North to Alaska-The Klondike

We have written a good deal about the St. Croix Valley and the California Gold Rush. If interested, check out this link: California Gold Rush. However, the gold rush in California was not the only occasion “Gold Fever” struck the country and the St. Croix Valley. There was also the Klondike gold rush of 1897-98; and even though dozens of local lads had come home broke and disillusioned from California and no doubt warned the Klondikers of the perils of “gold fever” the St Croix Valley saw scores take the first train they could catch across Canada to the Klondike. Herbert McAdam, shown above in front of his cabin in the Klondike in 1898, was one of the first to go. The cabin is a rather palatial pile for the Klondike of 1898 especially for a hard luck prospector like Herbert, but he does give the appearance of ownership.

     Herbert was a descendant of Daniel Hill, the reputed first permanent settler of Calais. We say reputed because there is evidence that a fellow named David Ferrol was living at Ferry Point when Daniel Hill arrived about 1780, but Ferrol was killed by a falling tree near his cabin on what we now call Hog Alley and Daniel Hill buried him beside the cabin. Some take the position that Ferrol became a permanent settler with his interment, thereby predating Hill for bragging rights. Klondiker Herbert hangs a few generations down the Daniel Hill family tree, being born in Milltown, NB on August 30, 1868. His father was Major Andrew McAdam, the commander of the first St. Stephen militia whose main interest, according to the family history, was target shooting and living the life of a country gentleman. The family moved to Hill’s Point from Milltown when Herbert was a boy “…from the St. Stephen social scene to the relative obscurity of Hill’s Point after which he (Major McAdam) still continued to live the life of a country gentleman, he either didn’t want to or didn’t know how to work.”

     Herbert and his brother Roy did all the work around the farm and managed the fish weirs which provided the family with much of its income. In 1897 Herbert married a neighbor, Mary Simpson of Oak Bay, but it appears marriage didn’t really suit Herbert for within a year he had boarded a train to Edmundston on the first leg of his journey to the Klondike. Over a year later he reported home in a letter that he was on the Fraser River prospecting and thought he had a good chance of “striking it rich” but his luck, like nearly everyone else’s in the Klondike, was no better than the weather or the food and he signed on as a cook in a lumber camp. The photo above may well have been taken in the lumber camp as the cabin seems, as noted above, pretty nice for a hard-luck prospector’s abode.

     He eventually had to admit defeat but had no intention of coming home. The Boer War had broken out, and he desperately tried to join the Canadian regiment “Strathcona Horses” deploying to South Africa. Disqualified by a limp from an old injury, he reluctantly returned to Hill’s Point with a few small nuggets and his limp to live out the rest of his life, according to his obituary, in a retiring, unassuming manner. He died at Hill’s Point on June 18, 1941. Herbert and Mary had no children.

     Likely, Herbert and nearly all the locals took the “Poor Man’s Route” to the Klondike shown in Figure 1 above which went from Seattle to Skagway and over one of the passes to the Yukon. The Chilkoot Pass, shown in the second photo above, was the shortest route over the mountains but certainly not the easiest. It was a treacherous climb and backbreaking work to carry the ton of supplies required for each prospector over the Chilkoot. Easier to take was the “Rich Man’s Route” by sea to the mouth of the Yukon River and the steamboats to Dawson although even that was fraught with danger. The photo above of the docks in Seattle show there was no shortage of prospectors willing to pay to get to the Klondike. However even on the “Rich Man’s Route” a delay of even a few weeks could be fatal: the river could freeze and no amount of wealth or influence would open the Yukon until spring. Still it was much easier than the passes from Skagway.

The Eastport Sentinel, February 23, 1898:

     “The fever here is at its height. The poor devils have all lost their heads and there will be more mourning among the gold seekers than rejoicing. There are very few who have paused to consider what they have undertaken. Gold does not lie on the surface from the landing at Skagway to the Klondike nor is the ground in any condition to dig in as it is in the Pine Tree State in the month of August. Alas, No! It is a frozen mass which must be thawed after one has found a location to commence the thawing process. But before one can begin to thaw, they must reach their destination and what does that imply.

     First, they must go to the expense of reaching Puget Sound (Seattle) where their troubles begin. An outfit is then in order. That will disfigure $200 sadly. Transportation to Dyea and freighting the outfit will touch one’s heart as well as their pocket. Duties will then cause them to lose their religion. Packing, if they are to pay for the same, will make then swear outright. If they cannot stand the pressure and have to do their own work 19 of 20 will turn back.

     Why? From the fact that the undertaking is of gigantic proportions and the ordinary individual has not paused to consider what he is about. He will have 27 miles of hard packing before him. I realize New England produced some good men but none are able to shoulder 2000 pounds and walk away with it. No- they will find when they have journeyed 27 miles over a hard trail 50 pounds is as much as they will care to pack day in and day out. 50 pounds means 27 miles one way and 27 miles back for another load, that means 54 miles and 50 pounds landed on the journey, 100 pounds necessitates the carry of 108 miles multiplied by 20 gives, if I mistake not, 2160 miles and only 27 miles to be gained.”

     (Note: Each prospector was required by regulation to have a ton of provisions to enter the Klondike over one of the passes and the 27 treks only got the gold seeker over the pass; most of the journey, including building boats to navigate the lake and rivers, still lay ahead)

     Nonetheless many scores from this area disregarded the risks.

The Calais Advertiser, March 23, 1898:

     The Klondike is to have some gold seekers from this section. J. Bonness, W.E. McElroy, R.I. Todd, P.F. McKenna, Maurice McGarrity, Mrs. A.D. Taylor and Maud Bonness of St. Stephen; W. Lamb, Bert Greenlaw, Stephen Chambers and D. Mayers of Calais, and Guy Falconer of Milltown are perfecting arrangements to start in April or as early as accommodations can be secured. A second party will include Aaron Cross, George Pinder, and Edward Price.

The Eastport Sentinel, May 4, 1898:

     Messrs. Rice, Capen and Holmes left Seattle on Monday last for Dyea and are well on their way to the land of gold. They decided after leaving here to make their way through the Chilkoot Pass.

The Calais Times:

     W. Lamb of this city left for the Klondike Monday evening in the company of Aaron Cross and Edward Price of St. Stephen and Mr. Stinson of St. Andrews. Many friends assembled at the station to bid them farewell and express hopes of their success.

     Even the small town of Danforth sent William Kingston, Elisha Gilpatrick, Charles Hoyt, John Stevenson, William Clay, Charles Smith, and John Fitzpatrick.

One of the most popular fellows from Calais to be enticed by the lure of gold in the Klondike was Dan Linnehan. Dan was a cobbler by trade but a musician and drum major by temperament. According to Ned Lamb, Dan served in the Civil War and would occasionally kick his feet in the air and walk down the sidewalk on his hands. He was much beloved in Calais. In fact, long after he left for the Klondike, he was listed in the Calais Directory until in 1901 the entry simply stated “Linnehan, Daniel – removed to Klondike.”  According to Ned:

There was another side of Dan you would hardly expect, and that was raising canary birds for sale, both at his home and at the shop. He also managed abaseball team until about the whole team went berserk up at Princeton and then he gave that up.

But Dan got the Gold Fever. Not the California one of course, but the last one and in Alaska and in spite of his age went. But there was no need of Dan Linehan using pick and shovel. He was just a right man in the right place. He could make shoes, and there was much of that to be done and the miners would pay almost any price for a good pair of boots. They were hand pegged andhand sewed, and they had to be rugged to stand the work over the pass. Fifty dollars a pair was not too much to pay for a good pair made to your measure. You put your foot on a piece of sole leather and the cob­bler would scratch around your foot with an awl, take same other measurements and you would go back and try them on. They might be boots that laced almost up to the knees or the long-legged kind that you pull­ed on by the aid of strap loops that went over the edge at the top. They were kept greased with mutton tal­low, or up there perhaps bears’ grease, but they had to be strong. Perhaps a gambler who never went out of town might want a pair made of fine leather and he paid accord­ingly. Dan prospered, perhaps more in pegging shoes than many that dug the gold. But at last he came back to the States, but just for a visit. His daughter, Mrs. Todd (Lillian) was living in Oklahoma City and it was there he went. But Dan had trouble with his feet. He was never satisfied to keep them in one place very long. He stood it as long as he could, but the call of Alaska was strong. So in spite of his age he went back. He lived about two years and died there and is buried by the side of Dyer Pass. Thus Daniel Linehan, who gave Milltown and the neighborhood a lot of pleasure, is resting in a lonely pass in Alaska, and may his rest be peaceful.

The Eastport Sentinel, 1899:

     Klondike Luck at the present time seems to mean the safe arrival of the prospector at the front gate of a sympathetic relative in the States.

 Most of the folks who went to the Klondike did return, broke but wiser and many contributed a good deal to the social and economic life of the St. Croix Valley. None as far as we know other than Herbert McAdam brought back even a few nuggets. Otis Goodwin of Eastport, returned from the Klondike but settled elsewhere. Goodwin went to Milton, Delaware and started a successful business. He and his wife took the steamship up the coast to Eastport every year to visit his mother Almira. We’ll close with a letter he sent when beginning his adventure as a Klondiker. 

The Eastport Sentinel, May 4, 1898:

     Through the kindness of one of our boys we are permitted to give you an extract from a Lubec boy on his way to the frozen Klondike: 

     “I left home just two months ago. It was my intention to make the trip alone, but I fell in with eight young men at the Quincy House, all from the State of Maine, and they urged me to join their party, saying there was strength in numbers. We came over the Canadian Pacific via Montreal, and made the trip without incident, except being delayed eight hours on the Rockies on account of a snow slide. We arrived in Vancouver eight hours late and I was amused to hear a tenderfoot remark as he stepped from the train, “Thank God the worst of the trip is over.” After spending two days in Vancouver we went from there to Victoria and from there to Seattle, where we found a hustling western city, and it really seemed good to see the Stars and Stripes flying after ten days of being in Canadian territory. We purchased most of our outfits from the Hudson Bay Company in Vancouver, who have been in business there over 100 years, and have trading posts all through British Columbia. We sailed from Vancouver on March 4, arriving at Skaguay on the 9th. We stopped at Fort Wrangle [sic] a few hours on our way up, and also at Juneau giving us plenty of time to go on shore and mail letters and take in the sights. I was much interested in the Totem poles at Wrangle [sic] which the Indians worship, and to see a squaw taking the peel off a deer, while her husband stood around smoking his pipe and bossing the job. I bought some moccasins and a real seal skin cap and took a Star soap mirror from my vest pocket to see how my hat fitted, when the young squaws commenced to grin and talk. They wanted to trade some fancy articles for the mirror but as it was the only one we had in the party I concluded we had better keep it to see our whiskers grow. I am offering mine at 5 a bag but can’t get a buyer. Whiskers are the only thing that are cheap in this country. Hearing of so much sickness in Skaguay and that the hotels were crowded, I concluded I’d sleep comfortably at whatever hotel I struck, and before leaving the steamer I rolled my blankets up in a tarpaulin and as I stepped on the wharf an officer tapped me on the shoulder and said “Two bits, please (25 cents?) I asked him what for and he said wharfage on the blankets. One does not want to start this trip with less than a thousand dollars and then should put five hundred dollars in his belt for incidentals. Hay is selling for four hundred dollars a ton, flour $35 a barrel, pitch $5 a pound, candles $1 apiece, tobacco $2.50 per pound, cigars 50 cents each and a poor quality at that. I was told by some boys coming up from Dawson that they got out of salt and they exchanged with some of the boys going in a pound of nuggets for one pound of salt. Our cache consists of about six tons and we value it highly after paying 15 cents a pound to get it here. We had three bags of bacon and a 50 lb. bag of granulated sugar stolen from our cache the other night. We did not care so much about the bacon as we have more than we can possibly use but replaced the sugar this morning by paying 30 cents a pound for it. We use the sugar on our oatmeal and such things but for our tea and coffee we use saccharine, one pound of it being equal to 500 lbs. of sugar. We have evaporated vegetables of all kinds. And desiccated eggs, which they claim are equal to fresh eggs, but our cook is so saving of them he has not tried them yet, although we declared this morning that today is Easter Sunday. My appetite is simply immense and haven’t had a cold although the thermometer was down to 25 degrees below zero the other night and I slept in a canvas tent and had no fire. I have three blankets weighing 15 lbs. each and with a toque pulled over my head it might go to 40 below and I wouldn’t mind the air is so dry up here. I was talking with a man from Dawson yesterday and he said the lowest estimate placed on the washups this spring was 60 tons or about thirty million dollars. I expect when the newspapers get this and double it once or twice there will be another grand rush here. No doubt long before this reaches you will hear of the terrible snow slide on the Chilkoot Pass. Up to yesterday they had taken out 64 bodies and know of 16 more missing. We came over the White Pass via Skaguay and considered it the best trail by all means at the time but I know it’s getting in bad shape. There are about a thousand to fifteen hundred dead horses between here and Skaguay which will make it very unhealthy when the weather gets hot. We don’t look for the lake to open until the first of June, so we have plenty of time to build our boats and go hunting and fishing. Two of the boys went gunning last week on snowshoes, one of them shot a ptarmigan and a rabbit while the other came crawling out with his snowshoes strapped to his back. He said he preferred to crawl than to try to walk on snowshoes. They discovered while in the woods a bundle tied up a tree and on examining it found a papoose 2 to 3 years old cold in death. We were told since that the Indians always bury their dead in trees up here in the winter season. We see lots of funny things on the trail every day and I often wish I had a camera to take a snapshot at the crowd as they are pushing on with their packs strapped and hand sleds. I met an old fat man yesterday sitting on his sled driving an Angora goat, his voiced keyed to a high “C”, git up William, git up William. I suppose he did not feel well enough acquainted with him to call him Billy.  Next came a woman who had a pair of quilted trousers, I noticed they set like mine, a little baggy at the knees. Don’t think there’s a tailor on the whole trail, but there’s all kinds of other business carried on. I don’t know where a letter will reach me but don’t send any papers for there are tons of them dumped under the P.O. at Skaguay. The carriers charge 25 cents apiece for carrying the letters out and the same for carrying them in. He brought me 27 one day last week which almost took my breath away, but I was glad to get them if some of the news was a little old. It is now eight o’clock in the evening but it’s still daylight, it’s 12:30 by your time and I suppose you’ve been in bed and asleep several hours. We get up every morning at 5 o’clock and I hope you will do the same. Write care “Lake Bennett Hotel, Northwest Territory. Write and let me know if war is declared with Spain.”

 Otis L. Goodwin

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