up the Pacific, it was
under the sad impression that two Alaskan vessels, bound for the same port as we, had gone
to the bottom.
Our party of four, destined for mission work
in Alaska,   secured a passage on the Roanoke, 86
Across   Widest   America
an old but reliable vessel in the Pacific trade.
For fifteen years she had seen service in the Old
Dominion Line between New York and some Virginian port. Six years ago, she became the
property of a western trading corporation, sailed
round Cape Horn and up the Pacific coast.
During the Spanish-American war she was in
commission as a transport to the Philippines.
The Roanoke has since been kept steadily in the
Alaskan service; and for having brought safely
to the United States the first four millions that
were dug up in the new gold-fields, she rejoices
in the title of "treasure-ship of the Alaskan
fleet." The skipper, Captain Weaver, is a native
of Nova Scotia, and, though still a young man,
has had, his officers told me, all the experiences
of an "old salt." His wife and five-year-old
daughter accompanied him on this trip; needless
to say, the precious little maid soon became the
favorite of all the passengers on board. There
were forty or fifty of us, representing the types
usually found on every ocean voyage, in these
and other latitudes; some exacting and hard to
please; others indifferent and easy going; some
were miners, starting out to look after their interests  in Alaska;   a  few  were  the wives   and Across   Widest   America
families of miners, going north to meet their
husbands and fathers; the rest were pleasure-
seekers, killing time on a summer-cruise in Arctic
Before getting away we had to submit to
certain medical formalities. Since Uncle Sam has
begun to dabble in Imperialism, he has grown
wary of microbes. He will look after his own
germs, he tells us, and he wants other countries
to look after theirs. In order to carry out this
reasonable programme effectively, he quite recently enacted several stringent quarantine-laws,
which add another element of ennui to those
which the over-laden traveller has already to
put up with.
However, it is not the laws that one can object to, but the way of applying them. Just
before the gangway of the Roanoke was drawn,
a ship-steward began to beat a Japanese gong,
ordering everybody down stairs for inspection.
Down behind us came the health-inspector, a
long, lanky individual, with sickly mien, who
looked as if he needed some one to inspect him.
He began to call out our names, which he could
hardly decipher on the purser's list. We left the
room, one by one, when the man with the list, Across   Widest   America
who stood near the staircase, was supposed to
scrutinize us through and through. But this was
the moment to smile. The inspector was nearsighted, and any one of us could have safely
smuggled in Canadian microbes as big as horned
We sailed up Puget Sound, a splendid stretch
of water, and saw it covered with all kinds of
craft going to and coming from different parts
of the globe. Port Townsend lay on a hill at
our left, as we -went north; but we soon turned
directly west into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Off to our right, plainly visible, stood the lofty
Race-Rock lighthouse, marking the entrance to
Esquimalt, on Vancouver Island, the seat of the
North Pacific British squadron; and four miles
east of Esquimalt lay the quiet city of Victoria,
the capital of British Columbia.
One hundred and ten years ago, Captain
George Vancouver, with his faithful lieutenants,
Puget, Johnstone, Whidbey, and Baker, sailed
along this coast, entered these inlets, measured
and marked down every bight, and bay, and
cape. Any modern map will show how broken
is this portion of America, and what a difficult
task Vancouver  had  undertaken.    But so well Across   Widest   America
did he do his work, even with the crude hydro-
graphic methods then in vogue, that very little
reconstruction has had to be done since, to complete the charts of Vancouver Island and the
Alaskan Archipelago.
Few pioneer explorers have deserved so well
of posterity as Vancouver; nor has posterity
forgotten him. His name lives along this coast;
and the heroic statue, which stands on the newr
and splendid Parliament House at Victoria, is a
recent tribute to the painstaking methods and
excellent work of the grimy old captain. Vancouver wras not only a clever seaman, but also
a staunch friend; he immortalized not merely
his comrades, but many of his absent friends as
well, by attaching their names to the natural
features along the Pacific coast.
Night was falling when we neared Cape
Flattery, leaving behind us the Olympian range,
with Mount Olympus in the background; and
by bed-time, the long, majestic swell told us
plainly we -were heaving on the bosom of the
Pacific. The first two days, or rather three,
were disagreeable for most of us on board.
Heavy seas were on; port-holes had to be kept
closed, and doors and hatches battened down. 90
Across   Widest   America
The Roanoke rolled and heaved on the waves,
which made us miserable, indeed; if you will
add to our misery the very disheartening effects
the reported loss of the two steamships still had
on us, and the sincere sympathy we all had for
the victims and their friends, you will know just
how we felt.
The physical commotions, peculiar to sea-sickness, which none of us hankered for, and few of
us escaped, had already begun to overpower us
in their most unattractive forms, and the really
dismal days had surely come. There were a few
among the passengers who swaggered about
the deck on the strength of their wave-proof
stomachs, and who boasted because they never
missed a meal; but the rest of us had to submit, without a word of sympathy from anyone,
to the inevitable "ups and downs"—chiefly the
«ups" —of that most distressing of all the sufferings our poor fallen race is heir to. 1 write
feelingly on this subject of sea-sickness after my
recent experience in Newfoundland waters. Add
to the nauseating horrors of the situation, the
sounding of the hideous Japanese gong, which
filled our ears three times a day, as we lay helpless in our berths.   The mockery of the thing! Across    Widest   America
It called us to meals that we vowed we should
never touch again,
However, after three days the crisis was over.
One by one the afflicted passengers began to
creep out of their staterooms, timidly at first,
as if they feared a bantering at the melancholy
show they had made of themselves. But this
feeling wras short-lived; with health and conscious strength came courage. The gastric
machinery soon resumed its normal functions;
and our voyage onward over the great Summer
Sea became one pleasant holiday. Splendid
weather prevailed to Unalaska, which enabled
every one to stay on deck. It was then that the
selfish element, ever latent in us mortals, and
ever waiting for an outlet, began to display itself. Everybody set about making himself—
mostly herself—just as comfortable as possible.
Rugs and shawls and easy chairs of impossible
combinations and indefinite sprawling capacity,
began to take up precious room on deck, to the
great inconvenience of many. It was a study
in real life to -watch the various phases of
exasperation one of the passengers, a pompous
old gentleman, got into, -whenever he wanted to
inhale fresh air.   At every turn he made up and 92
Across   Widest   America
down the deck, he had to describe a circle around
the paraphernalia of a couple of haughty Gibson
maidens and their stately mother, who looked
at him, every time he passed, as resentfully as
if they owned the ship.
Those of us who desired peace and quiet
sought some nook, fore or aft, where we could
inhale ozone and count the whales which kept
sporting and spouting quite close to the vessel.
Several came so near that they received bullets
and explosive shells from the dead-shots on
board. This kind of a reception was evidently
not appreciated by the ponderous cetaceans, for
they invariably turned somersaults in the water
and disappeared under the waves.
On the fifth day out, in the early morning,
three long whistles told us we were meeting and
saluting a vessel. The ship turned out to be the
Portland, which had been imprisoned in the
Arctic ice-floes for five weeks. She was on her
way back to Seattle to give her own exclusive
story of her thrilling experiences in the Bering
Strait and the Arctic Ocean. The Seattle newspapers had guessed well, but they had only
guessed. We learned when we reached Unalaska
that the  Portlands  companion  in misfortune, Across Widest   America
the Jeanie, had also escaped, but had not fared
so well. The crushing ice in Bering Strait had
damaged her hull, and she had to lie up for repairs. Although the Roanoke followed, for four
days, the track of the Japanese and Chinese
steamships, the Portland was the only vessel we
met on the whole voyage.
The daily record of the log, as well as other
indications, told us that we were not far from
the Aleutian Islands. Wild geese, wild ducks and
parrot-billed puffins were hovering about us in
myriads, or were making for their homes on the
coast; and we, too, not to be outdone by our
feathered neighbors, began to stretch our necks
for land. Fogs came and went in rapid succession, much to the disgust of the captain; for
there are no light-houses on those bleak coasts,
and the officers of the Roanoke had to be on the
alert day and night. At last, on the evening of
the seventh day out from Seattle, a hazy, dark
spot was seen looming up on the misty horizon;
it kept growing steadily until the darkness set
in. This was a lofty peak on Akutan Island, and
this was the first glimpse many of us on board
had of the Aleutian chain, the "stepping-stones"
to Asia. 94
Across   Widest   America
There are several passages into Bering Sea
through those islands; ours lay through the
Akutan Pass. During the night the Roanoke
sailed at half-speed, and next morning we were
in the Pass, with land on every side of us. On
our right, quite close to us apparently, but
really far up, on what looked like a table-land
flanked by two peaks, we observed a dark
Volume of smoke rising slowly into the clouds.
One's first impression was that a village of
Aleuts had camped up there, with a common
fire for all, or, perhaps, a bon-fire. But great
was our surprise when we learned that we were
looking at a real, live volcano.
We stayed nearly a whole day at Dutch
Harbor, a splendid bay in Unalaska Island,
another of the Aleutian group, and the headquarters of several large Alaskan commercial
companies, where we took coal and water.
There is also a coaling-station here for the
United States revenue service; it is from this
point that the seal rookeries on Pribiloff and
Bouldyer Islands are protected. The revenue
cutter, Manning, was moored at the long wharf,
ready to start for a newly-discovered rookery on
Attic Island.   I had the pleasure of visiting the Across   Widest America
dainty sea-wanderer, from stem to stern, under
the intelligent guidance of Chief Engineer Bowen.
A mile away, beyond the hill, lay the quaint
Russian-Aleut village of Illiuliuk, and plainly
visible farther off, in the background, Mount
Makushin, another active volcano, with clouds
of white steam rising from it. The ship's surgeon, Dr. Brenton, and I, took the trail over to
Illiuliuk. Our path lay around the edge of the
hill, and was bordered with a profusion of wild
flowers of great beauty. Ferns, mosses, tundra
grass and blue-berry bushes hid the ground right
down to the -water's edge. They were richly
sprinkled with violets, which grew there in
countless numbers, and which were the largest I
had ever seen.
Illiuliuk is now generally known as Unalaska,
after the island on which it is built. It was one
of the first of the Russian settlements in America,
and was a place of some importance, when
Captain Cook dropped anchor in the little landlocked harbor in 1788. A newly -built Russian
church, with its bulb-shaped steeple, tipped with
the double-armed cross, stands in a picturesque
position on the water's edge, and gives a decidedly Muscovite air to the place.   One of the 96
Across   Widest  America
Russian priests, who spoke excellent English,
took Dr. Brenton and myself around the place,
and volunteered much of the information I am
giving here. He told us that the Orthodox
Church (Russian-Greek, of course,) has had a
mission in Unalaska for one hundred and thirteen years. Outside of the commercial companies,
the languages of the place are Russian and Aleutian ; but the other tongues of civilization were
fully represented there.
Commerce with miners and tourists is carried
on in English in Unalaska. You may buy at a
couple of large stores all kinds of Russian curios
in walrus-ivory; you may lay in a supply of
Siberian seal-teeth by the pound or the bushel,
just as it suits you; you will take home with
you, unless you resist the pressure brought to bear
upon you, pairs of Russian candlesticks whose
curves and flourishes would grace a fairy's
bower; you may become the proud possessor of
tea-sets, hand-painted and fired in Russia, and
authenticated with Russian hieroglyphics, provided you are willing to pay the prices the merchants ask. There were several relics of Russian
domination still left in the little Aleutian village,
which whetted my curiosity very much.   I took CAPE   SPEAR,   NEWFOUNDLAND,   THE   EXTREME
Across   Widest  America
a snapshot of one of the old cannon lying harmless and rusty in the square near the church,
while Dr. Brenton and a few young Aleuts
rested on the guns. Just as I was about to
press the button, an obliging cow, with conscious grace, stepped into focus, to give a touch
of nature to the group.
In the afternoon, the surgeon and I took a
last look at Mount Makushin and retraced our
steps across the trail over the hill, quite satisfied with the day's wrork and thoroughly tired
of seeing things. It was the same old story of
mental weariness, and a confirmation of the sad
psychological fact, that strange sights quickly
lose their interest, once you have seen them.
The sight of two active volcanoes was certainly
a novel treat for me, and the one of the whole
trip I appreciated the most. It may have been
the recent catastrophe in Martinique that lent a
peculiar interest to the first view I ever had of
one of the safety-valves of our globe.
Akutan and Makushin are only two of the
sixty-one volcanoes still active along the Aleutian
chain. I read in a recent work that, during the
past three hundred years, those volcanoes have
been in violent eruption over fifty times.    Many 98
Across   Widest  America
of them are quite lively yet; for vessels sailing
in Alaskan waters frequently meet with large
quantities of pumice-stone floating on the surface
of the Pacific ocean. One captain reported, while
we were moored at Dutch Harbor, that his ship
had just sailed through twenty miles of it.
The Aleutian group forms part of the line of
weakness of the earth's crust, and connects the
mountains of the western coast of America with
the volcanic ranges running through Kamchatka,
Japan, and down to Java and the Philippines.
The islands are all volcanic in origin; they have
been thrown up from the bottom of the ocean
at various times; the last, the New Bogoslof,
a little over twenty years ,ago.
It must be an exciting experience to assist at
the birth of a volcano. This was what Kriukoff, a
Russian trader, did on May 7, 1796. He -was
on Unimak, an island close to Unalaska, when
a dreadful convulsion of the sea took place, accompanied by noises loud and long, like' peals of
thunder. A great column of dark smoke, shrouded in steam and fog, rose to the skies, and spread
out like a vast mushroom, over a space many
miles in circumference. During the same night,
fire burst up, as it were, from the bottom of the km
Across   Widest  America
sea, and brilliantly lighted the whole country.
When the sun rose next morning and cleared the
fogs away, a new and lofty peak, belching forth
flames and lava, was seen protruding above the
waves.   This was named Bogoslof.
In 1883, another upheaval of the earth's crust
took place within a mile or so of the peak just
mentioned. It was apparently unseen by anyone, for there is no chronicle of the month or
day on which the event took place. All that is
known is. that twenty-two years ago, a second
peak, vomiting fire and lava, appeared beside
Old Bogoslof, and received the name of New
Bogoslof. Those islands were too far westward
and too indistinct for snap-shooting; but the
story of their recent origin was extremely interesting.
All these historical details were given me by
an officer on the Roanoke, and they were welcome ; for I eagerly seized on every little scrap of
information concerning a land, up to this, so
distant and unknown to me. While in Seattle I
was lucky enough to lay hands on an elaborate
Report by Ivan Petroff on Alaska, published by
the Washington Government in 1882. The historical portion of this work, which bears   the 100
Across   Widest   America
marks of care and research, clearly shows that the
Czar's administration in Alaska had been as full
of romantic incident as that of the Hudson's
Bay Company when it lorded it over Western
We quitted the Aleutian Islands, and started
out on the last seven hundred miles of our journey, through the Bering Sea, due north. A few-
days of rain and fog did not prevent us from
making good time, but they kept me in my stateroom, where I had leisure to study PetrofPs Report, a summary of which may prove interesting
to my readers. CHAPTER VI
The Russian Domination in Alaska
The story of Muscovite exploration in Northwestern America hardly goes back farther than
the first voyage of Vitus Bering, in 1733. It
was about that time that the world began to
have some definite knowledge of the North Pacific
and the waters connecting it with the Arctic
ocean. No expedition is known to have gone
thither exclusively for commerce till 1743; but
from that time onward, for about one hundred
and twenty-five years, Russian merchants and
adventurers hunted and traded along the main
Alaskan coast and the Aleutian and Kurile
groups of islands. The traders all hailed from
the Siberian port of Okhotsk, and from points
on the Kamchatka peninsula. If any one doubted the nationality of those Alaskan pioneers, it
would suffice to mention such names as Nevod-
chikof, Trapiznikof, Nikiforof, Bashmakof, and a
dozen others, equally mellifluous, which I ran
across in PetrofPs work.
In 1762, a merchant, Andreian Tolstykh, after
a sojourn of three years in those regions, insisted
on their commercial importance before Catherine 102
Across   Widest  America
II. His report had far-reaching results. On the
strength of it, the Empress raised Tolstykh to the
Siberian nobility, and ordered Chicherin, governor of Siberia, with two lieutenants, Krenitzin
and Lavashof, to explore the new- country and
report fully on its resources. These officials sailed
from Kamchatka in government vessels, in 1768,
and began their work seriously. But the enmity
of the natives rendered their attempts well-nigh
fruitless. This enmity was a legacy left them by
a few individual explorers who had covered the
same ground in previous years, and who had
stained their fur and ivory traffic with extortion
and butchery. The adventurers had become so
unscrupulous in their oppressive methods that
they at last drove the natives to retaliation.
Just six years previously, in 1762, the Aleuts
slaughtered one hundred and fifty Russians on
the island of Unalaska, sparing only four of an
entire expedition. It is no wonder that Chicherin
did not succeed.
Not until 1780 was Russian traffic on Bering
Sea continued on civilized lines. The efforts of
two shrewd traders, Grigor Shelikof and Ivan
Golikof, brought about this result. They foresaw the early destruction of the native popula- Across   Widest  America
tion if some fundamental reform in the methods
of doing business with them were not resorted
to. They formed a company " to sail for Aliaska-
land, known as America, and for known and unknown islands, to carry on the fur trade and to
establish friendly intercourse with the natives."
In August, 1783, three vessels left Okhotsk,
with Shelikof in command. They visited Kadiak,
a large island in the North Pacific, which they
decided to colonize. It was thickly populated
with natives; Shelikof says about four thousand,
which Petroff considers an exaggeration. These
natives were evidently still smarting under the
cruelties practised during former expeditions, for
they peremptorily ordered Shelikof to quit the
island, following up the order, a few days later,
with a savage attack on the Russians. They
were repulsed only after great slaughter on both
sides; and Shelikof completed his victory by driving the natives over precipices into the sea, retaining twenty of their children as hostages.
These vigorous measures cowed them efficaciously
and gave the Russians the supremacy they were
so anxious to acquire.
Shelikof organized his colony on Kadiak island,
and then began a systematic exploration of other 104        Across   Widest America
neighboring islands and the mainland around
Cook's Inlet and Prince William Sound, — spots
on the map whose names recall Captain Cook's
visit to those waters in 1778. This hardy old
mariner left a British impress on the nomenclature of the North Pacific and the Bering Sea,
which they bear even to this day. Spanish and
French vessels had sailed around the same coasts,
a few years previously, and had taken possession
of them, one after the other, " by right of discovery, " but Shelikof quietly removed all marks
of foreign sovereignty as fast as he found them,
and substituted the Russian, taking care, at the
same time, to bring vividly before the natives
everywhere the prestige and marvellous power of
the Empress Catherine.
After an absence of three years, he made a
flying trip back to Russia, to get government
sanction for all he had done, and to obtain funds
to extend his enterprise. He displayed before the
high officials of St. Petersburg a chart of the
newly-discovered lands, and stated boldly that
fifty thousand subjects had been added to the
Russian Empire and were ready to accept the
Christian religion; evidently a series of pious
exaggerations made for commercial purposes. Across   Widest   America
On his way to St. Petersburg, Shelikof had
interested Jacobi, the new governor of Siberia,
who pleaded his cause with the Empress. Exclusive rights -were asked for the new company,
with a bonus of two hundred thousand rubles
from the State Treasury. This was granted on
the spot by the public-spirited Empress; and
besides personal distinctions which she lavished
on the promoter himself, she supplied him with
medals and presents for the chiefs of the Alaskan
tribes. Jacobi, for his share, contributed wooden
crosses and copper plates, inscribed with the
imperial coat of arms, to be raised here and
there as tokens of Russian sovereignty.
Strengthened with the favor of the court and
a share of the public money, Shelikof returned to
his enterprises -with renewed vigor; and in a very
short time nearly all his rivals, the smaller trading concerns, went to the wall. Fortune favored
this adventurer, although Petroff tells us he had
not yet gained the good will of the natives. In
illustration of their enmity—was it not rather
their thieving propensity?—it was found impracticable to put up the copper plates and
crosses in any prominent position. As soon as
the Russians had turned their backs, the Thlin- 106
Across   Widest   America
kets seized every scrap of metal they could lay
hands on and carried it off.
In those years, the overland trade between
Russia and China, once prosperous, had almost
entirely ceased, owing to the ease with -which
English and Dutch vessels poured manufactured
goods into the Celestial Kingdom. It was Shelikof s design to revive this trade with Russia by
-water; and he began to take his measures with
the greater alacrity that Gerassim Pribilof had
accidently discovered, in 1786, the summer resort
of the precious fur seal, on what are still known
as Pribilof Islands in Bering Sea. The Chinese
prized seal fur above any other; and the news
that hundreds of thousands of seals congregated
annually on two small islands within easy reach
in the neighboring sea, was welcome news indeed.
Trade with China was now certain of renewal,
and was bound to be lucrative.
There were still several private hunters in the
region; but only one serious rival, the Lebedev-
Lastochkin Company, dared hold ground against
Shelikof. Rival posts were erected on islands and
on the mainland along Cook's Inlet; and bloody
scenes were enacted, similar to those which were
witnessed a few- years later in  Canada between Across   Widest  America
the Hudson's Bay and the Northwest Fur Companies. At one time the depredations carried on
almost reached the magnitude of war.
This fighting among the Russians themselves
had a pernicious effect upon the native population ; but what was far more serious for Shelikof,
it was reducing dividends. With all the foresight
of a modern monopolist, he set to work quietly
to buy up shares in the rival company, and began to look around him for a leader with a
strong arm and a stronger head to carry on his
work in Russian America. He finally selected
Alexander Baranof, a Siberian merchant, who
had displayed extraordinary energy in the management of his own affairs. A contract was
signed between them, in August, 1790 ; and
Baranof, the man who finally established Russian empire in America, sailed for his new field of
Baranof was small of stature, but was possessed of great powers of endurance and an all-
devouring ambition. He had occasion to show
his muscular strength, shortly after his arrival
at Kadiak, by strangling to death an unfortunate Russian -who had incurred his displeasure.
During the first years of his career in Siberia, he 108
Across   Widest   America
had displayed great penetration and decision ot
character, talents which he brought into play
shortly after his arrival in Alaska. The spot on
Kadiak Island, chosen by Shelikof, was ill-
adapted for the larger scale of operations Baranof had in view, and, without further ado, he
removed the whole establishment to another
site, St. Paul's harbor, on the north-east end of
the same island. There he began to work with
great vigor. He sent out crews in long skin-
covered boats, who coasted along the Aleutian
peninsula, and returned to St. Paul's with large
quantities of fur and ivory. In 1793, he brought
to Kadiak a number of Siberian convicts, especially mechanics and farm laborers, with their
families, in all about two hundred persons. He
established a shipyard on Prince William Sound,
where the size and quality of the timber were
suited for shipbuilding; and the hulls of Russian
vessels began to grow under the supervision of
an English shipwright, named Shields, who had
left the British navy for the Russian. With increased facilities, Baranof was able to extend his
explorations eastward as far as Yakutat; and
he was reaping a rich harvest of sea-otter about
the time that Captain Vancouver, with his two Across   Widest  America
ships, the Discovery and the Chatham, was coasting northward through these same waters, in
Shelikof, the founder of the company, whose
enterprise and influence at home had given such
impetus to commerce in the North Pacific, died
in 1792. But he had had the satisfaction of
seeing the two schemes he had most at heart,
on the eve of accomplishment. One was the
opening up of the Chinese market for seal-furs
and ivory ; the other was the union, under one
administration, of the various minor fur companies trading in Eastern Siberia, Kamchatka
and Alaska. This consolidation was completed,
in 1797, under the supervision of Shelikof s
widow and his partner, Golikof.
The new and powerful organization, under
the name of the Russian-American Company, obtained, in 1799, a charter from the Czar Paul I,
which gave it exclusive rights to the American
territory, to the resources of land and water,
and to whatever might be found in the interior
of the earth, in the Siberian possessions of Kamchatka, Okhotsk, and the Kurile islands. "This
charter, secured for twenty years," says Petroff,
" marks an  epoch  in  the  history  of Alaska," 1
Across   Widest  America
which, from that time till the transfer of the
country to the United States, in 1867, became
identified with the Russian-American Company.
The privileges conferred on the new company
were very great and very exclusive in character.
But the obligations imposed were also very
heavy. It was exempt from all royalty or rent
to the home government; it had the right to
carry its now flag}; to employ naval officers' to
command its vessels, and to claim the "High
Protection of His Imperial Majesty." In return
for these privileges, the company was compelled
to maintain civil government in those new countries ; to provide for the establishment of the
Orthodox Church; and, most burdensome of all,
to keep at various points in the vast territory,
magazines and stores of goods to be used by
the imperial government, for its vessels and
troops, whenever it was necessary.
As this was the first enterprise of the kind in
the Russian empire, it attracted a good deal of
attention in Moscow and St. Petersburg; and
the company soon had among its shareholders
not merely high officials of the government, but
even members of the royal family. The success
of the British in India, in those years, through Across   Widest  America
the operations of the East India Company, had
dazzled the Russians; and dreams of similar conquests on the Pacific began to haunt their official
circles. The annexation of Japan and portions
of the Chinese coast, on one side of the Pacific;
and of the whole coast down to the Gulf of
California, on the other, was a programme that
appealed to the friends of the company ; it was
certainly ambitious enough to stimulate Russian
pride and enterprise.
While this castle building was going on at
home, Baranof, whose energy had been drawing
him farther east-ward every year, was beginning
to have troubles of his own in Aliaska-land. He
had planned to extend the domain of the Company to the Alexander archipelago, but -when his
officers began to visit Southeastern Alaska, they
found English and American vessels trading in
sea-otter with the Thlinkets, with English headquarters actually established at Nootka, on Vancouver Island.
These were crucial moments for Baranof. He
had instructions from the home authorities to
crush all rivals, and to wipe out Nootka. But
he prudently refrained from showing open opposition to either the English or the Americans.   He 112       Across   Widest   America
decided to fortify a post in the archipelago, from
which he could control the fur trade with the
foreigners themselves, and thus secure from them
supplies for his own people. He spent the whole
winter of 1799-1800 in building a fort at Sitka,
six miles from the present capital of Alaska. He
strengthened the place as well as his resources
would allow, and put it under the command of
Medvednikof. But the American vessels ignored
his reminders, and continued to trade with the
natives, bartering firearms for furs. Baranof returned to Kadiak, after his winter's work at
Sitka, to find the garrison in a state of insurrection, with a portion of it ready to sail for
other climes. Rumors of war with England
reached him at the same time, and obliged him
to make the round of the Russian trading posts
to instruct the officials what to do in the event
of the appearance of British cruisers.
Meanwhile the troubles of Baranof were only
beginning. The hostile Thinklets—Koloshes, the
Russians called them—massacred Medvednikof
and the garrison at Sitka, and burned the fort.
About the same time, one hundred and eighty
Aleutian hunters were surprised and slaughtered
by  the same warlike  Thlinkets ;   and   another COUNCIL   MINING  CAMP
CHINIK, ON   GOLOYIN   BAY  Across   Widest   America
party of one hundred perished by eating poisonous mussels, in what has ever since been
known as Destruction Strait. Disasters followed
each other in rapid succession. Three vessels laden with supplies, were wrecked on their way
from Okhotsk; and had Baranof not been able
to buy provisions from a ship which had just arrived at Kadiak from New York, the Russian-
American colony would have reached the verge
of starvation.
All these mishaps were making the life of the
old Russian miserable. Jealousy and calumny
were now to augment the difficulties of his position. In 1801, Alexander I. succeeded the Czar
Paul. When the commander at Okhotsk made
the official announcement of the event, he ordered Baranof to gather together all the natives
of Kadiak and the surrounding country, and
demand from them the oath of allegiance. The
order was an imprudent one ; carrying it out at
that time would have been an act of folly ; for
it would have revealed to the astute Thlinkets
the precarious state of the colony. Besides, Baranof could not rely on the Russians in his service ; and he decided to ignore the order for the
moment.   A degraded official tried to make capi- 114      Across   Widest   America
tal out of this, and brought a charge against
him of disobedience to imperial orders. An investigation took place, but nothing came of it,
the authorities deciding that Baranof was not
in the government service. These trials, to which
must be added disappointments in the result of
the fur trade, helped, nevertheless, to embitter
the old man's life.
One of the reasons of the varying success of
the Russian-American company's operations in
those years -was the incapacity of its ships' offi-
cers. Petroff affirms that seventy-five per cent,
of the company's vessels foundered on the Aleutian Islands, several even before they had left the
coast of Kamchatka. The clause in the charter
permitting the employment of skilled naval officers had not been taken advantage of; and these
were the results.
In 1801, two competent Russians, Davidof and
Kvostof, obtained permission from the government to enter the service of the company, and immediately set to work to reorganize its shipping.
Their efforts were crowned with success; by dint
of economy and business methods they succeeded
in placing this department on a sounder financial
basis. Across   Widest  America
During the first years of the nineteenth century the affairs of the Russian-American Company took indeed a more prosperous turn. The
posts in Southeastern Alaska were increasing in
number and in importance. Sixteen had been
established along the coast from Unalaska to
Sitka, and nearly all mounted with brass three-
pounders. The seal rookeries on the Pribilof
Islands proved a perfect treasure-house for the
company. The Chinese had discovered the process
of plucking and dyeing the fur, which gave it its
great commercial value ; and every year large
quantities of precious sealskins made their way
down the Pacific to the various Chinese ports.
The revenue from the Pribilof islands alone furnished the means of meeting the current expenses
without applying to the home government.
The clause in its charter, which obliged the
company to keep supply depots at various points
of the colony for the home government, proved
in practice very annoying and costly. Goods
had to be brought overland through Siberia,
and then shipped from Okhotsk, thus entailing
enormous expense on the company. In 1802,
Count Rezanof, chamberlain to the Emperor, and
a relative of Shelikof,   secured  the  privilege of 116      Across   Widest   America
sending supplies from St. Petersburg by sea;
and vessels for this purpose were bought in London. Rezanof himself accompanied the first fleet
in the double capacity of government inspector
of the Russian colonies and special ambassador
to Japan. The Japanese mission ultimately proving an utter failure, Rezanof turned his attention
to the American coast. After helping to put order
in the affairs of the company at Kadiak, he set
out for California.
This voyage was the beginning of commercial
intercourse between the Russian and the Spanish
colonies, which ended with the Russians taking
possession of a piece of territory in northern
California. The natural resources of that favored
land appealed to the practical Rezanof, and he
set about obtaining a foothold there. As a preliminary, he engaged himself to marry the daughter of the Spanish commandante at San Francisco, and then wrote to the Czar and the directors of the company, submitting a plan for the
extension of Russian dominion to California. He
urged the establishment of a farming colony
somewhere on the coast above San Francisco,
the Spaniards having, at that time, no permanent settlement north of their "presidio." In his Across    Widest   America
memorial, Rezanof expressed the opinion that it
would be next to impossible to find competent
farm hands among the Russian hunters and trappers, and he asked that the "patient and industrious Chinese" should be imported in their stead.
This proposal, made in 1806, is, according to
Petroff, the first on record suggesting Chinese
immigration to the Pacific coast.
Rezanof started for St. Petersburg to give the
reasons for his Japanese fiasco, and to urge the
California plantation. While on his way overland through Siberia, he fell from his horse and
sustained injuries which hastened his end. He
died at Krasnoyarsk, in March, 1807, and by his
death Russia was deprived of another zealous
promoter of her interests in the North Pacific.
It was not until four years later, that Baranof
undertook to put the California scheme into execution. In 1811, he sent a clever officer, Kush-
kof, who landed at Bodega Bay, and bought a
tract of land from the natives, who asserted
their independence of the Spaniards. These latter
claimed a title to the whole wrest coast of America, "by right of discovery," and ordered the
Russians to quit the country. Podushkin, the
officer in charge, replied that he had no author- 118       Across    Widest   America
ity to do such a thing, and that both sides
should have to wait till Madrid and St. Petersburg had come to an agreement. He proposed
that during the interval the Russians and Spaniards should join hands, hunt for sea-otter off
the coast of California, and divide the profits.
This proposal -was officially declined, but privately accepted; and the Russians remained undisturbed on the Bodega plantation.
The object they had in view, however, namely
that of providing an unfailing supply of meat
and breadstuff's for their Alaskan posts, was
never attained. Rezanof had predicted that the
Russian hunters and their Aleutian allies would
make very poor farmers. His prediction was fulfilled so completely, that Etolin, a successor of
Baranof, got rid of the plantation in 1842, and
the Russians abandoned California apparently
without regret.
The failure of the Bodega scheme obliged
Baranof to look elsewhere for supplies for the
Russian colony, which, in 1811, numbered about
five hundred persons. He continued to extend his
intercourse and joint ventures with merchants
from several of the New England ports, chiefly
from  Boston, until, at last, he ended by com- Across   Widest   America      119
promising himself. One instance may be given
here. An American captain named Bennett sold a
cargo of provisions to Baranof at Sitka, and received sealskins in payment at the rate of one
dollar each. He then quickly crossed over to
Kamchatka and sold the same skins to the company's agents there for three dollars each. This,
and deals like this, were promptly reported to
the home officials, to whom Baranof was represented as a senile tool in the hands of the
shrewd Yankee merchants. The charges were
not all true, but they succeeded in undermining
the confidence of the Russian-American Company
in its manager; and steps were taken to select
his successor.
A new scheme of the resourceful Baranof delayed his recall for several years. It was nothing less than the extension of the Russian Empire-
to the islands of the Pacific. Friendly Boston
merchants (*) had brought him into communication with King Kamehameka; and, with the aid
of a  medical adventurer, Dr. Scheffer, Baranof
(*) Miners have told me that among the Thlinket Indians,,
in Southeastern Alaska, whitemen are to this day known as
" Boston-men." Similarly, on the British side, the Canadians
are called "King-George-men," a relic of the Hudson's Bay
Company's rule in the days of the Georges.—E.J.D. 120
Across   Widest  America
planned the annexation of the Sandwich Islands.
Scheffer sailed for Hawaii, with full power to
act for the company. He found Kamehameka
fully controlled by the English; so he turned his
attention to Tom are, King of Kauai. His medical skill cured the queen of intermittent fever;
and he easily succeeded in making Tomare throw
off his allegiance to Kamehameka and put himself under the protection of the Russian Emperor.
With Aleutian help, Scheffer erected buildings and
began to till the land -which had been given to
him by the king. Meanwhile, correspondence became active between the main parties in the
scheme. The good will of the home officials of
the Russian-American Company was secured.
A magnificent gold-embroidered uniform, a general's helmet and medals galore were sent to
Tomare from the court of St. Petersburg. But
Russia, fully aware that it could not cope with
the English at sea, declined to go further in support of the enterprise.
When King Kamehameka saw the way things
were going, he began to take active measures to
restore his supremacy over Tomare, who had already banished Scheffer when the reinforcements
which had been solemnly promised did not ar- Across   Widest   America      121
rive. These had indeed been sent, but two of
the company's ships, laden -with supplies for
Tomare, were lost on the way. The failure of the
scheme, and the pecuniary, losses attending it,
drew down on Baranof the severest censures of
the directors, and he was told to await his
Disheartened by his failures, worn out by his
constant struggles with savages, and even his
own subordinates, who made several attempts
to assassinate him, irritated by his troubles with
the government and the company's officials in
St. Petersburg, Baranof welcomed his recall.
Two Russians, Koch and Bornovolokof, were in
turn named to succeed him; but the former died
in Kamchatka on his way out, and the other
lost his life in the wreck of the Neva, when almost in sight of Sitka.
It was only in 1817, that Hagemeister finally
.appeared on the scene to relieve Baranof of his
charge as chief manager of the colonies. He did
not introduce himself in his real capacity at once,
but spent several months in quietly looking over
-the company's affairs. One day he produced his
commission, and ordered Baranof to transfer his
^command.    This the old manager did with ad- 122
Across   Widest   America
mirable loyalty. Notwithstanding his troubled
career and the non-success of many of his plans,,
his administration had been a fairly profitable
one for his company. He turned over to the
new manager property far exceeding in value
the amounts called for by the company's vouchers. Millions had passed through his hands during his twenty-seven years of service in Alaska;
he had enriched many a Russian family; and yet
he found himself at the age of eighty, broken in
spirit and a poor man. Such is human gratitude! He started on his return voyage to Russia, but on the way he was attacked with malarial fever—some say he was poisoned—and on
April 16, 1819, he breathed his last at Batavia,
in Java. Thus died the real creator and strongest upholder of Russian interests on the North
Pacific coast. CHAPTER VII
Failure of Russian Enterprise—Transfer
of the Territory
n^HE successors of Baranof followed each other
in rapid succession. Hagemeister, Yanovsky,
Muraviev, Chistiakof and Baron Wrangell were
all men of strong individuality, but they had been
trained to military and naval work rather than
to commercial affairs.
In 1820, the charter of the Russian-American
Company expired, and -was renewed for twenty
years by the Emperor Alexander I. Not only
were all the old privileges confirmed, but even additional ones were granted; and the managers in
Alaska were enabled to extend their explorations
northward and into the interior, a work which
they had hitherto not attempted. Bering Sea and
the American coast of the Arctic, which had been
neglected for the more profitable regions of Southeastern Alaska, were visited by several exploring
parties. Two skilled Russian navigators, Etolin
and Kromchenko, returned from the north with
much valuable information. The German, von
Kotzebue, in his brig Rurik, had already preceded them up through Bering Strait as far as
Cape Lisburne. 124      Across   Widest   America
Under Muraviev's administration the southeastern boundary lines of the colony were fixed.
A treaty was concluded between Russia and
the United States, April 17, 1824, and with England, February 28, 1825, " designating Prince
of Wales Island, in lat. 54° 40' north, and bet-ween long. 131° and 133° west of Greenwich,
as the southerly boundary of the Russian possessions; and as their easterly boundary, a line
running from the head of Portland canal northward along the summit of the coast range of
mountains to a point where it intersects the fifty-
sixth degree of latitude ; from thence the line
running to the Arctic ocean along the one hundred and forty-first meridian." It is the interpretation of this document -which caused friction
in recent years between Canada and the United
States. A clause of the treaty between England
and Russia gave the latter country a strip of
land which should never be wider than ten marine
leagues from the ocean coast. During the Alaska
purchase negotiations, the United States interpreted this clause in a liberal manner for itself,
and followed all the windings and sinuosities of
the mainland, as if the shores of the inlets and
arms   of the  ocean—for instance, Lynn canal— Across   Widest  America
could be called ocean coast. Canada rejected this;
interpretation, and claimed that the ten marine
leagues should count from the main continental
coast. The question was submitted to the Alaskan
Boundary Commissioners, who decided against
the Canadian contention ; and there the matter
When Chistiakof became manager of the colony, in 1827, he continued the work of exploration. One of his officers, captain Lutke," com- '
piled an atlas of the Alaskan coast and islands,,
and subsequently published a book descriptive
of the country.
Baron Wrangell took up the reins of government in 1831, at a time when the Hudson's Bay
Company was very active along the Pacific-
coast. The Russian and the English having the
same object in view, their interests frequently
clashed ; and both were many a time on the
verge of open rupture. The chief bone of contention was the Stakeen River. The mouth of
this river ran through Russian possessions*;
-while the Hudson's Bay Company, having posts
on its headwaters, claimed the privilege of supplying them through the Stakeen, without interference   from   the   Russians.    This   Wrangell Across   Widest   America
would not admit. The Russians knew they could
not compete with the Hudson's Bay people, who
possessed the richer fur districts in the interior,
and they determined to crush their rivals by
-starving them out. Wrangell built a redoubt at
the mouth of the Stakeen, and fired on several
of the British ships which attempted to carry
supplies up the river. Russian schooners patrolled the coast, with orders from Wrangell to
seize all vessels belonging to the English company. Unpleasant complications were threatening, when the cool heads of both monopolies
suggested a settlement by arbitration. Baron
Wrangell was censured by his government for
the drastic measures he had taken, and was ordered to Hamburg, where he met Sir George
•Simpson and a commission of the Hudson's Bay
Company. An amicable arrangement was arrived at, the chief clauses being restriction as to
hunting-grounds and the lease of the strip of disputed territory along the Stakeen to the Hudson's
Bay Company for an annual tribute of otter-skins.
In 1836, Kuprianof succeeded Wrangell and
signalised his administration more by exploration than by fur-hunting. He sent pioneer parties along the Arctic coast and up the Yukon, Across    Widest   America       127
then known as the Kuikhpak. Lieutenant Tebe-
nof built a fort on St. Michael's Island, in the
delta of that mighty river. Kashevarof reached
Point Barrow, seven hundred miles north of
Nome. Malakof and Glazunof explored the valleys of the Kuskokwim and Nushagak. Malakof
went up the Yukon as far as Nulato, but the hostile attitude of the Tinneh tribe prevented his
further progress. The natives even destroyed the
station which the Russians had built at that
A smallpox epidemic appeared in the colony in
1836, and raged for nearly four years. Petroff
tells us that among the native children and the
Russian half-breeds, the mortality was inconsiderable, whereas nearly all the old and middle-
aged people, especially among the Thlinkets, fell
victims to the disease. In Sitka, four hundred
deaths occurred, and on the Island of Kadiak,
seven hundred and thirty. Along the coast eastward from Cook's Inlet, ^ve hundred were attacked by the dread malady, of whom over two
hundred died.
This fearful visitation left the colony in a crippled condition. Whole villages were on the verge
of starvation,  and the natives   wandered  from 128
Across   Widest   America
place to place in search of better hunting and
fishing grounds. When Etolin succeeded to the
chief-managership, in 1840, he partially solved
the problem of feeding them. He brought the
scattered remnants together, established large-
villages, and made the chiefs responsible for the
gathering of food supplies and the maintenance
of store-houses, a measure which succeeded well
enough on the Aleutian Islands and in the coastal
The second term of the Russian-American charter expired in 1841, and was renewed only in
1844. The government took three years to deliberate over some of its clauses, but the rights and
privileges of the company were renewed and even
augmented. The colonial system of government,
heretofore centred in one man, was modified by
the establishment of a council, composed of an
assistant chief manager and two or three naval
officers stationed in the colony. This council,
whose functions were rather advisory than executive, unfortunately did not prove a strong factor
in the commercial affairs of Aliaska-land. Baron
Wrangell's administration had let the expenses
of the company exceed the income. The heaviest
drain on him had been the payment of salaries r  Across Widest   America
to aged and infirm employees who -were no longer
able to serve the company. A remedy was devised for this by pensioning off all faithful servants whose usefulness was gone, and by fixing
them on homesteads.
The second great source of expense and wasted
energy was the Russian mania for exploration,
a mania that ultimately proved fatal to the
company itself. The presence of naval officers
in the advisory council had an unlooked-for effect.
The men selected were good officers but inferior
merchants. Instead of trying to make money
for their company by traffic in furs, they turned
their attention to shipbuilding and mining. " The
shipyard at Sitka," writes Petroff, "was as
complete as any similar establishment in the
Russian empire, being, provided with all kinds of
-workshops and foundries, including one for the
making of nautical instruments. Experiments
were made in the manufacture of brick and
woodenware, while new material was imported
from California for the manufacture of woollen
stuffs. For all these enterprises skilled labor had
to be brought from Russia at great expense,
which circumstance will sufficiently explain the
failure attending the attempts.   Vast sums were 130
Across   Widest  America
also wasted in endeavors to extract iron from a
very inferior grade of ore found in various sections of the country. The only real advantage
the company ever reaped from its many workshops in Sitka, was the manufacture of agricultural implements for the ignorant and indolent
rancheros of California, thousands of plowshares
of a very primitive pattern being made at Sitka
for the Californian and Mexican markets. Axes,
hatchets, spades and hoes, were also turned out
by the industrious workmen of the Sitka shipyard, while the foundry was tor some time engaged in casting bells for the Catholic missions
on the Pacific coast. Many of these bells are still
in existence, and bear witness to an early, though
perhaps abnormal, development of industry on
that northern coast."
Events proved that this development was
abnormal. The energies of the company wrere
turned from fur-hunting, its primary source of
revenue, to other commercial side-issues and to
costly explorations of the interior of the vast
Chroniclers have much greater reason to think
well of this policy of development than had the
shareholders of the Russian-American Company; Across   Widest  America
it has given them a good many documents of
great historic interest. The most successful of
the explorers, in the middle of the last century
was Lieutenant Zagoskin. In 1842, he journeyed
along Norton Sound and crossed overland to the
Yukon. In the winter of 1843, he -went up to Nu-
lato, and made an unsuccessful attempt to reach
Kotzebue Sound. In the spring, he advanced
one hundred miles above Nulato. Owing to the
threatening attitude of the natives, he turned
back and crossed over the tundra to Ikogmute,
on the Kuskowim. In 1844, he established himself at Redoubt Kalmakovsky, on the same river,
and thoroughly explored the surrounding country
before he returned to Sitka. Zagoskin has described these travels in a volume which is replete
with interesting details of the home life and
customs of the native tribes he fell in with, in
the Eskimo and Athabaskan regions.
Etolin's successor, Tebenof, to whom hydrography is indebted for one of the best coast maps
of Alaska ever published, continued the policy of his
immediate predecessors. He brought the colonial
fleet to a high state of effectiveness, but he knew
nothing of the fur trade, and did no more for it
than those who preceded him: and as a conse- 132       Across    Widest   America
quence, the shares of the company continued to
decline in value.
The discovery of gold in California, in 1848,
again brought Russia into contact with Spanish-
America, and gave a fresh impulse to trade. Those
were the days when the Pacific coast was reached
by sailing around the Horn; and the Russian
stores at Sitka, and on Kadiak Island, were
practically the nearest supply depots. Tebenof
shipped tons of shopworn, unsaleable goods that
had lain for years in the company's warehouses
in Alaska, and sold them to the miners at a large
profit. Other commodities continued to be sent
south, such as ice and coal, salt fish and timber,
and a lucrative trade sprang up on the Pacific.
In 1851, Tebenof was relieved by Rosenberg
as head of the Russian colony. This manager was
preparing to extend the Pacific trade still further,
when the Crimean war broke out and reduced
to a mere nothing a commerce which stood
in continual danger of being interfered with by
English vessels.
The representatives of the Russian-American
and. Hudson's Bay Companies met in London,
where they drew up a agreement of neutrality ;
and intercolonial traffic went on as usual. During Across   Widest America
that disastrous war, which involved a large
portion of Europe, the North Pacific was not
wholly free from hostilities. Skirmishes took place
here and there between the belligerent parties,
while British cruisers captured seven of the Russian ships. One of these, the Sitka, fell into the
enemy's hands only at the end of a successful
voyage around the world. "She had escaped
the notice of all the English squadrons scouring
the oceans," writes Petroff, "when at length in
the vicinity of the Kamchatkan coast, she was
hailed by a frigate and obliged to surrender."
During the war, several encounters took place on
the Siberian coast between the Russia and the
allied fleets, notably in the unsuccessful attack
made by the English and French ships on the
harbor of Petropaulovsk.
In all these years, strange to say, whaling had
never entered into the programme of the Russian-
American Company, although New England had
profited largely by this industry. As far back
as 1841, fifty ships from Boston and New Bedford
roamed over Bering Sea and the Arctic, every
year, and returned home, at the end of the season,
laden with blubber and whalebone. It was the
whalers' custom to land in the Aleutian Islands 134
Across   Widest  America
and "try out," that is, melt and boil the
fresh blubber, a practice which finally became a
nuisance, as the smoke and stench drove the
precious sea-otter away. Tebenof and his immediate successors, Rosenberg andVoievodsky, more
than once suggested to the Russians to go into
the whaling business themselves as the best
means of putting down their American rivals.
These suggestions were acted upon in 1850,
When a charter was granted to a number of
shareholders of the company, under the title of
the "Russian-Finland-Whaling Company." For
several years ships, manned by Russians and
Finns, scoured the North Pacific and Arctic, with
but indifferent success. The new company's interests were too closely united with the older one,
which was becoming more and more embarassed
every year.
Voievodsky's administration was marked by
the same extravagance as that of his predecessors,
the revenues of the colony were being frittered
away in useless explorations or in barren efforts
to foster valueless industries. The Russian-American Company was running deeply into debt ; and
while desirous of continuing its operations, it endeavored to transfer to the imperial government Across   Widest   America
the expense of maintaining imperial authority in
Alaska. The Crimean war had drained Russia
to such an extent that the home government
would not entertain the proposal.
However, as a preliminary to some action or
other, two state officials, Kostlivitzof and Golo-
vin, were sent to Alaska to inspect the company's
affairs. They compiled voluminous reports, but
their work only mystified the imperial senate
and the ministry of commerce. It was impossible to reconcile the interests of the company's
and those of the - government; and the affair
rested there.
In 1859, Voievodsky was succeeded by Furn-
helm, during whose term of office the charter of
the company expired. No renewal was granted,
nor indeed -was any asked for. In fact, negotiations were begun between Secretary Seward and
the ambassador of the Czar, at Washington, for
the transfer of the Russian possessions in America
to the United States.
The civil war put an end to negociations for a
time, but with the restoration of peace in 1865,
the question was taken up again. A very determined opposition was made in Congress to the
acquisition   of Alaska.   One representative from
i 136       Across   Widest   America
Missouri said in a speech that the acquisition of
this inhospitable and barren waste would never
add one dollar to the wealth of the country or
furnish homes for its people. To suppose, that
"any one would willingly leave the mild climate
and fruitful soil of the United States, with its
newspapers and churches, its railways and commerce, its civilization and refinement, to seek a
home in Alaska, is to suppose such a person insane." Another congressman declared that "no
man, except one insane enough to buy the earthquakes of the West Indies and the icefields of
Greenland, could be found to agree to any other
terms for the acquisition of Alaska to the United
States than its acceptance as a free gift." Still
another called it "an inhospitable, wretched, Godforsaken region, worth nothing, but a positive
injury and incumbrance as a colony to the United
After a long debate in Congress, and in spite
of opposition which was both fierce and strong,
the cession of the present territory, eleven hundred miles long and eight hundred wide, more
extensive indeed than the thirteen original States
of the Union, with California thrown in, and having moreover a coast-line of thirty-one thousand Across   Widest America
miles, which is thus longer than the coast-line of
the United States, was made over to the Republic
for the sum of $7,200,000.
The true inwardness of the international deal
whereby a big slice of this continent -was turned
over to the United States, has, I believe, never
been given to the public. A couple of years ago,
the New York papers published an article purporting to give the motives of what was described
as a fine piece of diplomatic jugglery. I give here
the substance of the article, without vouching
for its accuracy. When the British government
demanded the immediate release of Mason and
Slidell, during the civil war, a Russian fleet of
seven vessels, whether by accident or design,
dropped anchor off Cape Charles and Henry. The
legend has it that the Russian admiral notified
President Lincoln that the fleet was at his disposal. Fortunately, its services were not required;
but when General Grant became president it was
determined to reward Russia for her good will
during the "dark days of the war," and for the
expenses she might have incurred in maintaining
a fleet in American waters. The most delicate
way of carrying out the intention, without
wounding British  susceptibilities, was to vote a 138
Across   Widest  America
sum in open Congress and take over Alaska,
which the Russian government had begun to look
upon, in recent years, as a sort of white elephant
on its hands.
The ceremony of the transfer was held at
Sitka, in October, 1867. American and Russian
war-ships were drawn up in line ; General Rousseau acting as commissioner for the United States
and Prince Maksutof, the military governor, filling the same office for the Russians. "With the
roll of drums," writes Petroff, "and the discharge
of musketry, the imperial eagle of Russia descended, and the Stars and Stripes rose into the murky atmosphere of an Alaskan autumn day. The
Princess Maksutof wept at the spectacle, and
Nature seemed to keep her company, drenching to
, the skin all the participants in the ceremony. The
native Indians, in their canoes, witnessed it from
a distance, listening stolidly to the booming of
the cannon, and gazing with indifference upon the
descending and ascending flags. Of the nature of
the proceedings they had but a faint and imperfect conception. But one thing they did realize :
that the country they once imagined themselves
to own, was now being transferred to a strange
people." Across   Widest  America
After the transfer, the Russians were allowed
two years to wind up their business and to take
home to Europe all who wished to return. The
Americans soon made their presence felt in their
newly-acquired territory. In less than a week
after the flags -were exchanged, several new stores
were built at Sitka, besides two ten-pin alleys,
drinking saloons, and restaurants. All sorts and
conditions of men flocked thither, pioneers and
squatters, aspirants for political honors and
emoluments. "Before the first sunset gun was
fired," continues the official report, "preemption
stakes dotted the ground ; the air was full of
rumors of framing a city charter, creating laws
and remuneratives offices ; and it was not long
before an election was held for town officials, at
which over a hundred votes were polled for
nearly as many candidates."
The Russian population looked on in wonder
at this new activity. They were startled at the
innovations, but with true Russian hospitality,
they -welcomed the newcomers. Officials and
laborers of the old regime opened their doors to
them, a privilege which was shamefully abused.
Robberies and assaults became the order of the
day, until at last the peaceable inhabitants were m
Across   Widest  America
compelled to lock their doors at nightfall, not
daring to move about till the bugle sounded in
the morning. It was the hoodlum vanguard
that had come to reap the first fruits of American domination in Alaska. Fortunately, the presence of soldiery prevented any great excesses ;
law and order soon made themselves felt not
only in Sitka but along the coast, where, during
the past thirty-five years, American enterprise, as
exemplified in the great commercial companies,
has extended itself to fisheries and furs, and in
recent years, to mining.
Few acquisitions made by the United States
have turned out so profitably for that nation.
From 1871 to 1900 inclusively, the Federal treasury received from the leasing of the seal islands
alone $7,607,820, a sum larger than that paid
for the whole territory. During the same period,
the Alaskan forests and mines yielded profits
amounting to $40,000,000 ; the fisheries and fur
trade, $100,000,000. The last six years have
shown that Alaska has only begun to open up
its wealth. The latest discovery has been the
gold placer beds on the shore of Bering Sea, near
The Bering Coast—Placer Mining—A
Trip to the Arctic
\ X 7E sighted Nome at nine o'clock on the evening
of July 12. Three hours later, the good ship
Roanoke dropped anchor in front of the town, a
couple of miles from the shore. It was midnight,
but still broad daylight: we wrere in the Land of
the Midnight Sun. The houses and tents over
yonder were the famous mining camp. I could
hear the surf beating wildly against the desolate-
looking beach, and hushing to sleep the wreary
miners, among whom, for two years to come, I
was to live, and work, and try to raise their
minds and hearts to things less perishable than
The Bering sea has the reputation among
sailors of quickly lashing itself into a fury strong
enough to keep any one from landing on its beach.
That is what it did for us. Just as we were ready
to go ashore, the light wind stiffened into a gale,
which set the surf a-rolling in on the sand with
deafening roars ; and we had the privilege, if such
it was, of viewing Nome from the Roanoke during more than forty-eight hours of uninterrupted
daylight. 142
Across   Widest  America
From the sea, the town looked quite respectable. Houses, cabins, tents, large and small,
extended for a couple of miles along the beach.
Large commercial warehouses, recognized by their
lofty lightering-derricks, stood prominently in the
foreground; behind them rose the hotels and stores
and other buildings; while, beyond these and
towering high above everything else, appeared
the Catholic church whose lofty spire, tipped with
a golden cross, gave such a civilized and homelike
air to this scene in the Far Northland, that my
first impressions of Nome were decidedly favor*
able. Here was surely not a mining-camp, hardly
three years old, but a good-sized city.
It was a startling experience, when one stepped
ashore at last, to find oneself on a street planked
from side to side, and lined with -wholesale and
retail stores, hotels, banks, and official buildings;
to hear newsboys crying out the daily papers, and
to see telephone and electric light wires strung
overhead. Some one suggested that all the town
needed now were the trolley-cars and a university.
Nome takes its name from a cape fifteen miles
down the coast, and owes its existence to the
tremendous inrush of miners in 1900. The town
is built on the spot where the miners landed, at Across   Widest  America        143
the mouth of Snake River, and, when examined
closely, is really only one long street, with a few
small cross and parallel streets here and there, to
relieve the pressure of the population.
There are hills in the background, four or five
miles away; and the tundra, which lies between
them and the beach, is covered with Arctic moss
and grass of a dull yellowish and brown color.
The moss, which resembles white coral, creeps
close to the ground, but the grass grows in tufts,
sometimes a foot or two in height. These tufts
are hard and round, and make walking almost
impossible. They are the "nigger-heads," so well
known in Alaska, and so thoroughly detested by
prospectors who have to trudge—or "mush", as
they call it here—over the tundra. The whole
aspect of this section of the country is one of
barrenness and desolation, which is scarcely relieved by the fact that not a tree grows within
a radius of seventy-five miles from Nome.
Several small rivers flow through the hills
southward into Bering Sea; one of them, the
Snake River, cutting Nome in two. The valleys of
those streams are broad, and were undoubtedly
the beds of large rivers in former ages. Gravel
and   sand   brought down from the hill-sides to 144      Across   Widest   America
those old channels, are found in various thicknesses under a few feet of decayed moss and
grass; and there placer gold lies in considerable
quantities. It was the discovery of auriferous
gravel, in 1898, which gave, and is still giving,
importance to Nome, and, in fact, to the whole
of Northwestern Alaska.
Gold was known to exist along this Bering
coast long before 1898. The only whitemen who
ever visited these latitudes were American whalers
and Russians, and in later years, the men of the
United States revenue service. These, I learned,
had often found indications of gold in the beach-
sands ; but the great discovery of 1898, like
many similar ones, was the result of mere chance,
and had not the faintest element of romance
about it..--fj|j|||
In July of that year, three miners left Chinik,
the Swedish mission, on Golovin Bay, eighty
miles east of Nome, to look for gold quartz
along the northwest coast. When they reached
the Snake River, a heavy Bering gale suddenly
overtook them, washing their little schooner
ashore. While waiting for the storm to blow-
over, the three men prospected up along Snake
River  and   one   of its  tributaries, Anvil Creek. PROSPECTOR "PANNING" FOR GOLD
■BBwl""' &»*»»3M||j»fS
iff -iHhE
PANNING " FOR GOLD IN WINTER  Across   Widest   America      145
In both places they found placer gold. They
returned to Golovin Bay, without having taken
the precaution of securing legal rights over their
claims by staking them. It was their ignorance
of the mining laws, or their desire to keep their
discovery to themselves — they never said which
—that made them lose the richest placer claims
yet found in that part of Alaska. For some
one gave the hint to three Swedes, Lindbloom,
Lindberg and Bryneston, names now well-known
in Nome, who sailed up to Snake River, staked
all the property and left the original finders out
in the cold. When the miner who told me this
story had concluded, I ventured to remark that
that was a pretty mean transaction on the part
of the Swedes. He replied: " Oh! that's nothing !
We're in Alaska, you know! You'll see worse
tricks than that, if you stay in this country
The discovery of those placer beds was the
forerunner of other finds more important still.
Gold was found in the following spring on Nome
beach, and in such quantities that experts have
admitted that all the beach-diggings in the world
grouped together could not compare with the
sands of the Bering coast.
il 146      Across   Widest   America
When the news of the Nome discoveries reached the outside world, the Klondike fever was at
its height. On my -way from Revelstoke to
Rossland, in 1899, I met a miner who had just
had a letter from a friend telling him to drop
immediately any position he held, -were it even
a governorship, and take the first steamer for
Nome. That was the first time I heard a name
which has since become a by-word in the mining
world, as common as Klondike itself, and which
has given Alaska an importance the country
never had before.
On August 5th, 1899, four hundred miners,
hailing from the Yukon, from the Klondike
region, or from Seattle, were gathering in gold
from the beach sands. Five days later, there were
a thousand at work "panning," and averaging
an ounce of dust a day, or sixteen dollars a
man. By October, two thousand miners had
pitched their tents in one unbroken line along
the beach. Gold was found a few feet below the
surface, and for the mere rocking, began to yield
from five to seventy dollars a day; many men
making as high as a hundred. Three miners
took out nine thousand dollars in three days
from   a   hole four feet by twelve;  they  made Across   Widest   America      147
thirty-two thousand dollars in forty days. During that short season of 1898, nearly two million
dollars were taken from the sands of Nome.
This news soon spread to the world outside,
but the cold Arctic winter kept the outside world
at bay. It was reserved for the spring of 1900
to witness a sight rarely seen in a life-time. The
fame of Nome had become so great that the
mining centres of the world simply stampeded
northward. People rushed in from every clime ;
even Africa and Australia sent their contingents.
Scores of steamers, coming from San Francisco
or Seattle, were gorged with gold-seekers. Four
thousand men landed on the beach in one day.
Before the summer was half over, thirty thousand people, men and women, were camped at
Nome, rocking and panning for gold. The beach
was literally covered for miles with Swedes,
Dutch, Japanese, Irish, Scotch, French, English,
and a dozen nationalities besides. So dense was
the crowd, that a miner told me he had to pay
a neighbor of his the sum of two dollars to
move a canoe, so as to give him room to pitch
his tent.
The one ambition of those motley thousands
was to gather in the yellow dust as quickly as 148
Across   WTidest   America
possible, and then to get out of the country just
as quickly. That was their ambition; but they
failed to count with fickle fortune. Large sums
of money were, indeed, taken out, many miners
securing independence ; but the greater number
came out of the fray as rich as the traditional
church-mouse. The gold-yield of the Nome beach
dwindled down, and thousands of disappointed
fortune-seekers clamored for the means to take
them out of that Arctic ice-trap.
Those were the commercial results of the
summer, but the demoralizing effects on the
miners were just as disastrous. The year 1900
will be known in Nome annals as the year of
the " big stampede "; and if the tales that I had
to listen to there are, half of them, true, the
scenes on the beach during that year must have
beggared description. Thirty thousand men, and
not a few women, of all classes and nations,
dragged thither by greedy transportation companies, were dumped out on a coast nearly
three thousand miles from -white civilization. No
provision had been made for the preservation of
order; and as many disreputable characters and
cut-throats had found their way thither with the
miners, they made their presence felt in various Across   Wridest   America      149
and disagreeable ways. The canvas city of Nome
-was alive with gambling-sharks and -whiskey-
sellers who pocketed the miners' gold-dust without panning for it. Discontent and disappointment grew as the season advanced; and the fear
of having to begin the eight months of an Alaskan winter, without food or shelter, drove many
to acts of desperation, as the little cemetery
down by the beach testifies. Plundering, and
other deeds of violence, became so frequent that
martial law had to be proclaimed. In the end,
a certain amount of order was brought out of
chaos; but the Government of the United States
had to send transport ships to take back to
civilization thousands of sadder but wiser men.
And thus ended the Odyssey of 1900.
All the miners did not leave the country, however. There were among them many old "sourdoughs " from Montana and California, and disgruntled Klondikers, -who had come from Dawson, nineteen hundred miles up the Yukon, and
wrho wisely reasoned that since so much gold
had been found in the beach-sands, there must
plainly be much more left on the hill-sides yonder, and in the many creeks running down into
the Bering Sea.    The discovery of placers on the 150
Across   Widest  America
Snake River and on Anvil Creek brought conviction to their minds, and they began to spread
out in skirmishing order to sink holes along the
hundreds of creeks and gulches draining Seward
This peninsula, in which Nome and its interests are centred, is called after the statesman
wrho worked so successfully to make Alaska a
colony of the United States. It is the irregular
land mass projecting from the western coast of
Alaska westward to within forty-six miles of
Asia, from which it is separated by the Bering
Strait. It lies between the Bering Sea and the
Arctic Ocean, and is itself cut off from the rest
of the continent on the south by Norton Sound,
a deep indentation of Bering [Sea, and on the
north by Kotzebue Sound, an inlet of the Arctic
Ocean. Seward Peninsula was a lone, barren,
valueless land until the gold rush, six years ago,
when prospectors began to climb its hills and
cross its tundra, giving a name and a value to
every creek and channel.
"Prospecting," in the miner's vocabulary,
means hunting for precious metals, but in Alaska
it means something more. To realize this one has
but to see those men trudging out from Nome, Across   Widest America
laden like beasts of burden, with tents and bedding, and a food-supply for months. I have
seen miners starting out with bundles on their
backs that looked as big as healthy baby elephants. Those expeditions would be easy enough
if beaten trails were followed; but tramping over
beaten trails is precisely what prospectors may
not do. Their terminus is always some new-
creek or hill, into which no one has ever sunk a
pick or shovel; for their success lies in discovering new placers or quartz-ledges. These being
the conditions, the physical sufferings of prospecting miners are naturally very severe. They
often lose themselves among the hills in summer,
and oftener still, get frozen in the dreadful Alaskan blizzards. I have frequently conversed with
bronzed old miners, and listened to heart-rending
stories of destitution, and graphic accounts of
the despair which seizes them when they are
astray among the hills, and see death by starvation staring them in the face.
One case I recall as I write, of three men wha
were lost and starving in the neighborhood of
Teller. When all their food was gone, they subsisted for several days on their buffalo-robes and
boot-legs.   When these gave  out, one  man ac-
1 152
Across   Widest   America
tually died of starvation, and the other two
were mustering up courage to eat of his flesh,
when happily they were rescued.
Besides death by starvation, many miners lose
their lives by drowning or freezing. Sooner or
later they are found by other miners; but there
is a sad aspect to their fate. Men are mostly
strangers to each other in Alaska. In a mining-
camp, for obvious reasons, it is not considered
good form to ask a man who he is, or where he
came from. So that it too often happens that
when dead men are found on trails, or lying on
the beach, no one knows who they are or anything about them. Sometimes they are buried
on the spot where they are found; sometimes,
when it is not far and does not entail too much
trouble, they are brought to some centre of
population. In the cemetery at Nome there are
several graves of men whose identity will never
"be known. Charitable hands have raised a cross
or a slab over their remains; but the words
""Unknown," or "Found drowned," or "Found
on the trail," is a melancholy epitaph to put
over a grave when you are morally certain that
in desolate homes, somewhere in the outside
world, there are mothers, or wives, or children, Across   Widest  America
shedding anxious tears over the continued silence
of loved ones in Alaska. I had some sad duties
to perform in this respect during my first few-
months in Alaska; and I know, alas! that the
silence of several absent miners will not be broken
on this side of the grave. But the greed for gold
is something that these lesser tragedies of life
cannot stifle, and in Alaska, as elsewhere, when
one man drops there are others to take his
The work of prospecting inland for placer-
beds was begun in earnest in the spring of 1901 >
and from the beginning, success crowned the
efforts of the miners. Results have shown that
there is gold in all the creeks of Seward Peninsula. The beds of ancient rivers — and there are
many such up there — filled with shifting gravel
and erosions from the hillsides, are being thoroughly inspected, and usually turn out very rich,
every hillside hitherto touched with the pick and
shovel yielding gold dust in more or less paying
quantities. Notwithstanding the limited number
of the miners, and the shortness of the working
season, less than five months, five million dollars
in gold-dust have been washed out of the Seward
Peninsula every year since the discovery. Across   Widest   America
There is, however, one drawback to placer-
mining in that country. Individual miners, whc*
have so far had the Peninsula to themselves,,
have learned by experience that single-handed
they cannot fight against the climate and the
short season. Four months out of twelve is the
limit of a miner's activity; the other eight are
spent in forced idleness. Capital, therefore, is-
needed to develop the claims on a large scaler
and to work them out quickly. Just as soon
as capitalists awake to the possibilities of that
wonderful country, a period of tremendous activity and corresponding prosperity will surely
set in.
And still it is the solitary miner, with his pan
and shovel, his tent and outfit, who prowls
about the hills and discovers the gold. One of
the symptoms of the gold fever is the desire to
go prospecting for the metal, the farther away
the better. Since 1900, the whole of Seward
Peninsula has been tramped over a dozen times
from Norton Bay to Kotzebue Sound. There are
many streams draining it northward into the
Arctic, notably the Kougarok, Imnachuk, and
Keewalik. The Keewalik has several tributaries,
one of which is Candle Creek.    Promising placer Across   Widest   America       155
mines were discovered there in 1902, and, as
usual, there was a stampede to stake claims and
form a camp.
Camp formation in Alaska is not a very complicated work,— a few tents, a couple of general stores and eating houses, ten or twelve
saloons, each furnished with its gambling outfit,
and that is all. Gambling is apparently an inseparable adjunct of a mining camp. This has
been true of Nome since the in-rush of 1900, and
particularly so since the Canadian authorities
closed all the gambling-dens in Dawson, three
years ago. When the order from Ottawa was
put in force, the whole gambling fraternity, with
their wheels, faro banks, crap tables and other
paraphernalia, shook the Klondike dust from off
their feet, and sailed down the Yukon to Nome.
There they found plenty of people waiting and
willing to be victimized. It is over the crap table,
or faro bank, that fools and their money part
company in Alaska. Thousands of dollars in
gold dust and nuggets, the profits of a hard
season's labor, go in a few minutes from the
miner's "poke" to the gambler's pocket; and
strange as it may seen, there are always more
victims than can be accomodated.
I 156
Across   Widest   America
Candle Creek was in the full enjoyment of
these privileges of advanced civilization when I
made a visit there—my first missionary trip outside Nome—up through Bering Strait and into
Kotzebue Sound. The vessel which carried us,
the Saidie, was a small round-bottomed tug-boat.
Being built with paddle-wheels for towing service
on the shallow waters of the Yukon, she rolled
like a log in the Arctic; and all on board grew
deadly seasick. This was the third visit I had
from that dreaded enemy in six months. I had
paid tribute to Neptune in the Atlantic ; again
in the Pacific. It was now the turn of the
Arctic. If some unlooked-for accident had taken
me to the Antarctic, my circle of misery would
have been complete.
The sleeping-berths on the Saidie -were built
round a room which served for dining-hall, card-
table, etc., and when the time came to retire, we
had to pack ourselves away in tiers like bales of
cotton in a country store. An accommodating
steward gave me a middle berth, which was neither too high nor too low ; on the Arctic, one accepts a middle berth as he does a lower Pullman
on the prairies. Below me was a Laplander who
had charge of the government reindeer at some • Across   Widest   America
northern station. Above me -was an old miner
from Southern California, who, however well he
could stand the earthquakes of his native soil,
was not proof against the rolling and heaving-
of the Arctic.
On our way north, we stopped at Teller, on
Port Clarence, a small harbor, which had been
in former years, and is still, in fact, a favorite
haven of refuge for Arctic whalers ; it is also a
port of traffic, for the rich Gold Run and Blue-
stone placer country.
We were rather unlucky in our passage
through Bering Strait. The weather was hazy
and disagreeable, and there was no sight of Asia
to be had. But we got a reasonably clear view of
Cape Prince of Wales, the extreme westerly point
of the American mainland. I was now seven
thousand miles from Cape Spear, Newfoundland,
and I had completed my trip across widest
The lofty promontory jutting out into the
strait, surrounded at the base by a low level
sandspit, resembles in many. details the old rock
on which Quebec is built. Everything is there to
remind you of the Laurentian city, the king's bastion, the terrace, the plains, etc.   Kinegan, a native Across   Widest   America *
village  of Mahlamutes, at the base of the promontory, completes the picture.
There is a mission of some sect or other at
work among the Mahlamutes at the Cape, but
if we are to believe the reports of miners and
revenue service men, the conversion of those
heathen Eskimos holds a secondary place, when
compared with the traffic in furs and ivory. The
last incumbent, I learned, retired from active missionary labor there, with a fortune to his credit.
When I expressed surprise at that kind of zeal,
I was told it was worth a fortune to live in such
a land and so far away from the blessings of
We followed the American coast not too
closely, passed Schismareff Inlet, crossed the Arctic
Circle and sailed round Cape Espenberg on our
way to Kotzebue Sound. The sound is a portion of the Arctic, and is almost an inland sea»
The waves in it were so fierce and choppy that
the Sadie had to run for shelter behind Cha-
misso Island and lie to for fifteen hours. This
delay gave us the opportunity we were looking
for of visiting some Russian and British monuments on the island, commemorating the visits
of exploring vessels from 1828 to 1848.   We also Across   Widest   America      159
met with a couple of newly-made mounds over
poor whalers who will wait in their frozen
graves, cheating worms and dissolution, till the
day of judgment.
Kotzebue and Chamisso are names which
recall a period of active exploration in Arctic
waters during the Russian domination. Our skipper, Capt. Rickmers, gave me many details about
those two men! August von Kotzebue was a
German writer and naturalist, who did extensive
travelling in the first quarter of the last century.
He discovered the sound in 1816, and returned to
Germany, where he was murdered by a student
in 1819. Adalbert Chamisso was also a German
naturalist and poet, who joined a scientific expedition around the world in 1818. The names
of these two distinguished Germans are living
things up in the Arctic; but not one of us besides
the skipper knew anything about the men who
once bore them.   Such is fame !
Captain Rickmers, besides being a well-read
man, was one of the most communicative and
interesting fellow-travellers it has been my lot to
meet. He is still quite young, a native of Heligoland, but he has knocked about this planet a
great deal.   He makes it a rule of his life, a very Across   WTidest   America
commendable one, to learn all about aj'new*
country, historically, topographically and otherwise, whenever he visits it. This is his secret ;:
and what he does not know about the Bering
and Arctic coasts may be discarded as useless-
lore. Facts and dates fall from his lips in a
wondrous way, rendering my voyage to Keewalik and Candle Creek both pleasant and
When the storm abated, the Saidie steamed!
out from behind Chamisso Islands while a Dane
and an Eskimo came in a lugger to pilot us into
Keewalik harbor. From there to Candle mining'
camp I had twelve miles to cover in a gasoline
barge, the Keewalik Flyer, which, by the wayr
was very slow. It took us four or five hours to
make the trip through the tortuous, shallow
Keewalik; and one morning at five o'clock, my
portable chapel and I were put ashore in the
mud, in the midst of a drenching shower of rain.
I was wet quite through, and I did not know
which way to turn. There were a few substantial log cabins and several canvas tents built
along the water's edge; there were others on the
tundra in the rear; but everything in the camp
was   in   a  primitive  state.   It  was  still   early SLUICING   IN   THE   NEIGHBORHOOD   OF   NOME
MINERS   ENJOYING   A   FRJENDLY   GAME  Across  Widest   America
morning ; so I sat down on a log, an object of
platonic interest to a couple of Eskimos who
were passing in their kaiaks, and -waited until I
saw a sign of life somewhere. Presently smoke
came puffing out of a tent near by. I went over
and knocked at the canvas door. My surprise
was great when the welcome "Come" fell on my
ears in the richest of Milesian accents. Here,
under the shadow of the Arctic Circle, was a*
woman from Donegal, who had come to gather
nuggets in one of the frozen fastnessses of Alaska.
"And why did you take to mining?" I asked
her, later in the day. She did not keep me long
waiting for an answer.
"Because," said she, "taking gold from the
ground is taking what belongs to nobody but
God. He gives it to us direct; and this is the
honestest way of making a living,"
Before I left Kotzebue Sound, I met both sons
and daughters of Ireland, an object lesson of the
ubiquity of the race which is doing so much to
Catholicise the four quarters of the globe. The
Irish are numerous in Alaska, but so are the
Swedes, and Germans, and Finns, and French,
and a dozen other races, all differing in every
characteristic except their craving for gold. 162
Across   Widest  America
I learned only when I reached Candle Creek
that I had ill chosen my time for a missionary
visit to the camp. Rain had been pouring down
three days continuously, and had washed out all
the sluice-dams on the creek for twenty miles or
more. This was a misfortune no one was expecting ; in the present moment it was a catastrophe;
for it meant the almost total loss of the season's
work. Under the circumstances losing an hour
to go to Mass, or to hear an instruction, is an
item which is not down on an Alaskan miner's
programme, especially when he sees his sluice-
boxes floating down the stream; so I had to
restrict my ministry to the few unemployed who
were in the camp.
The fruit wras meagre; but I trust my visit was
not entirely useless. I had the consolation of offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the first time it
was ever offered in that distant part of the Arctic
shore. This is one of the souvenirs that grow
precious with age. I also gave an instruction to
the few present. Among the listeners, besides a
couple of natives and the Catholics, were half a
dozen Protestants. But the most of my hearers
made no claim to any form of religion; they came
merely to listen. Across   Widest  America
It is pathetic to witness the ignorance of those
rugged, old gold-miners in matters of religion,
and their utter indifference when one offers them
substantial soul-food. One would imagine that
the isolation of Alaskan camp-life, and the dangers miners are exposed to, would make them
reflect sometimes on their responsibilities and on
the end of things; but miners, as a rule, are not
much addicted to reflection. They listen to what
you have to say, but rarely does anything come
of it. The limited time one has to stay in a
camp puts any attempt at class instruction out
of the question.
The Saidie had gone back to Nome on a second
trip; and while awaiting her return, I spent a
whole week in utter inactivity, barring the efforts
I made during the cold nights to keep myself
warm. When I left Nome, the weather was
delightful; and my inexperience of conditions in
the Arctic was the only reason why I started out
without having made a provision of necessary
clothing and furs. But it is by such inadvertencies that one learns how to live.
Newcomers in Alaska are always criticising
the dress of the Eskimo, which, in truth, has
nothing picturesque about it; but a week under 164      Across   Widest   America
a canvas tent on Kotzebue Sound would do more
to convince a sceptic of the wisdom of the Eskimo
than a volume of essays. When the cold and
wind come in through the seams and under the
sides of your tent, when the water beside your
cot freezes half an inch thick in the middle of
August, you begin to take serious views of life.
It was a sight fit to make the angels smile to
see an inexperienced missionary twisting and
turning during five nights, searching in vain for
the warm side of the blanket. Rest there is none,
of course; and one does a great deal of thinking in
those long hours about the eternal unfitness of
some things, and how little one half the world
know what efforts the other half is making to—
sleep. A miner from San Francisco, who shared
the tent with me, and who also suffered from the
cold, wanted to know there and then, in language
bristling with epithets, why the United States
government did not seize the North Pole we hear
so much about, and chop it into fire-wood. We
could have easily used a few armfuls that week
on Candle Creek.
During the daytime I climbed and explored
the hills about Candle and Keewalik, chasing the
ptarmigan which rose in clouds at my approach, Across   Widest  America
studying the flora, and hunting for relics of the
mammoth. I was in the heart of what must
have been in past ages, a home of the woolly
mammoth. Gigantic teeth and tusks of formidable length, are plentiful in the whole country
bordering on Kotzebue Sound. A remark of the
philosophical old miner also struck me. If men
of wealth want to spend their money in the
interests of science, they could easily do so in
enriching state and provincial museums with
mammoth skeletons, instead of throwing away
thousands fitting out expeditions to find the
North Pole. My old mining friend evidently had a
grudge against the North Pole, for he exclaimed
one night in tones more vigorous than polite,
"What good will that blankety-blank old flag
staff do the Americans when they have found
A few thousand dollars spent in this region
in unearthing the bones of monstrous pachyderms would be profitably spent. Innumerable
remains have been found in Seward Peninsula
and up in the Yukon Valley. Whether the animals lived here thousands of years ago, or
whether their bones were brought in ice-floes
over from Siberia, where they exist in countless 166
Across   Widest  America
numbers, is a question for adepts to decide. A
complete skeleton is lying in a bed of ice in the
Buckland district, not far from Kotzebue Sound,
awaiting money to have it carefully raised and
conveyed a few miles to the coast, whence it
could be shipped to some college museum. I met
dozens of miners who had come upon teeth and
tusks of mastedons while digging for gold. Miners
are given to exaggeration, and their descriptions
of the shapes and sizes of those remains appeared
so improbable that I was not inclined to take
them seriously until I saw in the hands of private owners tusks which had been recently
found. Captain Rickmers had aboard the Saidie
a splendid spiral tusk nearly fourteen feet long.
The largest pair I saw, kept guard at the door
of the road-house I stayed in, at Keewalik. They
were both well preserved, each over twelve feet
long, and nine inches thick at the heavy end.
One weighed a hundred and sixty-eight pounds ;
the other, a hundred and seventy-two. It does
not take a very lively imagination to estimate
the size and strength of the pachyderm which
could carry about such offensive weapons as these.
The voyage back from the Arctic was much
more   satisfactory  than   the  voyage   up.    The Across   Widest  America
passage through Bering Strait was made on an
ideal afternoon. To the east of us stood two
lofty peaks, twenty miles away; these were the
Diomedes Islands keeping guard over the strait.
Farther south stood the lonely Fairway Rock, a
solitary monument marking the point of separation between the Arctic Ocean and Bering Sea.
Beyond the Diomedes and Fairway, the hazy,
blue line stretching along the horizon, made
clearer with the help of the skipper's marine-
glass, was the Siberian coast; and I had there
and then, my first glimpse of Asia.
It gives a novel twist to one's thoughts and
emotions to find oneself looking, for the first
time, on that ancient land where the story of
human joys and human miseries began. It was
only a glimpse I had, of a hazy indistinct line on
the horizon; but that was Asia; and -with one's
eyes fixed upon it, even a poor imagination could
readily make up for the lack of closer observation.
Cape Prince of Wales, which was so indistinct
and unsatisfactory on our way up, now stood
out clear and high, and reminded one more and
more of what Cape Diamond must have been
the day Jacques Carrier first set eyes on it.   One 168
Across   Widest   America
needs to sail through Bering Sea but once to
appreciate the schemes of the visionaries who
-would bridge its forty-six miles across. The
moving fields of ice which pass up and down
would soon make matchwood of the strongest
handiwork of man. Still, Cape Prince of Wales
is the nearest point to Asia, A day will surely
come when the steam whistles of locomotives
and gigantic ferry-boats will echo along those
lonely shores; and when it comes at last, the long
monopoly of the swarms of howling Mahlamute
doers will be at an end. CHAPTER IX
Council Mining Camp — The Life of an
Inland Miner
TV /T Y second journey, more prosaic, but not less
fruitful in experience of the conditions of
primitive living and travelling in Northwestern
Alaska, was the first trip I made to Council City,
ninety-five miles from Nome. Alaskans have a
fondness for calling their camps "cities." Council
City is only a cluster of cabins built on the
bank of the Neukluk, a branch of Fish River,
which, in its turn, flows through Golovin Bay
into Bering Sea. Sullivan City, the chief place of
the Gold Run district, is a hamlet composed of
a few tents, an eating-house and a bar-room,
according to the Irish-American from Iowa, after
-whom it is called. Nome itself is a city, for the
same reason that our Yankee cousins delight in
titles—mostly "tin" ones. We had in Nome
colonels, majors, fifteen or twenty judges—lawyers are all called "judges " here—and captains
Council is the commercial and " social" centre
of a large gold-producing district, the main creek
of which bears the suggestive name of Ophir. It
was  discovered even  before  Nome, and  turned 170
Across   Widest  America
out just as rich; but being situated in the interior of Seward Peninsula, is less easy of approach.
A trip thither in summer is not a pleasant sail
northward through Bering Strait into Arctic
waters, but a slow, tiresome journey from Chinik,
on Golovin Bay, in a long, flat horse-boat, sixty
or seventy miles northward, through shallow
streams and over innumerable sand-bars. Nothing can equal the monotony of sitting a whole
day and half a night, watching an antique nag
dragging and jerking behind him a couple of
hundred feet of rope, with the spectator sitting
in a scow at the end of it. When the mountains
of snow melt in the springtime, torrents of water
run down to the sea, carrying with them large
quantities of earth which form sand-bars and
change the course of the streams. Trees growing
on the banks are undermined by the irresistible
onrush of those spring freshets and tumble into
the water. They do not usually block the stream
completely, but they form dams and rapids formidable enough to test the navigating qualities of
an Alaskan boatman. The patient old horse,
with the instinct of a canal mule, climbs slowly
over the obstructions, while the flat-boat sails
round them.   If the man at the helm, generally Across   Widest  America
one of the passengers, fails to measure his
distance, the chances are that both scow and
passengers get entangled in the fallen trees.
Bucephalus, the motive power, always two hundred feet ahead of us, and most of the time out
of sight, has been trained to stop when he feels
a jerk at the rope, to give the boatmen time to
extricate themselves. But if the jerk is not strong
enough, the old horse forges ahead, the boat
ploughs through a cloud of branches lying in
the water. When the passengers escape with
face and hands unscathed and clothes untorn,
they put themselves down as lucky.
Two or three miles an hour is the average
speed of freighting up the Fish and Neukluk
Rivers. It gives one a chance to jump ashore
and examine the grasses and wild flowers which
swarm along the bank. The tundra is covered
with them in summer, but their stunted growth
bears witness to the rigors of the Arctic climate. Vegetation is forced to maturity in July ;
for, if we except a hot week now and then,
summer in Northwestern Alaska resembles May
or June in Canada. I made the trip to Council
in August, and the flowers were still in bloom,
with heads far too large for their stunted stems. 172
Across   Widest  America
Cranberries, salmon-berries, blueberries, the last-
named large and tasteless, were barely clinging
to the branches. Beneath the berry bushes were
different kinds of grasses, starting from the
water's edge and extending back to the hillsides.
They made the valley of the Neukluk resemble
our own beaver meadows. It was a rare pleasure
to meet with trees on the way up to Council;
an agreable change from the monotonous treeless
tundra around Nome and along the Bering and
Arctic coasts. The banks of the Neukluk were
lined with spruce, heavy forests of it, which, as
far as I could see, was none other than our own
Canadian species. The trees were there in thousands, also stunted in growth, but big enough
to build houses with and furnish firewood, wmich
is an important factor in the development of this
country. The forest is one of Nature's gifts to
the inland miner. The absence of wood on the
coast has been a serious obstacle to his progress.
When Nome was building, every board and beam
had to be brought in ships from the United
States, at a cost of two hundred to two hundred and fifty dollars a thousand feet. It takes
a great deal of the miner's gold dust to make
both ends meet when prices are so high. Across   Widest  America
After a tedious journey of a day and a half
in the flat boat, I reached Council City. The
night was pitch dark, and in stepping from the
boat, the rickety gangway slipped off. I fell into
the ice-cold water and got thoroughly soaked,
before a couple of willing hands pulled me on to
dry land. This was a predicament to be in at
midnight, in a strange mining camp. But people
in Alaska must practice resignation: so I set to
work to dry my clothes in a saloon near by,
where I also managed to secure a couch for the
rest of the night. Next morning, I was up and
about, thoroughly refreshed by the midnight bath
in the Neukluk.
Council is a typical miners' camping ground.
The inevitable gambling and liquor-selling elements occupy every point of vantage, and the
large commercial companies of Nome have branch
stores there to meet the miners' needs. I had
notes of introduction to a couple of families who
made me feel at once that 1 was not a stranger
in a strange land. The head of one was Dr.
Anton, a physician from Southern California;
the other was a shrewd New Yorker, Thomas
Dwyer, who helped to build the North Shore
railway between  Montreal  and Quebec   in the 174
Across   Widest  America
early eighties, and whose wife belongs to a well-
known French Canadian family.
The second day after my arrival was Sunday,
and I had to secure a hall to say Mass in. A
vacant loft over a store was the best place I
could find. But it was empty, and getting it
ready was not an easy matter. I went from
store to store and secured some twenty empty
wooden boxes. I then borrowed a dozen planks,
laid them across the boxes, swept the floor; and
the roughly-improvised chapel -was as ready as
my poor efforts could make it, to receive the
visit of the King of Kings. It has often been
my duty as a missionary to say Mass in similar
circumstances, and I can vouch for the consolations which such a duty brings with it. The
emotions, keen and sweet, which overpower one
while offering the Adorable Sacrifice, not in some
vast cathedral, and before thousands of well-
dressed worshippers, but in an abandoned loft
on the bleak hillside of a lonely Alaskan mining
camp, are favors, which, once experienced, one
would not willingly forego. At such moments
faith and devotion are granted in abundant
measure, and bring home to one the conviction
that God is with us, that He is surely with us, Across   Widest  America
even though there be only a few simple miners
to share in the happiness of His Divine Presence.
A week spent in a camp on Ophir Creek, five
miles from Council, taught me, I think, most of
the secrets of sluice-mining; and I felt how true
was the remark the good Irishwoman made to
me in the Arctic, that "taking gold out of the
ground is the honestest way of making a living."
Edward Dunn, the owner of Claim 10, a westerner of many years experience in Arizona and
Mexico, gave me a great deal of the information
I was looking for. He brought home to me the
fact that the mining world is a little world in
itself, with its own language, its own laws and
customs, a world that has attractions undreamt
of by an outsider. "Once a miner always a
miner," is a saying that is nearly true; for those
who begin to look for nuggets in early years
hardly ever break with the career. There is a
fascination in the life, fostered by the prospect
of some day "striking it rich," that keeps men
at it, year in and year out; and though nine
out of every ten miners feel that they will die
poor, they keep on digging till death comes to
end the worries of existence. There were men on
Ophir Creek who had worked in Coolgardie in 176      Across   W'idest   America
Western Australia; others who had come from
the gold fields of South Africa. One grey-haired
old miner whom I met there, had been for thirty
years in various parts of the world looking for
gold, and had never touched a "pay-streak." On
one occasion I told him frankly, that some day
he would be found lifeless on one of those Alaskan trails; and I asked him what good would
then have resulted from his feverish hunt after
perishable gold. But the old pagan did not see
things from my point of view. It was nuggets
he was after; the future might take care of
During the days at Ophir Creek, I went up
to the hills on both sides of the valley, and did
some botanizing after methods more sentimental
than scientific; although I met with quite a
number of plants which I could classify approxi-
matively. Tiny flowers -were everywhere in profusion, nestled under rocky crags and hidden
away- in crevices. With all the forces of Arctic
nature against them, they were toiling in their
short season to render beautiful this desolate
portion of God's footstool. Larkspur, monkshood, yellow poppy, violets in countless numbers,   and   away   up on   a  bleak  hillside, little   Across   Widest   America      177
"bluebells almost concealed from sight among the
rocks and mosses. The wild forget-me-not was
there to recall home and all its tender memories,
and I plucked a few and put them carefully
From my perch on the hill side I could see, a
mile off, the miners shovelling "pay-dirt" into
the sluice boxes. Below me lay the little Ophir
stream, -washing gold dust on its way to the
Neukluk. Three hundred feet above me, the
Sphinx of Ophir, a freak of nature carved in solid
rock, old and -weatherworn when its Egyptian
rival was yet unborn, looked down -with cold
indifference, heedless of the golden treasures that
lay for ages hidden at its feet.
We returned to Nome the same way we came,
this time, however, with the current, carrying
the horse and his driver back with us in the
scowT. I promised to make a second journey to
Council sometime during the winter, when perhaps an occasion would present itself of building
a church. This promise I kept under conditions
vastly different from my summer trip, as a future
chapter will relate.
The Autumn Exodus — Preparing for Winter
on the Bering Coast
^\NE'S first impressions of the Bering coast,
gleaned from school-books and pictures, are
generally a medley of fur-covered Eskimos and
dog-teams, northern lights and icebergs, with a
polar bear, or a walrus, thrown in for effect. But
impressions like these are ruthlessly shattered
when one sees miners in straw hats and shirtwaists, mopping the perspiration from their
brows, as they trudge along the Nome beach or
over the tundra.
During my first summer, Nome had spells of
weather tropically hot. The rays came down
mercilessly, chasing away the fogs and winds, and
leaving Bering Sea in the enjoyment of tranquil
sleep. During those sweltering moments, it is
easy for the people in Alaska to imagine that they
are in some southern clime. But hot days do
not come too often. Rarely are the bracing
breezes absent; and they give us such cool afternoons, followed by such delightful evenings, that
one becomes oblivious of the world he left behind
him. A walk along the sandy Bering beach, in
those endless Arctic twilights, when the breeze Across    Widest   America
is not too strong and the surf not too ugly, to
inhale life-giving ozone, is one of the few pleasures
of life in Alaska, one which the miners and their
families fully enjoy.
However, in a land where climatic conditions
present such strange contrasts, and where, in the
course of a few months, there will be twenty-
one hours of darkness out of the twenty-four, it
is not prudent to get enthusiastic over a few
weeks of fair weather. In the early part of the
summer, the presence of the sun shining till
eleven o'clock at night, its reappearance at two
in the morning, and the officious rays insinuating
themselves through every crack and pin-hole,
was rather an unwelcome novelty. Darken your
room as much as you liked, a stray pencil of
Alaskan daylight would always find you out, to
remind you that you were in a Land of Midnight Sun.
As the season advanced, the night began to
grow dark, and you felt that you were again in
Eastern Canada. With a difference, however; our
fair land, prodigal as it is of Nature's beauties,
never gave us the sunsets it was my privilege to
witness in Nome during the months of September
and October.    Nor is the phenomenon confined 180
Across   Widest   America
to the Bering coast; all Alaska enjoys the
wondrous spectacle. When evening comes on,
and the sun begins to sink, the whole western
sky is ablaze with color, shading off imperceptibly
from deep azure overhead to the brightest
orange on the hill-tops. Every cloud is crimsoned, and every rift reveals the orange background. When myriads of warm opalescent tints
begin to shimmer around the ragged edges of a
cloud, you gaze in admiration at a picture that
God alone could paint. If you wait till the sun
goes down completely, you see the lines of the
horizon, blue and rugged, standing out against
the orange sky, which is now slowly changing to
a deep crimson. Soon, the heavens are aglow
with rich, changing hues of royal purple and red
gold, while a weird unearthly radiance lights up
the waves of Bering Sea. For three long hours
you may enjoy this glimpse of Wonderland; and
when you finally turn away regretfully, it is to
console yourself with the thought that over
yonder in ice-bound Siberia, thousands ofwretched
outcasts have shared your emotions, and, for a
few brief moments, have forgotten that they are
in a land of exile. Sights like these are some of
Nature's compensations; for we miss in Alaska Across   Wridest   America      181
the autumn panorama of our incomparable
Canadian forests. Not a tree nor shrub grows
anywhere on the bleak coast; and the bare rock
and monotonous, moss-covered tundra -would be
a melancholy substitute for the rich autumnal
tints of our own maple-covered hillsides.
However, brilliant sunsets, cool evenings and
darkening nights are harbingers of winter. The
flight of a hundred thousand wild geese, folio wring
their leaders in serried V-shaped columns, down
to Southern California, is another ; and you
naturally begin to think of your coal supply and
your furs. In September, the water in the creeks
starts to freeze ; and since placer mining in
Alaska depends on running water, and plenty of
it, when the frost comes, the miners know that the
season's end has also come. Then those sturdy
men, with their summer's wages in their pockets,
flock into camp. Three thousand miners, in
slickers and water-boots, move through the
streets, or stand in bunches, talking, singing,
shouting, in a dozen different languages.
Nome then presents a spectacle which must
have been often seen in the earlier days of California and Montana. The one question you hear
on  every   side  is :   "Are  you  going  out?"   a Across   Widest  America
question simple enough in appearance, but full
of meaning for an Alaskan miner. It is intended
to ask him whether he is going to spend the
winter, with his friends or his family, in some
congenial spot of the outside -world, or whether
he is going to remain in Nome, hidden away in
snowdrifts, during eight long, dark, dreary
months, without communication wdth the outer
civilization, except by dog-teams, the nearest
railway being two thousand three hundred miles
off. Six or eight steamships are at anchor a
couple of miles from shore; and lighters and
small craft are passing to and fro all the time,
crowded with men who are giving their own
answer to the question.
It is during the interval between the shutting
down of the mines and the closing of navigation
hat times are lively and business brisk in that
northern camp. Then may be seen, in all its
boisterous activity, the -western camp life, so
graphically depicted by Bret Harte and others,
minus the element of crime. Nome has the reputation of being a model mining camp; in this
respect, I hear, it rivals Dawson. This is the
verdict of the miners themselves; nearly two-
thirds of them citizens of the United States, who- Across   Widest  America
spent some time in the Klondike district, prior
to the stampede of 1900. Their residence in the
Canadian territory had an excellent effect on
them; and it is remarkable what respect they
cultivated for our Canadian laws and law^-keep-
ers. The miners never tire of praising the activity and usefulness of the Northwest Mounted
Police, nor are they slow in contrasting our
Canadian methods -with the useless, slip-shod
system of military forts and garrisons in vogue
in Alaska. And, in truth, there is little need of
such displays of armed force in that country; for
it is a fact that the vast majority of the men
who go to Alaska, hail from the better mining
classes. They are not of the traditional stamp
one reads about in the pioneer days of the West,
who fairly bristled wath oaths and revolvers,
ready to use both on the slightest provocation.
The camp was unruly in 1900, when the dregs
of Uncle Sam's domain were panning on the
beach, and it had to be put under military law,,
but times and manners have improved since then.
Still, without being unfair to Nome, I fear it
would be stretching things unduly, to compare
the camp, as a local editor did once, to a New
England Sunday school.  Across   Widest  America
the other walked over to a gambling table and
extracted eight hundred dollars. He went behind
the bar, took another hundred from the cash register, then cooly demanded the combination
number of the safe, -which, of course, all five had
quite forgotten. This work was done in a few-
moments, and noiselessly. The robbers then
backed out through the door, bidding the five
men "good-night and plea.sant dreams," threatening them, however, with death if they dared
to follow. The robbers disappeared in the darkness, leaving no clue as to their identity, and
were not apprehended.
Just about the same time, a man was hanged
by the United States marshal, for a triple murder, committed in the Aleutian Islands. He -was
prepared for death by Father Cataldo, who had
the great consolation of bringing him to better
sentiments. The young man went to the scaffold
repenting of his crimes, and bewailing the fact
that he had never had any home training to
help him in his journey through life.
Meanwhile the season was advancing, and the
crowds on the streets -were growing smaller.
Vessels laden with miners w^ere leaving daily for
Seattle and San Francisco, and intensely inter- r
186       Across   Widest   America
esting and dramatic were the scenes attending
their departure. During the last week in October the exodus was at its height. Day and night,
crews were hard at Work loading and unloading
the great black hulks at anchor in the offing.
When night fell, hundreds of lanterns flickered
like fire-flies along the beach. Above them, two
powerful searchlights, moving over the waves
like the eyes of a great monster, guided the
workmen, and revealed here and there, in the
darkness, bunches of miners passing to and from
the ships.
There are no wharfs at Nome. The transfer
of passengers and freight is made by lightering.
You could hear men talking from lighter to
lighter, trying to give orders, and shouting to
make themselves heard above the roar of the
surf. But nobody seemed to listen. It was a
-weird scene, rendered more weird still, by the intense earnestness of those thousands, strangers
to one another, each taken up with his own interests, and each going to his own little spot in the
world. It was a true picture of life in Alaska.
They were  the   men "that pass in the night,"
barely "saluting each other in passing."
of them, -with pockets well-filled with gold,  lost Across    Widest   America       187
their lives in the surf during the flitting. And
how few sympathised! The papers next day told
us all about the accidents; the day following,
the victims were forgotten.
The really touching scene in Nome's yearly
exodus is the departure of the last boat, and he
must have a flinty heart, indeed, who could
stand by unmoved. When the hour has come
for the departure, the beach is black with people
and their luggage, waiting for the lighters.
You hear the farewells of friends, watch them
till they board the vessel, hear the long blast
which is the signal to start, see the huge
leviathan turning southward and sailing away.
Your eyes follow it till there remains nothing
but a faint trace of smoke on the horizon.
Then you turn away from the beach, with a
feeling of intense loneliness and isolation ; a
profound stillness has succeeded the previous
bustle and activity ; already you begin to get
a vivid foretaste of the "great silence" of an
Alaskan winter.
In the autumn of 1902, after the last boat
had left, a local paper created a ripple of
excitement by publishing an "official" report of
one of the United States Hydrographic Bureaus, 188
Across    Widest   Americi
which stated that the seismic disturbances of
the previous year had probably shifted the bed
of the Japanese current three or four hundred
miles eastward, and that we -were likely to feel
the beneficial effects along the Bering coast.
This would mean a milder climate for Nome,
with less coal to buy and fewer furs to wear ;
and the news was not unwelcome. The report
-was served up so persistently, and commented
on so dogmatically, that the old-timers, -who
had seen the mercury freeze many a time, began
to think that lotus would soon be growing on
the tundra. An unusual delay in the arrival of
the ice from the North only strengthened this
It was now the turn of the pessimist. An
old -whaling captain living in Nome, who had
spent thirty-five years in those regions, declared
that, in 1868, the Arctic ice had met a similar
delay and was then driven half a mile up the
beach. This meant the destruction of Nome or
some other catastrophe equally appalling.
However, the appearance, one afternoon early
in November, of a field of Arctic ice peacefully
floating around Nome and filling Bering Sea as
far as the eye could reach, and the simultaneous Across   Widest   America
republication of an article by some scientist or
other, telling us that the Japanese current had
not changed its course, and that, even if it had,
it would not affect our climate, was a set-back
to the vaporings of our local weather prophets.
This kind of nonsense kept our minds occupied and prevented us from getting too lonesome, and with the incoming of the ice and the
freezing of Bering Sea, we settled down for the
winter -which was to end only in the following
June. By the middle of November the snow had
fallen in tremendous quantities. A cold north
wind ground it into the finest powder which
filled every corner with impassable drifts. The
thermometer took a sudden drop to 20° belowr,
and nothing but mukluks and parkehs began
to be seen on the streets of Nome. The mukluks
are footwear made of walrus hide and sealskin
leggings, and are similar to the Canadian moccasins. The winter parkeh is a fur garment,
like a sweater in appearance, but longer and
wider, with a hood attached which protects the
head. The tails of foxes or wolverines are invariably sewn to the outer edge of the hood.
This addition gives a whiteman a decidedly
Alaskan look, and perhaps caters a little to his 190
Across   Widest   America
polar vanity, but it keeps out the keenest blasts
of the Arctic wind. The parkeh is the outer
garment worn by the native Eskimo ; and its
adoption by the white population of Alaska is
the best proof of its usefulness.
Meanwhile, the cold grew more intense, but
did not prevent us from making ample preparations for Christmas, which came and went,
leaving behind it precious souvenirs. Midnight
Mass was celebrated with all possible solemnity,
Rosewig's music being rendered by a choir
improvised for the occasion. The thermometer
that night registered 28° below, but the church
in Nome -was crowded with people of all classes
and denominations.
The Sisters of Providence had decorated the
sanctuary with green boughs, brought from the
nearest forest, seventy-five miles away ; and for
the first time in this extreme end of the -western
world, the Infant Saviour, lying in His manger
of Arctic moss, stretched out His tiny arms to
bless all who knelt before Him.
Several events helped to make the holidays
pass pleasantly away. Large Christmas trees
were dressed for the public school children and
the Eskimos by the few Catholic ladies in  the Across   Widest   America       191
town. They were like other Christmas trees the
world over ; but our proximity to the North
Pole enabled us to give to the function a touch
of nature rarely witnessed in more favored lands.
Santa Claus, stout and hearty as usual, with
kindness in his eyes and snowdrifts on his eyebrows, came tripping over the Arctic hills, carrying his bundles of good things. But he did
not come alone. Three lively, kicking reindeer,
with their merry bells jingling in the frosty air,
brought the old gentleman in his poulkeh across
the hardened snowcrust, to spread joy and sweet
meats among the astonished school-children.
The reinder feature had been kept quite secret,
and never did I witness such enthusiasm as
lighted up the expectant and delighted little sea
of faces when the cry, " Here he comes ! here he
comes!" was heard,and jolly old Santa and his
reindeer drove up to our door. Reindeer are
quite gentle, I am told, and not at all demonstrative ; but the shouting and enthusiasm of the
Nome children were too much for their nerves.
They skipped and jumped about, turned to the
right and then to the left. They raised their
noble antlers, sniffed the air, wondering, no
doubt,   whether   all  this   Christmas   excitement 192       Across   Widest   America
meant peace or war; and finally, they made a
desperate attempt to get away. It took the
united efforts of Santa Claus and his Lapland
driver to hold them back.
Reindeer were introduced into Alaska by the
United States government, four or five years ago.
They are confined to deer stations along, the
coast and up the Yukon. They are still looked
upon as a luxury and their ultimate usefulness
is at least problematical. The whole reindeer
enterprise meets with much sarcastic opposition
from the present population, who see in it only
a scheme to use government money to enrich a
few private individuals who know how to pull
wires at Washington. Time will tell who are
right and -who are wrong. Of one thing, however, there is no doubt, namely, that the presence
of the reindeer gave a very realistic air to the
children's Christmas festival, one which few- of us
will soon forget.
Another event of entirely different import, but
no less pleasurable and consoling, w~as the celebration of the golden jubilee of Father Cataldo,
my companion in Nome. Although then only
sixty-five years of age, this venerable missionary
had spent fifty years in the service of God, under 1 INSIDE "   FOR   THE   WINTER
THE   SHORTEST   DAY —AN   ALASKAN   CABIN  Across   Widest   America
the banner of Saint Ignatius. Half a century
before, he left the vine-clad hills and orange
groves of his native Sicily, to follow in the Master's footsteps, and since that time few- modern
apostles had such an active and well-filled career.
Father Cataldo lived nearly forty years in the
Rocky Mountains. He began his missionary life
among the tribes there when they were still
hunting buffaloes on the American prairies, long
before any of the railways crossed the continent.
He learned their languages and preached the
Gospel to the Flatheads, Piegans, Nez Perces,
Colvilles, Gros Ventres, Kalispels, Cceur d'Alenes,
Spokanees, etc.; and the Indians whom he found
pagans and foes of the whiteman, he left civilized
and Christian and contented wards of the Republic. Few of the writers who go into ecstacies
over the marvels of civilization and conversion
which were wrought in the Reductions of Paraguay, in the eighteenth century, seem to be aware
that those marvels have been renewed, in the
nineteenth, among the aborigines of the Rocky
In 1897, Father Cataldo went to Alaska. He
set to work to study the Eskimo and Tinneh
languages, and to repeat among those neglected Across   Widest  America
tribes what he had done among the Indians
of Montana and Idaho. The people of Nome
were unwilling to let the occasion of his golden
jubilee pass away without giving him a mark
of their appreciation. They presented him with
a handsome gold cross made of Alaskan nuggets
with a suitable inscription and the figures "50"
in relief; a souvenir characteristic of the country
he was working in, as -well as emblematic of his
work. The cross is truly the emblem of missionary work in that desolate land. Life there is
isolated, lonely and uncongenial. There are few-
consolations outside of the consciousness that
every hour of fatigue is written to one's credit
in the pages of the Book of Life, and that God,
who is faithful and keeps His promises, will
know- when and how to turn pains and disappointments into unending joys. CHAPTER XI
Winter Isolation in Alaska-
White Silence
The Great
HTHE first long winter on the Bering coast
passed off slowly and monotonously. One must
have had personal experience of eight months'
isolation in an Arctic mining camp—with nearly
three of the eight in comparative darkness, seeing
nothing during all that time, on hill and tundra
and sea, but snow and ice, ten to fifteen feet
thick, hearing nothing but the whistling of winds
and the howling of Eskimo dogs—to know what
winter life really means in that distant part of
the world.
When navigation closed in the autumn, everyone began, in a practical way, to settle down
for the winter. A stranger could see that the
old-timers apprehended a season of intense cold,
and a long siege of it, by the almost absurd
precautions they were taking to bank their
cabins with earth, and to fill the chinks around
their doors and -windows.
Towards the end of October, the nights had
become long and intensely dark, and we had to
use artificial light earlier every afternoon. With
the   advancing  season,   the   days   grew   short 196
Across   Widest  America
so rapidly that we began to ask when they were
going to stop. In December, the darkness had
eaten so deeply into the morning and evening,
that we had barely three hours of sunlight.
When the -winter solstice arrived, December 21st,
the sun just peeped over the horizon and then
dropped into Bering Sea again; we -were living
in Arctic twilight. Darkness was complete at
three o'clock in the afternoon ; and nothing
relieved the dreadful monotony, till ten o'clock
the next day, but the large electric cross on our
church-spire, whose graceful arms shed brilliancy
over Nome twenty hours daily. What a dreary
world this would be if we had to live in perpetual night; and how little we appreciate the
golden rays which shine down on us during half
our lives! Snow and darkness, cold and winds
make up the unattractive picture of life during
the winter on the Bering coast; but one's time
is always fully occupied, so that there is no room
for lonesomeness ; and besides, people there are
full of mutual sympathy; they loyally share
one another's burdens. Life is, in consequence,
not half so miserable as it might be.
When I received orders to go to Alaska,  one
of my direst apprehensions was the rigor of the Across   Widest  America
climate. How should I ever be able to stand
the penetrating cold of an Alaskan -winter ?
Having passed through two unscathed, I feel that
I can write with some knowledge of the subject,
at least as far as Seward Peninsula is concerned.
The climate there is certainly severe, yet not at
all to the degree that newcomers expect. When
we speak of Alaskan -weather, we, of course,
leave Southeastern Alaska entirely out of the
question. The lowest official record in Sitka for
more than fifty years was 4° above zero, Fahrenheit ; but Sitka is more than five hundred
miles south of Nome and Council. Along the
Yukon valley, at points in the same latitude as
Nome, the temperature is very low in winter. In
Nulato, the thermometer sometimes registers 72°
below zero, Fahrenheit. But nothing similar
happened in Nome -while 1 was there. During
my first winter, the thermometer registered 44°
below zero only once, though we experienced a
great variety of temperatures. Between Christmas and the Epiphany, however, the mercury
did not once rise above 30° below zero, Fahrenheit. These figures -would be considered phenomenal in Eastern Canada, but they are not so
considered in Nome.   No one seemed to mind the 198
Across   Widest   America
severe cold or the snow; the weather was rarely
a topic of conversation,—perhaps because we had
so much of it.
There must be physical conditions besides
latitude which affect the severity of climate.
Several miners told me that cold, 60° below
zero, -which they experienced on the Yukon and
on Kotzebue Sound, did not exact more hygienic
precautions than 15° or 20° would have done in
Quebec or the Maritime Provinces. One feels the
truth of this when one sees men living comfortably,
through the long winter, in canvas tents and
cabins heated only with small sheet-iron stoves.
In Nome, children played in the streets, even
when the thermometer was 30° below zero. An
afternoon walk out over the tundra on snowshoes
or skis, when the temperature is between 30°
and 40° below, and the air is still and blue, is
both pleasant and healthful. Now- and then, one
puts one's hands up to feel whether one's nose
and ears are in their accustomed places; but this
is mostly from the force of habit. As a result,
there are few invalids in that country. It is the
proud boast of Alaskans—and I am convinced
there is some foundation for it—that their winter
climate is the most invigorating in the world. Across   Widest  America
There is danger of freezing only when this
intense cold is accompanied with wind and
drifting snow. It is then that certain precautions must be taken ; for blizzards are the great
sources of danger in Northwestern Alaska. The
miners who have been frozen to death in them
were the imprudent or the inexperienced ones,
-who ventured out over the trails, or across the
hills, when they should have followed the example of the natives and stayed under cover ; one
rarely hears of an Eskimo freezing to death.
The atmosphere is so dry that, after a storm,
there is always a very large quantity of finely-
powdered snow lying in drifts on the hills.
When the wind blows, it drives this snow before
it with terrific velocity, filling the air with
clouds of it, blinding travellers and obliterating
all trails in a twinkling. Objects fifty feet away
become invisible ; and under these circumstances
darkness may set in.
When this happens, a miner loses his way,
even though he may not be twenty feet from
the trail. After circling around aimlessly, for a
few weary hours, undergoing meanwhile an
excruciating mental agony—for he knows he is
astray—his feet and   legs grow numb, which is Across   Widest  America
the beginning of the end. In a little while he
sinks down, drowsy and exhausted, to rise no
I met several miners who had felt the
symptoms of incipient freezing, and who would
have succumbed, had they not been rescued.
They will carry all their lives vivid mental
pictures of those moments. Invariably they saw
lights flitting about, which deceived them as to
distances ; they heard sounds like bells, and
sometimes delightful music, which drew their
minds away from their danger. These pleasurable sensations are, strange to say, the result of
hunger and exhaustion. Near the end, the pain
of death by freezing resembles, they say, that of
death by burning. But these sensations are of
short duration; the miner soon falls asleep and
dies painlessly. Every year there are tragic
instances of freezing to death ; during my two
winters, four or five were thus found on the
trail cold and lifeless.
When men acquire some experience of conditions in that country, the element of danger
disappears. An old-timer out on the trail will
not face a blizzard. When there is no cabin or
roadhouse close at hand, he digs a hole in the Across   Widest  America        201
snowdrift, and waits there till the storm has
spent its rage. He has sometimes to stay two
or three days hidden away in his furs or sleeping-bag, which gives him leisure to meditate on
man's helplessness before nature's angry moods.
It is well for him if he has food for this period
of forced inactivity ; sometimes he has not. A
miner on Kotzebue Sound, who is also a
physician, told me he was caught in a blizzard
while on a sick-call, during the previous winter.
He had to burrow a hole in a snowdrift, where
he stayed seventy-two hours. Hunger obliged
him to consume portions of his furs and
moccasins ; he said he never tasted anything half
so palatable.
Another miner met with a more tragic experience, a couple of years before. He had killed a
bear and skinned him. A blizzard coming on,
he rolled himself in the ample folds of the fur
for protection ; but this nearly proved his
undoing. In a few hours, the bearskin, which
was fresh from its owner's back, was frozen into
a solid mass and almost smothered the hapless
miner. His companions found him encased in a
shell as hard as iron, and had to use an axe to
extricate his all but lifeless body. Across   Widest   America
Travelling in Alaska during winter is a.
problem that has not yet been fully solved, even
by John Brower, the genius who invented what
is known in that country as the "hot-air" stage.
As a rule, prudent people stay at home in
winter. The Eskimos rarely leave their igloos
during the long white silence, and the typical
miner has learned to follow their example. In
autumn, when his -work is finished on his
"claim," and he decides to stay in Alaska, he
sets to work to build himself a log-cabin, he
fills the chinks with Arctic moss, cuts his
season's firewood, buys his eight months' supply
of Chicago canned goods, and then retires to
his nest till the springtime. This is how
thousands of men live through the long, dark
winter. If a miner goes a-prospecting, he harnesses his team and travels over the snow-covered tundra, well supplied with food and furs.
When night comes on, he digs a hole in the
snow, or lies down on the lee side of his sled
and dogs, then rolls himself in his furs, and goes
to sleep. It is no extraordinary sight to see
members of the gentler sex muffled in furs, trudging over the hills, from camp to camp, with their
doe-teams and miners' outfits. Across   Widest  America
There is one woman-miner in Nome who is
quite famous in all Northwestern Alaska. She
is familiarly known in the mining world as
"Mother," a kindly name earned by her for the
large, generous heart she carries under a
weather-beaten, masculine exterior. This miner
and her faithful dogs followed the two-thousand-
mile stampede from Dawson, during the first
Nome excitement, and she secured large mining
interests in the Solomon district. I met her on
the Bering coast, one wintry afternoon, tripping
along behind her sled and team as lightly as if
twenty and not fifty years -were weighing on
her shoulders.
But women of this hardy stamp are not
numerous in that country. Those -who indulge in
feats of endurance, in their "mushing" over the
tundra, are the ones who have been in Alaska
for three or four years,*and who know just how-
venturesome they may be without risking their
lives. But when recent arrivals—or " chechakos,"
as they are called, — want to travel in winter,
the dangers of the trail must be foreseen and
guarded against. Newcomers, who do not take
the conditions of the country into account, run
the risk of being found frozen to death. Across   Widest  America
The introduction of the "hot-air" stage has
made travelling relatively comfortable in Seward
Peninsula ; and a good deal of traffic goes on in
winter between Nome and the different camps.
Large, double sleighs, built like the time-honored
emigrant prairie-schooners, have been introduced
on the various trails. A double covering of
thick canvas, enclosing a thin air space, covers
the entire top and keeps in the warmth which
is furnished by a small stove solidly bolted in
one corner.
Of course, the old-timers, or "sour-doughs,"
ignore this way of travelling, and still "mush"
over the country with their dogs. The dog is
the Alaskan miner's friend. Half a dozen harnessed to a sled will haul eight or ten hundred
pounds of supplies twenty or thirty miles a day,
without any difficulty. This is the reason why
they are so useful in Alaska. There are few
miners who do not own at least three, which
they keep busy going from one mine to another
during the -winter months. In summer, the curs
lie about the camps doing nothing. In Nome,
you cannot walk ten steps without falling over
one or more of them lying in your path, too lazy
to move.   They rest during the day, but during Across  Widest   America
the night they keep you awake with their unearthly howling. During my first summer there,
one of the large commercial companies blew a
steam -whistle, morning, noon and night. This
was a boon, inasmuch as it enabled us to set
our watches, and keep some sort of uniform
time; but it was also a terrific nuisance, for it
let loose the enervating yells of seven or eight
hundred Eskimo dogs, which made the air
vibrate, three times a day, with all the notes
The worst feature of their case is that those
dogs do not know when to stop. The howl of
the Alaskan miner's friend is not the ordinary
music produced by our eastern curs, whose long,
doleful, crescendo and diminuendo notes have,
after all, a sentimental element about them, with
which ordinary mortals can sympathise. The
Eskimo dog cannot bark, but he makes himself
heard for all that. Imagine you have the cur's
throat in your grasp, and are squeezing it -with
all your strength. The struggle he makes to
breathe and bark is the Alaskan howl. At times,
he whines, and cries, and sobs, like a person in
distress. This was done so very naturally, that
several times I was brought to my window, ex- 206
Across   Widest   America
peering to see some little broken-hearted child
lost on the tundra. It was only a vile Mahla-
mute preparing for his midnight music. When I
reached Nome, a kennel of these animals was
planted not a hundred feet from our house; and
my first month was almost -wholly taken up in
practising patience and trying to attune my ears
to canine symphonies.
A talent for music is only one of the debate-
able qualities of the miner's friend. For cunning
and thievery, the Eskimo dog bears away the
palm, and he is rarely to be trusted. In his innocent moments, he is always looking after
"number one," and on the scent for booty. He
is a beautiful animal, and affectionate; but when
his large, soft eyes, are looking into yours so
intelligently, when his great, bushy tail is wagging expression to the joy he feels at meeting
you, keep an eye on your bundles. If your door
is open, he steals your meat, preferring ptarmigan
to reindeer; he lifts the lid of your fish-box, steals
your fish, and then replaces the lid noiselessly;
he reads the labels on tins of canned goods, so
the miners say; for it is a well-known fact, that
when two tins are put before him, he takes the
meat invariably, and leaves the fruit. Across   Widest   America
The stories, wise and otherwise, that are told
by miners of the propensities of the Eskimo dog
are amusing. He is, for all that, the Alaskan
miner's friend, and because he is such, many of
his foibles are overlooked. He is faithful, even
in death; many a time he has been found on the
trail, plaintively sobbing and lying on the frozen
body of his master, trying to give it warmth,
long after the vital spark had fled.
Another miner's friend, an institution peculiar
to Alaska, and a boon to lost or storm-bound
travellers in winter, is the "road-house." On
the trails to Council, Sullivan, Candle, and along
the coast, about every ten miles, a low log-cabin
is built, or it may be only an abandoned native
igloo, and fitted up -with bunks and blankets.
When the half-frozen miner, worn and fatigued,
without food for himself or his dogs, sees a lantern at the end of a pole in some valley, or on a
white hillside, he knows that he is safe from the
storm. A roaring fire, a piping glass of toddy,
or a red-hot cup of tea, makes the blood flow-
freely in his veins, and gives him back life and
vigor. Road-houses on the Alaskan trail, during
a blizzard, are more welcome to a miner than
wells   of sparkling  water  to   an  Arab on  the Across   Widest  America
Sahara. They are poorly kept — I speak from
my experiences in five of them—but they are life-
saving stations in an inhospitable climate; momentary homes in Alaskan fastnesses; oases amid
the great white silence. Their keepers are the
miners' benefactors; and still the philanthropic
government makes them pay a yearly license.
That is to say, they are obliged to pay for the
privilege of saving the lives of the very men who
are pouring gold yearly into Uncle Samuel's
plethoric treasury.
With dog-teams, hot-air stages and road-
houses, life is not too miserable on the Alaskan
trail. With the aid of the last two, I made several winter journeys to and from Council City..
During one of these, I got my first taste of an
Alaskan blizzard, the memory of -which -will remain as long as I live. A terrific storm overtook our party half-way between that camp and
Nome. We had started from Topkuk, on the
Bering coast, on the fourth day of our journey..
We had not gone more than three miles, when a
brisk wind began to blow the dry snow across
the trial, and in a few minutes had completely
blotted out every trace of it. The wind grew
stronger and filled the air with tiny particles of NOME   DURING   THE   GREAT   WHITE   SILENCE
MJPNIGQT   IN   TUNE.—ARRIVAL   OF   THE   FIRST   STEAMER  Across    Widest   America
snow, which beat pitilessly against the stage-
driver's face with the pricking force of a thousand
needles. His horses' eyes and nostrils were filled
with this fine powder. They began to be smothered ; they stampeded from side to side and refused
to obey the reins. If they could be kept on the
trial, the shelter of a hill, or wooded spot, would
give them a respite from their tortures. But this
seemed impossible; the air was thick and dark
with snow which drifted rapidly up against the
stage. Meanwhile the thermometer, -which we
carried with us, went down from 15° below to
40° Fahr. The wind grew fiercer, and howled and
whistled, and threatened to tear away the canvas
of the stage.
My travelling companion, an old German, and
I were commiserating the poor driver outside,
when the stage suddenly left the trail, gave a
lurch to one side, and we felt ourselves going
rapidly over. The force of the blizzard had done
the work, and sooner than it takes to write it,
we found ourselves on the broad of our backs
on the floor of the stage. I myself was pinned
down by a bale of compressed hay and a tool-
chest, while the German began to call wildly for
help, as the  red-hot  coal  stove, bolted  to  the 210
Across   Widest  America
stage, was right over him, and he was in mortal
dread lest a shower of lighted coals should come
down on him. The driver rushed to the rear,
opened the door, and extricated us none the
. The change from the -warm air inside the
stage to 40° below zero outside, was anything
but agreeable, but willy-nilly we had to face it.
So we set to work to help the driver to unload
his freight and lift the stage back on the trail.
Among other articles, I picked up a box, iron-
bound and covered with the wrord " Caution,"
which had fallen from the driver's seat into the
snow. It turned out to be a box of dynamite,
and fortunately had struck a soft snow-drift.
Had it reached the ice, a foot beneath, there is
no telling how- this Alaskan episode might have
ended. At all events it was impossible to go
any farther that day, in the face of the blinding
storm ; so we went back to the Topkuk road-
house which we had left that morning. This was
a terrific journey. I reached Council after seven
days of painful experiences, such as, I trust, my
successors in this field shall not have to endure. CHAPTER XII
The Alaskan Mails — Social Life in a
Mining Camp
T^HE winter 1902-03 will be surely known in
the annals of Northwestern Alaska as the
winter of the "big snow." Even the natives
could not recall anything like it. Ten or twelve
feet of snow lay on the level tundra. The poles
of our coast telephone were eighteen feet high;
yet people had to bend their heads in order to
pass under the wires. Traffic in the streets of
Nome was rendered well-nigh impossible ; in
Council it was altogether suspended. I spent
the months of February and March in the latter
camp, and saw the one-storey cabins of the
miners literally buried under the snow. Nothing
but the projecting stove-pipes here and there,
with a hole in the snow, revealed the presence
of human habitations. After a storm, these holes
are also filled, and the stove-pipes alone remain
above the surface.
During my stay in Council,! lived alone in a
log cabin, kindly placed at my disposal by Dan
Garvey, a miner from Minnesota. One morning in
March, I awoke quite refreshed; but it was still 212
Across   Widest   America
dark, and I hid myself in my bearskin waiting
for daylight. I waited a long time, it seemed to
me, for the rays that did not come. When, at
last, I struck a match and looked at my watch,
it was two o'clock in the afternoon. My cabin
had been covered up by a snow drift. And it
was time to go back to bed again before I had
a hole dug to let in the golden sunlight.
This was the worst blizzard in the history of
the camp. We had no respite for six weeks.
Layer after layer was added to the lofty banks
of snow, and made them high enough to give
us an historic winter. There were intervals, however, as the days grew brighter and longer,
when the weather was superb, and the aspect
of the surrounding hills marvellous.
A scene which I witnessed, on March 25th,
from the door of my cabin in Council, will be
one of my imperishable souvenirs of Alaska. The
cold was intense ; the air still; the white silence
oppressive and unbroken, save by a few miners
and Eskimos breaking the ice-crust with their
sleds and dog-teams. Columns of smoke rose
here and there from the neighboring snowbanks,
denoting -warmth and comfort underneath. The
incomparable   Ophir  hills,   hidden  under  snow, Across   Widest  America        213
stood serrated and massive less than a mile
away ; beyond and above them, the Bendeleben
range, also white to the very summits, fringed
the bluest of blue skies. Here was Nature itself
offering a tribute in blue and white—Mary's own
colors—to the Queen of Heaven, on her great
spring festival. The memory of purely Arctic
scenes like this, so picturesque and so fascinating, stays with one, and makes the interminable
winter cold and darkness, and life in a lonely
cabin, not so dreary after all.
There is something harder to endure, in Northwestern Alaska, than cold, or snow, or darkness. It is our isolation during the long winter,
and the absence of communication with the outside world. During eight months no steamer
gets nearer than seven hundred miles to Nome;
we are over two thousand miles from the nearest
railway. No mail reached Nome from the first of
October till the middle of January; and to feel
the weeks and months passing slowly away,
without a word or letter from civilization, was
a novel experience.
At Christmas, you could hear people on the
street wishing each other the season's compliments, and then mutually wondering, through Across   Widest  America
their fur-hooded parkehs, whether the coal strike
were ended, a question which had only a speculative interest for us who paid thirty-five dol-
rs a ton that year; whether Mount Pelee were
still active; whether any international difficulties
had sprung up; whether California had gone
democrat or republican; and discussing the dozen
other subjects which were occupying men's minds
when the ice closed us in, the preceding autumn.
The first mail reached us on January 18th,
1903, after it had been ninety days on the trail.
This sounds startling in a world which Phineas
Fogg completely encircled in eighty days, when
we were young. But Mr. Fogg did not travel
through Northwestern Alaska. Dawson is reported to have had a daily mail all the winter;
but Nome, even with its shortened winter-trails,
is as far away from Dawson as Winnipeg is from
Montreal; and that makes all the   difference.
The mail service down the Yukon is perhaps
unique in the world. The difficulties of transportation are so great that, according to a recent
statistician, every letter entering Seward Peninsula, during the winter season, costs the United
States government one dollar, before it is delivered to the person named on the envelope. Across   Widest   America
If one could follow- the fortunes of a Nome
mail-bag, during its journey from the outside
world to Dawson ; then down the Yukon River
on the ice, twelve hundred miles with dog-teams;
then across the winter trail from Kaltag to Una-
laklik; then along the Bering coast to Nome,
one would get a fair idea of the difficulties the
Alaskan postal service has to contend with, and
the almost incredible hardships the mail-carriers
have to endure on their long, lonely journeys
back and forth.
Clothed in warm furs and shod with mukluks
of walrus and sealskin, those men grasp the
handles of their slender mail-sleds and start out
for a sixty or a seventy days' trip behind their
dog-teams. In the season of darkness, hardly
more than a twilight brightens their way at
mid-day. The heavy snowfalls frequently blot
out their trails on the Yukon ; while the blizzards
along the Bering coast, on the last two hundred
and forty miles of their journey, are relentless.
Only experienced "mushers," men hardened by
cold and exposure, and dogs strong and able to
bear their own share of hardship and responsibility, are employed in the mail service. I had
it from the mail-contractor himself that his team 216
Across   Widest  America
of seven dogs, in five days, wore out one hundred
pairs of moccasins.
Carriers are liable to be caught in storms
when they least expect it; and that is the reason
why fifty stations, each furnished -with an eight
months' food-supply, besides outfits for men and
dogs, are scattered along Bering Sea and the
Yukon. The system is complete, but necessarily
slow; still it compares favorably with the system which, four or five years ago, gave Western
Alaska news only once a year. After the arrival
of the first mail in January, a punctual weekly
service gratified the people of Nome and Council.
News even three months old was better than
none at all.
There is always a little excitement around
the camps when the coast telephone, at Topkuk,
sends the message over the wire that the outside
mail is only sixty miles away, and "should be in
to-morrow." The morrow sees dozens of people
standing and waiting, aglow with expectation,
while the few letters are hurriedly sorted.
There is no more favorable spot for the study
of character than an Arctic post-office. It is
pathetic to watch a miner at the wicket. You
can see disappointment written on his face when Across   Widest   America      217
lie turns away empty-handed; it means that
those in the outside world, for whom he is living
in exile, are forgetting him. The lucky recipient
of a letter does not wait till he reaches his cabin
to devour news, three months old, from home
and friends; to him it is all fresh and welcome.
And the smile playing on his lips, as he reads on,
or the anxious tear furtively brushed away, tells
its own tale, and betrays the fact that under the
grim, almost savage crust of a miner, there is a
heart that throbs into life when news from
mother, or wife, or child, comes to gladden or
sadden his lonely life. Alaskan air does not
change human nature; its blizzards do not chill
the human heart; and if friends in the outer world
knew how miners — and non-miners—look for
those tiny messengers from home, bearing tidings of joy or sorrow; if they saw their tremulous
fingers unfolding those soft interpreters of life's
emotions, they would hardly fail to -write often
and copiously.
During the winter months, mail-contracts with
dog-teams call for the transportation of first-
class matter only. Newspapers, magazines, etc.,
are held over at Seattle, where many tons await
the summer steamers. 218       Across   Widest   America
The craving for news of the wide, wide world,
which, it is remarked, grows as the season advances, is satiated only partially by clippings
from papers which come from friends, sealed and
fortified for the journey with letter postage.
These clippings are handed round from neighbor
to neighbor; they are read and reread, and commented on, till they fall to pieces. Is this craving
in miners only an idle curiosity? Or is there
some other psychological reason underlying it,
which makes men, living in isolation, ravenously
devour news of the world's doings, three or four
months old, and discuss them with as much
energy as if the events were actually transpiring ?
To cite an example. The news of the Venezuelan imbroglio reached us late in February. The
affair had, by that time, become a matter of
history. Still, the news was fresh in Alaska ;
and the merits of the German-Anglo-American
difficulty were entered into again ; the Munroe
doctrine was discussed over and over again, with
a vehemence that was positively interesting to
a foreigner like myself. I remarked that, in those
discussions, the United States generally had the
best of it. What Uncle Sam does, is nearly always
the correct thing with Alaskans. Across   Widest   America      219
The people in Nome who found time hanging
heavily on their hands, during the long winter,
clubbed together for amusement, or for mutual
improvement. There are several active societies
here, two of which I may mention. Incidentally,
they throw a side-light on the class of people
one happens to meet in a large Alaskan mining
The Alaskan Academy of Sciences was formed
in the winter of 1903, with the praiseworthy
object of collecting data referring to the geography, geology, botany, ethnology, etc., of Alaska.
Outside of a few superficial government reports,
very little is yet known about that country. A
vast unexplored field is open for the investigation of scientists, and a great deal of useful
information may be collected even by amateurs.
The Kegoayah Kozga, which, being translated
from the Eskimo, means Aurora Club, -was composed of a couple of dozen of Nome ladies, who
met once a week, and listened to the reading
of papers on literature, art, woman's rights and
duties, and other transcendental subjects. One
of the lady members read a paper once on
" Modern Metaphysics," —■ which was followed
by refreshments. 220
Across   Widest   America
The Arctic Brotherhood, the Polar Union, etc.,
are also offshoots of Alaskan social life. They
aim at recreation, and help the worldlings -who
find life long up here, to make it shorter. A
couple of well-appointed halls give the people of
Nome the facilities to combine work with pleasure ; and during the winter, a great deal was
done for sweet charity's sake. The proceeds of
two or three entertainments helped us to buy
coal for the season, and to decorate our church
handsomely. One entertainment gave nearly a
thousand dollars to Holy Cross Hospital.
Speaking of the hospital reminds me at once
of the Angels of Nome. In the June of 1902,
four Sisters of Providence went from Montreal
to that distant land, unknown and unheralded,
and filled with the apostolic spirit which has
made the daughters of Madame Gamelin so well
known on the Pacific coast. When they landed
on the Bering beach they resembled the Divine
Master; for they had hardly a place whereon to
rest their heads. An old mess-house, narrow and
uncomfortable, belonging to one of the commercial-companies, was secured for them, and there
they stayed till they had planned their course of
action.   They  bought a large  building,  in the Across   Widest   America
very heart of Nome, furnished it soberly with
beds and hospital requirements, and there and
then began a career of God-inspired charity and
zeal, which was a revelation to the citizens and
a source of pride for us of the Faith.
At first, it was not so much the practical side
of their work as the romantic, that appealed to
the indifferent classes. It was the fact that
the Sisters had left what the newspapers called
"home and the joys of home-life," and had gone
so many thousands of miles to spread the sweet
odor of charity around the beds of sick and
dying miners that made the people think, and
talk, and praise.
An incident, or rather a catastrophe, occurred
at Christmas, which helped to lift them higher in
the esteem of everybody. A lamp exploded in a
cabin full of Eskimos, just in rear of our church,
and frightfully burned eight poor natives, who
had not learned to cope with so rapid an agent
as whitemen's kerosene. I never witnessed a
more sickening sight than that presented by
those eight human beings, burned beyond recognition, while they lay writhing in agony on
the hospital floor. Three ended their sufferings
in death; the other five were taken care of by 222
Across   Widest   America
the Sisters, for many weeks, and tenderly nursed
back to health. All Nome watched their generous and gentle services in this repulsive -work,
and its admiration knew no bounds.
A tactful and energetic superior was sent to
guide the destinies of that foundation; and she
succeeded marvellously. The Sisters are firmly
established in Holy Cross Hospital, and are beloved by the miners. The physical sufferings of
those poor men are relieved so tenderly and so
efficaciously, that their gratitude is very often
pathetic to behold.
And still, all the devotedness of these spouses
of the Master is only a means to a higher end;
theirs is also proving a successful heavenly mission. Through bodily ailments, they have reached
out and touched many a callous heart. Nothing
appeals to a miner so strongly as the tenderness
that is shown to him in his physical infirmities
— those poor men meet so little of it in their
rugged lives. It is through the ministrations of
the Sisters of Providence that the missionary is
able to reach the souls of crusty old miners, who
have forgotten even their prayers. God and His
recording angel alone know how many spiritual
ills have been cured, and how many souls have Across   Widest   America      223
been^encouraged to higher things, since the Sisters came to Nome. Their saintly foundress
must surely look down with satisfaction on
those daughters of hers, living and laboring almost atjthe very door of Asia. CHAPTER XIII
The Aboriginal Tribes of Alaska
and Customs
"\ X ^HEN the Russians, and, after them, independent travellers, had quite thoroughly
explored Alaska, they concluded that the country was peopled by four great tribes, or groups,
of natives, distinct in language, customs and
traditions, and with tribal boundaries well defined. They were the Aleuts, the Eskimos, the
Thlinkets, and lastly, the Tinnehs, or Western
Athabaskans. Those four groups are sub-divided
into many minor tribes, or families, sub-divisions-
wholly based on linguistic differences.
As these chapters on Alaska are more concerned with mining life along the Bering coast
than with the aboriginal population of the territory, a few notes, necessarily superficial, on
each of the four groups, are all that is required
to give a touch of completeness to this work,
and to carry out the plan I proposed to myself
when I began to write. Readers may find my
information incomplete, but they should remember that the facilities for ethnological research
are rare in an Alaskan mining camp. ROCKING FOR  GOLD IN  THE  BEACH-SANDS AT NOME
THE  BERING COAST IN WINTER  Across   Widest   America      225
However, a few sources of knowledge presented themselves, of which I availed myself fully.
Besides the work of Ivan Petroff, who had access, apparently, to many documents relating to
Alaska, including the writings of Venimianof, I
had the advantage of private correspondence
with missionaries on the Yukon, and long conversations with old-time residents in Alaska, who
willingly imparted to me all they knew abut the
tribes and their customs. From those sources I
have gleaned -what I give in these pages concerning the present position of the native population. In the order of treatment, the inhabitants of the Aleutian Islands shall come first.
The Aleuts occupy the north coast of the
Alaskan Peninsula, from Cape Stroganof westward, and its southern coast from Pavlof Bay
westward. They also inhabit Shumagin Islands
and the whole of the Aleutian chain. No one can
speak with certainty about the origin of this
race, or of the name it bears. Ivan Petroff
thinks the name can be traced to Alutora, a
river in Kamchatka. This author had the hardihood to assert that ethnologists had given over
the hypothesis that the Aleuts were of Asiatic
origin; that, notwithstanding their features, de- Across   Widest   America
cidedly Mongoloid, neither the language, nor a
single tradition of the tribe, pointed to prehis"
toric migration from Asia.
When the Russians sailed out of the Sea of
Okhotsk, in 1733, they found two of the largest
islands, bet-ween Asia and the Aleutian group,
entirely uninhabited, indicating that, although
the trend was in the direction of Asia, communication with that continent had not yet been
effected. The absence of any kind of sea-going
craft between Asia and the Aleutian Islands, at
the time of the Muscovite discoveries, convinced
Bering and others that the Aleutian natives were
merely moving westward from the American
The most convincing proof for Petroff was
the character of the articles found in ancient
Aleutian burial caves, and the structure of their
huts, or igloos. These latter were built of whale-
ribs, on the mountain sides of Unimak and Atka
Islands, after the fashion of the Eskimos farther
north. The Asiatic cast of features, observed in
the Aleuts nowadays, could be easily explained
by the constant intermixture of the Alaskans
with the natives of Kamchatka, and other parts
of Asia, after the advent of the Russians. Across   Widest  America
But these assertions off Petroff wrill not stand
the test of more recent ethnological investigations.
Not merely has it been found that there is a
strong affinity of language and tradition between
the Aleut and the Asiatic coast tribes, but there
are authors daring enough to name the people
who are responsible for the Aleuts of today.
The presence of shell-mounds in the Aleutian
Islands, similar to those seen in other parts of
this continent, and even in Japan, leads Winchell
and Dall to believe that the Aleuts are descendants
of a Mongoloid race that once covered this continent, and whose shell-heaps, or middens, are to be
found along the Atlantic coast from Nova Scotia
down to Florida and even to Brazil. Other heaps
are found on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, up
the river valleys through nearly all the southern
States and along the shore of the Pacific Ocean,
all the way from Alaska to Central America.
"That this race is of Asiatic origin," says De
Roo,"can hardly be doubted by one who observes
that their monuments are to be found at both
the abutments of the gigantic natural bridge
which spans the North Pacific Ocean from Alaska
to Japan, with the Kurile, the Commander's, and
the  Aleutian Archipelago  as its  piers.   Several 228
Across   Widest   America
shell-heaps are to be seen near Tokio, Japan,
which are of great antiquity." The Aleuts whom
I met in Unalaska are undoubtedly Mongoloid,
if externals, count for anything.
The best authority on the life and customs
of the Aleuts is the Russian priest, Venimianof,
a missionary who labored, from 1824 until
1838, in the Aleutian chain, as well as among
the Thlinkets, at Sitka, in Southeastern Alaska.
This clever man, who afterwards became Primate of the whole Russian Church, wrote copiously about those two Alaskan tribes, and left
behind him a long account of their traditions
and beliefs, which he showed to be a medley of
superstitions and shamanism.
When the Russian traders began to arrive, in
1750, the Aleut population may have been eight
thousand. But this number was soon reduced
in numbers, owing to the cruelty of the newcomers— a cruelty which, according to the testimony of the Russian chroniclers themselves, was
nothing short of barbarous. Venimianof tells us
that the Russians slaughtered at least three
thousand, and perhaps five thousand ; another
author, Sarychef, calls this a moderate estimate.
Those early traders placed no value on the life Across    Widest   America
of an Aleut; the most revolting cruelties being
indulged in as late as 1770 and 1790. Solovief
shot down Aleuts simply for the sport he found
in it, tying them together and using them as
targets to test the penetrating power of his
ammunition. Milder methods were adopted with
the advent of Shelikof and the Russian-American
Fur Company, who replaced the original traders
in 1790, and whose officials seem to have been
kindly enough in their dealings with the natives.
According to Venimianof, the character of the
Aleuts wras mild, and their manners were hospitable. The navigator, Captain Cook, had rendered
a similar verdict about them, half a century
before. His biographer, Kippis, affirms that
they were the most peaceable and inoffensive
people Cook ever met with. Their form of government wras patriarchal. Every village consisted always of relatives, and formed only one
family, wherein the oldest and wisest had
authority over all, and looked after the common
welfare. In some villages, however, the chiefship
wras hereditary. If no direct descendant was
available, the new chief -was chosen from the
tribe for his bravery in protecting the territory,
and for his skill in hunting. Widest   America
When the Russians assumed control, they
modified somewhat this state of things. They
gave special powers to two or three chiefs who
were chosen by the Aleuts themselves, and who
acted as intermediaries between the traders and
their people. Under the company's management
the Aleut tribes, except for the services they were
forced to render, and for which they received but
scant remuneration, seem to have enjoyed complete liberty. This, in a general way, appears to
have been the state of the tribe when Alaska
was transferred to the United States, in 1867.
The second group is the Western Athabaskan,
or Tinneh, -which must be classed among the
North American Indians, whose domain extended
from the Arctic to Mexico. The Alaskan Tinnehs
are spread over the interior of the territory on
both sides of the Yukon River, and as far we«t
as Koserefsky. A belt of Eskimos hems them in
on the north, west and south, completely separating them from the ocean, except at one point
near Cook's Inlet, on the North Pacific.
That the Tinnehs are offshoots of the Athabaskan race, and that they pushed their -way
westward into Alaska, in past ages, there is no
reason to doubt.   Comparative philologists are Across   Widest  America
confirming a fact that wras only surmised a very
few years ago. Father Jette, a Canadian Jesuit
missionary living among those natives, in a
recent letter to the writer, says: "That the
Alaskan Ten'as are Athabaskan is clear to me
from the fact that their language is closely connected with that of the Luchueux, Rabbit-Skins,
Yellow-Knives, etc., all of whom are undoubtedly
Athabaskan. I had a fresh evidence of this when
Bishop Pascal visited us and gave us specimens
of his Montagnais. He had quite a few roots
common with mine; and, as you know, his vicariate is at the very centre of the Athabaskan
tribes. But these Athabaskans are divided up
into at least four distinct groups, namely, the
Montagnais, the Luchueux, the Peaux-de-lievre,
so-named by the French Canadian voyageurs,
and the fourth, that I -would call the Alaskan
Ten'a, or Tinneh." These proofs of American
origin coming from such an authority, are convincing. Father Jette has spent several years
analysing the roots and structure of the Tinneh
Petroff divides the Alaskan Tinneh group into
nine different tribes, or families—a division based
entirely on linguistic differences. But this author Across   Widest  America
wrote nearly twenty years ago, when data were
necessarily scarce. Traffic on the Yukon and its
tributaries has been brisk in recent years, and
has brought the natives into more frequent
communication with whitemen. The work of exploration and evangelization is going on actively
among them; so that other Tinneh dialects may
yet be found.
Before the advent of the white traders and
their questionable civilization, the savage instincts of the Tinnehs were well developed; and
occasions only were needed for a display of their
Several incidents connected with the tribe are
matters of Alaskan history. In 1836, two Russians, Glazunof and Malakof, in the employ of
the Russian American Fur Company, reached
Nulato, six hundred miles from the mouth of the
Yukon. They built a station there for purposes
of trade and exploration, but the savage Tinnehs
soon destroyed it. Seven years later, Lieutenant
Zagoskin, of the Russian Navy, and £.ve assistants, also on a tour of exploration and discovery, went one hundred miles above Nulato; but
the hostility of those natives obliged them to
turn back. Across   Widest  America
The cruellest example of the savage character
of the Tinnehs was the Nulato massacre which
took place in 1851. In that year, Lieutenant
Barnard, a member of Captain Collinson's party,
in search of Sir John Franklin, -went up the
Yukon to Nulato, to verify rumors that white-
men had been seen by the Koyokuk branch of
the group far in the interior. Barnard desired
an interview with Larione, the chief, and sent a
messenger for him. This dignitary, who was, at
that moment, celebrating a feast twenty-five
miles from Nulato, either misunderstood the
import of the summons, or else he had a too
lofty idea of his own importance. He took
offence at the message of the officer, called a
council of war, deliberated, and then proceeded
to action.
Larione's first deed wras to assassinate the
messenger, and the Russian interpreter. He then
started for the native village, -which contained
about a hundred people, killed them all except a
few -women and children. The Russian trading
post, which was only half a mile from Nulato,
-was next visited. The assassins did away with
Deriabin, the commander ; then broke into the
quarters where they found Lieutenant Barnard Across   Widest  America
reading. A notorious shaman, or sorcerer, stabbed the Englishman in the abdomen and
mortally wounded him. This unfortunate officer
was buried at Nulato, a few yards from the
stockade. A simple monument to his memory
was raised by a fellow-officer of H. M. S. Enterprise, to which Barnard was attached. Retaliation came three years later, when the Russians
cooly massacred every native in the settlement
at Andreafsky, further down the Yukon. But
the memory of the tragic ending of the British
officer is still preserved at Nulato. Barnard's
grave is marked by a simple monument bearing
an elegant classical inscription in Latin from the
pen of Father Angiolini, the well-known Jesuit
The passing of the years has wrought a deep
change in the character and habits of the
Tinnehs. Frequent intercourse with the white
traders and miners—to which must be added
missionary influences—have had a humanizing
effect on them. They still live by fishing and
hunting, and, owing to their expert knowledge
of the Yukon, a few of them are employed as
pilots on the boats, plying up and down that
mighty river. Across   Widest  America
The Thlinkets are the third largest group of"
the Alaskan natives. They inhabit the islands
and coast of Southeastern Alaska, and are
divided into twelve families, or "khoans," each
known by its family emblem, or totem. From
their first intercourse with whitemen, they were
known as a warlike race, treacherous, avaricious (*), ungrateful for services rendered, jealous
of their privileges, and masters in the art of
mystifying their enemies. An imaginary insult
was often sufficient to set them on the warpath.
They gave the Russians a great deal of trouble
during the entire period of occupation. Captain
Vancouver records the details of several lively
encounters with them during his exploration of
the Archipelago ; and even since the transfer of
the territory to the United States, armed force
has had more than once to subdue them.
Of the twelve khoans, the Hydahs, living on
Prince   of Wales   Island,  are   by  far  the  most
(*) Archbishop Seaghers, writing, in 1886, gives an instance of the avarice of the Chilcoot khoan : — " Not only
did they charge us thirteen dollars a hundred pounds for
carrying our supplies, but they made us pay for guiding us,
for ferrying us across the rivers, for looking after our safety
and that of our packs. And they then exacted what they
called I a present," for having faithfully stuck to their
bargain." Across   Widest  America
interesting from an ethnological point of view.
They are classed as Thlinkets, though the
Hydahs themselves deny this connection, and
assert their superiority over the other families.
There is some foundation for their assertion.
They appear to be the remnants of a race of
superior attainments, who -were on their -way
to a relatively advanced civilization when the
Russians reached their shores in the eighteenth
century. They were slave-holders, and had a
well-defined form of government and police.
They were house-builders, stone and wood-carvers, their work in these lines being marvelled at
by La Perouse, Cook, and other early travellers.
Vancouver found the Southeastern natives living
in organized villages with narrow streets, many
of the houses clinging to the hillsides after the
fashion of the present day cliff-dwellers of King
Island, in Bering Strait. Contact with the
Spanish, Russian and American fur-traders
taught those natives the value of furs and fish,
and made them proficient in the use of firearms.
The Thlinkets—the Hydah branch especially—
are the Alaskans whose haunts are visited yearly
by thousands of tourists, and who get all the
notoriety that magazine literature can give them. Across   Widest  America
The myths attached to their origin, the story of
the descent of their families, one from the bear,
another from the whale, a third from the raven,
and so on, and the elaborate totem system
resulting therefrom, with its far-reaching clan
restrictions, have given those natives a special
place among aboriginal peoples.
The totem system originated with the Hydahs,
but in the course of time it -was extended to the
other families of the Thlinklet group. It is a well-
defined code of tribal morality which would not
discredit civilized nations. A great deal has been
written about the system, with its well-known
adjuncts, the carved tree-trunks, or totem poles,
all of which may be reduced to a few lines. I
learned much about these matters in some
conversations I had with the Rev. Hall Young,
the superintendent of the Presbyterian missions
among the Thlinkets, and with Frederic Frobise,
a former curator of the museum at Sitka.
There -were three classes of carved poles. The
first was the historical pole, which told the
story of the remarkable events in the career of
a chief or other warrior. The second was the
death pole, which recorded the fact and manner
of death of members of the  khoan.   The  third Across   Widest  America
was the totem, or pedigree pole, the most important of the three, which gave the line of descent
of the mother's family. So that an adept could
tell by merely looking at the totem pole to what
khoan the owner belonged. Children were always
known by the totem of the mother.
The combinations of figures, birds, and other
living things, distorted beyond recognition and
graven on the poles still standing, are no longer
intelligible. They were, most of them, even when
the system was in vogue, intelligible only to the
persons interested; sometimes not even to them,
I was told, as much depended on the idiosyncrasies of the totem carvers. But those lofty
monuments were objects of pride and veneration
among the Thlinkets in the past; even at the
present time, they are looked on as one of the
most curious form of heraldry in the world. The
pride of ancestry was strong among the Thlinkets ; the native who had blue blood running in
his veins wanted to let people know it, just like
any modern aristocrat—and he made very great
sacrifices to secure a monument. The possession
of an elaborate totem pole cost many an otter-
skin; it was, in fact, a luxury that only the
wealthy could afford.   As long- as the system wras Across  Widest   America
in fashion, carving was a lucrative trade among
the Hydahs. Possessed of all the instincts of a
modern drummer, the native carvers, went from
village to village, soliciting employment, and
securing it by their appeals to the sentiment of
pride in their clients. It is quite possible that
they made their way even to the Sandwich
Islands; for there were real totem poles standing
there at the end of the eighteenth century. Vancouver states that the residence of Tamaahmaah,
King of Hawaii, was decorated with many statues,
or idols, rudely carved out of great tree-trunks,
to represent the human form.
The encroachments of modem methods, however, and intercourse with the white races, have
made the Thlinkets more or less oblivious of the
past. One of the results of missionary influence
among them, is that the totem system is dying
out, and that even the family totem is falling
into disuse. Dr. Young informed me that the
system was the cause of much injustice and
suffering in the tribes, owing to the unequal and
unjust distribution of property. At the death of
a mother, her relatives took possession of the
family belongings, and thus, very often, left her
children in poverty. 240
Across   Widest  America
There are many old poles still standing in
some of the villages of Southeastern Alaska ;.
but they are mere relics of aboriginal glory, and
fair marks for the snap-shots of passing kodaks..
In point of importance and numbers, the
Eskimos, or Innuit, group, stands out in relief.
There may be fifteen or twenty thousand of
them, scattered along the greater part of the
coast line of Alaska, and forming a rim around
the north, wrest and south of the Tinnehs. Like
that of the Aleuts and Thlinkets, the origin of
the Eskimos is enshrouded in mystery, which, it
is hoped, will be cleared up some day. "Their
descent, -whether Asiatic or American, has been
discussed by ethnologists, but the only tangible
result of such discussion," says Petroff, "has
been the establishment of the general belief that
they are of American origin." This author suggests that the Eskimos, after having reached the
Frozen Ocean from their original habitations in
the interior of the American continent, spread
along the Arctic eastward to Greenland, and then
westward and southward, following the Bering
coast. The Alaskan Eskimos are of the same
family as those of Greenland. A former member
of the Peary expedition, now a missionary agent THE   AUTHOR'S   CABIN,   SUMMER   VIEW
THE   CABIN,   AFTER   A   BLIZZARD  Across   Widest   America      241
at Cape Prince of Wales, came to Nome while I
was there, and told us in a lecture that from
his knowrledge of the language of the Green-
landers, he was able to make out some of the
-words of the natives along the Bering Strait.
The Alaskan Eskimos are divided into eighteen
families, a division based, as in the other three
groups, on locality and linguistic differences.
The mode of life of all these families is very
much the same. Their tribal organization is
simple. They have no chiefs, but there is always
some one in each village who, for one reason or
another, is more prominent than the rest, and
who is the recognized spokesman.
Before the coming of the miners to Nome, in
1898, the lives of the Eskimos along the Bering
coast were simple and industrious; they spent
their time in looking for the wherewithal to
live, and in making war on fur, fish and feather.
But in the past few years those who have their
settlements near mining camps, have acquired a
taste for tea, milk, butter, vegetables, and canned
goods in general, which may be easily procured
from shop-keepers. The Eskimos are beginning
to depend on these sources for their subsistence,
a circumstance which does not augur well   for I
Across   Widest  America
their future; for the easy acquisition of food will
inevitably render them indolent and shiftless. An
Eskimo told me in plain English, one day, that it
was very much easier to open a can of Chicago
corned beef than to mend his net and go a-
In the inland settlements of Seward Peninsula
the natives still live by fishing and hunting; and
an interesting sight it always was to me, during
my stay at Council, to see a score of Eskimos
floating down the Neukluk and out to the Bering
ice-floes. On these expeditions, some travel in
kaiaks, others in oomiaks. The former is a
little skinboat, graceful in form and so light
that a man can easily sling it over his shoulder.
It is about fifteen feet long and solidly built of
delicate -wooden ribs held together by means of
walrus thongs. The whole frame work is then
covered over with seal-skin, except an oval hole,
or hatch, in the middle, large enough to allow
a native to sit down at the bottom. The native and his kaiak form one thing; they complete each other. In rainy weather, or when the
surf is high, the Eskimo dons his " kamleika,"
a waterproof garment made of the entrails of
the  seal.    When he  enters  his  kaiak   and   ad-
■    ^i Across   Widest   America
justs the lower edge of the garment over the
hatch, he fears neither wetting nor sinking, it
matters little how choppy the waves are. Seated
comfortably after this fashion, and armed with
a double-bladed paddle, he starts out in his quest
of walrus and seal.
Those animals are two of Nature's precious
gifts to the Eskimo, gifts that he puts to the
very best use. Walrus-hide furnishes him a covering for his skinboats; walrus ivory, material for
his spears and curios. With the skin of the hair
seal, he manufactures his mukluks, or footwear,
while seal meat and seal oil are his dainty
dishes. No morsel will tempt an Eskimo unless
it has been dipped in seal oil. It is this fact
that explains the respectable distance which is
always kept between him and the whitemen
whose olfactory nerves are in any way developed.
The use of fire-arms has been general for the
past twenty-five years among the Eskimos of
the Bering coast; although I never saw a kaiak
that had not also its bone spear lying thereon
ready for action. At Golovin Bay, I watched a
young native in his little skin-boat, waiting for
several hours for a seal to show the tip of his
nose.    That  was   all  he  needed to see;  and if Across   Widest   America
Charley Ikliuk did not get his prey that day, it
was altogether the seal's fault, the natives being
very skilful with their weapons.
The oomiaks are large open boats made of
walrus-hide, and built as wide and as long as
the old north-boats, or bonnes, of the Canadian
lumbermen. I had occasion to closely examine
dozens of oomiaks, both at Nome and on Kotzebue Sound. Not a nail or a bit of iron was to
be seen anywhere in them. Wooden pegs, bone
wedges, sinews and thongs of walrus-hide took
the place of iron, and served their purpose wrell.
Those skin-boats are strongly built, and ride
superbly on the waves. I saw their strength
tested when I was on the Saidie, passing down
through the Bering Strait. Captain Richmers,
who is a friend of the natives, overtook an
oomiak filled with Eskimos in the open Arctic.
He offered to carry them down to Port Clarence,
an offer which wras very readily accepted. The
oomiak glided in quickly beside the vessel, when
men, women and children climbed on the deck
with the agility of monkeys. The sailors then
attached a hawser to the large skin-boat and
hauled it aboard; it resisted the strain as if it
were made of iron. Across   Widest   America      245
The Eskimos, who live on the Bering coast,
and along the river banks of Seward Peninsula,
flit from place to place a great deal in summer.
They are engaged in catching and drying fish,
which they store away in little huts, or caches,
perched on posts. During those short months,
they live in tents, and cook their food in small
sheet-iron stoves which the miners sell them. In
winter, they retire to their igloos, warm rooms
built half underground, with doors so low that
one has to bend down on all fours to get in.
Along the coast, the igloos are solidly made of
driftwood and last for years, several of them being now used as road-houses by the whites. I
had the unenviable privilege of spending two
days and two nights in one, during a blizzard,
at Topkuk, on my first winter trip to Council.
In the populous settlements, besides the igloos
which are the private dwellings, there is always
a large underground building, called a cachime—
a sort of Eskimo town-hall—where the male
portion of the settlement -work during the day
making mukluks and parkehs, carving ivory
curios or weaving baskets, and where the whole
community spends the long winter evenings sing-
in p- and dancing. Across   Widest  America
The Eskimos at Nome and the outlying camps
belong to the Mahlamute branch of the group,
the most westerly of all American tribes. A
single glance at those natives suffices to disabuse
one of the absurd school-book tales about stunted
Eskimos. They are men of splendid physique,
few of then measuring less than five feet and a
half, and many of them being fully six feet high.
The women are also well built, but the habit the
mothers have of carrying their children on their
backs gives them a bend that is not graceful.
The number of natives around Nome is increased every summer by the arrival of the cliff-
dwellers from King Island and the natives of the
Diomedes Islands, off the Siberian coast. The
first care of those strangers when they touch land
is to haul their oomiaks out of reach of the surf,
raise them so that they may rest on one side,
and then prop them up -with the paddles. This
manoeuvre gives them a secure shelter from rain
and coast gales. The natives pitch their tents and
immediately set to work a-carving ivory. The
children, always plentiful, start to build mud-pies
in the sand and to play with their fur-clad dolls,
utterly oblivious of men and things, until the
kodak fiend appears. The sight of an " Eastman " Across   Widest   America      247
scatters them like chickens before a hawk; one
can rarely capture a young Eskimo by time
When they are not at work in their tents on
the beach, the Mahlamutes and their visitors,
filthy in dress and bare-headed, walk around in
groups of four or five, peering into shop windows
and chewing gum. The costumes of those
strangers startle one who sees them for the first
time. Men and women dress alike, the women
however, being more stylish, in the decoration
of their parkehs. It does not take white people
long to get accustomed to their curiosities in
dress; but during one's first day in Nome, it is a
novelty to see women going along the streets
decked out in Bryan 0'Lynn's furbelows. The
men shave the crown of the head, leaving only a
rim of hair around the skull. Whether this is
to keep them cool or for some other reason, I
am unable to say. They carry about with them
ivory curios of all descriptions, the result of their
industry. Some of these are crudely made, while
others are really artistic in design and execution.
It is remarkable how those primitive Eskimo
artists, who certainly never had lessons in technique,   can   observe   perspective,   foreshortening Across   Widest   America
and shading so well. One native in Nome, Happy
Jack, draws portraits true to life on ivory tusks ;
and—a rare qualification in an artist—he has
the commercial instinct developed in a marked
degree. When this Eskimo asks you a hundred
dollars for one of his productions, he really means
it; and -when once he has fixed his price, which
is always high, it is useless to try to gain him
over to more reasonable sentiments. He is perfectly honest, and will do all he promises, but he
wants to be wrell paid for it. Unhappily, the
Eskimos have had such sad experiences of the
dishonesty of the whites that their primitive
guilelessness has disappeared forever. They are
now fully on the alert, and one can hardly blame
them. An American tourist in Nome purchased
from a native an ivory cribbage board, made
out of a complete walrus tusk, beautifully carved.
The price was twenty dollars, and the terms
were "spot cash"—a shining gold piece. When
the native tried to buy some provisions, later in
the day, he was told that he had only a bit of
polished brass in his hand. Another whiteman
bought ivory curios from a native in Nome and
gave him in payment several World's Fair medals.   Dishonest acts like these, and a hundred
•—i Across    Widest   America
similar ones, are changing the character of the
Eskimo, and turning his natural candor into
suspicion. He is learning to know the difference
between gold and brass, tin and silver; he now
invariably bites a piece of money before he closes
a transaction.
The better class of miners resent this treatment of the native; they have only words of
praise and kindness for him. There are few-
hungry "mushers," lost on the coast, or in the
interior of the peninsula, who have not, at some
time or other in the past five years, experienced
the hospitality of an Eskimo's igloo. We have
yet to learn of a case, in which a miner was
refused food or warmth by a native. And as the
miners are a class of men, blessed with the bump
of gratitude, they are not slow in giving expression to their feelings, and praising the Eskimo.
One of the white champions of the Eskimo
lives at the old Swedish mission of Chinik, on
Golovin Bay. His name is John Dexter, and he
is probably the best known and most respected
name in Northwestern Alaska. Originally from
New England—Boston, I think—he has been for
nearly a quarter of a century a fur-trader in the
employ of the   Alaskan   Commercial   Company. 250
Across   Widest  America
This man has given away a couple of fortunes
in his charity to the natives. His wife is a clever
Eskimo woman, whom he educated, and who
has proved herself worthy of her white husband.
At the moment of writing, she is in San Francisco,
superintending the training of her daughter who
has remarkable artistic talent.
Gifted with a retentive memory, Dexter himself, like all the old-timers in Alaska, is steeped
in native lore. He is a well-read man and a born
story-teller, and miners are always flocking to his
hospitable home at Chinik to hear him relate
his experiences when alone on floating ice-cakes
or when lost in blizzards on the tundra. If he
could write a story as well as he can tell one,
this interesting Alaskan would open up an unexplored field in literature. I had him all to myself
for a couple of days once, during a summer
journey up the Fish and Neukluk Rivers, and I
secured from him a great deal of information
about his own exciting career. When in the
interest of historic truth, I asked him, as delicately as possible, where fiction ended and fact
began, he frankly declared he could hardly tell
me. Though not professing any religion in particular, this whole-hearted man has always been Across    Widest   America      251
a friend of our missionaries. He has kept the
pleasantest memories of many of the Jesuits of
the Yukon, of Father Tosi in particular, whom
he accompanied on his memorable trip north to
Kotzebue Sound. He gave me many interesting
facts about the strenuousness of this hardy old
missionary, -who was then over sixty years old.
But men like John Dexter are the exception.
The influence of the white population is sensibly
modifying the character of the Eskimos, and for
the worse, at least in Seward Peninsula. Those
poor people have constantly before their eyes the
pernicious examples of the degradation of many
of the mining camps and the unscrupulousness
of the white hangers-on. It was long ago
evident to them that gold is the god of most
of the Alaskan miners.
During my stay at Nome, a Swedish miner,
working on Anvil Creek, struck something hard
while digging. He was about to cast it aside
with his shovel, but its weight excited his curiosity. He stooped down and picked up a solid
gold nugget, nearly as large as a loaf of bread,
the largest ever found in Alaska. It was brought
into Nome, where its weight wras recorded, one
hundred and eighty-two ounces,  and  its value, 252      Across   Widest   America
three thousand two hundred dollars. It was
then put on exhibition in the office of the
Pioneer Mining Company; and streams of visitors began to adore the idol on its pedestal.
The great gold nugget was the topic of conversation for a week. Congratulations were showered
on the lucky Swede who found it, and little
sympathy was wasted on the man who had
sold the claim for a song. The poor untutored
Eskimos standing by, looked with astonishment
at all this excitement over a lump of yellow
metal. Can you wonder if they ask, " Has white
man gone crazy?"
It is idle to speculate on what the results
would be if the Alaskan native ever came to see
the possibilities that lie hidden in heaps of yellow
gold dust. Meanwhile, the seeds of Christianity
are being planted in these tribes. In the next
chapter I shall say something about the work
begun by the Jesuit missionaries, and the Sisters
of St. Anne, whose heroism has become a byword in Alaska. CHAPTER XIV
Religion in^Alaska — Missionary Work and
Its Results
r>EFORE the arrival of the Russians, no form
of Christianity had found its way into
those desolate regions of the north. Shamanism,
or sorcery, with all its abominations, had cast
its dark shadow over the Eskimos, and as far
as is known, over the other three tribes as well.
The natives have a firm belief in the existence of
good and evil spirits, and they practise incantations to propitiate the one and ward off the
other. However, the religion of the native
Eskimo is a religion of fear rather than of love.
Feeling that he has no reason to dread the
good spirits, because they are good, all his
attention is given to gain the favor of the evil
ones. Sickness is ascribed to the direct action
of evil spirits, and the patients are treated after
recipes of which the shamans alone have the
secret. One instance of their methods of cure
will suffice. After singing and dancing around a
sick Eskimo, a shaman applies his lips to the
part of the patient's body where the pain is
greatest.     He  then   casts   from   his   mouth   a Across   Widest   America
thorn, or bug, or pebble, which had been put
there for the purpose, and persuades the sick
man that this was the cause of his illness.
The influence of these emissaries of Satan is
still strong among the native population along
the Bering coast. When the Sisters of Providence furnished their hospital at Nome, they set
aside a ward in an adjoining building exclusively
for the Eskimos. This was a necessary addition
to their establishment, as no white patient
would live in the same room with an Eskimo,
and inhale the odors of seal oil that emanate
from his body. Shortly after the building was
opened the ward was filled with natives,
several of them suffering from pneumonia, one
being at the point of death. The surprise of the
Sisters was great one early morning, when they
entered the ward and found it empty. They
learned later that a shaman had got in during
the night and had threatened the inmates with
the vengeance of the evil spirits if they did not
quit the place; which they did promptly. However, the intercourse of the natives with the
whites, and the utter contempt the miners show
for the shaman, are making many of the
Eskimos somewhat sceptical of his powers. Across   Widest  America
Among the Mahlamutes of Seward Peninsula,
I saw very little of the effects of shamanism,
but I know that those sorcerers provide children
with charms of ivory or pieces of skin, curiously
wrought, which are -worn around the neck. I
saw in a window at Nome, the stock in trade
of a professional shaman who had given up his
trade after his conversion to one of the sects.
It was indeed a motley collection that this imp
of darkness used in order to practise his sorcery,
birds' wings, masks, walrus thongs, ivory and
bone curios, forming a portion of his stock in
The Eskimos' fear of death is remarkable ; a
dead human body is to them an object of terror.
JRelatives and friends abandon a sick native for
whom there is no hope of cure, or they sit
stolidly by till death comes to relieve the
patient's misery ; they then quit the igloo and
return no more, leaving to other hands the care
of the corpse till it is taken to its final
A pathetic scene came under my noticej on
the shore of Kotzebue Sound. An Eskimo was
dying of pneumonia at Keewalik ; I found him
on   a bearskin in his igloo   and   burning  with Widest   America
fever. His wife and four children were sitting
beside him, silent and immoveable, and unable
to help him. I administered some quinine
secretly ; for I had been warned by the miners
not to give him any medicine in presence of the
relatives, as they might attribute his death to
me, and then I should find myself in a "peck of
trouble" with them. However, the native died
a few hours later, and the family abandoned
the igloo, leaving everything behind them. The
grief of his little children, who appeared to
realize vividly all they had lost, wras one of the
saddest sights I ever witnessed. Great tears
rolled down their cheeks, and they sobbed as
though their little hearts could break. Even the
flinty old gold-hunters standing by were touched, and some of them had an unusual amount
of moisture about the eyelids.
The miners constructed a rude coffin of boards
and canvas. When the moment came to carry
the body to its last resting-place, pallbearers
of four different nationalities — a Portuguese, a
Dane, an Italian, and an Austrian—stepped
forward to do the work, giving us one of those
touches of Nature that makes brothers of all
mankind.   The coffin was raised to its four posts,   Across   Widest  America
six feet above the ground, and the dead man's
hunting-knife and rifle were hung alongside.
But it was a sad commentary on our white
civilization to see the friends of the Eskimo
breaking the trigger of the rifle before they
hung it on the post. They knew- by experience
that the weapon would soon be stolen by white
men, if it were worth anything.
The first attempt to Christianize the Alaskan
tribes wras made in 1794, when the Russian
American Fur Company formally introduced the
Orthodox Church. Shelikof, the organizer, had
taken the preliminary steps, at Kadiak, some
years before. In 1787, he had petitioned the
Russian Synod to send missionnaries to convert
the Aleuts, promising that his company would
provide them with transportation, and support
them in their new field. In a special ukase,
dated June, 1793, the Empress Catherine II. ordered the Metropolite of Moscow to select the
best material for such a mission, and in the following autumn, the Archimandrite Ivassof, with
seven members of the Russian clergy and two
laymen, left St. Petersburg for Okhotsk, whence
they sailed for Kadiak. This large island wras
the  headquarters of Shelikof,   and  from  it  the Across   Widest  America
monks spread out in different directions under
the protection of the fur hunters. The Archimandrite Makar proceeded to Unalaska and
began to baptize all the natives within sight.
Another, Juvenal, performed the same function
on the natives of Kadiak Island and along
Cook's Inlet. This monk was murdered two
years later for trying to put down polygamy.
He appears to have been an energetic man, and
did more to spread the Russian doctrines than
the rest of his companions. The other members
of the mission were less active, and confined their
labors to the neighborhood of Kadiak. In 1797,
the Archimandrite Ivassof was ordered to Irkutsk
for promotion to the episcopacy. While returning to Alaska, he and two of his clergy were lost
at sea. This catastrophe -was a set-back to the
Christianization of the Aleuts, and the wrork
remained in abeyance until the arrival of Baranof, who asked for a priest for Sitka. In 1816,
the monk Sobolof reached Southeastern Alaska,
the first Russian-Greek missionary, apparently,
who labored among the Thlinkets.
At the renewal of the charter of the company,
the clause relative to missionary enterprise was
insisted on.   In 1823,  Venimianof, the most dis- Across   Widest  America
tinguished of the Russian clergy in Alaska,
appeared on the scene. He was instrumental in
spreading Christianity over a vast extent of
country, visiting not only the Aleutian Islands,
but all the coast of the mainland from Bristol
Bay to the Kuskokwim delta. Venimianof -was
a man of exceptional ability. He mastered the
Aleut and Thlinket languages, translated portions of the New Testament, composed a cathe-
chism and hymnal, and, as -we mentioned in the
previous chapter, began an exhaustive research
into the traditions, beliefs and superstitions of
the natives of the Aleutian group. When Alaska
was detached from the episcopal see of Irkutsk,
Venimianof was made Bishop of Sitka, assuming
the name of Innocentius. Here he devoted himself
with great zeal to the conversion of the Thlinkets. He established a seminary for the training
of natives and half-breeds for the Russian priesthood, an institution which was maintained for
many years. Venimianof was subsequently transferred to Russia, and died at Moscow as Primate
of the Orthodox Church. (*)
(*) It may be well to note here that the Russian Church
is an offshoot of the Greek (Schismatic) Church which first
broke away from Catholic unity in the ninth century; and 260
Across   Widest  America
After a century of labor, and a lavish expendi-
dure, the Russian Church had apparently made
but little impression on the natives of Alaska.
In 1860, the Holy Synod, the highest ecclesiastical
authority in the empire, put the number of
Christians at eleven thousand. This is considered a gross exaggeration. But for all that, the
Russian Church once had palmy days in Alaska,
and there was a time, when her combined military and religious functions were carried out
with almost imperial splendor. As late as twenty
years ago, a United States official thus described
the Russian cathedral at Sitka : " It is almost
cruciform in character, and in a good state of
preservation. The interior bears evidence of
wealth and taste. There are several rare and
valuable paintings on the walls. One beautiful
represesentation of the Madonna peculiarly attracted my eye. The decorations of the altar
are rich and the carvings are creditable. Valuable
silver ornaments exist, and the church seryice is
which, after many attempts had been made to heal the breach,
with but temporary success, definitely renounced her allegiance to the Pope, in the fifteenth century. The Catholic
Church looks upon both mother and daughter as heretical
and schismatical, but admits the validity of their orders and
s acraments. Across   Widest   America
expensive. The sacerdotal vestments are of heavy
cloth of the finest texture and tastefully embroidered in gold. When Sitka was in the height
of her glory, the sanctuary of the cathedral
was thronged by officers of the army and the
navy, government officials, and some of Russia's proudest nobles; but now a general gloom
pervades the church property as well as the
-whole place."
Shortly after the colony was purchased by
the United States, the episcopal see was transferred from Sitka to San Francisco, and the halcyon days of the Russian Church in Alaska were
gone forever. There are still a few Russian
priests at work here and there, along the coast
of the North Pacific, on the Bering Sea, and on
the Yukon River, but their influence is inappreciable, except in those small missions where their
schools are kept up. The imperial government,
I was told, allots eighty thousand dollars a year
for the maintenance of the clergy in Alaska and
for the preservation of the Russian schools. This
latter fact has always been a sore point with
the Americans, who resent the efforts -which the
Russians continue to make, to prevent the natives
from learning any other language but their own. 262
Across   Widest   America
Why the Russians do this, is not far to seek, for
the Russian tongue has kept the natives strongly
attached to the religion which their forefathers
Several of the Protestant sects, notably the
Moravians, Presbyterians, Swedish Evangelical,
Congregational and Episcopal, are at work in
various parts of Alaska. Of these, the Presbyterians, who landed in that country in 1878, have
been the most successful. The present governor
of Alaska, John B. Brady, was a Presbyterian
missionary for years. And Sheldon Jackson,
another Presbyterian missionary, is the superintendent of education for the whole territory.
The Roman Catholic Church began her labors
in a quiet -way in 1872. Francis Mercier, chief
agent of the Alaska Commercial Company in
those regions, alarmed at the constantly threatening dispositions of the natives along the
Yukon and the Tanana, suggested to his company that it should take steps to introduce
Catholic missionaries among them. The success
of the Church in other countries, and the humanising influence she exercises over savage tribes,
were the motives that urged the agent to invite
the Oblate Fathers to take up the work.   In the   Across   Widest  America
autumn of 1871, Bishop Clut, of the Athabasca-
Mackenzie district, with two companions, Father
Lecorre and an Indian interpreter named Silvain,
crossed over the mountains and wintered at
Fort Yukon. The following spring they sailed
down the river to Neuklukayet, where they met
a large number of natives from the Tanana
and Koyokuk districts. They then continued
their journey down the Yukon, instructing both
Tinneh and Eskimo adults, and baptizing their
children. Notwithstanding the opposition shown
by the shamans and the Russianized natives, the
Oblates considered the prospects so bright that
they decided to establish stations on the Yukon.
After spending a year in reconnoitring, Bishop
Clut turned homeward, leaving Father Lecorre
in residence at St. Michael's, at the mouthof the
river. The missionary remained then until 1874,
when the news came to him that the spiritual
jurisdiction of the Alaskan territory had been
entrusted to the Bishop of Victoria. This prelate
was the saintly Bishop Seaghers, who ultimately
gave up his life in the work.
In July, 1877, with one companion, Father
Mandart, he made a preliminary voyage to St.
Michael's, and then advanced into the interior as 264
Across   Widest  America
far as Nulato, where he determined on making a
lengthened stay. During the long winter of
1877-78, the Bishop travelled a great deal up
and down the Yukon River, and visited many of
the native villages. He made three expeditions up
the Koyokuk, undergoing, in the interval, privations of all kinds. When leaving Nulato for
Victoria, he promised the Tinnehs that he would
return the following year and establish missions
among them. It was during his absence that
his promotion to the See of Portland had been
effected, a circumstance which prevented him from
keeping his promise.
However, this first episcopal visit produced
immediate results in other parts of the territory.
In 1878, Father Altoff went to reside at Wrangell, in Southeastern Alaska, from which point
he visited the whole Cassiar country and the
coast, where the only white settlement was Sitka,
the former Russian capital. He wras transferred
to Juneau, and saw its beginnings in 1885, and
there he was joined by Father Heynen who was
sent to aid him in his labors at Sitka. Those
two zealous priests, who were the pioneers of the
Church in the Alaskan Archipelago, lived in the
utter isolation of primitive missionary life, preach- Across   Widest   America
ing the Gospel to Thinklet and whiteman alike,
nntil the decree issued by the Propaganda in
1886, raised Alaska to the dignity of a Prefecture
Apostolic and handed it over to a religious order.
In 1883, Archbishop Seaghers went to Rome,
secured his re-appointment to the See of Victoria,
and resumed his long-delayed plans in favor of
the Alaskan natives. He invited the Society of
Jesus to share the work with him, and in the
July, 1886, he started for the headquarters of the
Yukon, accompanied by two Jesuits, Fathers
Paschal Tosi and Aloysius Robaut, and a hired
man named Fuller. The little band suffered many
hardships, and underwent many dangers, on their
way over the Chilcoot Pass and down those
seething waters that were to witness so many
catastrophes, twelve years later, when the Klondike discoveries startled the world.
When they reached the mouth of the Stewart
River, eighty or ninety miles south of the present
city of Dawson, the Jesuits pitched camp for the
winter, to work among the Thlinkets, while the
prelate and the man Fuller proceeded on their
way down to Yukon. Archbishop Seaghers was
impatient to reach Nulato to keep the promise
which  he has made the Tinnehs,  six years pre- 266
Across   Widest   America
viously. The two travellers experienced many
difficulties during the journey from masses of
floating ice, and were -well-nigh exhausted, when
they reaxhed Nulato, the end of their eleven
hundred mile journey. On the way, the servant
Fuller developed symptoms of insanity, growing
morose, and, at times, acting -with the greatest
insolence towards the archbishop. The prelate
decided to stay at l^essetlatoh, near the mouth
of the Koyokuk, until the Yukon had frozen over,
and he took up quarters in an abandoned fishing
cabin. On the morning of November 25, Fuller
roused the prelate from his sleep, and while the
latter was sitting up, the wretch, in a fit of
insanity, pointed a rifle at him and shot him
through the heart. Death was instantaneous. The
remains of the murdered archbishop were taken
down the Yukon River to St. Michael's, whence,
two years later, they were transferred to the
crypt of the cathedral in Victoria, B. C. The
murderer was sentenced to prison for a number of
years, his insanity having saved him from the
This tragedy opened the work in Northern
Alaska. The Catholic mission among the natives
of that ice-bound land was thus watered with   Across  Widest   America
the blood of him who must be considered its
founder,—a fact that is the surest pledge of its
future success.
At the breaking up of the ice in the spring of
1887, the Jesuit Fathers Tosi and Robaut, not
finding the occasion favorable to begin their
mission on the Upper Yukon, started to join
Archbishop Seaghers. When they reached Nulato,
they were shocked to learn of the deed that had
been done in the preceding November.
The work in Northern Alaska now devolved
entirely upon those two Jesuits, who, filled with
the zeal of which the murdered archbishop had
given them so illustrious an example, began their
journeys -westward along the Yukon and its
tributaries. They travelled from village to village, and, with their limited knowledge of the
language, they explained to the natives, as best
they could, the reason of their advent among
them. The settlements on the valley of the
mighty river offered the most favorable ground
for their missionary zeal; and while Father Tosi
returned to the United States to give the details
of the sad ending to Archbishop Seaghers' life,
Father Robaut decided to carry out the prelate's
intention, and he established a mission at Nulato, 268
Across   Widest  America
,among the Tinnehs. The following year, he
.accepted the invitation of the Eskimos, near
Koserefsky, to go to live with them. Thus
began the Holy Cross Mission, which has become the centre of the work of the Jesuits in the
interior. This mission is located on the west
bank of the Yukon, about four hundred miles
from the Bering coast, on a level strip of land
enclosed with mountains on the west and south.
Several large log buildings form the dwelling
places of the missionaries and their assistants.
There are outbuildings, dormitories, and workshops where the young natives of both the Eskimo and Tinneh tribes are kept and formed to
habits of industry under the direction of Jesuit
lay-brothers, who teach them to work at gardening, carpentry and smithing of various kinds.
The native girls, gathered in from the villages
along the Yukon River, are under the care of
the Sisters of St. Anne. Those devoted women,
whose mother-house is at Lachine, near Montreal, went to Alaska in 1888. They are the
pioneer Sisters of the North, and have by their
zeal and self-abnegation made Holy Cross Mission
the most prominent place on the Yukon, west of
Dawson.    They  have   constantly  in  their  care Across   Widest  America
seventy or eighty Eskimo and Tinneh girls,
whom they train in the arts of cooking, knitting
and sewing. They instruct them thoroughly in
the Catholic faith, a task which they find to be
pleasant and easy of accomplishment; for the
native children, although possessing few external
qualities, are endowed with quick minds and
retentive memories. Their talent for music and
their soft voices, cultivated under the direction
of the Sisters, have more than once, in the past
sixteen years, surprised the tourists and miners-
going up and down the Yukon.
The Sisters of St. Anne, -who are doing so
much for the Church in that distant land, deserve-
a page all to themselves in the annals of Alaska.
Already one of their number, Sister Mary Angil-
bert, has gone to receive the reward of her generous self-sacrifice. She lies in the little cemetery
on the hillside, under the shadow of the great,
cross that gives its name to the mission.
The well-known traveller, Harry deWindt, who
visited Holy Cross Mission on his way to Siberia,
in 1897, devoted a sympathetic page to it in his
work, Through Alaska to Bering Strait. "The
pleasantest memory," he wrote, "that I retain:
of the   dreary journey   from   Circle City to  St. 270      Across   Widest   America
Michael's, is the Catholic Mission of the Holy
Cross, at Koserefsky, which is prettily situated
in a grassy valley formed by the low, undulating
hills. The steamer remained here for a few hours
which enabled me to visit the mission. The latter
consists of several neat buildings, comprising a
dwelling house for the Sisters, a priest's house,
a pretty chapel, a school for the native children,
and a vegetable garden Here too was the
first and last flower garden that we came across
in Alaska. It was pathetic to see the care that
had been lavished on the flowers—poor things at
best—but which infused a touch of warmth and
color even into this lonely waste At one
end of the garden wras a statue of our Lady,
enshrined in a tiny chapel of pine boughs, while
a large white cross near the mission marked the
resting place of a poor sister who had just died
before our arrival. The climate of Koserefsky is
very trying, and many deaths have already
occured here, although the mission was founded
only ten years ago. Before leaving, I visited the
schools, models of neat cleanliness, where twenty
or thirty children of both sexes were hard at
work. The whole place wore an air of peace and
homeliness, so different from the squalid settle- Across   Widest  America
ments up the river, that one might almost ima-
,gine himself in some quiet village of far-away
There are half a dozen Asters of St. Anne in the
Yukon missions. They are doing a noble work
among the young Tinnehs and Eskimos, and
emulating, in a different sphere and under different conditions, the Sisters of Providence whose
labor among the miners of Seward Peninsula
I mentioned in a previous chapter.
The work of the Jesuit missionaries among
the natives of North-western Alaska now comprises two flourishing missions, Koserefsky and
Nulato, on the Yukon, Akularak, in the delta,
and a fourth on the Kuskokwim. Others are
being established in the more populous settlements which are visited regularly in spite of the
appalling distances and the rigors of the climate.
Incredible are the hardships such men as the
Jesuits Tosi, Treca, Robaut, Rene, Crimont, Jette,
Chivassa, Ragaru, Munroe, Judge, Barnum, Luc-
chesi, Lafortune, Camille, and a dozen others, have
endured in the past few years, and are enduring
still, to sow- the seed of the Faith in the minds
and hearts of the tribes along the Yukon and its
branches. 272
Across   Widest  America
The cold and the intense isolation of the
Alaskan winters have no terrors for those brave
men who are giving their lives to the work; nor
do their personal sufferings or inconveniences
count for aught when there are souls to be
saved. It is admirable to read in their private-
letters—confidential missives not destined for the
public eye—the note of resignation, coupled with
a spirit of zeal for the glory of the Great Master,,
and their confidence in the providence of Him
who feeds the sparrows and clothes the lilies.
Still in their exile among the Alaskan tribes, they
have consolations that are undreamt of by the
world outside. The readiness of the native
children to accept the Faith, and their genuine
piety after their conversion, demonstrated in the
missions already established, are rewards suffix
cient for men who have forsaken the comforts
of civilization. Those missionaries look for no
reward in this life; and the sacrifices they are
making are the surest guarantee for the future
of religion among the Alaskan   natives.
It remains now to tell what the Church is doing
for the white population in that distant land. Of
the thousands who flock to Alaska every spring,
a large percentage is Catholic.   It  was   during   Across    Widest   America       273
the rush of 1900 that the Church began to look
after their spiritual interests. As early as the
August of the previous year, Father Rene, S.J.,
the then Prefect Apostolic of Alaska, went to the
Nome mining camp and promised to send spiritual help. A month later, Father Treca, a Jesuit
missionary residing at the mouth of the Yukon,
paid Nome a visit, said Mass for the miners,
and gave them the other benefits of his ministry.
The following winter he tried to make a second
visit to the camp, but before the devoted missionary had reached Unaliklik, he nearly perished
in a blizzard. His face and feet were severely
frozen, and his life was despaired of for a long
time afterwards.
In July, 1891, the first resident priest, Father
Jacquet, S.J., wras sent from California to Nome.
He began the erection of a Church which was
completed in the autumn. The structure is large
and well-built, and has the distinction of being
the most westerly church in the Western Hemisphere. The cross which tips the steeple is the
highest point in Nome. It is lighted by electricity, and being visible at a distance of twenty
miles, it serves as a beacon light for lost travellers inland, and for ships at sea.    During the 274
Across   Widest  America
summer time no such signal is needed, as daylight is continuous for several months. But as
the autumn approaches, and the darkness
becomes intense, it is a singularly picturesque
and inspiring sight to see this brilliant cross
standing out clear and distinct, apparently
unsupported in the black sky. The Eskimos call
it the "whiteman's star." During the long
winter nights it serves as a rallying point, and
has been the occasion of saving the life of many
a miner, who, in trudging home to camp, had
lost the trail on the tundra. So important is
the role that this cross plays on the Bering
coast, that the Nome aldermen decided, just
before I left that town, to stand the expense of
the lighting during the season of darkness.
Owing to his efforts in the first months of
his ministry, the health of Father Jacquet
became impaired, and he wras succeeded by two
of his brethren, Fathers Van der Pol and
Camille. Those two priests suffered for a whole
year the privations incident to pioneer missionary life, and worked heroically for the spiritual
uplifting of the Alaskan miners. They were succeeded by Father Cataldo, who has been already
mentioned, and the writer of these pages. Across   Widest   America      275
The Catholic priest's ministry in Nome and
the outside camps differs little from that in
other centres. But the appalling absorption of
the miners in their -work of fortune-hunting
renders them more or less callous to the appeals
that are made to them in the interests of their
souls. Alaska is for them only a temporary
halting place, where they intend to stay just
long enough to fill their purses—and no longer.
Other considerations, even spiritual, are secondary. Dozens of miners frankly acknowledge to
you, when you approach them, that their religious convictions will not bear very close inspection, and their practice carries out this declaration to the letter. They themselves admit that
this is the result of their education in the much
vaunted public schools of the United States.
One hears a good deal about the leakage the
Church is suffering from in the neighboring
Republic, and of the almost incredible numbers
who have lapsed from the Faith. But I confess
I was not prepared to meet such solid proofs of
the fact as I did during my two years in Alaska.
Nearly all are possessed by the demon of indif-
ferentism. I met quite a number of staunch coreligionists in the mining centres which I visited, 276
Across   Widest  America
and I feel that the rest of them have lying
latent somewhere that Faith whose teachings
they learned at their mother's knee. If they are
not taken off suddenly, they will probably call
the priest to their bedside when dying, but they
are altogether too delicate about troubling him
while they are in health. Of course, there are
extenuating circumstances. Three-fourths of the
Catholics in Northwestern Alaska are day laborers, and the mining season lasts less than five
months out of the twelve. Mining employers
require every moment of their workmen's time,
night and day, Sunday and week-day. This is
the universal excuse among our people for their
apathy ; and this is really the best excuse that
they can give. They are taken up so exclusively
with their day's work that there is little means
of reaching them ; it is precisely this fact that
makes visits to mining camps so unsatisfactory.
But the miners are big-hearted, and "the sky-
pilot" is always a welcome guest among them.
He is treated royally, and listened to respectfully. Protestants assist at Mass as well as
Catholics; but there the programme ends. There
is no time for any kind of instruction. Other
interests are more pressing than the interests of Across   Widest   America      211
their souls ; and it is very likely that while the
preacher is talking to them about the treasures
which rust not, and which the moth cannot
injure, they are thinking about their dump of
"pay-dirt," and calculating the value of their
next "clean-up."
These were my experiences both on Kotzebue
Sound and at Council. Early in the summer of
1904, I made a second trip to the latter camp
to carry out a project I had in view, that of
building a small log church and house. After
my visit there, the previous winter, the foundations had been dug ; and the promise of generous support urged me to complete the work
begun as soon as possible. I had even hopes of
entering the church before the beginning of
winter. Friends in New York had sent me an
organ and altar equipments ; but a church was
needed in which to house them. Unfortunately,
skilled labor cost ten dollars a day, and finishing lumber one hundred and twenty dollars a
thousand feet; so that the high prices made it
prudent to "hasten slowly."
However, nothing could be gained by waiting;
so I set to work to pull the wires. Council being
seventy miles from the coast, the forest was thick 278
Across   Widest  America
enough, and the trees large enough, for building
purposes, I had only to take the means to cut
them down and haul them into camp. Ten or
fifteen brawny miners, among them Protestants
as well as Catholics—even a Greek was of the
number — shouldered their axes just before the
terrific blizzards set in, and went to fell trees on
the banks of the Neukluk, five miles from Council.
It was like an echo from the far-off Canadian
lumbering camps to hear the joyous shouting of
the axe-men, as the lofty trees came crashing
down. But even during the log-cutting we were
not allowed to forget that we were in Alaska.
While we were at dinner one day, a procession
of Eskimos, drawn by reindeer, passed down
beside us on their winter trail to the coast.
The next problem to be faced was that of
getting the logs out of the forest. Several horses
had been kindly offered to me, but owing to the
abnormal depth of the snow, those animals were
useless; so we had to harness up dog-teams, and,
in a few days, the church logs were hauled out
to the main trail on the Neukluk river. It was
at that moment that the worst storm in the
history of Council came, and forced us into what
threatened  to   be   an  indefinite inactivity.   The   Across   Widest  America
snow came down heavily and unceasingly; brisk
winds drove it up, layer after layer, against our
low cabins, covering some of them gradually like
quicksand; others it covered completely, leaving
nothing visible but the stove-pipes. During that
strenuous season, we had little time to think
about church building; we were all kept too busy
digging ourselves out.
At the end of six weeks we had a respite,
when the miners set to -work again to haul, and
hew, and build. The church was raised only to
the eaves, but the dwelling annex was soon completed, and I entered my own home. It was
there I spent the rest of the winter in literary
solitude, the most delightful of prisons, putting
together much of the matter which appears in
the present volume. A few books I had secured
the previous autumn, and private correspondence
with the Yukon missionaries, taught me many
things about Alaska, which I have endeavored
to communicate to my readers, especially about
the native tribes, and the efforts that are being
made to given them the inestimable boon of the
Christian Faith.
One strong impression remains with me, from
my contact with the natives in Alaska, and that 280
Across   Widest   Americi
is that there is a vast field for missionary zeal
among the aboriginal population of that country,
if men and means could be found to work there.
The Alaskans are intelligent and willing to receive
instruction. Unhappily, neither men nor means
seem to present themselves as abundantly as the
circumstances would demand. There are many
souls to be reached in Alaska : souls not merely
of the hundreds of miners who care not for,
and seek not, the only true wealth, but souls of
thousands of natives as well, who are hungering
for the Words of Life, and there are none to utter
There are thousands of natives, not merely in
Seward Peninsula, but in the rest of the territory,
who have never heard any one speak to them of
God, and who would become edifying Christians
as the work already done proves, if there were
missionaries who would devote a few years of
their lives to the work of their conversion. It is
the will of the Master that men shall reach
heaven through the ministry of their fellow-men;
and yet in Alaska, with its five hundred and
seventy-seven thousand square miles, there are
less than twenty Jesuit missionaries at work.
There is a field there for ten times the number.  CHAPTER  XV
Last Year on the Bering—Homeward]
HP HE first year of my sojourn in Alaska was at.
an end, and left behind it ineffaceable impressions of life in a mining camp. The approach of
my second spring on the Bering coast was the:
signal for another period of feverish activity.
The miners who had had the courage to remain
with us in the north all winter, began to set
probable dates for the arrival of the first steamer from Seattle. Under the piercing rays of the
May sun, the mountains of snow, in and around
Nome, began to melt and run down in formidable torrents to Bering Sea. By the end of the
month -we hoped to see a renewal of the bustle
which had ceased in the preceding October. The
surf at Nome -would soon be lashing the beach
again, and we should be able to saunter down
and watch a dozen steamers, laden with miners,
and fortune-hunters, anchoring out in the offing..
We were all sharing in the enthusiasm of ani
early break-up. The ice had left Bering Sea in:
front of Nome on May 30th, in 1900 ; in 1901,
a  steamer got in on June  4th; the following;   Across   Widest   America
year, the roadstead was free on May 27th.
These precedents gave us hope. But the weeks
dragged on. June came, and still the ice fields
stayed with us. The nights, which had now
turned into days, only made the time seem longer. On June 3rd, a heavy fall of snow covered
the ground.
An element of anxiety was soon added to the
pathos of the situation, by the fact that Nome's
larders were nearly empty. The supply of fresh
meat had already given out, the imported eggs
had grown stale, while the few potatoes and
vegetables remaining in the camp were not fit to
eat; so that the whole population was living
on canned provisions and cold storage food of
various kinds. One pessimist even prophesied
that if the ships did not soon come in, we
should all be reduced to live on rice and beans.
It -was only on the 8th of June that the ice
began to move out toward the Arctic. A novel
sight it was, looking up and down the coast for
thirty miles, to see a solid mass of ice, covering
hundreds of square miles, slowly detaching itself
from the land and moving out to sea. A couple
of days later, a southerly wind brought a considerable portion of it back to shore again, but 284
Across   Widest   America
broken up into innumerable pieces. Many large
cakes floated about near the beach, but the main
bulk of the Bering ice had met the Arctic current
and was being forced slowly northward through
the strait.
Meanwhile, the sun was registering 80° in the
shade; the snow had left the hills; and flowers
in countless numbers, and of every hue and color,
were springing up all over the tundra. Nature
was busy putting her final touches to their
beauty, when, on the evening of the sixteenth,
the first steamer came to us, followed, a few-
hours later, by two others, bringing us fresh food
and fresh news, the latter perhaps the more welcome of the two, after our long eight months'
seclusion from the outside world. A bunch of
letters brought tidings from home and friends,
tidings that were not all joyful.
The saddest news that came to me was that
of the death of Mrs. James Sadlier, the venerable
author, whose name had been to me a household word since my early boyhood, and whose
gentle, motherly voice it had been my privilege
to listen to so often in recent years. Mrs. Sadlier
was the first writer of books I ever met—this
was in my student days—and perhaps it is be- Across   Widest   America       285
cause she was the first, the impression of veneration I had for her, in the dignity of her authorship, had ever since remained with me. In her~
long career she did much for God, and for the
Celtic race; even in Alaska, 1 met people who
had read her books, and who were the better
for it. It is sad to think that the pen -which
gave us "Confederate Chieftains," "Elinor Preston," "Willie Burke," and a dozen of others,,
and which inspired so many to high ideals, is
thrown aside forever. But her works will live.
With Mrs. Sadlier "words were things, and her
ink, falling like dew upon her thoughts, will still
make millions think," and only to make them
love God the more.   What a blessed legacy!
Other steamers carrying four thousand miners
dropped anchor -within a week. The transfer of
thirty-five thousand tons of freight and mining
supplies from the lighters to the beach, made
Nome very active again; but it wras only a repetition of what takes place every spring-time. It
seemed, however, a rather brusque transition
from the Rip Van Winkle state we had been in
during the long winter.
The miners started for the inland creeks to renew  the   operations   interrupted   the  preceding; 286
Across    Widest   America
autumn. Squads of men "mushed" over the
tundra to Council, and to the Teller district.
Others went directly north, to the newdy-found
placer-beds on the banks of the Kougarok and
the Inmachuk, and began to dig for gold-dust.
The season's work wras in full swing during the
ensuing four months. The old claims all through
Sew^ard Peninsula held their own in "colors"
during the summer, and substantial returns rewarded the perseverance of the owners. Placer
beds that showed any lessening in the value of
their "clean-ups" were given over to the tender
mercies of the hydraulic monitor. It would be too
technical to describe here the hydraulic system
of mining for gold. Suffice it to say that machinery has been invented which turns a stream
of wrater against a mountain-side, tears it down,
sends the gravel up through a metal pipe, and
then deposits every grain of gold in the riffles of
the sluice-box. This is a great labor-saving device; and when good water pressure is attainable, it is the only economic way of getting the
metal out of what is known as low-grade
River dredging was introduced into the Coun-
*-cil district during the summer of 1903 by Alex- Across    Widest   America       287
ander de Soto, a promoter of mining in California
;and other parts of the continent. This master-
miner, who is also a well-known surgeon of the
Pacific coast, especially at Seattle, -where he
founded the Wayside Hospital, has had a rather
Interesting career. He is the son of a former
Spanish minister of war, and a descendant of the
famous explorer of the same name, was educated
at San Ouintin, near Barcelona, became a navy
surgeon during the American civil -war, then professor in the University at Upsala, in Sweden,
and " life-medicus " to King Charles XV., with
whom he travelled extensively, and from whom
ne received a title. He has for many years given
his attention to mining in the two Americas.
The energy of this little Spaniard, who is now-
over sixty-five years of age, was well illustrated,
•during the past season, by the way he successfully brought across the Pacific, and up shallow-
Alaskan streams, a monster Hammond dredging-
machine, in pieces numbered and ready to be put
together. I followed with deep interest the construction of this admirable product of human skill,
and saw it, day by day, assume shape and proportion. Every beam and wheel and bolt fitted
as   neatly as the wheelwork   of a  -watch;  and 288
Across   Widest   America
when the great dredger was completed, its whole
inner gearing and its action were controlled by
levers in the hands of one man. It then began
to dig gravel out of the bed of the Neukluk at
the rate of three thousand cubic yards a day.
The enterprise I learned later, ended in disaster—
but the energy of the master-miner was not at
fault. Object lessons like these, which one has
before one everywhere in Seward Peninsula, examples of the herculean labors men will undertake
for the sake of gold, are strong incentives to urge
a missionary to work in higher spheres and for
nobler purposes.
Another energetic character engaged in the
peninsula is the California miner, Charles D. Lane,
a name known in mining circles from Alaska to
Mexico. He has the enviable distinction of being
a millionaire, and, as president of the Wild Goose
Mining company, has several thousand men
in his employ in Alaska. But that does' not prevent him—an old man of nearly seventy—from
"roughing it" in the gravel pit, and giving the
tone to the company of which he is the organizer
and recognized head. He built a narrow-gauge
railroad from Nome to Anvil Mountain, and another from Council to his mines on Ophir creek.   Across   Widest  America
These two Alaskan roads, the most northerly in
America, were according to the official statistics
of 1902, the most profitable in the whole United
States. They are in operation every season till
the cold weather closes down the mines.
Even master-miners cannot cope with nature.
When the summer ends and the ice begins to come,
hydraulic monitors are silent, the dredgers cease
to turn, and the workmen lay down their shovels.
Autumn there bears a complexion all its own; it
is not the mellow- autumn of other lands, with its
golden grain and crimsoned forests, but a short
season of melancholy days, -with the north winds
wailing through the spruce trees. There are no
sere leaves to droop and fall in Seward Peninsula,
no Indian summer to lead us gently down to
harsher days. Summer ceases, and that is all ;
and then winter comes on rapidly.
Autumn is the season of formidable gales along
the Bering coast. Every year the equinoctial
storms do considerable damage, some years more
than others. On a coast where there are no
harbors for deep-sea vessels to put into, and no
protection anywhere but on the lee side of Sledge
Island, eighteen miles from Nome, it is evident
that seamen who navigate in those parts must 290
Across   Widest  America
know how to deal with sudden agitations of wind
and wave.
The Nome people learned the lesson five years
ago; the disastrous storms of the autumn of 1900
are still remembered there and spoken of with
awe. The newly arrived mining population had
built their mushroom town just high enough
on the beach to escape the tides. Although
warned by the Eskimos that they -were not far
enough away, like true Americans, they spurned
the dangers they could not see; they thought
they "knew it all." Soon the September winds
began to agitate the Bering surf and to multiply
the white-caps. Then the wind coming from the
south freshened into a gale, and the miners anxiously watched the surf lashing the shore. But
when with the increasing fury of the gale, huge
waves rolled resistlessly landward and washed
away the foundations of the houses and cabins
on the beach, causing them to fall about the
owners' heads, the miners admitted they were
acquiring experience, and that it was not wise to
ignore the counsels kindly proffered them by the
In 1903, I had the privilege of witnessing the
equinoctial  storms  at Nome.    The  damage to Across   Widest  America        291
property was small, compared with what happened in 1900, as the owners had profited by their
experiences of the previous two years, and had
built their houses out of the reach of the surf.
But it -was an awe-inspiring sight to see the
mountainous waves of water rolling in to shore,
one after the other, with monotonous regularity.
There are no rocks along the Nome beach, nothing but the tundra sloping gradually down to
the sea. A sand bar, parallel with the beach,
lies below- the surface, four hundred yards off.
When the incoming -waves met with this obstacle
they turned over in magnificent curves that
. would have sent Ruskin into ecstasies, and then
^gatheringfresh strength, hurled themselves against
the beach sands with the roar of a park of artillery. Night and day, you could hear the monotonous heaving of a million tons of ocean water,
and their dismal roaring, as they spent their
fury on the sands. At such times as these, large
vessels in the roadstead weigh anchor and put
out to sea; the smaller ones take refuge in Snake
River. No craft could live in such storms, and
they do not try to. Last autumn, several steamers were unable to discharge their cargoes in the
surf, and carried them back to Seattle. -^
Across   Widest  America
Nature in Alaska has treats for every mood,
even in those dark autumn days. After gazing
with almost savage joy on the war of the
elements and the awful turmoil of the Bering-
waves, one need but turn one's eyes upward
to be enraptured at the sight of the great silver
bow of the Northern Lights dancing in the
polar sky. While one is gazing in admiration,
great waving shafts of silvery light spring in
quick succession from mountain-top to zenith, as
if chasing one another in play amid the wilderness of the stars. And then it is the unrivalled brilliancy of the stars themselves — nowhere so beautiful as in Alaska—that attracts
one's attention. In the long, solitary autumn
nights, one never tires of looking at the Arctic
sky and its wonderful transformations; and during the exhilaration of such moments, one cannot help asking oneself how it is that thousands
of men will spend the best years of their lives in
arduous toil, bent almost double, in order to dig
out of the bowels of the earth the metal which
has been the source of so much evil and so
much unhappiness, when they need but raise
their eyes to see flashing and scintillating in the
infinite meadows of heaven, grains of gold more   Across   Widest   America
precious and more beautiful by far than were
ever found in the sands of Nome. How narrow-
men's hearts seem at such moments, and how
puny their interests !
And yet it is not Nature and her sublime
manifestations that form the most interesting
features of life in an Alaskan mining camp, but
rather the people one meets and the way in
which they live. The greed for gold brings
thousands, every season, to this land of ice and
snow ; a year spent among them is worth a
century of experience to any one who wishes to
profit by it. Those thousands come from all
parts of the world, and from all classes of
society. Few of them are models, ethically
speaking, but they soon learn to become good
miners, and adapt themselves quickly to their
surroundings. The hardships and disappointments, which are inevitably the lot of nine-tenths
of them, only accentuate their determination to
get gold. In Nome or in Council, when you
meet a man in slicker and gum-boots, trudging
home after ten hours' shovelling into a sluice-
box, you cannot tell whether he is the scion of
a belted knight or a child of humbler origin. In
Alaska, men are not all what they seem, nor are 294
Across   Widest  America
they prone to talk about themselves. They live
alone, mindful that it is no man's business who
they are, or whence they come, as long as they
obey the mining laws, and do not "jump" their
neighbor's claim. But this intensifies their solitude ; a crowd is no longer company where there
is neither sympathy nor love.
One of the prettiest valleys ever designed by
Nature lies just in the rear of Council. When
you stand on the neighboring hillside, a green
forest of spruce, split in two by a rippling
stream, lies hundreds of feet below you. In
summer, activity reigns in the Mel sing valley ;
dozens of tents are strung along on either bank,
and mining goes merrily on throughout the season. In winter, the scene changes. The stream
is turned into a thread of solid ice, while the
forest bends to the ground under its weight of
snow. It is a pleasant walk up this valley in
the early afternoon, and I covered the well-
beaten trail many a time in the last winter
I spent there. One evening, I rapped at a cabin
door, and was more than surprised to meet a
young commercial traveller I had often, seen,
years before, on the Canadian Pacific, east of
Winnipeg. Across   W^idest   America
"How do you do, Mr. " ?
"Excuse me, Father, that is not my Alaskan
The young man had no reason for changing
his name in Alaska ; it wras only a whim of his.
But his life since I had last met him, ten years
before, had been one series of adventures. He
had seen service in Cuba; had spent several
months in a Key West hospital; had joined the
Washington State; volunteers and fought in the
Philippines. Since then he had wandered through
Japan and China, and then returned to settle in
Southern Arizona. The gold fever took him to
the Nome beach in 1900, and then from Nome
to Council, in the hope of "striking it rich."
There he stayed till the autumn exodus of 1903,
when he came to tell me, one day, that he was
on his way to South Africa. This is but one
specimen of the men we meet. His log cabin is
now occupied by others, and other miners are
on his claim, all oblivious of the erratic youth
who spent two years looking in vain for a
Unfortunately, ill-success is the lot of most
miners. For one who makes a fortune in Alaska,
there are a hundred wno   leave  it  in  poverty. 296
Across   Widest America
Some have been in the peninsula since gold was
discovered, in 1898, and they are still at work
with the pick and shovel. Apparently, the luckiest
class of men who operate in those regions are
the Swedes. They are noted for their persevering activity, and for their success as prospectors. The most promising discoveries have
been made by hardy Swedes, who, when asked
the secret of their success, simply answer : " We
yust keep at it, zinkin' holes." That is really
their secret. They keep on digging here and
there along the edges of creeks and ravines, and
on the hillsides, and they invariably strike auriferous gravel. If wre examine the records of the
various mining districts, we shall find that
Swedes are in the majority as original locators
of claims.
The other nationalities are not less ambitious;
but they have the American humorist's antipathy to working between meals; and while the
blond-haired Swedes are out prospecting among
the hills, the others are at home discussing their
prospects. There are a great many French Canadians in the various camps, hard-woriring miners
and "mushers," who are just as ready to-day
to   start   out   on   a  thousand-mile trip up the Across   Widest  America
Yukon, or the Kobuk, as their ancestors, the
coureurs des bois, were to cross the continent,
in the eighteenth century, for the great fur companies.
There is a fair proportion of English, Scotch,
Irish and German at -work in the Alaska mines;
of the four, the Irish are the most numerous.
They are nearly all old miners from Montana
or California, or even from Australia. There
were in Council last year, four brothers, the
Kellihers, from the shores of Killarney, all stalwart six-footers ; and all four, miners. Early in
1902, one was still in Kerry; another, in Cool-
gardie, in Western Australia; a third in the
Klondike, and the fourth in Council. They had
not been together for a dozen years; and it -was
a peculiarly -warm welcome those sons of an Irish
mother had for each other when they met in that
boreal land, in the spring of 1903. There wras
one cloud, however, between them and happiness : the old home in Kerry had lost a mother
since they last met ; and the great salt tears
that filled the eyes of those homeless Celts, at
the intensity of their reminiscent grief, were pearl
drops too warm and too sincere to be chilled by
Arctic cold.    One of the four, who had all but 298
Across    Widest   America
perished of heat and thirst in Australia, had once
escaped drowning in a wreck near Cape Romanoff, who had been nearly asphyxiated in an old
mine on the Yukon, and who, with myself, was
lost for several hours in a blizzard last winter,
is now in Ireland, buying the old homestead, a
proceeding rendered possible by the recent British
Another fact whch life in Alaska brings home
forcibly to one, is the fewness of our real needs
in this world. The superfluities of life are eliminated from an Alaskan miners' cabin. There is
nothing wasted, nothing thrown away. Simplicity, a virtue akin to greatness, is here recognized
and practised in all its fulness. The Standard
Oil company's tin cases are turned into water
pails; tin cans of all shapes and sizes replace
expensive crockery ; a Yukon sheet-iron stove
distributes heat and cooks food as well as the
costliest ranges; cheese-cotton, tastily applied to
the walls, hides incongruities as well as elaborate
tapestry. The cabin itself is prettily situated, on
the brow of a hill, or under the shadow of a
mountain, thus denoting a miner's love of the
picturesque. Given this power of adapting oneself
to circumstances, there is as much happiness and Across   Widest  America
good cheer to be found in an Alaskan log cabin
as there is in a browai-stone mansion.
There are miners living happily in Alaska,
with their families, who left palatial homes behind them. Only the necessities of life are indulged
in, while gold-dust is accumulating. But the
cheerful face that is ever present, and the cheerful smile that brightens it still further, clearly
show that happiness is not the exclusive appanage of ease and comfortable surroundings. A
career of this kind, led for several years in
Alaska, must surely have an influence on the
lives and habits of rich miners when they return
to the outside world. This is a consummation
devoutly to be wished ; for reckon, if you can, the
useless expenditure of money that is continually
going on. A few years' residence in a miner's
cabin would suffice to convince a man that his
real needs are few, and that there are nobler
uses for wealth than that of gratifying one's
appetites, or decorating drawing-rooms with barbaric splendor.
Some of the miners I met in Alaska -were well-
educated men, graduates of various American
colleges and universities, and members of the
learned  professions,   all  ardent  lovers  of  fresh 300
Across   Widest   America
air and out-door life, who were in that gold
country, simply to get rich quickly. Such men
usually meet with disappointment, for by the
time they arrive, the rich claims are all in the
hands of others.
It is only fair to say, however, that they do
not lose courage on that account, and that they
are not afraid of hard wrork. From their point
of view, the greatest drawback to life in Alaska is
the isolation of the long winter, and the absence
of intellectual food. The small supply of books
and magazines is soon exhausted; and unless the
educated miner can carve out a solitude for himself and call it peace, he must find the time long
and the winter dark, indeed. There is a small
library in the Arctic Brotherhood hall in Council,
where, among the good standard authors, there
is the inevitable collection of translations of
Dumas and of other authors of doubtful tendencies. In Nome, there were a couple of small
libraries kept open last winter under Catholic
and Congregational auspices.
Shortly before I left, the camp was threatened
with a calamity in the form of an uncontrolled
public library. Mr. Carnegie was to be asked to
contribute one of his free libraries, where, as in MINERS  FLOCKING  INTO   NOME  IN   AUTUMN
LEAVING   NOME   FOR   THE "OUTSIDE" — HOMEWARD   BOUND  Across  Widest   America
his other institutions outside, all kinds of books
were to be flung to the miners for an eight
months' intellectual debauch, in the interests of
enlightenment ! The project was temporarily
abandoned, but it may be taken up again.
And the gross inconsistency of it all ! In
Nome, the apparition of contagious disease is like
a bolt from the blue. Health officers are always
on the alert, and ready to swoop down on the
tiniest microbe. The mere rumor that small-pox
had come to us, on one of the Seattle steamers,
put all Nome in a flurry. The authorities, ignoring the feelings and sentiments of friends and
relatives, sent vessel and passengers into quarantine for a couple of weeks behind Sledge Island.
Such were the precautions taken to preserve our
miserable bodies, -which sooner or later must
become food for the worms. And yet Nome is
quite likely to ask the Pittsburg millionaire to
set up, on the Bering coast, a public library,
where half-educated, but receptive, miners, and
citizens generally, would be at liberty to fill their
minds with the deadly germs of irreligion, false
philosophy and error of all kinds! If men's
bodies must be protected by stringent health
laws,   why not  their  souls as well?   Surely   it 302
Across   Widest   America
were better for even miners to be freed from
such an intellectual pest-house; and rather than
risk their eternal interests, they might better
spend their winter months revelling in solitary
contemplative thought—the play of the soul —
which, a recent writer tells us, is the highest
occupation of man,
The miners in the smaller camps spend the
long -winter months each after his own fashion.
The frivolous, of course, always find a way to
kill time; there are the dance-halls and bar-rooms,
unhappily too numerous in that part of the
world. The wiseacres busy themselves with the
thermometer during the cold spells, and compare
notes as to the temperatures of former years; or
even, aspiring to the dignity of weather prophets,
predict the probable date when the streams
-will be free of ice. Others—the homesick element
—worry the postmaster about the departure and
the arrival of the last mails of the season. Meanwhile the months slip quietly away ; the sun
shines stronger; spring arrives.
My second winter in Council passed slowly and
monotonously enough; but when the spring came,
I was rewarded for my close isolation, by a sight
that I shall long remember, an Alaskan "break- Across   Widest  America
up." The Neukluk River, which flowed beneath
my window, had been frozen since the preceding
October. The ice grew- thicker as the winter
advanced and the weather became colder. In
front of Council, it had frozen to the bottom, a
dangerous trick of Nature, which might have
proved a costly one ; for the residents of the
camp, in order to be ready in the case of fire,
were obliged to cut half a dozen of holes through
the ice before they finally found running water.
Their other efforts landed them on the river bed,
after they had gone down eight or ten feet.
This wras the ordinary condition of the Neukluk during the winter. When the headwaters
began to seek an outlet, they were forced to
flow on the surface. Those different overflows,
freezing in their turn, added several more feet to
the ice already sufficiently thick. It was this
mass, over a hundred miles long, that had to
move down to Bering Sea before communication
could be renewed with the ocean.
The first inkling we had in Council of the impending break-up, was the bubbling up of a
stream that had worn its way up from the bottom, and formed an opening in the ice just in
front of the camp.   Under  the   strong  rays of 304
Across   Widest  America
the spring sun, the opening grew wider and
wider, until a good-sized stream began to cover
the ice. Suddenly one day, a sound, like a cannon shot at close range, startled the sleepy camp.
A long diagonal crack rent the ice from shore
to shore, indicating that the mass had become
detached from the bottom. But there were sixty
miles of it between us and the coast; and millions of tons had to move Out into Bering Sea
before the Neukluk would be clear. A week later
the ice in Melsing Creek, close to Council, came
rushing down into the Neukluk, jamming the
river, just below the camp, and raising the level
of the water by six or eight feet. The whole
mass wras now floating, and while looking for an
outlet, it was crushing everything in its path.
Meanwhile, the days were slipping by. The current of the river was eating into the ice, while
the sun was doing its share of the work so -well,
that the torrents of melted snow rushed down
from the tundra and weakened the ice's hold on
the banks.
At last, the looked-for crisis came. Early one
June morning, the whole field of ice began to
move. Then followed, right under our eyes, a
scene terrific to witness.   Great cakes of ice rent Across   Widest   America
asunder, twisted and turned, and surged forward
with irresistible force, grinding to pieces everything they found in their way. Some obstacle or
other at the bottom of the river would stay their
onward course for a moment, and the huge
cakes would stand on end, half out of the water
struggling with each other, like Titans in despair,
only to fall down helplessly on their smaller
neighbors. The din was deafening, as the masses
began to pile up one on top of another. The
rushing -water, damned back would rise rapidly,
hurl itself against the opposing masses, and
force them out of position, when the crushing and
crashing would begin again, until the stream
beyond was covered with the debris of the struggle. Slowly the ice moved down with the current, but it was only at the end of a fortnight
that the river was clear and ready for traffic.
These annual break-ups, and their continual
inroads on the river banks, softened by the sun,
explain the constant changing that is going on
in the courses of the rivers and streams of
Seward Peninsula. Huge ice-cakes eat away the
banks and form sand-bars here and there, which
grow quickly with the new accumulations of soil,
until they reach the surface.    In a few summers, 306
Across   Widest America
a stream changes its course, and the miners
are left to guess where the original gold-bearing
channel lay.
This was the last Alaskan scene I had the privilege of witnessing. The April mail had brought
me a letter recalling me to Canada; so, immediately after the "break-up," I started down the
river on my way to Nome, there to take steamer
for Seattle.
1 was so fortunate as to secure a passage on
the Roanoke, the vessel in which I had made the
voyage to Alaska, two years before. I went on
board, in the last days of July; and, one evening,
-when the shadows were deepening, the good ship
weighed anchor and quietly sailed away. As
we steamed southward, Nome gradually disappeared in the waves.
The last object on which my eyes rested was
the lofty cross of the Catholic church which remained visible long after the rest of the town
had sunk below the horizon. As the same cross
had been for me a sign of hope, two years before,
when I saw it for the first time, so, now that I
-was quitting the land forever, it was a plea for
resignation, a reminder that whithersoever we go
in this vale of sin and sorrow, the cross is al-        


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