|The annual R.C.M.P. Christmas Open House proved to be less than "open" for some of the community's high rollers on December 4. When members of the force offered to give these gentlemen a guided tour, we don't think this is what they had in mind. Photo by Jennie Kershaw. Composition and cooperation by Father Tim Coonan, Dick Van Nostrand, David "Buffalo" Taylor and Akio Saito.|
Welcome to the on-line version of the December 11, 1998 edition of the Klondike Sun. Yes we ARE late. The hearing mentioned in the first story ate up an entire weekend of the editor's time, meaning he couldn't get to this task until two days later than usual. Our hardcopy edition was 20 pages long and contained 26 articles and 21 photos. We hope you enjoy this sampling.
January advertising is generally quite poor and does not seem to support more than one paper per month. We will sip the January 5 edition and return to print on January 19. That would mean that our next on-line edition should appear about January 25. See you then.
by Dan Davidson
While he admits that the screening report released on December 2 by officials of the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs does carry a lot of weight when it comes to decisions made by the Yukon Territorial Water Board, Norm Carlson, Dawson's Superintendent of Public Works, still hopes the town will have its day before the Water Board on December 12.
"I believe that under the Yukon Waters Act any person asking for an amendment to their water license has a right to have a hearing," Carlson said Wednesday afternoon.
"However, the hearing has to seen as fair and impartial, and if they've got DIAND holding a gun to their head it may not be an impartial hearing."
He said he felt sorry for the Water Board: "They're between a rock and a hard place."
That seemed to be the same spot that DIAND's announcement was intended to place the City of Dawson, but Carlson says he heard nothing new in the conversation that DIAND's Mike Church had on C.B.C. Radio last Wednesday morning.
Both he and town councillor Joanne Van Nostrand accept that DIAND was bound to make a move like this one. The previous week's news (see our last issue) was that the town had brought out a consultant's report to show that federal concerns over Dawson's sewage discharge were overrated. The next week, both say, there was almost bound to be a counter-attack.
Carlson, Van Nostrand and councillor Shirley Pennell were all surprised by the way that Church's announcement seemed to be prepared to preempt the Water Board Hearing process. They all felt it was a bit high-handed, and seemed to say that it didn't matter what the Board might rule, the issue was already decided. Van Nostrand said she had heard from some sources that members of the Water Board were wondering what their response ought to be.
Carlson says that Church did not address any of the major questions and that most of his interview was old news.
Yes, he said, fish die during the LC50 water test with rainbow trout, but McLeay Environmental Ltd. and Enkon Environmental Ltd maintain that's due to a testing flaw that places the fish in oxygen depleted water and lets them drown. Their study says the actual toxicity of the water cannot be established without comparative studies.
Carlson was surprised to hear Church mention once again the potential human health hazards of Dawson's sewage outfall. He pointed out that this has already been refuted by the Yukon's Medical Health Officer, who took the feds to task over this issue in the fall of 1997.
As for potential dangers downstream, the study indicates that the effluent is fully dispersed to the point where there is less than one thousandth of one percent.
While Church indicated that communities downstream from Dawson had expressed concern, Carlson says he doesn't know of any. There are interventions from the Alaskan Environmental Protection Agency and a number of other U.S. agencies, but no towns have complained directly to Dawson.
"I believe that from a technical viewpoint we can defend ourselves pretty well," Carlson said, adding that it was understandable that some people might be worried about it.
Carlson noted that all the interventions the City of Dawson has received are on file at the office and can be viewed by any interested party.
On the other side of that issue, Van Nostrand points out the the Yukon Territorial Government has intervened in Dawson's favour on this appeal, accepting the town's argument that the potential harm has not yet been proven and that the cost of the required secondary treatment facility is too much to spend on an uncertain proposition.
"I have yet," Carlson said, "to see evidence that we are harming the fish or the ecosystem or any of it.
"We're going to have legal representation at this hearing and the city has to be able to play its cards as well. We have to inject some common sense into this thing as well as fiscal responsibility."
Carlson noted that Dawson did not commission its study in order to produce a whitewash of its actions. The consultants were told to find out if there was a problem, and the six worst case scenarios they could devise from the available data indicated that there was not. On the other hand, they also recommended a nine year, three cycle study program with stringent tests and controls, many of which have never been done to date, to establish once and for all what the actual hazards are.
by Karen Dubois
In early November a local crew (which included several ATV owners) was hired to build a skating rink on Chapman Lake in preparation for the filming of a Volkswagen commercial. The crew estimated that the rink was about the size of three football fields. On November 6th the film crew started arriving in Dawson and the actual shoot took place between November 9th and 12th. The crew of almost 50 people stayed in town at local hotels and ate their meals at local restaurants. They drove out onto the lake each day, leaving around 5:30 a.m. in order to film during the daylight hours. Also arriving on the scene were two VW Golfs - the only two in existence. These two vehicles were kept running constantly after one late start due to the cars not starting the first morning. Temperatures of -30 gave clear blue skies but made it difficult for the three world class speed skaters and crew to stay warm between takes. According to one of the drivers, the crew used 8 cases of hot shots during the 5 days. It is estimated that the 40 second commercial, which will only be shown in Germany, will cost $500,000.00.
While the weather was so good and the skies so clear, many Dawsonites went up to Chapman Lake to take advantage of the new, if temporary rink. The area was also a favourite of skiers.
by Ken Spotswood
She is older than the Klondike Gold Rush. She is older than Dawson City itself. At age 106, Mrs. Lucile Hooker is still going strong. And she's in better physical shape than most of the buildings from that era that are still standing in Dawson.
She lives in her own two-storey home in Vancouver, on the west side near Douglas Park, and she still enjoys talking about the 'good old days' in Dawson where she grew up and spent the first 30 years of her life. I recently had the opportunity to meet her at her Vancouver home, where she agreed to share some of her stories.
This was a very special occasion as Mrs. Hooker has, for years, consistently refused to be interviewed about her life--by anyone. She turned down the Vancouver Sun and The Province newspapers six years ago when she turned 100. That's because she's a private person, and she just doesn't like any fuss made over her.
But, encouraged by family members in this the centennial year of the gold rush, Mrs. Hooker kindly consented to an interview--so that future generations will have an idea of what her life was like in and around Dawson at the turn of the century.
She recalled that her parents--Adam MacKay and Annie Urquhart--were United Empire Loyalists who settled in Martintown, Ontario. They later went to Nebraska, where Lucile was born on a ranch on March 3, 1892.
The family then moved to Portland, Oregon, where they were living when the first shipments of Klondike gold arrived in San Francisco and Seattle in 1897.
Like thousands of others, MacKay caught the 'gold fever' and made his way to the booming mining camp of Dawson during the stampede of 1898.
"My father went up with so many others at the time of the gold rush in '98," she recalled. "He went up by way of Dyea and the Chilkoot Pass." On April 3, 1898, 62 stampeders were killed by an avalanche on the Chilkoot Trail and MacKay was dangerously close to the tragedy. "He wrote back at the time of the slide, to tell her (Mrs. MacKay) that he was all right.
"He was at Sheep Camp at the time of the slide," she said. MacKay safely completed the rest of the journey to Dawson, where he worked a lay on another man's gold claim.
It was then that he sent for his wife and daughter. "We went up by way of Skagway, and as far as Lake Bennett on the (White Pass) railway," she said.
"It was built that far then. And then we went by horse and wagon, and a boat on Lake Bennett. We got to Whitehorse, and then down the river by boat."
Mrs. Hooker--who was then seven years old--doesn't remember much about Whitehorse, which was a necessary stopping-off place in those days because of the dangerous Whitehorse rapids.
"I don't remember very much of that. But I remember arriving in Dawson, and my father meeting us. I remember that quite clearly." She and her mother arrived during the summer of 1899 when Dawson was still a booming mining town.
"It was a frontier town. I remember being in a grocery store with my mother, with sawdust on the ground, so I guess there was a sawmill there by that time--maybe a couple of them."
The family's first home was a small log cabin in the south end of town, but it was only temporary.
"My father was preparing to go up on a claim for the winter. That's where we went that first winter, on Last Chance Creek. "We lived in a cabin there, on a hill. It was one room, and it had two bunks. I don't remember ever being cold or uncomfortable. We were well fed. "There was no school there. My mother had taught school for awhile and she gave me lessons every day. Then we came back to Dawson the following summer (1900) and I started school."
Home was another log cabin in the south end, near the Klondike River. "The first school we had was on Church Street," she recalled. "There were quite a lot of children. It was a good-sized building. Two rooms, one upstairs and one downstairs. And then I think the following year we moved into the new school, the one that burned a few years ago. That first winter there were just two teachers. I remember the name of one, Miss McRae. We were a well-behaved class and everything went all right."
MacKay subsequently gave up gold mining and worked at different jobs in Dawson.
"He worked in a sawmill, and he owned a dairy for awhile," she said. At about age 10, Lucile began taking music lessons--which served her well in later years.
"I learned to play the piano. We had a very good teacher. And then I had violin lessons for a year or two."
The Dawson City Museum has a rare concert program featuring 'Caledonian Entertainment' on the occasion of Queen Victoria's birthday. It's dated May 24, 1910, and features an 18-year-old Miss Lucile MacKay playing in the orchestra, as well as duets. She was also an adept Highland dancer and, on the same program, performed the Sword Dance, an Irish Jig and a double Sword Dance with a man named Archie Black.
"He and his wife were friends for many years," she said. Victoria Day was always a grand occasion in Dawson. "That was the day we celebrated.
"Later on they had a parade, races and a vegetable and flower exhibition. "That was later on, when people got gardens going," she said. For years she played in the orchestra with Dawson troubadour John Dines, when recitals, concerts and dances were the popular social activities of the day.
"Yes, I played in that orchestra. I had a friend that played the piano in it. I helped her occasionally.
"We went to church. They had social gatherings as well there. It was a very sedate, peaceful life. The churches flourished, and the different organizations like the Masons and the Odd Fellows. Those things all did well."
Miss MacKay was a member of the Presbyterian church. "My mother sang in the choir, and then I did too." She also played the organ at the town's Anglican church. "It was a pipe organ, I guess you'd call it, and it was pumped by a man on the back of the organ, to give it power." During the interview, Mrs. Hooker bristled sharply at the mention of Dawson's notorious dance halls, which flourished for only a few years during the height of the gold rush.
She made it quite clear that there was much more to life in Dawson than its bars and saloons, which have been glamorized by many authors over the years.
"I don't know that you'd call it quiet exactly, but people lived a very law-abiding life.
"We never had to think about it (crime). "The dance halls, you see, didn't really run very long. "I think a lot of people think that that was the main feature of life there, or something, but it wasn't.
"It was for a few years, and then it was over. "As far as I remember, there was a Yukon Council of territorial people. "I remember there was a minister in it. And they passed a law that women were not to serve liquor, if you can imagine that.
"And that, I believe, closed the dance halls. That put a stop to it." Miss MacKay's first husband was a gold miner named William Alexander Aiken MacMillan, and she fondly remembers her courting days when single men and women frequented church picnics in the country, as well as dances and concerts.
"He was living not far away with a man that he'd come in with from some place in B.C.," she said.
"I remember going to dances with him when he was in town. "He was out of town a lot, of course, with that kind of work." Asked if he swept her off her feet, she replied sharply: "Well listen--I was only 14 at the time!" She was 18 when she became engaged to MacMillan. Two years later he was still working in the gold camps, so Lucile and her mother went to Vancouver where she took a business course. "I took a stenographer's course and worked in an office for a couple of years until he got more established," she said. MacMillan then joined her in Vancouver where they were married in January of 1915.
The couple returned to Dawson where MacMillan was employed as superintendent of dredges by the Yukon Consolidated Gold Corporation (YCGC).
They lived in the company compound at Bear Creek, and they made their home in Joe Boyle's house.
Over the years she had four children--Patrick, Mary, Alan and Kathleen. Keeping house and raising a family in those days was a full-time job and a lot of hard work.
There were no disposable diapers, no microwave ovens, no day care or other conveniences that make raising a family easier by today's standards. What couldn't be bought locally was ordered from catalogues. "We had Eaton's and Simpson's catalogues," she said. "Most of it came from Winnipeg, because their climate was similar to the northern climate."
She also remembers many of Dawson's prominent citizens of the early 1900s--Commissioner George Black and his wife Martha, North-West Mounted Police Insp. Sam Steele, and Frank and Laura Berton whose son Pierre grew up to be an internationally celebrated author and broadcaster. She remembers shopping for women's clothing at Madame Tremblay's store, and she remembers meeting a young man named Robert Service who worked as a clerk at the Canadian Bank of Commerce, as it was then called. Service was soon to become world-famous for his tall tales--in verse--of the gold rush.
"I met him once or twice," she said. "I didn't deal with that bank. I dealt with the B.N.A (Bank of British North America).
"He was a pleasant young man. I think he was getting started, maybe more than that." She was also an active member of the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire.
In 1931 YCGC began cutting back its operations and the MacMillan family moved to Vancouver.
It was there that MacMillan became seriously ill with rheumatism and died in 1936.
Lucile continued to look after the children and married James 'Jimmy' Easton Hooker in 1939.
Hooker had also worked for YCGC as a warehouseman and on the dredges, and had been a family friend for many years. Her second marriage was a happy one.
It lasted until 1962, when he died while the couple was on a cruise to Britain.
Mrs. Hooker last visited Dawson in 1965. "The town was not so changed then.
"I remember going across the Yukon River on the ferry," she said. "We still knew a few people then, but I wouldn't know anybody now." She has outlived all of her contemporaries.
Today--at age 106--Mrs. Hooker leads an active life. Her eyesight and her hearing aren't what they used to be, but that hasn't slowed her down much.
She still writes her own cheques to pay the bills. She orders her groceries by phone and has them delivered. A home care worker comes in for two hours every weekday to prepare meals and do the washing and cleaning.
She is watched over daily by her son Alan MacMillan and his wife Phyllis. Mrs. Hooker's daughter Kathleen Gee and son-in-law Eric are also frequent visitors from their home in Victoria.
Her eldest son Patrick is retired and living in Ontario. Her eldest daughter Mary is deceased.
The radio is one of Mrs. Hooker's constant companions, as is the telephone, on which she receives daily calls from a large number of friends and relatives.
She goes to her local community centre for lunch nearly every week, and she goes out to dinner with family and friends when the opportunity arises. Mrs. Hooker is still an active member of the Vancouver Yukoners Association, of which she is the eldest member. She also holds the title of Honourary Vice-president. She frequently attends their meetings where she visits with close friends. And, proud of her Scottish heritage, she's still a card-carrying member of the United Empire Loyalists and occasionally attends its social gatherings when someone can drive her.
Asked if she has a message for people living in the Yukon today, Mrs. Hooker said:
"I certainly send my love and best wishes to the territory, and the people there. I have happy memories, good memories. I'm very lucky to have my beloved family and friends--and good neighbours. I'm very fortunate."
And so are we, to have had the opportunity to take a stroll down Memory lane with a woman who is probably the oldest living survivor of the gold rush era.
by Dan Davidson
After two years in Dawson City, John Taylor has moved on, but not to another R.C.M.P. position. The veteran sergeant, who initially thought about getting an extended term in the Klondike, was finally tempted away from his red serge by an offer he couldn't refuse.
In September John retired from the Force and moved to Whitehorse to take on the position of chief of bylaw enforcement. Sandra, his wife, spent another month wrapping up her employment at Gold City Tours before joining him there.
Taylor says it's been a big change, even though he is in the same business and dealing with many of his old colleagues. For the first month the hardest part was deciding what to wear in the morning.
"After twenty-five years of being told just what to wear by Mother Mountie, it's a real change."
Over his two year term here Taylor says one of the biggest changes has been the move to community based policing and alternative justice. In his view the court system seemed to have reached the point where it wasn't doing what people wanted it to do any more. And by that he doesn't necessarily mean putting people in jail.
Taylor was one of the major supporters of the move towards the use of Community Group Conferencing here in Dawson, providing organizational and logistical support to the volunteer group which set up the committee last year and got it running in the fall just before he resigned. He sees it as one of the most important things he was involved with in his time here.
"I was certainly very happy that the community struck on this. If it's a community backed program it's a lot easier than if the mounted police have to implement it."
Taylor says he was concerned during his time to make the detachment more of an integral part of the community. While there have been many exceptions here, he notes, there was still a strong tendency for the members of the force to be "the faceless ones who come and go."
Twenty-five years ago Taylor says he was taught that you do have to walk a beat, talk to people, get involved in community organizations and strive to be at home where you are. He feels satisfied with the results.
"Some got into hockey, some helped the Tr'ondek Hwech'in with the First Hunt, some served on committees." The members began to visit the school on a regular basis, and not just when there was a problem or when they were delivering the PACE program.
Taylor himself made it his business to cultivate an open relationship with city council, mending some fences which had become a bit rickety.
Length of posting is a problem is terms of police effectiveness and does contribute to isolation, Taylor admits. He recalls being in Ross River and having people tell him flat out that he was just there for two years and they didn't want to invest a lot of time in getting to know him.
"You have to work at it, push the door open. It's amazing how many friends you acquire anyway."
Taylor wanted people to feel they could go to the detachment office at any time, not just when there was a problem.
"That office is theirs. We end up feeling like we're always being asked to go someplace but no one comes. It's like being invited out to a lot of parties and then, when you throw one, no one comes."
Youth crime in Dawson is not as bad as people think it is.
Taylor says we don't have a lot of it, but we have a small number of people who are very active from time to time. He cites the night of August 19, last summer, when a spree of vandalism ripped through the town, all caused by four young men out on a tear.
"That one was solved because someone heard something and called us," Taylor says. As a Mountie he would rather have had a number of tips like that leading to nothing than to have missed that one. He recalls Mayor Glen Everitt telling him how he had been caught off base when the word came in that the four where already apprehended. Everitt had just picked up the phone to give Taylor a blast when a city staffer told him the boys had been caught. The mayor had to swallow the anger he had been primed to deliver and offer congratulations instead.
"I've always said that your police force is as strong as you want it to be," Taylor says. "You have just so many officers there, and if you expect them to do everything, they're not going to be able to."
"We won't solve the problem until parents become responsible for their children again. At three o'clock in the morning - when I'm hearing these little wheels going up and down at the skateboard park - why, at three in the morning are kids out there?
"Where are their parents? If you don't know where your kid is at three in the morning, why not?
"People are now upset because government agencies have such a lot of control over everything. Well, you have given up your authority by not using it."
Taylor also says the perception of the drug problem is out of proportion to the reality. There were three major busts in the last two years - one for cultivation and two for imported cocaine.
The problem here is no more severe than with any other community, Taylor says, and notes that the town has a drug problem to the extent that some of its citizens want it to have one or are prepared to let it have one.
In Dawson, says Taylor, there are certain people who are users, and then there is a larger number of people who don't use drugs themselves, but are prepared to tolerate other people who do. That gives the users a pretty large comfort zone. Every so often the users cross the toleration line and people start to complain.
Every complaint helps. While each complaint on its own may not be big enough to act on, every bit of information adds to the file which eventually will justify a search warrant or an arrest. It may take two years; it may take more.
"Don't stop talking to your police officers when nothing seems to happen. It's not just going into a black hole. It is stored and it is looked at, sometimes after the officer you spoke to has moved on."
A lot of the perception about crime is a lack of information, Taylor says. One way he tried to counteract it was to start the biweekly Police Beat column in the local newspapers and to provide lots of local press releases.
Taylor says he liked to spend a lot of time on foot during the summer, walking into stores, talking to tourists, being approachable. Aside from the obvious tourism benefits, he says that one of the great things about the Red Serge horse and rider program was that it made even local people look at the members of the force in a more positive way.
by Dan Davidson
Over in the corner the kids are clustered around a large wooden box with a screen on the top. While nothing much seems to be happening, everyone is very expectant.
Inside the box a chicken is wandering around on a grid marked with large squares. The bird has been fed a lot during the last few days in the hopes that its internal processors will be ready for this event. The kids have put their money down on the grid squares and the one on which the chicken finally drops its load will make someone a happy winner.
It's the strangest variation on the traditional "cake walk" that I've ever seen, but it's certainly a crowd pleaser. This is the second year for this event, but it's the first time I've seen it.
The normal, edible, cake walk is going in the ancillary room, along with most of the eating at this year's Christmas Bazaar.
The Robert Service School gymnasium is packed with all manner of things for sale. You can find baked goods, pottery, woodwork, a wide variety of quilts, hangings and clothing.
The Anglican Thrift Shop is here with even lower than usual prices on its hand-me-downs. Nearly every volunteer organization in the town is hawking goods and raising money. I'm here because the Klondike Sun is running a "silent auction/raffle" in the hopes of building up our equipment account.
Santa's up on the stage taking some time off the last minute toy supervision to make an early visit to the youngsters, leaving lasting memories courtesy of shutterbug Kevin Hastings. If you think it's just the really young who enjoy a bounce on Santa's lap, then you might be surprised by the high school girls who also line up for a photo. There's something about Christmas preparations that brings out the kid in all of us.
People who visit this bazaar every year says that the numbers are down this November. With the temperatures a good 20 degrees above normal lots of people have motored off to the big city to take in the Sprucebog event there or even to do some power shopping in the stores.
To my untrained eyes there still seem to be lots of people cruising the tables during my shift. Lots of kids bumping into each other and adults surveying the scene with an eye to picking stuff for families in other parts of Canada. This is a great time to pick up real Dawson created artifacts, as opposed to the trinkets which line the shelves on many of our stores all summer.
It isn't just the people coming in the big doors that hit the shipping circuit. The people running the tables are also flitting from site to site, snatching a few moments to make a purchase while they themselves are experiencing a lull.
There are lots of greetings, lots of conversations going on. We don't all get together as much once it gets darker. We don't get to pass the time of day on the street. This is a chance to build a little community as well as an opportunity to shop. Folks make the most of it and most faces have smiles.
Back in the corner the chicken has done it's duty. There's a big watery smudge on one of the squares. People are setting down their bets for the next attempt which, if the darn thing can be persuaded to eat a little more, should come in about 20 minutes.
Me, if I have time I'd rather try for a cake.
Music review by Michael Gates
Music of the Alaska-Klondike Gold Rush: Compact Disc and Cassette tape: University of Alaska Press. CD: $15.95 US; Cassette: $12.00 US.
This interesting production consists of 15 professionally performed renditions of songs selected from a soon to be released publication of the same title. These songs are rendered with voice and acoustic instruments, surely like the renditions delivered during the gold rush. I found this collection to be an entertaining listen evocative of the era. The liner notes include a description of the historical origin of each creation.
The cover is nicely laid out, but the two tiny historical photographs were so small, they weren't worth including. This is an interesting recording which anyone with an interest in the gold rush will want to add to their collection.
The accompanying publication which should be available by December, is described as a thoroughly researched volume of representative authentic songs from the dance halls and gold camps of Alaska and the Yukon, written by June Murray, and published by University of Alaska Press.
In addition to providing the music for 100 songs of the period, the approximately 400 page book will include quotes from early gold-seekers' journals, historic photographs, as well as other accounts and anecdotes from the period.
The recording sounds great; the book sounds as though it is worth waiting for.
Compiled by John Gould
This item from the Dawson Daily News of 1940, tells about a man and his claim on Dominion creek and shows how rich some of the claims were in those early days of mining in the Klondike. Even then they had Dawson as being in Alaska. It would sure be nice to find a small piece of a claim that rich.
Dawson News Saturday July 6, 1940
Interesting letter written Many years ago
Possessed by a relative who visited Dawson a few days ago.
Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Rhodes, of Pasadena, California, who arrived in Dawson Wednesday on the steamer Yukon, and continued their journey southward on the Steamer Casca Thursday evening, possess an interesting letter penned by a relative of Mr. Rhodes 43 years ago, in Dawson, to a partner residing in Chicago. Mr. and Mrs. Rhodes kindly permitted the News to copy the letter, which is as follows.
Dawson, Aug 20, '97
Geo. W. Lambert,
Station E. Chicago, Ill.
Bill died to day. He left every thing in my care and for you. We have about 200 pounds dust and we think we have 35,000 ounces on the dump, 1/4 of this belongs to me, the balance to you. Come up here and claim your own. I will leave full instructions at Dawson how to find me. I have 150 pounds of gold for you. Every one knows Bill Lambert and old Frank Morey. You let me have money once and I will pay you $1,000 for $1.00 when I see you.
Say, George you ought to start up here about March 1st, '98. We have supplies for two years, but if you come bring two year's supplies for 20 men. I think we will be able to get men. Next summer if you can bring twenty good men and give them 75 cents on the dollar for what they wash out you can make all the money in three months that you will want. Then you can go back to the States. But I like the country and I will probably stay here. If you conclude to sell out when you come we can get any kind of money that we want for our mines. I and Bill washed out 88 pound of dust in 11 days.
If you could get a boat or light draught stern wheeler made of oak or steel, bring it to St. Michael and put it together and bring all the provisions she would carry. There would be money in it. I could sell our supplies for 20 times what they cost us but we don't want money. Bring me four pairs of the best hip rubber boots. You see, this country is like a great big marsh. The moss is wet always. When you get down through that you come to ice.
I am 5 foot 8 in high, weigh 180 pounds. Get me underclothes, sox, my shoes are 9's so you will know about the boots. Get sox that will come up above the knee. I had some that cost $4.00 a pair. The price doesn't make any difference. Get me two suits of silk underclothes. I have had a touch of rheumatism and think they are what I ought to have. Get me 10,000 No. 10 loaded shells; also 1,000 No. 44 long for revolver; also 2,000 for the Winchester that Bill had. It is in our cabin. I don't know the gage. It is a nine shot with one barrel. Bring me a boat 5 foot beam, 20 feet long, made of cedar. You can get this at Rachine Wisconsin. Have a boiler made for it to burn 4 foot wood. The boiler must be of the best steel (Otis). Get a good engine and a screw wheel. Have boat rigged with sail and house over all, made of some light wood. It must be so the house can be packed on one side of the boat.
I will try and get you some money if possible. If I get it to you I will send a list of 10,000 things that I want. I want a cook for one thing and the next thing I want is a saw mill with engine and boilers.
I will get out another letter as soon as I get a chance. I paid $100.00 to have this one taken out. If you get it I will feel well paid. Send letters to me by Wells Fargo Express and I will get it in Dawson.
I don't want to worry you about Bill's sickness. He is dead and buried as well as mortal man could do it in this country.
Well this is the only place for me now. Bring me two great dane dogs or St. Bernard dogs. I would like to have a cow and horse but it is not to be thought of now I suppose.
If you run up against any of our old school mates of old Griswold College try and induce them to come out here. You can guarantee $20.00 per day and grub.
So good-bye old fellow. I am your devoted friend and brother. A.F.& A.M.
by Michael Gates
(Last summer Michael Gates went with Gold Rush Descendent Bill Berry, local historian and miner John Gould and guide Larry Taylor on a quest to find Berry's roots on the Fortymile River, where his grandfather mined in 1896. This is part two of that story.)
We found other cabins along the river, each one a reminder of the lives of those who have since passed into memory. On the door frame of one such cabin, we found inscriptions penciled into the wood, detailing the arrival of different species of birds in the spring. The dates went back to the 1930's. Here, too, was a memorial to another miner, drowned in the Fortymile near the turn of the century.
At each of the cabins which we stopped to explore, we jumped ashore, eager to discover bits and pieces of the past, to take pictures and share conjecture on the details of life at each of these historic features. We adhered to a simple and reliable adage: take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints. We obliged and invested considerable money in Kodak supplies.
In the early accounts, I found numerous references to the mining features along the Fortymile. Names like Deadman's Riffle, Bonanza Bar, Discovery Bar, Maiden's Bar, and the deceptive Cleghorn Riffles. The Cleghorn was not so much a riffle as a white water lover's dream. These names attest to the legacy of mining from over a hundred years ago. Many of them are named after prospectors, like French Joe's Bar, while others are named in hope of making the big strike, like Nuggett Gulch. They add context and texture to the natural landscape, a superimposing of human events from an era which is now fading from memory.
Mining is not yet finished on the Fortymile, but, as the miners will tell you on the American side, the government is making it damn hard for a miner to make a living. Restrictions imposed by the bureau of land management force the miners to work with suction dredges on the bottom of the Fortymile, which is under state jurisdiction.
The suction dredges are ingenious devices which allow the miners to suck up material from the river bed, and run it through a floating sluice box to capture the gold. This is a method which I had never seen practiced in the Yukon. The miner, wearing a wet suit, works in the frigid Arctic waters for several hours at a time, receiving his air supply from a compressor aboard the dredge, as well as a supply of water which is warmed up from the engine on the dredge, before being pumped into the wet suit to fight off hypothermia.
We stopped, briefly, to one of these miners, Dave Likens. Dave is another long-time resident of the Fortymile, living at Maiden bar, a few miles up river from his dredge. He is devoted to his life style, mining in the summer and, I think, trapping in the winter. I have had a couple of interesting conversations with him because he has a strong connection to the tradition of mining here. Unfortunately, it was getting dark, and the sky was threatening rain, so we had to leave.
We also stopped to visit the mining operation of Bill Claxton and Leslie Chapmanon the Canadian side of the border. In contrast to the Alaskan operation, they are working on a large scale several different placer deposits. The others discuss mining equipment and techniques while I wander around taking photographs. We were treated to a gourmet buffet from the tailgate of their pick-up before we had to head back to camp, and they returned to their mining.
At night, in the comfort of our neat cabins at O'Brien creek, we sat around discussing the events of the day; the little discoveries and the marvelous insights. Bill and I talked about the old days, when his great uncle Clarence had to fight the elements, and drag a boat containing all of his supplies up river, by his own physical effort up the treacherous waters more than 75 miles. The work was brutal and the environment unforgiving. Men like Berry risked everything when they went against the river, including their lives, and many lost.
Yet reading their diaries doesn't reveal the obvious hardships and hazards which they faced. These old documents make rather dry reading. We talked about this and concluded that they all faced the same hazards, and therefore had little to write about since everyone who mined the Fortymile experienced the same hardships. We also speculated that by the end of a long days work dragging a boat load of supplies against the current of the Fortymile, most men would be too tired to do anything more than write a few brief entries into their diaries.
If their labours were difficult a hundred years ago, so too was everything slower. Bill and I talked about this too during our trip to Franklin Gulch. The trip which took ten days or more to complete then takes little more than a few hours. Watching the miles of wilderness go by us, he remarked that he was stiff from sitting in the boat for too long. "I guess Clarence wouldn't be too impressed with me considering the hardships which he had to endure". I had to agree, Life is easier these days.
Our journey of exploration was over all too quickly. As we drove back to Dawson City, we still had the chance to stop at Glacier Creek in the Sixtymile district. Clarence mined there, too, so we stopped to take pictures and have lunch. Once more on the road, we stopped one last time before crossing the ferry to civilization. Looking up and down the Yukon River, and up the Klondike valley, we compared notes with the sites we had seen on the Fortymile. We speculated about the prospects of finding gold with a suction dredge at the mouth of the Klondike River. John explained numerous details of history and mining to his appreciative audience, and we eyed the scenery some more. We stood there for an hour and a half.
Returning to Dawson was a return to a different world after our journey to the Fortymile. They are so close together, yet they are worlds apart. The memories linger still, and the talk is about another trip next year.
The Klondike Centennial Society presents the following photo set, showcasing the accomplishments of the centennial celebration years.
For information on any of these or other events, contact the KCS at 993-1996.
KCS shared a proud August 17 at the site of the Discovery Claim on Bonanza Creek.
KCS staff and supporters prepare for the 1998 Discovery Festival Parade.
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