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Full text of "In the Klondyke; including an account of a winter's journey to Dawson"

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f 



LIBRARY OF THE 
UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA 



GIFT OF 

DP, WILBUR P. MORGAN 

OF BALTIMORE 




\ 



\. 



r 



\ 



\ 



^1 



1 



\ 






\ 



The Chilkoot Pass. 






U?*. 






N 



•. ^ • 



* \,'-i 



\ 



IN THE KLONDYKE 



INCLUDING AN ACCOUNT OF 



A WINTER'S JOURNEY TO DAWSON 



BY 



FREDERICK PALMER 



»i 



ILLUSTRATED 



CHARLES SCRIBN 
NEW YORK 1 




-P 17 

Copyright, 1899, by 
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS 



mow DIRECTORY 

PNINTma AND BOOKBINDINQ COMPANY 

MW YORK 



CONTENTS 



L THE START FROM DYEA 

Choosing Comrades— Jack Beltz and his Dogs— Fritz Gamble— From 
Sheep Camp to the Summit — Packing over the Chilkoot Pass— 
The Halt at Lake Linderman— A Night in a Sleeping Bag— Coast- 
ing down the Frozen Yukon— Half Way to Dawson . . Page t 



II. ON THE TRAIL 

Personalities— The Forebears of Jack and Fritz— Good Camp Manners 
—Dog Individuality— Dude— The Team of Huskies— Wayfarers 
at Five Fingers— Fort Selkirk and Pelly— The Thanksgiving 
Turkey that Did Not Get to Dawson— A Diet of Flapjacks— Sub- 
urbs of the Klondyke Capital— The Passing of the Trail . Page ^6 



III. DAWSON 

Social Aspects of Dawson— Cornering the Tinned Food Market — 
Cheechawkos and Old-Timers in the Early Days . . Page 6t 



IV. THE FIRST DISCOVERIES 

The Beginning of Mining in Alaska— Forty Mile Creek— Canadian 
and American Deposits— The Largest Log-Cabin Town in the 
World— Life of the First Adventurers— The Superfluity of Six- 
Shooters— Leaving the Latch-Strings Out— The Way of the 
Transgressors— Indian Charley and his Nugget . . . Page 66 



CONTENTS 



V. MINERS AND MINING 

Reaping the Gold Harvest— Thawing and Sluicing— Miners and their 
Theories— The Dome— Expensive Timber— Empty Pockets but 
Dollars in the Dumps— The First Millionnaires — Color m the Pan 
—Once a Prospector Always a Prospector— Figurmg Fortimes 
—Capitalists in Demand— The Forty Happy Khigs on Eldo- 
rado Page 85 



VI. SOME KLONDYKE TYPES 

1 he Fool and his Lucky Friends— More Theorizers — Joe Staley and 
Billy Deddering— French Gulch Bench— Good Fortune that 
was Deserved— Neighbors and Twins— No Cure for the Gold 
Fever Page iii 



VII. GETTING ACQUAINTED 

Mr. and Mrs. ** Meenach " and their Menage— The Juvenile Mining 
Company, Limited— Voss— The Arch-Deacon — A Sour-Dough 
Stiff— A Dalmatian and a Turk— Siawash George and his Steam- 
Engine— Miss Mulrooney at The Forks— The Price of a ** Square " 
with Trimmings Page 126 



Vlll. ARCTIC TRAITS 

Daily Life in Dawson— Renting a Cabin — Circumventing the Huskies 
—Joey Boureau and his Restaurant— The Faro Dealer's Wife and 
her Bakery— The Laundryman and his Claim — Jack Beltz's 

Schemes— A Pair of Dreamers Page t$^ 

vi 



CONTENTS 



IX. PILGRIMS' TRAILS AND TRIALS 

Itineraries^AUeged Unimportance of Experience— The Case of Fattier 
Stanley—Press Agents and Primers of Wealth— Tiie Secretary of 
the Seattle Chamber of Commerce his own Convert— Pardners 
and Promoters— Outfits— Home Comforts for an Arctic Climate 
— Heterogeneous Boat Loads— The Nancy G— Tragedies of the 
Passes Page i6) 



X. PROFITS AND LOSSES 

Newspapers as Profit-Winners— Hearing about Dewey— A Drop in 
Eggs— Market Items — Lemons against Scurvy— The Mercury at 
110 Degrees— An Averted Moving Day— Industrious Scavengers 
—The Klondyke Itself— Aspects of Summer— Bandanna Hats and 
Pink Lemonade— A Restaurant Trust— The Grasshoppers and 
the Ants— Disillusions Pag$ t8i 



XI. GOVERNMENT 

The Canadian Policy in the Yukon Province- Taxes and Fees— The 
Gold Commissioner's Oflice — Conflicts between Territorial and 
Dominion Governments — Timber Grants — The Value of the 
Mounted Police— The Newly Rich at Dawson— The Order of 
the Yukon Pioneers— Mrs. Constantine Page 200 



Xll. DOWN THE YUKON AND HOME 

Good-By to Dawson— The Extinction of the Unfit— Steamboating to 
St. Michaels— Mosquitoes and Sandbars— Pilgrims by the All- 
Water Route— Behring Sea— Civilization Once More . Page 212 



VII 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

The Chilkoot Pass Frontispiea 

, PACING 

PAGS 

" Packing " Timber 8 

Pilgrims Resting on the Chilkoot 8 

A Halt 14 

Guiding the Team 18 

Borrowing a Hint from Ice-Boats—Just Above White Horse 

Rapids 22 

Over the Bench Ice of Thirty Mile River . . . .26 

Crossing a Brook 32 

In Camp— The Dogs' Porridge 40 

The First Boats 54 

A Typical Pilgrims' Boat 66 

Yukon Indians 78 

On the Creeks 88 

A Flume on Bonanza Creek 102 

Cleaning Up 108 

Shovelling a Clean-Up into a Gold Pan 108 

The Discoverers of French Gulch Bench at Work . .124 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

FACING 
PAGB 

Pardners and Twins for Forty Years 124 

Miss Mulrooney of The Forks 142 

Jack Beltz 156 

"Tiie Huskies*' 156 

On the Pass 164 

Caches of Pilgrims* Outfits at the Summit • . . .172 
Bargaining for a Newly Arrived Boat-Load, Dawson . . 182 

In the Camps of the Cheechawkos 188 

A Yukon Steamer .198 

The Main Street of Dawson 208 

A Dawson Good-By 214 



IN THE KLONDYKE 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

I 

THE START FROM DYEA 

Choosing Comrades — ^Jack Beltz and his Dogs — Fritz Gamble 
— From Sheep Camp to the Summit — Packing over the 
Chilkoot Pass — ^The Halt at Lake Linderman— A Night 
IN A Sleeping Bag — Coasting down the Frozen Yukon — 
Half Way to Dawson. 

ORIGINALLY, I had intended to accom- 
pany our Government expedition for the 
relief of the miners of the Klondyke, which 
was in part mobilized at Dyea when I arrived 
there late in February. As it never went any 
farther, for the good reason that Dawson had 
been rescued from famine by the migration of 
a portion of its population, I was left to my 
own resources. Wholesome fatigue and clean 
camps on the snow were better than the hos- 
pitality of a mushroom town built of rough 
boards and tar-paper; a little adventure was 
better than watching for two months the thou- 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

sands of pilgrims of fortune in the desperate 
and monotonous labor of putting their outfits 
over the passes ; and I determined, rather than 
to wait with them for the opening of naviga- 
tion, to undertake with dogs and sleds of my 
own the untried journey of six hundred miles 
over the ice-fields of the Lewes lakes and the 
ice-packs of the Yukon River which the Gov- 
ernment expedition had contemplated. 

Whoever was to go with me must be com- 
panionable, industrious, and loyal, lest in pitch- 
ing a tent in a storm, when limbs ached from 
the strain of the day's tramp, an unruly temper 
might lead to the crisis of blows or separation. 
In turn, I must work as hard as he; for we 
could not afford to carry food for a stomach 
that nourished idle hands. 

Precisely the right kind of comrade, equipped 
with experience, I had hoped would be forth- 
coming from among the men who had violated 
the traditions of the early communities of gold- 
seekers in regard to winter travel. Some mem- 
bers of this hardy little army were almost daily 
arriving in Dyea. But their dogs were worn 
out, and they themselves were inclined to 
laugh at my suggestion, more particularly at 
my money. Having pointed out the greater 



THE START FROM DYEA 

difficulties of ingress than of egress, they asked, 
with a touch of sarcasm, if I thought that they 
had made the journey out from Dawson for 
the purpose of immediately retracing their steps. 

Meanwhile, adventurous spirits but lately ar- 
rived from Seattle or San Francisco came to 
offer their services with all the self-confidence 
characteristic of a floating population. The 
references of some were belied by their de- 
meanor, and the demeanor of others by their 
references. All were further belied by their 
dogs — Newfoundlands, setters, and what not — 
which had received a few days' training for 
market purposes in Seattle. In consequence, 
I was almost despairing, when I was accosted 
by a powerfully built, blond-haired, blue-eyed 
fellow who impressed his personality upon me 
at once. 

" I hear you're lookin' for a dog-puncher," 
he said, awkwardly. ** My name's Jack Beltz. 
I've been a cowboy, and done a good many 
other things in the West, and now I'm up 
against it with the crowd in Alaska. I think 
I could do what you want" — and then with 
sudden fervor, " but come around and look at 
the dogs ! If the dogs are no good, you don't 
want me, that's sure." 

3 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

" Any further references ? " 

" Well," after a moment's thought, " there's 
Bangs, up at the Miner's Rest He knowed 
me when I was on a ranch in Nebrasky. 
Dunno what he'll say. You can ask him, 
though. Anyhow, I'd be obliged if you'd see 
the dogs 'fore you make a decision." 

He waited outside the Miner's Rest while I 
spoke with Bangs. 

''Jack Beltz!" exclaimed Bangs. ''Well, 
Jack Beltz's a fool when it comes to bosses 
and dawgs. He thinks they can talk. But 
Jack Beltz'U stick to a thing that's hard — he 
don't like things that ain't — ^till he comes out 
of it or goes down with it, and all the mules in 
the army couldn't make him mad." 

Then I followed Jack to a woodpile in the 
outskirts of the town, where five fat and sleek 
huskies awoke at his approach, and at his com- 
mand lined up like so many soldiers, wagging 
their bushy tails over their backs and watching 
his every movement with their sharp eyes. 
From their mothers, who were native Indian 
dogs, they had inherited their affection for 
man, however poor the specimen, and from 
their fathers, who were full-blooded wolves of 
the forest, their strength and endurance. 

4 



THE START FROM DYEA 

In an hour after I had met him I had en- 
gaged Jack Beltz on the strength of the fat on 
his dogs* ribs, of his blue eyes, and of Bangs's 
candid recommendation. Placing my theoret- 
ical knowledge of the needs of an arctic climate 
against his experience as a frontiersman, we 
quickly made out a list of the supplies which 
were to be packed on our sleds, minimizing 
everything in weight and bulk as far as we 
dared, but being very careful to consider that 
while we might go hungry the dogs must not. 
In all, we took eleven hundred pounds, four 
hundred of food and bedding for ourselves and 
seven hundred of food for the dogs. 

Chance made the choice of a third member 
of the party, whose assistance was necessary, as 
happy as the choice of its second. This big fel- 
low, over six feet in height, was Frederick 
Gamble, known to his friends as Fritz, who 
had given up a career as an artist and had 
already spent one unprofitable season with a 
pick and a pack in the Cassiar district. No 
pilgrim accustomed to good living ever ac- 
cepted a diet of bacon and beans with better 
philosophy. 

It was already the i8th of March. If, as the 
old-timers said, the Yukon became impassable 

5 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

by the 20th of April, we had little time to 
spare. There was much in our surroundings 
on the day of our departure to lend credence 
to their opinion. The sun, at midday, which 
turned the blue of the little glaciers over our 
heads into a red, united with the wind blowing 
from the ocean to thaw the snow on the moun- 
tain sides. In the many places where the winter 
trail had been worn down to the sand of the 
flats which the Dyea River overflows in the 
freshets of spring, the pilgrims had to turn off 
to the still intact but spongy ice of the wind- 
ing little stream of the autumn and winter to 
find a better track for their sleds. 

Canyon City, where the comparatively level 
stretch of eight miles of the flats is at an end 
and the real ascent of eight miles to the sum- 
mit of the Pass begins, had grown into a little 
village with three saloons since I had last 
visited it, only two weeks before. Here the 
river is a thundering cataract in spring, dashing 
through a narrow gorge of rocks which rise to 
a height of from' twenty to a hundred feet. 
The sled road of trodden snow with a basis of 
ice had become so mushy that the men who 
panted forward, dragging their sleds and asking 

with their eyes, if not with their tongues, for 

6 



THE START FROM DYEA 

a hand to help them out of ruts, were wonder- 
ing whether they would not be forced to take 
to the summer trail running over the wall of 
the canyon on the morrow. 

Beyond the canyon was a community of 
thousands of tents, Sheeps Camp, a halfway 
station in the work of transportation from 
Dyea to the Summit if not in the number of 
miles. It had doubled if not trebled in popu- 
lation since I had last seen it, which meant 
that the bulk of the pilgrims had their outfits 
this far on their journey. I slept here, the 
guest of some friends who had an excellent 
bed of fir boughs. Before I was up I knew 
that the day on the Summit was fair by the 
tramping of the packers and the howls of the 
dogs in the main path, or street, of the " town." 
At this time, most of the days on the Summit 
were fair, and it behooved the pilgrims to 
make the most of them. In midwinter it 
often happened that intense cold and a fierce 
storm of fine snow, resembling a blizzard in 
the Dakotas, made the Summit impassable. 

The series of steep ascents leading from 
Sheep Camp to the base of the final, long, 
and much .steeper ascent, called as a whole 
by the pilgrims the Summit, was a struggling 

7 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

line of men and dogs, drawing sleds, and of 
horses with packs. Oaths and howls were so 
numerous that no one oath or howl came to 
the ear distinctly. You heard only noise, as 
you hear an uproar of individual shouts at a 
national convention. In the early days the 
pioneers had given to the little plateau at the 
base of the final ascent the name of the 
Scales, because at this point they were wont 
to balance their packs and readjust them for 
the last grim effort Beyond this neither 
horse nor mule could carry nor dog could 
draw a load. The more supple animal man 
took his place. 

If you would see the Pass, of which so 
much was written when so little was known 
of the Klondyke itself, you have only to 
imagine a broad incline at an angle of nearly 
forty-five degrees, seven hundred feet in height, 
running between two snowy peaks at its sum- 
mit, with men in the foreground bending 
under the weight of heavy packs, and gradu- 
ally growing smaller as they ascend, until, 
finally, they seem like ants dangerously near 
toppling over with their loads, though, to your 
relief and amazement, crawling off the white 
blanket into the sky. 

8 



Pilgrims Resting on the Chilkoot. 



"Packing" Timber. 



^ 



THE START FROM DYEA 

In the hard, well-packed snow, steps had 
been cut, making it a case of walking up- 
stairs rather than of climbing. At intervals, 
more welcome than the chairs on the land- 
ings of an apartment house which has no 
elevator, seats had been cut. Men stepping 
out of the slow-moving line found rest in 
these. It was not " game " to groan, but pur- 
ple faces and lungs gasping for more power 
for bodies quivering with excess of strain 
told of misery that was felt if not expressed. 
When a man did break down he collapsed 
utterly, and sometimes he wept. 

Fifty pounds was the usual weight of a 
pack for all who did not take pride in ex- 
hibiting their brute strength. These, and the 
professional packers who bore the outfits of 
pilgrims who could afford this luxury, often 
labored under a hundred pounds or more. 
The hero of the day was an Indian. He took 
up a barrel weighing three hundred and fifty 
pounds. A Swede who crawled up on his 
hands and knees with three six-by-four timbers 
strapped on his back shared honors with him, 
however. The descent to the Scales was de- 
lightfully simple. You sat down and tobog- 
ganed, using your heels as a brake, without 

9 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

any unpleasant results if you had well-riveted 
overalls. 

On the crest were piled hundreds of pilgrims' 
outfits, separated one from another by narrow 
paths, making the whole seem like a city in 
miniature. Buried under the seventy feet of 
snow which had fallen during the winter were 
two other such cities, w;hich their owners hoped 
to recover in the summer. Beyond floated 
a large British flag over the little block-house 
where the British Northwest Mounted Police 
had established themselves to collect customs 
and to see that no one not having a special 
permit entered Canadian territory with less 
than a year's supply of food. 

Jack labored for two hours in bringing up 
the dogs with the empty sleds, while our goods 
came on the backs of the ants, who charged 
three cents a pound for the service. Aside 
from the five huskies hitched to a large basket- 
sled, we had two St. Bernards, " Patsy " and 
"Tim," who were born in the country, and 
duly christened and acclimatized there. With 
" Patsy " and " Tim," and my hand on the 
"gee-pole" by which the sled was guided, I 
went under fire for the first time in descending 
the inland side of the pass. Man and sled 

10 



THE START FROM DYEA 

were put hors de combat again and again, while 
the dogs, who managed to keep erect, looked 
back on me with professional disgust. I 
wanted to blame my misfortunes to my moc- 
casins, but Jack wore moccasins as well and 
maintained his footing easily. Fortunately 
for the novice there are three small lakes — 
at the time they were three fields of snow — 
in the nine miles from the Summit to Linder- 
man, and he could take advantage of the res- 
pite when he was trotting across these to 
think out, in the hard-and-fast civilized man- 
ner, how to avoid his frequent loss of equilib- 
rium. 

We spent the night " at home " with Jack 
in his own camp on the shore of Lake Linder- 
man. Jack and his " pardner " Cliff had been 
among the pilgrims who had attempted to 
reach Dawson in the same summer that the 
news of the great " strike " was received by the 
outside world. The ice formed in the lakes 
and rivers before they could build their boats, 
and there had been nothing to do but to wait 
eight months until the ice was gone. Once 
he had bought a team of dogs, however. Jack 
became enamoured of making the journey now 
at last before him. On the other hand nothing 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

apparently had disturbed the patience of Cliff, 
who was a broad-shouldered giant, over six feet 
in height. The pair had first met in Seattle, 
formed an alliance " for dust or bust,'* as Cliflf 
said, and had thought more of each other "every 
minute ever since." Cliflf was to stay at Lin- 
derman now, but their alliance was resumed 
later in Dawson, when Jack, Fritz, and I dis- 
solved partnership. 

While we were putting our outfits straight 
and Jack was writing a letter — from his sighs 
I concluded that it was to his best girl — Cliflf 
cooked flapjacks and fried bacon, sang snatches 
of what had been the latest popular songs when 
he left Colorado, and talked to his favorite dog, 
a Great Dane, who was as scarred as a veteran. 

"Think you're going to be slighted, don't 
you, Maje ? " he rambled on. " Froze oflf your 
ears already, ain't you? 'Tain't no country 
for short-haired dogs, is it? Don't want to 
lose your tail, too. No, sir. You're going 
to sleep in the tent same's ever, and if they 
don't like it I'll tell you 'sickum,' and they 
won't be with us long." 

Major curled up at CliflTs feet as usual that 
night. Inasmuch as hq had a snow-bath when- 
ever he was caught in a storm, he was more 

13 



THE START FROM DYEA 

agreeable than many human beings whose 
bodies had not touched water for months. 

In a day we had passed over the only por- 
tion of our journey on land, atid we were 
henceforth, as Jack put it gayly, to proceed 
downhill with the current of the river at the 
rate of eight inches to the mile, which is fast 
enough as currents go, but rather poor coast- 
ing. The course of the Yukon through the 
heart of Alaska is in a semicircle, with one 
end at the coast and the other end as near to 
the coast as the head-waters of a stream can 
be, unless it flows on the level. Once he has 
reached the lakes, the prospector may float for 
2,600 miles to Bering Sea, and but for this 
one of the two friendly deeds of nature in 
Alaska — the other is abundant firewood — it is 
questionable if the gold in the Klondyke would 
have been discovered in our generation. De 
Soto's exploring party would have had a similar 
advantage if the Mississippi had risen within 
thirty-two miles of Cape Hatteras, and they 
would have needed it if the valley of the Mis- 
sissippi had been like the valley of the Yukon. 

In harnessing our dogs at dawn, as we 
looked out across Lake Linderman from Jack's 
camp, the only color in sight in the vast ex- 

13 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

panse of white was the needle-like fir-trees, 
cropping through the snow on the mountain- 
sides, and the outlines of a few pilgrims in 
advance of the main body, already astir, drag- 
ging their sleds on to Lake Bennett, where, 
with whipsaws, hammers, nails, oakum, and 
pitch, was to be built out of the forests the 
unique and variegated flotilla which was to 
line the river-banks in front of Dawson in May 
and June. Jack snapped the long lash of his 
whip, shook the " gee-pole " to free the runners, 
cried " Mush ! " — a Saxon contraction of the 
" Marchons / " brought into the country along 
with many other words by the French Cana- 
dians — and seven gallant four-footed com- 
rades and three figures in parkees looking like 
hooded night-shirts began in earnest their 
journey over the trail hardened by the pil- 
grims' footsteps. By the wayside we passed 
caches of waterproof bags, one of them at 
either end of a pilgrim's route of daily toil in 
moving his outfit forward by relays, his own 
ambition making him undergo longer hours 
and greater strain than he, a free citizen 
(U. S. A.), would have endured for any other 
master. 

Linderman is only four miles long, and we 

14 



THE START FROM DYEA 

were soon on Bennett, where the afternoon 
brought, in sharp contrast to the keen atmos- 
phere of the morning, a blowing storm of 
moist snow which wet us to the skin. When 
Jack halted the dogs for our first and our 
worst camp, whose only consolation was a 
water-hole that had been made by some pil- 
grim, they set up a howl of knowing delight. 

With the snow up to my waist I cut fire- 
wood out of the abundance of dead timber, 
and then cut green spruce-boughs, which, when 
laid tufts upward on the snow that was packed 
down as a floor for our seven-by-seven tent, 
made a soft bed. Then I went for a pail of 
water and brought in my sleeping-bag, and my 
work was done. The air had cleared suddenly, 
and the weather had turned so cold that my 
parkee had frozen as stiff as a board. I pulled 
it off, substituted dry moccasins and socks for 
my wet ones, left the rest of my clothes to be 
dried by the warmth of my body, and then, 
huddling myself up with my sleeping-bag as a 
seat, I watched my comrades finishing their al- 
lotted tasks. 

Fritz, who had been chosen cook, was sitting 
with one leg on either side of the little sheet- 
iron stove, smoking a cigarette and making 

15 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

flapjacks. Outside, by the light of the crack- 
ling blaze, I could see Jack stirring something 
in a pan over a roaring fire with a big ladle 
that he had whittled out of a sapling. Weirdly 
presiding over this operation, their bodies in 
shadow and their wolf-noses thrust forward 
with epicurean relish, were the huskies. Jack 
fed them only once a day, but then all that 
they could eat of tallow, bacon, cornmeal, and 
rice, thoroughly boiled in the form of a por- 
ridge. When he took the pan oflf the fire he 
put it, safely covered, in the snow to cool, 
while the dogs mounted guard over it, glaring 
at one another ; and then he came to sit on his 
own bed, and together we ate by the light of a 
candle hanging by a piece of wire from the 
top of the tent. As I had my granite-ware 
plate filled with beans the second time and 
took my fourth flapjack — a flapjack an inch 
thick and seven inches in diameter — a twinkle 
came into Jack's eyes. 

" I like to see a man in earnest," he said. 

Then he relighted his pipe and went back to 
his dogs. Having filled a two-quart tin pan 
for each of them, with the ardor of a child he 
heaped more timber on the dying fire, and, 
turning his back to the cheerful glow, began a 

l6 



THE START FROM DYEA 

technical conversation on the state of the trail 
with sleek old Dude, the leader of the team. 

Later, when he returned to the tent, the dogs 
were so many balls of fur, their noses snuggled 
under their bushy tails. If two feet of snow 
had fallen during the night it would not have 
disturbed the serenity of their slumbers, and in 
the morning at the call to harness they would 
have dug their way out and shaken themselves 
ready for duty. Jack explained, as he pulled 
off his moccasins, that they had eaten only half 
their usual rations. Having been treated to 
beefsteak in Dyea by their generous owner, 
they rather resented marching fare; but they 
would come down to it as soon as they felt the 
pangs of hunger, he added. 

" Are you tired ? " I asked him. 

" Me ? No," he drawled. 

He filled up the stove — he must always 
have a fire of some kind going — and, leaning 
back on his robe, his hands behind his head, 
he looked up at the top of the tent dreamily. 
He was still in this attitude when I crawled 
into my sleeping-bag and quickly fell asleep. 
The sleeping-bag did well enough for that 
night, but I soon repented of it With no op- 
portunity for airing it properly, it soon coUect- 

17 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

ed moisture and became as a uncomfortable as 
a coating of ice. After I had been kept awake 
for a night by the colder weather that followed 
the storm, I ripped it open and used the furs as 
a robe, which, with the assistance of a heavy 
blanket, kept me as warm as toast, though, 
when I awoke, there was a glacial path through 
the space I had left open for breathing. The 
wonder to me was that Jack did not freeze his 
nose — it was a large nose — for he always slept 
with his head completely outside of his cover- 
ings, his beard becoming as white with ice as 
that of Father Christmas. 

*' Blister me if I want to smother ! " was his 
explanation. 

The first one to awake in the morning 
crawled half-way out of his robe, and, dexter- 
ously leaning over, put the coffee-pot on the 
stove and made the fire out of the kindlings 
which were always ready. To dress was to put 
on your footwear, which had been drying — if it 
had not been burning — before the stove. Then 
the robes and blankets were rolled up and 
strapped to serve as seats for breakfast, and you 
stepped outside into the invigorating air and 
did what you might in the way of cleanliness. 
For my part, I washed my hands in the snow, 

i8 



THE START FROM DYEA 

using soap liberally, with astonishingly effica- 
cious results. After breakfast we had to pack 
all the things that we had unpacked the night 
before back on the sleds and lash them. 

On the Lewes lakes, and the streams which 
join them in a chain, one day was quite like 
another, with the exception of a single event of 
importance to ourselves. At daybreak we 
were on the level trail, now trotting and then 
walking, until our stomachs cried a halt. On 
three occasions we had luncheon in the tents 
of pilgrims who, not having been able to bring 
their supplies over the pass in the rush of 
the previous autumn before winter was at 
hand, were making for the foot of Lake Le 
Barge to take advantage of the three weeks by 
which the clearing of the ice in the river 
precedes the clearing of the ice in the lakes. 
While his partner was dragging his sled, one of 
our hosts was suffering in his tent the torture 
of snow-blindness as the penalty of having 
gone for a day without glasses. Another host, 
an old Dane from San Francisco, had no com- 
panion, not even a dog. 

" Sometime I do get mad," he said, " when 
the sled pull so hard, and I say, * Yohn, you 
are a big fool to start for Klondyke when you 

19 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

are sixty-nine.' But we do not like to gif up. 
Nefer do we get so old we tank it too late to 
make a fortune. If a man know as he would 
drop dead on top of the Pass, I tank a man 
go on to see the t'ing out. I make a fortune 
t'ree time, and efery time I haf many pad lucks 
— ^yes, very many pad lucks. Sometime I get 
lonely, and then I say, * Yohn, there is your 
wife, there is your shildren ; it is Sunday din- 
ner, and you are home with a pile of gold.' " 

How we relished the one rapidly diminishing 
ham that we had brought with us for our first 
luncheons, followed by the perfect relaxation 
which comes with good digestion and physical 
fatigue, glorified by a pipe, before we arose 
and turned our steps toward the brown line 
of sled-track which stretched out over the ex- 
panse of white until growing darkness made 
it dim, and Jack began to look out for the 
first favorable place for a camp ! 

At this time it was reported that a great 
"strike" of $2.50 to the pan had been made 
on Walsh Creek, a tributary of the Yukon 
near Big Salmon. The rumor afterwards 
turned out to be an exaggeration — only thirty 
cents a pan being the amount actually found, 

which had grown as it travelled up the lakes. 

20 



THE START FROM DYEA 

Many of the pilgrims, among them ourselves, 
who already had their year's supply of food 
over the Pass, and some who had not but were 
able to elude the police, leaving their caches 
in charge of friends, put a tent, half a side of 
bacon, a few quarts of flour, and a few quarts 
of beans on a sled behind z lean house-dog, 
and hastened toward Walsh Creek without 
regard to fatigue or exposure. A sallow and 
swarthy Quixote who had not made even this 
provision for his stomach and none for his 
back except a small blanket, called upon us 
one morning when we were at breakfast. Be- 
fore he asked for something to eat he intro- 
duced himself as a Cuban who had been a 
cook in New York, but had concluded to be 
a cook no more now that fortunes were to be 
had for a little hard travelling. 

" You see, gents," he further explained, as- 
suming a serene air of fellowship, " Tve been 
walking at night so's to get past the police 
stations. They won't let a feller by when he 
ain't got any grub. If I carried grub I'd be 
too late for the strike, mebbe." 

" But you'll observe, I'm thinkin'," Jack 
suggested, " that hotels are few and far between 
in this region." 

21 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

" Oh, ril manage to get on somehow. 
There's a lot of luck in this world if you dodge 
about so it'll hit you. I didn't know where 
Fd get my breakfast, but I've got it, that's 
sure." 

He wished us much happiness, put his 
blanket on his back, and walked on as uncon- 
cernedly as if he had a whole baggage train at 
his heels. But this was not until he had sug- 
gested with the aplomb of the Bowery that 
we would do well to take him on as a ** pard- 
ner." What became of him I do not know. 
Possibly his body lies among a pile of drift- 
wood on some sandbar in the river. On the 
other hand, I should not be surprised to see 
him one day on Broadway, a huge diamond in 
his shirt bosom and a blond lady on his arm, 
or to read an account of him in a newspaper 
under the head of "From Cook to Million- 
aire. 

The Walsh Creek digression caused two 
weeks' delay at a time when we felt the need 
of every day to complete our journey, and I 
accept the awkward responsibility for it. At 
White Horse Canyon we were offered the 
hospitality of a large cabin with a kitchen in 
one end and bunk-room in the other, occupied 

22 



THE START FROM DYEA 

by some workmen engaged in building a tram- 
way around the rapids. Jack suggested that 
we stop here for a day because the dogs needed 
rest, he said, but really on my account, I think. 
I had contracted a bad cough, and my legs 
ached like two great teeth. In the afternoon 
I lay down on the cook's bunk, and toward 
evening Fritz started down the trail to a dis- 
tant camp to find a doctor who had turned pil- 
grim of fortune. Meanwhile Jake, the cook, 
dosed me with tea made of sage that he had 
gathered on the mountain-side. 

**Your pulse is up to a hundred and ten," 
the doctor said; '*but all that youVe got is a 
plain, old-fashioned case of measles. You 
must have caught them in Dyea, and you've 
greatly exaggerated them by physical strain." 

My comrades put up a tent in another cabin 
which still wanted doors and windows, thus 
ensuring a soft light for the protection of my 
eyes, which the doctor feared might be af- 
fected. They nailed some saplings together 
for a bedstead, and were so ingenious in many 
ways, so kind in keeping the temperature the 
same night and day, and in attending to my 
wants generally, that I felt like a king in his 

private hospital. Jake came in every day to 

23 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

make sure that I was taking the doses of sage- 
tea that he sent in morning, noon, and night ; 
while the big workmen came in to hint that I 
must not let Jake have his own way too much. 
And I lay on my back and thought of two 
things — strawberries and pineapples. I would 
have given all my wealth for either — but not a 
five-cent piece for a pear. 

My convalescence was not so dull as I sat on 
a bench in the kitchen, learning, under Jake's 
tutelage, how to cook oatmeal properly, how 
to bake bread and to make good pies out of 
dried apples, and listening to him expound his 
ideas of the world. He was a great cynic. If 
you believed in one thing, he was sure to be- 
lieve in another. One of his favorite remarks 
with which he baited me was that " everybody 
is out for the stuff ; there ain't no honor now- 
adays; and you don't catch me missin* no 
dollars." His boarders excused him by sayings 
" Any cook that's been in a minin'-camp or a 
lumber-camp is always a blisterin' crank." On 
the morning of my departure I held out a bill 
to Jake in partial remuneration for what he 
had done for me. He stirred the contents of 
his pot this way and that, viciously, without re- 
plying. I protested, and then he growled : 

24 



THE START FROM DYEA 

• Gwan ! What d'ye take me for ? " 
As I waved him a good-by he called out : 
" Young feller, you're all right, but you won't 
argue." 

In two days we were at the foot of Lake Le 
Barge, and on the second of these we had 
travelled thirty-five miles, which made the dogs 
very unfit for service on the day following. 

So all of another two days' hard work was 
required to go from the foot of Le Barge to 
the junction of the Hootalinqua over a por- 
tion of the Yukon known from its length as 
Thirty Mile River, and certainly worthy of some 
distinction on account of other characteristics. 
Many more boats of the pilgrims' flotilla were 
wrecked in the spring on its hidden rocks than 
in the White Horse Rapids, which, I may add, 
have received undue celebrity. If an average 
temperature of thirty degrees below zero con- 
tinues for several weeks, the current may 
freeze over, but rarely is there more than 
bench ice along the shores; and this, owing 
to the increasingly moderate weather and the 
falling water, was fast breaking away in huge 
cakes, which fell into the stream with a splash. 
Over that which remained, slippery, sometimes 
sloping toward the river at a considerable 

25 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

angle, and often only a foot or two in breadth, 
we must make our way. When there was no 
footing below the sled, we attached one end 
of a rope to it, wrapped the other end around 
our waists, and if one of us slipped and fell 
in the soft snow of the steep hill-side above, 
luckily the others maintained their hold and 
were able to prevent both sleds and dogs from 
going into the river and putting an end to our 
little expedition there and then. 

There was only one accident, and that not 
alarming. Fritz thought that he did not need 
our help to bring the St. Bernards over a 
place that the big sled had safely crossed with 
Jack's back and mine against it and with the 
heavy steel prongs strapped to the heels of our 
boots dug into the ice. We heard a cry of 
" Hurry up ! This is cold ! " and looked around 
to see Fritz standing in a shallow eddy up to 
his waist, his parkee blown up about his head 
like a veritable balloon, while he braced him- 
self against the sled. *' I had to jump in to 
save our bedding," he said. We hurried on 
the faster so that he might keep his blood in 
circulation, and he merely took the trouble to 
change his socks when we made a camp on 

a fairly comfortable ice-cake, after having as- 

26 



THE START FROM DYEA 

sured ourselves that it would not float away 
with us during the night 

Near the Hootalinqua the current slackens, 
and we crossed where the stream was com- 
pletely frozen over. Above us was a great jam 
of cakes that had floated down, some of which 
rumbled under our feet, came out in an open 
place below, and then went on to form another 
jam. A few minutes later there was a boom 
and our bridge moved downstream with the 
noise of a medley of bass drums. At noon on 
this day the sun had made the trail so soft that 
we sank into it up to our knees. We halted a 
little later, determined to start at one o'clock 
in the morning and take advantage of the 
crust frozen during the night ; and we had 
what seemed at the time the good fortune to 
put up in a cabin which had been abandoned 
by the mounted police. Having had an early 
dinner, we were thinking of bed at six o'clock 
when two ragged men, their faces blackened 
by cooking over camp-fires, came in. They sat 
down, and when they had eaten with the heart- 
iness of famished beings some things that we 
had left on the table, one of them, whom his 
companion called " the Doctor," became ex- 
planatory : 

27 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

** You mustn't mind our appetites," he said. 
We've just come from Dawson. My pardner 
there, Yukon Bill, hain't been out of the 
country for eight years. Go easy there, Bill ! 
Your manners are bad." 

** Shut up ! " roared Bill, looking as wild as 
a hungry lynx. 

"Oh, he ain't as crazy as Jim," continued 
the Doctor. ** Jim was a sight uglier 'n Bill, 
an' you can see what Bill is. He took his 
share of the bacon on his back an' started out 
for himself this mornin'." 

" No packin' fer me ! We kept the dogs, 
you bet, by ," put in Bill through a mouth- 
ful. 

Jim arrived three hours later. Without pay- 
ing any attention to the presence of other 
persons, he dropped his pack as if it were of 
lead, fell down on the bench, pushed back 
his unkempt hair, and looked vacantly at the 
stove. 

'* Hello, Jim, ypu loon ! " the Doctor called 
out. " As long's we've said quits, I ain't goin' 
to be mean. Have one of our flapjacks! " 

"Eat yer own dirt," replied Jim. "I kin 
cook, an' I've got just as much right in this 

cabin as you have." And Jim put a skil- 

28 



THE START FROM DYEA 

let with a piece of dirty bacon in it on the 
stove. 

" Don't push my pan off there, you eight- 
footed elephant ! " cried the Doctor. 

Jim lifted his skillet and turned on the Doc- 
tor. Then he set the skillet down again with 
the action of one who is too tired for further 
effort, and fell back onto his seat 

" You Siawash sons of the devil,*' he said be- 
tween his teeth, ** if I ever git my strength on 
the outside I'll lick both on ye till ye bawl like 
a calf." And brushing back his hair again he 
added, in a protesting voice, after a moment's 
pause : ** I kin do it, too ! " 

" Bully old Jim ! " observed the Doctor. 

It was plain enough that the minds of all 
three of our visitors, especially Jim, had been 
affected by the hardships that they had endured 
on their long tramp, with only snow, trees, 
dogs, and their own quarrels for companion- 
ship. Most of these grim travellers whom we 
met coming out from Dawson — now and then 
one was limping from scurvy — had neither tent 
nor stove, quite inadequate robes, no dishes 
except skillets and cups, and no food except 
bacon, flour, and beans, and not always be^^ns. 

Earlier in the winter they put up a barrier of 

29 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

boughs against the wind, and slept between two 
great fires, kept up by the member of the party 
whose night it was to watch. 

At eleven o'clock the Doctor stopped talk- 
ing, and we slept for half an hour, only to be 
awakened by the arrival of another equally 
worn-out party, and almost the last one from 
Dawson that we met. By the time we were 
fairly asleep again these tired beings set the 
cabin on fire, and Jack, in his good-natured 
way, put the flames out for them. 

At daylight I was awakened by Fritz, who 
was grumbling to himself about the audacity 
and the stomachs that some people must Jiave. 
I arose to see him looking into two empty pails 
which he had left full of apple-sauce and beans. 

** I was hungry as a dog in the night," the 
Doctor explained, a little later, " and I couldn't 
help it." 

Fritz replied by looking daggers at him. 
Then the Doctor offered a pair of snow-shoes 
to Fritz as an olive branch. 

** If I thought that what you've eaten would 
make you downright sick, Td take 'em," said 
Fritz. 

" 'Twon't," replied the Doctor, in all honesty. 

** Nothin' makes me sick." And he gave the 

30 



THE START FROM DYEA 

snow-shoes to Jack, whose eyes were twinkling 
in appreciation of the conversation. 

As we started out, five or six hours later 
than we had planned, we resolved to eschew 
cabins hereafter. We had not done a half- 
day's work when a heavy wet snow set in, 
and the condition of the dogs compelled us 
to rest. 

** Wear 'em out," said Jack, " and it's all up, 
anyway. We'll boil some beans and lay up 
some sleep ahead against a freeze." 

Accordingly, dogs and men slept for thirteen 
hours. 

So slight was the freeze at night that the 
sun, now rising at four o'clock, soon thawed 
the crust. The Big Salmon was already open, 
its current destroying the trail and leaving a 
field of slush with many places too deep for 
passage for a distance of five or six miles, which 
was as wearing on the dogs as a full day's jour- 
ney under ordinary circumstances. We only 
hoped that the Big Salmon was alone in its 
enmity to our plans, for once the ice is out of 
the tributaries, the ice in the Yukon cannot 
last long. It seemed to be imperative that, in 
order to take full advantage of the slight crust 
which formed, we should travel nights. We 

31 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

made this experiment once, starting out at 
lo P.M., and once was quite enough. 

The thawing snow had fallen away from the 
path, which was hardened by travel from 
Dawson and therefore the better resisted the 
sun's rays ; but when frozen it was as slippery 
as ice. In so far as you were able to keep the 
sled from slewing on this razor's back, that 
much you aided the dogs. At intervals you 
walked outside the trail, plunging with every 
step through the crust down to the slush 
underneath, while, with body bent and arm ex- 
tended with all the rigidity at your command, 
you endeavored to hold the lurching "gee- 
pole " steady. Early in the evening the great 
darkness seemed the more dense to visions 
strained by the sun beating on the expanse of 
snow by day. With their eyes bloodshot and 
almost closed with snow-blindness, the St 
Bernards continually stumbled and fell as they 
leaped from one side of the trail to the other, 
blindly and vainly seeking a better footing. 
When we rested we dug holes in the crust, and 
throwing ourselves prostrate, drank our fill. 
At first, I tried to use a telescope drinking- 
cup, but soon I regarded it as tawdry, ineffi- 
cient, and unworthy of the occasion, and fol- 



32 I 



THE START FROM DYEA 

lowed the more robust custom of Jack, who 
enjoyed to the full the pleasure of having 
made a convert. For one who had left White 
Horse with a bad cough on the heels of the 
measles, such indulgence would seem to be the 
height of indiscretion. But the cough was 
completely gone, no room having been left for 
it in the development of every muscle of my 
body by the handling of the "gee-pole." 

At these times we would pay our respects 
with some bitterness to the man who had 
made this strange and lonely trail, though in 
better moments we were willing to admit that 
he was a pioneer and a pathfinder. As soon 
as the ice would bear him, when the wind had 
drifted the snow here and there and lifted the 
slush ice up to be frozen into rifts, with his 
dogs and sleds he set his face toward the coast, 
winding in and out between these rifts, back 
and forth across the stream and along its 
banks, wherever he could find the best foot- 
ing; and all who came afterward followed in 
his footsteps. He was making a path for him- 
self and not for us, and it was to his interest, if 
not to ours, to have it as crooked as the track 
of a snake, and on the most crooked of rivers 
at that 

33 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

With the falling of the water as the winter 
advanced, the ice was rent with cracks. It fell 
away from the shores, leaving cakes on end 
and fissures. You must toil up one side of a 
pyramid to slide down the other ; you held 
your sled up literally at an angle of forty-five 
degrees, and sometimes you dropped up to 
your hips into the fissures, for the thin cover- 
ing of snow often made them invisible even 
in the daytime. Yet to step away from the 
trail was like stepping off a bad corduroy road 
into a swamp. 

In the darkness the trained eye of the 
master had to trust to the halt and whine of 
the brave little Dude when we came to a 
place where the surface water was deep or the 
ice had given away entirely. While the master 
went ahead with a pole to make soundings, 
Fritz seized the opportunity to roll a cigarette 
and to say in a drawl, as he sat on his sled, 
resting r 

" If I were in town I would call a cab." 

Jack had discarded his boots with sharp pegs 
— the three of us had worn boots since it be- 
came warmer — to put on moccasins. These 
were soon wet and quickly froze, giving him 
a sole of ice with which to walk on ice. In 

34 



THE START FROM DYEA 

Utter exhaustion, once the big fellow threw 
himself upon his ** gee-pole " and gasped out 
something about not caring whether he went 
any farther or not Then he added : 

"Well, we'll outlast this trail, anyway. I 
guess rU light my pipe." 

Confessedly, I was rather glad of the in- 
cident. It is good to see giants nod when you 
have nodded yourself. Only on the previous 
day, over a mile of sidling trail, leaning on my 
sled to keep it from upsetting, and righting it 
when it did upset, I had momentarily, I am 
ashamed to say, turned cynic and protester. 

An hour before dawn a sci meter of light 
shot across the heavens, followed by broad- 
swords, fans, daggers, waves, and streaks of 
light, dancing sometimes in playful panic and 
again moving in a sweep of dignity. With 
the aurora borealis as our candle, we passed 
around Freeman's Point, built a fire for lunch- 
eon in a cove, and enjoyed keenly the fact that 
we were half way to Dawson. 



35 



II 

ON THE TRAIL 

Personauties — ^The Forbears of Jack and Fritz — Good Camp 
Manners — Dog Individuality — Dude — The Team of 
Huskies — Wayfarers at Five Fingers — Fort Selkirk 
and Pelly— The Thanksgiving Turkey that Did Not 
Get to Dawson — A Diet of Flapjacks — Suburbs of the 
Klondyke Capital— The Passing of the Trail. 

AS we moved on slowly at dawn to make a 
few more miles before camping, we saw 
the penalty of this savage run, which human 
stubbornness had insisted upon making, in the 
blood left on the trail by the wounded feet of 
our dogs. Jack at once covered them with the 
moccasins which he had brought for the pur- 
pose. It was plain enough that the continu- 
ance of night marches was unfeasible if we 
desired our brave steeds to hold out as far as 
Dawson. While the sled slid easier at night, 
the excrescences of ice were as sharp as lances, 
and though the mushy trail of mid-day made 
the sled harder to pull, it was like a cushion 

for a wounded foot. We compromised upon 

36 



ON THE TRAIL 

a portion of both evils by determining to start 
at dawn and travel as fast and as long as we 
could, practically. This gave only seven or 
eight hours on the road as against the twelve 
or more that we had originally planned, and 
in order to make the most of them we made 
the sacrifice for the dogs* sake of drinking ice- 
water for our luncheon instead of taking the 
time to boil chocolate. Fritz preferring to 
handle the "gee-pole," and I preferring to 
assist in keeping the equilibrium of the big sled 
by holding the handles at the rear, each settled 
down to this as his definite labor. 

We now had more time for our camps ; 
more time for our pipes of relaxation as we 
sat on our beds around Jack's bonfires after 
the dogs were fed and dinner was eaten. On 
one of these nights we were talking of am- 
bitions. 

" As a boy, I wanted to drive a street-car," 
said Fritz. "When I grew older they still 
called me Freddy, and I made pictures for a 
living. That is enough to ruin any man ; and, 
foreseeing this, I concluded that I'd live on flap- 
jacks and go unwashed, and be called * pardner,' 
or Pete, or Bill, or make baking-powder dough, 
or anything, till I found a good placer mine. 

37 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

Then Fm going around the world, smoking 
the best brand of Turkish cigarettes, and look- 
ing at other people's pictures." 

Jack had run away from home at the age 
of thirteen to the land of the Indians that had 
been revealed to him in a dime novel secreted 
in a haymow, and had earned his own living 
ever since. Meagre as was his early education, 
he had picked up a surprising amount of in- 
formation from reading and from association. 
His eye was that of a scout ; his knowledge of 
birds and animals that of a naturalist ; his love 
of flowers that of a sentimentalist He had 
varied his life as a cowboy by many other oc- 
cupations. At one time he had been a private 
coachman in Omaha, just to see how it would^ 
seem. 

" I was gettin* pretty sick of the job," he ex- 
plained, "when the old lady I drove about 
leaned over to me one day, confidentially. 
*rm goin* to get you a fine livery to wear,' she 
said. Then I realized how low I had fallen, 
and that evening I was a free man again." 

He was longer on the Government survey 

than in any other employment, rising until he 

filled a position of considerable responsibility. 

. Possibly it was then that he learned the ethics 

38 



ON THE TRAIL 

of camp-life ; more likely they were innate. 
He adhered to his own soap, his own towel, 
and his own bedding, and was more observant 
of the small niceties of life than are most of the 
men who wear the high collars that he despised. 
In all of his seventeen years of wandering his 
greatest source of sorrow was that he had never 
made enough money, according to his ideas, to 
return home, though his pay had been as high 
as a hundred and fifty dollars a month. He 
must have a few thousands, and treat the little 
Pennsylvania village that was his birthplace to 
such extravagance as it had never seen before. 
If he made a ** stake" in the Klondyke, he 
had planned to drive right up to the old folks* 
door with his team of huskies and a little red 
cart, distributing candy to the children as the 
procession moved forward. 

The dogs, which at first seemed to me to be 
only so many domesticated wolves of like dis- 
positions, had now assumed strong individuali- 
ties. Dude, the leader, was worthy of the 
name given to him, on account of his sleek coat 
of thick gray fur, by the frontiersman who had 
instilled into him the wisdom of the trail and 
soldierly spirit and obedience. He was the 
sergeant-major among Yukon dogs, far from 

39 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

being a pup in years and far from having lost 
his vigor. When called to harness in the morn- 
ing he would stretch his body, arch his neck, 
throw his handsome tail over his back, deliver 
himself of a peculiar little wolfish whine, and 
trot straight to his place. Though your old 
sergeant-major may feel a little stiff when he 
gets out of bed, he isn't stiff when he has his 
tunic on, especially if there are any recruits 
about From the moment that Jack called 
" Mush !" until he called " Halt ! " Dude pulled 
steadily. All the others shirked at times and 
needed the crack of the whip to remind them of 
their duty, but the traces between Dude and 
the dog behind him were always taut He 
had the natural dignity requisite to his position. 
The other dogs attempted no familiarities with 
him, such as eating out of his dish or trying to 
bowl him over in sport After an unusually 
hard day's work, before lying down to rest, he 
would gambol a little with them as a relaxation 
from the steady strain in harness, but not in a 
manner of equality. 

During their conversations while the master 
was stirring the porridge he asked the ser- 
geant-major what he thought of the prospects 

of reaching Dawson before the ice went out of 

40 



In Camp— The Dogs' Porridge. 



ON THE TRAIL 

the river, Dude replied, on the authority of 
Jack's translation : 

"Don't ask me! I can make it all right 
But we ain't certain of anything as long as we 
have those house-dogs on the hind sled," 

Next to Dude was Fox, a nondescript, who 
remained in good flesh up to the last. He 
waddled and puffed in trying to keep up when 
Dude trotted. Fritz said that Fox reminded 
him of a fat school-girl, her cheeks daubed with 
molasses candy, and two braids down her back. 

Behind Fox was Jack, a pup, a mischief- 
maker, a rascal, and an actor. All husky dogs 
are thieves. Some will take a pot off a stove 
by its handle and hide it safely out of sight in 
the snow while they wait for its contents to 
cool to their taste. Jack promised to become 
the most accomplished of the clan. His wolfs 
nose always told him where our bacon was 
stored and his wolfs eyes told him when his 
opportunity had arrived. Once he had the 
meat out of his own basin of porridge eaten, 
he looked up to see which dog had any left and 
got it before the other dog realized what was 
up. He would scent an Indian camp even 
before Dude, sometimes at a distance of two 
miles. In the traces he forgot to pull while he 

41 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

looked at the ravens flying overhead or listened 
for noises in the forest Then the whip de- 
scended upon him and he would seem very 
crestfallen for a moment, only to be at his old 
tricks and to have his tail in the air in the next 
The more he was punished for dereliction during 
the day, the greater was his affection for his 
master in camp. On the warmer nights when 
Jack slept outside of the hut for the sake of 
elbow room, he would put himself on guard at 
the head of the master's bed of boughs and 
allow no other dog except Dude to come near. 

Dude was partial to him. He regarded Jack 
as a wayward but clever pup who was sowing 
his wild oats, and he knew, as an old sergeant- 
major, that this would make the best kind of a 
dog in the end. Often the master took hold 
of the ne'er-do-well's ears and shook him, say- 
ing: 

"I guess I like you best, after all. Jack. 
That's the way of the world. You're a rascal, 
but you're clever." 

Next in line was Tommy, Jack's brother. 
Jack enjoyed getting Tommy into scrapes and 
then leaving him to get out of them the best 
he could. Tommy was forever sneaking about 
the tent, and he was so impolitic in his choice 

43 



ON THE TRAIL 

of his moment of action that he was usually 
caught red-handed and cuffed. Though he 
never succeeded in stealing half as much as 
Jack, he came in for a great deal more enmity 
from Fritz than all the rest of the team. Jack 
used to approach Fritz gayly as Fritz sat with a 
leg on either side of our little stove, turn his 
coyote's head to one side, cock up his ears, and 
assure Fritz of his friendship for a good cook 
and his contempt for all such curs as Tommy. 
He might go and come many times in this way 
before Fritz's back was turned. When it was, 
however, he seized his spoil and trotted away 
in the businesslike manner of a dog who is do- 
ing an errand for his master. At a safe distance, 
he neatly dodged all missiles and smiled mock- 
ingly back at the cook. When Tommy was 
licked in the traces he howled for half an hour 
and his tail did not ascend for the remainder 
of the day. None of the other dogs would 
make friends with so sour a fellow. Perhaps 
he was only oversensitive and introspective, 
and I do him wrong. I fear, however, that he 
will be sent to the penitentiary at Forty Mile 
for a long term one of these days. 

Shorty, the end dog (wheel horse) of the 
husky team, was born in Spitzbergen, where 

43 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

• 

dogs are so white that when they are on a 
background of snow you know of their pres- 
ence only by the black spots for their eyes and 
a bigger black spot for their noses. An 
equality in breadth and length gave Shorty his 
name. Like some fat old gentlemen whom 
we meet at the club, he was the more comical 
because he was unconsciously so. He didn't 
believe in being a martyr, and he always carried 
his head so that one of his eyes was on Jack. 
When the master was about to touch up Jack 
and Tommy, Shorty would begin suddenly to 
pull very hard. His legs were so short and his 
body was so chunky that if the team turned a 
sharp corner around a cake of ice he would 
often roll over like a ball of fur ; or, in trying 
to keep up he would slip and fall down a fissure, 
hanging suspended by his collar while he looked 
around at Jack, saying : 

'* Oh, I know Fm the snapper of the whij) ! 
What next ? " 

He blinked so oddly, there was such an ex- 
pression of disgust in the very way in which he 
lolled his tongue out, that you laughed at him 
as you would at the old gentleman who finds 
another club member in his favorite chair and 
reading his favorite paper. 

44 



ON THE TRAIL 

Tim, the larger of the two St. Bernards, 
was a sober, phlegmatic dog of noble mien, 
who was funny only when he ate so much por- 
ridge after a hard day's work that he groaned 
with pain. 

" You needn't look at me so reproachfully, 
Tim," Jack would say, ** I know I'm to blame. 
But I'd feel just as mean if I didn't feed you 
all you wanted." 

The St. Bernard is too high-spirited for the 
work of a draught animal. At first Patsy 
seemed the better dog of the two. But Patsy 
wore himself out by fidgeting, and then it was 
his turn to soldier while Tim did his work. 
Toward the last they were in such bad shape 
that we dared to put only fifty pounds on their 
sled. 

In the neighborhood of Five Fingers we met 
a dozen stranded pilgrims whose desperate 
efforts to reach Dawson in the previous autumn 
had been put to naught by the summary ap- 
proach of the arctic winter when they were 
within a few days of their destination. They 
had built cabins on the banks of the river, 
wherever their boats had been inextricably 
caught in a jam of ice, and settled down to the 
prospect of playing checkers and fighting oflf 

45 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

scurvy for eight months, until summer came. 
Of those who were unsuccessful in the battle, 
the most afflicted was an old forty-niner who 
accepted with better grace than any of the 
others a diet of spruce tea and rice, which he 
hoped would undo the work of too much 
bacon. A few prospect holes had been sunk 
without any reward except " colors," because, 
as they explained, they were, in keeping with 
their general ill luck, just outside of the gold 
belt. For selfish as well as sentimental reasons 
we were glad that these unfortunate fellows 
were not more numerous. We had always to 
tell them some of the news, and then to leave 
their hospitality rather offended despite our 
explanations that we could not afford to tarry 
with them for a day's rest when the trail was 
good. 

At one of the cabins a boy of seventeen years 
hobbled out to the bank to greet us. He and 
his uncle had left Dawson for the coast in 
December, drawing their own sleds. Hardship 
had so affected his uncle's mind, as the story 
was told to me, that to escape from the country 
had become a brutal and selfish mania with 
him. He forced his nephew, even at the point 

of the revolver, it was said, to do all the work 

46 



ON THE TRAIL 

of making and breaking camp. The boy was 
so tired one night that he crawled under his 
blankets without changing his moccasins, which 
had become wet by the slush snow about the 
fire. He awoke in the morning with his feet 
frozen. When they were overtaken on the 
trail by a man with a dog team, the next after- 
noon, the boy, goaded on by his uncle, was 
plodding along on legs which were frozen stiff 
up to his knees, experiencing, he said, much in- 
convenience but no pain. The fellow-traveller 
gave him a ride behind the dogs to the nearest 
cabin, where, later, a doctor on his way to the 
coast found amputation necessary to save the 
boy's life. As for the uncle, he delayed only a 
few hours, and hastened on his journey more 
energetically than ever. 

A little hunting had been done by the 
stranded pilgrims, but with no success. We 
had hoped to obtain some venison from the 
Indians, but though we passed many of their 
deserted camps between the Hootalinqua and 
the Pelly, we came to only one that was occu- 
pied. Here two families were sitting around 
a small fire with their backs protected on all 
sides from the wind by a wall of brush about 
waist high. We secured a few pounds of ex- 

47 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

tremely tough steak in exchange for some corn- 
meal. A small boy who looked quite like a 
young Jap knew a few English words and had 
the gift of making comprehensible gestures. 
He explained that he had heard his father's gun 
go " boom ! " far off on the mountain-side, a few 
hours before. No chaffing could shake his 
confidence in his father, whose name was 
Chook, as a great hunter. One boom, he told 
us by signs, and the moose or caribou always 
tumbled over into the snow. The temptation 
to wait and see if Chook would return with 
fresh moose or caribou meat was great, but we 
resisted it. When, however, we were at the 
other end of the semicircle formed by the curve 
of the river beyond the camp, a cry from the 
bank showed us Chook, who had hastened 
through the woods by a trail known to himself, 
bearing a fine caribou steak and a piece of 
liver. With him, besides the little boy we had 
seen, was an elder brother who had been out 
to learn the way in which Daddy crept up 
quietly until he was within a few steps of his 
prey. Chook wanted sugar in exchange, but 
we had none to spare. Finally his obduracy 
was overcome and he accepted corn-meal. 

Long after we had passed on, he stood watch- 

48 



ON THE TRAIL 

ing us, and presumably he was grinning over 
his bargain. We enjoyed part of the steak; 
Jack, the pup, stole the rest with such finesse 
that we forgave him. 

When we had passed one point which we 
recognized as a name on the map, we looked 
forward from day to day, as we lessened the 
distance, until we should arrive at another. In 
camp we compared our opinions of how many 
miles we had made that day, and soon our 
estimates became surprisingly accurate. After 
leaving Five Fingers, all our thoughts were 
bent on reaching Fort Selkirk, where the Pelly, 
a great river of itself, joins the Yukon. The 
trail for this distance was better than for the 
fifty miles that had preceded it and the colder 
weather made sledging better. Moreover, our 
new plan of shorter hours and harder work was 
succeeding admirably. 

Long before placer mining was thought of 
in Alaska or in the British Northwest Terri- 
tory, representatives of the fur companies were 
stationed at Fort Selkirk. The present post 
is across the river from the upper ramparts of 
the Yukon's bank, whose towering walls of 
rock resemble the walls of old-time forts, even 
to the embrasures. In a break in the ramparts 

49 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

is the mouth of the Pelly, which is to the 
Yukon what the Missouri is to the Mississippi. 

Mr. Pettit, the trader at Selkirk, had only 
Indians for companions. The aspect of this 
little man's loneliness was heightened by his 
slight form and his pallor, so out of place in a 
country where bare existence is supposed to 
demand so much vigor. In summer he busied 
himself with a little garden, which was an ab- 
sorbing occupation because upon its success 
there possibly depended immunity from the 
dreaded scurvy. In winter he sat by his stove 
smoking when he was not sleeping. Watching 
the Indians go through the ritual of the Rus- 
sian Church in their original manner, or dance 
around a dying fellow to keep off the evil spirit 
of death, were diversions which must by this 
time have lost their novelty for him. He had 
had nothing to sell for more than a year. This 
was a great disappointment to his customers 
who were short of those great requirements of 
aboriginal happiness, tobacco, sugar, and gay- 
colored clothes. 

While we were at Pelly, the Indians became 

excited over the arrival of news that one of 

the tribe, Ulick, had shot ten caribou and two 

moose, ''one sleep" — or more than a day's 

50 



ON THE TRAIL 

travel — down the river. We made careful 
calculations as to how much tobacco we could 
spare, and kept a sharp lookout for Ulick, 
whom we met with his family dragging some 
of the moose back to camp. For forty-five 
cents' worth of tobacco we secured thirty 
pounds of steak for ourselves and the dogs. 
To offers of as high as a dollar a pound for 
more, he merely made the reply : 

*' Got heap money ! Want * baccy ! '" 

Your husky dog is no vegetarian. Once we 
realized how much additional puUing-power 
our team could get out of a little fresh meat 
we denied ourselves for them. 

The height and the character of the moun- 
tains towering over our heads told us that we 
were coming into the region of the Rockies. 
Every turn of the river brought into view a 
panorama of low wooded islands made in later 
times by a change of current ; of islands that 
were Cyclopean masses thrown up by chaos, 
and the nesting-places of eagles ; of mountains 
on either shore, whose strata seemed to have 
been kneaded and stirred when soft as dough, 
and afterward, upon solidifying, to have been 
rent by convulsions of the earth's crust. 

But one was too busy with the handles of 

51 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

the sled fully to enjoy scenery. You only 
knew that the vista seemed to be frowning 
upon the impudence of you and your sled and 
dogs breaking in upon great solitudes. Thank- 
fully, the weather was more in our favor and 
the trail was harder, as it had been between the 
Big Salmon and Pelly, and not so sliding. At 
times it was as smooth as a skating-rink for 
a few hundred yards where it was protected 
from the sun by the shadow of the mountains 
and the forests ; again, there was glare ice, 
where we might ride for a little distance, jest- 
ing merrily about private equipages and driv- 
ing-parks ; and, again, we drove flocks of wild 
ducks away from open places, making us re- 
gret that we had only revolvers with us. Far 
over our heads against the background of the 
blue sky we saw great flocks of wild swans and 
wild geese moving northward in stately pro- 
cession, reminding us that summer was near at 
hand. At 2 a.m. the thermometer was at from 
10 to 20 degrees below zero; at noon, 80 de- 
grees above, and the crust of dawn had become 
like porridge. I had one ear blistered by the 
frost and the other by the sun in the same day. 
But we little minded these extremes ; for the 
trail continued to be good, until one morn- 

52 



ON THE TRAIL 

ing we arrived at the cluster of cabins called 
Stewart City, at the mouth of the Stewart 
River, where we rested for a day. Of the in- 
mates of the cabins we bought enough rice to 
piece out the rations of our dogs. 

A mile out of Stewart we met Anders, of 
Bay City, Michigan, who was drawing his own 
sled as he swung along in great strides in the 
company of an elderly man who had one dog. 
An idea for making a fortune had occurred to 
him and to carry it out he had started for 
Dyea at once, regardless of the season of the 
year. He was ** going outside " to bring in the 
stock for a poultry farm which he proposed to 
establish on an island near Dawson. 

" Fresh eggs will bring ten dollars a dozen 
any time," he said, '* and a spring chicken as 
much. I ain't going to let anybody get ahead 
of me, you bet. Fve got a side of bacon and 
a sack of flour. Til sleep by day and go with- 
out a blanket I'll make it to Five Fingers 
with my sled and then I'll take what's left of 
my grub on my back and skin along the shore 
till I get to the lakes, where I can get some 
more grub off the boats that are coming in, 
snake a canoe somewhere, and paddle up to 
Linderman." 

53 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

I saw him in Dawson two weeks after the 
pilgrims' flotilla began to arrive. The ice in 
the river had broken before he reached Five 
Fingers. He had climbed over mountains 
and beaten his way through underbrush until 
he sprained his ankle. Then he crawled to 
a ledge of rock overlooking the stream and 
waited until a pilgrim in a passing boat saw 
the red bandanna which he waved as a signal 
of distress. 

"And I guess Dawson won't have turkey 
for Thanksgiving this year," he added. " You 
remember the old feller that was with me? 
We got separated. He couldn't keep up with 
my gait. Well, our boat passed his dog run- 
ning up and down the shore howling, but we 
couldn't find a sign of him. I guess he was 
drowned." 

It took us six days to make the remaining 
seventy-five miles to Dawson, though now 
our outfit, including bedding and kit-bags, did 
not weigh more than two hundred pounds. 
The weather at night had suddenly moderated, 
as if the arctic winter, after a spasmodic re- 
sistance, had given way entirely to the tropical 
summer. Henceforth, it was needless to put 
up our tent, and we slept and cooked entirely 

54 



ON THE TRAIL 

in the open, drying our wet footwear by the 
heat of the sun in the late afternoon. 

Starting at 2 a.m. with the first light, we 
plodded straight ahead through the snow up to 
our knees, until the dogs gave out. We fol- 
lowed the trail where we could ; followed 
it until it led us to the flowing river, and 
then we made a detour around the open place. 
The snow-shoes which we had brought thus 
far without having once put them on, now be- 
came invaluable in making a path by slow and 
arduous tramping, as monotonous as the beat- 
ing of time, but a little more tiring, I assure 
you. Without the relief of the color of the 
dogs or of the man in front of you upon which 
to rest your eyes, little red spots would dance 
in the glare on the snow even through heavy 
green glasses. Often the rest of the party 
had to wait while Jack, who never tired, went 
on ahead to see if, in case we should go around 
this or that island, we should be obliged to re- 
trace our steps. Again, in little side channels 
where the water was deep only in a freshet, we 
hitched all the dogs to one sled at a time 
and they dragged it over the sandy bottom and 
up on the other side, where we were likely to 
strike out on an old Indian trail bare of snow, 

55 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

and to have to lift the sleds from side to 
side to avoid saplings. 

It was our boast that only once had we un- 
packed the sleds except to make camp. This 
was at Five Fingers, where we had to carry 
our baggage piece by piece up an ascent of 
forty feet Even there we had sent the dogs 
up with the small sled on bare ground. But 
now we could lift the sleds and contents ; or 
if the bank or ledge of rocks which we wished 
to gain was very precipitate, we could slide 
them up on skids. Dude, the old leader, 
would crawl up by himself without a whine, 
like a true soldier. Jack threw the other 
huskies up bodily, and the clumsy St. Ber- 
nards were pushed and pulled and coaxed up. 

Just when we had to undergo the greatest 
physical labor, and the greatest strain from 
climate, our food-supply, so astonishing had 
been our appetites, had dwindled to flour and 
bad bacon, and we had remaining only a pipe 
of tobacco apiece, which was religiously saved 
for our last camp. We missed most keenly 
our chocolate, of which we had eaten half a 
pound apiece a day. With a slab of it for 
luncheon, and only two flapjacks and a slice 

of bacon, we were not hungry again for five 

56 



ON THE TRAIL 

or six hours. Consume all the flapjacks and 
bacon that we could without suffering from 
that excess of quantity which is the foe of 
exercise, in three or four hours our stomachs 
would be calling for more. 

On the afternoon of the fourth day out 
from Stewart, when the dogs pulled up after 
one of the rushes they were never too tired to 
make on scenting a camp, we looked up to see 
some figures standing on a pile of logs which 
they were cutting for a raft of timber for a 
Dawson saw-mill. 

"How are ye ? " they called. " Goin' to 
town?" 

We had reached the suburbs ! 

"Well," replied Jack, "weVe been thinkin' 
some of it How far is it ? " 

" 'Bout twenty miles. But you won't make 
it. The ice is likely to go out any minute." 

On the day following we passed still another 
camp of rafters, who said that the river was 
open in front of Dawson. They advised us to 
make camp and accompany them when navi- 
tion opened. 

** We'll be old inhabitants by that time," said 
Jack. 

Every creek flowing into the river was a 

57 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

torrent, eating up the ice and flooding its sur- 
face. We could see that the river was rising, 
which was a sure sign that its days were few. 
However, we were confident of reaching our 
destination on the morrow, though we had to 
desert our sleds, put some flapjacks and slices 
of bacon in our pockets, and climb over the 
mountain which hid ** town " from view. 

Our last camp was on a wooded island 
where some prospector had built a brush- 
house. Jack's bonfire, especially large in 
honor of the occasion, extended to this house, 
and we thought it rather good fun that we had 
to save our bedding from the flames. But our 
jubilation was not unmixed with sadness. We 
should not make another journey together, and 
we had been good comrades, always venting 
our anger, when it insisted upon expression, 
upon our sleds, and never blaming one another. 

Our hair and beards were long and un- 
kempt; our trousers were the color of ma- 
hogany ; but we felt strong enough to go up 
the side of a mountain on the run, and we had 
been so near to nature that we could truly 
claim her for next-door neighbor. 

In the future, the numerous police stations 
built in the summer (1898) will furnish food 

58 



ON THE TRAIL 

for travellers and their dogs. Already, there- 
fore, our journey in the manner that we made 
it is a thing of the past, and, accordingly, one 
feels as he looks back on it a little of the pride 
of the pioneer. 

" We can sleep as long as we want, to-mor- 
row," said Fritz, pulling his robe over him, 
"and we won't care whether it is going to 
freeze at night or not." 

" And we won't have wet feet," Jack added. 
** I guess it's been twenty days since they 
wasn't sopping 'fore we'd been out two hours, 
and that slush does feel rather clammy when 
the sun's blisterin* overhead.'* 

Ten miles in ten hours was the record of 
our last day's travel, over the worst trail we 
had encountered. At dusk we rounded an 
island, and to our right, on a small flat across 
the river (which here had been opened by the 
current of the Klondyke), we saw the cluster 
of cabins which was the pilgrim's Mecca. 
There was glare ice, however, above the Klon- 
dyke across to the little suburb of Dawson, 
Klondyke City. For the first time in many 
days we rode on our sleds, finishing our jour- 
ney in triumph. 

** Don't you know that it's too late to travel 

59 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

on the river ? " asked the foremost man of the 
little crowd that came out to meet us. 

" Yes," replied Jack, " and we've just made 
up our minds to quit" 

Four days later, as if it had broken away all 
along the shores at the same moment, the ice 
moved on toward the sea like a great white 
procession, halted now and then by a jam, but 
not for long. 

** It's a pleasure to see that trail go by," was 
Jack's comment, as he watched it from our 
cabin-door. " I only wish I might pay it back 
in its own kind by tripping it up a few times." 



60 



Ill 

DAWSON 

Social Aspects of Dawson — Cornering the Tinned Food 
Market — Cheechawkos and Old-Timers in the Early 
Days. 

AT this season of the year the inhabitants 
of Dawson were passing out of the chrys- 
alis of fur caps into soiled, broad-brimmed 
hats resurrected from cabin-shelves; out of 
winter clothing generally into what remained 
of their last summer's clothing. Along the 
thawing bog called the main street, littered and 
odorous from sanitary neglect, were two rows 
of saloons and gambling-halls, with mining- 
brokers' offices and the stores of shrewd specu- 
lators in food-supplies, who always had one 
can of condensed milk for $2.50, one can of 
butter for $5, and one pound of sugar for $1.50, 
and assured you that they were the last in the 
country. To look out across the flat toward 
the mountains was to see scattered cabins and 

piles of tin cans, which at once let one into the 

61 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

culinary secrets of an isolated community com- 
posed largely of men. At the restaurants, 
bacon and beans and cofifee cost $2.50. 

For a time in the winter in fear of famine 
the well-to-do hoarded food as they hoard gold 
in a financial panic, and the restaurants were 
closed because supplies were not procurable at 
prices that made catering profitable. Then, a 
fifty-pound sack of flour sold for as high as 
$100; but at the approach of spring the little 
capitalists who had planned to sell their ** cor- 
ners " at great profit were glad enough to dis- 
pose of such surplus as they had beyond their 
own needs at a loss. To them the departure of 
hundreds of mouths which otherwise would 
have been fed out of Dawson's granary was as 
great a disappointment as a report that Hun- 
gary's wheat crop would greatly exceed expec- 
tations is to the bulls on the Chicago Ex- 
change. All of the luxuries and many of the 
necessities of life were scarce; but, withal, 
there was quite enough of bacon, beans, and 
flour to have satisfied the appetites of the 
whole community for a month after supplies 
arrived. According to the philosophy of the 
old-timers, there is never any danger of a man's 

starving as long as he will look ahead a little. 

62 



DAWSON 

So easy is it to sleep and so little does one eat 
when one is not working that he can live on a 
pound of food a day, if need be, and take the 
remainder of his nourishment in slumber. On 
the other hand, vigorous labor in winter de- 
mands at least three pounds a day, and it is 
upon this basis that estimates have always been 
made in the valley of the Yukon. 

With a tiny can of cocoa, which I pounced 
upon in a store as if it were an Elzevir in a 
junk-heap, and a few staples bought at extrava- 
gant prices, we were able to prepare a superior 
meal in the cabin that I had leased. But this 
was not until we had slept gloriously for six- 
teen hours. There remained the problem of a 
bath, which was serious, as the one bath-house 
in Dawson was closed for repairs. I solved it 
legitimately, if uncomfortably, in the wooden 
tub which was lent to me by a neighbor. 

The saloons had only a substitute for whis- 
key, of home manufacture. The dance-halls 
were not open. All the men whose dust and 
presence would make the camp lively were at 
the mines — or " up the creeks," as the saying 
goes in Dawson — preparing for the ** clean-up." 

In winter and in summer the trail leads up 
the Klondyke to the mouth of Bonanza, three 

63 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

miles from Dawson, and thence up Bonanza 
to the working-claims, about three miles far- 
ther on. In the spring, when the currents are 
swollen, you must go over a high mountain by 
a path in the soft snow. If you have a pack, 
this is hard work. On the way I met a blue- 
faced old fellow — by his look if not by his limp 
he had the scurvy — ^who promptly put me in 
my proper social status. 

" Are ye a Cheechawko ? " he asked. 

" I don't know, Tm sure." 

" Well, then, ye are, and the river must 'a* 
broke. Any man's a Cheechawko until he's 
been in the country when the ice goes out. In 
the old days we could lick the Cheechawkos 
into shape ; larn 'em to leave their latch-strings 
out fur a passin' stranger when they was away 
from hum, and larn 'em to eat what they wanted 
and to use the best blanket in a cabin, but to 
lug nothin' away. Fifty thousand of 'em, they 
say — clerks and farmers and dudes. They're 
too many fur us. Civilization's here, and it's 
a case of locking up yer dust after this. But, 
young man, ye can't be an old-timer, never ! 
Ye can't be an old-timer, 'less ye've lived in the 
camps in the old days when a man was a man 
and his neighbor's brother." 

64 



DAWSON 

And without giving me time to reply to his 
little lecture, he hobbled on toward the hospital. 

Cheechawko is the Indian word for stranger, 
or, more literally, tenderfoot, which has come 
into general use in the Klondyke ; and toward 
the Cheechawko, bringing in the more penuri- 
ous ways of the outside world, along with igno- 
rance of mining, the old-timer feels a genuine 
resentment. I was glad of the opportunity to 
see the veterans ere the recruits had arrived. 



^ 



IV 

THE FIRST DISCOVERIES 

The Beginning of Mining in Alaska— Forty Mile Creek — 
Canadian and American Deposits — The Largest Log- 
Cabin Town in the World — Life of the First Advent- 
urers — The Superfluity of Six-Shooters — Leaving 
the Latch-Strings Out — The Way of the Trans- 
gressors — Indian Charley and his Nugget. 

A LITTLE history of placer mining in the 
Yukon valley, at this turn of my narrative, 
will be of importance, I think, in making what 
follows more comprehensible. It was early in 
the eighties, if not before, that the first pros- 
pectors, armed with Indian tales, faith, and a 
"gold pan," packed their supplies to the shores 
of the Lewes lakes over the passes which were 
the means of communication between the 
Indians of the coast and those of the interior. 
They followed the ice out of the lakes and 
down the river into a practically unexplored 
country, panning out of the gravel at the 
mouth of each tributary. 

At first, these and the other brave spirits who 

66 



THE FIRST DISCOVERIES 

were encouraged to follow their example ard- 
uously poled their boats back up-stream in 
September, with the result of their summer's 
labor, to spend the winter in one of the towns 
of the quartz-mining region in southeastern 
Alaska or in the Pacific Coast States. Some 
had three or four hundred dollars ; others, who 
had impatiently disregarded certain " pay " on 
the bars of the tributaries and had prospected 
in the hope of making a great "strike," re- 
turned with little or nothing. 

Soon they began to take in enough supplies 
to last them through the winter, and to build 
cabins for their protection. A little settlement 
sprang up on the site of the ** diggings " of 
Forty Mile Creek. All of the rich deposits 
thus far have been found not on the tributaries 
of the Yukon but on the tributaries of the 
tributaries. (The wealth of the far-famed Klon- 
dyke is not on the Klondyke River but on 
Eldorado and Bonanza, which flow into it.) 
So the next progressive step was a discovery 
which led to the working of the frozen ground 
in the valleys of the numerous little streams 
tributary to Forty Mile, by stripping ofif the 
dirt as fast as the very hot sun of the long days 

of the arctic summer thawed it. This process, 

67 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

however, was feasible only when the "pay- 
dirt " was near to the surface, and the season of 
activity was still restricted to four or five 
months of the year. 

As the prospectors moved on down the 
river, gradually widening the circle of their 
labors and their experience, deposits con- 
siderably richer than those of the tributaries of 
Forty Mile were found on the tributaries of 
Birch Creek in American territory. Here, for 
the first time, an innovation, which did not 
appeal to everybody, made it feasible to work 
twelve months in the year. An energetic man 
sank a shaft to bedrock with fires. Then he 
drifted out his " pay-dirt " in the same manner 
and piled it in dumps on the surface to be 
sluiced out in summer. By the autumn of 
1896, when the great discovery of Bonanza 
Creek was made. Circle City was said to be 
the largest log-cabin town in the world, and 
from twenty-five hundred to three thousand 
white men dwelt in the Yukon valley. 

Experience in placer mining counted for 
little in a region where conditions were so 
different from those of the Pacific Coast 
States. There was no sprinkling of capitalists 
or mining engineers among those robust 

68 



THE FIRST DISCOVERIES 

pilgrims of the early days. Many of the hard- 
ships which they endured are already a mem- 
ory. They were cheered in their combat 
with nature by no such tales as lured on the 
Cheechawkos of 1897-98. The majority of 
them came from the frontiers of the United 
States; a smaller part, generally of French 
descent, from the frontiers of Canada. All 
were peculiarly the product of the Anglo- 
Saxon bent for overcoming obstacles. Not in- 
frequently there were fugitives from justice, 
who, having the inclination and the energy to 
undergo great physical trials rather than serve a 
term in prison, and learning a lesson in man- 
hood by bitter retrospection, have often become 
heroic pioneers. More numerous than the in- 
habitants of the old centres of civilization would 
suppose were those recluses who are ever seek- 
ing lonely refuges out of touch with the advance 
posts of organized society. 

There was no prospect, especially when no 
" big strikes " had been reported, to attract 
the idle and the dissolute who infest similar 
settlements in more hospitable countries. Re- 
lieved of the parasitic class and being inter- 
dependent in isolation from the outside world 

under the most rigorous conditions for eight 

69 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

months in the year, their inhabitants, despite 
the " pasts " of some of them, made Circle City 
and Forty Mile the most peaceable of mining 
camps. Captain Constantine, of the British 
Northwest Mounted Police, with a few men, 
had plenary powers at Forty Mile, while Circle 
City was nominally governed by a United 
States Commissioner and a United States 
Marshal. 

All the white women in both communities 
could be counted on the fingers of two hands. 
Mrs. Constantine, the wives of a few mission- 
aries and of a few leading men, had come in 
on steamers up the river in summer to join 
their husbands. Half a dozen half-breed wom- 
en, with more or less of the blood of Russian 
fur traders in their veins, composed the demi- 
monde of either camp. Full-blooded squaws 
performed the household duties in some cabins 
for a civilized lord and master. But the 
" squaw man " was the exception. In no part 
of the world where isolated white men live 
among aborigines was the man who had a na- 
tive mistress held in greater disrespect than 
here. 

As a rule, the miners did their own washing 
and mending. Their amusements were card- 

70 



THE FIRST DISCOVERIES 

playing and checker-playing. The climate 
seemed to exercise a softening effect upon bel- 
licose natures, and even intoxication seldom 
carried quarrels beyond a dispute of words. 
Whoever struck the first blow had the con- 
sensus of opinion of the camp against him. 

" We've got enough to do fighting Alaska," 
was a saying which sententiously expressed 
the general feeling, "without fighting one 
another." 

To the new-comer it was hinted that a six- 
shooter, which fiction makes the inseparable 
companion of all men in a new placer mining 
camp, was a superfluity that would keep him 
out of trouble only when he kept it at all times 
hanging on a peg in his cabin. Its weight 
alone was equal to two days' rations in a 
country where the prospector had to dispense 
with his helpmeet, the mule or the burro, and 
carry his grub for a tour on his back. There- 
fore, arms were never carried unless there was 
a chance of meeting with game. 

The essence of the " free miners' law " was 
being on the "squar*," which, after all, is a 
rough equivalent of the brotherhood of man. 
Between the disputants as to the ownership of 
a claim the " miners' meeting " decided which 

71 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

one was in the right All offenders were 
brought before the bar of their fellows. A 
man accused of theft, after an examination of 
witnesses, was acquitted or convicted by the 
holding up of hands. If guilty, he was, ac- 
cording to the circumstances, either warned 
to leave the country for good — no slight penal- 
ty in midwinter with only the hospitality of 
Indians to depend upon — or else ostracism 
was postponed pending good behavior. ** Min- 
ers' meeting law" is unscientific and rarely 
commendable, but here it served its purpose 
well because its methods made it so seldom 
required. 

Under the force of self-interest a universal 
good-will prevailed. Whatever a miner had 
— ^perhaps the increment of a summer's earn- 
ings which was to pay for another year's sup- 
plies — he kept in tomato cans on the table of 
his cabin with impunity. When he went away 
from home on a journey to some other creek 
he left his latch-string out. On the very even- 
ing of his absence, while his cabin was oc- 
cupied by another, he was, perhaps, sleeping 
in someone else's without an invitation. By 
the unwritten law of the land he enjoyed 
whatever luxuries of food and rest the cabin 

72 



THE FIRST DISCOVERIES 

afforded ; but, likewise by the unwritten law 
of the land, he washed any dishes that he had 
used and put them and all other things that 
he had disturbed back where they belonged, 
folded the blankets on the bunk, cut firewood 
in place of that which he had burned, and laid 
kindlings by the stove ready to make warmth 
and cheer for the owner when he should return, 
cold and weary. 

Cheechawkos who came down the river in 
the spring in their rough boats at first, through 
ignorance, were often transgressors of the un- 
written laws. But so few arrived at a time 
that the majority were soon able to convince 
them of the folly of courting trouble for them- 
selves. Anyone with a bad record could not 
obtain favors or a loan when he needed it. 
After he had consumed the supplies which he 
had brought into the country with him, he 
must rely upon the transportation companies, 
established to meet the demand of the new 
settlements, whose river steamers connected 
with ocean-going vessels at the island of St 
Michael in Norton Sound. When a man 
had been unfortunate in his summer's work, 
a reputation for probity would secure from the 
companies a year's outfit on a simple promise 

73 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

to pay. In treating generously the real pros- 
pector who sought new fields, they only had 
an eye to their own interests in the develop- 
ment of the country. Every canned and pre- 
served delicacy was included in a year's sup- 
plies, costing from $500 to $600. Canned 
plum pudding was a treat for the holidays ; 
and more than one miner ate pdti de foie gras 
for the first time in Circle City or Forty Mile. 
These luxuries, however, were no substitutes 
for fresh fruits and fresh vegetables. 

The flat-bottomed river steamers continued 
on their course until the ice in the river led 
them to seek a slough or side channel for 
safety, all hands preparing to spend the winter 
housed up on board. Then no more Chee- 
chawkos' boats could arrive, and the camps 
were as completely separated from the out- 
side world as a whaler caught in the ice of 
Bering Sea. To all men, including the re- 
cluses, a ** pardner " was essential. For the 
recluses were recluses from civilization and not 
from fellow-men of their own tastes ; and no 
one, except a few of the most perverse, under- 
took single-handed to put up a cabin or to live 
in it alone. 

The ** town " was on the river bank at the 

74 



THE FIRST DISCOVERIES 

most accessible point to tlie creeks whose 
wealth was responsible for its existence. Its 
cabins clustered around the commercial com- 
panies' stores and the saloons. To one side 
was a camp of Indians and the mission station 
which ministered to their spiritual wants and, 
following the paths of diplomacy, to the spir- 
itual wants of the miners — upon request Fuel 
was brought from the hill-sides and food was 
taken to the cabins on the creeks by teams of 
husky dogs. 

When the winter settled down in serene 
triumph in December there was not even the 
falling of snow to disturb the calm atmos- 
phere. The fine white particles under foot, 
which seemed as sharp as powdered glass to 
the touch, were precipitated invisibly, like 
frost. They glistened on the mountain-sides 
without a breath of air to stir them. In the 
few hours of gray light out of the twenty-four, 
men welcomed the sound of their own voices, 
or even the howl of their dogs, to break the 
silence which was the fit companion of the dry, 
biting cold. At night they forgave the still 
and merciless panorama of the day as they 
watched out of their cabin-windows the play 
of the Northern Lights, in which nature has 

75 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

furnished for the eyes a greater treat than is 
the breaking of surf for the ears. 

With the coming of spring, when the sun 
mounted so rapidly in the heavens, every man 
had his opinion and his reasons for it as to the 
exact date when the ice should go out of the 
Yukon. After this — the greatest event of the 
year — had taken place, all eyes kept a lookout 
up-stream for the first pine-colored boat that 
should dart around the bend with the rapidity 
of the current The Cheechawko was sur- 
rounded by a little crowd which asked him 
about the result of the previous November's 
elections, or if France and Germany had gone 
to war as indicated by an August paper which 
the community had been reading for eight 
months. 

As a rule, the early arrivals had been in the 
country before. They knew the channels and 
the currents of the river, and could resist the 
temptation of stopping to pan the gravel of 
the bars in search of colors, for the old-timers 
had long since concluded that the travel-worn 
particles of dust to be found at the mouths of 
all of the tributaries of the Yukon which are 
in the so-called gold belt, were vagrants and 

not the advance guard of a floating pilgrim- 

76 



THE FIRST DISCOVERIES 

age. They had poled weary miles in their 
long boats and carried packs for wearier ones 
without finding at the head-waters of the tribu- 
taries, which were named by them and still 
await accurate mapping by geographers, any 
original deposits. The shallow bedrock in the 
neighborhood of Forty Mile put the original 
deposits there within reach of the summer's 
sun and the superficial investigation of the 
hurrying prospector, and opened the way to 
the discovery of richer original deposits at 
Circle City at a slightly greater depth of bed- 
rock. 

So the miners had concluded that the next 
great strike, following the progress of develop- 
ment down the river, would be made below 
Circle City. On account of an Indian's keen 
glance the contrary happened, and they re- 
traced their footsteps to find fortunes at a depth 
of thirty feet under soil whose surface they 
had trod before. The sharp-eyed Indian was 
a brother-in-law of " Siawash George," and 
" Siawash George " was an outcast, whose 
nickname was given to him by his fellow white 
men. The Siawashes are one of the lowest 
orders of the American Indians, and the old- 
timers, so largely men from the Pacific Coast, 

77 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

use Siawash both as a noun and as an adjective 
to signify contempt. One of the first white 
pilgrims to cross the passes, Cormac, was now 
the father of three or four half-breed children- 
He had planned that his marriage to a prin- 
cess of the tribe would be the stepping-stone 
of his ambition to become chief of the Sticks. 
In the autumn of 1896 he and his family and 
retainers were encamped at the mouth of the 
Klondyke, gathering from the land and the 
water, according to aboriginal custom but with 
modern riffles and hooks, their winter supply of 
provender. 

The Klondyke is one of the best rivers in 
the neighborhood for fish, much better than 
the Indian River, which flows into the Yukon 
between thirty and forty miles above it. At 
the summit of the water-shed between the 
Indian and the Klondyke is a great mountain, 
which, from its shape, the miners have named 
The Dome. In the snows of its sides six 
creeks have their origin, three flowing into 
either stream. The longest of these is sixteen 
miles. They wind through beds of black 
muck, ranging from fifty to two hundred and 
fifty yards in breadth, which lie between steep 

embankments. It is presumed that the em- 

78 



\ 



THE FIRST DISCOVERIES 

bankments are the walls of an ancient river 
channel. They are indented only by the 
gulches cut by tributaries which once were 
mighty but now have dwindled to little tor- 
rents which flourish only with the first warmth 
of spring or after a heavy rain in summer. 
The great heat of June, July, and August drew 
out of the muck with a growth of tropical ra- 
pidity a rank grass upon which the moose fed 
in peace, fattening his sides, made lean by 
winter's privations. 

Here " Injun Sharley," as he called himself, 
came to look for moose, and here he found in- 
stead, as he was crossing the first tributary of 
the Klondyke at a point where its bending 
course had dug a niche out of the side-hill, a 
glistening nugget of gold. According to all of 
the preconceived ideas of the placer mining 
prospectors, no creeks in the region were so un- 
promising as these. Those few prospectors 
who had tramped up this valley, finding a few 
colors in the shoals made by washing the earth 
of the embankment, had passed them by with 
the ever-ready expression of the country : 
" Oh, well, you can find colors anywhere." 
If the turn of the creek had not washed one 
stray nugget as well as stray colors out of a 

79 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

bench which no one found worth working two 
years after discovery, the moose might still be 
feeding undisturbed in the valleys of Eldorado 
and Bonanza creeks, which are now as expres- 
sive of man's handiwork as the rear of a row of 
tenement houses, and certain unhappy news- 
paper correspondents would not have missed 
the Spanish- American War. 

There is no reason to believe that " Siawash 
George," personally, had any great confidence 
in the "strike." Rather — after having staked 
creek claims for himself and ** Injun Sharley " 
— he thought it worth advertising, when adver- 
tising was so cheap because of the expert 
canoists and good pedestrians in his family. 
He was further assisted in spreading the news 
by Joe La Due, another " squaw man," who 
has been erroneously called Father of the Klon- 
dyke, just as ** Siawash George," and not ** In- 
jun Sharley," has been called its discoverer. 
La Due staked out a town -site on the flat 
which had been formed in the course of time 
by the alluvial deposits of the Klondyke at its 
mouth. He was fond of "booms," and as a 
part of his plan of promoting his latest boom 
he offered lots for five dollars apiece to all who 
would stake claims on the new creeks. Neither 

So 



THE FIRST DISCOVERIES 

he nor " Siawash George " had much to lose 
and they might gain a great deal if shafts were 
sunk to bedrock with fires after the plan that 
had lately come into vogue at Circle City. 

When an Indian arrived at Forty Mile and 
then at Circle City with a tale out of all pro- 
portion to the actual size of the nugget that 
** Injun Sharley" had found, the miners re- 
ceived it with that garlic cynicism which has its 
natural abiding-place in the unkempt beards of 
hardened frontiersmen. They had become so 
used to strikes with no foundation except an 
irresponsible imagination, as nominally to be- 
lieve in nothing that a man said about any find 
he had made. So they told the Indian that he 
was a liar pure and simple, who had been 
primed by an ambitious brother-in-law. The 
Indian had been told to expect this reply and 
was not the least disturbed in mind by it. . But 
no miner acts upon his convictions in such a 
matter. He usually hurries off to the reported 
scene of the find because, after all, "mebbe 
there might be somethin' in it." But such 
were the reputations of Joe La Due and Cor- 
mac that many of the earlier pioneers refused 
to budge. Their superior wisdom was as un- 
fortunate for them as absence from the settle- 

8i 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

ments was for those at work on the creeks. 
The two or three hundred, lounging in the 
saloons and the stores or resting in their cabins, 
who made for the mouth of the Klondyke in the 
mood of men who are playing a joke on them- 
selves, became rich. 

There were not enough claims on the dis- 
covery creek. Bonanza, for all of them, so the 
later arrivals, just for the sake of staking some- 
thing, contemptuously staked a tributary of 
Bonanza, which they called in their phrase a 
** pup." Then there was naught to do but to 
wait until a few of the more energetic fellows 
sunk holes on Bonanza. No one was more 
surprised at the result than ** Siawash George." 
Bedrock on Bonanza showed the richest placer 
dirt yet found in Alaska or the British North- 
west Territory. Those who had been in time to 
stake claims on Bonanza settled down to work 
at once, incidentally extending their pity to the 
fellows on the "pup." The claim-owners on 
Eldorado, where no shaft had been sunk, ac- 
cepted the pity in gx^od part and offered their 
claims at various prices, ranging from one hun- 
dred to five hundred dollars. Most of them 
were so lucky as to be unable to make a sale, 

and are now worth from five hundred thousand 

82 



THE FIRST DISCOVERIES 

to a million dollars apiece. The "pup" is 
the richest placer mining creek in the world. 

Nine months after '* Injun Sharley" had 
brought home a nugget instead of a moose, the 
outside world heard of the great discovery. 
Such pilgrims, attracted by the news, as suc- 
ceeded in reaching Dawson in the autumn of 
1897 found that all creeks rising on the slopes 
of The Dome and all other creeks at that time 
proven to be worth the working, had already 
been staked by the old-timers who had followed 
the advance guard from Circle City and Forty 
Mile. Feverish stampede followed on feverish 
stampede to new ground. That putting down 
four stakes in a creek-bed anywhere in the re- 
gion was equal to drawing a fortune from a bank 
became the gospel of the hour, which received 
its authority from the original attitude toward 
the " pup " of the men who had staked Eldo- 
rado. A man needed only to come into a sa- 
loon with a pack on his back, and, being tired, 
appear silent and mysterious, to excite the sus- 
picion that he had made a ".strike." " Only an 
affidavit " of having found ** color " was neces- 
sary to have a discovery claim recorded, and a 
discovery always meant a stampede. Having 
received a hint from a friend, or overheard a 

83 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

whispered conversation in the street, a pilgrim 
would rush off for a distance of more than a 
day's travel, without food or blankets, trusting 
to luck to feed him and keep him warm. 
Death was often the result. 

Having staked the remaining creeks in a ra- 
dius of from thirty to sixty miles of Dawson, 
some of the new-comers rested in their cabins, 
eating their winter's supply of food. Others 
found employment on the work-claims; and 
still others departed over the ice to escape 
starvation and to thrill their neighbors at home 
with the information that they owned claims. 
As the humor of the saloons went, there re- 
mained for the oncoming host of May and 
June an expanse of unexplored territory suffi- 
cient to keep a hundred times their number 
busy prospecting for a century, but no gold at 
all, unless they could find it for themselves. 



84 



V 

MINERS AND MINING 
Reaping the Gold Harvest— Thawing and Sluicing — Miners 

AND THEIR THEORIES — ^ThE DOME — EXPENSIVE TIMBER — 

Empty Pockets but Dollars in the Dumps — ^The First 

MiLLIONNAIRES — COLOR IN THE PaN — OnCE A PROSPECTOR 

Always a Prospector — Figuring Fortunes — Capitalists 
IN Demand — ^The Forty Happy Kings on Eldorado. 

IT was just on the eve of harvest-time when 
I first visited the creeks. In a day or two 
the flow of water from the gulches where the 
snow lay thickest would make a head sufficient 
to wash the yellow grain out of the dumps. 
Along the four miles of Eldorado, or its full 
length, and the ten miles of working claims on 
Bonanza, lines of flumes and their dependent 
sluice-boxes — the lumber for which had been 
drawn on sleds from Dawson by husky dogs, 
or cut with whipsaws — ^formed a network 
around the string of cabins occupied by claim- 
owners and their workmen and around the 
piles of clayish-colored dirt, thawed out inch 
by inch during the short winter days, which 

85 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

contained virgin wealth amounting to ten mill- 
ion dollars. The hill-sides, once covered with 
timber, were bare of all except stumps and 
scarred by broad streaks from top to bottom, 
showing where logs for building the cabins 
and for feeding the fires in the drifts had 
been slid down. 

If you descended by the shafts beside the 
dumps to the drifts, you soon comprehended 
that reaping the harvest, once you have a 
claim, is not so easy as picking wild cran- 
berries. It is dogged work to build fires day 
after day, running the risk of suffocation and 
permanent injury to the eyes by the smoke, 
and pulling up the dirt, bucketful after bucket- 
ful, by means of a windlass, with the thermom- 
eter forty below zero — and the prospect of 
cooking your own dinner. The rising steam 
from the thawing pay-dirt of the drifts, which 
fills the valley with mist, adds the discomfort 
of humidity to the biting cold. Though the 
man who turns the windlass may have to beat 
his hands and dance about to keep warm, he 
is never in positive danger as is his partner 
below, who, in returning to relight one of the 
series of nicely arranged piles of wood which 
have failed to ignite, is likely to be suffocated, 

86 



r 



MINERS AND MINING 

or, barring such slips as this or any consequent 
accident, is sure to suffer continually from 
soreness and smarting of the eyes, if not to 
have them permanently injured by the smoke. 

In one spot of three or four square feet on 
Eldorado, the nuggets are so thick that you 
can pick them out by hand as a farmer s boy 
picks potatoes out of a hill. In juxtaposition 
there may be as many more square feet which 
are not considered worth thawing and sluicing; 
and so the angles of the drifts seem like the 
path of a man of vacillating mind trying to 
make his way to the light in darkness. From 
two to three feet above the real bedrock is the 
false bedrock, a stratum of stone broken into 
angular fragments, apparently by some great 
force passing overhead. Between the two is 
the best paying-dirt, and occasionally here is 
found, perhaps with particles of gold sticking 
to it, the tusk of a mammoth who was the 
ruler in the valley before the days of the moose. 

In the angular fragments of the false bed- 
rock the miners who are fond of making out 
the reason of things over their cabin-fires, with 
diversified reading in newspapers or even a 
dip in a text-book of geology at school as basic 
knowledge, find support for their favorite the- 

87 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

ory as to how the yellow particles came to 
their resting-place. Gold had never been found 
before in such incongruous surroundings. 
Therefore, they contend, it must have been 
borne from its point of precipitation by some 
force worthy of the situation and of Alaska, 
where nature has a gift for seemingly para- 
doxical performances done on a Brobdingna- 
gian scale. What else but a glacier was equal 
to the feat? It had scattered wealth in its 
progress like some good Lady Bountiful, crush- 
ing with its great weight the false bedrock 
between whose fragments the dust had fallen 
by force of gravity to the true bedrock. 

Another, a smaller and perforce a more con- 
fident school of thought, holds that an ancient 
volcano ** coughed " the dust out of the bowels 
of the earth. 

For my part, inasmuch as the geologists 
themselves have come to no certain conclu- 
sion, I hold that all the gold which has been 
found in the Klondyke and Indian River dis- 
tricts was smelted in a great pot in The Dome 
and has leaked out of its cracks. Then, as a 
fitting corollary, I desire that one day an old 
forty-niner, as sturdy and as fine as an old 
weather-beaten oak, shall discover the pot and 

88 



V 

/I 

i 



MINERS AND MINING 

find a leverage strong enough to lift the cover 
off it; whereupon, a good guardian, gently 
reserving enough of his millions to give him a 
certain annuity for life, he may spend the rest 
in Trisco after the manner of his own choos- 
ing as quickly as he can. But I am certain — 
such is the irony of fate — that, instead of him, 
the happy man will be an Oklahoma ** boomer," 
the father of several strapping daughters, who 
never panned a handful of dirt before he 
mortgaged his all in order to buy a Klondyker's 
outfit. He will set his daughters up in the 
capitals of Europe, where they will marry 
continental noblemen, while the whole family 
will be miserable for life. 

In candor, I must say that with mine as 
with most theories there are facts which go 
to contradict it. The claims on the upper 
reaches of the creeks, which have their origin 
on the slopes of The Dome, are much richer 
than those on the lower reaches, where the 
dust is finer and more travel- worn as well as 
more scattering. But in the head-waters noth- 
ing has yet been found which is worth the 

working. So either all the gold leaked out 

• 

some time before this force that carried it 

ceased to operate, or the mythical person 

89 



I 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

who has charge of the pot mended the cracks, 
or, possibly — and this is my hope — ^the fort- 
unes which have already been brought to light 
were only an overflow, the palpable result of 
the chemist in charge of the vessel having 
misjudged its capacity. 

By the fifteenth of May the drifts were filled 
or partly filled with seepage which had frozen 
below a depth of a few feet, where the temper- 
ature is never above freezing. Work in them 

was at an end by the first of May, when the 

• 

surface earth had begun to thaw a little at mid- 
day. Then the plane, saw, and hammer took 
the place of the pick and shovel. If they had 
used rosewood at New York or London prices 
the miners could not have built their flumes and 
sluice-boxes out of more expensive material 
than- that they had in the warping, knotty fir 
boards which were condescendingly sold at 
$250 a thousand by the three saw-mills in the 
country. Once the flumes were laid to the 
gulches and to the dams in the creek itself, the 
sluice-boxes were properly laid on the dumps 
which were to be washed first and the gates 
between the two were made tight, the com- 

• 

munity was ready to reap the reward of a 

winter's toil as soon as the sun should thaw 

90 



MINERS AND MINING 

the drifts of snow on the mountain-sides suffi- 
ciently to make a sluice-head of water. 

There followed a brief period of inactivity 
like that between sowing and harvest for the 
farmer. Every man had his opinion of how 
much the output of all the creeks would be, 
and the estimates varied from six to fifteen 
millions. Within the big world of speculation 
there were the small worlds of the groups of 
cabins which clustered around that of the 
owner of each claim on Eldorado and Bonan- 
za. For the laymen who had taken portions 
of claims to work on shares and for the claim- 
owners, especially those who had employed the 
workers on their claims at daily wages, it was 
an interval of some anxiety. They would 
soon know in what measure the estimates that 
they had made from specimens of pay-dirt 
panned out in buckets of water in their cabins 
during the winter would be verified. Men 
who had more than a hundred thousand dol- 
lars in their dumps possibly had not five dollars 
in cash in their possession. 

The members of no community had ever 
been submitted to a greater burden of usury. 
They bore it with rare good-nature. What 
else were they to do ? they asked. They 

91 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

needed money for wages, for food for their 
men, and for lumber, and those in town who 
had money knew the value of it. The regular 
rate in the winter was ten per cent, a month, 
and some of the so-called millionnaires who 
had owned nothing except an outfit two years 
before were owing as much as $25,000 on 
from three to six months' time. 

A spirit of optimism and good cheer pre- 
vailed. A sun bath, lounging in a home-made 
chair on the stoop of a cabin (perhaps with a 
pair of moose horns forming an ornamental 
back), was a luxury better appreciated in the 
Klondyke than in a temperate clime. Some- 
times a breeze, with a faint odor of fir-trees 
and of the many wild flowers which spring up 
in tropical luxuriance in the spring, came 
down the valley. Over the hills were young 
birches which yielded a delicious sap for the 
tapping. There was even gratitude to the 
tyrant windlass of the winter days in that it 
had supplied exercise, given an appetite, kept 
the blood circulating, and prevented the scurvy, 
which is to be dreaded only by the man who 
lounges in his cabin, does not wash himself, 
does not cook his food properly, and endea- 
vors generally to imitate the bear. Nearly 

92 



MINERS AND MINING 

everyone could hope, if he did not expect, that 
his claim or his lay would turn out as well as 
he had estimated. At all events, he would have 
some spending money. He knew that the 
early boats from Lake Le Barge would bring 
in many luxuries just at the opportune mo- 
ment when the ** clean-up " was about finished 
and he might go to '*town." He smacked his 
lips in anticipation of the day when he would 
have all the eggs that he could eat, regardless 
of their cost. 

One day the sun suddenly beat down with 
great fierceness, which was unabated for several 
days. Then the water came gushing down the 
flumes in greater quantity than was needed, 
and the men picked up their picks and shovels 
again and began peeling off the dirt on the 
dumps and tossing it into the sluice-boxes. 
The warmth was prolonged through the night, 
so that the dirt continued to thaw as fast as 
they could strip it off, and on many claims — 
whose owners had foresight or were in luck, as 
one pleases to put it — there were two shifts 
working all the time except when, once or 
twice a day, the boxes were being " cleaned " 
of the accumulation of gold and the sand which 
sinks with it between the cleats. The snow- 

93 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

» 

drifts were melting as if they were under a 
blowpipe. Even the tiny streams of the gulches 
become torrents, dams had to be opened, 
and some sluice-boxes floated away from their 
moorings. Only too soon was the loss of the 
wasted energy brought home. With the snow 
gone and rains and the seepage from the thaw- 
ing surface the only source of water supply, 
the currents dwindled until many claims had 
not a single sluice-head. The claim-owners on 
the tributary Eldorado, with as much dirt to 
wash as the main stream Bonanza, particularly 
had cause to resent the prodigality of nature in 
expending all of its ammunition at once. In- 
stead of having finished their washing in June 
as they had confidently expected, all through 
July they were measuring the head of water 
from hour to hour with the care of a physician 
feeling a patient's pulse. 

When the " clean-up " of a day's shovelling 
was made, you might feast your eyes on the 
consummation of the harvest. The water was 
shut oflf and the cleats in the boxes were lifted 
and rinsed, leaving a residue which glistened 
with yellow particles. Just a small stream 
was turned on by the man at the water-gates, 
who was probably making the most of his rest 

94 



MINERS AND MINING 

from shovelling by smoking a pipe of cut plug, 
and then turned off again, or on a little more 
or oflf a little less, while the most expert miner 
on the claim pushed the speckled sand-pile 
back and forth with a common brush-broom 
until all the foreign particles had floated oflf, ex- 
cept a sprinkling of the heavy black sand which 
is invariably the companion of placer gold. 

Three or four or five thousand dollars — per- 
haps ten or fifteen or twenty thousand if the 
"clean-up" be on Eldorado — which is three 
or four or five double handfuls, is put into 
a pan with an ordinary fire-shovel. The sight 
is bound to make your blood run faster and 
to color your reason with an epic enthusi- 
asm. That little yellow pile, you know at a 
glance, will stand the test of chemicals. It 
must also accept the concrete responsibility 
for all the disappointments, suflFerings, and 

• 

deaths of the pilgrims on the trail and the 
worries of their friends and relatives at home. 
Once you have seen a " color " in the bottom 
of a pan with the black sand following it 
around like a faithful servant, you can never 
again be deceived by the glitter of any false 
gods. You would know it if you saw it be- 
tween cobblestones on Broadway, or if it were 

95 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

no larger than a pin-head at the bottom of a 
trout-pool. 

It is small wonder that once a man is a pros- 
pector, in good faith, not a child of a wild stam- 
pede, he is always a prospector. There is an 
heroic aspect, the more charming in contrast to 
the complexity of civilization, in going from 
creek to creek which have no place on the 
maps of geographical societies, taking a pan of 
dirt here and a pan of dirt there, breathing 
fresh air, a zest given to your exercise by the 
hope of success. 

For the moment, the yellow pile makes you 
feel like seeking a claim of your own and har- 
vesting its treasure for yourself. But when 
you look at the miry path along the base of the 
mountain by the creek-side, and think of fol- 
lowing it with a pack on your back until it 
is no more, and a wilderness begins ; of pass- 
ing on over the mountains until you come to 
what you consider a likely place, and thawing 
through thirty feet of earth at a rate of a foot 
a day in the hap-hazard possibility of finding 
" pay-dirt," you conclude that the poetry of the 
thing can be better appreciated by sitting on 
someone else's dump. 

Besides, as one who did a little prospecting 

96 



MINERS AND MINING 

on his own account and is proud to say that he 
found a few "colors " — which is just what any- 
one else can do in the Klondyke region — I 
observed that the recent arrivals of Nestorian 
prospectors who took a delight in quoting to 
you from Emerson when their hands were 
reeking with clay and their gray locks were 
sticking through the crowns of old hats, do not 
like Alaska, though free to admit its material 
opportunities. They could not be weaned 
from the temperate climate and the skies of 
California, and were determined to return to 
their old stamping-grounds, where any honest 
prospector can get a grubstake from a specu- 
lative city man, and needs nothing more to 
make him happy and free. 

After a few days' washing the hopes of most 
of the laymen were shattered ; and so far as 
their peace of mind was concerned, the worst of 
it was that they had only their own lack of fore- 
sight to blame. They had learned that even in 
the Klondyke men do not make a practice of 
giving fortunes away to strangers^-except to 
music-hall artistes — though, as in the centres 
of civilization, they often negotiated a bargain 
with an air of self-sacrifice which is an assump- 
tion of as much. 

97 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

Such was the attitude of many of the claim- 
owners below the discovery claim on Bonanza 
and of a few above who had prospected their 
claims well enough to have some idea of what 
was in them. They concluded to let out their 
ground to be worked on shares, two men to 
each section, which is called a lay. Many, es- 
pecially those who had come in with the little 
pilgrimage that reached Dawson in the autumn 
of '97, were enraptured over the chance of get- 
ting a portion of a claim on the original creek 
and not far from ** discovery," at that. 

The number of applications quite exceeded 
the number of lays to be let, and all through 
the winter the laymen on Bonanza were the 
envy of their fellows. The samples which they 
washed out in their cabins had the peculiarity 
of bringing promises up to original expecta- 
tions, because the laymen had the weakness 
of selecting the samples from their best dirt. 
When the man who was in the drift came to 
one of those rare spots in the pay-streak of 
Lower Bonanza where he could see the tiny 
particles shining in the wall of earth like gold- 
en hoar-frost, he gleefully called out to his 
"pardner" at the windlass to take it into the 

cabin so they could see how much it ran to the 

98 



MINERS AND MINING 

bucket. In the evening the happy children, 
upon the result as a basis, quite overestimating 
the amount of dirt they had in their dumps, 
figured out small fortunes for themselves, spoke 
of the claim-owner as a good angel, hugged 
their knees fondly, as if they had materialized 
into dust, and saw brilliant pictures in their 
smoke rings. 

In their letters, detailing their success to the 
folks at home, they promised their wives new 
gowns and their daughters pianos. They were 
doing so well that they felt that they could 
afiford holidays. They fell into the way of 
" knocking off " by mutual consent at noon on 
days when they had to bake bread. If it was 
a little colder than usual in the morning they 
succumbed to the temptation of making more 
figures and dreaming more dreams by the fire 
and postponing work until the morrow. " The 
gold's in the ground ; it's ours. All we've got 
to do is to take it out, and we've got to stay 
here two or three winters, anyway," was the 
argument with which they excused themselves. 
The size of their dumps beside those excavated 
by employees who worked by the houj 
silent commentary on the value of dij 

Mid-July found them in DawsoiyT«C*a^bo( 

99 




IN THE KLONDYKE 

to aflford at least one more dish of eggs, one 
more dinner at the restaurant before they set- 
tled down to the economical life which their 
necessities required. Occasionally they took 
out of their pockets, to amuse their friends, 
clippings from the home paper, in which they 
saw themselves made out millionnaires. They 
reread the letters from home which had come 
along with the clippings in the first mail down 
the river, and confronted deep perplexities. It 
was only human that they should wish that the 
wife had not gone so far as actually to order the 
piano and the gown. While they calculated 
how much they would need for their winter's 
outfit and how much they could send home — 
if that fund did not all go for eggs before the 
problem was settled — they formulated the 
wording of their replies by which they should 
explain the situation. 

To the credit of the sex be it said that the 
wives of some of the unfortunate laymen knew 
their husbands' weaknesses. One optimist, 
who had taken only $900 out of his claim in- 
stead of the $10,000 that he had anticipated, 
received this reply from home : 

** God bless you, Charlie, but we've made too 

many ten thousands without ever getting them 

100 



MINERS AND MINING 

for me to count my chickens before they're 
hatched. Tm being as economical as I can, 
and telling the neighbors that I hope you'll 
make a good year's wages, but that it's too 
early to tell yet for certain." 

Most of the laymen, if they had worked 
steadily for eight hours a day — more are scarce- 
ly practicable on account of the long nights — 
would have had more than the equivalent of the 
prevailing rate of wages. Those who had felt 
themselves to be unfortunate in not getting 
lays and had sought employment, because they 
had someone to tell them to go to work in the 
morning, were in the mood of the school-boy 
who had studied during the term and passed 
his examination as opposed to the boy who 
had not. Their employers were better satis- 
fied because their claims had been worked with 
more system and thoroughness than the others, 
and were more than glad to pay the interest, 
heavy as it was, on their borrowed capital. 

While the laymen were inclined to exag- 
gerate the amount of their earnings in order 
to decrease the discrepancy between their win- 
ter boasts and their spring returns, the claim- 
owners themselves, who early in May were 
serene optimists and put the total output of 

lOI 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

the country at $i5,cxx),ooo, by the end of 
May were dour pessimists, asserting their un- 
bounded faith that the total output would not 
be more than $6,000,000. Early in May, you 
see, there was an impression that the Govern- 
ment royalty of ten per cent, on the gross 
product of all claims had been repealed. At 
the end of May, Major Walsh, the Commis- 
sioner of the Yukon District, arrived with the 
positive information that the royalty would be 
collected. Most of the claim-owners on Bo- 
nanza had sufifered the same disillusion as their 
laymen ; but most of them, if the Government 
had not decided that they would have to pay 
the royalty on the laymen's gold as well as 
on their own, would have put on a bold front, 
especially as their claims were for sale. 

When claim-owners met on the trail, after 
comparing notes as to the number of eggs 
eaten at the first sitting, the invariable remark 
was: 

" I don't suppose you've heard anything 
about your claim being sold ! " 

For no one was certain whether he or 
some stranger owned the wealth of his dumps. 
Without any property under consideration by 
the capitalists of London or New York, you 

102 






MINERS AND MINING 

were a kind of social outcast. Claims that 
were under options were as common as mort- 
gages formerly were on farms in Kansas. 

The prospect of famine during the winter 
had been responsible for this. Some enter- 
prising fellows, who were among the first to 
go out over the ice, made the best of their 
opportunity as connecting links between an 
isolated community and civilization. 

"Here you are," they said to the claim- 
owners on Eldorado and Bonanza, ** paying a 
dollar and a quarter and a dollar and a half 
an hour for labor and thawing the dirt out 
by inches, when capitalists, with cheaper labor 
and improved appliances, can take it out for 
half the money. Why, it's a case of the old 
stage coach against the lightning express. If 
they can block a number of claims and work 
'em together, they'll gladly pay you on the 
spot more'n you can get out of your claim 
the way you're working it, and make a 
good thing out of it too. The whole out- 
side's wild over the Klondyke. The capital- 
ists are longing for the chance. All that's got 
to be done is to lay it before 'em. You name 
your price and give me six months' option 

and we'll take 'em out and sell 'em. What 

103 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

we get for 'em's our affair. We'll make our 
commission out of the difference." 

The enthusiasts believed what they said. 
They assured themselves and the claim-owners 
that none of the arguments which held good 
in other mining camps could apply in this 
instance. The Klondyke was a law unto it- 
self in all matters of investment, they said. 
They put dust from each of the claims which 
they were to sell in a separate bag, and this 
they were to offer to the simple-minded finan- 
ciers of London and New York as a guaran- 
tee of the correctness of their several repre- 
sentations. Each zealous miner being desir- 
ous that his claim should show up well on the 
list, some of the promoters obtained several 
thousand dollars in nuggets. 

Such examples of success were not without 

their effect upon those who went out over 

the ice at later periods. The field of all the 

claims on the creeks as yet demonstrated to 

be valuable having been worked, they turned 

their attention to those creeks which had been 

staked on unfounded rumors by stampedes, 

and possibly were worth no more than the 

beds of so many creeks in the valley of the 

Hudson River. They neglected none of the 

104 



MINERS AND MINING 

details. Because it looks better to the lay eye, 
they chose dust from Eldorado as examples of 
the product of these "wild oat prospectors.'* 

The moral effect of the option craze was 
unfortunate in more respects than one. Men 
who owned claims on stampede creeks felt 
that they could afford to waste their winter in 
idleness in their cabins as long as they had 
property in the hands of New York capitalists. 
They could not escape the heresy that a claim 
in the Klondyke, no matter what its loca- 
tion, was regarded by the outside world as a 
valuable piece of property. It was especially 
hard for those who had not funds enough to 
buy their winter s outfit, as they inquired along 
the river bank, day after day, as the boats came 
in, to learn finally that the promoters to whom 
they had intrusted their claims had arrived 
on the Pacific Coast just at the time when the 
Klondyke was forgotten and all public interest 
was centred in another subject, and, accord- 
ingly, had enlisted in the volunteer army. 

Those promoters with small ambitions fared 
the best. In London they sold a few of the 
cheaper claims, which, as a rule, were disap- 
pointments to the purchasers. But sometimes 

it is better to be trusting than to be wise. One 

105 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

young Englishman bought a claim on Sulphur 
for $2,cx>3 which would not have sold for $500 
in Dawson at the time. When he arrived to 
take possession of it in June, its value had 
risen so rapidly on account of the later de- 
velopment of the creek that he sold it for 
$ 20,00a The anxiety of the claim-owners on 
the new creeks, as Sulphur, Dominion, and 
Hunker — all having their head-waters on the 
slopes of The Dome — ^were called, lest the pro- 
moters had sold their claims, was as great as 
that of some of the claim-owners on Bonanza 
lest their claims had not been sold. Perhaps 
as many as thirty claims on the new creeks 
had been worked to any extent during the 
past winter, with such results as to increase 
their speculative value by five hundred per 
cent. 

The forty happy kings of the forty claims 
on Eldorado also preferred not to sell. That 
**pup" returned good for evil. It heaped 
satire upon the satirists who had given it its 
name as a joke, and continued to surpass all 
expectations. The optimism which over- 
estimated Bonanza under-estimated Eldorado. 
These forty kings, as they compared the out- 
put with their figures, concluded, with some 

106 



MINERS AND MINING 

pride, that all born mathematicians are in- 
clined to be too conservative. 

You could see the dust glistening in the 
dumps of the ** pup." The water gurgling 
over the cleats in the sluice-boxes seemed to 
sing a merrier song than on Bonanza. Every 
shovelful which it bore chuckling over the 
cleats yielded up a dollar or more. It licked 
twice as inuch off rocks that had to be lifted 
out of the sluice-boxes by hand because its 
current was not strong enough to carry them 
on down to the waste pile. At intervals, nug- 
gets of some size were unearthed by the spade 
and were tossed into a pan at one side. If 
you were a friend of the claim-owner he would 
beg you to take your pick of the lot as a 
souvenir of the day. But you would not get 
one worth more than ten or fifteen dollars, 
even if you were greedy enough to choose it 
for its size rather than for its beauty. The 
giants — one was found worth $600 and those 
worth from $50 to $100 were not infrequent — 
had been spied in the drifts in the winter. 

A magnificent carelessness of details pre- 
vailed. A scientific miner who had seen fort- 
unes made in California out of a cent a pan 

would have regarded the forty kings in the 

107 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

light of infants making a holiday with a tack 
hammer and a gold watch. They could afford 
to laugh back at him in return. There is some 
reason in their philosophy that one cannot 
afford to pay men a dollar and a quarter an 
hour to pick up stray pennies, and more in 
the philosophy that when you have a fortune 
you have enough. 

It was not yet in the old-timer's nature, 
rapidly as his character was changing, to 
squeeze the last cent out of Mother Earth, 
in the manner of some hard taskmaster, when 
she had given to him such a bountiful harvest. 
A little line of dust, like a braid of gold lace, 
remaining on either side of the sluice-boxes 
after a day's clean-up was dismissed with the 
remark that it would " come out in the wash " 
next time. If the workman who had the un- 
comfortable and unhealthy position — especi- 
ally when the sun was directly overhead — of 
standing in the dump-box, took a few minutes' 
rest, he shrugged his shoulders and said that 
any dust that was lost in the meantime could 
be a boon to the Chinamen who, coming hum- 
bly after the white man's departure, would 
patiently take fortunes out of the white man's 
tailings — unless the capitalist should make the 

io8 



Shovelling a Clean-Up into a Gold Pan. 



MINERS AND MINING 

valley resound with the toil of machinery 
manned by cheap labor, thus cheating poor 
John out of what he has come to regard as 
the right of his race in placer mining countries. 
There was not one strong box for the safe- 
keeping of the daily harvest of thousands on 
all of the creeks. The bags of dust were kept 
in the little cellars which the miners had ex- 
cavated under their cabins for the preservation 
of their food. There was a joke which went 
the round of the firesides during the food-panic 
that it would be cheaper to fry the dust and 
save the hams. For the bags, made of rough- 
ly tanned moosehide, the Indians received 
prices in keeping with those of other things. 
They bore the owner's name printed in ink, if 
ink could be obtained ; their capacity was 
about $5,000 each, and they were not unlike, 
in their freshness as well as in their size, the 
dirty, worn, brown little bags which were 
carried in lieu of purses. Three or four of 
them were all that you cared to carry on your 
back. When you met men on the trail bend- 
ing as under heavy packs of slight bulk, you 
knew their business. If there were many bags 
there might be an escort with a rifle and there 

might not. Most of the claim-owners thought 

109 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

nothing of sending several thousands by their 
employees, unaccompanied, to be deposited in 
one of the Commercial Companies' stores ; but 
once the " Cheechawkos " began to arrive, all 
sought locks for their cellar-doors. 



no 



VI 

SOME KLONDYKE TYPES 

The Fool and his Lucky Friends — More Theorizers— Joe 
Staley and Billy Deddering — French Gulch Bench 
— Good Fortune that was Deserved — Neighbors and 
Twins — No Cure for the Gold Fever. 

IT was the greater world of the Klondyke 
that was bounded by the creek claims. A 
smaller world was bounded by the hill-sides 
where there were many fresh mounds of earth, 
suggesting that the population might be dig- 
ging their graves one by one. Graves of am- 
bitions most of these mounds were, in all truth. 
A few, readily distinguished as far as you 
could see the two figures hovering over them, 
were the birthplaces of the fortune which 
the figures were exhuming with the orthodox 
rocker. 

The original nugget washed out of a bench 
and deposited where Indian Charlie's gaze 
would light on it did not lead, even indirectly, 

to the discovery of the wealth of the benches. 

Ill 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

This honor belongs to a stalwart Swede, whose 
race in the Klondyke is the general butt of that 
fine wit of our own race which makes a mark 
of a foreigner's broken English and his efforts 
to understand strange manners and a strange 
language. One day in the spring of 1897 he 
went up the slope above his cabin near the 
mouth of Eldorado and began to strip off the 
muck as fast as the sun thawed it Directly 
his neighbors saw what he was doing they be- 
gan to compose satirical remarks against the 
time when he should come down. 

" Why don't you go looking for gold up a 
tree ? " they asked him. 

" I tank gold no grow on trees," he replied, 
in all candor. 

" Say, did you ever hear," they continued, as 

they held their sides, ** that the weight of gold 

makes it sink ? I suppose you think the 

glacier walked up on the hills and left a few 

millions there. The tnillions didn't roll down ? 

Oh, no ! That's why we have to sink through 

thirty feet in the creek bed to pay dirt. Better 

try the trees ! You might find a bear up the 

trees and bear meat would be worth three 

pennyweights a pound in town." 

" If you don't dig some hole you no find 

112 



SOME KLONDYKE TYPES 

gold. By tarn ! I dig a hole if I vant to," he 
replied, as he went into his cabin. 

** Well of all the fools," they said, **it takes a 
Swede to beat the lot." 

Men passing on the trails stopped to look up 
to the point where the **fool" was working, 
grew friendly in despising him, and carried the 
joke to the ends of the creeks and to Dawson, 
where it was elaborated over the bars. 

One evening the " fool " quietly called on all 
of his friends among his fellow Scandinavians, as 
well as upon certain Anglo-Saxons who had 
not made fun of his English. They followed 
him up the hill and drove stakes in the neigh- 
borhood of his prospect hole. The twinkle in 
his blue eye was not unkind, though sugges- 
tive, the next morning when he showed to the 
scoffers a handful of nuggets from a claim 
which was worth $50,000. But scoffers ac- 
cept nothing on faith. They would not be- 
lieve that he took the nugget out of the hill 
until they had panned some of his dirt them- 
selves. 

" Well, of all the lucky fools," they said, '* it 
takes a Swede to beat the lot ! Here's millions 
been lyin' within ten rods of us for a year and 
we never knowed it." 

"3 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

Those who had sharpened their wits at the 
discoverers expense now hastened to get a 
claim as near as possible to his, until a mile of 
Bonanza on both sides of the creek was taken 
up, from the point where the slopes meet the 
creek bed to their summit. Theories about the 
habits of the glacier were qualified by the ex- 
perts. Thenceforth, it stood to reason that the 
breadth of no glacier of such importance would 
be limited to that of a creek. The scoffers 
soon found themselves saying that this had 
been their opinion all along, and eventually be- 
came so imaginative as to hint that they had 
advised the Swede to make the experiment. 

Poetic justice attended the immediate out- 
come of the stampede. The pioneer and the 
parasite got their fit rewards. There was less 
than an acre of good pay dirt on Skookum 
Bench, as it was called, and this mostly fell to 
the discoverer and his friends. Here and there 
in the neighborhood good day's wages could be 
made with a rocker, and nothing more. En- 
thusiasm over bench claims languished. 

" It was just like a Swede to strike the only 
rich bench in the whole country the first time 
that he put his pick in the ground," said the 
scoffers. In their pessimistic philosophy, 

114 



SOME KLONDYKE TYPES 

which exults over deserted prospect holes, the 
latest strike is always bound to be the last. 
They are the very ones who were the greatest 
optimists when they left home to try their luck 
in the North against the advice of their friends. 
This weakness is likely to grow on Klondykers 
who become too fond of a sedentary life, un- 
less their supply of bacon runs out and forces 
action, or they awaken to a sense of their 
growing degradation when they eat fresh eggs 
in Dawson and then see the world in bright 
colors again. But long after the cynics are 
dead, strikes will be made in Alaska by the 
class of real prospectors who cheerily face all 
hardships and get out of them good digestions 
for anything from flapjacks to moose gristle or 
even boiled willow roots. 

Joe Staley and Billy Deddering, who dis- 
covered French Gulch Bench, the richest of all 
the benches, the spring following the discovery 
of Skookum Bench, were of the order of real 
prospectors. They had served their appren- 
ticeship in various parts of the Rockies, which 
are the playground of free men from end to 
end. 

Fond as I am of the California prospector, I 
am unwilling to accept the verdict of his squint 

"5 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

whenever he brings it to bear on a portion of 
the earth's surface, though Billy Deddering, I 
admit, as he understands relative values, has 
reason to believe in his. But, in one sense, I 
rejoice with him in his faith, inasmuch as the 
scoffers, who want to make out that all success 
in the Klondyke comes from luck, and that they 
have failed because they never had any, spun 
the yarn that a log which he was shooting down 
the hill for a cabin knocked a nugget out of the 
ground and thus became the godfather of his 
fortune. 

Some two miles above the mouth of Eldo- 
rado, French Gulch splits the embankment 
^ which forms the western wall of the valley of 
Eldorado. Billy's squint, when he brought it 
to bear on the rounded corner of the embank- 
ment on the lower side of the gulch in some- 
thing of the manner of an old-fashioned ma- 
rine covering a sail with his telescope, told him 
that this was exactly the place where gold ought 
to be found, even if it was not. The first hole 
that he sunk yielded only colors. A clerk from 
London or the Eastern seaboard of the United 
States might have gone back down the hill with 
his pick and shovel in a fit of blues and never 
come up again. Billy was not in the least dis- 

1X6 



SOME KLONDYKE TYPES 

couraged. He merely readjusted his squint, 
and concluded : 

** If 'tain't here it must be farther up/' 

So it was. In the next hole he took $187 
out of his first pan on bedrock. Joe was with 
him at the time, but at the request of Joe I 
give all the credit for the discovery to Billy. 

" It was Billy's idea entirely," Joe said. " He 
spotted the ground first." 

" What did you do," I asked Billy, " when 
you struck it after all your years of buffeting 
about from one camp to another?" 

'* Well," he replied, " I looked around to see 
if anybody had seen us." 

" Nobody did see us, so far as we could make 
out," Joe put in, ** but they must have noticed 
that we went down the hill as light as if we was 
walkin' on feathers, though we was try in' to look 
very solemn, like we was at a funeral. When 
somebody asked us if we had found anything I 
reckon we kind o' started, though we was care- 
ful to say, 'Jest a few colors.' But dumed if 
the crowd wasn't up there 'fore the few friends 
we had among our neighbors had fairly got their 
stakes in the ground." 

"And you, Joe? What did you think of 
that night before you turned in ? " 

117 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

"Old's I am, and long's I've been knockin' 
about the world, I've never been married, and 
naturally I thought what a surprise it would be 
to mother, when she got a letter saym' that her 
oldest boy was comin' back to 'hio with a pile 
to pay off the mortgage and spen/i the rest of 
his days on the old homestead." 

"And you, Billy?" 

" I wished I was in 'Frisco with that hun- 
dred and eighty-seven." 

Many times I climbed the hill to have a talk 
with Joe and Billy. They were a relief from 
the loungers and speculators in the hotel at the 
Forks, who seemed to think that the business 
of a newspaper correspondent was to expound 
the possibility of the schemes for enlisting capi- 
tal which they were promoting. It was a pleas- 
ure to look into the good faces of Joe and 
Billy, and to shake their hands, caked with 
clay. I sat on a stone and smoked my pipe, 
while Joe carried buckets of dirt to Billy, who 
looked up with a smile on his round German 
face, which was spattered with drops of mud 
that had splashed out of the rocker when he 
shook it, or when he ladled water on to the dirt 
with a dipper made out of a butter-can. Joe 
said that he didn't mind if the fact that he 

Ii8 



SOME KLONDYKE TYPES 

had struck it was published in the Sydney (Ohio) 
Journal, but beyond that I knew he had no 
axes to grind, and my highest ambition for the 
moment was that they should think me a good 
fellow, while their greatest fear was that I was 
starving because I would not go up to the tent 
and have a cup of coffee and a " bite to eat" in 
the middle of the afternoon. 

The sun was accommodating enough to thaw 
the dirt as fast as Billy could rock it, and Joe 
could bring it a little faster than either the sun 
could thaw it or Billy could rock it This al- 
lowed Joe intervals in which to rest, to enter- 
tain me, and to relight his pipe. I used to offer 
my pouch to him, telling him that he would get 
more smoke if he used tobacco. 

"Couldn't think of it. There's nothin' so 
sweet as the heel," he would say. " It gives 
me a puff, and that's all I want." 

It was not surprising that he wondered why 
the supplies of tobacco which other men had 
brought in with their outfits were long ago ex- 
hausted, while he had plenty left. He pro- 
tested, notwithstanding Billy's denials, that he 
filled his pipe every morning — at least, almost 
every morning. 

The experience of seeking with his own 

119 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

hands wealth direct from the hands of Mother 
Nature had chiselled out the lines of his face in 
distinct, unqualified characteristics, without any 
of the doubtful gingerbread work which we 
find on faces in civilization. It was like the 
weather-beaten image on some old church, 
careless of the storms which make a new image 
streaked and mean. He and his "pardner" 
were "rocking out" five hundred dollars a 
day; he was no man's servant and no man's 
master, and more of a king than kings. I 
have gathered nuggets on his claim as easily as 
I have picked up white pebbles on the beach 
in boyhood. 

The great difficulty is in developing such a 
wonderful squint as Billy Deddering's and in 
finding the exact spot where such nests of nug- 
gets are located. If ever there was a poor 
man's claim it is the bench claim. All you 
need to work it are a rocker, which costs fifteen 
dollars, and your pick and shovel. A blind 
ditch whose frozen walls are as tight as a por- 
celain bath-tub will catch the seepage from the 
pay dirt, which is thawed by the sun as it is 
gradually exposed. So you have all the water 
that you need, without too much. If the bed- 
rock be at some depth, you can work in winter 

1 20 



SOME KLONDYKE TYPES 

as well as in summer. A year at the most will 
suffice to take out your fortune ; and you have 
no worry over borrowed money, flumes, sluices, 
or dams. 

If Billy had not already staked his bench 
claim rights for the Bonanza Creek region, he 
and Joe would not have had to be content with 
a single claim, and one of them would have 
got the claim just above discovered, which 
was even richer, two men taking as high as a 
thousand dollars a day out of it. Here was 
dirt richer than any on Eldorado itself, twenty 
of whose forty working claims, probably con- 
taining thirty million dollars, stretched out 
in a panorama before you when you looked 
either up or down the creek. If one could 
have had a claim on the bench of the size of 
the creek claims, instead of one only a hundred 
feet square, he would have been more than a 
millionnaire ; and by hiring labor he could have 
left the country in three months after the dis- 
covery with his money in his pocket. 

Sad to say, there was not room for all on 
French Gulch Bench any more than on Eldo- 
rado. The whole extent of the pay dirt was 
not more than two or three acres. It was 
just as large as the dip in the hill-side, which, 

121 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

according to the theory of Billy, caught and 
held the gold when it was travelling, while all 
that passed over the rim went on down to the 
creek bed below, leaving only an occasional 
color in its track. But I disagree with Billy. 
I think that all is accounted for by the giant 
keeper of the pot in The Dome having thrown 
out a handful of the overflow across the hills. 
This makes the presence of wash-gravel, which 
is absent, unnecessary, and reconciles itself to 
the presence of nuggets in rotten mica shist, 
which is the most inexcusable of all the para- 
doxes in Alaska, the old prospectors say. 

Aside from Billy and Joe, I came to know 
some of their fortunate neighbors. Dan Saun- 
ders probably had the best claim of all. He 
was at the hotel at the Forks one day, and in 
his cups when a man offered in the bar-room 
to sell a claim on French Gulch Bench for a 
hundred dollars. The Forks is the Stock Ex- 
change of the creeks, and at that moment, on 
account of some rumor, the opinion ruled that 
the bench had been salted. The claim-owner 
believed it. Dan said he would give fifty 
down and the first fifty out of the claim, and 
the offer was accepted. The morning after, 
when Dan's wit was not so brilliant, but his 

122 



SOME KLONDYKE TYPES 

reasoning faculties had improved, he went up 
to look at his elephant. He came down a 
week later and tried to spend the two or 
three thousand dollars he had taken out in the 
meantime. He could dispose of only part of 
it, and returned to his claim in despair, some- 
what disgusted with city life. 

Burke, who owned the claim next to Saun- 
ders, was a type of the runaway boys from the 
East who have turned up in the Klondyke 
after having served an apprenticeship in the 
West. This one reaped among the harvest 
of his wild oats the largest nugget that was 
taken out of French Gulch Bench. It was the 
shape of an oblong pancake, without any 
quartz in it, and worth $210. When I met 
him in Dawson one morning, he was gleeful 
over the joke he had played on the old folks at 
home. For the first time in five years he had 
written to them. They had as good reasons to 
suppose that he was dead as that he was in the 
Klondyke. 

" Won't their eyes pop and won't they have 

something to tell the neighbors when they find 

out that their worthless Tom is comin' home 

with fifty thousand cold ! " 

That same day I dined with Joe Staley at 

123 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

the foremost restaurant in town. When we 
had eaten fresh eggs and other luxuries which 
had just been brought in from the " outside," 
as he pushed his plate away from him he shook 
his head dubiously : 

" I dunno as Til be so happy as I thought, 
when I settle down among the cows and 
chickens," he mused. ** This grub don't taste 
the way I thought 'twould. Darned if I don't 
like the beans and bacon that I have up at 
the claim better, and Til be glad to be back 
carryin* dirt to the rocker for Billy to-morrow. 
They say once the gold fever's in a fellow's 
bones it sticks like the rheumatiz, and I be- 
lieve it. I reckon it's the only thing I'll be 
satisfied with in this life. But I won't pros- 
pect in this godless region. I'll go back to 
Califomy." 

On my way to see Joe and Billy I often 
stopped for a chat with Ned and Fred Beck, 
who were sinking a shaft to bedrock at the 
base of French Gulch Bench hill. These 
twin brothers had been ** pardners " for forty 
years. They had the vigor which comes from 
living among the Rockies. Their faces, 
framed in white beards, were fresh and smil- 
ing. The archaic furnace which they had 

124 



The Discoverers of French Gulch Bench at Work. 



Pardners and Twins for Forty Years. 



SOME KLONDYKE TYPES 

constructed for sharpening their tools, if not 
their age and personal resemblance, would 
have attracted attention. 

" Have you never quarrelled ? " I asked. 

" Oh, yes, lots of times," said Fred, ** and 
agreed on quits lots of times, too. After 
Ned's had a drink or two he always gets 
cranky and wants to start out for himself." 

" Not much crankier'n you do," Ned put in. 

** That's right," Fred assented. " But when 
we're sober we make it up again and are 
ashamed of ourselves. We may be twins, but 
we're just fitted for each other." 

** That's right, too," Fred assented. 



125 



VII 

GETTING ACQUAINTED 

Mr. and Mrs. <<Meenach" and their Menagb^The Juve- 
nile Mining Company, Limited— Voss — ^The Arch-Deacon 
— ^A Sour-Dough Stiff — ^A Dalmatian and a Turk — Sia- 
WASH George and his Steam-engine — Miss Mulrooney at 
The Forks — ^The Price of a " Square " with Trimmings. 

ONE day, if the quartz claims which have 
been staked should fulfil the hopes of 
their owners, the Klondyke will become a 
place of managers and workmen, of stamp 
mills and chemical processes. To-day, there 
is very little to say about the working of the 
mines, which is as simple as building a fire, 
digging a well and doing the week's wash, 
but much to say about my friends and ac- 
quaintances there, who came from the ends of 
the earth and represented most of its employ- 
ments. Without knowing individuals, the 
pilgrimage of the Cheechawkos would have 
meant no more to me than a motley proces- 
sion seen from a balcony. Those leading 

citizens and well-known characters whom I 

126 



GETTING ACQUAINTED 

met, under the guidance of Captain Hansen 
in a round of the town on the evening after 
my arrival, are worthy of a chapter by them- 
selves. If I had taken advantage of all the 
letters of introduction to claim-owners that 
they gave me I think that I should have 
been three weeks in travelling the length of 
Bonanza. 

In return for hospitality that did not stand 
upon formality but laid its hand on my shoulder 
and insisted, I could offer nothing except the 
news from the "outside," the bad news that 
there was no escape from the royalty. I 
registered a vow that if I were to make the 
journey over the ice again I would find room 
among my supplies for one more article of 
luxury, or else forego the privilege of intro- 
ductions. I saw in my dreams the smiles 
with which my hosts would have greeted the 
offer of a good cigar, until I had the con- 
science of a highway robber. 

" Don't forget to call on Meenach ! '* said 

Captain Hansen. ** He's the luckiest man in 

the country without exception. He doesn't 

have to dam his own socks and cook his own 

bacon and beans and you'll know him because 

he's sleek and fat and clean-shaven. I walk up 

127 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

the creek when I can get the time just for 
the privilege of poking my head in at Mee- 
nach's door. To a poor devil of a Klondyker 
it's a peep into paradise." 

It was not enough that the fortunate Mee- 
nach should have his wife ; he had also his 
little boy of six and his two little girls, one 
of four and the other of two years, with him. 
After he wrote to Mrs. Meenach that he had 
killed his lion, she came on to him ; and she 
brought with her such thing as sheets, table- 
cloths, and pillows, and a regulation cooking- 
stove. He never dared to compute just how 
much the stove had cost him, preferring not 
to have his enjoyment of the luxury allayed. 
The mere expense of bringing it up from 
Dawson would have bought two or three good 
ones at home. 

To the miners the most wonderful feature of 
the Meenach cabin was the carpet on the floor. 
Some of them wanted to take off their boots 
before entering, and one suggested that if he 
were younger he would walk in on his hands. 

" If you don't mind," he added, '' Til sit 
with my back to the sheets on the bed. It's 
too much at a time. I want to drift into this 
easy like." 

128 



GETTING ACQUAINTED 

" Folks who live in castles may be bothered 
by having too many rooms to care for," said 
Mrs. Meenach, "but not I, in my cabin. I 
could put the children to bed with one hand, 
stir something on the stove with the other, 
and set the table with the third, if I had it 
It's no trouble to go to the market in the 
morning. All our fresh vegetables are in tin 
cans in the cache just outside the door. Oh, 
yes, there is much to be thankful for if I look 
at it in the right light. We kept our condensed 
cream, our canned asparagus and our canned 
peas all winter without being frozen. Then, 
please heaven, something green grows in this 
country, I have a little cranberry sauce from 
the poor cranberries on the hill-side, and I 
agree with the children that it is * gooder'n ' 
anything I ever tasted. If I could get a fresh 
cabbage I think I should eat it all without 
waiting to put salt on it. Now I live from 
day to day on the hopes of the eggs which are 
expected in on the first boats." 

Thus she chatted while she warmed the 

tinned roast mutton in the frying-pan, boiled 

the evaporated potatoes and the tinned sweet 

corn. 

" I'm not going to say that dinner, such as it 

129 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

is, is ready/' she said, " because, in the Klon- 
dyke, that is quite superfluous." 

It is good when you have eaten beans for a 
month off a tin plate balanced upon your knee, 
to look upon a clean table-cloth again, to sit 
by the window of a cabin in blissful certainty 
that your journey is at an end, and have a 
good and gentle woman pour you a cup of 
tea, I remember the meal as a banquet, not a 
dinner. After it was over, the lord and master 
and I smoked our pipes until the little ones' 
heads began to nod, when I went into the 
cabin of one of his laymen to roll up in my 
blanket. 

The children had reason to think that they 
were the only children in the world and to be 
as proud as princes. But Mrs. Meenach's 
fears lest they should be spoiled by the adula- 
tion of the miners were equally vain with her 
fears about their health. The extent of their 
illnesses was a day's indisposition on the part 
of the baby. Swathed in furs and scarfs until 
only their noses were visible and their limbs 
were as stiff as a doll baby's, they might go out 
to play with their sleds for a few moments at 
a time. Listening to the cries of the dog- 
drivers and the howls of their steeds, which 

130 



GETTING ACQUAINTED 

had turned their mother's nerves on edge, had 
been as good as the kuh-chuk-chuk-chuk of a 
railroad locomotive to them. The miners, 
with frost-encfusted beards, were so many 
Father Christmases who rarely forgot to bring 
a present of a nugget when they came. 

With the coming of spring, an old Califor- 
nian took the baby in his arms while the 
brother and sister followed at his heels up the 
hill-side to his bench claim. He showed them 
to a log, where they sat very gravely while he 
unfolded to them a mighty scheme. In return 
for three kisses apiece, one to be delivered 
when the bargain was struck and two when 
the goods were delivered, he agreed to build 
for them a small rocker, so that they could 
start a Mining Company (Limited) on their 
own account. 

Their dividends were large until one of the 
laymen found out that they were using the 
best portions of his dumps. Then the total 
income fell to a dollar a day, which the boy ex- 
plained was due to laxness on the part of the 
president — his elder sister — and gross negli- 
gence on the part of the assistant manager — the 
baby — who insisted upon turning the gold pan 

bottom side up at critical moments. Their 

131 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

father played the part of the unskilled laborer, 
and sometimes when he was ordered to work 
he said, " In a minute ! " an excuse which had 
to be accepted. The time came when the old 
Califomian could no longer keep his joke to 
himself. 

" Meenach, seems to me I 'member tellin' 
the youngsters that you'd carry water for *em 
to work the rocker with," he chuckled. 

It was by a diversion from my programme that 
I spent the next night with Voss. His name 
was not on my list, and I had never heard of it 
until I drifted into his cabin. I was attracted 
by his speech, which sounded a little unnatural 
in a community where expressions are intended 
to convey a meaning and not to subserve the 
rules of grammar. Despite his education, Voss 
was an old-timer among old-timers, greeting 
them all by their first names. The most fero- 
cious of them, out of whose mouths an oath 
rolled with the ease and deliberation of their 
tobacco smoke, regarded him as a personal 
friend. 

** He looks stuck up, but he ain't stuck up/ 

they said, " He's clean all the way down and 

all the way through and game as a grizzly bear, 

and we know. We've followed him on the trail." 

132 



GETTING ACQUAINTED 

The sincere fellowship which he felt for them 
in return belongs to that philosophy which 
makes of the young men of old but impover- 
ished families, good and cheerful prospectors, 
ranchers, and cowboys. Not in fancy — ^which 
misled so many poor souls among the Chee- 
chawkos — but in fact, they prefer the indepen- 
dent life of a mining camp to working for a sal- 
ary in a city ; prefer washing their own dishes 
and rising at 3 a.m., and harnessing the dogs to 
start on the trail to going to an office every 
morning and leaving it every afternoon at a 
certain hour. By all the manners that stamp 
the man, Voss was a child of civilization, and 
such a child as was equal to carrying out his 
determination not to return to it until he was 
master in his own right of the little luxuries 
that keep the taste of ashes out of the mouth. 
Often he spoke of these, then ran his hands 
into the pockets of his overalls, took a pull at 
his pipe, and looked at his dumps with an 
anticipation as keen as that of some naval cap- 
tain of Drake's day in sight of the chalk cliffs 
of England, after years in foreign countries on 
rations of hard biscuit. 

" But even before I carry out my plans of 
travel," he said, ** I shall buy a ranch, where I 

133 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

shall have a home with no other habitations m 
sight ; where I shall have a good saddle-horse 
waiting for me, whenever I shall grow tired of 
town. Once you have become accustomed to 
the silence of the plains, the mountains, and the 
trail, mere country houses will not satisfy you 
— something gets into the blood." 

"You all catch it, I see," I interrupted. 
" Joe Staley says it's like rheumatiz* and it gets 
not into the blood but into the bones." 

" Yes, bones — blood and bones, both ! " was 
the reply. 

He had four retainers, who lived in his 
cabin: the boy, the Archdeacon, Jim, and 
Grouse, the fox-terrier. The boy was sixteen 
or seventeen. He had gone to the Klondyke, 
against his parents' wishes, to find himself non- 
plussed by the necessity of a food supply for 
the winter months. Voss put him on his feet 
The Archdeacon was of the Established Church 
and a graduate of Oxford. He did not seem 
to be, but he must have been, older than the 
boy, for he was gray and the father of three 
children. Shortly after he was ordained arch- 
deacon the something had **got into " his blood 
and bones, and he vacillated between the 

church and travel until his meanderings brought 

134 



GETTING ACQUAINTED 

the promise of a brilliant career to the guar- 
dianship of a flock of Indians, halfway around 
the world. He baked the best bread that I 
ate in the Klondyke. Though he accepted 
praise on that score as quietly as he did every- 
thing else, I could see that it pleased him — 
better, perhaps, than the praise of a bishop. 
In getting breakfast, which he had taken upon 
himself as one of his tasks, his slippered feet 
moved about so softly that you were not awak- 
ened until his voice called you at the right 
moment. 

" It is good to see many kinds of men and to 
do many things," he volunteered, as he lifted a 
flapjack from the skillet to my plate. " When 
all the world was going to the Klondyke, I had 
to join the throng. I got a lay on Bonanza 
and put some men to work on it. But, unfort- 
unately, I had no food for myself. Mr. Voss " 
— the Archdeacon never omitted the Mister— 
" asked me to come and live with him through 
the winter. What a pity it is that there isn't 
such a good fellow as Mr. Voss to take care of 
every unfortunate fellow like me ! " 

Jim, in the language of the Klondyke, was a 
"sour-dough stiff," and he was certainly an 
unhappy man. A ** sour-dough stiff" will, 

135 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

under no circumstances, eat baking-powder 
bread. This eccentricity, developed in the 
later years of a prospector's life, generates 
others which are its natural companions. He 
thinks that baking powder in the smallest 
quantity is poisonous, and, therefore, is as 
j5nicky and miserable as any other man who 
becomes a victim of dyspepsia through forever 
thinking of some means to avoid it 

In addressing his employer Jim uttered the 
word " Voss " in a harsh voice, as if calling at- 
tention to its nudity and impl)nng that he 
would not subvert his rights as a free man by 
using " Mister," though he were to hang for it. 
He was the first to rise in the morning and he 
always prepared his own breakfast 

"Some folks don't like my cookin', an' I 
don't like some folks' cookin', either," he ex- 
plained. 

On some occasions, when he felt a little lazy, 
he would condescend to eat at the table with 
the others, but with an expression of martyr- 
dom on his thin, old face. Voss told me that 
Jim would probably confide to me at the first 
opportunity how grossly the claim was mis- 
managed, and so he did. Voss forgave his ec- 
centricities partly because they amused him 

136 



GETTING ACQUAINTED 

and his friends, and partly because Jim was an 
expert in saving fine gold from floating down 
to the waste pile. 

Jim's contempt for the Alaskan miner's 
knowledge of sluicing was pleasant to hear un- 
less you had to hear it often. He had a minia- 
ture sluice for treating the residue which con- 
tains the lighter particles. It were better to 
step on the hem of your wife's skirt on the way 
to the theatre than to lay your hands on this 
fine gold machine, as he called it. Whether or 
not it was worth the time that Jim had spent 
in building it, was a grave question with Voss. 

In making the ** clean-up " Jim was the gen- 
eral in charge of the field. The best-natured 
men on the claim were selected to assist him, 
and even their patience sometimes gave out. 
Voss himself, accompanied by the fox-terrier, 
who was general superintendent of the claim, 
winter and summer, used to take up his station 
at the water gate. He did not always inter- 
pret Jim's orders satisfactorily, and I overheard 
this grumbling complaint : 

**A man can't play with a dog an' pay 
'tention to business at the same time." 

Everybody about the claim except Jim was 
the slave of the fox-terrier's moods. In New 

137 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

York or London you could have bought 
Grouse for five dollars. Voss was offered $200 
for him by another claim owner, but would as 
soon have parted with his claim. I knew of 
only one other terrier in the Klondyke. He 
was a companion, deserving the affix of bull, of 
a doggy-looking man who walked up and down 
the river front of Dawson. He was usually 
limping on three legs, but not infrequently on 
two. He seemed to realize his position as the 
sole representative of civilized dogdom among 
thousands of savages, and he no more thought 
of surrender than a Roman prefect. The boast 
of his master that he could whip any two or 
three of the huskies was well founded. Even 
when he was attacked by a dozen he gave more 
wounds than he received, retreating with the 
dignity of one who belongs to a ruling race. 

Provincial as Voss's claim was in its isolation 
from the world, its surroundings were cosmo- 
politan enough. Among his employees, aside 
from Germans, Swedes, and French-Canadians, 
were a Dalmatian and a Turk. The Turk was 
a good workman. When he had made his 
** stake " he was going to buy a fig orchard in 
southern California. 

On the day that I visited the discovery claim 

138 



GETTING ACQUAINTED 

of Siawash George, which is only a short dis- 
tance beyond Voss's, several Cheechawkos 
were panning some gravel at the very point 
where Indian Charlie had found the famous 
nugget. They did not wash out a single color, 
and passed on in disgust to do more prospect- 
ing on ground whose stakes — for the most part 
fallen down — had been driven so long ago that 
the weather had washed off the writing on 
their four hewn sides. Siawash George had 
expended several thousand dollars in buying 
and bringing an old boiler and engine up to 
his claim from Forty Mile. Owing to a fatal 
defect in its pumping gear it would not sup- 
ply half a sluice-head of water or do the work 
of a small dam ; but the noise of its puffing 
and his ability to hire an engineer to superin- 
tend it at $15 a day greatly amused a mind 
which had become aboriginal from family asso- 
ciations. 

Money playing an important part in the 
politics of Alaska as well as in other countries, 
poor George had acquired a fortune only to 
find that it was two-edged and might be an ob- 
stacle, as well as instrumental, in the fulfilment 
of his royal ambition. On a fatal day he had 
brought from Dawson to his wife some little 

139 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

brown things in a box which was lettered in 
gilt. She had found them so superior to plain 
brown sugar that they had opened a new world 
to her. She gave over her rights to a throne 
to dream of the day when she should take pas- 
sage on a Yukon steamer to the land where 
shops were filled with chocolate bonbons. 

Joe Powers was a near neighbor of Siawash 
George. As both had squaw wives there was 
a bond of union between them, and they visited 
back and forth a great deal. Joe could not 
read or write, I was told, but his good fellow- 
ship shone out of his ever-grinning face. 

** Some of the boys I knowed down in Circle 
and Forty Mile that's struck it big," he told 
me in confidence, **is going into s'ciety when 
they get on the outside. But I ain't. How I 
would look in s'ciety, wouldn't I ? The rest 
of the boys are about on the same pattern, too, 
I guess, only they can't see it when they look 
into a pool of water. I'm thankful I know 
them dodgers on the outside are too clever for 
me. I'll buy a fruit farm in Calif omy. No- 
body can beat me out o' that." 

However dangerous a little learning may be 

to some of the old-timers, one does not envy 

them their dust, spend it how they will. It is 

140 



GETTING ACQUAINTED 

fitting that they who bore the brant of the 
robust business of pioneering should occupy 
the cabins of the masters on the Eldorado and 
the Bonanza claims. Graduates of colleges 
and universities, who work for them with pick 
and shovel for a dollar an hour, arrived on the 
scene after the great strikes, and must take the 
consequences. 

It is scarcely half a mile from Siawash 
George's to the cluster of cabins at the mouth 
of Eldorado ; and Eldorado flows into Bonanza 
about midway of its working claims, making of 
The Forks, as the confluence of the two 
streams is called, the hub of a wheel with three 
spokes. When Miss Mulrooney came up to 
The Forks in the autumn of 1897 she appre- 
ciated the mathematical advantage of the sit- 
uation at once, and acted upon her perception 
with such decision that the news of her won- 
derful undertaking went up and down the 
creeks that very day. 

"Boys," said the heralds to the scoffers, 

" there's a new woman up to The Forks with 

a bit of an Irish brogue and the tongue of a 

lawyer, that's goin' to show us old moss-backs 

how to get rich. Hanged if she ain't got so 

much money to lose that she's goin' to build a 

141 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

two-story hotel bigger'n any in Dawson right 
up here on the creeks." 

** Strange things was to be expected from 
the Cheechawkos once the news of a strike got 
into the newspapers all over the States," said 
the scoffers; while the saloon-keepers, being 
specialists on the subject, apprehended with 
professional disdain that Miss Mulrooney 
might as well start a hotel at the head of the 
Stewart or at the North Pole. 

The next instalment of news related that 
Miss Mulrooney was up on the hill-side super- 
intending the labors of the one lone mule sur- 
viving of those brought down the river on 
rafts in the summer, which she had hired for 
$20 a day to drag logs to the site of h«r 
building. That class of women who are too 
common in the Klondyke are not given to 
this sort of thing; and, moreover, they wear 
bloomers, while Miss Mulrooney wore long 
skirts. A new woman deserved punishment 
for such folly, but a good woman who wore 
long skirts was entitled to the friendly advice 
which one of the leading claim-owners under- 
took to supply. 

"I've been in the country some time," he 

told Miss Mulrooney, ** and I don't mind tell- 

142 



Miss Mulrooney of The Forks. 



GETTING ACQUAINTED 

ing you for your own interest that Dawson's 
the place, not The Forks, for a hotel." 

"Now, that's kind of you," assented Miss 
Mulrooney. **And may I ask if you would 
like something to drink ? " 

"Er-r-r, well," stuttered the Committee of 
One, as he tried to get his bearings, " well, I 
admit I sometimes do, like the most of the 
boys — but I didn't know as you'd be mention- 
in' that" 

** Oh, I'm not, and I'm not likely to," with 
a toss of her head, "when I know there's no 
chance of your accepting. Of course, if you 
or any of the other boys was hungry or thirsty 
you wouldn't think of buying a drink or a 
meal up here. You'd walk sixteen miles to 
Dawson and back for it, wouldn't you ? And 
the boys going over the divide to Dominion or 
Sulphiu" when they break the journey at The 
Forks would hang up in a tree over night be- 
fore they'd sleep in a hotel, wouldn't they, now ?" 

A light burst upon the Committee of One. 

" You'll pass. Miss Mulrooney, you'll pass," 
he said. "You kin take care o' yourself all 
right With that head of yours, you'll own the 
Klondyke by the time you've been in the coun- 
try as long as I have." 

143 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

And the word that Miss Mulrooney was all 
right was passed along the line. Every man 
on the creeks looked forward to the date of the 
opening of her hotel. A democratic commu- 
nity could not confer titles, but it might call her 
Miss Mulrooney of the Forks, and thus she 
will be known for all time among Klondykers. 

Meanwhile, she expected that every day 
would be the lone mule's last. There was 
neither hay nor oats in the country. As the 
story was told to me, he held body and soul to- 
gether on birch bark and willow sprouts until 
the final log was dragged to the foundations, 
and then promptly expired. 

" He had nothing to live on," as Miss Mul- 
rooney expressed it, " and nothing to live for, 
and I'm thinkin' the poor fellow was so slow 
because he just knew that his interest in the 
enterprise was all that kept him up ; and, like 
the rest of us, he wanted to postpone the last 
hour as long as he could." 

The third night after the hotel was opened 

the Committee of One, himself, had to sleep 

on the floor because the bunks were all taken. 

Nothing could have served Miss Mulrooney 

better than the food-panic of midwinter. She 

had bought a full supply before everyone be- 

144 



GETTING ACQUAINTED 

gan to hoard whatever beans or flour or 
whiskey he could get. All but two of the 
restaurants in Dawson had to close their doors. 
The two exceptions on f^te days gave butter 
and apple sauce along with bacon, beans, and 
coffee. Their owners grew to regard Miss 
Mulrooney as their animate consciences whose 
voice was that of every miner who ate a meal 
in Dawson when he was down from the creeks. 

" I don't mind paying double," said the Com- 
mittee of One, to a Dawson waiter, "s'long 
's I get suthin to eat. Just bring that din- 
ner over again. Then I'll have only half a 
square meal for $5, not to mention that no 
fixin's go with it. Miss Mulrooney charges 
$3.50 for a square, but she gives you canned 
beef, canned mutton, and ham, and fixin's, and 
keeps askin' you if you won't have more and 
you keep acceptin' till you have to send for 
a drink 'fore you're strong enough to get up 
from the table. Jumpin' John Rogers ! How 
you fellers must suffer when you pass out a 
bean and a rind and think of what a woman 
is doin* up there to The Forks ! " 

If you want to reach a man's heart through 
his stomach in a scurvy-stricken country, feed 
him, if it is the best you have, with sauce made 

145 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

of dried apples. . Miss Mulrooney kept a great 
bowlful of this on her table. The transient 
ate of its contents with the ravenousness of 
the thirsty traveller drinking from a spring of 
cold water. No sooner was it emptied — 
I know by actual observation of a quart of 
apple-sauce having been eaten by two persons 
— than it was filled again by the cook, rapid 
if rough in his movements, who picked it up 
and put it down as if it were a red-hot ingot 
• The ground floor of the hotel was divided 
into the bar-room and the dining-room. Cards 
were permitted, but no gaming-tables were 
maintained. Upstairs was a tier of bunks 
running along the wall, with a passageway be- 
tween them. The blankets seemed cleaner 
than elsewhere — no hotel had sheets— and the 
bunks had curtains. Either a nice sense of 
individuality or sheer fatigue restrained the 
guests from removing their socks, and I have 
known miners who were over-tired by a long 
tramp not to remove their boots. They had 
enough respect for Miss Mulrooney to hang 
the soles of them over the edge of the bunk, 
however, though, if in their dreams they should 
participate in a stampede to some new creek, 

their good intentions were sadly belied. The 

Z46 



GETTING ACQUAINTED 

sole occupant of a lower bunk, which was sup- 
posed to accommodate two in case of neces- 
sity, might be awakened at any hour by a 
nudge, and : 

" Pardner, sorry to trouble you, but I guess 
you'll have to move over a bit to make room 
for me." 

In winter the curse of a Klondyke cabin, 
banked with snow, chinked with moss and 
dirt to the last crack and knothole, is lack of 
ventilation. In summer, when there is no 
night and no two men quite agree on their 
hours of sleep or hours for travelling, it was 
as good as reading a local newspaper to try 
to sleep at Miss Mulrooney's. The widening 
cracks between boards of fir (put into the 
floors and partitions while yet green) never 
permitted the slightest details of conversation 
over the card-table or over the bar to be in- 
audible, except during unavoidable and scarcely 
welcome intervals when you heard the tramp- 
ing and scuffling of heavy boots. I could dis- 
cern the direction the traveller was going upon 
entering the dining-room door ; whether he 
was coming up stairs to bed, or was going to 
call out to the cook for a " squar " or ** half a 
dozen eggs." 

147 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

Andrew, a quiet, soft-voiced, obliging young 
man, who wore a white shirt and was solici- 
tous about keeping his tie straight, had charge 
of the bar. According to all the traditions of 
new placer mining camps he was as much out 
of place as the average bartender would be in 
a chair of moral philosophy. He was so es- 
sentially lacking in combativeness that no one 
ever thought of picking a quarrel with him. 
Luck and whiskey, however, despite the North- 
west Mounted Police, will generate in miners 
a surplus energy which they are inclined to ex- 
pend upon furniture if not upon one another. 
Miss Mulrooney did not depend for purposes 
of pacification upon a huge St Bernard who 
was always at her side when he was not draw- 
ing her upon her sled up and down the creeks 
in winter, but rather upon her blarney. She 
knew when, where, and just how much to 
apply. 

** I always appeal to their best instincts," she 
said. "It's easy to lead and hard to drive. 
That's what you men don't understand. You 
try to drive." 

I saw her theory put to the test of practice. 
A giant who was so well on in his cups that 

he could scarcely walk, concluded, only half 

148 



GETTING ACQUAINTED 

an hour after he had finished one, that he 
wanted another meal. When it was placed 
before him he seemed to think that the cook 
was trying to hurt his feelings by making him 
eat twice, and with an oath he threw a dish of 
stew on the floor. Miss Mulrooney happened 
to be passing through the room at the time. 
She stepped over to him and told him in her 
pleasantest tone that accidents would happen. 

" Accident ? " he asked, dazedly. 

" Of course," she said. ** I know you're too 
much of a gentleman to do such a thing pur- 
posely." 

*• Coursh ! Coursh it was ! " he kept repeat- 
ing, as he dropped down on to his knees and 
tried to scrape the stew up into a little pile, 
despite her protests. 

Then out of the maze of his crippled mem- 
ory another horror presented itself suddenly 
and prompted him to arise. 

" Miss Mulrooney," he asked, his face very 
red, ** did you hear me swear ? " 

" A little one — a slip," she replied. 

He told her that it was only a real lady who 

would put so liberal a construction on what he 

called a breach of ** ettykit." Fearful, never- 

theless, that she might secretly think ill of 

149 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

him, he followed her about the hotel with apol- 
ogies and dripping hands while he kept repeat- 
ing how a poor devil might be a little weak, so 
rarely did a good bench claim fall to a poor 
devil's lot, until the inner workings of his con- 
science culminated in a full confession that the 
plate had not been broken by accident but in- 
tentionally. She forgave him even this, and 
then he went up-stairs and to sleep. 

" What I want to do is to make money, you 
may be sure," Miss Mulrooney would say if 
you persuaded her to tell you her story. *' I 
was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania. I had 
to earn my own living before I was out of 
short skirts, and I kept on doing a little better 
from one thing to another, till I was stew- 
ardess of a steamer on the Pacific Coast. 
There's nothing like being a stewardess to de- 
velop your wits when you're just a bit too 
independent for the job and you have to give 
the passengers as good as they send when 
they're sassy. I remember an old Englishman 
who expected me to black his boots. I told 
him I wouldn't, and I told him if he put 'em 
outside his door again I'd be thinkin' he was 
wantin' ice-water and turn a pitcherful into 

'em. He went to the captain. The captain 

150 



GETTING ACQUAINTED 

was a Scotchman and he didn't believe in put- 
tin' on airs ; and when the captain sent for me 
and I went to the captain's room I found the 
old gentleman there. Before we came out I 
had him laughin', and I'd never blacked his 
boots, either. But runnin' errands doesn't suit 
me. I started for the Klondyke as soon as I 
heard of it, and like the rest I'm going back 
either rich or broke." 

The last time I saw Miss Mulrooney she 
was in Dawson searching for a good location 
for a hotel which was to have sheets and be 
positively palatial. Three weeks later, so I am 
told, it was completed. Once her first venture 
succeeded, she had begun to speculate in min- 
ing properties. Her position at The Forks 
gave her exceptional opportunities for inside 
information, and she was a *' pardner " of a 
dozen leading citizens in as many enterprises. 

" If you ever go to Chicago or New York," 
I suggested to her, ** the women's clubs will be 
making a heroine of you as an example of what 
their sex can do." 

" Not if I know it," she replied. ** They 
won't, I'm thinkin', if they hear I sold whiskey. 
Besides, there's nothin' new about me. I'm 
old-fashioned." 

151 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

Without abusing a much-abused word, I 
think that Miss Mulrooney may be called a re- 
markable woman, more particularly as her own 
opinion of herself is quite the contrary. 



152 



VIII 

ARCTIC TRAITS 

Daily Life in Dawson — Renting a Cabin — Circumventing the 
Huskies— Joey Boureau and His Restaurant — ^The Faro 
Dealer's Wife and Her Bakery — ^The Laundryman and 
His Claim— Jack Beltz's Schemes — ^A Pair of Dreamers. 

IT depends upon the season of the year 
whether the town-site of Dawson is liquid, 
mushy, or as flinty as frozen ground can be. 
At one time in the summer of 1898 most of it 
was under water. Two weeks later, the Yukon 
having fallen some sixteen feet, this same town- 
site was at a respectable height above the level 
of the stream. The smaller sandbar on the op- 
posite side of the mouth of the Klondyke, which, 
out of respect to the cabins which cover an area 
of six or seven acres, has been called Klondyke 
City, is without the surface layer of muck which 
held sewage as in a sponge under the noses of 
the residents of Dawson. The good nature of 
the fellow, known as *' Dud," who keeps the sole 
saloon and hotel at Klondyke City, was as 

153 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

largely responsible for our choice of abode as 
the healthf ulness of the location. Empty cab- 
ins were scarce. ** Dud " said he had one to 
rent. When I asked him the price, I offended 
him. 

" You walk right in and stay till I tell you to 
get out," he said. ** But if you go shakin' your 
dust in my face I won't let you have it at all." 

So we stood our sleds up beside the door, set 
up our little Yukon stove, threw our blankets 
on the floor, and were at home. The comfort 
of my daily existence I felt to be great com- 
pared with a bunk in a bunk-house for $2.50 a 
night, or a room with cloth partitions over a 
bar for $10 a night. 

Fritz, who liked movement and life, went over 
to town to live in the cabin of a friend, leaving 
Jack and me to do our own cooking or to eat 
at the restaurant when we were of idle mind. 
The dogs also patronized the restaurant with- 
out standing on ceremony. " Jack " carried off 
almost the last ham in the camp, having lifted 
it from a nail with the unostentatiousness of 
an expert thief. The proprietors of the res- 
taurant would not listen to reimbursement. 
They explained that anybody who had been 
in the country for six years and let a husky 

154 



ARCTIC TRAITS 

dog get the better of him deserved to be mulct- 
ed. It is out of deference to the husky dog 
that the miner builds little caches, set on poles, 
for storing food, which make the town look 
like a Bornese village, whose inhabitants have 
deserted their old homes to live in cabins. 

The proprietors of the restaurant, in my 
opinion, were well worth knowing. Joey Bou- 
reau — undeniably French-Canadian, but forever 
repeating that he was a citizen of the United 
States — was almost as dark as a Moor, with the 
torso of a Turkish wrestler. He yielded neither 
to excess nor fatigue, blustered at times, never 
cared for to-morrow, and was possessed of a 
ready wit. His blague had a counterpart in the 
blarney of his partner, Tim, undeniably Irish 
American and proud of it. This pair had been 
inseparable for the many years that they had 
sought gold with the pick and in all the ways of 
camp life. Upon the scales at the end of the 
oilcloth-covered dining table they weighed out 
$2.50 worth of dust out of your bag whenever 
you ate off their board. Whichever one hap- 
pened to be in did the cooking, and if both were 
in, one told stories to amuse the guests and 
acted as cashier. 

But both were seldom there. One was usu- 

155 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

ally at " Dud's " faro table. The other, when 
he grew tired of working brought his " pardner " 
home on his arm, installed him in the kitchen, 
and immediately went out to enjoy a little rec- 
reation on his own account. As he took with 
him whatever dust there was in the tomato-can, 
which served as their cash-box, we heard fre- 
quent excuses for the absence of moose steak 
on the table because of lack of funds to pur- 
chase it. Just as their business was beginning 
to prosper they sold it for a song to a Chee- 
chawko whom they met on the river-front. A 
week in town sufficed to spend the song, and 
then they put packs on their backs and started 
over the hills, whistling as they went. 

In one of the neighboring cabins the wife of 
a faro dealer had set up a bakery. We paid her 
fifty cents apiece for pies and fifty cents for 
loaves of bread, and had to order them before- 
hand to make sure of getting them. 

Our laundryman had staked a claim in which 
he placed great hopes ; but his invariable charge 
remained seventy-five cents a garment. He re- 
lated with a realism almost tragic the details of 
the processes by which he had arrived at the 
original color of the khaki trousers that I had 

worn on the trail. Jack Beltz, for his part, se- 

156 



ARCTIC TRAITS 

cured the loan of an old tub and a washboard, 
and after a day's labor surveyed bandanna hand- 
kerchiefs and what not hung out on the line 
with the mien of a conqueror. 

Economy, however, was always a matter of 
necessity with him. On the first night of his re- 
turn from town he said, with some pride, that 
he still had most of the dust which he had re- 
ceived in conclusion of our contract. The next 
night before going to bed he built a fire in the 
stove out of the driftwood which he snaked out 
of the river for fuel, and sat for a long time in a 
reverie. 

"Well, rU have to earn some more/' he 
said, finally, to himself, and dropped upon his 
blankets. 

In the morning, followed by his troop of 
dogs, who had regained their spirits and their 
flesh, because he had fed them so bountifully, 
he went up on the mountain side, where he 
picked a great bouquet of the wild flowers which 
spring up in such profusion in summer. He 
never told me of his losses, and I tried to avoid 
the appearance of suspecting the truth, at the 
same time that I took practical measures to 
obviate an effort to dispose of his robe for cash 
and to hypothecate his year's outfit, which was 

157 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

to be brought down the river by his ** pardner," 

CliflF. 

Meanwhile, he revolved in his mind many 
schemes for making money. The price of 
moose steak, $1.50 a pound, suggested to him 
that a fortune might be made in moose hunt- 
ing. Learning that Dawson had no bowling 
alley, he so far arranged to start one as to find 
that balls and pins could not be obtained 
nearer than Seattle. This scheme was suc- 
ceeded by the more alluring prospect of taking 
dogs, which are valueless in summer, as they 
are valuable in winter, to an island in the river 
to feed for so much a month. Always bftfore 
his dream had taken definite form he dismissed 
it by saying he was no city man. He recalled 
his experience in keeping the restaurant in a 
British Columbia mining town, and he reverted 
to a proposition that was to the liking of his 
love of robust vagabondage : 

" rU get a pardner and take the dogs and go 
up to the head-waters of the Porcupine and 
cross over to the Mackenzie. It would be a 
rattling trip ! " 

As if in excuse of his venture he would add 
that he was certain to find gold in that region. 

One day another dreamer, Kidd, came to 

158 



ARCTIC TRAITS 

join us. He was a protfeg6 of Jack, who had 
found him trying to put his outfit over the 
Pass. There must have been such giants as 
Kidd, with such straight noses, curling black 
hair and curling black beard, in the phalanxes 
that confounded the Persians. But this type 
of the freshness and strength of country life 
was quite modern. He slouched into the 
cabin with his hands in his pockets, and in- 
cluded in the drawl with which he greeted us a 
Missourian " Doggone it ! " Like many other 
unfortunate fellows, Kidd had been obliged to 
spend the whole winter in the neighborhood of 
the Pass. Jack and his partner had made him 
a tent-mate in their camp on the banks of Lin- 
derman, during the dreary period of waiting. 
Going on to Le Barge after our departure from 
Linderman, he had arrived in Dawson before 
Cliff. 

** That boy comes from a good family," said 
Jack ; " and FU bet they're proud as anybody 
that ever had a grand-dad who owned a lot of 
niggers and went stone broke after the war. 
He don't say nothin' about it, but it sticks out 
all over him. He didn't know how to hitch a 
pack on a mule's back when I first met him. 
But though he was green, he wasn't fresh ; and 

159 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

when tenderfeet are that way they'll learn and 
you like to learn 'em. When they ain't, you 
like nothin' better than to give 'em the worst 
bronch' on the ranch and leave 'em to find out 
things for themselves." 

It was not until after considerable urging 
that Kidd would consent to share our cabin. 
His character was in sharp contrast to that of 
another young stranger who entered and threw 
his blankets on the floor for the night without 
any formalities. In the morning, picking up 
certain articles of my kit which were lying 
beside my bed, he said : 

"You're goin' out on the first steamer. 
Don't suppose you want these, do you? I'll 
take 'em along. They'll come in handy next 
winter." 

" He'll get on," quoth Jack, ** but I'm ding- 
donged if he'll get on with my help." 

Jack now included Kidd in his schemes, 
which became more and more attenuated. 
Kidd would walk back and forth for some 
time as if in deep thought, and finally drawl : 

** Gee-mo-nee ! We must do something. 
Jack ! " 

And Jack, as he looked out upon the rapidly 
flowing river, would agree, and relight his pipe. 

i6o 



mm 



ARCTIC TRAITS 

Kidd admitted that he was homesick, " dog- 
goned homesick." He had a right to be, for 
he left home with a thousand dollars and his 
mother's blessing, instead of finishing his educa- 
tion and studying for the country bar. 

** Gee-mo-nee ! " he exclaimed. " I was 
green, wasn't I, Jack? I thought you'd just 
pick the gold up once you got here. But dog- 
goned if I'll go back broke. I'll have as much 
as I had when I left or stay forever. I've got 
three hundred of that thousand and I'll make 
seven hundred and my fare out some way this 
winter." 

One day the dreamers found employment on 
the log booms for the new saw-mill that was to 
be built on the island in the Klondyke between 
Dawson and Klondyke City. Jack was as 
much at home on a rolling log as on the back 
of a broncho. Poor Kidd fell into the water 
often, but showed great persistence until the 
rise in the river made work impossible and left 
them idle again. So Jack sat by the cabin door 
keeping a lookout for Cliff, the third giant of 
the trio, who arrived one day, with a broad grin. 

" Gosh ! " he exclaimed, as he grasped Jack's 
hand. ** I was washed out of the boat when 
we came through Five Finger Rapids, and 

i6i 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

blamed if I wasn't washed in again! How's 
that for luck ? " 

There was something of the New England 
Yankee in him, though he had been bom in 
Colorado, 

** rU bet youVe give your money all away, 
ain't you, Jack ? " was his next remark. ** You 
wouldn't be Jack if you hadn't." 

" Weeks ago," was the reply. 

They secured a contract with one of the 
saw-mills to cut rafts of logs sixty miles up the 
river. Here was a chance for Jack to swing an 
axe, to build bonfires, and to do what he called 
an honest man's work. With his dogs around 
him on the day of his departure I said a re- 
gretful good-by to the vagabond. 



163 



J 



IX 

PILGRIMS' TRAILS AND TRIALS 

Itineraries — Alleged Unimportance of Experience — ^The 
Case of Father Stanley — Press Agents and Primers 
OF Wealth — ^The Secretary of the Seattle Chamber of 
Commerce His own Convert — Pardners and Promoters 
— Outfits — Home Comforts for an Arctic Climate — 
Heterogeneous Boat Loads — ^The Nancy G — ^Tragedies 
OF THE Passes. 

NEXT to taking part in some event chroni- 
cled on the bulletin boards your average 
pilgrim of fortune best enjoyed being near 
them. Least of all he liked waiting in latitude 
64 degrees for a month or more for news of 
progress of the only war yet waged by his 
country in his generation. When he left home 
the Klondyke was the ruling general topic of 
the hour in the newspapers. When he reached 
his destination he was quite forgotten, and pub- 
lic interest was entirely absorbed in the invasion 
of Cuba. 

Viewed in one light, there was good reason 

for the pique which he naturally felt toward 

163 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

Shafter's army. He might see many wars, for 
instance, before he saw the like of this Dawson 
pilgrimage again. Thirty-five thousand generals, 
each one his own quartermaster, packing a 
thousand pounds of food apiece over a rugged 
coast range of mountains, building a flotilla 
with axe and whipsaw out of the primeval forest, 
and travelling six hundred miles into a country 
having an arctic climate in winter and a tropi- 
cal climate in summer and yielding no food ex- 
cept a little game, presented a spectacle more 
romantic, if not so exciting, as the massing of 
an army corps under one general, its extension 
into a battle line, and the captiu-e of the 
enemy's outposts. 

The old prospector from California, British 
Columbia, Australia, or South Africa formed 
only a small percentage of those who entered, 
with the enthusiasm of children, a world of 
effort quite new to them. The village loafer 
and the ne'er-do-well son of the banker became 
partners on the trail. Mechanics who had 
mortgaged homes bought with savings from 
their wages to buy an outfit, rubbed elbows with 
broken-down speculators and business men who 
hoped to recover all that they had lost by find- 
ing a placer mine. The farmer, the clerk, the 

164 



PILGRIMS' TRAILS AND TRIALS 

artisan, and the city or the provincial day 
laborer of the Eastern States, Eastern Canada, 
and England, were as confident of success as 
their associates who had learned in the severe 
school of the plains, the veldt, or the bush how 
to preserve life and health in a new country. 
If they had not swung a lariat or a pioneer's 
axe, they had at least beaten someone in walk- 
ing or rowing or had gone longer without eat- 
ing than any of their immediate friends. 

Of the eighty thousand who left their homes 
for the Klondyke in the winter of 1897- 
98 and the spring of 1898, some thirty-five 
thousand arrived at Dawson. The battle was 
not always to the strong. More important 
than physical strength were determination and 
cheerfulness. Those who failed were as pecul- 
iarly Anglo-Saxon as those who succeeded; 
for they had the restlessness which impels 
one to seek obstacles but does not necessarily 
provide the force to overcome them. Most of 
those who had endeavored to reach Dawson in 
the autumn of 1897 were stranded on one side 
or the other of the passes, where they had to 
wait through a dreary winter until the ice 
which had arrested their progress should go out 
of the river. But only a small proportion of 

165 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

the whole number of pilgrims made this at- 
tempt The great majority planned to trans- 
port their outfits over the passes in the early 
months of 1 898 and build their boats on Lakes 
Linderman and Bennett in the interval be- 
tween good travelling in a snow-bound country 
and the opening of navigation. 

All pilgrims, whatsoever their itineraries, 
were grist for the mills of the towns of the 
Pacific Coast States and of British Columbia, 
bringing welcome relief from a period of com- 
mercial depression. Enterprising merchants, 
chambers of commerce, and steamship com- 
panies scattered broadcast throughout the 
United States (whence came seventy per cent, 
of the pilgrimage, ninety per cent of it being 
Anglo-Saxon) pamphlets, well written for the 
purpose, telling "How to Get to the Klon- 
dyke." 

The career of '* Father " Stanley, of Seattle, 
was used as a stock illustration of the unim- 
portance of experience to the prospector. This 
lame old bookseller, having the enthusiasm of 
the fanatic in place of real strength, had gone 
to the Klondyke in the spring of 1 896. For a 
time he worked on the bars of Stewart, 

taking out $10 a day. If he had not been 

166 



PILGRIMS' TRAILS AND TRIALS 

deformed he would have packed more food 
over the Pass. Fortunately, his supply ran out 
in September, and on his way down stream to 
Forty Mile, where he hoped to get more, he 
happened to arrive at the mouth of the Klon- 
dyke just as the first miners from Forty Mile 
were hurrying to the scene of Indian Charlie's 
** strike." As he could not walk as fast as the 
others, they got all the claims on Bonanza, and 
he had the good luck to get one of the best 
claims on Eldorado. 

A year later, returning on the treasure ship 
that brought the news of the great strike, when 
he entered his house with a small portion of his 
fortune — a hundred thousand dollars in cash — 
his good wife, as the story goes, was at the 
washboard, where she had spent a deal of her 
time during her husband's absence, earning a 
living for a large family. Her customers com- 
ing to make inquiries about their clothes were 
told to take whatever was in the tub which 
they could identify as their own. As for her- 
self, she was boarding at the hotel, sending 
such of her apparel as she had not thrown away 
to the laundry, and, moreover, was too busy 
with the dressmaker to attend to any trifling 

details which might have concerned her past life, 

167 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

" In the frozen fastnesses of the far North 
fortunes nestle in nuggets of glittering gold 
for all" — but the press agents were too well 
versed in human nature to say that these fort- 
unes were to be had for a pleasure trip. 
They mentioned hardships which put up a 
price of success, thus making the nuggets more 
attractive, and, in a sense, supporting the asser- 
tion of their existence. Anyone who would 
overcome the hardships might have a com- 
petency for the trouble of thawing it out of 
the frozen ground. No pilgrim felt himself to 
be less courageous and vigorous than " Father *' 
Stanley ; and the wives of all pilgrims were 
equally certain that, under similar circum- 
stances, they could conduct themselves with 
quite as much dignity as Mrs. Stanley. 

As became a primer to wealth, the pam- 
phlets told just how much it would cost to reach 
Dawson with the all-necessary year's outfit, 
going to the trouble, in a spirit of solicitude 
and rectitude, of setting down opposite each 
article of food and each utensil, whether spade 
or gold-pan, or oakum or pitch, or nails for 
boat-building, its cost in dollars and cents, 
and adding up a fascinatingly small total 
from a very tall column of figures. With a 

i68 



PILGRIMS' TRAILS AND TRIALS 

receipted bill for this, and having paid his fare 
to Dyea or Skaguay, where he would disem- 
bark on the mainland of Alaska and begin the 
transportation of his outfit over the passes, the 
pilgrim, although he was supposed to have ex- 
pended only $300, needed no more money to 
take him to his mine. 

It was not to the credit of the calculations 
of the pamphlets, and not testimony, in all if it 
was in some instances, to the success of the 
numerous gambling establishments that sprang 
up at the point of mobilization of the army of 
fortune-seekers, that the Seattle post-office did 
an overwhelming business in money-orders in 
December, 1897, and January and February, 
1 898. The authors of the pamphlets were not 
called to account for their errors. Rather, 
they received the thanks of their employers. 
Once he was on the coast, it stood to reason 
that while he was yet sleeping between sheets 
and eating meals cooked by someone other 
than himself the pilgrim would not retreat be- 
cause he needed a few more dollars which were 
obtainable from friends or relatives at home. 

Seattle's success beyond all other towns in 
attracting trade was due to a university gradu- 
ate and an author of works on art Having to 

169 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

give up journalism in the East and seek 
health in the West, after some severe tests of 
versatility of earning a living, he became Sec- 
retary of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce. 
Such were the results of his knowledge of the 
peculiarities of the Easterner, the Westerner, 
the Canadian, and the Englishman, which he 
incorporated in separate pamphlets, that his 
employers continued to raise his salary from 
week to week until the war broke out and he 
relieved them of the embarrassing consequences 
of their transports of generosity by resigning 
and starting for the Klondyke himself (regard- 
less of his doctor's advice) as a convert of his 
own arguments. 

The camp-followers of the host of individual 
quartermasters which Seattle equipped and 
embarked, besides the gambler and the pick- 
pocket, included many men of elastic consci- 
ences and elastic schemes, who had no capital 
but were ambitious to become capitalists. 
Those promising large dividends on properties 
yet to be purchased or staked were common ; 
those proposing such grand things as running 
snow and ice locomotives over the hummocks 
of the Yukon in winter were in some measure 

distinguished. In the corridors of the crowded 

170 



PILGRIMS' TRAILS AND TRIALS 

hotels you overheard the consultations of 
**pardners" as well as the harangues of pro- 
moters. 

Sacks of flour, bacon, and beans, the chief 
constituents of the Yukon outfit, were piled on 
the sidewalks. In the windows of the stores 
were samples of various improved edibles and 
home comforts for an arctic climate. Fakirs 
on the curbs proclaimed the merits of patent 
sleds, portable boats, and devices for thawing 
frozen ground. In selecting his outfit, the pil- 
grim experienced the same emotion as the 
young wife who furnishes a flat. When he 
had settled on the kind of sled, the kind of 
stove, and the kind of tent that he was going 
to take, he faced the important question of 
buying dogs or of drawing his own supplies 
from Dyea or Skaguay to the lakes. If he 
had money enough he usually fell a victim to 
the speculators, who sold the house dogs that 
they had shipped into Seattle, after a few days' 
training in harness, for fifty dollars apiece. 

The last article of his outfit bought, he 
waited for his steamer to sail, while his hotel 
bill grew apace. Liberal navigation laws, at all 
times carelessly enforced, in these piping times 
of prosperity became a dead letter. Every 

171 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

available sailing and steam craft in the Pacific 
marine, which is comparatively small and is 
largely recruited from the Atlantic seaboard, 
was called into service by the demands of the 
pilgrimage. Fortunes were made in two or 
three trips of vessels, which had been con- 
demned as unseaworthy years before. To get 
all the passengers they could carry they had 
only to offer transportation for a pilgrim and a 
ton of supplies at a little less exorbitant price 
than any of their rivals. 

Inexperienced pilots steered many vessels on 
to rocks in the tortuous and narrow channels 
between the barren and mountainous islands of 
the Alexander Archipelago which skirt the 
coast of British Columbia and the adjoining 
territory of southeastern Alaska. Pilgrims not 
yet embarked were too anxious about their own 
departure to think of the miseries of those who 
had suffered from exposure and lost their out- 
fits, if not their lives. Rarely did the best 
steamers leave within less than a week of their 
appointed sailing time. In loading them there 
was little discrimination or even classification. 
Quarters of beef for the restaurants of Dyea 
and Skaguay, dogs in crates and in leash, mules 

and bales of hay, were put on the decks after 

172 



PILGRIMS' TRAILS AND TRIALS 

the hold was filled. Considering the experi- 
ences of a volunteer army with a single quarter- 
master, better things were scarcely to be ex- 
pected of a volunteer army composed entirely 
of quartermasters. The chaos had the sole 
attraction of not bearing the stamp of official- 
dom. 

As an example of what a pilgrim might 
suffer, there was the case of the Nancy G. 
When I left Seattle on February 15th, on the 
Nancy G.'s mast still fluttered the torn ends of 
a cloth sign with fast-fading red letters : " This 
fine schooner in the tow of a powerful ocean 
tug, will positively sail for Dyea on January 
25 th." Every day the passengers went down to 
the pier to see if their outfits were still on 
board and to see how repairs were getting on. 
A man with a hammer in one hand and some 
oakum in the other came out of the hold. 

**You needn't cuss me," he said. "A 
schooner that's been resurrected after five years 
in the graveyard, ain't what she was when she 
was new, and you oughter know it. Every 
minute I lose caulkin' up the old girl 's com 
out of your own crops." 

Afterward they went to see the owner, who 
received their complaints with an air of disdain, 

173 . 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

refused to return the amount that they had 
paid in fares for the good reason that he had 
their signatures to a contract for January 25th 
or thereabouts, and warned them in their own 
interests that "thereabouts" was a very elastic 
word. 

" And 111 tell you something else," he said. 
" If you talk to me in this way much more, Vl\ 
have you up for riot. If you want to lose a 
gold mine and go to jail, that's your business 
and not mine." 

The owner was a small man — a small man 
who had spent his life in the new towns of the 
West The passengers were mostly hulking 
Swedes from the lumber camps of Minnesota 
and Wisconsin. They longed to lay their 
strong hands on him for just a moment But 
it was hard to lose a gold mine, and they hadn't 
enough money to pay for passage on another 
steamer. So they slouched out of the owner's 
presence more in sorrow than in anger. I 
heard afterward that the Nancy G. finally 
started on February 20th. Fate was so kind to 
her passengers that she did not sink until the 
return journey. They were more fortunate 
than two hundred of their fellows, who saw 
their outfits burned on the vessel which had 

174 



PILGRIMS' TRAILS AND TRIALS 

reached Skaguay just in time to have disem- 
barked them in safety. 

To meet the demands of the migration to 
the interior, Dyea and Skaguay had sprung up 
as quickly as a house of cards. When Indian 
Charlie found his nugget there was no building 
at Skaguay and only a trading-store at Dyea 
for bartering with the Indians and furnishing 
any supplies to an old-time prospector which 
he had neglected to buy at Juneau. The two 
towns are situated at the heads of either of two 
arms of the Lynn Canal, which nature has cut 
through the rock as man cut that of Corinth, 
upon sandy deposits at the mouths of the 
Dyea and Skaguay Rivers, and separated by a 
distance of a mile in a straight line over a 
mountain spur or of three miles around the 
point of the spur by water. This spur, rising 
into high peaks as it reaches the summit of the 
main range, is a barrier separating the two 
rivers and the two passes. 

Dyea is the gateway to Chilcoot Pass, which 
leads to Lake Linderman, and Skaguay is the 
gateway to the White Pass, which leads to 
Lake Bennett. They were not, as it appeared 
to the superficial observer, trying to excel each 
other in wickedness, but in the amount of bus- 

175 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

iness that they could do. Anyone who had 
been a resident of either town a single day 
considered it his duty to warn you as a friend 
against the rival town and the rival pass. In a 
week he had become an old citizen. The small 
proportion who were on hand for the rush of 
the late summer and autumn of 1897 were as 
proud as Lord Mayors. Then, thousands of 
pack-horses, earning as high as $50 apiece 
a day, died from the exertions to which they 
were forced by their owners. In the win- 
ter their bones sticking up through the snow 
were snags to catch the sleds of the pilgrims. 
Instead of a series of steps, the packers on Chil- 
coot had to walk around bowlders, slipping on 
the fragments of crumbling rock, and possibly, 
after all their exertion, reaching Linderman and 
building their boats only to have them blocked 
by ice half way to Dawson, where they were 
effectually stranded with their outfits. 

Perhaps every fifth or sixth house in the 
main streets was not a gambling hall or a dance 
hall. With these and a large idle population it 
is easy to understand how men who had a few 
dollars in cash when they arrived were obliged 
to sell their outfits and return home. The en- 
forcement of law was in the hands of a United 

176 



PILGRIMS' TRAILS AND TRIALS 

States commissioner and three or four deputy 
marshals. The commissioner was a gentle opti- 
mist who spent most of his working-hours in 
an office with a window looking out on the 
river and the mountain side, where he might 
see no wrong-doing. ** Soapy " Smith, gambler, 
by self-appointment, was Mayor of Skaguay and 
General-in-chief of the Army of Disorder, com- 
posed of characters from San Francisco and 
Seattle, who had no money left after their 
fare to Alaska was paid and were looking for 
something to turn up. When an atrocious mur- 
der was committed by one of his followers, 
*' Soapy " told a body of protesting citizens that 
they would better mind their own business. As 
his army outnumbered theirs and was better 
armed, they accepted his advice. The United 
States sent out two companies of infantry, with 
instructions from the authorities at Washington 
that they should not interfere with the affairs 
of the two towns unless there was a riot. The 
Commissioner, seeming to regard their presence 
as an intrusion on his rights, never asked for 
their assistance. No murders or highway rob- 
beries were committed within sight of his little 
window. In time, however, "Soapy" Smith 
met the death that he deserved at the hands 

177 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

of one of his followers, and through the efforts 
of the merchants and the better element the 
towns became more orderly. 

Not every pilgrim who returned home was 
the victim of gamblers and other parasites. 
For two or three days he might stop at one of 
the hotels until he selected the parcels of his 
outfit from the piles which had been thrown 
indiscriminately on the shore by common car- 
riers in haste to have done with their contracts. 
Then, with his tent, his stove, and a cook-book, 
which was the gift of a baking-powder com- 
pany, his journey began in earnest The novelty 
of making his first flapjacks wore off by the 
time he had washed his dishes the second or 
third time. It was not long before he came to 
the conclusion that the fellow whom he had 
chosen to share all of his sorrows and joys was 
lazy. He blamed his own disinclination to rise 
in the morning and all his little failures upon 
him, as some men do upon their wives. When- 
ever he had a chance he solaced his wounded 
spirits by telling a stranger that he had put up 
with doing all of the work of his party about 
as long as he could. 

Partnerships formed so gayly in Seattle by 
men who thought that being a partner was be- 

178 



PILGRIMS' TRAILS AND TRIALS 

ing a playfellow, could not be expected to last 
long at pulling sleds through the slush and go- 
ing to bed in a robe or a sleeping-bag which 
was cheap and inefficient, with a supper of 
sandwiches made of sticky flapjacks and cold 
bacon. As he grew more angry with his part- 
ner he grew fonder of his dog. Jim might 
beat his poor Newfoundland, who was too ner- 
vous to pull even if he had ever been taught 
how ; he might put up with a poor dinner ; but 
if Tom, who was cooking, kicked the New- 
foundland for stealing the bacon off the plate 
or sticking his nose in the butter, it was the 
last straw. He demanded a division of goods 
on the spot But quarrels seldom resulted in 
blows, because they occurred when the men 
were too tired to do more than join in a con- 
test of forcible language. 

It was the man who leaves the door ajar 
at home who went to bed without washing 
his dishes. The Easterner now learned that, 
while he might know things that the Westerner 
did not, the Westerner knew better than he 
how to take care of himself. The Westerner 
always cooked a warm supper, and dried his 
footwear before going to work in the morning ; 

while the self-neglect of the Easterner made 

179 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

hundreds of doctors at Dyea and Skaguay the 
busiest in the world. Spinal meningitis was 
often the penalty of sitting down to rest when 
dripping with perspiration without throwing a 
coat over the shoulders. 

Even after their goods were on the summit 
of the Pass and the worst of their labors were 
over, many pilgrims gave up the battle. One 
by one they were thinned out until only thirty, 
five thousand were ready with their boats when 
the ice broke in Bennett This far I had 
shared their experiences and then had gone 
on ahead. Mine was the privilege of having 
been a Cheechawko and at the same time 
standing on the river bank as an old-timer 
or among old-timers, to watch the arrival of 
the pilgrimage in its unpainted, unique flotilla. 



x8o 



X 

PROFITS AND LOSSES 

Newspapers as Profit- Winners — Hearing about Dewey — A 
Drop in Eggs — Market Items — Lemons against Scurvy — 
The Mercury at iio degrees — ^An Averted Moving Day 
— Industrious Scavengers — ^The Klondyke Itself — As- 
pects OF Summer — Bandanna Hats and Pink Lemonade 
• — ^A Restaurant Trust — ^The Grasshoppers and the Ants 
— Disillusions. 

IT was only to be expected that the first boat 
of the season to shoot around the bend 
above Dawson and raise a shout which would 
bring all the population to the shore would be 
manned by a resident of Seattle with the name 
of his beloved town painted on a huge streamer 
flying from the mast. Enterprising citizens 
of the far West such as he owned the stores 
at Dyea and Skaguay, the pack-mules on the 
trail, the restaurant tents which had sprung 
up in Sheep Camp, and then, following the 
pilgrimage on to Linderman and Bennett, 
generally made money out of the Klondyke 
without having to use a spade, because of their 

i8i 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

knowledge of the life and necessities of new 
communities. This proud Seattleite with the 
boat had two hundred dozen of nominally 
"fresh'* eggs to sell, for which he received 
$3,600 within less than an hour after he had 
landed Those of the crowd who could afford 
it hurried off to the restaurant for a " squar' " 
composed entirely of " ham and ". The others, 
having to bide their time until luxuries were 
cheaper, found compensation in the items of 
news which were passed from tongue to tongue 
— ^for it had not occurred to the Seattleite to 
bring a newspaper with him. 

" Thought there was more money in eggs," 
was his aggravating explanation. "'Sposed 
you fellers wanted to eat, not read." 

As he had heard it, within a week after the 
declaration of war with Spain, the cruiser New 
York, Captain Evans in command, had re- 
duced the fortifications of Havana in three 
hours. The second Cheechawko to arrive 
assured us that this was quite untrue, and that 
two of Admiral Sampson's squadron had been 
sunk and the Spaniards were winning on every 
hand The crowd refused to believe anything 
of the kind, and the second Cheechawko re- 
ceived only $14 a dozen for his eggs. 

182 



-*- 



PROFITS AND LOSSES 

With the next boat came a single newspaper, 
soiled with bacon grease. A curbstone specu- 
lator bought it for $15, stuffed it instantly into 
his inside coat pocket, and a few minutes later 
was posting signs to the effect that all might 
hear the news of Admiral Dewey's victory read 
by paying a dollar a piece that evening. His 
entertainment would have netted him twice as 
much as it did if more than three hundred 
and fifty people could have been packed in the 
hall in which it was held. Some of the wealthy 
men considered this proceeding an outrage on 
personal liberty and made it a point to buy be- 
tween them any single copy of a paper later 
than any others that had arrived and have it 
read at once in the streets. 

Never did contrast better illustrate the com- 
parative reliability of even the most unreliable 
of modern newspapers. All winter the camp 
had not had so much as a small hand printing- 
press, and news was carried solely by word of 
mouth. Most miners have the weakness of 
exaggeration. With some it is unconscious. 
Others enjoy testing a hearer's credulity. 
Twice, up the creeks, I heard that the Conti- 
nent had declared war against England and the 

United States ; in the second instance, the de- 

183 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

tail of an Anglo-American naval victory off the 
coast of Bohemia perhaps was supplied. Such 
rumors were the natural fruit of the desire of 
Americans and Englishmen to pay compli- 
ments to one another at a juncture when the 
Anglo-Saxon alliance of the Klondyke was 
quite ready, without any assistance from Lon- 
don or Washington, to stand in arms against 
the whole world. 

Within a week some thirty boats all bring- 
ing merchandise had arrived. In momentary 
anxiety of being lodged on a sandbar, without 
stopping to make camps, their crews bending 
to the oars night and day, they had raced with 
one another to the goal of high prices. Too 
many had placed their speculative trust in eggs. 
After all, there were only four hundred work- 
ing claims, and the stomachs of each of their 
owners, and of the chief gamblers and business 
men, were little if any larger than that of the 
average human being. Eggs fell in five days 
from $1 8 to $4 a dozen and finally to $3. 

A stock of fine millinery and ladies* apparel, 
sold to the women of the town, gave to 
one fellow a profit of $5,000. The first con- 
densed milk to arrive brought $ i a can ; the 

first butter, $2.50 a pound ; the first ham, 

184 



PROFITS AND LOSSES 

$1.25 a pound, and the first sugar, $1.50 a 
pound. Lemons were more in demand in a 
scurvy-ridden country than oranges and ba- 
nanas and sold for double their price, which 
was seventy-five cents apiece. But the happiest 
of all the newcomers was the one who had the 
only boat-load of boots for a community which 
was miserable in moccasins in warm weather. 
He received $15 a pair for fifteen hundred pairs 
which had cost him $1.75 a pair in Montreal. A 
five-cent bottle of ink cost $1 ; a fifteen-cent 
golf cap, $2.50; a pen-holder, fifty cents — the 
smallest amount of dust that anyone cared to 
weigh out ; socks $2 a pair ; a broad-brimmed 
summer hat, $20 to $40 ; a small whisk broom, 
$2.50; a ready-made suit of clothes, from $50 
to $200; canned roast beef, $2.50 a can; 
canned oysters, a great luxury, $5 for a pound 
or pint can, and cigars, fifty cents to $ i apiece. 
Against the profits which such prices repre- 
sented the speculator had to set the original 
cost of the articles, the expense of transporting 
them to Dyea or Skaguay and over the one 
hundred and seventy-five miles to the foot of 
Lake Le Barge, his own fare on a steamer out 
of the country, and the loss of from three to 
six months* time. 

185 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

During the lull between the arrivals of the 
few speculators from Le Barge and the main 
body of the pilgrims from Linderman and 
Bennett, it seemed at one time not unlikely 
that Dawson might be carried down the river 
and a new town established on some sandbar. 
But there was not enough snow left on the 
mountain sides to allow the tropical sun, shin- 
ing eighteen hours out of the twenty-four and 
raising the mercury to no degrees, to accom- 
plish its apparent purpose. Never had the old- 
timers known it to be so warm so early in May, 
and never had they known the river to be so 
high. They held that the Lord was displeased 
with the prospective defilement of the country 
by an army of "clerks, farmers, and dudes." 
The Indians knew better. White man might 
be very cunning in making a boat go up stream 
by burning wood in an iron box, but Indian 
could tell him some things besides how to kill 
moose. Old Indian could count off on his 
fingers some twenty years ago when the canoe- 
ing was good on the whole town-site of Daw- 
son. That was why Indian never lived in 
Dawson but at Klondyke City. 

Day by day we saw the water approaching a 
few inches nearer to our door-sill. It began to 

i86 



PROFITS AND LOSSES 

fall just as we were thinking of putting up our 
tent on the mountain side. Only the roofs of 
some cabins in Dawson were above the level 
of the stream. The suspension bridge be- 
tween Dawson and Klondyke City, whose 
woven wire cables were earning two or three 
hundred fifty-cent tolls a day for their owners, 
was carried away along with a great pile of 
debris that it had collected. You paid fifty 
cents for being ferried from one island to an- 
other in the main street. Along the bank, stand- 
ing in their boats, pike poles in hand, were those 
easy-going ones of the inhabitants who raised 
husky dogs for sale, did a little freighting in 
the winter, and took naturally to odd jobs — 
and I might say to squaw wives — now, in the 
heyday of importance, as they rowed out in the 
strong current and brought in a tree which had 
been uprooted by the flood. If the tree was 
suitable only for firewood it was probably 
worth a quarter of an ounce, or four dollars ; 
if large enough for sawing, half an ounce. 
The average Klondyker's dislike for such work 
being quite as strong as that of the average 
man at home for scavenging, the easy-going 
had a free field and earned enough in a few 

days to buy winter outfits for themselves and 

187 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

their families, A few had even better luck. 
They caught portions of rafts — in two in- 
stances whole rafts — ^which had slipped their 
moorings up the river, and steering the sum of 
two or three months* labor of men probably 
unknown to them up to the bank, let the 
owners of the saw-mill have it at a bargain. 

A source of amusement if not of income 
was a ditch in one of the back streets, hidden 
under three or four inches of water. As you 
stepped into it up to your thighs you heard a 
roar of laughter from several men sitting on a 
prominence near by. 

" If you don't tell your friends, pardner," 
said one of them, "there's room up here for 
another, and you can enjoy yourself watchin' 
the others tumble in." 

With all the snow gone and no rainfall, the 
Yukon fell as rapidly as it had risen. The 
thawing and crumbling soft earth of the em- 
bankments of the upper reaches made it mud- 
dier than the Missouri at its worst For drink- 
ing water one had either to resort to the 
rivulets on the hiU-side, amber-colored from 
the moss, or go to the Klondyke, which, once 
sluicing was nearly finished, became so clear 
that the bottom was visible at a depth of ten 

i88 



PROFITS AND LOSSES 

or twelve feet, while the eddies and rapids of 
its current as seen from the mountain tops, 
left a dark, comet-like streak, stretching from 
its mouth for a distance of two or three miles 
on the cafd-au-lait surface of the mother stream. 
By the fifteenth of June the river-bank was 
lined with the boats of the pilgrims, two or 
three deep. A city of canvas, with the old 
cabins and buildings as its heart, extended 
until the neighboring heights were dotted with 
tents. Knowledge of boat-building had turned 
out to be a misfortune, if anything, for the 
scows moved just as fast with the current and 
proved quite as easy to manage, I was told, as 
smaller craft pointed at both ends. The bow 
of each vessel bore the number which had been 
put on by the Mounted Police when they 
examined outfits for a second time for custom 
purposes at Le Barge or Tagish. Beside it 
was the name of the pilgrim's home town, of 
his sweetheart, his wife, or his daughter, put 
on with coal if he had no paint. From the 
mast fluttered a red bandanna, a towel, or pos- 
sibly some absurdly elaborate flag which had 
been made in the idle hour between the com- 
pletion of the boat and his embarkation. If 

there were three in a boat, which is the best 

189 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

working number for a Klondyke party, one was 
in the bow on the watchout for sandbars, the 
second was at the oars, and the third in the 
stem with a sweep. Navigation had its perils, 
too. The river as well as the Pass had 
claimed its victims. You heard on every 
hand tales of wrecks in White Horse Rapids 
and in Thirty Mile River, whose hidden rocks 
had proven even more dangerous than the 
White Horse Rapids. Many a scow with 
merchandise which had cost its owner his last 
cent was split in two, and those on board 
were thankful to find themselves on shore 
alive. 

In their camps, the pilgrims found the mos- 
quitoes of summer worse than the cold of 
winter. Fevers and headaches upon their ar- 
rival in Dawson were the consequences of 
exposure under the sun. It was even the fate 
of a few to be taken at once to the big log 
hospital on the hill-side which already had 
more patients than it could accommodate ; 
and of a part of these to be buried in the 
little cemetery beyond the hospital, which gives 
to relatives of the deceased the sombre satis- 
faction of knowing that its inmates, lying at 

a depth where the earth never thaws, are 

190 



PROFITS AND LOSSES 

preserved for all time — unless the town-site 
itself one day is marked by hydraulics. 

Between the pilgrims when I met them in 
Seattle and when I met them again in Dawson 
there was all the difference of volunteers in 
new uniforms going forth to war and the 
dust-stained men who return. Their tents, so 
white and new in Dyea, had patches where 
holes had been burned by sparks or by care- 
lessly hung candles. Their canvas bags of 
provender were the color of the Yukon. 
Their cheap sheet-iron stoves were so badly 
warped that the oven had ceased to bake well. 
Their beards were unkempt, their faces tanned. 
The knees of their trousers proved again how 
helpless a man is when alone with a needle. 
Many were still wearing caps. A few had 
made substitutes for summer hats out of wire, 
straw, fir twigs, and a bandanna. If the Seattle 
and the Vancouver merchants could have seen 
the outfits which they had sold after three or 
four months* usage, they themselves might have 
wondered at the skill of the manufacturers in 
making little seem a great deal by the use of 
varnish. 

Very wisely the Canadian Government had 

provided that every pilgrim entering Canadian 

191 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

territory must have eleven hundred pounds, or 
a year's supply of food. Flour was the cheap- 
est thing to bring an outfit that lacked two or 
three hundred pounds up to the requirements. 
Almost without exception the pilgrims had 
failed to realize the importance of luxuries in 
contributing a healthful and sustaining diet in 
the North. Flour sold on July ist, after the 
commercial companies began to receive sup- 
plies, for $6 a sack, but white sugar sold 
for fifty cents a pound. Everybody had enough 
of staples, but many had eaten all their sugar- 
the larger part of their dried fruits, soup prep, 
arations, and canned delicacies and smoked or 
chewed all of their tobacco. It was easy to 
promise themselves on the trail that if they 
indulged themselves in "something good" 
after, a hard day's work they could buy more 
of the same article in Dawson. For they were 
certain that a great many of their comrades 
intended to sell their outfits and leave the 
country at once — so many of their comrades 
did. But they, too, had eaten all their butter 
and evaporated eggs and kept any tobacco they 
had lest they should run out of it on the way 
home. 

Pilgrims who had goods to sell hastened to 

192 



PROFITS AND LOSSES 

find a niche for a booth on the busy main 
street, where you could buy peanuts and pink 
lemonade, or the substantial of eating ; patent 
leather shoes, yellow-backed novels, and cheap 
jewelry, or the substantials of wearing apparel. 
The six restaurants formed a trust and kept the 
price of a meal up to $2.50. In furnishing 
them with meat, the men who had used oxen 
for drawing their outfits up to the Scales and 
again to draw them over the lakes, now had 
reason to laugh back at the friends who had 
scoffed at them for thinking that any animal 
except a dog or a mule was useful in Alaska. 
An ox sold for $700 or $800 and was butchered 
at once before it had a chance to eat any more 
hay — ^which was worth $100 a ton — while the 
rich men stood by to see that they got the ten- 
derloin. Besides beefsteak, we had moose- 
steak. One moose, who had possibly come 
back to his old pastures out of curiosity, was 
shot with a revolver only a mile out of town. 
His slayer, who met him ambling along the 
white man's trail as if he were on a stampede 
to some new creek, sold his carcass for $500. 

Carpenters got employment at $15 a day 
on some one of the new dance halls, saloons, 

and stores which were being built as fast as 

193 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

green lumber for their construction could be 
obtained. Pilgrims without any trade, if they 
were wise, immediately secured logs and built 
a cabin, which served them at once as a tem- 
porary home, a storehouse for their supplies, 
and assured them warmth and shelter when 
winter should come. But the grasshoppers were 
far more numerous than the ants. The debil- 
itating climate of summer, joined with the in- 
decision of whether to leave the country or 
to remain, of whether to go down the river to 
the American side or up the river to Stewart 
if they did remain, supplied the majority with 
a good excuse for idleness. Some did not 
even put up tents on the shore, but kept house 
in their boats which they had moored to the 
bank. They sat on logs discussing their experi- 
ences in shooting the rapids, and they kept 
watch of the new arrivals for the purpose of 
guying anyone who had started before them- 
selves but had arrived later. 

There was something pitiful as well as ri- 
diculous in the disappointment of the pilgrim 
who had believed everything that he read in 
the press-agents* pamphlets, to find that a rich 
claim was not to be had for working it When 

he put his new gold-pan and a pack on his 

194 



PROFITS AND LOSSES 

back and went up the trail to the creeks, where 
possibly he found a few colors in a rivulet, the 
old-timers laughed at him and asked him if he 
liked prospecting well enough to pan ground 
that was staked two years ago. If he carried a 
revolver they begged him, please not to shoot 
them. Wearily, and with all his visions dis- 
pelled, he returned to Dawson. His tent was 
no protection from the sun of midday. At 
night the light made it difficult for him to 
sleep. As he fried his fat bacon he could not 
help thinking that it was just strawberry time 
on the " outside." 

Few pilgrims had any money and those who 
had were inclined to spend it on the luxuries 
which their palates craved. They walked up 
and down the main street like the crowd at a 
country fair; looked on at the drinking and 
gambling of the successful miners and mar- 
velled at the amount of dust that passed over 
the saloon-keeper's scales ; and slouched in and 
out of the stores of the two commercial com- 
panies to see the bulletin board, which had the 
list of names of men for whom letters had 
been received. If they might not visit the 
new variety theatre, with gambling hall and 
bar attached, where actresses from 'Frisco and 

195 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

Seattle sang the songs of a local poet contain- 
ing spirited references to the rich claim-owners 
— who, in return for the compliment, opened 
champagne at $30 a bottle between the "turns," 
— they could at least enjoy the sights of the 
river bank. In the absence of so great an 
event as the arrival of a scow with mules or the 
latest papers on board, some ** pardners " were 
either quarrelling or dividing their outfits pre- 
paratory to selling them. With the first 
steamer from down the river came the news 
from Circle City, which meant a great deal to 
the old-timers. The Cheechawkos could not 
understand it, but, as became a crowd which 
gets only a glimpse into the inside world, they 
made the most of the peeps and simulated 
intense interest. 

One day a midget of a steamer, the first to 
shoot White Horse Rapids — her parts had 
been packed over the Pass and put together on 
Bennett — ran in between two scows and tied up 
so quietly that not more than three or four hun- 
dred men saw it. Their pride was no greater 
than the disappointment of the multitude, who 
refused to forgive the captain until they learned 
that his whistle was out of gear. 

Next to knowing them personally, the Chee- 

196 



PROFITS AND LOSSES 

chawkos enjoyed having the leading citizens and 
the foremost gamblers pointed out to them. 
They knew the story of how the Eldorado kings 
had made their fortunes, and how Jack Smith 
had once bet $7,000 on the turn of a card. Now 
and then they caught a glimpse of the tall, raw- 
boned Scotchman who was the richest man in 
the country. Two years before he had been a 
day laborer at Circle City. When the value of 
Eldorado claims was an uncertain quantity he 
bought one of the best for $800. He spent 
all the first year's output in buying undeveloped 
properties, and then bought still others upon 
his promise to pay, which the miners accepted 
without any written word. The clean-up had 
vindicated his judgment. Now the fact that he 
had stopped on a trail to look at a claim was sup- 
posed to increase its speculative value. 

And speculation still continued in both min- 
ing property and real estate. A French-Cana- 
dian who had paid $5 for a front lot just after 
the town -site was staked still held out persist- 
ently for $20,000, with slight prospect of getting 
it The " bottom " was out of the ** boom," as 
every man who supported himself by gambling 
or speculation well knew. No new strikes were 

made except on a few benches. None could be 

197 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

made on the creeks at a season of the year when 
the seepage from the thawing earth would fill a 
pro^>ect-hole as fast as it was dug. Autumn and 
winter have ever been the time for prospecting 
in the Klondyke, and summer the time for cabin 
building or for taking provisions to the heads of 
some of the tributaries in poling-boats prepara- 
tory to prospecting. 

Roughly but surely the lesson was forced 
home to the pilgrim that a fortune cannot be 
made in the Klondyke in a hurry. If he would 
have a claim he must find it. Even after he has 
found it, he must spend two or three years, un- 
less he sells it, taking out its treasure. If it 
were not for the humiliation of facing their 
friends from whom they had parted with mer- 
ry good-bys, nine out of every ten of the 
pilgrims would have returned home at once. 
Thirty per cent of them did, as it was. Two- 
thirds would have gone if many had not loitered 
on in their tents until it was too late to go ex- 
cept over the ice. The tenth man developed 
those characteristics of patience and noncha* 
lance in dealing with obstacles which the veteran 
prospector possesses by experience and by nat- 
ure. For such as lacked this spirit and re- 
mained in the country there was the prospect 

198 



PROFITS AND LOSSES 

of loitering in their cabins until their supplies 
were eaten, in the hope of getting a good claim 
on a stampede, or of going to work for wages. 
In all, the pilgrims must have spent $30,000,- 
000, or $40,000,000, on outfits and transporta- 
tion. (The output of gold in the Klondyke 
for the year was $1 1,000,000.) But they have 
paved the way with their failures for the devel- 
opment of a vast expanse of country whose 
abounding wealth is unquestioned. The hard- 
ships of a journey to Dawson are of the past 
An aSrial tramway, without groans or perspira- 
tion, does the work of the packers at one-fifth 
of the expense on Chilcoot, and a railroad car- 
ries passengers as well as freight over the whole 
Pass. Steamers ply on both the upper and 
lower branches of the river connecting at White 
Horse Rapids with others plying on the lakes. 
Hereafter, the mines of the Klondyke will be 
an established institution, like the mines of Cali- 
fornia, and the prospectors who go there, better 
fitted for their tasks. 



X99 



XI 

GOVERNMENT 

The Canadian Policy in the Yukon Province— Taxes and 
Fees— The Gold Commissioner's Office— Conflicts be- 
tween Territorial and Dominion Governments— Timber 
(jRANTS— The Value of the Mounted Police— The Newly 
Rich at Dawson— The Order of the Yukon Pioneers — 
Mrs. Constantine. 

IN its policy the Dominion Government, 
which took matters out of the hands of 
the Territorial Government after the Klondyke 
"boom" began, has apparently been largely 
influenced by the predominance of aliens in 
the Klondyke. At least three-fourths of the 
2,000 men in and around Dawson in the 
winter of 1897-98 and of the 35,000 pilgrims 
of the spring of 1898, were citizens of the 
United States. Naturally, the members of 
the Canadian Parliament regarded with dis- 
may the prospect that the new-found wealth 
of a portion of their domain hitherto con- 
sidered valueless was going to American mints, 

and that their constituents would be paying 

200 



GOVERNMENT 

the expenses of administration, which, owing 
to the isolation of the region to be governed, 
must be comparatively expensive, for the benefit 
of another country. 

Accordingly, the placer regions of the Yukon 
Valley lying in British territory were created 
a special province called the Yukon District, 
under the jurisdiction of the Dominion Parlia- 
ment. A Commissioner, with the powers of 
a dictator, was appointed for the District, the 
Judge of the district alone being responsible 
to Ottawa and not subject to the Commis- 
sioner's orders. The other civil officials were 
a Gold Commissioner, who had charge of the 
recording of claims, a Crown Attorney, and 
two Mining Inspectors for collecting the royal- 
ties. The opportunities of the officials for 
their own aggrandizement were exceptional 
by reason of the system of taxation devised. 
On the output of all claims a royalty of ten 
per cent, was collected. Every pilgrim had 
to take out a mining license at a cost of $io. 
For having a claim recorded a fee of $ 1 5 was 
charged. Every alternate claim on all new 
discoveries was reserved to the Crown, thus 
depriving the community of half the reward 

of enterprise. These restrictions drove a great 

201 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

many experienced American prospectors to the 
other side of the boundary line and at the 
same time served the inexperienced as an ex- 
cuse for returning home. 

Major J. M. Walsh, who was chosen Com- 
missioner, did not go to Dawson in the autumn 
of 1897. His corps of civil officials preceded 
him while he remained behind in camp on the 
Lewes Lakes, with a considerable force of 
police, in order to escort to Dawson the United 
States Relief Expedition. 

Among the foremost charges of maladmini- 
stration made against the civil officials was the 
one in connection with the water front, data 
of which were given to me by several leading 
men. The Canadian law provides that the 
main street of a new town shall be at all points 
a certain distance from the bank of the river. 
In order not to have a crooked main street, 
the men who staked the town-site of Dawson 
agreed to follow this measurement, from the 
greatest indentation of the bank, in a straight 
line. Those who bought lots on the main 
street supposed that they were securing river 
frontage, which is invaluable. The spring of 
1898 however, saw a long row of buildings 

whose back-doors were toward the river and 

20a 



GOVERNMENT 

which faced the original row. The officials 
had let the water-front to an individual for a 
nominal sum in the name of the Government. 
The sub-lessees said, with a shrug of their 
shoulders, that they did not care to say to 
whom they paid their heavy rents, and that 
they were satisfied as long as they were left 
undisturbed. 

Captain Constantine, who had been trans- 
ferred from the charge of the police at Forty 
Mile to the same position at Dawson, was an 
old fashioned executive. His departure in the 
summer of 1898 was agreeable to him as well 
as to the other officials, because he was alone 
among uncongenial company. He understood 
the miners ; and they knew that, though gruflF, 
he was honest and incorruptible. Even the 
lawless ones admitted this much ; for in no 
community is simple integrity enforced by a 
strong will better appreciated than in a mining- 
camp. Had he been retained as administrator 
of the whole district, with the power to choose 
his own assistants, Dawson would have been 
a phenomenally well-governed settlement from 
the start, and the development of the great 
wealth of the region would have been less re- 
tarded. Instead of men who had spent their 

803 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

lives among pioneers, the Dominion Govern- 
ment sent, as the reward for party service, men 
whose experience was limited to local politics 
at home. With hundreds of experts to choose 
from in British Columbia, an ex-captain of a 
whaler and an ex-livery-stable-keeper were 
made inspectors to collect the royalty of lo per 
cent, on an output of eleven millions of gold 

Considering the expense of recording a 
claim, the owners of claims and the prospec- 
tors had at least the right to expect from the 
Gold Commissioner's Office reasonable atten- 
tion to duty. To have posted in a public place 
a detailed map of the district, with all claims 
and the names of their owners recorded, would 
have required little labor and no expense ; but 
it would have ruined the business of the clerks 
in furnishing information. Considering the 
number of policemen with idle hands, mail re- 
ceived in the summer might have been sorted 
with dispatch and distributed at different win- 
dows under different heads. But a delay of 
two or three days, and the prospect of waiting 
in Kne for several hours before one could even 
ask if there was a letter for him, were strong 
incentives, to miners who wished to hurry back to 

their claims, to put a few dollars into an itching 

204 



GOVERNMENT 

palm, and in return to receive immediate atten- 
tion at the side-door of the Post-Office. 

Unfortunately the arrival of Major Walsh in 
Dawson in the spring was not productive of 
the reforms which an oppressed population had 
hoped for. The acts of the officials, except 
that of a representative of the Northwest 
Territory in placing a tax of $2,000 each on 
saloons and gambling-halls, seemed to meet 
with the favor of the Commissioner. He main- 
tained that the Territorial Government was in- 
fringing on the special powers granted to him 
by the Dominion Government ; and he issued an 
order that anyone who chose might sell liquor 
without any form of license. 

The buildings on the water-front stood in 
the way of even a primitive system of sewer- 
age. Simple sanitary rules were not promul- 
gated, much less enforced. Absolutely no pre- 
cautions were taken against the epidemic of 
fever, which was responsible for so many 
deaths. Private beneficence built the two hos- 
pitals, and it now maintains them and carries 
on all charitable undertakings. Whatever has 
been done in the way of improvements has 
been paid for by public subscriptions. The 

full measure of the Government's public spirit 

205 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

was the construction of the barracks and stock- 
ade for the Police on the Government Reserve. 
Had some of the money collected from the 
claim-owners and the prospectors been expen- 
ded on constructing trails and on a system of 
sanitation, there would have been less ground 
for complaint. Doing nothing itself, the Gov- 
ernment often took the position of the dog in 
the manger. The exorbitant price demanded 
for a charter forced capitalists to give up the 
plan of building a railroad from Dawson to the 
mines, which would have been invaluable in 
cheapening the cost of mining. After paying 
for timber privileges in their licenses, the pil- 
grims found, to their dismay, that the Govern- 
ment, or the officials, had given enormous tim- 
ber grants in the neighborhood of Dawson to 
individuals, thus putting an artificial value on 
logs for firewood and building purposes. 

Very properly the loudest complaints arose 
from Englishmen, Australians, and South Afri- 
cans. If the new laws were directed against 
Americans, they injured Canadians and other 
British subjects equally as much, if not more. 
From the first, London regarded the Klondyke 
as a great field for exploration, and most of the 

capital represented there last spring was British. 

206 



GOVERNMENT 

The royalty of lo per cent, and the failure to use 
the money so collected in constructing trails have 
been, however, more injurious to capitalistic en- 
terprise, which is largely British, than to indi- 
vidual enterprise, which is largely American. A 
poor man who takes from $5,000 to $50,000 out 
of a bench-claim with his own hands will not 
be deterred from his labors by the royalty. 
But 10 per cent, on the gross output makes 
a majority of company propositions impracti- 
cable. Often it will wipe out a goodly profit, 
and put a balance on the wrong side of the ledger. 
As soon as it was known that the Dominion 
Government would not heed the appeals for the 
abolition of the royalty, the reaction from the 
" boom " was complete. The appointment of 
Mr. Ogilvie, the new Commissioner, who has a 
reputation for probity, was as welcome to the 
aliens as to the other residents. He at once 
set about the work of making reforms. 

Too much cannot be said in praise of the 
personnel of the Northwest Mounted Police — 
mounted only in name, for they have not a 
single horse in the Klondyke — which is largely 
drawn from the ranks of the young English- 
men who enjoy ** roughing it." In preserving 

order they are good-natured but severe. Male- 

207 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

factors are punished with the commendable 
promptness of British justice ; and no murderer 
in Dawson can snap his fingers in the face of 
the law as one did at Skaguay. At Skaguay 
there was no order ; at Dawson too much civil 
government 

For the first winter, being populated entirely 
by men from the old camps, Dawson was, of 
course, largely a sociological counterpart of 
Forty Mile and Circle City, except that the ex- 
citement and the feverish optimism, which in- 
creased as the new discoveries continued to 
surpass expectations, had hitherto been un- 
known in the valley. The contamination of 
the old customs began with the arrival of the 
fifteen hundred madly hastening pilgrims who 
succeeded in reaching Dawson before naviga- 
tion was closed in the autumn of 1897. It was 
complete with the arrival of the great pilgrim- 
age with its element of toughs, gamblers, and 
other parasites. The time had passed when 
every man nodded to whomsoever he met 
Dawson had become a settlement not of neigh- 
bors, but, like Mecca, of strangers. The old- 
timers were developing those human weak- 
nesses which are brought out in sharp relief by 

the sometimes doubtful blessing of great and 

208 



GOVERNMENT 

unexpected success. Practical communism 
was easier for a man when he and his com- 
rade were equally poor than after chance had 
made him the owner of a plot of creek bed 
worth from $500,000 to $1,000,000, while his 
comrade, who had been too late in the stam- 
pede to stake a claim on Eldorado, was among 
his employees. 

There sprang up as a consequence an aris- 
tocratic social circle called the Eldorado Kings, 
suffering, in a measure, from the affliction of 
the nouveaux riches of old communities who 
live miserably under the suspicion that whoever 
approaches them has an axe to grind. Yet they 
did not forget their duties to their less fortu- 
nate fellows. They gave bountifully to the 
churches, to the hospitals, and for the care of 
those poor Cheechawkos who lay ill in their 
tents. Upon a special occasion, the Order of 
the Yukon Pioneers — perhaps the death of a 
comrade or perhaps a church sociable, where 
you bought ice-cream made from condensed 
milk for $2.50 a plate — appeared together 
wearing broad blue ribands. Foremost among 
them was Jack McQuestion. He was keeping 
a trading post when the first prospectors entered 

the Yukon Valley. The old miners came to 

209 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

him to settle disputes, and the poorest of them 
asked him for the loan of an ounce of dust 

On the day before the departure of our 
steamer for the outside, attired in their best 
clothes and wearing their ribands, the old- 
timers presented to Captain Constantine an 
address of appreciation and a peck of nuggets. 
Then Jack McQuestion went over to the bar- 
racks and asked that Mrs. Constantine should 
share with her husband the central position in 
a photographic group of all the pioneers. She 
consented. 

The Captain's wife had been her husband's 
companion during his service on the Yukon. 
When she was quite ill one winter and had 
to remain in her cabin from one short day's 
end to another — ^with long, dark, monotonous 
nights between them — ^the kindnesses shown 
to her were not limited to the devotion of her 
stalwart husband or the attention of ruddy- 
faced privates, whose Cockney accent told 
how far they were from the motherland of 
commonplaces and restraints. The miners who 
came to the door to inquire how she was get^ 
ting on, devised means of entertaining her over 
their pipes and cabin fires, and then were some- 
times too bashful to put them into execution. 

210 



r 



GOVERNMENT 

For one thing they learned by heart the con- 
tents of some old humorous journals in camp. 
Though she had been the first person to 
receive the journals when they had been 
brought down the river the preceding sum- 
mer, she did not say so, and listened with 
gentle patience to their jokes being retold 
again and again. 

" Mrs. Constantine," said one old-timer, as 
he bade her good-by, " we ain't much on 
manners, but we do know a lady when we 
see one/' 



2IX 



XII 

DOWN THE YUKON AND HOME. 

GooD-BY TO Dawson— The Extinction of the Unfit— Steam- 
boating TO St. Michaels — Mosquitoes and Sandbars — 
Pilgrims by the All- Water Route— Behring Sea— Civili- 
zation Once More. 

DESPITE the diet, the isolation, and the 
inhospitable nature of the country, many 
of the old-timers who had now realized the 
material ambition which had brought them to 
Alaska and were going home, saw the great 
crowd which gathered on the river bank to bid 
our steamer a pleasant voyage, disappear in the 
distance with a feeling of regret amounting to 
more than a momentary pang. From two to 
ten years had passed since many of them had 
seen a paved street 

" You'll wish you're back," and, "You won't 
feel natcheral," their departing friends called 
out to them. 

Out of deference to civilization everyone 
had bought certain of its habiliments. New 

213 



DOWN THE YUKON AND HOME 

red ties stood out on the background of black 
sweaters, and crumpled overalls drooped over 
patent leather shoes. Some had taken what- 
ever they could find to fit them, regardless of 
cost and incongruity. Others had halted half 
way in making out a wardrobe because they 
feared that they might not be getting the right 
styles or because they got indignant at the 
prices charged by the Dawson speculators com- 
pared with those on the outside. 

The dying woman who was the mother of 
the first white baby born in Dawson, the sal- 
low men who had limped down from the hos- 
pital just before the steamer sailed, and the 
Cheechawkos who had sold their outfits for 
just enough to pay for passage to Seattle, 
where they would have to telegraph home for 
railway fare — these had no regrets. We bur- 
ied the woman half way down the river,' two 
of the men before we reached St. Michaels, 
and a third at sea when only two days from 
Seattle. 

With good accommodations, the journey of 
eighteen hundred miles from Dawson to St. 
Michaels would have been a pleasure trip. It 
was far from that with us, owing to the Span- 
ish-American war and certain other reasons. 

213 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

The commercial company which charged us 
$300 for transportation had two steamers at 
Dawson. It held them there long enough to 
give us the questionable satisfaction of seeing 
the steamer of the rival company, which had 
been delayed in coming up the river from its 
winter quarters, arrive and cut prices before 
our steamer, having room for seventy-five pas- 
sengers, and one hundred and seventy-five on 
board, started on ahead of her sister steamer. 
We were to act as a reconnoitering force or 
a buflfer, or whatever you choose, for the sister 
steamer, which had a dozen lonely, armed 
passengers and $2,500,000 in dust on board, 
with a view to saving her treasure from a 
Spanish privateer if one were waiting for us 
at the mouth of the river, as rumor from the 
outside said. Therefore, one hundred pas- 
sengers had to sleep on the floor of the dining- 
room or on the lower deck among the Indians 
and the piles of firewood. 

Except when we ate, and when the steamer 
poked its bow into the sand in front of some 
piles of fire-wood on the bank, we could be 
fairly comfortable lounging on the decks. For 
the eleven days which the journey occupied, 

we had one tablecloth for three sittings at each 

214 



DOWN THE YUKON AND HOME 

meal. As the miners had a general disregard 
for the utility of dishes for holding things, the 
cloth did not preserve its original color, even 
in spots, for more than two days. Our food 
was bad rice, bad bacon and bread, and old 
canned roast beef, which, however, did not 
count, as we could not eat it. If the company 
had only allowed us to use our fingers instead 
of forks and knives which men who were 
"working their fare" out as waiters washed 
indifferently, I should have been much happier. 
By July, moreover, the little mosquitoes were 
out. They, and not the big ones which come 
early in the season, understand flying straight 
to the mark with rigid lance. They bit the 
Indians as well as the white men, but to no 
purpose so far as making them hurry in bring- 
ing on the wood. As soon as the steamer was 
in midstream, the buzzing mists, which could 
be resisted only by the finest netting drawn 
over the head, disappeared. 

Our principal stops in the eighteen hundred 
miles were at Forty Mile and Circle City, 
where the deserted cabins were being once 
more occupied and there was a chance that 
the old claims, which were good for their day, 

would be worked again, and of a recrudescence 

215 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

of the boom ; and at Minook, where im- 
portant discoveries had been made in the past 
winter. But we stopped also at every little 
Indian village — to please the Indians, one pre- 
sumed — where the inhabitants came out to 
meet us in their light canoes and wanted to 
sell furs and trinkets. At many of these vil- 
lages there were mission houses. We had on 
board a Russian priest, who had come up on 
the steamer from Anvik and was now return- 
ing. He was bold enough to say that he 
thought he needed this little recreation after 
having been two years alone among the 
Indians. 

We had left behind the great mountains 
below Dawson, we had seen the midnight sun 
across the vast stretches of flats below Circle 
City, and were just congratulating ourselves 
that our Indian pilot had led us through the 
last of the many shallow channels in the flats, 
when we ran on a sandbar. Our mate and his 
Indian crew labored for twenty-four hours be- 
fore we were off. The next day a hog chain 
broke and our engines were helpless. For the 
rest of the distance to St. Michaels we were 
towed by the steamer which carried the treas- 
ure and had the misery of seeing the fellows 

216 



DOWN THE YUKON AND HOME 

who had started two days after us and paid 
less fare pass us on the steamer of the rival 
company. 

At St. Michaels we met three or four 
thousand pilgrims who were going into the 
Klondyke by the all-water route. They had 
bought transportation for themselves and out- 
fits of new companies which had attempted to 
tow flotillas of river steamers built in Seattle 
to St. Michaels. Almost invariably the river 
steamers had been lost at sea between Seattle 
and Unalaska, and those who depended upon 
them for transportation to Dawson were only 
better off than others who had attempted the 
journey on decrepit sailing vessels that had 
gone to the bottom. It was a little unkind of 
our passengers, while we waited for transfer to 
an ocean steamer, to enjoy setting before them 
in the bluntest phrase an exaggerated account 
of the desperate condition of all the newcomers 
in Dawson. 

Behring Sea was placid as a lake when we 
crossed it. After two days for coaling at Una- 
laska and after five days on the Pacific, we 
entered Puget Sound on the morning of July 
1 9th. Every one on board was thinking of the 

steaks and the fruit that he would eat that 

217 



IN THE KLONDYKE 

evening for dinner. The old-timers, who had 
heretofore resented the steward's requests that 
they should not expectorate on the decks, were 
a little ill at ease at the prospect of the social 
restraint of civilization. Civilization offers 
many advantages over Dawson or Circle City 
for spending a fortune, to be sure, but such of 
the old-timers as were destined to become poor 
again — and the majority were, I think — ^would 
no doubt return to the pick and the pan as a 
wanderer returns home. 



THE END. 



2l8 



BOOKS ON OUR NEW POSSESSIONS 



COMMERCIAL CUBA 

A Book for Boslnes Men 

By WILLIAM J. CLARK 

With 8 mapCf 7 plaiiB of cities^ and 40 fuU-iwg* lllnstnitloiis, 
and a Commercial Directory of Coba. Large 8vo, $4.00 



€€ k THOROUGHLY good and useful book. We should 
/• not know where to find within another pair of 
covers so much and so carefully sifted information 
bearing on this subject. Mr. Clark's painstaking account 
of the railway and telegraph systems ; of highways and 
harbors ; of rivers and water supplies, and lighthouses ; 
of sugar and tobacco growing ; and his detailed descrip- 
tion of each province and of every city of any size, to- 
gether with a * business directory ' for the whole island, 
make his book one of great value for reference as well as 
for practical guidance. In the present situation of Cuban 
affairs it should command a wide sale. Its accuracy is 
certainly of a high order." — New York Evening Post, 



YESTERDAYS IN 
THE PHILIPPINES 

By JOSEPH EARLE STEVENS 

Wltli 33 full-page liluctratioiis from photograplis 
by the aotlior. seventh thonaand, lamo, $1.50 

«<TV7ITH the observant and indulgent eye of an old 
W traveller, Mr. Stevens has seen everything in 
the islands worth seeing, and has described 
what he has seen in a most interesting manner. . . . All 
is set forth by the narrator in a breezy, chatty way that 
would be entertaining under any circumstances." 

— Philadelphia Evening Telegraph, 



CHARLES SC3UBNER'S SONSf NEW YORK 



THE WAR ON SEA AND LAND 



THE CUBAN 
AND PORTO RICAN CAMPAIGNS 

By RICHARD HARDING DAVIS 

with 117 lllttstnitioas from photosraplis and with 
4 OMps. Twentieth thouamna, tamo, $1.50 

4 § I^TEVER has a war been reported as this has been, 
1^ and never has a history been written like this, 
by one who saw it all — while the blood was hot 
and the memory vivid." — New York World, 

c«*Y^HIS is much the most vivid and readable of all 
1. the books on the war that have appeared so far, 
and it is full of life and color and incidents that 
show the sort of stuff of which our soldiers were made. 
The book is written with a keenness, a vivacity, a skill 
and a power to thrill and to leave an impression which 
mark a decided advance over anything that even Mr. 
Davis has written heretofore." — Boston Herald, 



OUR NAVY IN THE 
WAR WITH SPAIN 

By JOHN R. SPEARS 

Author of •* The History of Our Navy " 

With 135 lllttftratloiis from piiotograplis and 
with cnarts and diagrams, lamo, $a.oo 

<«]klR. SPEARS has plainly put his best efforts into 
j^M. that mighty combat, the sea-Gettysburg of the 
war, the death-grapple of Cervera's ships and 
Sampson's. His story of the action of July 3d is superb. 
It is the most lucid and comprehensive description which 
has yet been laid before the American people, and it is 
made all the more valuable by the official chart of the 
ships' courses which accompanies it. As a whole, Mr. 
Spears's book is not only true to technical details, but it 
IS a spirited and admirable piece of literary workmanship. 
It is one of the few volumes out of the many hurriedly 
issued in the wake of the war which will endure the test 
of time and stand as a faithful, competent picture to 
future generations." — Boston Journal. 



CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS^ NEW YORK 



4 



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