Dr. W. d'Arcy Chace
DR. W. D'ARCY CHACE is a "sourdough" by
virtue of all the attainments, having been a resident of Alaska and the Yukon Territory since
1896. He is not one of the old gray-bearded argonauts, as he was born in San Francisco, Cal., on
Hallowe'en, 1873. He attended the public schools
of San Francisco, and was graduated by the Medical
Department of the University of California in the
class of '96. In the month of June of the year of his
graduation he accepted the position of company surgeon of the A. C. Co., and immediately sailed for
the company's post at St. Michael. At that time St.
Michael was the most important station in Northwestern Alaska. The reminiscences of his year's sojourn
at St. Michael would make an interesting chapter.
In 1897, when his contract expired, he quit the
employ of the company and prepared to return to
San Francisco, but while waiting for a steamer, news
of the Klondike strike reached him. He changed his
plans and Went to Dawson, arriving in July of '97.
After a summer's work, the robbery of his cache and a threatened shortage of provisions
caused him to go to Circle. He practiced medicine in Circle during the winter of '97-'98,
and in the early spring returned to Dawson over the ice with a dog team. During the
summer of '99 news of the strike at Nome was confirmed in Dawson, and Dr. Chace
arranged to come down the river in the Merwin, but as the vessel did not sail, he and
Dr. T. B. Craig and Frank Wickery started for Nome in a small boat. Twenty miles
below the mouth of the Tanana the freezing of the Yukon made it necessary to devise
other means of travel.
They went into camp, and remained here until the middle of January, when they
made another start for Nome with two sleds loaded with their supplies. Three dogs
were hitched to one of the sleds and two men of the party to the other sled. Each team
worked tandem. After traveling one day and a half, and when the Doctor was in
the harness, they saw the trail of a solitary man pulling a sled. The trail criss-crossed
the regular trail in a manner that indicated bewilderment of the lone musher, and they
were not surprised when they came upon a heap of snow, a man wrapped in a robe,
with a piece of frozen bacon and a razor lying by his side. The bacon was his only
food and the razor was his means of cutting it. But the unfortunate man was in less
danger of starvation than of freezing. The weather was very cold, sixty degrees below
zero, and the man had lain in this bed five days. A camp was hurriedly made, and an
examination showed that the unfortunate was frozen beyond any remedy that could be
administered on the trail. His hands were partially frozen and both feet were frozen
to the ankles. To save his life it would be necessary to have the best surgical skill
under the most favorable conditions. There was but one thing to be done. Leaving
Mr. Wickery in charge of the camp, the doctors put the frozen man on a sled and
started for the Tanana Military Post, sixty miles distant in the direction whence they came.
In the first day's journey they covered forty-five miles and killed the faithful little leader of
their team by overwork. They delivered their charge to the commander of the post the next
day. Both of the victim's feet were amputated and parts of his hands were cut away.
He recovered, and in 1902 was in Nome. His name is Frank Connor. This is the
brief story of an incident of the trail, a peril of winter travel in Alaska, and the heroism
of men who are among the pioneers of the Northland.
Returning to the camp, Dr. Chace and his companions continued their journey
leisurely to Nome. At the mouth of the Koyukuk Chris Neibuhr, who has since become
one of the successful miners of Nome, joined the party, and all hands reached their
destination early in the spring. Dr. Chace went to the Kougarok country soon after
his arrival in Nome, and helped to organize that district. He returned from the
Kougarok the middle of April, and during the summer of 1900 practiced his profession in
Nome, and subsequently conducted Cribb's drug store. He was acting city physician
and health officer in 1901 -'02 during the smallpox scare, and was assistant city physician in 1903-'04, and the city council elected in April, 1904, appointed him city
physician, which position he holds at the date of this writing. He is one of the charter
members of Nome Aerie No. 75 F. O. E., and is physician to the order, besides being
surgeon for mining companies and several large operators of mines.
December 3, 1903, Dr. Chace was married to Delia Body, of Seattle. He is
a young man, at the age when many men are just beginning a professional career, but
he has a past rich in experience and filled with strenuous endeavor. The Arctic winters
have not chilled a temperament that is warmed by the sunshine of a genial nature. The
vast North, with its freedom of the frontier, has strengthened and broadened a mind
naturally intuitive and carefully trained in the science of medicine and the ethics of life,
as well as in the ethics of his profession, and helped to make him a type of the best class
of Alaska pioneers.
Source: Nome and Seward Peninsula by
E. S. Harrison. Seattle: The Metropolitan Press, 1905.