Alaska : The Great Country
by Ella Higginson
Every year, from June to September, thousands of
people "go to Alaska." This means that they take passage at Seattle on the most luxurious steamers that run up
the famed " inside passage " to Juneau, Sitka, Wrangell,
and Skaguay. Formerly this voyage included a visit to
Muir Glacier; but because of the ruin wrought by a recent earthquake, this once beautiful and
is no longer included in the tourist trip.
This ten-day voyage is unquestionably a delightful one ;
every imaginable comfort is provided, and the excursion
rate is reasonable. However, the person who contents
himself with this will know as little about Alaska as a
foreigner who landed in New York, went straight to
Niagara Falls and returned at once to his own country,
would know about America.
Enchanting though this brief cruise may be when the
weather is favorable, the real splendor, the marvelous
beauty, the poetic and haunting charm of Alaska, lie west
of Sitka. " To Westward " is called this dream-voyage
past a thousand miles of snow-mountains rising straight
from the purple sea and wrapped in coloring that makes
it seem as though all the roses, lilies, and violets of heaven
had been pounded to a fine dust and sifted over them ;
past green islands and safe harbors; past the Malaspina
and the Columbia glaciers; past Yakutat, Kyak, Cordova,
Valdez, Seward, and Cook Inlet; and then, still on "to
Westward " - past Kodiak Island, where the Russians
2 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
made their first permanent settlement in America in 1784
and whose sylvan and idyllic charm won the heart of the
great naturalist, John Burroughs ; past the Aliaska Peninsula, with its smoking Mount Pavloff ; past Unimak Island,
one of whose active volcanoes, Shishaldin, is the most perfect and symmetrical cone on the Pacific Coast, not even
excepting Hood - and on and in among the divinely pale
green Aleutian Islands to Unalaska, where enchantment
broods in a mist of rose and lavender and where one may
scarcely step without crushing violets and bluebells.
The spell of Alaska falls upon every lover of beauty
who has voyaged along those far northern snow-pearled
shores with the violet waves of the North Pacific Ocean
breaking splendidly upon them; or who has drifted down
the mighty rivers of the interior which flow, bell-toned
and lonely, to the sea.
I know not how the spell is wrought; nor have I ever
met one who could put the miracle of its working into
words. No writer has ever described Alaska; no one
writer ever will; but each must do his share, according
to the spell that the country casts upon him.
Some parts of Alaska lull the senses drowsily by their languorous charm; under
their influence one sinks to a passive delight and drifts unresistingly on
through a maze of tender loveliness. Nothing irritates. All is soft, velvety,
soothing. Wordless lullabies are played by different shades of blue, rose, amber, and green; by the curl
of the satin waves and the musical kiss of their cool and
faltering lips; by the mists, light as thistle-down and
delicately tinted as wild-rose petals, into which the
steamer pushes leisurely; by the dreamy poise of seabirds
on white or lavender wings high in the golden atmosphere;
by the undulating flight of purple Shadow, tiptoe, through
the dim fiords; by the lap of waves on shingle, the song
of birds along the wooded shore, the pressure of soft winds
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 3
on the temples and hair, the sparkle of the sea weighing
the eyelids down. The magic of it all gets into the blood.
The steamer slides through green and echoing reaches;
past groups of totems standing like ghosts of the past
among the dark spruce or cedar trees; through stone-
walled canyons where the waters move dark and still;
into open, sunlit seas.
But it is not until one sails on " to Westward " that the
spell of Alaska falls upon one; sails out into the wild and
splendid North Pacific Ocean. Here are the majesty, the
sublimity, that enthrall; here are the noble spaces, the
Titanic forces, the untrodden heights, that thrill and
The marvels here are not the marvels of men. They
are wrought of fire and stone and snow by the tireless
hand that has worked through centuries unnumbered and
He that would fall under the spell of Alaska, will sail
on "to Westward," on to Unalaska; or he will go North-
ward and drift down the Yukon - that splendid, lonely
river that has its birth within a few miles of the sea, yet
flows twenty-three hundred miles to find it.
Alaskan steamers usually sail between eight o'clock in
the evening and midnight, and throngs of people congregate upon the piers of Seattle to watch their departure.
The rosy purples and violets of sunset mix with the mists
and settle upon the city, climbing white over its hills; as
hours go by, its lights sparkle brilliantly through them,
yet still the crowds sway upon the piers and wait for the
first still motion of the ship as it slides into the night and
heads for the far, enchanted land - the land whose sweet,
insistent calling never ceases for the one who has once
Passengers who stay on deck late will be rewarded by
the witchery of night on Puget Sound - the soft fragrance
4 ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY
of the air, the scarlet, blue, and green lights wavering
across the water, the glistening wake of the ship, the city
glimmering faintly as it is left behind, the dim shores of
islands, and the dark shadows of bays.
One by one the lighthouses at West Point on the star-
board side, and at Point-No- Point, Marrowstone, and Point
Wilson, on the port, flash their golden messages through
the dusk. One by one rise, linger, and fade the dark out-
lines of Magnolia Bluff, Skagit Head, Double Bluff, and
Liplip Point. If the sailing be early in the evening, mid-
night is saluted by the lights of Port Townsend, than
which no city on the Pacific Coast has a bolder or more
The splendid water avenue - the burning "Opal-Way"
- that leads the ocean into these inland seas was named
in 1788 by John Meares, a retired lieutenant of the British
navy, for Juan de Fuca (whose real name was Apostolos
Valerianos), a Greek pilot who, in 1592, was sent out in a
small " caravela " by the Viceroy of Mexico in search of
the fabled "Strait of Anian," or "Northwest Passage" -
supposed to lead from the Pacific to the Atlantic north of
forty degrees of latitude.
As early as the year 1500 this strait was supposed to
have been discovered by a Portuguese navigator named
Cortereal, and to have been named by him for one of his
brothers who accompanied him.
The names of certain other early navigators are mentioned in connection with the " Strait of Anian." Cabot is
reported vaguely as having located it " neere the 318 meridian, between 61 and 64 degrees in the elevation, continuing
the same breath about 10 degrees West, where it openeth
Southerly more and more, until it come under the tropicke
of Cancer, and so runneth into Mar del Zur, at least 18
degrees more in breath there than where it began;" Frobisher ; Urdaneta, " a Fryer of Mexico, who came out of
ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY 5
Mar del Zur this way into Germanie ;" and several others
whose stories of having sailed the dream-strait that was
then supposed to lead from ocean to ocean are not now
considered seriously until we come to Juan de Fuca, who
claimed that in his " caravela " he followed the coast "untill
hee came to the latitude of fortie seuen degrees, and that
there finding that the land trended North and Northeast,
with a broad Inlet of Sea between 47 and 48 degrees of
Latitude, hee entered thereinto, sayling therein more than
twenty days, and found that land trending still sometime
Northwest and Northeast and North, and also East and
Southeastward, and very much broader sea then was at
said entrance, and that hee passed by diners Hands in that
sayling. And that at the entrance of this said Strait,
there is on the Northwest coast thereof, a great Hedland
or Hand, with an exceeding high pinacle or spired Rocke,
like a pillar, thereupon."
He landed and saw people clothed in the skins of beasts;
and he reported the land fruitful, and rich in gold, silver,
Bancroft and some other historians consider the story of
Juan de Fuca's entrance to Puget Sound the purest fiction,
claiming that his descriptions are inaccurate and that no
pinnacled or spired rock is to be found in the vicinity
Meares, however, and many people of intelligence gave
it credence ; and when we consider the differences in the
descriptions of other places by early navigators, it is not
difficult to believe that Juan de Fuca really sailed into
the strait that now bears his name. Schwatka speaks of
him as, "An explorer - if such he maybe called - who
never entered this beautiful sheet of water, and who owes
his immortality to an audacious guess, which came so near
the truth as to deceive the scientific world for many a
6 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
The Strait of Juan de Fuca is more than eighty miles
long and from ten to twelve wide, with a depth of about
six hundred feet. At the eastern end it widens into an
open sea or sound where beauty blooms like a rose, and
from which forest-bordered water-ways wind slenderly in
From this vicinity, on clear days, may be seen the Olympic Mountains floating in the west; Mount Rainier, in the
south ; the lower peaks of the Crown Mountains in the
north ; and Mount Baker - or Kulshan, as the Indians
named it - in the east.
The Island of San Juan, lying east of the southern end
of Vancouver Island, is perhaps the most famous, and ce tainly the most historic, on the Pacific Coast. It is the
island that barely escaped causing a declaration of war
between Great Britain and the United States, over the
international boundary, in the late fifties. For so small
an island, - it is not more than fifteen miles long, by
from six to eight wide, - it has figured importantly in
The earliest trouble over the boundary between Vancouver Island and Washington arose in 1854. Both countries claimed ownership of San Juan and other islands
near by, the Oregon Treaty of 1846 having failed to
make it clear whether the boundary was through the
Canal de Haro or the Strait of Rosario.
I. N. Ebey, American Collector of Customs, learning
that several thousand head of sheep, cattle, and hogs had
been shipped to San Juan without compliance with customs
regulations, visited the island and was promptly insulted
by a British justice of the peace. The Otter made her
appearance in the harbor, bearing James Douglas, governor of Vancouver Island and vice-admiral of the British
navy ; but nothing daunted, Mr. Ebey stationed Inspector Webber upon the island, declaring that he would
ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY 7
continue to discharge his official duties. The final
trouble arose, however, in 1859, when an American resident shot a British pig ; and serious trouble was precipitated
as swiftly as when a United States warship was blown up in Havana Harbor.
General Harney hastily established military quarters on one end of the island,
known as the American Camp, Captain Pickett transferring his company from Fort Bellingham for this purpose. English Camp was established on the northern
end. "Warships kept guard in the harbors. Joint occupation was agreed upon, and until 1871 the two camps
were maintained, the friendliest social relations existing
between them. In that year the Emperor of Germany
was chosen as arbitrator, amid decided in favor of the
United States, the British withdrawing the following year.
Until 1895 the British captain's house still stood upon
its beautiful bluff, a thousand feet above the winding blue
bay, the shore descending in steep, splendid terraces to
the water, stair-wayed in stone, and grown with old and
noble trees. Macadam roads led several miles across the
island ; the old block-house of pioneer days remained at
the water's edge ; and clustered around the old parade
ground - now, alas ! a meadow of hay - were the quarters of the officers, overgrown with English ivy. The
captain's house, which has now been destroyed by fire,
was a low, eight-roomed house with an immense fireplace
in each room ; the old claret- and ivory-striped wall-paper
- which had been brought "around the Horn" at immense
cost - was still on the walls. Gay were the scenes and
royal the hospitalities of this house in the good days of
the sixties. Its site, commanding the straits, is one of
the most effective on the Pacific Coast ; and at the present
writing it is extremely probable that a captain's house
may again rise among the old trees on the terraced bluff
- but not for the occupancy of a British captain.
8 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
Every land may occasionally have a beautiful sunset,
and many lands have gorgeous and brilliant ones ; but
nowhere have they such softly burning, milky-rose,
opaline effects as on this inland sea.
Their enchanting beauty is doubtless due to the many
wooded islands which lift dark green fore-stated hills
around open sweeps of water, whereon settle delicate mists.
When the fires of sunrise or of sunset sink through these
mists, the splendor of coloring is marvelous and not
equaled anywhere. It is as though the whole sound were
one great opal, which had broken apart and flung its
escaping fires of rose, amethyst, amber, and green up
through the maze of trembling pearl above it. The un-
usual beauty of its sunsets long ago gave Puget Sound
the poetic name of Opal-Sea or Sea of Opal.
After passing the lighthouse on the eastern end of Vancouver Island, Alaskan
steamers continue on a northerly course and enter the Gulf of Georgia through Active
Pass, between Mayne and Galiana islands. This pass is
guarded by a light on Mayne Island, to the steamer's starboard, going north.
The Gulf of Georgia is a bold and sweeping body of
water. It is usually of a deep violet or a warm purplish
gray in tone. At its widest, it is fully sixty miles - although its average width is from twenty to thirty miles
- and it rolls between the mainland and Vancouver
Island for more than one hundred miles.
The real sea lover will find an indescribable charm in
this gulf, and will not miss an hour of it. It has the
boldness and the sweep of the ocean, but the setting, the
coloring, and the fragrance of the forest-bordered, snow-peaked sea. A few miles above the boundary, the Fraser
River pours its turbulent waters into the gulf, upon whose
dark surface they wind and float for many miles, at sun-
rise and at sunset resembling broad ribbons of palest old
rose crinkled over waves of silvery amber silk. At times
these narrow streaks widen into still pools of color that
seem to float suspended over the heavier waters of the
gulf. Other times they draw lines of different color
everywhere, or drift solid banks of smoky pink out to
meet others of clear blue, with only the faintest thread of
pearl to separate them. These islands of color constitute
10 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
one of the charms of this part of the voyage to Alaska ;
along with the velvety pressure of the winds ; the picturesque shores, high and wooded in places, and in others
sloping down into the cool shadowy bays where the
shingle is splashed by spent waves ; and the snow-peaks
linked above the clouds on either side of the steamer.
Splendid phosphorescent displays are sometimes witnessed in the gulf, but are more likely to occur farther
north, in Grenville, or one of the other narrow channels,
where their brilliancy is remarkable.
Tourists to whom a whale is a novelty will be gratified,
without fail, in this vicinity. They are always seen
sporting about the ships, - sometimes in deadly conflict
with one another, - and now and then uncomfortably near.
In December, 1907, an exciting battle between a whale
and a large buck was witnessed by the passengers and
crew of the steamer Cassiar, in one of the bays north of
Vancouver, on the vessel's regular run from that city to
When the Cassiar appeared upon the scene, the whale
was making furious and frequent attacks upon the buck.
Racing through the water, which was lashed into foam on
all sides by its efforts, it would approach close to its
steadily swimming prey and then disappear, only to come
to the surface almost under the deer. This was repeated
a number of times, strangely enough without apparent
injury to the deer. Again, the whale would make its
appearance at the side of the deer and repeatedly endeavor
to strike it with its enormous tail ; but the deer was sufficiently wise to keep so close to the whale that this could
not be accomplished, notwithstanding the crushing blows
dealt by the monster.
The humane passengers entreated the captain to go to
the rescue of the exhausted buck and save it from inevitable death. The captain ordered full speed ahead, and
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 11
at the approach of the steamer the whale curved up out
of the water and dived gracefully into the sea, as though
making a farewell, apologetic bow on its final disappearance.
Whereupon the humane passengers shot the helpless
and worn-out buck at the side of the steamer, and he was
It may not be out of place to devote a few pages to
the average tourist. To the one who loves Alaska and
the divinely blue, wooded, and snow-pearled ways that
lead to its final and sublime beauty, it is an enduring
mystery why certain persons - usually women - should
make this voyage. Their minds and their desires never
rise above a whale or an Indian basket ; and unless the
one is to be seen and the other to be priced, they spend
their time in the cabin, reading, playing cards, or telling
one another what they have at home.
" Do you know," said one of these women, yawning into
the full glory of a sunset, " we have sailed this whole day
past Vancouver Island. Not a thing to be seen but it
and this water you call the Gulf of Georgia ! I even
missed the whales, because I went to sleep, and I'd rather
have seen them than anything. If they don't hurry up
some towns and totem-poles, I'll be wishing I'd stayed at
home. Do you play five hundred ? "
The full length of the Jefferson was not enough to put
between this woman and the woman who had enjoyed
every one of those purple water-miles ; every pearly
cloud that had drifted across the pale blue sky ; every
bay and fiord indenting the shore of the largest island on
the Pacific Coast ; every humming-bird that had throbbed
about us, seeking a rose at sea ; every thrilling scent that
had blown down the northern water-ways, bearing the
far, sweet call of Alaska to senses awake and trembling
to receive it ; who had felt her pulses beating full to the
12 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
throb of the steamer that was bearing her on to the land
of her dreams - to the land of Far Delight.
If only the players of bridge and the drinkers of pink
tea would stay at home, and leave this enchanted voyage
for those who understand ! There be enough of the elect
in the world who possess the usual five senses, as well as
that sixth sense which is of the soul, to fill every steamer
that sails for Alaska.
Or, the steamship companies might divide their excursions into classes - some for those who love beauty, and
some for those who love bridge.
For the sea lover, it is enough only to stand in the bow
of a steamer headed for Alaska and hear the kiss and the
rippling murmur of the waves as they break apart when
the sharp cut-water pierces them, and then their long,
musical rush along the steamer's sides, ere they reunite in
one broad wake of bowing silver that leads across the
purple toward home.
The mere vibration of a ship in these still inland seas is
a physical pleasure by day and a sensuous lullaby at night;
while, in summer, the winds are so soft that their touches
seem like caresses.
The inlets and fiords extending for many miles into the
mainland in this vicinity are of great beauty and grandeur,
many winding for forty or fifty miles through walls of
forestation and snow that rise sheer to a height of eight
or ten thousand feet. These inlets are very narrow,
sometimes mere clefts, through which the waters slip,
clear, still, and of deepest green. They are of unknown
depth; the mountains are covered with forests, over
which rise peaks of snow. Cascades are numerous, and
their musical fall is increased in these narrow fastnesses
to a roar that may be heard for miles.
Passing Burrard Inlet, on which the city of Vancouver
is situated, the more important inlets are Howe, Jervis,
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 13
from which Sechelt Arm leads southward and is distinguished by the wild thunder of its rapids ; Homery
Channel, Price Channel, which, with Lewis Channel on
the west, forms Redonda Island ; Bute Inlet, which is the
most beautiful and the most important ; Knight, Seymour,
Kingcome, and Belize inlets.
The wild and picturesque beauty of these inlets has
been praised by tourists for many years. The Marquis of
Lome was charmed by the scenery along Bute Inlet,
which he extolled. It is about fifty miles in length and
narrows in places to a width of a half-mile. The shores rise
in sheer mountain walls, heavily fore-stated, to a height of
several and eight thousand feet, their snowy crests over-
hanging the clear, green-black waters of the narrow fiord.
Many glaciers stream down from these peaks.
The Gulf of Georgia continues for a distance of one
hundred miles in a northwesterly direction between the
mainland and Vancouver Island. Texada, Redonda, and
Valdes are the more important islands in the gulf.
Texada appears on the starboard, opposite Comox ; the
narrow strait separating it from the mainland is named
Malaspina, for the Italian explorer. The largest glacier
in the world, streaming into the sea from Mount St. Elias,
more than a thousand miles to the northwestward from
this strait, bears the same name.
Texada Island is twenty-eight miles long, with an
average width of three miles. It is wooded and mountainous, the leading peak - Mount Shepard - rising to
a height of three thousand feet. The lighthouse on its
shore is known as "Three Sisters Light."
Along the shores of Vancouver Island and the mainland
are many ranches owned and occupied by "remittance
men . " In these beautiful, lonely solitudes they dwell with
all the comforts of " old England," forming new ties, but
holding fast to old memories.
14 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
It is said that the woman who should have one day
been the Queen of England, lived near the city of Vancouver a few years ago. Before the death of his elder
brother, the present Prince of Wales passionately loved
the young and beautiful daughter of Admiral Seymour.
His infatuation was returned, and so desperately did the
young couple plead with the present King and the Admiral,
that at last the prince was permitted to contract a morganatic marriage.
The understanding and agreement were that, should the
prince ever become the heir to the throne of England,
neither he nor his wife would oppose the annulment of the
There was only one brief year of happiness, when the
elder brother of the prince died, and the latter's marriage
to the Princess May was demanded.
No murmur of complaint was ever heard from the unhappy morganatic wife, nor from the royal husband ; and
when the latter's marriage was solemnized, it was boldly
announced that no bar to the union existed.
Here, in the western solitude, lived for several years -
the veriest remittance woman - the girl who should now,
by the right of love and honor, be the Princess of Wales ;
and whose infant daughter should have been the heir to
To Vancouver, a few years ago, came, with his princess,
the Prince of Wales. The city was gay with flags and
flowers, throbbing with music, and filled with joyous
and welcoming people. Somewhere, hidden among those
swaying throngs, did a pale young woman holding a child
by the hand, gaze for the last time upon the man she loved
and upon the woman who had taken her place? And did
her long-tortured heart in that hour finally break? It is
said that she died within a twelvemonth.
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 15
sometimes called Valdes Narrows, is entered. It is a narrow pass, twenty-four miles long, between Vancouver and
Valdes islands. Halfway through it is Seymour Narrows,
one of the most famous features of the " inside route," or
passage, to Alaska. Passengers are awakened, if they
desire, that they may be on deck while passing through
these difficult narrows.
The Indian name of this pass is Yaculta.
" Yaculta is a wicked spirit," said the pilot, pacing the
bridge at four o'clock of a primrose dawn, " She lives
down in the clear depths of these waters and is supposed
to entice guileless sailors to their doom. Yaculta sleeps
only at slack-tide, and then boats, or ships, may slip
through in safety, provided they do not make sufficient
noise to awaken her. If they try to go through at any
other stage of the tide, Yaculta stirs the whole pass into
action, trying to get hold of them. Many's the time I've
had to back out and wait for Yaculta to quiet down."
If the steamer attempts the pass at an unfavorable hour,
fearful seas are found racing through at a fourteen-knot
speed ; the steamer is flung from side to side of the rocky
pass or sucked down into the boiling whirlpools by Yaculta.
The brown, shining strands of kelp floating upon Ripple
Reef, which carries a sharp edge down the centre of the
pass, are the wild locks of Yaculta's luxuriant hair.
Pilots figure, upon leaving Seattle, to reach the narrows
during the quarter-hour before or after slack-tide, when
the water is found as still and smooth as satin stretched
from shore to shore, and not even Yaculta's breathing disturbs her liquid coverlet.
Many vessels were wrecked here before the dangers of
the narrows had become fully known: the steamer Saranac,
in 1875, without loss of life; the Wachusett, in 1875; the
Grappler, in 1888, which burned in the narrows with a
very large loss of life, including that of the captain ; and
16 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
several less appalling disasters have occurred in these
Three miles below Cape Mudge the tides from Juan de
Fuca meet those from Queen Charlotte Sound, and force a
fourteen-knot current through the narrows. The most
powerful steamers are frequently overcome and carried
back by this current.
Discovery Passage merges at Chatham Point into Johnstone Strait. Here the first Indian village, Alert Bay,
is seen to starboard on the southern side of Cormorant
Island. These are the Kwakiutl Indians, who did not at
first respond to the advances of civilization so readily as
most northern tribes. They came from their original village at the mouth of the Nimpkish River, to work in the
canneries on the bay, but did not take kindly to the ways
of the white man. A white child, said to have been stolen
from Vancouver, was taken from these Indians a few years
Some fine totem-poles have been erected here, and the
graveyard has houses built over the graves. From the
steamer the little village presents an attractive appearance,
situated on a curving beach, with wooded slopes rising
Gorgeous potlatches are held here ; and until the spring
of 1908 these orgies were rendered more repulsive by the
sale of young girls.
Dr. Franz Boas, in his " Kwakiutl Texts," describes a
game formerly played with stone disks by the Kwakiutls.
They also had a myth that a game was played with these
disks between the birds of the upper world and the mythi-people, that is, "all the animals and all the birds." The
four disks were called the " mist-covered gambling stone,"
the " rainbow gambling stone," the " cloud-covered gambling stone," and the "carrier of the word." The wood-pecker and the other myth-birds played on one side ; the
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 17
Thunder-bird, and the birds of the upper air on the other.
The contestants were ranged in two rows; the gambling
stones were thrown along the middle between them, and
they speared them with their beaks. The Thunder-bird
and the birds of the upper air were beaten. This myth is
given as an explanation of the reason for playing the game
with the gambling stones, which are called
The Kwakiutls still play many of their ancient and
picturesque gambling games at their potlatches.
Johnstone Strait is fifty-five miles long, and is continued
by Broughton Strait, fifteen miles long, which enters
Queen Charlotte Sound.
Here is a second, and smaller, Galiana Island, and on
its western end is a spired rock which, some historians assert, may be " the
great headland or island with an exceeding high pinnacle or spired rock thereon," which Juan
de Fuca claimed to discover, and which won for him the
charge of being an " audacious guesser " and an " unscrupulous liar." His believers, however, affirm that, having
sailed for twenty days in the inland sea, he discovered
this pinnacle at the entrance to what he supposed to be
the Atlantic Ocean; and so sailed back the course he had
come, believing himself to have been successful in discovering the famed strait of Anian. Why Vancouver's
mistakes, failures, and faults should all be condoned, and
Juan de Fuca's most uncompromisingly condemned, is
difficult to understand.
Fort Rupert, on the northern end of Vancouver Island,
beyond Broughton Strait, is an old Hudson's Bay post,
situated on Beaver Harbor. The fort was built in 1849,
and was strongly defended, troubles frequently arising
from the attacks of Kwakiutl and Haidah Indians. Great
potlatches were held there, and the chief's lodge was as
notable as was the "Old-Man House" of Chief Seattle.
It was one hundred feet long and eighty feet wide, and
18 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
rested on carved corner posts. There was an immense
wooden potlatch dish that held food for one hundred
Queen Charlotte Sound is a splendid sweep of purple water; but tourists do
not, usually, spend much time enjoying its beauty. Their berths possess charms that
endure until shelter of the islands is once more assured,
after the forty miles of open exposure to the swell of the
ocean which is not always mild, notwithstanding its name.
Those who miss it, miss one of the most beautiful features
of the inland voyage. The warm breath of the Kuro
Siwo, penetrating all these inland seas and passages, is
converted by the great white peaks of the horizon into
pearl-like mist that drifts in clouds and fragments upon
the blue waters. Nowhere are these mists more frequent,
nor more elusive, than in Queen Charlotte Sound. They
roll upon the sparkling surface like thistle-down along a
country lane - here one instant, vanished the next. At
sunrise they take on the delicate tones of the primrose or
the pinkish star-flower ; at sunset, all the royal rose
and purple blendings; all the warm flushes of amber,
orange, and gold. Through a maze of pale yellow, whose
fine cool needles sting one's face and set one's hair with
seed-pearls, one passes into a little open water-world
where a blue sky sparkles above a bluer sea, and the air
is like clear, washed gold. But a mile ahead a solid wall
of amethyst closes in this brilliant sea; and presently the
steamer glides into it, shattering it into particles that set
the hair with amethysts, instead of pearls. Sometimes
these clear spaces resemble rooms walled in different
colors, but ceiled and floored in blue. Other times, the
whole sound is clear, blue, shining; while exquisite gossamers of changeful tints wrap and cling about the islands,
wind scarfs around the green hills, or set upon the brows
of majestic snow-monarchs crowns as jewelled and as
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 19
evanescent as those worn by the real kings of the earth.
Now and then a lofty fir or cedar may be seen draped with
slender mist-veils as a maiden might wind a scarf of cob-
webby lace about her form and head and arms - so lightly
and so gracefully, and with such art, do the delicate folds
trail in and out among the emerald-green branches of the
It is this warm and excessive moisture - this daily
mist-shower - that bequeaths to British Columbia and
Alaska their marvelous and luxuriant growth of vegetation, their spiced sweetness of atmosphere, their fairness
and freshness of complexion blending and constituting
that indescribable charm which inspires one, standing on
the deck of a steamer at early dawn, to give thanks to God
that he is alive and sailing the blue water-ways of this
" I don't know what it is that keeps pulling me back to this country," said a
man in the garb of a laborer, one day. He stood down in the bow of the steamer,
his hands were in his pockets, his throat was bared to the wind ; his blue eyes - sunken, but burning with that fire which
never dies in the eyes of one who loves nature - were
gazing up the pale-green narrow avenue named Grenville
Channel. " It's something that you can't exactly put into
words. You don't know that it's got hold of you while
you're up here, but before you've been ' outside' a month,
all at once you find it pulling at you - and after it begins,
it never lets up. You try to think what it is up here that
you want so ; what it is keeps begging at you to come
back. Maybe there ain't a darn soul up here you care
particular about I Maybe you ain't got an interest in a
claim worth hens' teeth ! Maybe you're broke and know
you'll have to work like a go-devil when you get here !
It don't make any difference. It's just Alaska. It calls
you and calls you and calls you. Maybe you can't come,
20 ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY
SO you keep pretending you don't hear - but Lord, you
do hear ! Maybe somebody shakes hands as if he liked
you - and there's Alaska up and calling right through
you, till you feel your heart shake ! Maybe a phonograph
sets up a tune they used to deal out at Magnuson's roadhouse on the trail - and you hear that blame lonesome
waterfall up in Keystone Canyon calling you as plain as
you hear the phonograph ! Maybe you smell something
like the sun shining on snow, all mixed up with tundra and
salt air - and there's double quick action on your eyes
and a lump in your throat that won't be swallowed down !
Maybe you see a white mountain, or a green valley, or a
big river, or a blue strait, or a waterfall - and like a flash
your heart opens, and shuts in an ache for Alaska that
stays ! . . . No, I don't know what it is, but I do know
how it is ; and so does every other poor devil that ever
heard that something calling him that's just Alaska. It
wakes you up in the middle of the night, just as plain as
if somebody had said your name out loud, and you just lay
there the rest of the night aching to go. I tell you what,
if ever a country had a spirit, it's Alaska ; and when it
once gets hold of you and gets to calling you to come,
you might just as well get up and start, for it calls you
and follows you, and haunts you till you do."
It is the pleading of the mountains and the pleading of
the sea woven into one call and sent floating down laden
with the sweetness of the splendid spaces. No mountaineer can say why he goes back to the mountains ; no
sailor why he cannot leave the sea. No one has yet seen
the spirit that dwells in the waterfall, but all have heard
it calling and have known its spell.
"If you love the sea, you've got to follow it," said a
sea-rover, " and that's all there is to it. A man can get
along without the woman he loves best on earth if he has
to, but he can't get along without the sea if he once gets
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 21
to loving it. It gets so it seems like a thing alive to him,
and it makes up for everything else that he don't have.
And it's just like that with Alaska. When a man has
made two-three trips to Alaska, you can't get him off on
a southern run again, as long as he can help himself."
It is an unimaginative person who can wind through
these intricate and difficult sounds, channels, and passes
without a strange, quickened feeling, as of the presence of
those dauntless navigators who discovered and charted
these waters centuries ago. From Juan de Fuca northward they seem to be sailing with us, those grim, brave spectres of the past - Perez, Meares, Cuadra, Valdes,
Malaspina, Duncan, Vancouver, Whidbey - and all the
others who came and went through these beautiful ways,
leaving their names, or the names of their monarchs,
friends, or sweethearts, to endure in blue stretches of
water or glistening domes of snow.
We sail in safety, ease, luxury, over courses along which
they felt their perilous way, never knowing whether Life
or Death waited at the turn of the prow. Nearly a century and a quarter ago Vancouver, working his way cautiously into Queen Charlotte Sound, soon came to disaster,
both the Discovery and her consort, the Chatham, striking
upon the rocks that border the entrance. Fortunately
the return of the tide in a few hours released them from
their perilous positions, before they had sustained any
But what days of mingled indecision, hope, and despair
what nights of anxious watching and waiting - must
have been spent in these places through which we glide
so easily now" ; and the silent spirits of the grim-peopled
past take hold of our heedless hands and lead us on.
Does a pilot sail these seas who has never on wild nights
felt beside him on the bridge the presence of those early
ones who, staring ever ahead under stern brows, drove
22 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
their vessels on, not knowing what perils lay beyond ?
Who, asked, " What shall we do when hope be gone ? "
made answer, " Why, sail on, and on, and on."
From Queen Charlotte Sound the steamer passes into
Fitzhugh Sound around Cape Calvert, on Calvert Island.
Off the southern point of this island are two dangerous
clusters of rocks, to which, in 1776, by Mr. James Hanna,
were given the interesting names of "Virgin " and " Pearl."
In this poetic vicinage, and nearer the island than either, is
another cluster of rocks, upon which some bold and sacrilegious navigator has bestowed the name of " Devil."
" It don't sound so pretty and ladylike," said the pilot
who pointed them out, " but it's a whole lot more appropriate. Rocks are devils - and that's no joke; and what
anybody should go and name them ' virgins ' and ' pearls '
for, is more than a man can see, when he's standing at a
wheel, hell-bent on putting as many leagues between him
and them as he can. It does seem as if some men didn't
have any sense at all about naming things. Now, if I
were going to name anything ' virgin ' " - his blue eyes
narrowed as they stared into the distance ahead - "it
would be a mountain that's always white ; or a bay that
gets the first sunshine in the morning ; or one of those
little islands down in Puget Sound that's just covered with
Just inside Fitzhugh Sound, on the island, is Safety
Cove, or Oatsoalis, which was named by Mr. Duncan in
1788, and which has ever since been known as a safe
anchorage and refuge for ships in storm. Vancouver,
anchoring there in 1792, found the shores to be bold and
steep, the water from twenty-three to thirty fathoms,
with a soft, muddy bottom. Their ships were steadied
with hawsers to the trees. They found a small beach,
near which was a stream of excellent water and an abundance
ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY 23
of wood. Vessels lie here at anchor when storms
or fogs render the passage across Queen Charlotte Sound
too perilous to be undertaken.
Fitzhugh Sound is but a slender, serene water-way running directly northward thirty miles. On its west, lying
parallel with the mainland, are the islands of Calvert,
Hecate, Nalau, and Hunter, separated by the passages of
Kwakshua, Hakai, and Nalau, which connect Fitzhugh
with the wide sweep of Hecate Strait.
Burke Channel, the second link in the exquisite water
chain that winds and loops in a northwesterly course between the islands of the Columbian and the Alexander
archipelagoes and the mainland of British Columbia and
Alaska, is scarcely entered by the Alaskan steamer ere it
turns again into Fisher Channel, and from this, westward,
into the short, very narrow, but most beautiful Lama Pass.
From Burke Channel several ribbon-like passages form
Lama Pass is more luxuriantly wooded than many of the
others, and is so still and narrow that the reflections of the
trees, growing to the water's edge, are especially attractive.
Very effective is the graveyard of the Bella Bella Indians,
in its dark forest setting, many totems and curious architectures of the dead showing plainly from the steamer
when an obliging captain passes under slow bell. Near
by, on Campbell Island, is the village of the Bella Bellas,
who, with the Tsimpsians and the Alert Bay Indians, were
formerly regarded as the most treacherous and murderous
Indians of the Northwest Coast. Now, however, they are
gathered into a model village, whose houses, church,
school, and stores shine white and peaceful against a dark
Lama Pass is one of the most poetic of Alaskan waterways.
Seaforth Channel is the dangerous reach leading into
24 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
Millbank Sound. It is broken by rocks and reefs, on one
of which, Rejetta Reef, the Willapa was stranded ten
years ago. Running off Seaforth and Millbank are some of the finest fiords of
the inland passage - Spiller, Johnston, Dean, Ellershe, and Portlock channels. Cousins and
Cascades inlets, and many others. Dean and Cascades
channels are noted for many waterfalls of wonderful
beauty. The former is ten miles long and half a mile
wide. Cascades Inlet extends for the same distance in a
northeasterly direction, opening into Dean. Innumerable cataracts fall sheer and foaming down their great
precipices ; the narrow canyons are filled with their
musical, liquid thunder, and the prevailing color seems
to be palest green, reflected from the color of the water
underneath the beaded foam. Vancouver visited these
canals and named them in 1793, and although, seemingly,
but seldom moved by beauty, was deeply impressed by it
here. He considered the cascades " extremely grand, and
by much the largest and most tremendous we had ever
beheld, their impetuosity sending currents of air across
These fiords are walled to a great height, and are of
magnificent beauty. Some are so narrow and so deep
that the sunlight penetrates only for a few hours each
day, and eternal mist and twilight fill the spaces. In
others, not disturbed by cascades, the waters are as clear
and smooth as glass, and the stillness is so profound that
one can hear a cone fall upon the water at a distance of
many yards. Covered with constant moisture, the vegetation is of almost tropic luxuriance. In the shade, the
huge leaves of the devil's-club seem to float, suspended,
upon the air, drooping slightly at the edges when touched
by the sun. Raspberries and salmon-berries grow to
enormous size, but are so fragile and evanescent that they
are gone at a breath, and the most delicate care must be
ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY 25
exercised in securing them. They tremble for an instant
between the tongue and the palate, and are gone, leaving
a sensation as of dewdrops flavored with wine ; a memory
as haunting and elusive as an exquisite desire known once
and never known again.
In Dean Canal, Vancouver found the water almost
fresh at low tide, on account of the streams and cascades
pouring into it.
There he found, also, a remarkable Indian habitation ;
a square, large platform built in a clearing, thirty feet
above the ground. It was supported by several uprights
and had no covering, but a fire was burning upon one end
In Cascade Canal he visited an Indian village, and
found the construction of the houses there very curious.
They apparently backed straight into a high, perpendicular rock cliff, which supported their rears ; while the
fronts and sides were sustained by slender poles about
eighteen feet in height.
Vancouver leaves the method of reaching the entrances
to these houses to the reader's imagination.
It was in this vicinity that Vancouver first encountered
" split-lipped " ladies. Although he had grown accustomed
to distortions and mutilations among the various tribes
he had visited, he was quite unprepared for the repulsive
style which now confronted him.
A horizontal incision was made about three-tenths of
an inch below the upper part of the lower lip, extending
from one corner of the mouth to the other, entirely
through the flesh ; this orifice was then by degrees
stretched sufficiently to admit an ornament made of wood,
which was confined close to the gums of the lower jaws,
and whose external surface projected horizontally.
These wooden ornaments were oval, and resembled a
small platter, or dish, made concave on both sides ; they
26 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
were of various lengths, the smallest about two inches and
a half ; the largest more than three inches long, and an
inch and a half broad.
They were about one-fifth of an inch thick, and had a
groove along the middle of the outside edge to receive
These hideous things were made of fir, and were highly-
polished. Ladies of the greatest distinction wore the
largest labrets. The size also increased with age. they
have been described by Vancouver, Cook, Lisianski, La
Perouse, Dall, Schwatka, Emmans, and too many others
to name here ; but no description can quite picture them
to the liveliest imagination. When the " wooden trough "
was removed, the incision gave the appearance of two
All chroniclers unite as to the hideousness and repulsive-
ness of the practice.
Of the Indians in the vicinity of Fisher Channel, Vancouver remarks, without a glimmer of humor himself,
that the vivacity of their countenance indicated a lively
genius ; and that, from their frequent bursts of laughter,
it would appear that they were great humorists, for their
mirth was not confined to their own people, but was frequently at the expense of his party. They seemed a
happy, cheerful people. This is an inimitable English
touch ; a thing that no American would have written,
save with a laugh at himself.
Poison Cove in Mussel Canal, or Portlock Canal, was
so named by Vancouver, whose men ate roasted mussels
there. Several were soon seized with numbness of the
faces and extremities. In spite of all that was done to
relieve their sufferings, one - John Carter - died and
was buried in a quiet bay which was named for him.
Millbank Sound, named by Mr. Duncan before Vancouver's arrival, is open to the ocean, but there is only
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 27
an hour's run before the shelter of the islands is regained ;
so that, even when the weather is rough, but slight discomfort is experienced by the most susceptible passengers.
The finest scenery on the regular steamer route, until the
great snow fields and glaciers are reached, is considered
by many well acquainted with the route, to lie from Mill-
bank on to Dixon Entrance. The days are not long
enough now for all the beauty that weighs upon the senses
like caresses. At evening, the sunset, blooming like a
rose upon these splendid reaches, seems to drop perfumed
petals of color, until the still air is pink with them, and
the steamer pushes them aside as it glides through with
faint throbbings that one feels rather than hears.
Through Finlayson Channel, Heikish Narrows, Graham,
Fraser, and McKay reaches, Grenville Channel, - through
all these enchanting water avenues one drifts for two
hundred miles, passing from one reach to another without
suspecting the change, unless familiar with the route, and
so close to the wooded shores that one is tormented with
the desire to reach out one's hand and strip the cool green
spruce and cedar needles from the drooping branches.
Each water-way has its own distinctive features. In
Finlayson Channel the forestation is a solid mountain of
green on each side, growing down to the water and extending over it in feathery, flat sprays. Here the reflections are so brilliant and so true on clear days, that the
dividing line is not perceptible to the vision. The mountains rise sheer from the water to a great height, with
snow upon their crests and occasional cataracts foaming
musically down their fissures. Helmet Mountain stands
on the port side of the channel, at the entrance.
There's something about "Sarah" Island! I don't
know what it is, and none of the mariners with whom I
discussed this famous island seems to know; but the fact
remains that they are all attached to " Sarah."
28 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
Down in Lama Pass, or possibly in Fitzhugh Sound, one
hears casual mention of " Sarah " in the pilot-house or
chart-room. Questioned, they do not seem to be able to
name any particular feature that sets her apart from the
other islands of this run.
"Well, there she is!" exclaimed the captain, at last.
"Now, you'll see for yourself what there is about Sarah."
It is a long, narrow island, lying in the northern end of
Finlayson Channel. Tolmie Channel lies between it and
Princess Royal Island; Heikish Narrows - a quarter of a
mile wide - between it and Roderick Island. Through
Heikish. the steamer passes into the increasing beauty of
"Now, there I " said the captain. "If you can tell me
what there is about that island, you can do more than any
skipper I know can do; but just the same, there isn't one
of us that doesn't look forward to passing Sarah, that
doesn't give her particular attention while we are passing,
and look back at her after we're in Graham Reach. She
isn't so little . . . nor so big. . . . The Lord knows she
isn't so pretty ! " He was silent for a moment. Then he
burst out suddenly: "I'm blamed if Z know what it is!
But it's just so with some women. There's something
about a woman, now and then, and a man can't tell, to save
his soul, what it is; only, he doesn't forget her. You see,
a captain meets hundreds of women; and he has to be
nice to every one. If he is smart, he can make every
woman think she is just running the ship - but Lord! he
wouldn't know one of them if he met her next week on
the street . . . only now and then ... in years and
years . . . one! And that one he can't forget. He
doesn't know what there is about her, any more than he
knows what there is about 'Sarah.' Maybe he doesn't
know the color of her eyes nor the color of her hair.
Maybe she's married, and maybe she's single - for that
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 29
isn't it. He isn't in love with her - at least I guess he
isn't. It's just that she has a way of coming back to him.
Say he sees the Northern Lights along about midnight -
and that woman comes like a flash and stands there with
him. After a while it gets to be a habit with him when
he gets into a port, to kind of look over the crowds for
some one. For a minute or two he feels almost as if he
expected some one to meet him ; then he knows he's disappointed about somebody not being there. He asks
himself right out who it is. And all at once he remembers. Then he calls himself an ass. If she was the kind
of woman that runs to docks to see boats come in, he'd
laugh and gas with her - but he wouldn't be thinking of
her till she pushed herself on him again."
The captain sighed unconsciously, and taking down a
chart from the ceiling, spread it out upon a shelf and bent
over it. I looked at Sarah, with her two lacy cascades
falling like veils from her crown of snow. Already she
was fading in the distance - yet how distinguished was
she! How set apart from all others!
Then I fell to thinking of the women. What kind are
they - the ones that stay! The one that comes at midnight and stands silent beside a man when he sees the
Northern Lights, even though he is not in love with her
what kind of woman is she ?
" Captain," I said, a little later, " I want to add some-
thing to Sarah's name."
" What is it? " said he, scowling over the chart.
"I want to name her ' Sarah, the Remembered.'"
" All right," said he, promptly. "I'll write that on the
And what an epitaph that would be for a woman -
" The Remembered! " If one only knew upon whose bit
of marble to grave it.
30 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
Fraser and McKay reaches follow Graham, and then is entered Wright Sound, a
body of water of great, and practically unknown, depth. This small sound feeds six
channels leading in different directions, one of which -
Verney Pass - leads through Boxer Reach into the famed
magnificence and splendor of Gardner Canal, whose waters
push for fifty miles through dark and towering walls.
An immense, glaciered mountain extends across the end
of the canal.
Gardner Canal named by Vancouver for Admiral Sir
Alan Gardner, to whose friendship and recommendation
he was indebted for the command of the expedition to
Nootka and the Northwest Coast - is doubtless the grandest of British Columbian inlets or fiords. At last, the
favorite two adjectives of the Vancouver expedition -
" tremendous " and " stupendous " - seem to have been
most appropriately applied. Lieutenant Whidbey, exploring it in the summer of 1793, found that it " presented to
the eye one rude mass of almost naked rocks, rising into
rugged mountains, more lofty than he had before seen,
whose towering summits, seeming to overhang their bases,
gave them a tremendous appearance. The whole was covered with perpetual ice and snow that reached, in the
gullies formed between the mountains, close down to the
high-water mark ; and many waterfalls of various dimensions were seen to descend in every direction."
This description is quoted in full because it is an excellent example of the descriptions given out by Vancouver
and his associates, who, if they ever felt a quickening of
the pulses in contemplation of these majestic scenes, were
certainly successful in concealing such human emotions
from the world. True, they did occasionally chronicle a
" pleasant " breeze, a " pleasing " landscape which " reminded them of England ; " and even, in the vicinity of
Port Townsend, they were moved to enthusiasm over a
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 31
"landscape almost as enchantingly beautiful as the most
elegantly finished pleasure-grounds in Europe," which
called to their remembrance "certain delightful and be-
loved situations in Old England."
But apparently, having been familiar only with pleasing
pastoral scenes, they were not able to rise to an appreciation of the sublime in nature. " Elegant " is the mincino-
and amusing adjective applied frequently to snow mountains by Vancouver; he
mentions, also, "spacious meadows, elegantly adorned with trees ; " but when they arrive
at the noble beauty which arouses in most beholders a
feeling of exaltation and an appreciation of the marvelous
handiwork of God, Vancouver and his associates, having
never seen anything of the kind in England, find it only
"tremendous," or " stupendous," or a " rude mass." They
would have probably described the chaste, exquisite cone
of Shishaldin on Unimak Island - as peerless and apart in
its delicate beauty among mountains as Venice is among
cities - as "a mountain covered with snow to the very sea
and having a most elegant point."
There are many mountains more than twice the height
of Shishaldin, but there is nowhere one so beautiful.
Great though our veneration must be for those brave
mariners of early years, their apparent lack of appreciation
of the scenery of Alaska is to be deplored. It has fastened
upon the land an undeserved reputation for being "rugged"
and " gloomy " - two more of their adjectives ; of being
"ice-locked, ice-bound, and ice-bounded." We may pardon them much, but scarcely the adjective " grotesque,"
as applied to snow mountains.
Grenville Channel is a narrow, lovely reach, extending
in a northwestward direction from Wright Sound for
forty-five miles, when it merges into Arthur Passage. In
its slender course it curves neither to the right nor to the
32 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
In this reach, at one o'clock one June day, the thrilling
cry of " man overboard" ran over the decks of the Santa Alia. There were more than two hundred passengers
aboard, and instantly an excited and dangerous stampede
to starboard and stern occurred ; but the captain, cool
and stern on the bridge, was equal to the perilous situation. A life-boat was ordered lowered, and the steerage
passengers were quietly forced to their quarters forward.
Life-buoys, life-preservers, chairs, ropes, and other articles
were flung overboard, until the water resembled a junk-
shop. Through them all, the man's dark, closely shaven
head could be seen, his face turned from the steamer, as
he swam fiercely toward the shore against a strong current. The channel was too narrow for the steamer to
turn, but a boat was soon in hot pursuit of the man who
was struggling fearfully for the shore, and who was supposed to be too bewildered to realize that he was headed
in the wrong direction. What was our amazement, when
the boat finally reached him, to discover, by the aid of
glasses, that he was resisting his rescuers. There was a
long struggle in the water before he was overcome and
dragged into the boat.
He was a pitiable sight when the boat came level with
the hurricane deck ; wild-eyed, gray-faced, shuddering
like a dog; his shirt torn open at the throat and exposing
its tragic emaciation; his glance flashing wildly from one
face to another, as though in search of one to be trusted -
he was an object to command the pity of the coldest heart.
In his hand was still gripped his soft hat which he had
taken from his head before jumping overboard.
"What is it, my man?" asked the captain, kindly, approaching him.
The man's wild gaze steadied upon the captain and
seemed to recognize him as one in authority.
"They've been trying to kill me, sir, all the way up."
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 33
The poor fellow shuddered hard.
"They," he said. "They're on the boat. I had to
watch them night and day. I didn't dast go to sleep. It
got too much ; I couldn't stand it. I had to get ashore.
I'd been waiting for this channel because it was so narrow. I thought the current 'u'd help me get away. I'm
a good swimmer."
"A better one never breasted a wave! Take him below.
Give him dry clothes and some whiskey, and set a watch
The poor wretch was led away; the crowd drifted after
him. Pale and quiet, the captain went back to the chart-
room and resumed his slow pacing forth and back.
" I wish tragedies of body and soul would not occur in
such beautiful lengths of water," he said at last. " I can
never sail through Grenville Channel again without seeing that poor fellow's haggard face and wild, appealing
eyes. And after Gardner Canal, there is not another on
the route more beautiful than this! "
Two inlets open into Grenville Channel on the starboard
going north, Lowe and Klewnuggit, - both affording safe
anchorage to vessels in trouble. Pitt Island forms almost
the entire western shore - a beautifully wooded one -
of the channel. There is a salmon cannery in Lowe Inlet,
beside a clear stream which leaps down from a lake in the
mountains. The waters and shores of Grenville have a
clear, washed green, which is spring-like. In many of
the other narrow ways the waters are blue, or purple, or a
pale blue-gray; but here they suddenly lead pou along
the palest of green, shimmering avenues, while mountains
of many-shaded green rise steeply on both sides, glimmering away into drifts of snow, which drop threads of silver
down the sheer heights.
This shaded green of the mountains is a feature of Alaskan
34 ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY
landscapes. Great landslides and windfalls cleave
their way from summit to sea, mowing down the forests
in their path. In time the new growth springs up and
streaks the mountain side with lighter green.
Probably one-half of the trees in southeastern Alaska
are the Menzies spruce, or Sitka pine. Their needles are
sharp and of a bluish green.
The Menzies spruce was named for the Scotch botanist
who accompanied Vancouver.
The Alaska cedar is yellowish and lacy in appearance,
with a graceful droop to the branches. It grows to an average height of one hundred and fifty feet. Its wood
is very valuable.
Arbor-vitte grows about the glaciers and in cool, dim
fiords. Birch, alder, maple, Cottonwood, broom, and
hemlock-spruce are plentiful, but are of small value, save
in the cause of beauty.
The Menzies spruce attains its largest growth in the
Alexander Archipelago, but ranges as far south as California. The Douglas fir is not so abundant as it is farther
south, nor does it grow to such great size.
The Alaska cedar is the most prized of all the cedars.
It is in great demand for ship-building, interior finishing,
cabinet-making, and other fine work, because of its close
texture, durable quality, and aromatic odor, which some-
what resembles that of sandalwood. In early years it
was shipped to Japan, where it was made into fancy boxes
and fans, which were sold under guise of that scented
Oriental wood. Its lasting qualities are remarkable -
sills having been found in perfect preservation after sixty
years' use in a wet climate. Its pleasant odor is as enduring as the wood. The long, slender, pendulous fruits
which hang from the branches in season, give the tree a
peculiarly graceful and appealing appearance.
The western white pine is used for interior work. It
ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY 35
is a magnificent tree, as seen in the forest, having bluish
green fronds and cones a foot long.
The giant arborvitse attains its greatest size close to
the coast. The wood splits easily and makes durable
shingles. It takes a brilliant polish and is popular for
interior finishing. Its beauty of growth is well known.
Wherever there is sufficient rainfall, the fine-fronded
hemlock may be found tracing its lacelike outlines upon
the atmosphere. There is no evergreen so delicately
lovely as the hemlock. It stands apart, with a little air
of its own, as a fastidious small maid might draw her
skirts about her when common ones pass by.
The spruces, firs, and cedars grow so closely together
that at a distance they appear as a solid wall of shaded
green, varying from the lightest beryl tints, on through
bluish grays to the most vivid and dazzling emerald tones.
At a distance canyons and vast gulches are filled so softly
and so solidly that they can scarcely be detected, the trees
on the crests of the nearer hills blending into those above,
and concealing the deep spaces that sink between.
These forests have no tap-roots. Their roots spread
widely upon a thin layer of soil covering solid stone in
many cases, and more likely than not this soil is created
in the first place by the accumulation of parent needles.
Trees spring up in crevices of stone where a bit of sand
has sifted, grow, fruit, and shed their needles, and thrive
upon them. The undergrowth is so solid that one must
cut one's way through it, and the progress of surveyors or
prospectors is necessarily slow and difficult.
These forests are constantly drenched in the warm
mists precipitated by the Kuro Si wo striking upon the
snow, and in this quickening moisture they reach a brilliancy of coloring that is remarkable. At sunset, threading these narrow channels, one may see mountain upon
mountain climbing up to crests of snow, their lower
36 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
wooded slopes covered with mists in palest blue and old
rose tones, through which the tips of the trees, crowded
close together, shine out in brilliant, many-shaded greens.
After Arthur Passage is that of Malacca, which is dotted
by several islands. " Lawyer's," to starboard, bears a red
light ; " Lucy," to port, farther north, a fixed white light.
Directly opposite " Lucy " - who does not rival " Sarah,"
or who in the pilot's words " has nothing about her" - is
The famous ukase of 1821 was issued by the Russian
Emperor on the expiration of the twenty-year charter of
the Russian-American Company. It prohibited " to all
foreign vessels not only to land on the coasts and islands
belonging to Russia, as stated above" (including the
whole of the northwest coast of America, beginning from
Behring Strait to the fifty-first degree of northern latitude, also from the Aleutian Islands to the eastern coast of
Siberia, as well as along the Kurile Islands from Behring
Strait to the south cape of the Island of Urup) " but also to
approach them within less than one hundred miles."
After the Nootka Convention in 1790, the Northwest
Coast was open to free settlement and trade by the people
of any country. It was claimed by the Russians to the
Columbia, afterward to the northern end of Vancouver
Island ; by the British, from the Columbia to the fifty-fifth degree ; and by the United States, from the Rocky
Mountains to the Pacific, between Forty-two and Fifty-four, Forty. By the treaty of 1819, by which Florida
was ceded to us by Spain, the United States acquired all
of Spanish rights and claims on the coast north of the
forty-second degree. By its trading posts and regular trading vessels, the United States was actually in possession.
By treaty with the United States in 1824, and with
Great Britain in 1825, Russia, realizing her mistake in
issuing the ukase of 1821, agreed to Fifty-four, Forty as
the limit of her possessions to southward. Of the interior
38 ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY
regions, Russia claimed the Yukon region ; England, that of the Mackenzie and the country between Hudson Bay
and the Rocky Mountains ; the United States, all west of
the Rockies, north of Forty-two.
The year previous to the one in which the United
States acquired Florida and all Spanish rights on the
Pacific Coast north of Forty-two, the United States and
England had agreed to a joint occupation of the region.
In 1828 this was indefinitely extended, but with the
emigration to Oregon in the early forties, this country
demanded a settlement of the boundary question.
President Tyler, in his message to Congress in 1843,
declared that " the United States rights appertain to all
between forty-two degrees and fifty-four degrees and
The leading Democrats of the South were at that time
advocating the annexation of Texas. Mr. Calhoun was
an ardent champion of the cause, and was endeavoring to
effect a settlement with the British minister, offering the
forty-ninth parallel as a compromise on the boundary
dispute, in his eagerness to acquire Texas without danger
The compromise was declined by the British minister.
In 1844 slave interests defeated Mr. Van Buren in his
aspirations to the presidency. Mr. Clay was nominated
instead. The latter opposed the annexation of Texas and
advised caution and compromise in the Oregon question ;
but the Democrats nominated Polk and under the war-cry
of "Fifty-four, Forty, or Fight," bore him on to victory.
The convention which nominated him advocated the
re-annexation of Texas and the reoccupation of Oregon ;
the two significant words being used to make it clear that
Texas had belonged to us before, through the Louisiana
purchase ; and Oregon, before the treaty of joint occupation with Great Britain.
ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY 39
President Polk, in his message, declared that, " beyond
all question, the protection of our laws and our jurisdiction, civil and criminal, ought to be immediately extended
over our citizens in Oregon."
He quoted from the convention which had nominated
him that " our title to the country of Oregon as far as
Fifty-four, Forty, is clear and unquestionable ; " and he
boldly declared ''for all of Oregon or none."
John Quincy Adams eloquently supported our title to
the country to the line of Fifty-four, Forty in a powerful
speech in the House of Representatives.
Yet it soon became apparent that both the Texas policy
and the Oregon question could not be successfully carried
out during the administration. " Fifty-four, Forty, or
Fight " as a watchword in a presidential campaign was
one thing, but as a challenge to fight flung in the face
of Great Britain, it was quite another.
In February, 1846, the House declared in favor of giving notice to Great
Britain that the joint occupancy of the Oregon country must cease. The Senate,
realizing that this resolution was practically a declaration of war, declined to
adopt it, after a very bitter and fiery controversy.
Those who retreated from their first position on the
question were hotly denounced by Senator Hannegan, the
Democratic senator from Indiana. He boldly attacked
the motives which led to their retreat, and angrily exclaimed : -
" If Oregon were good for the production of sugar and
cotton, it would not have encountered this opposition."
The resolution was almost unanimously opposed by the
Whig senators. Mr. Webster, while avoiding the point of our actual rights in the
matter, urged that a settlement on the line of the forty-ninth parallel be
recommended, as permitting both countries to compromise with
40 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
dignity and honor. The resolution that was finally passed
by the Senate and afterward by the House, authorized
the president to give notice at his discretion to Great
Britain that the treaty should be terminated, " in order
that the .attention of the governments of both countries
may be the more earnestly directed to the adoption of
all proper measures for a speedy and amicable adjustment
of the differences and disputes in regard to said territory."
Forever to their honor be it remembered that a few of
the Southern Democrats refused to retreat from their first
position - among them, Stephen A. Douglas. Senator
Hannegan reproached his party for breaking the pledges
on which it had marched to victory.
The passage of the milk-and-water resolution restored
to the timid of the country a feeling of relief and security;
but to the others, and to the generations to come after
them, helpless anger and undying shame.
The country yielded was ours. We gave it up solely
because to retain it we must fight, and we were not in a
position at that time to fight Great Britain.
When the Oregon Treaty, as it was called, was concluded by Secretary Buchanan and Minister Pakenham,
we lost the splendid country now known as British
Columbia, which, after our purchase of Alaska from Russia, would have given us an unbroken frontage on the
Pacific Ocean from Southern California to Behring Strait,
and almost to the mouth of the Mackenzie River on the
Many reasons have been assigned by historians for the
retreat of the Southern Democrats from their former bold
and flaunting position ; but in the end the simple truth
will be admitted - that they might brag, but were not in
a position to fight. They were like Lieutenant Whidbey,
whom Vancouver sent out to explore Lynn Canal in a
small boat. Mr. Whidbey was ever ready and eager, when
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 41
he deemed it necessary, to fire upon a small party of
Indians ; but when they met him, full front, in formidable
numbers and with couched spears, he instantly fell into
a panic and deemed it more " humane " to avoid a conflict
with those poor, ignorant people.
The Southern Democrats who betrayed their country
in 1846 were the Whidbeys of the United States. For
no better reason than that of " humanity," they gave
nearly four hundred thousand square miles of magnificent
country to Great Britain.
Another problem in this famous boundary settlement
question has interested American historians for sixty
years : Why England yielded so much valuable territory to
the United States, after protecting what she claimed as her
rights so boldly and so unflinchingly for so many years.
Professor Schafer, the head of the Department of
American History at the University of Oregon, claims to
have recently found indisputable proof in the records of
the British Foreign Office and those of the old Hudson's
Bay Company, in London, that the abandonment of the
British claim was influenced by the presence of American
pioneers who had pushed across the continent and settled
in the disputed territory, bringing their families and
founding homes in the wilderness.
England knew, in her heart, that the whole disputed
territory was ours ; and as our claims were strengthened
by settlement, she was sufficiently far-sighted to be glad
to compromise at that time. If the Oregon Treaty had
been delayed for a few years, British Columbia would
now be ours. Proofs which strengthen our claim were
found in the winter of 1907-1908 in the archives of Sitka.
There would be more justice in our laying claim to
British Columbia now, than there was in the claims of
Great Britain in the famous lisiere matter which was
settled in 1903.
42 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
By the treaties of 1824, between Russia and the
United States, and of 1825, between Russia and Great
Britain, the limits of Russian possessions are thus defined,
and upon our purchase of Alaska from Russia, were
repeated in the Treaty of Washington in 1807 -
"Commencing from the southernmost point of the
island called Prince of Wales Island, which point lies in
the parallel of fifty-four degrees and forty minutes north
latitude, and between the one hundred and thirty-first and
the one hundred and thirty-third degree of west longitude (meridian of Greenwich), the said line shall ascend
to the North along the channel called Portland Channel,
as far as the point of the continent where it strikes the
fifty-sixth degree of north latitude ; from this last mentioned point, the line of demarcation shall follow the
summit of the mountains situated parallel to the coast as
far as the point of intersection of the one hundred and
forty-first degree of west longitude (of the same meridian) ; and finally, from the said point of intersection,
the said meridian line of the one hundred and forty-first
degree, in its prolongation as far as the Frozen Ocean,
shall form the limit between the Russian and British possessions on the Continent of America to the northwest.
" With reference to the line of demarcation laid down
in the preceding article, it is understood : -
" First, That the island called Prince of Wales Island
shall belong wholly to Russia.
" Second, That whenever the summit of the mountains
which extend parallel to the coast from the fifty-sixth
degree of north latitude to the point of intersection of
the one hundred and forty-first degree of west longitude
shall prove to be at the distance of more than ten marine
leagues from the ocean, the limit between the British
possessions and the line of coast which is to belong to
Russia as above mentioned shall be formed by a line
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 43
parallel to the windings of the coast, and which shall
never exceed the distance of ten marine leagues therefrom.
" The western limit within which the territories and
dominion conveyed are contained, passes through a point
in Behring Strait on the parallel of sixty-five degrees,
thirty minutes, north latitude, at its intersection by the
meridian which passes midway between the islands of
Krusenstern, or Ignalook, and the island of Ratmanoff,
or Noonarbook, and proceeds due north, without limitation, into the same Frozen Ocean. The same western
limit, beginning at the same initial point, proceeds thence
in a course nearly southwest, through Behring Strait
and Behring Sea, so as to pass midway between the
northwest point of the island of St. Lawrence and the
southeast point of Cape Choukotski, to the meridian of
one hundred and seventy-two west longitude ; thence,
from the intersection of that meridian in a southwesterly
direction, so as to pass midway between the island of
Attou and the Copper Island of the Kormandorski coup-
let or group in the North Pacific Ocean, to the meridian
of one hundred and ninety-three degrees west longitude,
so as to include in the territory conveyed the whole of the
Aleutian Islands east of that meridian."
In the cession was included the right of property in all
public lots and squares, vacant lands, and all public buildings, fortifications, barracks, and other edifices, which were
not private individual property. It was, however, understood and agreed that the churches which had been built
in the ceded territory by the Russian government should
remain the property of such members of the Greek Oriental Church resident in the territory as might choose to
worship therein. All government archives, papers, and
documents relative to the territory and dominion aforesaid which were existing there at the time of transfer
44 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
were left in possession of the agent of the United States ;
with the understanding that the Russian government or
any Russian subject may at any time secure an authenticated copy thereof.
The inhabitants of the territory were given their choice
of returning to Russia within three years, or remaining
in the territory and being admitted to the enjoyment of
all rights, advantages, and immunities of citizens of the
United States, protected in the free enjoyment of their
liberty, property, and religion.
It must be confessed with chagrin that very few Russians availed themselves of this opportunity to free themselves from the supposed oppression of their government,
to unite with the vaunted glories of ours.
Before 1825, Great Britain, Spain, Portugal, and the
United States had no rights of occupation and assertion
on the Northwest Coast. Different nations had "planted
bottles " and " taken possession " wherever their explorers
had chanced to land, frequently ignoring the same ceremony on the part of previous explorers ; but these formalities did not weigh against the rights of discovery and
actual occupation by Russia - else Spain's rights would
have been prior to Great Britain's.
Between the years of 1542 and 1774 Spanish explorers
had examined and traced the western coast of America as
far north as fifty-four degrees and forty minutes, Perez
having reached that latitude in 1774, discovering Queen
Charlotte Islands on the 16th of June, and Nootka Sound
on the 9th of August.
Although he did not land, he had friendly relations
with the natives, who surrounded his ship, singing and
scattering white feathers as a beautiful token of peace.
They traded dried fish, furs, and ornaments of their own
making for knives and old iron ; and two, at least,
boarded the ship.
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 45
Perez named the northernmost point of Queen Charlotte
Islands Point Santa Margarita.
Proceeding south, he made a landfall and anchored in
a roadstead in forty-nine degrees and thirty minutes,
which he called San Lorenzo - afterward the famous
Nootka of Vancouver Island. He also discovered the
beautiful white mountain which dignifies the entrance to
Puget Sound, and named it Santa Rosalia. It was
renamed Mount Olympus fourteen years later by John
This was the first discovery of the Northwest Coast,
and when Cook and Vancouver came, it was to find that
the Spanish had preceded them.
Not content with occupying the splendid possessions
of the United States through the not famous, but
infamous, Oregon Treaty, Canada, upon the discovery of
gold in the Cassiar district of British Columbia, brought
up the question of the lisiere, or thirty-mile strip. This
was the strip of land, "not exceeding ten marine leagues
in width," which bordered the coast from the southern
limit of Russian territory at Portland Canal (now the
southern boundary of Alaska) to the vicinity of Mount
St. Elias. The purpose of this strip was stated by the
Russian negotiations to be " the establishment of a barrier
at which would be stopped, once for all, to the North as to
the West of the coast allotted to our American Company,
the encroachments of the English agents of the Amalgamated Hudson Bay and Northwest English Company."
In 1824, upon the proposal of Sir Charles Bagot to
assign to Russia a strip with the uniform width of ten
marine leagues from the shore, limited on the south by a
line between thirty and forty miles north from the northern end of the Portland Canal, the Russian Plenipotentiaries replied : -
" The motive which caused the adoption of the principle
46 ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY
of mutual expediency to be proposed, and the most important advantage of this principle, is to prevent the respective establishments on the Northwest Coast from injuring
each other and entering into collision.
" The English establishments of the Hudson Bay and
Northwest companies have a tendency to advance westward along the fifty-third and fifty-fourth degrees of
"The Russian establishments of the American Company have a tendency to descend southward toward the
fifty-fifth parallel and beyond; for it should be noted that,
if the American Company has not yet made permanent
establishments on the mathematical line of the fifty-fifth
degree, it is nevertheless true that by virtue of its privilege of 1799, against which privilege no power has ever
protested, it is exploiting the hunting and the fishing in
these regions, and that it regularly occupies the islands
and the neighboring coasts during the season, which
allows it to send its hunters and fishermen there.
" It was, then, to the mutual advantage of the two
Empires to assign just limits to this advance on both
sides, which, in time, could not fail to cause most unfortunate complications.
" It was also to their mutual advantage to fix their
limits according to natural partitions, which always constitute the most distinct and certain frontiers.
" For these reasons the Plenipotentiaries of Russia have
proposed as limits upon the coast of the continent, to the
South, Portland Channel, the head of which lies about
(par) the fifty-sixth degree of north latitude, and to the
East, the chain of mountains which follows at a very short
distance the sinuosities of the coast."
Sir Charles Bagot urged the line proposed by himself
and offered, on the part of Great Britain, to include the
Prince of Wales Island within the Russian line.
ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY 47
Russia, however, insisted upon having her lisiere run
to the Portland Canal, declaring that the possession of
Wales Island, without a slice (portion) of territory upon
the coast situated in front of that island, could be of
no utility whatever to Russia ; that any establishment
formed upon said island, or upon the surrounding islands,
would find itself, as it were, flanked by the English
establishments on the mainland, and completely at the
mercy of these latter.
England finally yielded to the Russian demand that the
lisiere should extend to the Portland Canal.
The claim that the Canadian government put forth,
after the discovery of gold had made it important that Canada should secure a
short line of traffic between the northern interior and the ocean, was that the
wording of certain parts of the treaty of 1825 had been wrongly interpreted. The Canadians insisted that it was not the
meaning nor the intention of the Convention of 1825 that
there should remain in the exclusive possession of Russia
a continuous fringe, or strip - the lisiere - of coast, separating the British possessions from the bays, ports, inlets,
havens, and waters of the ocean.
Or, if it should be decided that this was the meaning
of the treaty, they maintained that the width of the lisiere
was to be measured from the line of the general direction
of the mainland coast, and not from the heads of the many
They claimed, also, that the broad and beautiful " Portland's Canal " of Vancouver and the " Portland Channel "
of the Convention of 1825, were the Pearse Channel or
Inlet of more recent times. This contention, if sustained,
would give them our Wales and Pearse islands.
It was early suspected, however, that this claim was
only made that they might have something to yield when,
as they hoped, their later claim to Pyramid Harbor and
48 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
the valley of the Chilkaht River should be made and
upheld. This would give them a clear route into the
In 1898 a Joint High Commission was appointed for
the consideration of Pelagic Fur Sealing, Commercial
Reciprocity, and the Alaska Boundary. The Commission
met in Quebec. The discussion upon the boundary continued for several months, the members being unable to
agree upon the meaning of the wording of the treaty of
The British and Canadian members, thereupon, un-blushingly proposed that the United States should cede to
Canada Pyramid Harbor and a strip of land through the
entire width of the lislere.
To Americans who know that part of our country, this
proposal came as a shock. Pyramid Harbor is the best
harbor in that vicinity; and its cession, accompanied by a
highway through the lisiere to British possessions, would
have given Canada the most desirable route at that time
to the Yukon and the Klondike - the rivers upon which
the eyes of all nations were at that time set. Many
routes into that rich and picturesque region had been
tested, but no other had proved so satisfactory.
It has since developed that the Skaguay route is the
real prize. Had Canada foreseen this, she would not have
hesitated to demand it.
From the disagreement of the Joint High Commission
of 1898 arose the modus vivendi of the following year.
There has been a very general opinion that the temporary
boundary points around the heads of the inlets at the
northern end of Lynn Canal, laid down in that year, were
fixed for all time - although it seems impossible that this
opinion could be held by any one knowing the definition of
the term "modus vivendi."
By the modus vivendi Canada was given temporary
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 49
possession of valuable Chilkaht territory, and her new
maps were made accordingly.
In 1903 a tribunal composed of three American members and three representing Great Britain, two of whom
were Canadians, met in Great Britain, to settle certain
questions relating to the lisiere.
The seven large volumes covering the arguments and
decisions of this tribunal, as published by the United
States government, make intensely interesting and valuable reading to one who cares for Alaska.
The majority of the tribunal, that is to say, Lord
Alverstone and the three members from the United States,
decided that the Canadians have no rights to the waters of
any of the inlets, and that it was the meaning of the convention of 1825 that the lisiere should for all time separate
the British possessions from the bays, ports, inlets, and
waters of the ocean north of British Columbia ; and that,
furthermore, the width of the lisiere was not to be measured from the line of the general direction of the mainland
coast, leaping the bays and inlets, but from a line running
around the heads of such indentations.
The tribunal, however, awarded Pearse and Wales
islands, which belonged to us, to Canada ; it also narrowed the lisiere in several important points, notably on
the Stikine and Taku rivers.
The fifth question, however, was the vital one ; and it
was answered in our favor, the two Canadian members dissenting. The boundary lines have now been changed on
both United States and Canadian maps, in conformity with
the decisions of the tribunal.
Blaine, Bancroft, and Davidson have made the clearest
statements of the boundary troubles.
The first landing made by United States boats after
leaving Seattle is at Ketchikan. This is a comparatively
new town. It is seven hundred miles from Seattle, and is
reached early on the third morning out. It is the first
town in Alaska, and glistens white and new on its gentle
hills soon after crossing the boundary line in Dixon
Entrance - which is always saluted by the lifting of hats
and the waving of handkerchiefs on the part of patriotic
Ketchikan has a population of fifteen hundred people.
It is the distributing point for the mines and fisheries of
this section of southeastern Alaska. It is the present port
of entry, and the Customs Office adds to the dignity of the
town. There is a good court-house, a saw-mill with a
capacity of twenty-five thousand feet daily, a shingle mill,
salmon canneries, machine shops, a good water system, a
cold storage plant, two excellent hotels, good schools and
churches, a progressive newspaper, several large wharves,
modern and well-stocked stores and shops, and a sufficient
number of saloons. The town is lighted by electricity
and many of the buildings are heated by steam. A creditable chamber of commerce is maintained.
There are seven salmon canneries in operation which
are tributary to Ketchikan. The most important one
" mild-cures " fish for the German market.
Among the " shipping " mines, which are within a radius
of fifty miles, and which receive mails and supplies from
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 51
Ketchikan, are the Mount Andrews, the Stevenston, the
Mamies, the Russian Brown, the Hydah, the Nibhick, and
the Sulzer. From fifteen to twenty prospects are under
There are smelters in operation at Hadley and Copper
Mountain, on Prince of Wales Island. From Ketchikan
to all points in the mining and fishing districts safe and
commodious steamers are regularly operated. The chief
mining industries are silver, copper, and gold.
The residences are for the most part small, but, climbing by green terraces over the hill and surrounded by
flowers and neat lawns, they impart an air of picturesque-
ness to the town. There are several totem-poles ; the
handsomest was erected to the memory of Chief " Captain
John," by his nephew, at the entrance to the house now
occupied by the latter. The nephew asserts that he paid
$2060 for the carving and making of the totem. Owing to
its freshly painted and gaudy appearance, it is as lacking in
interest as the one which stands in Pioneer Square, Seattle,
and which was raped from a northern Indian village.
Four times had I landed at Ketchikan on my way to far
beautiful places ; with many people had I talked concerning the place ; folders of steamship companies and pamphlets of boards of trade had I read ; yet never from any
person nor from any printed page had I received the faintest glimmer that this busy, commercially described northwestern town held, almost in its heart, one of the enduring
and priceless jewels of Alaska. To the beauty-loving,
Norwegian captain of the steamship Jefferson was I at last
indebted for one of the real delights of my life.
It was near the middle of a July night, and raining heavily, when the captain
said to us :
" Be ready on the stroke of seven in the morning, and
I'll show you one of the beautiful things of Alaska."
52 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
" But - at Ketchikan, captain ! "
"Yes, at Ketchikan."
I thought of all the vaunted attractions of Ketchikan
which had ever been brought to my observation ; and I
felt that at seven o'clock in the morning, in a pouring
rain, I could live without every one of them. Then - the
charm of a warm berth in a gray hour, the cup of hot
coffee, the last dream to the drowsy throb of the steamer -
" It will be raining, captain," one said, feebly.
The look of disgust that went across his expressive face !
" What if it is ! You won't know it's raining as soon as
you get your eyes filled with what I want to show you.
But if you're one of that kind - "
He made a gesture of dismissal with his hands, palms
outward, and turned away.
" Captain, I shall be ready at seven. I'm not one of
that kind," we all cried together.
" All right ; but I won't wait five minutes. There'll be
two hundred passengers waiting to go."
" You know that letter that Thomas Bailey Aldrich
wrote to Professor Morse," spoke up a lady from Boston,
who had overheard. " You know Professor Morse wrote
a hand that couldn't be deciphered, and among other things,
Mr. Aldrich wrote : ' There's a singular and perpetual
charm in a letter of yours ; it never grows old ; it never
loses its novelty. One can say to one's self every day :
" There's that letter of Morse's. I have not read it yet.
I think I shall take another shy at it." Other letters are
read and thrown away and forgotten ; but yours are kept forever - unread ! ' Now, that letter, somehow, in the vaguest
kind of way, suggests itself when one considers this getting
up anywhere from three to six in the morning to see things
in Alaska. There's always something to be seen during
these unearthly hours. Every night we are convinced
that we will be on deck early, to see something, and we
ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY 53
leave au order to be wakened ; but when the dreaded
knocking comes upon the door, and a hoarse voice announces ' Wrangell Narrows,' or ' Lama Pass,' our berths
suddenly take on curves and attractions they possess at no
other time. The side-rails into which we have been
bumping seem to be cushioned with down, the space
between berths to grow wider, the air in the room sweeter
and more drowsily delicious. We say, ' Oh, we'll get up
to-morrow morning and see something,' and we pull the
berth-curtain down past our faces and go to sleep. After
a while, it grows to be one of the perpetual charms of a
trip to Alaska - this always going to get up in the morning and this never getting up. It never grows old ; it
never loses its novelty. One can say to one's self every
morning: ' There's that little matter to decide now about
getting up. Shall I, or shall I not ? ' I have been to
Alaska three times, but I've never seen Ketchikan. Other
places are seen and admired and forgotten ; but it remains
forever - unseen. . . . Now, I'll go and give an order to
be called at half-past six, to see this wonderful thing at
Ketchikan ! "
I looked around for her as I went down the slushy deck
the next morning on the stroke of seven ; but she was not
in sight. It was raining heavily and steadily - a cold,
thick rain ; the wind was so strong and so changeful that
an umbrella could scarcely be held.
Alas for the captain ! Out of his boasted two hundred
passengers, there came forth, dripping and suspicious-
eyed, openly scenting a joke, only four women and one
man. But the captain was undaunted. He would listen
to no remonstrances.
" Come on, now," he cried, cheerfully, leading the way.
" You told me you came to Alaska to see things, and as
long as you travel with me, you are going to see all that
is worth seeing. Let the others sleep. Anybody can
54 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
sleep. You can sleep at home ; but you can't see what I
am going to show you now anywhere but in Alaska. Do
you suppose I would get up at this hour and waste my
time on you, if I didn't know you'd thank me for it all the
rest of your life ? "
So on and on we went ; up one street and down another ;
around sharp corners ; past totem-poles, saloons, stylish
shops, windows piled with Indian baskets and carvings :
up steps and down terraces ; along gravelled roads : and
at last, across a little bridge, around a wooded curve, - and
Something met us face to face. I shall always believe
that it was the very spirit of the woods that went past us,
laughing and saluting, suddenly startled from her morning
bath in the clear, amber-brown stream that came foaming
musically down over smooth stones from the mountains.
It was so sudden, so unexpected. One moment, we
were in the little northern fishing- and mining-town, which
sits by the sea, trumpeting its commercial glories to the
world ; the next, we were in the forest, and under the
spell of this wild, sweet thing that fled past us, returned,
and lured us on.
For three miles we followed the mocking call of the
spirit of the brown stream. Her breath was as sweet as
the breath of wild roses covered with dew. Never in the
woods have I been so impressed, so startled, with the feeling that a living thing was calling me.
We could find no words to express our delight as we
climbed the path beside the brown stream, whose waters
came laughingly down through a deep, dim gorge. They
fell sheer in sparkling cataracts ; they widened into thin,
singing shallows of palest amber, clinking against the
stones ; narrow and foaming, they wound in and out
among the trees ; they disappeared completely under wide
ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY 55
sprays of ferns and the flat, spreading branches of trees,
only to " make a sudden sally " farther down.
At first we were level with them, walked beside them,
and paused to watch the golden gleams in their clear
depths ; but gradually we climbed, until we were hundreds
of feet above them.
Down in those purple shadows they went romping on to
the sea ; sometimes only a flash told us where they curved ;
other times, they pushed out into open spaces, and made
pause in deep pools, where they whirled and eddied for a
moment before drawing together and hurrying on. But
always and everywhere the music of their wild, sweet,
childish laughter floated up to us.
In the dim light of early morning the fine mist of the
rain sinking through the gorge took on tones of lavender
and purple. The tall trees climbing through it seemed
even more beautiful than they really were, by the touch
of mystery lent by the rain.
I wish that Max Nonnenbruch, who painted the adorable,
compelling " Bride of the Wind," might paint the elfish
sprite that dwells in the gorge at Ketchikan. He, and he
alone, could paint her so that one could hear her impish
laughter, and her mocking, fluting call.
The name of the stream I shall never tell. Only an
unimaginative modern Vancouver or Cook could have
bestowed upon it the name that burdens it today. Let
it be the " brown stream " at Ketchikan.
If the people of the town be wise, they will gather this
gorge to themselves while they may ; treasure it, cherish
it, and keep it " unspotted from the world " - jet for the
Metlakahtla means "the channel open at both ends."
It was here that Mr. William Duncan came in 1857, from
England, as a lay worker for the Church Mission Society.
56 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
It had been represented that existing conditions among
the natives sorely demanded high-minded missionary work.
The savages at Fort Simpson were considered the worst
on the coast at that time, and he was urged not to locate
there. Undaunted, however, Mr. Duncan, who was then
a very young man, filled with the fire and zeal of one who
has not known failure, chose this very spot in which to
begin his work - among Indians so low in the scale of
human intelligence that they had even been accused of
Port Simpson was then an important trading-post of the
Hudson Bay Company. It had been established in the
early thirties about forty miles up Nass River, but a few
years later was removed to a point on the Tsimpsian Peninsula. In 1841 Sir George Simpson found about fourteen
thousand Indians, of various tribes, living there. He
found them " peculiarly comely, strong, and well-grown
. . . remarkably clever and ingenious."
They carved neatly in stone, wood, and ivory. Sir
George Simpson relates with horror that the savages frequently ate the dead bodies of their relatives, some of
whom had died of smallpox, even after they had become
putrid. They were horribly diseased in other ways ; and
many had lost their eyes through the ravages of smallpox
or other disease. They fought fiercely and turbulently
with other tribes.
Such were the Indians among whom Mr. Duncan chose
to work. He was peculiarly fitted for this work, being
possessed of certain unusual qualities and attributes of
character which make for success.
The unselfishness and integrity of his nature made
themselves visible in his handsome face, and particularly
in the direct gaze of his large and intensely earnest blue
eyes ; his manners were simple, and his air was one of
quiet command ; he had unfailing cheerfulness, faith, and
ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY 57
that quality which struggles on under the heaviest discouragement with no thought of giving up.
His word was as good as his bond ; his energy and
enthusiasm were untiring, and he never attempted to
work his Indians harder than he himself worked. The
entire absence of that trait which seeks self-praise or self-glory, - in fact, his absolute self-effacement, his devotion
of self and self-interest to others, and to hard and humble
work for others, - all these high and noble parts of an
unusual and lovable character, added to a most winning
and attractive personality, gradually won for young Will- iam Duncan the almost Utopian success which many others
in various parts of the world have so far worked for in
The Indians grew to trust his word, to believe in his
sincerity and single-heartedness, to accept his teachings,
to love him, and finally, and most reluctantly of all, to
work for him.
At first only fifty of the Tsimsheans, or Tsimpsians,
accompanied him to the site of his first community settlement. Here the land was cleared and cultivated ; neat
two-story cottages, a church, a schoolhouse, stores on the
cooperative plan, a saw-mill, and a cannery, were erected
by Mr. Duncan and the Indians. At first a corps of able
assistants worked with Mr. Duncan, instructing the
Indians in various industries and arts, until the young
men were themselves able to carry along the different
branches of work, - such as carpentry, shoemaking,
cabinet building, tanning, rope-making, and boat building.
The village band was instructed by a German, until one
among them was qualified to become their band-master.
The women were taught to cook, to sew, to keep house, to
weave, and to care for the sick.
Here was a model village, an Utopian community, an
ideal life, - founded and carried on by the genius of one
58 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
young, simple-hearted, high-minded, earnest, and self-
devoted English gentleman.
But William Duncan's way, although strewn with the
full sweet roses of success, was not without its bitter,
stinging thorns. Mr. Duncan was
not an ordained minister, and in 1881 it was decided by the Church of England authorities who had sent Mr. Duncan out, that his
field should be formed into a separate diocese, and as this
decision necessitated the residence of a bishop. Bishop
Ridley was sent to the field - a man whose name will
ever stand as a dark blot upon the otherwise clean page
whereon is written the story which all men honor and all
men praise - the story of the exalted life-work of William
Mr. Duncan, being a layman, had conducted services of
the simplest nature, and had not considered it advisable
to hold communion services which would be embarrassing
of explanation to people so recently won from the customs
of cannibalism. Bigoted and opinionated, and failing
utterly to understand the Indians, to win their confidence,
or to exercise patience with them. Bishop Ridley declined
to be under the direction of a man who was not ordained,
and criticized the form of service held by Mr. Duncan.
The latter, having been in sole charge of his work for
more than thirty years, and being conscious of its full and
unusual results, chafed under the Bishop's supervision and
In the meantime, seven other missions had been established at various stations in southeastern Alaska. The
Bishop undertook to inaugurate communion services.
This was strongly opposed by Mr. Duncan, and he was
supported by the Indians, who were sincerely attached to
him, the Society in England sympathizing with the Bishop.
Friction between the two was ceaseless and bitter, and
continued until 1887. This has been given out as the
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 59
cause of the withdrawal of Mr. Duncan to New Metlakahtla ; but his own people - graduates of Eastern
universities - claim that it is not the true reason. He
and his Indians had for some time desired to be under
the laws of the United States, and in 1887 Mr. Duncan
went to Washington City to negotiate with the United
States for Annette Island. The Bishop established him-
self in residence, but failed ignominiously to win the
respect of the Indians. He quarreled with them in the
commonest way, struck them, went among them armed,
and finally appealed to a man-of-war for protection from
people whom he considered bloodthirsty savages.
Mr. Duncan, having been successful in his mission to
Washington, his faithful followers, during his absence,
removed to Annette Island, and here he found on his
return all but one hundred out of the original eight hundred which had composed his village on the Bishop's
arrival - the few having been persuaded to remain with
the latter at Old Metlakahtla. Those who went to the
new location on Annette were allowed by the Canadian
government to take nothing but their personal property ;
all their houses, public buildings, and community interests
being sacrificed to their devotion to William Duncan -
and this is, perhaps, the highest, even though a wordless,
tribute that this great man will, living or dead, ever
This story, brief and incomplete, of which we gather up
the threads as best we may - for William Duncan dwells
in this world to work, and not to talk about his work - -
is one of the most pathetic in history. When one considers the low degree of savagery from which they had
struggled up in thirty years of hardest, and at times most
discouraging, labor, to a degree of civilization which, in
one respect, at least, is reached by few white people in
centuries, if ever; when one considers how they had
60 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
grown to a new faith and to a new. form of religious
services, to confidence in the possession of homes and
other community property, and to believe their title to
them to be enduring ; when one considers the tenacity of
an Indian's attachment to his home and belongings, and
his sorrowful and heart-breaking reluctance to part with
them - this shadowy, silent migration through northern
waters to a new home on an uncleared island, taking
almost nothing with them but their religion and their
love for Mr. Duncan, becomes one of the sublime tragedies
of the century.
On Annette Island, then, twenty years ago, Mr. Duncan's work was taken up anew. Homes were built ; a saw-
mill, schools, wharf, cannery, store, town hall, a neat
cottage for Mr. Duncan, and finally, in 1895, the large
and handsome church, rose in rapid succession out of the
wilderness. Roads were built, and sidewalks. A trading schooner soon plied the near-by waters. All was the
work of the Indians under the direct supervision of Mr.
Duncan, who, in 1870, had journeyed to England for the
purpose of learning several simple trades which he might,
in turn, teach to the Indians whom he fondly calls his
"people." Thus personally equipped, and with such
implements and machinery as were required, he had
returned to his work.
Today, at the end of twenty years, the voyager approaching Annette Island, beholds rising before his reverent eyes the new Metlakahtla - the old having sunken to
ruin, where it lies, a vanishing stain on the fair fame of
the Church of England of the past ; for the church of to-
day is too broad and too enlightened to approve of the
action of its Mission Society in regard to its most earnest
and successful worker, William Duncan.
The new town shines white against a dark hill. The
steamer lands at a good wharf, which is largely occupied
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 61
by salmon canneries. Sidewalks and neat graveled paths
lead to all parts of the village. The buildings are attractive in their originality, for Mr. Duncan has his own ideas
of architecture. The church, adorned with two large
square towers, has a commanding situation, and is a
modern, steam-heated building, large enough to seat a
thousand people, or the entire village. It is of handsome
interior finish in natural woods. Above the altar are the
following passages : The angel said unto them : Fear not, for
behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to
all people. . . . Thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall
save his people from their sins.
The cottages are one and two stories in height, and are
surrounded by vegetable and flower gardens, of which the
women seem to be specially proud. They and the smiling children stand at their gates and on corners and offer
for sale baskets and other articles of their own making.
These baskets are, without exception, crudely and inartistically made ; yet they have a value to collectors by
having been woven at Metlakahtla by Mr. Duncan's
Indian women, and no tourist fails to purchase at least
one, while many return to the steamer laden with
There is a girls' school and a boys' school ; a hotel, a
town hall, several stores, a saw-mill, a system of waterworks, a cannery capable of packing twenty thousand
cases of salmon in a season, a wharf, and good warehouses
The community is governed by a council of thirty
members, having a president. There is a police force of
twenty members. Taxes are levied for public improvements, and for the maintenance of public institutions.
The land belongs to the community, from which it may
be obtained by individuals for the purpose of building
homes. The cannery and the saw-mill, which is operated
62 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
by water, belong to companies in which stock is held by
Indians who receive dividends. The employees receive
The people seem happy and contented. They are
deeply attached to Mr. Duncan, and very proud of their
model town. They have an excellent band of twenty-one
pieces, at the mere mention of which their dark faces take
on an expression of pride and pleasure, and their black
eyes shine into their questioner's eyes with intense interest ; in fact, if one desires to steady the gaze and hold the
attention of a Metlakahtla Indian, he can most readily
accomplish his purpose by introducing the subject of the
It is a surprise that these Indians do not, generally,
speak English more fluently ; but this is coming with the
younger generations. Some of these young men and
young women have been graduated from Eastern colleges,
and have returned to take up missionary work in various
parts of Alaska. Meeting one of these young men on a
steamer, I asked him if he knew Mr. Duncan. The smile
of affection and pride that went across his face! 'I am
one of his boys' he replied, simply. This was the Reverend Edward Marsden, who, returning from an Eastern
college in 1898, began missionary work at Saxman, near
Juneau, where he has been very successful.
Mr. Duncan is exceedingly modest and unassuming in
manner and bearing, seeming to shrink from personal attention, and to desire that his work shall speak for itself.
He is frequently called " Father," which is exceedingly
distasteful to him. Visitors seeking information are wel-
come to spend a week or two at the guest-house and learn
by observation and by conversation with the people what
has been accomplished in this ideal community ; but, save
on rare occasions, he cannot be persuaded to dwell upon
his own work, and after he has given his reasons for this
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 63
attitude, only a person lost to all sense of decency and
delicacy would urge him to break his rule of silence.
"I am here to work, and not to talk or write about my
work," he says, kindly and cordially. " If 1 took the
time to answer one-tenth of the questions I am asked,
verbally and by letter, I would have no time left for my
work, and my time for work is growing short. I am an
old man," - his beautiful, intensely blue eyes smiled as
he said this, and he at once shook his white-crowned head,
" that is what they are saying of me, but it is not
true. I am young, I feel young, and have many more
years of work ahead of me. Still, I must confess that I
do not work so easily, and my cares are multiplying.
Some to whom I make this explanation will not respect
my wishes or understand my silence. They press me by
letter, or personally, to answer only this question or only
that. They are inconsiderate and hamper me in my
Possibly this is the key-note to Mr. Duncan's success.
"Here is my work; let it speak for itself." He has devoted his whole life to his work,
with no thought for the
fame it may bring him. For the latter, he cares nothing.
This is the reason that pilgrims voyage to Metlakahtla
as reverently as to a shrine. It is the noble and unselfish
life-work of a man who has not only accomplished a great
purpose, but who is great in himself. When he passes on,
let him be buried simply among the Indians he has loved
and to whom he has given his whole life, and write upon
his headstone: "Let his work speak."
The settlement on Annette Island was provided for in
the act of Congress, 1891, as follows : -
" That, until otherwise provided for by law, the body
of lands known as Annette Islands, situated in Alexander
Archipelago in southeastern Alaska, on the north side of
Dixon Entrance, be, and the same is hereby, set apart as
64 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
a reservation for the Metlakahtla Indians, and those people
known as Metlakahtlans, who have recently emigrated
from British Columbia to Alaska, and such other Alaskan
natives as may join them, to be held and used by them in
common, under such rules and regulations, and subject to
such restrictions, as may be prescribed from time to time
by the Secretary of the Interior."
The Indians of the Community are required to sign, and
to fulfil the terms of, the following Declaration : -
" We, the people of Metlakahtla, Alaska, in order to se-
cure to ourselves and our posterity the blessings of a Chris-
tian home, do severally subscribe to the following rules
for the regulation of our conduct and town affairs : -
" To reverence the Sabbath and to refrain from all unnecessary secular work on that day ; to attend divine
worship; to take the Bible for our rule of faith ; to regard
all true Christians as our brethren ; and to be truthful,
honest, and industrious.
" To be faithful and loyal to the Government and laws
of the United States.
" To render our votes when called upon for the election
of the Town Council, and to promptly obey the by-laws
and orders imposed by the said Council.
" To attend to the education of our children and keep
them at school as regularly as possible.
" To totally abstain from all intoxicants and gambling,
and never attend heathen festivities or countenance hea-
thenish customs in surrounding villages.
" To strictly carry out all sanitary regulations necessary
for the health of the town.
" To identify ourselves with the progress of the settlement, and to utilize the land we hold.
" Never to alienate, give away, or sell our land, or any
portion thereof, to any person or persons who have not
subscribed to these rules."
Dixon Entrance belongs to British Columbia, but the
boundary crosses its northern waters about three miles
above Whitby Point on Dundas Island, and the steamer
approaches Revilla-Gigedo Island. It is twenty-five by
fifty miles, and was named by Vancouver in honor of the
Viceroy of New Spain, who sent out several of the most
successful expeditions. It is pooled by many bits of turquoise water which can scarcely be dignified by the name
Carroll Inlet cleaves it half in twain. The exquisite
gorges and mountains of this island are coming to their
own very slowly, as compared with its attractions from a
commercial point of view.
The island is in the centre of a rich salmon district, and
during the " running " season the clear blue waters flash
underneath with the glistening silver of the struggling
fish. In some of the fresh-water streams where the hump-
backed salmon spawn, the fortunate tourist may literally
make true the frequent Western assertion that at certain times " one can walk
across on the solid silver bridge made by the salmon" - so tightly are they
wedged together in their desperate and pathetic struggles to reach
Vancouver found these " hunch-backs," as he called
them, not to his liking, - probably on account of finding
them at the spawning season.
66 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
Leaving Ketchikan, Revilla and Point Higgins are
passed to starboard - Higgins being another of Vancouver's choice namings for the president of Chile.
" Did you ever see such a cluttering up of a landscape
with odds and ends of names ? " said the pilot one day.
" And all the ugliest by Vancouver. Give me an Indian
name every time. It always means something. Take
this Revilly-Gig Island; the
Indians called it 'Na-a,'
meaning ' the far lakes,' for all the little lakes scattered
around. I don't know as we're doing much better in our
own day, though," he added, staring ahead with a twinkle
in his eyes. "They've just named a couple of mountains
Mount Thomas Whitten and Mount Shoup ! Now those
names are all right for men - even congressmen - but
they're not worth shucks for mountains. Why, the Russians could do better! Take Mount St. Elias - named
by Behring because he discovered it on St. Elias' day. I
actually tremble every time I pass that mountain, for fear
I'll look up and see a sign tacked on it, stating that the
name has been changed to Baker or Bacon or Mudge, so
that Vancouver's bones will rest more easily in the grave.
Now look at that point! It's pretty enough in itself;
but - Higgins ! "
The next feature of interest, however, proved to be
blessed with a name sweet enough to take away the bitterness of many others - Clover Pass. It was not named
for this most fragrant and dear of all flowers, but for
Lieutenant, now Rear-Admiral, Clover, of the United
Beyond Clover Pass, at the entrance to Naha Bay, is
Loring, a large and important cannery settlement of the
Alaska Packers' Association. There is only one salmon-
canning establishment in Alaska, or even on the Northwest Coast, more picturesquely situated than this, and it is
nearly two thousand miles " to Westward," at the mouth
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 67
of the famed Karluk River, where the same company
maintains large canneries and successful hatcheries. It
will be described in another chapter.
A trail leads from Loring through the woods to Dorr
Waterfall, in a lovely glen. In Naha Bay thousands of
fish are taken at every dip of the seine in the narrowest
cove, which is connected with a chain of small lakes linked
by the tiniest of streams. In summer these waters seem
to be of living silver, so thickly are they swarmed with
darting and curving salmon.
Not far from Naha Bay is Traitor's Cove, where Vancouver and his men were attacked in boats by savages in
the masks of animals, headed by an old hag who commanded and urged them to bloodthirsty deeds.
This vixen seemed to be a personage of prestige and
influence, judging both by the immense size of her lip
ornament and her air of command. She seized the lead
line from Vancouver's boat and made it fast to her own
canoe, while another stole a musket.
Vancouver, advancing to parley with the chief, made
the mistake of carrying his musket ; whereupon about
fifty savages leaped at him, armed with spears and daggers.
The chief gave him to understand by signs that they
would lay down their arms if he would set the example ;
but the terrible old woman, scenting peace and scorning
it, violently and turbulently harangued the tribe and
urged it to attack.
The brandishing of spears and the flourishing of daggers
became so uncomfortably close and insistent, that Vancouver finally overcame his "humanity," and fired into
The effect was electrical. The Indians in the small
canoes instantly leaped into the water and swam for the
shore; those in the larger ones tipped the canoes to one
68 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
side, so that the higher side shielded them while they
made the best of their way to the shore.
There they ascended the rocky cliffs and stoned the
boats. Several of Vancouver's men were severely
wounded, one having been speared completely through
The point at the northern entrance to Naha Bay,
where they landed to dress wounds and take account of
stock not stolen, was named Escape Point ; a name which
it still retains.
Kasa-an Bay is an inlet pushing fifteen miles into the
eastern coast of Prince of Wales Island, which is two
hundred miles in length and averages forty in width.
Cholmondeley Sound penetrates almost as far, and Moira
Sound, Niblack Anchorage on North Arm, Twelve Mile
Arm, and Skowl Arm, are all storied and lovely inlets.
Skowl was an old chief of the Eagle Clan, whose sway
was questioned by none. He was the greatest chief of
his time, and ruled his people as autocratically as the lordly,
but blustering, Baranoff ruled his at Sitka. Skowl repulsed the advances of missionaries and scorned all attempts at Christianizing himself and his tribe. His was a
powerful personality which is still mentioned with a respect not unmixed with awe. To say that a chief is as
fearless as Skowl is a fine compliment, indeed, and one
not often bestowed.
Although not on the regular run of steamers, Howkan,
now a Presbyterian missionary village on Cordova Bay,
on the southwestern part of Prince of Wales Island, must
not be entirely neglected. In early days the village was
a forest of totems, and the graves were almost as interesting as the totems. Both are rapidly vanishing
and losing their most picturesque features before the
march of civilization and Christianity; but Howkan is
still one of the show-places of Alaska. The tourist who
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 69
is able to make this side trip on one of the small steamers
that run past there, is the envy of the unfortunate ones
who are compelled to forego that pleasure.
Totemism is the poetry of the Indian - or would be if
it possessed any religious significance.
I once asked an educated Tsimpsian Indian what the
Metlakahtla people believed, - meaning the belief that
Mr. Duncan had taught them. He put the tips of his
fingers together, and with an expression of great earnest-
ness, replied: -
"They believed in a great Spirit, to whom they prayed
and whom they worshipped everywhere, believing that
this beautiful Spirit was everywhere and could hear.
They worshipped it in the forest, in the trees, in the
flowers, in the sun and wind, in the blades of grass, - alone
and far from every one, - in the running water and the
" Oh, how beautiful ! " I said, in all sincerity. " It
must be the same as my own belief ; only I never heard
it put into words before. And that is what Mr. Duncan
has taught them ? "
He turned and looked at me squarely and steadily. It
was a look of weariness, of disgust.
" Oh, no," he replied, coldly ; " that was what they believed before they knew better ; before they were taught
the truth ; before Christianity was explained to them.
That is what they believed while they were savages ! "
We were in the library of the Jefferson. The room is
always warm, and at that moment it was warmer than I
had ever known it to be. Under the steady gaze of those
shining dark eyes it presently became too warm to be
endured. With my curiosity quite satisfied, I withdrew
to the hurricane deck, where there is always air.
Of the Indians in the territory of Alaska there are two
stocks - the Thlinkits, or Coast Indians, and the Tinneh,
70 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
or those inhabiting the vast regions of the interior. The
Thilinkits comprise the Tsimpsians, or Chimsyans, the
Kygani, or Haidahs, the true Thlinkits, or Koloshes, and
The Kygani, or Haidah, Indians inhabit the Queen
Charlotte Archipelago, which, although belonging to
British Columbia, must be taken into consideration in
any description of the Indians of Alaska. They were
formerly a warlike, powerful, and treacherous race, making frequent attacks upon neighboring tribes, even as far
south as Puget Sound. They are noted, not only for
these savage qualities, but also for the grace and beauty
of their canoes and for their delicate and artistic carvings.
Their small totems, pipes, and other articles carved out of
a dark gray, highly polished slate stone obtained on their
own islands, sometimes inlaid with particles of shell, are
well known and command fancy prices. Haidah basketry
and hats are of unusual beauty and workmanship. The
peculiar ornamentation is painted upon the hats and not
woven in. The designs which are most frequently seen
are the head, wings, tail, and feet of a duck, - certain
details somewhat resembling a large oyster-shell, or a
human ear, - painted in black and rich reds. The hats
are usually in the plain twined weaving, and of such fine,
even workmanship that they are entirely waterproof.
The Haidahs formerly wore the nose- and ear-rings, or
other ornaments, and the labret in the lower lip.
The Thlinkits, or Koloshians, as the Russians and
Aleuts called them, from their habit of wearing the labret,
are divided into two tribes, the Stikines and the Sitkans ; the former inhabiting the mainland in the vicinity
of the Stikine River, straggling north and south for some
distance along the coast.
The Sitkans dwell in the neighborhood of Sitka and on the near-by islands.
They are among the tribes of Indians
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 71
who gave Baranoff much trouble. They formerly painted
with vermilion or lamp-black mixed with oil, traced on
their faces in startling patterns. At the present time
they dress almost like white people, except for the everlasting blanket on the older ones. Some of the younger
women are very handsome - clean, light-brown of skin,
red-cheeked, of good figure, and having large, dark eyes,
at once soft and bright. They also have good, white
teeth, and are decidedly attractive in their coquettish and
saucy airs and graces. The young Indian women at Sitka,
Yakutat, and Dundas are the prettiest and the most attractive in Alaska ; nor have I seen any in the Klondike,
or along the Yukon, to equal them in appearance. Also,
one can barter with them for their fascinating wares without praying to heaven to be deprived of the sense of smell
for a sufficient number of hours.
Among the Thlinkits, as well as among many of the
Innuit, or Eskimo tribes, the strange and cruel custom
prevails of isolating young girls approaching puberty in
a hut set aside for this purpose. The period of isolation
varies from a month to a year, during which they are considered unclean and are allowed only liquid food, which
soon reduces them to a state of painful emaciation. No
one is permitted to minister to their needs but a mother
or a female slave, and they cannot hold conversation with
When a maiden finally emerges from her confinement
there is great rejoicing, if she be of good family, and
feasting. A charm of peculiar design is hung around
her neck, called a " Virgin Charm," or " Virtue Charm,"
which silently announces that she is " clean " and of marriageable age. Formerly, according to Dall and other
authorities, the lower lip was pierced and a silver pin
shaped like a nail inserted. This made the same announcement.
72 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
The chief diet of the Thlinkit is fish, fresh or smoked.
Unlike the Aleutians, they do not eat whale blubber, as
the whale figures in their totems, but are fond of the porpoise and seal. The women are fond of dress, and a
voyager who will take a gay last year's useless hat along
in her steamer trunk, will be sure to " swap " it for a
handsome Indian basket. In many places they still employ their early methods of fishing - raking herring and
salmon out of the streams, during a run, with long poles
into which nails are driven, like a rake.
They are fond of game of all kinds. They weave
blankets out of the wool of the mountain sheep. Large
spoons, whose handles are carved in the form and designs
of totems, are made out of the horns of sheep and goats.
The Thlinkits are divided into four totems - the whale,
the eagle, the raven, and the wolf. The raven, which by
the Tinnehs is considered an evil bird, is held in the highest respect by the Thlinkits, who believe it to be a good
Totemism is defined as the system of dividing a tribe into clans according to
their totems. It comprises a class of objects which the savage holds in
superstitious awe and respect, believing that it holds some relation to, and
protection over, himself. There is the clan totem, common
to a whole clan ; the sex totem, common to the males or
females of a clan ; and the individual totem, belonging
solely to one person and not descending to any member
of the next generation. It is generally believed that the
totem has some special religious significance ; but this is
not true, if we are to believe that the younger and educated Indians of today know what totemism means.
Some totems are veritable family trees. The clan totem
is reverenced by a whole clan, the members of which are
known by the name of their totem, and believe themselves
to be descended from a common animal ancestor, and
ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY 73
bound together by ties closer and more sacred than those
The system of totemism is old ; but the word itself,
according to J. G. Frazer, first appeared in literature in
the nineteenth century, being introduced from an O-jib-way
word by J. Long, an interpreter. The same authority
claims that it had a religious aspect ; but this is denied,
so far, at least, as the Thlinkits are concerned.
The Eagle clan believe themselves to be descended from
an eagle, which they, accordingly, reverence and protect
from harm or death, believing that it is a beneficent
spirit that watches over them.
Persons of the same totem may neither marry nor have
sexual intercourse with each other. In Australia the
usual penalty for the breaking of this law was death.
With the Thlinkits, a man might marry a woman of any
save his own totem clan. The raven represented woman,
and the wolf, man. A young man selected his individual
totem from the animal which appeared most frequently
and significantly in his dreams during his lonely fast and
vigil in the heart of the forest for some time before reaching the state of puberty. The animals representing a
man's different totems - clan, family, sex, and individual
were carved and painted on his tall totem-pole, his
house, his paddles, and other objects ; they were also
woven into hats, basketry, and blankets, and embroidered
upon moccasins with beads. Some of the Haidah canoes
have most beautifully carven and painted prows, with the
totem design appearing. These canoes are far superior to
those of Puget Sound. The very sweep of the prow,
strong and graceful, as it cleaves the golden air above the
water, proclaims its northern home. Their well-known
outlines, the erect, rigid figures of the warriors kneeling
in them, and the strong, swift, sure dip of the paddles,
sent dread to the hearts of the Puget Sound Indians and
74 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
the few white settlers in the early part of the last century.
The cry of "Northern Indians!" never failed to create a
panic. They made many marauding expeditions to the
south in their large and splendid canoes. The inferior
tribes of the sound held them in the greatest fear and
A child usually adopts the mother's totem, and at birth
receives a name significant of her family. Later on he
receives one from his father's family, and this event is
always attended with much solemnity and ceremony.
A man takes wives in proportion to his wealth. If he
be the possessor of many blankets, he takes trouble unto
himself by the dozen. There are no spring bonnets,
however, to buy. They do not indulge themselves with
so many wives as formerly ; nor do they place such implicit faith in the totem, now that they are becoming
Dall gives the following interesting description of a
Thlinkit wedding ceremony thirty years ago : A lover
sends to his mistress's relations, asking for her as a wife.
If he receives a favorable reply, he sends as many presents
as he can get together to her father. On the appointed
day he goes to the house where she lives, and sits down
with his back to the door.
The father has invited all the relations, who now raise
a song, to allure the coy bride out of the corner where she
has been sitting. When the song is done, furs or pieces
of new calico are laid on the floor, and she walks over
them and sits down by the side of the groom. All this
time she must keep her head bowed down. Then all the
guests dance and sing, diversifying the entertainment,
when tired, by eating. The pair do not join in any of the
ceremonies. That their future life may be happy, they
fast for two days more. Four weeks afterward they come
together, and are then recognized as husband and wife.
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 75
The bridegroom is free to live with his father-in-law, or
return to his own home. If he chooses the latter the
bride receives a trousseau equal in value to the gifts
received by her parents from her husband. If the husband becomes dissatisfied with his wife, he can send her
back with her dowry, but loses his own gifts. If a wife
is unfaithful he may send her back with nothing, and
demand his own again. They may separate by mutual
consent without returning any property. When the
marriage festival is over, the silver pin is removed from
the lower lip of the bride and replaced by a plug, shaped
like a spool, but not over three-quarters of an inch long,
and this plug is afterward replaced by a larger one of
wood, bone, or stone, so that an old woman may have an
ornament of this kind two inches in diameter. These
large ones are of an oval shape, but scooped out above,
below, and around the edge, like a pulley- wheel. When
very large, a mere strip of flesh goes around the kalushka,
or "little trough." From the name which the Aleuts gave
the appendage when they first visited Sitka, the nick-
name " Kolosh " has arisen, and has been applied to this
and allied tribes.
Many years ago, when a man died, his brother or his
sister's son was compelled to marry the widow.
That seems worth while. Naturally, the man would not
desire the woman, and the woman would not desire the
man ; therefore, the result of the forced union might
prove full of delightful surprises. If such a law could
have been passed in England, there would have been no
occasion for the prolonged agitation over the "Deceased
wife's sister " bill, which dragged its weary way through
the courts and the papers. Nobody would desire to marry
his deceased wife's sister ; or, if he did, she would decline
An ancient Thlinkit superstition is, that once a man -
76 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
a Thlinkit, of course - had a young wife whom he so
idolized that he would not permit her to work. This is
certainly the most convincing proof that an Indian could
give of his devotion. From morning to night she dwelt
in sweet idleness, guarded by eight little redbirds, that
flew about her when she walked, or hovered over her when
she reclined upon her furs or preciously woven blankets.
These little birds were good spirits, of course, but alas !
they resembled somewhat women who are so good that
out of their very goodness evil is wrought. In the town
in which I dwell there is a good woman, a member of a
church, devout, and scorning sin, who keeps "roomers."
On two or three occasions this good woman has found letters which belonged to her roomers, and she has done what
an honorable woman would not do. She has read letters
that she had no right to read, and she has found therein
secrets that would wreck families and bow down heads in
sorrow to their graves ; and yet, out of her goodness, she
has felt it to be her duty " to tell," and she has told.
Since knowing the story of the eight little Thlinkit redbirds, I have never seen this woman without a red mist
seeming to float round her ; her mouth becomes a twittering beak, her feet are claws that carry her noiselessly into
secret places, her eyes are little black beads that flash from
side to side in search of other people's sins, and her shoulders are folded wings. For what did the little good redbirds do but go and tell the Thlinkit man that his young
and pretty and idolized wife had spoken to another man.
He took her out into the forest and shut her up in a box.
Then he killed all his sister's children because they knew
his secret. His sister went in lamentations to the beach,
where she was seen by her totem whale, who, when her
cause of grief was made known to him, bade her be of
" Swallow a small stone," said the whale, " which you
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 77
must pick up from the beach, drinking some sea-water at
the same time."
The woman did as the whale directed. In a few months
she gave birth to a son, whom she was compelled to hide
from her brother. This child was Yehl (the raven), the
beneficent spirit of the Thlinkits, maker of forests, mountains, rivers, and seas; the one who guides the sun, moon,
and stars, and controls the winds and floods. His abiding-
place is at the head waters of the Nass River, whence the
Thlinkits came to their present home. When he grew up
he became so expert in the use of the bow and arrow
that it is told of his mother that she went clad in the rose,
green, and lavender glory of the breasts of humming-birds
which he had killed in such numbers that she was able to
fashion her entire raiment of their most exquisite parts, - as befitted the mother of the good spirit of men.
Yehl performed many noble and miraculous deeds, the
most dazzling of which was the giving of light to the
world. He had heard that a rich old chief kept the sun,
moon, and stars in boxes, carefully locked and guarded.
This chief had an only daughter whom he worshipped.
He would allow no one to make love to her, so Yehl, perceiving that only a descendant of the old man could secure
access to the boxes, and knowing that the chief examined
all his daughter's food before she ate it, and that it would
therefore avail him nothing to turn himself into ordinary
food, conceived the idea of converting himself into a
fragrant grass and by springing up persistently in the
maiden's path, he was one day eaten and swallowed. A
grandson was then born to the old chief, who wrought
upon his affections - as grandsons have a way of doing -
to such an extent that he could deny him nothing.
One day the young Yehl, who seems to have been
appropriately named, set up a lamentation for the boxes he
desired and continued it until one was in his possession.
78 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
He took it out-doors and opened it. Millions of little
milk-white, opaline birds instantly flew up and settled in
the sky. They were followed by a large, silvery bird,
which was so heavy and uncertain in her flight to the sky
that, although she finally reached it, she never appeared
twice the same thereafter, and on some nights could not
be seen at all. The old chief was very angry, and it was
not until Yehl had wept and fasted himself to death's very
door that he obtained the sun ; whereupon, he changed
himself back into a raven, and flying away from the reach
of his stunned and temporary grandfather, who had commanded him not to open the box, he straightway lifted
the lid - and the world was flooded with light.
One of the most interesting of the Thlinkit myths is
the one of the spirits that guard and obey the shamans.
The most important are those dwelling in the North.
They were warriors ; hence, an unusual display of the
northern lights was considered an omen of approaching
war. The other spirits are of people who died a common-
place death ; and the greatest care must be exercised by
relatives in mourning for these, or they will have difficulty
in reaching their new abode. Too many tears are as bad
as none at all ; the former mistake mires and gutters the
path, the latter leaves it too deep in dust. A decent
and comfortable quantity makes it hard and even and
Their deluge myth is startling in its resemblance to
ours. When their flood came upon them, a few were saved
in a great canoe which was made of cedar. This wood
splits rather easily, parallel to its grain, under stress of
storm, and the one in which the people embarked split
after much buffeting. The Thlinkits clung to one part,
and all other peoples to the other part, creating a difference
in language. Chet'l, the eagle, was separated from his
sister, to whom he said, " You may never see me again,
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 79
but you shall hear my voice forever." He changed him-
self into a bird of tremendous size and flew away southward. The sister climbed Mount Edgecumbe, which
opened and swallowed her, leaving a hole that has remained
ever since. Earthquakes are caused by her struggles with
bad spirits which seek to drive her away, and by her invariable triumph over them she sustains the poise of the
Chet'l returned to Mount Edgecumbe, where he still
lives. When he comes forth, which is but seldom, the
flapping of his great wings produces the sound which is
called thunder. He is, therefore, known everywhere as
the Thunder-bird. The glance of his brilliant eyes is the
Concerning the totem-pole which was taken from an
Indian village on Tongas Island, near Ketchikan, by members of the Post-Intelligencer business men's excursion to
Alaska in 1899 - and for which the city of Seattle was
legally compelled to pay handsomely afterward - the following letter from a member of the family originally
owning the totem is of quaint interest : -
" I have received your letter, and I am going to tell you
the story of the totem-pole. Now, the top one is a crow
himself, and the next one from the pole top is a man.
That crow have told him a story. Crow have told him a
good-looking woman want to married some man. So he
did marry her. She was a frog. And the fourth one is a
mink. One time, the story says, that one time it was a
high tide for some time, and so crow got marry to mink,
so crow he eats any kind of fishes from the water. After
some time crow got tired of mink, and he leave her, and
he get married to that whale-killer, and then crow he have
all he want to eat. That last one on the totem-pole is the
father of the crow. The story says that one time it got
80 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
dark for a long while. The darkness was all over the world, and only crow's father was the only one can give light to the world. He simply got a key. He keeps the sun and moon in a chest, that one time crow have ask his father if he play with the sun and moon in the house but, was not allowed, so he start crying for many days until he was sick. So his father let him play'' with it and he have it for many days. And one day he let the moon in the sky by mistake, but he keep the sun, and he which take time before he could get his chances to go outside of the house. As soon as he was out he let sun back to the sky again, and it was light all over the world again. (End of story.)
" Yours respectfully,
"David E. Kinninnook.
" P. S. The Indians have a long story, and one of the chiefs
of a village or of a tribe only a chief can put up so many
carvings on our totem-pole, and he have to fully know the
story of what totem he is made. I may give you the whole
story of it sometimes. Crow on top have a quart moon
in his mouth, because he have ask his father for a light.
"D. E. K.
" If you can put this story on the Post-Intelligencer, of
Seattle, Wash., and I think the people will be glad to
know some of it."
The Thlinkits burned their dead, with the exception of
the shamans, but carefully preserved the ashes and all
charred bones from the funeral pyre. These were carefully
folded in new blankets and buried in the backs of totems.
One totem, when taken down to send to the Lewis and
Clark Exposition, was found to contain the remains of a
child in the butt-end of the pole which was in the ground ;
the portion containing the child being sawed off and
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 81
A totem-pole donated to the exposition by Yannate, a
very old Thlinkit, was made by his own hands in honor of
his mother. His mother belonged to the Raven Clan,
and a large raven is at the crest of the pole ; under it is
the brown bear - the totem of the Kokwouton Tribe, to
which the woman's husband belonged ; underneath the
bear is an Indian with a cane, representing the woman's
brother, who was a noted shaman or sorcerer many years
ago ; at the bottom are two faces, or masks, representing
the shaman's favorite slaves.
The Haidahs did not burn their dead, but buried them,
usually in the butts of great cedars. Frequently, however,
they were buried at the base of totem-poles, and when in
recent years poles have been removed, remains have been
found and re-interred.
On the backs of some of the old totem-poles at Wrangell
and other places, may be seen the openings that were made
to receive the ashes of the dead, the portion that had been
sawed out being afterward replaced.
The wealth of a Thlinkit is estimated according to his number of blankets ;
his honor and importance by the number of potlatches he has given. Every member
of his totem is called upon to contribute to the potlatch of the chief, working
to that end, and " skimping " himself in his own indulgences for that object,
for many years, if necessary. The potlatch is given at the full of the moon ;
the chief's clan and totem decline all gifts ; it is not in good form for any
member thereof to accept the slightest gift. Guests are seated and treated
according to their rights, and the resentment of a slight is not postponed until
the banquet is over and the blood has cooled. An immediate fight to the bitter
end is the result ; so that the greatest care is exercised in this nice matter -
which has proven a pitfall to many a white hostess in the most civilized lands ; so seldom does a guest have the right and the
82 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
honor to feel that where he sits is the head of the table.
At these potlatches a " frenzied " hospitality prevails ;
everything is bestowed with a lavish and reckless hand
upon the visitors, from food and drink to the host's most
precious possession, blankets. His wives are given freely,
and without the pang which must go with every blanket.
Visitors come and remain for days, or until the host is
absolutely beggared and has nothing more to give.
But since every one accepting his potlatch is not only
expected, but actually bound by tribal laws as fixed as
the stars, to return it, the beggared chief gradually " stocks
up " again ; and in a few years is able to launch forth
brilliantly once more. This is the same system of give
and take that prevails in polite society in the matter of
party-giving. With neither, may the custom be considered as real hospitality, but simply a giving with the
expectation of a sure return. Chiefs have frequently,
however, given away fortunes of many thousands of
dollars within a few days. These were chiefs who aspired
to rise high above their contemporaries in glory ; and,
therefore, would be disappointed to have their generosity
A shaman is a medicine-man who is popularly supposed
to be possessed of supernatural powers. A certain
mystery, or mysticism, is connected with him. He spends
much time in the solitudes of the mountains, working
himself into a highly emotional mental state. The shaman
has his special masks, carved ivory diagnosis-sticks, and
other paraphernalia. The hair of the shaman was never
cut ; at his death, his body was not burned, but was invariably placed in a box on four high posts. It first
reposed for one whole night in each of the four corners
of the house in which he died. On the fifth day it was
laid to rest by the sea-shore ; and every time a Thlinkit
passed it, he tossed a small offering into the water, to
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 83
secure the favor of the dead shaman, who, even in death,
was believed to exercise an influence over the living, for
good or ill.
Slavery was common, as - until the coming of the
Russians - was cannibalism. The slaves were captives
from other tribes. They were forced to perform the most
disagreeable duties, and were subjected to cruel treatment,
punished for trivial faults, and frequently tortured, or
offered in sacrifice. A few very old slaves are said to be
in existence at the present time ; but they are now treated
kindly, and have almost forgotten that their condition is
inferior to that of the remainder of the tribe.
The most famous slaves on the Northwest Coast were
John Jewitt and John Thompson, sole survivors of the
crew of the Boston., which was captured in 1802 by the
Indians of Nootka Sound, on the western coast of Vancouver Island. The officers and all the other men were
most foully murdered, and the ship was burned.
Jewitt and Thompson were spared because one was an
armorer and the other a sailmaker. They were held
as slaves for nearly three years, when they made their
Jewitt published a book, in which he simply and effectively described many of the curious, cruel, and amusing
customs of the people. The two men finally made their
escape upon a boat which had appeared unexpectedly in
The Yakutats belong to the Thlinkit stock, but have
never worn the " little trough," the distinguishing mark
of the true Thlinkit. They inhabit the country between
Mount Fairweather and Mount St. Elias, and were the
cause of much trouble and disaster to Baranoif, Lisiansky,
and other early Russians. They have never adopted the
totem ; and may, therefore, eat the flesh and blubber of
84 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
the whale, which the Thlinkits respect, because it figures
on their totems. The graveyards of the Yakutats are
very picturesque and interesting.
The tribes of the Tinneh, or interior Indians, wall be
considered in another chapter.
Behm Canal is narrow, abruptly shored, and offers
many charming vistas that unfold unexpectedly before
the tourist's eyes. Alaskan steamers do not enter it and,
therefore. New Eddystone Rock is missed by many. This
is a rocky pillar that rises straight from the water, with
a circumference of about one hundred feet at the base
and a height of from two to three hundred feet. It is
draped gracefully with mosses, ferns, and vines. Vancouver breakfasted here, and named it " for the famous
Eddystone Light of England. Unuk River empties its
foaming, glacial waters into Behm Canal.
Leaving Ketchikan, Clarence Strait is entered. This
was named by Vancouver for the Duke of Clarence,
and extends in a northwesterly direction for a hundred
miles. The celebrated Stikine River empties into it.
On Wrangell Island, near the mouth of the Stikine, is
Fort Wrangell, where the steamer makes a stop of several
Fort Wrangell was the first settlement made in southeastern Alaska, after Sitka. It was established in 1834,
by Lieutenant Zarembo, who acted under the orders of
Baron Wrangell, Governor of the Colonies at that time.
A grave situation had arisen over a dispute between the
Russian American Company and the equally powerful
Hudson Bay Company, the latter having pressed its
operations over the Northwest and seriously undermined
the trade of the former. In 1825, the Hudson Bay Company had taken advantage of the clause in the Anglo-
Russian treaty of that year, - which provided for the free
navigation of streams crossing Russian territory in their
course from the British possessions to the sea, - and had
pushed its trading operations to the upper waters of the
Stikine, and in 1833 had outfitted the brig Dryad with
colonists, cattle, and arms for the establishing of trading
posts on the Stikine.
Lieutenant Zarembo, with two armed vessels, the Chichagoff and the Chilkaht, established a fort on a small
peninsula, on the site of an Indian village, and named it
86 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
Redoubt St. Dionysius. All unaware of these significant
movements, the Dryad approaching the mouth of the Stikine, was received by shots from the shore, as well as
from a vessel in the harbor. She at once put back until
out of range, and anchored. Lieutenant Zarembo went
out in a boat, and, in the name of the Governor and the
Emperor, forbade the entrance of a British vessel into the
river. Representations from the agents of the Hudson
Bay Company were unavailing ; they were warned to at
once remove themselves and their vessel from the vicinity
which they accordingly did.
This affair was the cause of serious trouble between the
two nations, which was not settled until 1839, when a
commission met in London and solved the difficulties by
deciding that Russia should pay an indemnity of twenty
thousand pounds, and lease to the Hudson Bay Company
the now celebrated lisiere, or thirty-mile strip from Dixon
Entrance to Yakutat.
In 1840 the Hudson Bay Company raised the British
flag and changed the name from Redoubt St. Dionysius
to Fort Stikine. Sir George Simpson's men are said to
have passed several years of most exciting and adventurous life there, owing to the attacks and besiegements
of the neighboring Indians. An attempt to scale the stockade resulted in failure and defeat. The following year
the fort's supply of water was cut off and the fort was
besieged ; but the Britishers saved themselves by luckily
seizing a chief as hostage.
A year later occurred another attack, in which the fort
would have fallen had it not been for the happy arrival of
two armed vessels in charge of Sir George Simpson, who
tells the story in this brief and simple fashion : -
" By daybreak on Monday, the 25th of April (1842), we were in Wrangell's
Straits, and toward evening, as we approached Stikine, my apprehensions were awakened by
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 87
observing the two national flags, the Russian and the
English, hoisted half-mast high, while, on landing about
seven, my worst fears were realized by hearing of the
tragic end of Mr. John McLoughlin, Jr., the gentleman
recently in charge. On the night of the twentieth a dispute had arisen in the fort, while some of the men, as I
was grieved to hear, were in a state of intoxication ; and
several shots were fired, by one of which Mr. McLoughlin
fell. My arrival at this critical juncture was most opportune, for otherwise the fort might have fallen a sacrifice
to the savages, who were assembled round to the number
of two thousand, justly thinking that the place could
make but a feeble resistance, deprived as it was of its
head, and garrisoned by men in a state of complete insubordination."
In 1867 a United States military post was established
on a new site. A large stockade was erected and garrisoned by two companies of the Twenty-first Infantry.
This post was abandoned in 1870, the buildings being sold
for six hundred dollars.
In the early eighties Lieutenant Schwatka found Wrangell "the most tumble-down-looking company of cabins I
ever saw." He found its "Chinatown" housed in an old
Stikine River steamboat on the beach, which had descended
to its low estate as gradually and almost as imperceptibly
as Becky Sharpe descended to the " soiled white petticoat "
condition of life. As Queen of the Stikine, the old steamer
had earned several fortunes for her owners in that river's
heyday times ; then she was beached and used as a store ;
then, as a hotel ; and, last of all, as a Chinese mess- and
In 1838 another attempt had been made by the Hudson
Bay Company to establish a trading post at Dease Lake,
about sixty miles from Stikine River and a hundred and
fifty from the sea. This attempt also was a failure. The
88 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
tortures of fear and starvation were vividly described by
Mr. Robert Campbell, who had charge of the party making the attempt, which consisted of four men.
" We passed a winter of constant dread from the savage
Russian Indians, and of much suffering from starvation.
We were dependent for subsistence on what animals we
could catch, and, failing that, on tripe de roche (moss).
We were at one time reduced to such dire straits that we
were obliged to eat our parchment windows, and our last
meal before abandoning Dease Lake, on the eighth of May,
1839, consisted of the lacings of our snow-shoes."
Had it not been for the kindness and the hospitality of
the female chief of the Nahany tribe of Indians, who inhabited the region, the party would have perished.
The Indians of the coast in early days made long trading excursions into the interior, to obtain furs.
The discovery of the Cassiar mines, at the head of the
Stikine, was responsible for the revival of excitement and
lawlessness in Fort Wrangell, as it had been named at the
time of its first military occupation, and a company of the
Fourth Artillery was placed in charge until 1877, the date
of the removal of troops from all posts in Alaska.
The first post and the ground upon which it stood were
sold to W. K. Lear. The next company occupied it at a
very small rental, contrary to the wishes of the owner.
In 1884 the Treasury Department took possession, claiming that the first sale was illegal. A deputy collector was
placed in charge. The case was taken into the courts,
but it was not until 1890 that a decision was rendered in
the Sitka court that, as the first sale was unconstitutional,
Mr. Lear was entitled to his six hundred dollars with
interest compounding for twenty years.
Wrangell gradually fell into a storied and picturesque
decay. The burnished halo of early romance has always
clung to her. At the time of the gold excitement and
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 89
the rush to the Klondike, the town revived suddenly with
the reopening of navigation on the Stikine. This was, at
first, a favorite route to the Klondike. At White Horse
may today be seen steamers which were built on the
Stikine in 1898, floated by piecemeal up that river and
across Lake Teslin, and down the Hootalinqua River to
the Yukon, having been packed by horses the many intervening miles between rivers and lakes, at fifty cents a
pound. Reaching their destination at White Horse, they
were put together, and started on the Dawson run.
Looking at these historic steamers, now lying idle at
White Horse, the passenger and freight rates do not seem
so exorbitant as they do before one comes to understand
the tremendous difficulties of securing any transportation
at all in these unknown and largely unexplored regions
in so short a time. Even a person who owns no stock in
steamship or railway corporations, if he be sensible and
reasonable, must be able to see the point of view of the
men who dauntlessly face such hardships and perils to
furnish transportation in these wild and inaccessible
places. They take such desperate chances neither for
their health nor for sweet charity's sake.
Three years ago Wrangell was largely destroyed by
fire. It is partially rebuilt, but the visitor today is
doomed to disappointment at first sight of the modern
frontier buildings. Ruins of the old fort, however, remain, and several ancient totems are in the direction of
the old burial ground. One, standing in front of a
modern cottage which has been erected on the site of
the old lodge, is all sprouted out in green. Mosses,
grasses, and ferns spring in April freshness out of the
eyes of children, the beaks of eagles, and the open mouths
of frogs ; while the very crest of the totem is crowned a
foot or more high with a green growth. The effect is at
once ludicrous and pathetic, - marking, as it does, the
90 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
vanishing of a picturesque and interesting race, its customs and its superstitions.
The famous chief of the Stikine region was Shakes, a
fierce, fighting, bloodthirsty old autocrat, dreaded by all
other tribes, and insulted with impunity by none. He
was at the height of his power in the forties, but lived for
many years afterward, resisting the advances of missionaries and scorning their religion to the day of his
death. In many respects he was like the equally famous
Skowl of Kasa-an, who went to the trouble and the expense of erecting a totem-pole for the sole purpose of perpetuating his scorn and derision of Christian advances to
his people. The totem is said to have been covered with
the images of priests, angels, and books.
Shakes was given one of the most brilliant funerals
ever held in Alaska ; but whether as an expression of
irreconcilable grief or of uncontrollable joy in the escape
of his people from his tyrannic and overbearing sway, is
not known. He belonged to the bear totem, and a stuffed
bear figured in the pageant and was left to guard his
The climate of Wrangell is charming, owing to the high
mountains on the islands to the westward which shelter
the town from the severity of the ocean storms. The
growing of vegetables and berries is a profitable investment, both reaching enormous size, the latter being of
specially delicate flavor. Flowers bloom luxuriantly.
The Wrangell shops at present contain some very fine
specimens of basketry, and the prices were very reasonable, although most of the tourists from our steamer were
speechless when they heard them. Some real Attn and
Atka baskets were found here at prices ranging from one
hundred dollars up. At Wrangell, therefore, the tourist
begins to part with his money, and does not cease until
he has reached Skaguay to the northward, or Sitka and
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 91
Yakutat to the westward ; and if be should journey out
into the Aleutian Isles, he may borrow money to get
home. The weave displayed is mostly twined, but some
fine specimens of coiled and coiled imbricated were offered
us in the dull, fascinating colors used by the Thompson
River Indians of British Columbia, having probably been
obtained in trade. These latter are treasures, and always
worth buying, especially as Indian baskets are increasing
in value with every year that passes. Baskets that I purchased easily for three dollars or three and a half in 1905
were held stubbornly at seven and a half or eight in 1907 ;
while the difference in prices of the more expensive ones
was even greater.
Squaws sit picturesquely about the streets, clad in gay
colors, with their wares spread out on the sidewalk in
front of them. They invariably sit with their backs
against buildings or fences, seeming to have an aversion
to permitting any one to stand or pass behind them.
They have grown very clever at bargaining ; and the
little trick, which has been practiced by tourists for years,
of waiting until the gangway is being hauled in and then
making an offer for a coveted basket, has apparently been
worn threadbare, and is received with jeers and derision,which is rather discomfiting to the person making the
offer if he chances to be upon a crowded steamer. The
squaws point their fingers at him, to shame him, and
chuckle and tee-bee among themselves, with many guttural duckings and side-glances so good-naturedly
contemptuous and derisive as to be embarrassing beyond words, particularly as some greatly desired basket disappears into a filthy bag and is borne proudly away on a
scornful dark shoulder.
Baskets are growing scarcer and more valuable, and
the tourist who sees one that he desires, will be wise to
pay the price demanded for it, as the conditions of trading
92 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
with the Alaskan Indians are rapidly changing. The younger Indians frequently
speak and understand English perfectly ; while the older ones are adepts in
reading a human face ; making a combination not easily imposed upon. Even the
officers of the ship, who, being acquainted with "Mollie" or " Sallie," "Mrs. Sam" or
" Pete's Wife," volunteer to buy a basket at a reduction
for some enthusiastic but thin-pursed passenger, do not
at present meet with any exhilarating success.
" S'pose she pay my price," " Mrs. Sam " replies, with
smiling but stubborn indifference, as she sets the basket
Indian basketry is poetry, music, art, and life itself
woven exquisitely together out of dreams, and sent out
into a thoughtless world in appealing messages which
will one day be farewells, when the poor lonely dark
women who wove them are no more.
At its best, the basketry of the islands of Atka and
Attn in the Aleutian chain is the most beautiful in the
world. Most of the basketry now sold as Attn is woven
by the women of Atka, we were told at Unalaska, which
is the nearest market for these baskets. Only one old
woman remains on Attn who understands this delicate
and priceless work ; and she is so poorly paid that she
was recently reported to be in a starving condition, al-
though the velvety creations of her old hands and brain
bring fabulous prices to some one. The saying that an
Attn basket increases a dollar for every mile as it travels
toward civilization, is not such an exaggeration as it
seems. I saw a trader from the little steamer Bora - the
only one regularly plying those far waters - buy a small
basket, no larger than a pint bowl, for five dollars in
Unalaska ; and a month later, on another steamer, between
Valdez and Seattle, an enthusiastic young man from New
York brought the same basket out of his stateroom and
proudly displayed it.
" I got this one at a great bargain," he bragged, with
shining eyes. "I bought it in Valdez for twenty-five
dollars, just what it cost at Unalaska. The man needed
94 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
the money worse than the basket. I don't know how it
is, but I'm always stumbling on bargains like that!" he
concluded, beginning to strut.
Then I was heartless enough to laugh, and to keep on
laughing. I had greatly desired that basket myself !
He had the satisfaction of knowing, however, that his
little twined bowl, with the coloring of a Behring Sea
sunset woven into it, would be worth fifty dollars by the
time he reached Seattle, and at least a hundred in New
York; and it was so soft and flexible that he could fold
it up meantime and carry it in his pocket, if he chose, - to
say nothing of the fact that Elizabeth Propokoffono, the
young and famed dark-eyed weaver of Atka, may have
woven it herself. Like the renowned " Sally-bags," made
by Sally, a Wasco squaw, the baskets woven by Elizabeth
have a special and sentimental value. If she would weave
her initials into them, she might ask, and receive, any price
she fancied. Sally, of the Wascos, on the other hand, is
very old ; no one weaves her special bag, and they are be-
coming rare and valuable. They are of plain, twined
weaving, and are very coarse. A small one in the writer's
possession is adorned with twelve fishes, six eagles, three
dogs, and two and a half men. Sally is apparently a
woman-suffragist of the old school, and did not consider
that men counted for much in the scheme of Indian
baskets ; yet, being a philosopher, as well as a suffragist,
concluded that half a man was better than none at all.
At Yakutat " Mrs. Pete " is the best-known basket
weaver. Young, handsome, dark-e ped, and clean, with a
chubby baby in her arms, she willingly, and with great
gravity, posed against the pilot-house of the old Santa
Ana for her picture. Asked for an address to which I
might send one of the pictures, she proudly replied, " Just
Mrs. Pete, Yakutat." Her courtesy was in marked contrast to the exceeding rudeness with which the Sitkan
ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY 95
women treat even the most considerate and deferential
photographers; glaring at them, turning their backs,
covering their heads, hissing, and even spitting at them.
However, the Yakutats do not often see tourists, who,
heaven knows, are not one of the novelties of the Sitkans'
According to Lieutenant G. T. Emmons, who is the
highest authority on Thlinkit Indians, not only so far as
their basketry is concerned, but their history, habits, and
customs, as well, nine-tenths of all their basketwork is of
the open, cylindrical type which throws the chief wear
and strain upon the borders. These are, therefore, of
greater variety than those of any other Indians, except
possibly the Haidahs.
As I have elsewhere stated, nearly all Thlinkit baskets
are of the twined weave, which is clearly described by
Otis Tufton Mason in his precious and exquisite work,
" Aboriginal American Basketry " ; a work which every
student of basketry should own. If anything could be as
fascinating as the basketry itself, it would be this charmingly written and charmingly illustrated book.
Basketry is either hand-woven or sewed. Hand-woven
work is divided into checker work, twilled work, wicker
work, wrapped work, and twined work. Sewed work is
called coiled basketry.
Twined work is found on the Pacific Coast from Attn
to Chile, and is the most delicate and difficult of all woven
work. It has a set of warp rods, and the weft elements
are worked in by two-strand or three-strand methods.
Passing from warp to warp, these weft elements are
twisted in half-turns on each other, so as to form a two-
strand or three-strand twine or braid, and usually with a
deftness that keeps the glossy side of the weft outward.
"The Thlinkit, weaving," says Lieutenant Emmons,
" sits with knees up-drawn to the chin, feet close to the
96 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
body, bent-shouldered, with the arms around the knees,
the work held in front. Sometimes the knees fall slightly
apart, the work held between them, the weft frequently
held in the mouth, the feet easily crossed. The basket is
held bottom down. In all kinds of weave, the strands
are constantly dampened by dipping the fingers in water."
The finest work of Attu and Atka is woven entirely under
water. A rude awl, a bear's claw or tooth, are the only
implements used. The Attu weaver has her basket inverted and suspended by a string, working from the bottom down toward the top.
Almost every part of plants is used - roots, stems,
bark, leaves, fruit, and seeds. The following are the
plants chiefly used by the Thlinkits : The black shining
stems of the maidenhair fern, which are easily distinguished and which add a rich touch ; the split stems of
the brome-grass as an overlaying material for the white
patterns of spruce-root baskets ; for the same purpose, the
split stem of bluejoint; the stem of wood reed-grass; the
stem of tufted hair-grass ; the stem of beech-rye ; the root
of horsetail, which works in a rich purple ; wolf moss,
boiled for canary-yellow dye ; manna-grass ; root of the
Sitka spruce tree ; juice of the blueberry for a purple dye.
The Attu weaver uses the stems and leaves of grass,
having no trees and few plants. When she wants the
grass white, it is cut in November and hung, points down,
out-doors to dry ; if yellow be desired, as it usually is, it is
cut in July and the two youngest full-grown blades are
cut out and split into three pieces, the middle one being
rejected and the others hung up to dry out-doors ; if green
is wanted, the grass is prepared as for yellow, except that
the first two weeks of curing is carried on in the heavy
shade of thick grasses, then it is taken into the house
and dried. Curing requires about a month, during which
time the sun is never permitted to touch the grass.
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 97
Ornamentation by means of color is wrought by the
use of materials which are naturally of a different color ;
by the use of dyed materials ; by overlaying the weft and
warp with strips of attractive material before weaving ;
by embroidering on the texture during the process of
manufacture, this being termed " false " embroidery ; by
covering the texture with plaiting, called imbrication ; by
the addition of feathers, beads, shells, and objects of like
Some otherwise fine specimens of Atkan basketry are
rendered valueless, in my judgment, by the present custom
of introducing flecks of gaily dyed wool, the matchless
beauty of these baskets lying in their delicate, even weaving, and in their exquisite natural coloring - the faintest
old rose, lavender, green, yellow and purple being woven
together in one ravishing mist of elusive splendor. So
enchanting to the real lover of basketry are the creations
of those far lonely women's hands and brains, that they
seem fairly to breathe out their loveliness upon the air, as
This basketry was first introduced to the world in 1874,
by William H. Dall, to whom Alaska and those who love
Alaska owe so much. Warp and weft are both of beach
grass or wild rye. One who has never seen a fine speci-
men of these baskets has missed one of the joys of this
The Aleuts perpetuate no story or myth in their ornamentation. With them it is art for art's sake ; and this
is, doubtless, one reason why their work draws the be-
The symbolism of the Thlinkit is charming. It is found
not alone in their basketry, but in their carvings in stone,
horn, and wood, and in Chilkaht blankets. The favorite
designs are : shadow of a tree, water drops, salmon berry
cut in half, the Arctic tern's tail, flaking of the flesh of
98 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
a fish, shark's tooth, leaves of the fireweed, an eye,
raven's tail, and the crossing. It must be confessed that
only a wild imagination could find the faintest resemblance of the symbols woven into the baskets to the objects
they represent. The symbol called " shadow of a tree "
really resembles sunlight in moving water.
With the Haidah hats and Chilkaht blankets, it is very
different. The head, feet, wings, and tail of the raven, for
instance, are easily traced. In more recent basketry the
swastika is a familiar design. Many Thlinkit baskets
have " rattly " covers. Seeds found in the crops of quail
are woven into these covers. They are " good spirits "
which can never escape ; and will insure good fortune to
the owner. Woe be to him, however, should he permit
his curiosity to tempt him to investigate ; they will then
escape and work him evil instead of good, all the days of
In Central Alaska, the basketry is usually of the coiled
variety, coarsely and very indifferently executed. Both
spruce and willow are used. From Dawson to St.
Michael, in the summer of 1907, stopping at every trading
post and Indian village, I did not see a single piece of
basketry that I would carry home. Coarse, unclean, and
of slovenly workmanship, one could but turn away in pity
and disgust for the wasted effort.
The Innuit in the Beliring Sea vicinity make both coiled
and twined basketry from dried grasses ; but it is even
worse than the Yukon basketry, being carelessly done, -
the Innuit infinitely preferring the carving and decorating
of walrus ivory to basket weaving. It is delicious to find
an Innuit who never saw a glacier decorating a paperknife with something that looks like a pond lily, and
labeling it Taku Glacier, which is three thousand miles
to the southeastward. I saw no attempt on the Yukon,
nor on Behring Sea, at what Mr. Mason calls imbrication,
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 99
the beautiful ornamentation which the Indians of
Columbia, Frazer, and Thompson rivers and of many
Salish tribes of Northwestern Washington use to distinguish their coiled work. It resembles knife-plaiting
before it is pressed flat. This imbrication is frequently
of an exquisite, dull, reddish brown over an old soft yellow. Baskets adorned with it often have handles and flat
covers ; but papoose baskets and covered long baskets,
almost as large as trunks, are common.
There was once a tide in my affairs which, not being
taken at the flood, led on to everlasting regret.
One August evening several years ago I landed on an
island in Puget Sound where some Indians were camped
for the fishing season. It was Sunday ; the men were
playing the fascinating gambling game of slahal, the
children were shouting at play, the women were gathered
in front of their tents, gossiping.
In one of the tents I found a coiled, imbricated Thompson River basket in old red-browns and yellows. It was
three and a half feet long, two and a half feet high, and
two and a half wide, with a thick, close-fitting cover.
It was offered to me for ten dollars, and - that I should
live to chronicle it ! - not knowing the worth of such a
basket, I closed my eyes to its appealing and unforgettable beauty, and passed it by.
But it had, it has, and it always will have its silent
revenge. It is as bright in my memory today as it was
in my vision that August Sunday ten years ago, and more
enchanting. My longing to see it again, to possess it,
increases as the years go by. Never have I seen its equal,
never shall I. Yet am I ever looking for that basket, in
every Indian tent or hovel I may stumble upon - in
villages, in camps, in out-of-the-way places. Sure am I that
I should know it from all other baskets, at but a glance.
I knew nothing of the value of baskets, and I fancied
100 ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY
the woman was taking advantage of my ignorance.
While I hesitated, the steamer whistled. It was all over
in a moment ; my chance was gone. I did not even
dream how greatly I desired that basket until I stood in
the bow of the steamer and saw the little white camp fade
from view across the sunset sea.
The original chaste designs and symbols of Thlinkit,
Haidah, and Aleutian basketry are gradually yielding,
before the coarse taste of traders and tourists, to the
more modern and conventional designs. I have lived to
see a cannery etched upon an exquisitely carved paperknife ; while the things produced at infinite labor and
care and called cribbage-boards are in such bad taste that
tourists buying them become curios themselves.
The serpent has no place in Alaskan basketry for the
very good reason that there is not a snake in all Alaska,
and the Indians and Innuit probably never saw one. A
woman may wade through the swampiest place or the
tallest grass without one shivery glance at her pathway
for that little sinuous ripple which sends terror to most
women's hearts in warmer climes. Indeed, it is claimed
that no poisonous thing exists in Alaska.
The tourist must not expect to buy baskets farther north
than Skaguay, where fine ones may be obtained at very
reasonable prices. Having visited several times every
place where basketry is sold, I would name first Dundas
then Yakutat, and then Sitka as the most desirable places
for "shopping," so far as southeastern Alaska is concerned;
out "to Westward," first Unalaska and Dutch Harbor,
then Kodiak and Seldovia.
But the tourists who make the far, beautiful voyage out
among the Aleutians to Unalaska might almost be counted
annually upon one's fingers - so unexploited are the
attractions of that region ; therefore, I will add that fine
specimens of the Attn and Atka work may be found at
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 101
Wrangell, Juneau, Skaguay, and Sitka, without much
choice, either in workmanship or price. But fortunate
may the tourist consider himself who travels this route
on a steamer that gathers the salmon catch in August
or September, and is taken through Icy Strait to the
Dundas cannery. There, while a cargo of canned salmon
is being taken aboard, the passengers have time to barter
with the good-looking and intelligent Indians for the
superb baskets laid out in the immense warehouse. No-
where in Alaska have I seen baskets of such beautiful
workmanship, design, shape, and coloring as at Dundas -
excepting always, of course, the Attn and Atka ; nowhere
have I seen them in such numbers, variety, and at such
My own visit to Dundas was almost pathetic. It was
on my return from a summer's voyage along the coast of
Alaska, as far westward as Unalaska. I had touched at
every port between Dixon's Entrance and Unalaska, and
at many places that were not ports ; had been lightered
ashore, rope-laddered and dried ashore, had waded ashore,
and been carried ashore on sailors' backs ; and then, with
my top berth filled to the ceiling with baskets and things,
with all my money spent and all my clothes worn out,
I stood in the warehouse at Dundas and saw those dozens
of beautiful baskets, and had them offered to me at but
half the prices I had paid for inferior baskets. It was
here that the summer hats and the red kimonos and the
pretty collars were brought out, and were eagerly seized
by the dark and really handsome Indian girls. A ten-dollar hat - at the end of the season - went for a fifteen-dollar basket ; a long, red woollen kimono, - whose
warmth had not been required on this ideal trip, anyhow, secured another of the same price; and may heaven
forgive me, but I swapped one twenty-two-inch gold-embroidered belt for a three-dollar basket, even while I
102 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
knew in my sinful heart that there was not a waist in
that warehouse that measured less than thirty-five inches ;
and from that to fifty!
However, in sheer human kindness, I taught the girl to
whom I swapped it how it might be worn as a garter,
and her delight was so great and so unexpected that it
caused me some apprehension' as to the results. My very
proper Scotch friend and traveling companion was so
"aghast at my suggestion that she took the girl aside and
advised her to wear the belt for collars, cut in half, or as
a gay decoration up the front plait of her shirt-waist, or
as armlets ; so that, with it all, I was at last able to
retire to my stateroom and enjoy my bargains with a
clear conscience, feeling that after some fashion the girl
would get her basket's worth out of the belt.
Leaving Wrangell, the steamer soon passes, on the
port side and at the entrance to Sumner Strait, Zarembo
Island, named for that Lieutenant Zarembo who so successfully prevented the Britishers from entering Stikine
River. Baron Wrangell bestowed the name, desiring in
his gratitude and appreciation to perpetuate the name
and fame of the intrepid young officer.
From Sumner Strait the famed and perilously beautiful
Wrangell Narrows is entered. This ribbon-like water-way
is less than twenty miles long, and in many places so
narrow that a stone may be tossed from shore to shore.
It winds between Mitkoff and Kupreanofl islands, and
may be navigated only at certain stages of the tide.
Deep-draught vessels do not attempt Wrangell Narrows,
but turn around Cape Decision and proceed by way of
Chatham Strait and Frederick Sound - a course which
adds at least eighty miles to the voyage.
The interested voyager will not miss one moment of
the run through the narrows, either for sleep or hunger.
Better a sleepless night or a dinnerless day than one minute lost of this matchless scenic attraction.
The steamer pushes, under slow bell, along a channel
which, in places, is not wider than the steamer itself. Its
sides are frequently touched by the long' strands of kelp
that cover the sharp and dangerous reefs, which may be
plainly seen in the clear water.
The timid passenger, sailing these narrows, holds his
104 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
breath a good part of the time, and casts anxious glances
at the bridge, whereon the captain and his pilots stand
silent, stern, with steady, level gaze set upon the course.
One moment's carelessness, ten seconds of inattention,
might mean the loss of a vessel in this dangerous strait.
Intense silence prevails, broken only by the heavy, slow
throb of the steamer and the swirl of the brown water in
whirlpools over the rocks ; and these sounds echo far.
The channel is marked by many buoys and other signals. The island shores on both sides are heavily wooded
to the water, the branches spraying out over the water in
bright, lacy green. The tree trunks are covered with
pale green moss, and long moss-fringes hang from the
branches, from the tips of the trees to the water's edge.
The effect is the same as that of festal decoration.
Eagles may always be seen perched motionless upon
the tall tree-tops or upon buoys.
The steamship Colorado went upon the rocks between
Spruce and Anchor points in 1900, where her storm-
beaten hull still lies as a silent, but eloquent, warning of
the perils of this narrow channel.
The tides roaring in from the ocean through Frederick
Sound on the north and Sumner Strait on the south meet
near Finger Point in the narrows.
Sunrise and sunset effects in this narrow channel are
justly famed. I once saw a mist blown ahead of my
steamer at sunset that, in the vivid brilliancy of its mingled scarlets, greens, and purples, rivaled the coloring of
At dawn, long rays of delicate pink, beryl, and pearl
play through this green avenue, deepening in color, fading, and withdrawing like Northern Lights. When the
scene is silvered and softened by moonlight, one looks for
elves and fairies in the shadows of the moss-dripping
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 105
The silence is so intense and the channel so narrow,
that frequently at dawn wild birds on the shores are heard
saluting the sun with song ; and never, under any other
circumstances, has bird song seemed so nearly divine, so
golden with magic and message, as when thrilled through
the fragrant, green stillness of Wrangell Narrows at such
I was once a passenger on a steamer that lay at anchor
all night in Sumner Strait, not daring to attempt the narrows on account of storm and tide. A stormy sunset
burned about our ship. The sea was like a great, scarlet
poppy, whose every wave petal circled upward at the
edges to hold a fleck of gold. Island upon island stood
out through that riot of color in vivid, living green, and
splendid peaks shone burnished against the sky.
There was no sleep that night. Music and the dance
held sway in the cabins for those who cared for them,
and for the others there was the beauty of the night. In
our chairs, sheltered by the great smoke-stacks of the
hurricane-deck, we watched the hours go by - each hour
a different color from the others - until the burned-out
red of night had paled into the new sweet primrose of
dawn. The wind died, leaving the full tide " that, moving, seems asleep"; and no night was ever warmer and
sweeter in any tropic sea than that.
Wrangell Narrows leads into Frederick Sound - so
named by Whidbey and Johnstone, who met there, in
1794, on the birthday of Frederick, Duke of York.
Vancouver's expedition actually ended here, and the
search for the "Strait of Anian" was finally abandoned.
Several glaciers are in this vicinity: Small, Patterson,
Summit, and Le Conte. The Devil's Thumb, a spire-shaped peak on the mainland, rises more than two thousand feet above the level of the sea, and stands guard
106 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
over Wrangell Narrows and the islands and glaciers of
On Soukhoi Island fox ranches were established about
five years ago; they are said to be successful.
The Thunder Bay Glacier is the first on the coast that
discharges bergs. The thunder-like roars with which the
vast bulks of beautiful blue-white ice broke from the
glacier's front caused the Indians to believe this bay to
be the home of the thunder-bird, who always produces
thunder by the flapping of his mighty wings.
Baird Glacier is in Thomas Bay, noted for its scenic
charms, - glaciers, forestation, waterfalls, and sheer
heights combining to give it a deservedly wide reputation
among tourists. Elephant's Head, Portage Bay, Farragut
Bay, and Cape Fanshaw are important features of the
vicinity. The latter is a noted landmark and storm-
point. It fronts the southwest, and the full fury of the
fiercest storms beats mercilessly upon it. Light craft frequently try for days to make this point, when a wild
gale is blowing from the Pacific.
Of the scenery to the south of Cape Fanshaw, Whidbey reported to Vancouver,
on his final trip of exploration in August, 1794, that " the mountains rose
abruptly to a prodigious height ... to the South, a part of them presented an uncommonly awful appearance, rising with an
inclination towards the water to a vast height, loaded
with an immense quantity of ice and snow, and overhanging their base, which seemed to be insufficient to bear the
ponderous fabric it sustained, and rendered the view of
the passage beneath it horribly magnificent."
At the Cape he encountered such severe gales that a
whole day and night were consumed in making a distance
of sixteen miles.
There are more fox ranches on " The Brothers " Islands,
and soon after passing them Frederick Sound narrows into
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 107
Stephens' Passage. Here, to starboard, on the mainland,
is Mount Windham, twenty-vive hundred feet in height, in
Gold was discovered in this region in the early seventies, and mines were worked for a number of years before
the Juneau and Treadwell excitement. The mountains
abound in game.
Sumdum is a mining town in Sumdum, or Holkham,
Bay. The fine, live glacier in this arm is more perfectly
named than any other in Alaska - Sum-dum, as the
Indians pronounce it, more clearly describing the deep
roar of breaking and falling ice, with echo, than any other
Large steamers do not enter this bay ; but small craft,
at slack-tide, may make their way among the rocks and
icebergs. It is well worth the extra expense and trouble
of a visit.
To the southwest of Cape Fanshaw, in Frederick Sound,
is Turnabout Island, whose suggestive name is as forlorn
as Turnagain Arm, in Cook Inlet, where Cook was forced
to "turn again" on what proved to be his last voyage.
Stephens' Passage is between the mainland and Admiralty Island. This island barely escapes becoming three
or four islands. Seymour Canal, in the eastern part,
almost cuts off a large portion, which is called Glass
Peninsula, the connecting strip of land being merely a
portage ; Kootznahoo Inlet cuts more than halfway across
from west to east, a little south of the centre of the island ;
and at the northern end had Hawk Inlet pierced but a
little farther, another island would have been formed.
The scenery along these inlets, particularly Kootznahoo,
where the lower wooded hills rise from sparkling blue
waters to glistening snow peaks, is magnificent. Whidbey reported that although this island appeared to be
composed of a rocky substance covered with but little
108 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
soil, and that chiefly consisting of vegetables in an imperfect state of dissolution, yet it produced timber
considered superior to any he had before observed on the
western coast of America.
It is a pity that some steamship company does not run at
least one or two excursions during the summer to the little-
known and unexploited inlets of southeastern Alaska - to
the abandoned Indian villages, graveyards, and totems ;
the glaciers, cascades, and virgin spruce glades ; the roaring narrows and dim, sweet fiords, where the regular passenger and "tourist" steamers do not touch. A month
might easily be spent on such a trip, and enough nature-loving, interested, and interesting people could be found
to take every berth - without the bugaboo, the increasing
nightmare of the typical tourist, to rob one of his pleasure.
At present an excursion steamer sails from Seattle, and
from the hour of its sailing the steamer throbs through the
most beautiful archipelago in the world, the least known,
and the one most richly repaying study, making only five
or six landings, and visiting two glaciers at most. It is
quite true that every moment of this " tourist " trip of ten
days is, nevertheless, a delight, if the weather be favorable ; that the steamer rate is remarkably cheap, and that
no one can possibly regret having made this trip if he cannot afford a longer one in Alaska. But this does not alter
the fact that there are hundreds of people who would
gladly make the longer voyage each summer, if transportation were afforded. Local transportation in Alaska is
so expensive that few can afford to go from place to place,
waiting for steamers, and paying for boats and guides for
every side trip they desire to make.
Admiralty Island is rich in gold, silver, and other minerals. There are whaling grounds in the vicinity, and a
whaling station was recently established on the southwestern end of the Island, near Surprise Harbor and Murder
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 109
Cove. Directly across Chatham Strait from this station,
on Baranoff Island, only twenty-five miles from Sitka, are
the famous Sulphur Hot Springs.
There are fine marble districts on the western shores of
On the southern end are Woewodski Harbor and Pybas
Halfway through Stephens' Passage are the Midway
Islands, and but a short distance farther, on the mainland,
is Port Snettisham, a mining settlement on an arm whose
northern end is formed by Cascades Glacier, and from
whose southern arm musically and exquisitely leaps a cascade which is the only rival of Sarah Island in the affections of mariners - Sweetheart Falls.
Who so tenderly named this cascade, and for whom, I
have not been able to learn ; but those pale green, foam-
crested waters shall yet give up their secret. Never
would Vancouver be suspected of such naming. Had he
so prettily and sentimentally named it, the very waters
would have turned to stone in their fall, petrified by
The scenery of Snettisham Inlet is the finest in this
vicinity of fine scenic effects, with the single exception of
In Taku Harbor is an Indian village, called Taku, where
may be found safe anchorage, which is frequently required
in winter, on account of what are called "Taku winds."
Passing Grand Island, which rises to a wooded peak, the
steamer crosses the entrance to Taku Inlet and enters
There are many fine peaks in this vicinity, from two to
ten thousand feet in height.
The stretch of water where Stephens' Passage, Taku
Inlet, Gastineau Channel, and the southeastern arm of
Lynn Canal meet is in winter dreaded by pilots. A
110 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
squall is liable to come tearing down Taku Inlet at any
moment and meet one from some other direction, to the
peril of navigation.
At times a kind of fine frozen mist is driven across by
the violent gales, making it difficult to see a ship's length
ahead. At such times the expressive faces on the bridge
of a steamer are psychological studies.
In summer, however, no open stretch of water could
be more inviting. Clear, faintly rippled, deep sapphire,
flecked with the first glistening bergs floating out of the
inlet, it leads the way to the glorious presence that lies
I had meant to take the reader first up lovely Gastineau
Channel to Juneau ; but now that I have unintentionally
drifted into Taku Inlet, the glacier lures me on. It is
only an hour's run, and the way is one of ever increasing
beauty, until the steamer has pushed its prow through the
hundreds of sparkling icebergs, under slow bell, and at
last lies motionless. One feels as though in the presence
of some living, majestic being, clouded in mystery. The
splendid front drops down sheer to the water, from a
height of probably three hundred feet. A sapphire mist
drifts over it, without obscuring the exquisite tintings of
rose, azure, purple, and green that flash out from the
glistening spires and columns. The crumpled mass pushing down from the mountains strains against the front,
and sends towered bulks plunging headlong into the sea,
with a roar that echoes from peak to peak in a kind of
"linked sweetness long-drawn out " and ever diminishing.
There is no air so indescribably, thrillingly sweet as the
air of a glacier on a fair day. It seems to palpitate with
a fragrance that ravishes the senses. I saw a great, recently captured bear, chained on the hurricane deck of a
steamer, stand with his nose stretched out toward the
glacier, his nostrils quivering and a look of almost human
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 111
longing and rebellion in his small eyes. The feeling of
pain and pity with which a humane person always be-
holds a chained wild animal is accented in these wide and
noble spaces swimming from snow mountain to snow
mountain, where the very watchword of the silence seems
to be " Freedom." The chained bear recognized the scent
of the glacier and remembered that he had once been free.
In front of the glacier stretched miles of sapphire, sunlit sea, set with sparkling, opaline-tinted icebergs. Now
and then one broke and fell apart before our eyes, sending
up a funnel-shaped spray of color, - rose, pale green, or
At every blast of the steamer's whistle great masses of ice came thundering
headlong into the sea - to emerge presently, icebergs. Canoeists approach
glaciers closely at their peril, never knowing when an iceberg may shoot to the
surface and wreck their boat. Even larger craft are by no means safe, and
tourists desiring a close approach should voyage with intrepid captains who sail
safely through everything.
The wide, ceaseless sweep of a live glacier down the
side of a great mountain and out into the sea holds a more
compelling suggestion of power than any other action of
nature. I have never felt the appeal of a mountain glacier - of a stream of ice and snow that, so far as the eye
can discover, never reaches anywhere, although it keeps
going forever. The feeling of forlornness with which,
after years of anticipation, I finally beheld the renowned
glacier of the Selkirks, will never be forgotten. It was
the forlornness of a child who has been robbed of her
Santa Claus, or who has found that her doll is stuffed with
But to behold the splendid, perpendicular front of a
live glacier rising out of a sea which breaks everlastingly
upon it ; to see it under the rose and lavender of sunset
112 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
or the dull gold of noon; to see and hear tower, minaret,
dome, go thundering down into the clear depths and pound
them into foam - this alone is worth the price of a trip
We were told that the opaline coloring of the glacier
was unusual, and that its prevailing color is an intense
blue, more beautiful and constant than that of other glaciers ; and that even the bergs floating out from it were
of a more pronounced blue than other bergs.
But I do not believe it. I have seen the blue of the
Columbia Glacier in Prince William Sound ; and I have
sailed for a whole afternoon among the intensely blue ice
shallops that go drifting in an endless fleet from Glacier
Bay out through Icy Straits to the ocean. If there be a
more exquisite blue this side of heaven than I have seen
in Icy Straits and in the palisades of the Columbia Glacier, I must see it to believe it.
There are three glaciers in Taku Inlet: two - Windham and Twin - which are at present "dead " ; and Taku,
the Beautiful, which is very much alive. The latter was
named Foster, for the former Secretary of the Treasury ;
but the Indian name has clung to it, which is one more
cause for thanksgiving.
The Inlet is eighteen miles long and about seven hundred feet wide. Taku River flows into it from the northeast, spreading out in blue ribbons over the brown flats ;
at high tide it may be navigated, with caution, by small
row-boats and canoes. It was explored in early days by
the Hudson Bay Company, also by surveyors of the Western Union Telegraph Company.
Whidbey, entering the Inlet in 1794, sustained his reputation for absolute blindness to beauty. He found "a
compact body of ice extending some distance nearly all
around." He found " frozen mountains," " rock sides,"
"dwarf pine trees," and "un-dissolving frost and snow."
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 113
He lamented the lack of a suitable landing-place for boats;
and reported the aspect in general to be " as dreary and
inhospitable as the imagination can possibly suggest."
Alas for the poor chilly Englishman ! He, doubtless,
expected silvery-gowned ice maidens to come sliding out
from under the glacier in pearly boats, singing and kissing
their hands, to bear him back into their deep blue grottos
and dells of ice, and refresh him with Russian tea from
old brass samovars ; he expected these maidens to be
girdled and crowned with carnations and poppies, and to
pluck winy grapes - with dust clinging to their bloomy
roundness - from living vines for him to eat ; and most
of all, he expected to find in some remote corner of the
clear and sparkling cavern a big fireplace, " which would
remind him pleasantly of England ; " and a brilliant fire
on a well-swept hearth, with the smoke and sparks going
up through a melted hole in the glacier.
About fifteen miles up Taku River, Wright Glacier
streams down from the southeast and fronts upon the low
and marshy lands for a distance of nearly three miles.
The mountains surrounding Taku Inlet rise to a height
of four thousand feet, jutting out abruptly, in places, over
Gastineau Channel is more than a mile wide at the
entrance, and eight miles long ; it narrows gradually as
it separates Douglas Island from the mainland, and, still
narrowing, goes glimmering on past Juneau, like a silverblue ribbon. Down this channel at sunset burns the most
beautiful coloring, which slides over the milky waters, producing an opaline effect. At such an hour this scene with Treadwell glittering on one side, and Juneau on
the other, with Mount Juneau rising in one swelling sweep
directly behind the town - is one of the fairest in this
country of fair scenes.
The unique situation of Juneau appeals powerfully to
the lover of beauty There is an unforgettable charm in
its narrow, crooked streets and winding, mossed stairways;
its picturesque shops, - some with gorgeous totem-poles
for signs, - where a small fortune may be spent on a single
Attn or Atka basket; the glitter and the music of its
streets and its "places," the latter open all night; its
people standing in doorways and upon corners, eager to
talk to strangers and bid them welcome ; and its gaily
clad squaws, surrounded by fine baskets and other work
of their brown hands.
The streets are terraced down to the water, and many
of the pretty, vine-draped cottages seem to be literally
hung upon the side of the mountain. One must have
good, strong legs to climb daily the flights of stairs that
steeply lead to some of them.
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 115
In the heart of the town is an old Presbyterian Mission
church, built of logs, with an artistic square tower, also
of logs, at one corner. This church is now used as a
brewery and soda-bottling establishment!
The lawns are well cared for, and the homes are furnished with refined taste, giving evidences of genuine
comfort, as well as luxury.
By first sight of Juneau was at three o'clock of a dark
and rainy autumn night in 1905. We had drifted slowly
past the mile or more of brilliant electric lights which is
Treadwell and Douglas ; and turning our eyes to the north,
discovered, across the narrow channel, the lights of Juneau
climbing out of the darkness up the mountain from the
water's edge. Houses and buildings we could not see ; only
those radiant lights, leading us on, like will-o'-the-wisps.
When we landed it seemed as though half the people of
the town, if not the entire population, must be upon the
wharf. It was then that we learned that it is always
daytime in Alaskan towns when a steamer lands - even
though it be three o'clock of a black night.
The business streets were brilliant. Everything was
open for business, except the banks ; a blare of music
burst through the open door of every saloon and dance-
hall ; blond-haired "ladies" went up and down the
streets in the rain and mud, bare-headed, clad in gauze
and other airy materials, in silk stockings and satin
slippers. They laughed and talked with men on the
streets in groups ; they were heard singing ; they were
seen dancing and inviting the young waiters and cabin boys of our steamer into their dance halls.
" How'd you like Juneau?" asked my cabin-boy the
next day, teetering in the doorway with a plate of oranges
in his hand, and a towel over his arm.
" It seemed very lively," I replied, "for three o'clock in
116 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
"Oh, hours don't cut any ice in Alaska," said he.
" People in Alaska keep their clo's hung up at the head of
their beds, like the harness over a fire horse. When the
boat whistles, it loosens the clo's from the hook ; the people
spring out of bed right under 'em ; the clo's fall onto 'em
an' there they are on the wharf, all dressed, by the
time the boat docks. They're all right here, but say !
they can't hold a candle to the people of Valdez for gettin'
to the dock. They just cork you at Valdez."
At Juneau I went through the most brilliant business
transaction of my life. I was in the post-office when I
discovered that I had left my pocket-book on the steamer.
I desired a curling-iron ; so I borrowed a big silver dollar
of a friend, and hastened away to the largest dry-goods
A sleepy clerk waited upon me. The curling-iron was
thirty cents. I gave him the dollar, and he placed the
change in my open hand. Without counting it, I went
back to the post-office, purchased twenty-five cents' worth
of stamps, and gave the balance to the friend from whom
I had borrowed the dollar.
"Count it," said I, "and see how much I owe you."
She counted it.
" How much did you spend ? " she asked presently.
She began to laugh wildly.
" You have a thirty-cent curling-iron, twenty-five cents'
worth of stamps, and you've given me back a dollar and
sixty-five cents - all out of one silver dollar ! "
I counted the money. It was too true.
With a burning face I took the change and went back
to the store. My friend insisted upon going with me,
although I would have preferred to see her lost on the
Taku Glacier. I cannot endure people who laugh like
children at everything.
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 117
The captain and several passengers were in the store.
They heard my explanation ; and they all gathered around
to assist the polite but sleepy clerk.
One would say that it would be the simplest thing in
the world to straighten out that change ; but the postage
stamps added complications. Everybody figured, explained, suggested, criticized, and objected. Several times
we were quite sure we had it. Then, some one would
titter - and the whole thing would go glimmering out of
However, at the end of twenty minutes it was arranged
to the clerk's and my own satisfaction. Several hours
later, when we were well on our way up Lynn Canal, a
calmer figuring up proved that I had not paid one cent
for my curling-iron.
From the harbor Mount Juneau has the appearance of
rising directly out of the town - so sheer and bold is its
upward sweep to a height of three thousand feet. Down
its many pale green mossy fissures falls the liquid silver
It is heavily wooded in some places ; in others, the
bare stone shines through its mossy covering, giving
a soft rose-colored effect, most pleasing to the eye.
Society in Juneau, as in every Alaskan town, is gay.
Its watchword is hospitality. In summer, there are many
excursions to glaciers and the famed inlets which lie
almost at their door, and to see which other people travel
thousands of miles. In winter, there is a brilliant whirl
of dances, card parties, and receptions. " Smokers " to
which ladies are invited are common - although they are
somewhat like the pioneer dish of "potatoes-and-point."
When the pioneers were too poor to buy sufficient bacon
for the family dinner, they hung a small piece on the wall ;
the family ate their solitary dish of potatoes and pointed
at the piece of bacon.
118 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
So, at these smokers, the ladies must be content to see
the men smoke, hut they might, at least, be allowed to
Most of the people are wealthy. Money is plentiful,
and misers are unknown. The expenditure of money for
the purchase of pleasure is considered the best investment
that an Alaskan can make.
Fabulous prices are paid for luxuries in food and
" I have lived in Dawson since 1897," said a lady last
summer, "and have never been ill for a day. I attribute
my good health to the fact that I have never flinched at
the price of anything my appetite craved. Many a time
I have paid a dollar for a small cucumber ; but I have
never paid a dollar for a drug. I have always had fruit,
regardless of the price, and fresh vegetables. No amount
of time or money is considered wasted on flowers. Women
of Alaska invariably dress well and present a smart
appearance. Many wear imported gowns and liats - and
I do not mean imported from ' the states,' either - and
costly jewels and furs are more common than in any other
section of America. We entertain lavishly, and our
hospitality is genuine."
Every traveler in Alaska will testify to the truth of
these assertions. If a man looks twice at a dollar before
spending it, he is soon " jolted " out of the pernicious
The worst feature of Alaskan social life is the " coming
out "of many of the women in winter, leaving their hus-
bands to spend the long, dreary winter months as they
may. To this selfishness on the part of the women is
due much of the intoxication and immorality of Alaska -
few men being of sufficiently strong character to with-
stand the distilled temptations of the country.
That so many women go " out " in winter, is largely
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 119
due to the proverbial kindness and indulgence of American
husbands, who are loath to have their wives subjected to
the rigors and the hardships of an Alaskan winter.
However, the winter exodus may scarcely be considered
a feature of the society of Juneau, or other towns of
southeastern Alaska. The climate resembles that of
Puget Sound ; there is a frequent and excellent steamship
service to and from Seattle ; and the reasons for the
exodus that exist in cold and shut-in regions have no
apparent existence here.
Every business and almost every industry - is represented in Juneau. The town has excellent schools and
churches, a library, women's clubs, hospitals, a chamber of commerce, two influential newspapers, a militia
company, a brass band - and a good brass band is a
feature of real importance in this land of little music - an
opera-house, and, of course, electric lights and a good
Juneau has for several years been the capital of Alaska ;
but not until the appointment of Governor Wilford B.
Hoggatt, in 1906, to succeed Governor J. G. Brady, were
the Executive Office and Governor's residence established
here. So confident have the people of Juneau always
been that it would eventually become the capital of Alaska,
that an eminence between the town and the Auk village
has for twenty years been called Capitol Hill. During all
these years there has been a fierce and bitter rivalry
between Juneau and Sitka.
Juneau was named for Joseph Juneau, a miner" who
came, ".grubstaked," to this region in 1880. It was the
fifth name bestowed upon the place, which grew from a
single camp to the modern and independent town it is
today - and the capital of one of the greatest countries
in the world.
In its early days Juneau passed through many exciting
120 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
and charming vicissitudes. Anything but monotony is
welcomed by a town in Alaska ; and existence in Juneau
in the eighties was certainly not monotonous.
The town started with a grand stampede and rush,
which rivaled that of the Klondike seventeen years later ;
the Treadwell discovery and attendant excitement came
during the second year of its existence, and a guard of
marines was necessary to preserve order until, upon its
withdrawal, a vigilance committee took matters into its
own hands, with immediate beneficial results.
The population of Juneau is about two thousand, which
like that of all other northern towns - is largely increased each fall by the miners who come in from the hills
and inlets to "winter."
In the middle eighties there were Chinese riots. The
little yellow men were all driven out of town, and their
quarters were demolished by a mob.
A recent attempt to introduce Hindu labor in the
Treadwell mines resulted as disastrously.
Treadwell! Could any mine employing stamps have
a more inspiring name, unless it be Stampwell ? It fairly
forces confidence and success.
Douglas Island, lying across the narrow channel from
Juneau, is twenty-five miles long and from four to nine
miles wide. On this island are the four famous Treadwell mines, owned by four separate companies, but having
the same general managership.
Gold was first discovered on this island in 1881. Sorely
against his will, John Treadwell was forced to take some
of the original claims, having loaned a small amount upon
them, which the borrower was unable to repay.
Having become possessed of these claims, a gambler's
"hunch" impelled him to buy an adjoining claim from
" French Pete " for four hundred dollars. On this claim
is now located the famed " Glory Hole."
This is so deep that to one looking down into it the
men working at the bottom and along the sides appear
scarcely larger than flies. Steep stairways lead, winding,
to the bottom of this huge quartz bowl ; but visitors to
the dizzy regions below are not encouraged, on account of
frequent blasting and danger of accidents.
It is claimed that Treadwell is the largest quartz mine
in the world, and that it employs the largest number of
stamps - nine hundred. The ore is low grade, not yielding an average of more than two dollars to the ton ; but
it is so easily mined and so economically handled that the
122 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
mines rank with the Calumet and Hecha, of Michigan ;
the Comstock Lode mines, of Nevada; the Homestake, of
South Dakota ; and the Porthind, of Colorado.
The Treadwell is the pride of Alaska. Its poetic situation, romantic history, and admirable methods should
make it the pride of America.
Its management has always been just and liberal. It
has had fewer labor troubles than any other mine in
There are two towns on the island - Treadwell and
Douglas. The latter is the commercial and residential
portion of the community - for the towns meet and mingle together.
The entire population, exclusive of natives, is three
thousand people - a population that is constantly increasing, as is the demand for laborers, at prices ranging from
two dollars and sixty cents per day up to five dollars for
The island is so brilliantly lighted by electricity that
to one approaching on a dark night it presents the appearance of a city six times its size.
The nine hundred stamps drop ceaselessly, day and
night, with only two holidays in a year - Christmas
and the Fourth of July. The noise is ferocious. In the
stamp-mill one could not distinguish the boom of a cannon, if it were fired within a distance of twenty feet, from
the deep and continuous thunder of the machinery.
In 1881 the first mill, containing five stamps, was built
and commenced crushing ore that came from a streak
twenty feet wide. This ore milled from eight to ten dollars a ton, proving to be of a grade sufficiently high to pay
for developing and milling, and leave a good surplus.
It was soon recognized that the great bulk of the ore
was extremely low grade, and that, consequently, a large
milling capacity would be required to make the enterprise
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 123
a success. A one-hundred-and-twenty-stamp-mill was
erected and began crushing ore in June, 1885. At the
end of three years the stamps were doubled. In another
year three hundred additional stamps were dropping.
Gradually the three other mines were opened up and the
stamps were increased until nine hundred were dropping.
The shafts are from seven to nine hundred feet below
sea level, and one is beneath the channel ; yet very little
water is encountered in sinking them. Most of the water
in the mines comes from the surface and is caught up and
pumped out, from the first level.
The net profits of these mines to their owners are said
to be six thousand dollars a day ; and mountains of ore
are still in sight.
Our captain obtained permission to take us down into
the mine. This was not so difficult as it was to elude the
other passengers. At last, however, we found ourselves
shut into a small room, lined with jumpers, slickers, and
Shades of the things we put on to go under Niagara
" Get into this ! " commanded the captain, holding a
sticky and unclean slicker for me. "And make haste!
There's no time to waste for you to examine it. Finicky
ladies don't get two invitations into the Treadwell. Put
in your arm."
My arm went in. When an Alaskan sea captain speaks,
it is to obey. Who last wore that slicker, far be it from
me to discover. Chinaman, leper, Jap, or Auk - it mattered not. I was in it, then, and curiosity was sternly
"Now put on this cap." Then beheld mine eyes a cap
that would make a Koloshian ill.
"Must I put that on?"
I whispered it, so the manager would not hear.
124 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
"You must put this on. Take off your hat."
My hat came off, and the cap went on. It was pushed
down well over my hair; down to my eyebrows in the
front and down to the nape of my neck in the back.
"There! " said the captain, cheerfully. "You needn't
be afraid of anything down in the mine now."
Alas! there was nothing in any mine, in any world,
that I dreaded as I did what might be in that cap.
There were four of us, with the manager, and there
was barely room on the rather dirty " lift " for us.
We stood very close together. It was as dark as a
"Now - look out ! " said the manager.
As we started, I clutched somebody - it did not matter
whom. I also drew one wild and amazed breath; before
I could possibly let go of that one - to say nothing of
drawing another - there was a bump, and we were in a
level one thousand and eighty feet below the surface of
We stepped out into a brilliantly lighted station, with a high, glittering
quartz ceiling. The swift descent had so affected my hearing that I could not
understand a word that was spoken for fully five minutes. None of my companions, however, complained of the same trouble.
It has been the custom to open a level at every hundred
and ten feet; but hereafter the distance between levels in
the Treadwell mine will be one hundred and fifty feet.
At each level a station, or chamber, is cut out, as wide
as the shaft, from forty to sixty feet in length, and having
an average height of eight feet. A drift is run from the
shaft for a distance of twenty-five feet, varying in height
from fifteen feet in front to seven at the back. The main
crosscut is then started at right angles to the station drift.
From east and west the " drifts " run into this cross-cut, like little creeks into a larger stream.
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 125
No one has ever accused me of being shy in the matter
of asking questions. It was the first time I had been
down in one of the famous gold mines of the world, and I
asked as many questions as a woman trying to rent a
forty-dollar house for twenty dollars. Between shafts,
stations, ore bins, crosscuts, stopes, drifts, levels, and
winzes, it was less than fifteen minutes before I felt the
cold moisture of despair breaking out upon my brow.
Winzes proved to be the last straw. I could get a glimmering of what the other things were; but
The manager had been polite in a forced, friend-of-the-
captain kind of way. He was evidently willing to answer
every question once, but whenever I forgot and asked the
same question twice, he balked instantly. Exerting
every particle of intelligence I possessed, I could not
make out the difference between a stope and a station,
except that a stope had the higher ceiling.
"I have told you the difference three times already,"
cried the manager, irritably.
The captain, back in the shadow, grinned sympathetically.
" Nor'-nor'west, nor'-bywest, a-quarter-nor'," said he,
sighing, " She'll learn your gold mine sooner than she'll
learn my compass."
Then they both laughed. They laughed quite a while,
and my disagreeable friend laughed with them. For my-
self, I could not see anything funny anywhere.
I finally learned, however, that a station is a place cut
out for a stable or for the passage of cars, or other things
requiring space; while a stope is a room carried to the
level of the top of the main crosscut. It is called a stope
because the ore is " stoped " out of it.
But winzes ! What winzes are is still a secret of the
ten-hundred-and-eighty-foot level of the Treadwell mine.
Tram-cars filled with ore, each drawn by a single horse.
126 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
passed us in every drift - or was it in crosscuts and levels ?
One horse had been in the mine seven years without
once seeing sunlight or fields of green grass; without
once slipping cool water from a mountain creek with quivering, sensitive lips ; without once stretching his aching
limbs upon the soft sod of a meadow, or racing with his
fellows upon a hard road.
But every man passing one of these horses gave him an
affectionate pat, which was returned by a low, pathetic
whinny of recognition and pleasure.
" One old fellow is a regular fool about these horses,"
said the manager, observing our interest. "He's always
carrying them down armfuls of green grass, apples, sugar,
and everything a horse will eat. You'd ought to hear
them nicker at sight of him. If they pass him in a drift,
when he hasn't got a thing for them, they'll nicker and
nicker, and keep turning their heads to look after him.
Sometimes it makes me feel queer in my throat."
No one can by any chance know what noise is until he
has stood at the head of a drift and heard three Ingersoll-
Sergeant drills beating with lightning-like rapidity into
the walls of solid quartz for the purpose of blasting.
Standing between these drills and within three feet of
them, one suddenly is possessed of the feeling that his
sense of hearing has broken loose and is floating around
in his head in waves. This feeling is followed by one of
suffocation. Shock succeeds shock until one's very mind
seems to go vibrating away.
At a sign from the manager the silence is so sudden
and so intense that it hurts almost as much as the
There is a fascination in walking through these high-
ceiled, brilliantly lighted stopes, and these low-ceiled,
shadowy drifts. Walls and ceilings are gray quartz, glittering with gold. One is constantly compelled to turn
ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY 127
aside for cars of ore on their way to the dumping-places,
where their burdens go thundering to the levels be-
At last the manager paused.
"I suppose," said he, sighing, "you wouldn't care to
see the - "
I did not catch the last word, and had no notion what
it was, but I instantly assured him that I would rather see
it than anything in the whole mine.
His face fell.
" Really - " he began.
" Of course we'll see it," said the captain ; " we want
to see everything."
The manager's face fell lower.
"All right," said he, briefly, "come on! "
We had gone about twenty steps when I, who was
close behind him, suddenly missed him. He was gone.
Had he fallen into a dump hole ? Had he gone to
atoms in a blast? I blinked into the shadows, standing
motionless, but could see no sign of him.
Then his voice shouted from above me - " Come on ! "
I looked up. In front of me a narrow iron ladder led
upward as straight as any flag-pole, and almost as high.
Where it went, and why it went, mattered not. The only
thing that impressed me was that the manager, halfway
up this ladder, had commanded me to "come on."
I to "come on! " up that perpendicular ladder whose
upper end was not in sight!
But whatever might be at the top of that ladder, I had
assured him that I would rather see it than anything in
the whole mine. It was not for me to quail. I took firm
hold of the cold and unclean rungs, and started.
When we had slowly and painfully climbed to the top,
we worked our way through a small, square hole and
emerged into another stope, or level, and in a very dark
128 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
part of it. Each man worked by the light of a single
candle. They were stoping out ore and making it ready
to be dumped into lower levels - from which it would
finally be hoisted out of the mine in skips.
The ceiling was so low that we could walk only in a
stooping position. The laborers worked in the same position ; and what with this discomfort and the insufficient
light, it would seem that their condition was unenviable.
Yet their countenances denoted neither dissatisfaction
" Well," said the manager, presently, " you can have it
to say that you have been under the bay, anyhow."
" Under the - "
" Yes ; under Gastineau Channel. That's straight. It
is directly over us."
We immediately decided that we had seen enough of
the great mine, and cheerfully agreed to the captain's
suggestion that we return to the ship. We were compelled to descend by the perpendicular ladder ; and the
descent was far worse than the ascent had been.
On our way to the " lift " by which we had made our
advent into the mine, we met another small party. It
was headed by a tall and handsome man, whose air of
delicate breeding would attract attention in any gathering in the world. His distinction and military bearing
shone through his greasy slicker and greasier cap - which
he instinctively fumbled, in a futile attempt to lift it, as
It was that brave and gallant explorer, Brigadier-General Greely, on his way to the Yukon. He was on his
last tour of inspection before retirement. It was his farewell to the Northern country which he has served so faith-fully and so well.
One stumbles at almost every turn in Alaska upon some
world-famous person who has answered Beauty's far,
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 129
insistent call. The modest, low-voiced gentleman at one's
side at the captain's table is more likely than not a celebrated explorer or geologist, writer or artist ; or, at the
very least, an earl.
" After we've seen our passengers eat their first meal,"
said the chief steward, "we know how to seat them. You
can pick out a lady or a gentleman at the table without
fail. A boor can fool you every place except at the
table. We never assign seats until after the first meal ;
and oftener than you would suppose we seat them according to their manners at the first meal."
I smiled and smiled, then, remembering the first meal
on our steamer. It was breakfast. We had been down
to the dining room for something and, returning, found
ourselves in a mob at the head of the stairs.
There were one hundred and sixty-five passengers on
the boat, and fully one hundred and sixty of them were
squeezed like compressed hops around that stairway. In
two seconds I was a cluster of hops myself, simply that
and nothing more. I do not know how the compressing
of hops is usually accomplished ; but in my particular
case it was done between two immensely big and disagreeable men. They ignored me as calmly as though I
were a little boy, and talked cheerfully over my head,
although it soon developed that they were not in the
A little black-ringleted, middle-aged woman who
seemed to be mounted on wires, suddenly squeezed her
head in under their arms, simpering.
" Oh, Doctor ! " twittered she, coquettishly. " You are
talking to my husband."
" The deuce ! " ejaculated the Doctor, but whether with
evil intent or not, I could not determine from his face.
"Yes, truly. Doctor Metcalf, let me introduce my
husband, Mr. Wildey."
130 ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY
They shook hands on my shoulder - but I didn't mind
a little thing like that.
"On your honeymoon, eh?" chuckled the Doctor, amiably. The other big man grew red to his hair, and the
lady's black ringlets danced up and down.
" Now, now. Doctor," chided she, shaking a finger at
him, - she was at least fifty, - " no teasing. No steamer
serenades, you know. I was on an Alaskan steamer once,
and they pinned red satin hearts all over a bride's state-
room door. Just fancy getting up some morning and
finding my stateroom door covered with red satin hearts ! "
" I can smell mackerel," said a shrill tenor behind me ;
and alas ! so could I. If there be anything that I like
the smell of less than a mackerel, it is an Esquimau hut
Somebody sniffed delightedly.
" Fried, too," said a happy voice. " Can't you squeeze
down closer to the stairway ? "
Almost at once the big man behind me was tipped forward into the big man in front of me - and, as a mere
incident in passing, of course, into me as well. We all
went tipping and bobbing and clutching toward the stairway.
Life does not hold many half-hours so rich and so full
as the one that followed. As a revelation of the baser
side of human nature, it was precious.
My friend was tall ; and once, far down the saloon, I
caught a glimpse of her handsome, well-carried head as
the mob parted for an instant. The expression on her
face was like that on the face of the Princess de Lamballe
when Lorado Taft has finished with her.
Suddenly I began to move forward. Rather, I was
borne forward without effort on my part. A great wave
seemed to pick me up and carry me to the head of the
stairway. I fairly floated down into the dining room.
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 131
I fell into the first chair at the first table I came to; but
the mob flowed by, looking for something better. Every
woman was on a mad hunt for the captain's table. My
table remained un-peopled until my friend came in and
found me. Gradually and reluctantly the chairs were
filled and we devoted ourselves to the mackerel.
In a far corner at the other end of the room, there was
a table with flowers on it. With a sigh of relief I saw
black ringlets dancing thereat.
"Thank heaven!" I said. "The bride is at the captain's table."
" Ho, no, ma'am," said the gentle voice of the waiter in
my ear. " You're hat hit yourself, ma'am. You're hin
the captain's hown seat, ma'am. 'E don't come down to
the first meal, though, ma'am," he added hastily, seeing
my look of horror. For the first, last, and, I trust, only,
time in my life I had innocently seated myself at a
captain's table, without an invitation.
After breakfast we hastened on deck and went through
deep-breathing exercises for an hour, trying to work ourselves back to our usual proportions.
I should like to see a chief steward seat that mob.
I was greatly amused, by the way, at a young waiter's
description of an earl.
" We have lots of earls goin' up," said he, easily. " Oh,
yes; they go up to Cook Inlet and Kodiak to hunt big
game. I always know an earl the first meal. He makes
me pull his corks, and he gives me a quarter or a half for
every cork I pull. Sometimes I make six bits or a dollar
at a meal, just pulling one earl's corks. I'd rather wait
on earls than anybody - except ladies, of course," he
added, with a positive jerk of remembrance; whereupon
we both smiled.
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 133
on the starboard side. It is topped by a great crag which
so closely resembles in outline our national emblem that
it was so named by Admiral Beardslee, in 1879. The
glacier itself is not of great importance.
On Benjamin Island, a fair anchorage may be secured
for vessels bound north which have unfortunately been
caught in a strong northwest gale.
After the dangerous Vanderbilt Reef is passed, Point
Bridget and Point St. Mary's are seen at the entrance to
Berner's Bay, where is situated the rich gold mine belonging to Governor Hoggatt.
A light was established in 1905 on Point Sherman ;
also, on Eldred Rock, where the Clara Nevada went down,
in 1898, with the loss of every soul on board. For ten
years repeated attempts to locate this wreck have been
made, on account of the rich treasure which the ship was
supposed to carry; but not until 1908 was it discovered
when, upon the occurrence of a phenomenally low tide,
it was seen gleaming in clear green depths for a few
hours by the keeper of the lighthouse. There was a
large loss of life.
There is a mining and mill settlement at Seward, in
William Henry Bay, lying across the canal from Berner's,
is celebrated as a sportsman's resort, although this recommendation has come to bear little distinction in a country
where it is so common. Enormous crabs, rivaling those
to the far " Westward," are found here. Their meat is
not coarse, as would naturally be supposed, because of
their great size, but of a fine flavor.
Seduction Point, on the island bearing the same name,
lies between Chilkaht Inlet on the west and Chilkoot
Inlet on the east. For once, Vancouver rose to the occasion and bestowed a striking name, because at this point
the treacherous Indians tried to lure Whidbey and his
134 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
men up the inlet to their village. Upon his refusal to go,
they presented a warlike front, and the sincerity of their
first advances was doubted.
At the entrance to Chilkaht Inlet, Davidson Glacier is
seen sweeping down magnificently from near the summit
of the White Mountains. Although this glacier does not
discharge bergs, nor rise in splendid tinted palisades
straight from the water, as do Taku and Columbia, it is,
nevertheless, very imposing - especially if seen from the
entrance of the inlet at sunset of a clear day.
The setting of the glaciers of Lynn Canal is superb.
The canal itself, named by Vancouver for his home in
England, is the most majestic slender water-way in Alaska.
From Puget Sound, fiord after fiord leads one on in ever
increasing, ever changing splendor, until the grand climax
is reached in Lynn Canal.
For fifty-five .miles the sparkling blue waters of the
canal push almost northward. Its shores are practically
unbroken by inlets, and rise in noble sweeps or stately
palisades, to domes and peaks of snow. Glaciers may be
seen at every turn of the steamer. Not an hour - not
one mile of this last fifty-five - should be missed.
In winter the snow descends to the water's edge and
this stretch is exalted to sublimity. The waters of the
canal take on deep tones of purple at sunset; fires of
purest old rose play upon the mountains and glaciers ;
and the clear, washed-out atmosphere brings the peaks
forward until they seem to overhang the steamer throbbing up between them.
Lynn Canal is really but a narrowing continuation of
Chatham Strait. Together they form one grand fiord,
two hundred miles in length, with scarcely a bend, extending directly north and south. From an
of four or five miles, they narrow, in places, to less than
half a mile.
ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY 135
In July, 1794, Vancouver, lying at Port Al thorp, in
Cross Sound, sent Mr. Whidbey to explore the continental shore to the eastward. Mr. Whidbey sailed through
Icy Strait, seeing the glacier now known as the Brady
Glacier, and rounding Point Couverden, sailed up Lynn
Here, as usual, he was simply stunned by the grandeur
and magnificence of the scenery, and resorted to his pet
" Both sides of this arm were bounded by lofty, stupendous mountains, covered with perpetual ice and snow, whilst
the shores in this neighborhood appeared to be composed
of cliffs of very fine slate, interspersed with beaches of
very fine paving stone. . . . Up this channel the boats
passed, and found the continental shore now take a direction N. 22 W., to a point where the arm narrowed to two
miles across ; from whence it extended ten miles further in
a direction N. 30 W., where its navigable extent terminated in latitude 59° 12', longitude 224° 33'. This station was reached in the morning of the 16th, after passing
some islands and some rocks nearly in mid-channel." (It
was probably on one of these that the Clara Nevada was
wrecked a hundred years later.) " Above the northern-most of these (which lies
four miles below the shoal that extends across the upper part of the arm, there
about a mile in width) the water was found to be perfectly fresh. Along the edge
of this shoal, the boats passed from side to side, in six feet water, and beyond
it, the head of the arm extended about half a league, where a small opening in
the land was seen, about the fourth of a mile wide, leading to the
northwestward, from whence a rapid stream of fresh water rushed over the shoal "
(this was Chilkaht River). "But this, to all appearance, was bounded at no great
distance by a continuation of the same lofty ridge of snowy mountains so
repeatedly mentioned, as stretching
136 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
eastwardly from Mount Fairweather, and which, in
every point of view they had hitherto been seen, appeared
to be a firm and close-connected range of stupendous
mountains forever doomed to support a burthen of undissolving ice and snow.''
Here, it will be observed, Whidbey was so unconsciously
wrought upon by the sublimity of the country that he was
moved to fairly poetic utterance. He seemed, however,
to be himself doomed to support forever a burthen of
gloom and undissolving weariness as heavy as that borne
by the mountains.
Up this river, or, as Whidbey called it, brook, the
Indians informed him, eight chiefs of great consequence
resided in a number of villages. He was urged to visit
them. Their behavior was peaceable, civil, and friendly ;
but Mr. Whidbey declined the invitation, and returning,
rounded, and named. Point Seduction, and passing into Chilkoot Inlet, discovered more " high, stupendous mountains, loaded with perpetual ice and snow."
After exploring Chilkoot Inlet, they returned down
the canal, soon falling in with a party of friendly Indians,
who made overtures of peace. Mr. Whidbey describes
their chief as a tall, thin, elderly man. He was dressed
superbly, and supported a degree of state, consequence,
and personal dignity which had been found among no
other Indians. His external robe was a very fine large
garment that reached from his neck down to his heels,
made of wool from the mountain goat - the famous
Chilkaht blanket here described, for the first time, by the
unappreciative Whidbey. It was neatly variegated with
several colors, and edged and otherwise decorated with
little tufts of woollen yarn, dyed of various colors. His
head-dress was made of wood, resembling a crown, and
adorned with bright copper and brass plates, whence hung
a number of tails, or streamers, composed of wool and fur
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 137
worked together, dyed of various colors, and each terminating in a whole ermine skin.
His whole appearance, both as to dress and manner, was
Mr. Whidbey was suspicious of the good intentions of
these new acquaintances, and was therefore well prepared
for the trouble that followed.
Headed by the splendid chief, the Indians attacked
Whidbey 's party in boats, and, being repulsed, followed
for two days.
As the second night came on boisterously, Mr. Whidbey
was compelled to seek shelter. The Indians, understanding his design, hastened to shore in advance, got possession
of the only safe beach, drew up in battle array, and
stood with spears couched, ready to receive the exploring party. (This was on the northern part of Admiralty
Here appears the most delicious piece of unintentional
humor in all Vancouver's narrative.
" There was now no alternative but either to force a
landing by firing upon them, or to remain at their oars all
night. The latter Mr. Whidbey considered to be not
only the most humane, but the most prudent to adopt,
concluding that their habitations were not far distant,
and believing them, from the number of smokes that
had been seen during the day, to be a very numerous
They probably appeared more " stupendous " than any
snow-covered mountain in poor Mr. Whidbey's startled
To avoid a " dispute " with these " troublesome people,"
Mr. Whidbey withdrew to the main canal and stopped
" to take some rest " at a point which received the
felicitous name of Point Retreat, on the northern part of
Admiralty Island - a name which it still retains.
138 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
In the following month Mr. Whidbey was compelled to
rest again upon his extremely humane spirit, to the southward in Frederick Sound.
" The day being fair and pleasant," chronicles Vancouver, " Mr. Whidbey wished to embrace this opportunity
of drying their wet clothes, putting their arms in order.
. . . For this purpose the party landed on a commodious
beach ; but before they had finished their business a large
canoe arrived, containing some women and children, and
sixteen stout Indian men, well appointed with the arms of
the country. . . . Their conduct afterward put on a
very suspicious appearance ; the children withdrew into the
woods, and the rest fixed their daggers round their wrists,
and exhibited other indications not of the most friendly
nature. To avoid the chance of anything unpleasant
taking place, Mr. Whidbey considered it most humane and
prudent to withdraw " - which he did, with all possible dispatch.
They were pursued by the Indians ; this conduct
"greatly attracting the observation of the party."
Mr. Whidbey did not scruple to fire into a fleeing canoe;
nor did he express any sorrow when " most hideous and
extraordinary noises " indicated that he had fired to good
effect ; but the instant the Indians lined up in considerable
numbers with " couched spears " and warlike attitude, the
situation immediately became "stupendous" and Whidbey's ever ready " humaneness " came to his relief.
The Davidson Glacier was named for Professor George
Davidson, who was one of its earliest explorers. A heavy
forest growth covers its terminal moraine, and detracts
from its lower beauty.
Pyramid Harbor, at the head of Chilkaht Inlet, has an
Alaska Packers' cannery at the base of a mountain which
rises as straight as an arrow from the water to a height
of eighteen hundred feet. This mountain was named
Lahouchere, for the Hudson Bay Company's steamer
which, in 1862, was almost captured by the Hoonah Indians at Port Frederick in Icy Strait.
Pyramid Harbor was named for a small pyramid-shaped
island which now bears the same name, but of which the
Indian name is Schlayhotch. The island is but little
more than a tiny cone, rising directly from the water.
Indians camp here, in large numbers in the summer-time,
to work in the canneries. The women sell berries, baskets,
Chilkaht blankets of deserved fame, and other curios.
It was this harbor which the Canadians in the Joint
High Commission of 1898 unblushingly asked the United
States to cede to them, together with Chilkaht Inlet and
River, and a strip of land through the lisiere owned by us.
The Chilkaht River flows into this inlet from the northwest. At its mouth it widens into low tide flats, over
which, at low tide, the water flows in ribbonish loops.
Here, during a " run," the salmon are taken in countless
140 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
The Chilkahts and Chilkoots are the great Indians of
Alaska. They comprise the real aristocracy. They are
a brave, bold, courageous race ; saucy and independent,
constantly carrying a "chip on the shoulder," or a "feather
pointing forward " in the head-gear. They are looked up
to and feared by the Thlinkits of inferior tribes.
Their villages are located up the Chilkaht and Chilkoot
rivers ; and their frequent mountain journeyings have developed their legs, giving them a well-proportioned, athletic
physique, in marked contrast to the bowed-and scrawny-
legged canoe dwellers to the southward and westward.
They are skilful in various kinds of work ; but their
fame will eventually endure in the exquisite dance-
blankets, known as the Chilkaht blanket. These blankets
are woven of the wool of the mountain goat, whose
winter coat is strong and coarse. At shedding time in
the spring, as the goat leaps from place to place, the wool
clings to trees, rocks, and bushes in thick festoons.
These the indolent Indians gather for the weaving of
their blankets, rather than take the trouble of killing
This delicate and beautiful work is, like the Thlinkit
and Chilkaht basket, in simple twined weaving. The
warp hangs loose from the rude loom, and the wool is
woven upward, as in Attn and Haidah basketry.
The owner of one of the old Chilkaht blankets possesses a treasure beyond price. The demand has cheap-
ened the quality of those of the present day ; but those
of Baranoff's time were marvels of skill and coloring,
considering that Indian women's dark hands were the
Black, white, yellow, and a peculiar blue are the colors
most frequently' observed in these blankets ; and a
deep, rich red is becoming more common than formerly.
A wide black, or dark, band usually surrounds them,
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 141
border-wise, and a fringe as wide as the blanket falls
magnificently from the bottom ; a narrower one from
The old and rare ones were from a yard and a half
to two yards long. The modern ones are much smaller,
and may be obtained as low as seventy-five dollars. The
designs greatly resemble those of the Haidah hats and
The full face, with flaring nostrils, small eyes, and
ferocious display of teeth, is the bear ; the eye which
appears in all places and in all sizes is that of the thunderbird, or, with the Haidahs, the sacred raven.
There is an Indian mission, named Klukwan, at the
head of the inlet.
The Chilkahts were governed by chiefs and sub-chiefs.
At the time of the transfer "Kohklux" was the great
chief of the region. He was a man of powerful will and
determined character. He wielded a strong influence
over his tribes, who believed that he bore a charmed life.
He was friendly to Americans and did everything in his
power to assist Professor George Davidson, who went to
the head of Lynn Canal in 1869 to observe the solar total
The Indians apparently placed no faith in Professor
Davidson's announcement of approaching darkness in
the middle of the day, however, and when the eclipse
really occurred, they fled from him, as from a devil, and
sought the safety of their mountain fastnesses.
The passes through these mountains they had held
from time immemorial against all comers. The Indians
of the vast interior regions and those of the coast could
trade only through the Chilkahts - the scornful aristocrats and powerful autocrats of the country.
Coming out of Chilkaht Inlet and passing around
Seduction Point into Chilkoot Inlet, Katschin River
is seen flowing in from the northeast. The mouth of
this river, like that of the Chilkaht, spreads into extensive flats, making the channel very narrow at this point.
Across the canal lies Haines Mission, where, in 1883,
Lieutenant Schwatka left his wife to the care of Doctor
and Mrs. Willard, while he was absent on his exploring
expedition down the Yukon.
The Willards were in charge of this mission, which
was maintained by the Presbyterian Board of Missions,
until some trouble arose with the Indians over the death
of a child, to whom the Willards had administered
" Crossing the Mission trail," writes Lieutenant
Schwatka, " we often traversed lanes in the grass, which
here was fully five feet high, while, in whatever direction the eye might look, wild flowers were growing in
the greatest profusion. Dandelions as big as asters,
buttercups twice the usual size, and violets rivaling the
products of cultivation in lower latitudes were visible
around. It produced a singular and striking contrast
to raise the eyes from this almost tropical luxuriance,
and allow them to rest on Alpine hills, covered halfway
down their shaggy sides with the snow and glacier ice,
and with cold mist condensed on their crowns. . . .
Berries and berry blossoms grew in a profusion and
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 143
variety which I have never seen equaled within the same
limits in lower latitudes."
This was early in June. Here the lieutenant first
made the acquaintance of the Alaska mosquito and gnat,
neither of which is to be ignored, and may be propitiated
by good red blood only ; also, the giant devil's-club,
which he calls devil's-sticks. He was informed that this
nettle was formerly used by the shamans, or medicine-
men, as a prophylactic against witchcraft, applied externally.
The point of this story will be appreciated by all who
have come in personal contact with this plant, so tropical
in appearance when its immense green leaves are spread
out flat and motionless in the dusk of the forest.
From Chilkoot Inlet the steamer glides into Taiya inlet, which leads to Skaguay. Off this inlet are many
glaciers, the finest of which is Ferebee.
Chilkoot Inlet continues to the northwestward. Chilkoot River flows from a lake of the same name into the
inlet. There are an Indian village and large canneries on
Taiya Inlet leads to Skaguay and Dyea. It is a narrow water-way between high mountains which are covered
nearly to their crests with a heavy growth of cedar and
spruce. They are crowned, even in summer, with snow,
which flows down their fissures and canyons in small but
beautiful glaciers, while countless cascades foam, sparkling, down to the sea, or drop sheer from such great
heights that the beholder is bewildered by their slow,
never ceasing fall.
Here, at the mouth of the Skaguay River, with mountains rising on all sides and the green waters of the inlet
pushing restlessly in front ; with its pretty cottages
climbing over the foot-hills, and with well-worn, flower-strewn paths enticing to the heights ; with the Skaguay's
144 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
waters winding over the grassy flats like blue ribbons ;
with flower gardens beyond description and boxes in every
window scarlet with bloom ; with cascades making liquid
and most sweet music by day and irresistible lullabies by
night, and with snow peaks seeming to float directly over
the town in the upper pearl-pink atmosphere - is Skaguay, the romantic, the
marvelous, the town which grew
from a dozen tents to a city of fifteen thousand people
almost in a night, in the golden year of ninety-eight.
I could not sleep in Skaguay for the very sweetness of
the July night. A cool lavender twilight lingered until
eleven o'clock, and then the large moon came over the
mountains, first outlining their dark crests with fire ; then
throbbing slowly on from peak to peak - bringing irresistibly to mind the lines : -
" Like a great dove with silver wings
Stretched, quivering o'er the sea,
The moon her glistening plumage brings
And hovers silently."
The air was sweet to enchantment with flowers ; and
all night long through my wide-open window came the
far, dreamy, continuous music of the water-falls.
On all the Pacific Coast there is not a more interesting,
or a more profitable, place in which to make one's headquarters for the summer, than Skaguay. More side trips
may be made, with less expenditure of time and money,
from this point than from any other. Launches may be
hired for expeditions down Lynn Canal and up the inlets,
whose unexploited splendors may only be seen in this
way ; to the Mendenhall, Davidson, Denver, Bertha, and
countless smaller glaciers ; to Haines, Fort Seward, Pyramid Harbor, and Seduction Point ; while by canoe, horse,
or his own good legs, one may get to the top of Mount
ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY 145
Dewey and to Dewey Lake ; up Face Mountain ; to
Dyea ; and many hunting grounds where mountain sheep,
bear, goat, ptarmigan, and grouse are plentiful.
The famous White Pass railway - which was built in
eighteen months by the " Three H's," Heney, Hawkins,
and Hislop, and which is one of the most wonderful engineering feats of the world - may be taken for a trip
which is, in itself, worth going a thousand miles to enjoy.
Every mile of the way is historic ground - not only to
those who toiled over it in 'ninety-seven and 'ninety-eight,
bent almost to the ground beneath their burdens, but to
the whole world, as well. The old Brackett wagon road ;
White Pass City; the "summit"; Bennett Lake; Lake
Lindeman ; White Horse Rapids ; Grand Canyon ; Porcupine Ridge - to whom do these names not stand for
tragedy and horror and broken hearts?
The town of Skaguay itself is more historic than any
other point. Here the steamers lightered or floated
ashore men, horses, and freight. " You pay your money
and you take your chance," the paraphrase went in those
days. Many a man saw every dollar he had in provisions
and often it was a grubstake, at that - sink to the
bottom of the canal before his eyes. Others saw their
outfits soaked to ruin with salt water. For those who
landed safely, there were horrors yet to come.
And here, between these mountains, in this wind-racked
canyon, the town of Skaguay grew ; from one tent to
hundreds in a day, from hundreds to thousands in a
week ; from tents to shacks, from shacks to stores and
saloons. Here " Soapy " Smith and his gang of outlaws
and murderers operated along the trail ; here he was
killed ; here is his dishonored grave, between the mountains which will not endure longer than the tale of his
desperate crimes, and his desperate expiation.
Not the handsome style of man that one would expect
146 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
of such a bold and daring robber was "Soapy.'' No flashing black eyes, heavy
black hair, and long black mustache made him " a living flame among women," as
Rex Beach would put it. Small, spare, insignificant in appearance, it has been said that he looked more like an ill-
paid frontier minister than the head of a lawless and
desperate gang of thieves.
His "spotters" were scattered along the trail all the
way to Dawson. They knew what men were " going in,"
what ones " coming out," "heeled." Such men were al-
ways robbed ; if not on the road, then after reaching
Skaguay ; when they could not safely, or easily, be robbed
alive, they were robbed dead. It made no difference to
"Soapy" or his gang of men and women. It was a reign
of terror in that new, unknown, and lawless land.
There is nothing in Skaguay today - unless it be the
sinking grave of " Soapy " Smith, which is not found by
every one - to suggest the days of the gold rush, to the
transient visitor. It is a quiet town, where law and order
prevail. It is built chiefly on level ground, with a few
very long streets - running out into the alders, balms,
spruces, and cottonwoods, growing thickly over the river's
In all towns in Alaska the stores are open for business
on Sunday when a steamer is in. If the door of a curio-
store, which has tempting baskets or Chilkaht blankets
displayed in the window, be found locked, a dozen small
boys shout as one, " Just wait a minute, lady. Proprietor's on the way now. He just stepped out for breakfast.
Wait a minute, lady."
We arrived at Skaguay early on a Sunday morning, and
were directed to the "'bus " of the leading hotel. We rode
at least a mile before reaching it. We found it to be a
wooden structure, four or five stories in height; the large
office was used as a kind of general living-room as well.
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 147
The rooms were comfortable and the table excellent. The
proprietress grows her own vegetables and flowers, and
keeps cows, chickens, and sheep, to enrich her table.
About ten o'clock in the forenoon we went to the station to have our trunks checked to Dawson. The doors
stood open. We entered and passed from room to room.
There was no one in sight. The square ticket window
We hammered upon it and upon every closed door.
There was no response. We looked up the stairway, but
it had a personal air. There are stairways which seem to
draw their steps around them, as a duchess does her furs,
and to give one a look which says, " Do not take liberties with me ! " - while others seem to be crying,
" Come up; come up ! " to every passer-by. I have never
seen a stairway that had the duchess air to the degree that
the one in the station at Skaguay has it. If any one
doubts, let him saunter around that station until he finds
the stairway and then take a good look at it.
We went outside, and I, being the questioner of the
party, asked a man if the ticket office would be open that
He squared around, put his hands in his pockets, bent
his wizened body backward, and gave a laugh that echoed
down the street.
" God bless your soul, lady," said he, " on Sunday !
Only an extry goes out on Sundays, to take round-trip
tourists to the summit and back while the steamer waits.
Today's extry has gone."
" Yes," said I, mildly but firmly, " but we are going to
Dawson to-morrow. Our train leaves at nine o'clock, and
there will be so many to get tickets signed and baggage
checked - "
He gave another laugh.
" Don't you worry, lady. Take life easy, the way we
148 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
do here. If we miss one train, we take the next - unless
we miss it, too! " He laughed again.
At that moment, bowing and smiling in the window of
the ticket office, appeared a man - the nicest man !
" Will you see him bow ! " gasped my friend. " Is he
bowing at us ? Why - are you bowing back? "
" Of course I am."
" What on earth does he want ? "
" He wants to be nice to us," I replied; and she followed
The nice face was smiling through the little square
"I was upstairs," he said, he had descended by
way of the ' Duchess," " and I heard you rapping on
windows and doors " - the smile deepened, " so I came
down to see if I could serve you."
We related our woes ; we got our tickets signed and
our baggage checked ; had all our questions answered -
and they were not few - and the following morning ate
our breakfast at our leisure and were greatly edified by
our fellow-travelers' wild scramble to get their bills paid
and to reach the station in time to have their baggage
Sailing down Lynn Canal, Chatham Strait, and the narrow, winding Peril Strait, the sapphire-watered and
exquisitely islanded Bay of Sitka is entered from the
north. Six miles above the Sitka of today a large wooden
cross marks the site of the first settlement, the scene of
the great massacre.
On one side are the heavily and richly wooded slopes
of Baranoff Island, crested by many snow-covered peaks
which float in the higher primrose mist around the bay;
on the other, water avenues - growing to paler, silvery
blue in the distance - wind in and out among the green
islands to the far sea, glimpses of which may be had;
while over all, and from all points for many miles, the
round, deeply cratered dome of Edgecumbe shines white
and glistening in the sunlight. It is the superb feature
of the landscape; the crowning glory of a scene that
would charm even without it.
Mount Edgecumbe is the home of Indian myth and
legend - as is Nass River to the southeastward. In
appearance, it is like no other mountain. It is only eight
thousand feet in height, but it is so round and symmetrical, it is so white and sparkling, seen either from the
ocean or from the inner channels, and its crest is sunken
so evenly into an unforgettable crater, that it instantly
impresses upon the beholder a kind of personality among
In beauty, in majesty, in sublimity, it neither approaches
150 ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY
nor compares with twenty other Alaskan mountains which
I have seen ; but, like the peerless Shishaldin, to the far
westward, it stands alone, distinguished by its unique
features from all its sister peaks.
Not all the streams of lava that have flowed down its
sides for hundreds of years have dulled its brilliance or
marred its graceful outlines.
I have searched Vancouver's chronicles, expecting to
fined Edgecumbe described as " a mountain having a very
elegant hole in the top," - to match his " elegant fork "
on Mount Olympus of Puget Sound.
Peril Strait is a dangerous reach leading in sweeping
curves from Chatham Strait to Salisbury Sound. It is
the watery dividing line between Chichagoff and Baranoff
islands. It has two narrows, where the rapids at certain
stages of the tides are most dangerous.
Upon entering the strait from the east, it is found to
be wide and peaceful. It narrows gradually until it
finally reaches, in its forty-mile windings, a width of less
than a hundred yards.
There are several islands in Peril Strait : Fairway and
Trader's at the entrance ; Broad and Otstoi on the starboard ; Pouverstoi,Elovoi, Rose, and Kane. Between Otstoi
and Pouverstoi islands is Deadman's Reach. Here are Peril
Point and Poison Cove, where Baranoff lost a hundred
Aleuts by their eating of poisonous mussels in 1799. For
this reason the Russians gave it the name, Pogibshi, which,
interpreted, means " Destruction," instead of the " Pernicious " or " Peril " of the present time,
Deadman's Reach is as perilous for its reefs as for its
mussels. Hoggatt Reef, Dolph Rock, Ford Rock, Elovoi
Island, and Krugloi Reef are all dangerous obstacles to
navigation, making this reach as interestingly exciting as
it is beautiful.
Fierce tides race through Sergius Narrows, and steamers
ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY 151
going to and from Sitka are guided by the careful calculation of their masters, that they may arrive at the narrows
at the favorable stage of the tides. Bores, racing several
feet high, terrific whirlpools, and boiling geysers make it
impossible for vessels to approach when the tides are at
their worst. This is one of the most dangerous reaches
Either Rose or Adams Channel may be used going to
Sitka, but the latter is the favorite.
Kakul Narrows leads into Salisbury Sound ; but the
Sitkan steamers barely enter this sound ere they turn to
the southeastward into Neva Strait. It was named by
Portlock for the Marquis of Salisbury.
Entrance Island rises between Neva Strait and St. John
the Baptist Bay. There are both coal and marble in the
Halleck Island is completely surrounded by Nakwasina
Passage and Olga Strait, joining into one grand canal of
All these narrow, tortuous, and perilous water-ways wind
around the small islands that lie between Baranoif Island
on the east and Kruzoff Island on the west. Baranoff is
one hundred and thirty miles long and as wide as thirty
miles in places. Kruzoff Island is small, but its southern
extremity, lying directly west of Sitka, shelters that
favored place from the storms of the Pacific.
Whitestone Narrows in the southern end of Neva Strait
is extremely narrow and dangerous, owing to sunken
rocks. Deep-draught vessels cannot enter at low tide,
but must await the favorable half -hour.
Sitka Sound is fourteen miles long and from five to
eight wide. It is more exquisitely islanded than any
other bay in the world ; and after passing the site of Baranoff's first settlement and Old Sitka Rocks, the steamer's
course leads through a misty emerald maze. Sweeping
152 ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY
slowly around the green shore of one island, a dozen others
dawn upon the beholder's enraptured vision, frequently
appearing like a solid wall of green, which presently parts
to let the steamer slide through, - when, at once, another
dazzling vista opens to the view.
Before entering Sitka Sound, Halleck, Partoffs-Chigoff,
and Krestoff are the more important islands ; in Sitka
Sound, Crow, Apple, and Japonski. The latter island is
world-famous. It is opposite, and very near, the town ;
it is about a mile long, and half as wide ; its name, " Japan,"
was bestowed because, in 1805, a Japanese junk was
wrecked near this island, and the crew was forced to dwell
upon it for weeks. It is greenly and gracefully draped
with cedar and spruce trees, and is an object of much
interest to tourists.
Around Japonski cluster more than a hundred small
islands of the Harbor group ; in the whole sound there
are probably a thousand, but some are mere green or
rocky dots floating upon the pale blue water.
A magnetic and meteorological observatory was established on Japonski by the Russians and was maintained
The Northwest Coast of America extended from Juan
de Fuca's Strait to the sixtieth parallel of north latitude.
Under the direction of the powerful mind of Peter the
Great explorations in the North Pacific were planned.
He wrote the following instructions with his own hand,
and ordered the Chief Admiral, Count Fedor Apraxin, to
see that they were carried into execution : -
First. One or two boats, with decks, to be built at
Kamchatka, or at any other convenient place, with which
Second. Inquiry should be made in relation to the
northerly coasts, to see whether they were not contiguous
with America, since their end was not known. And this
done, they should
Third. See whether they could not somewhere find
an harbor belonging to Europeans, or an European ship.
They should likewise set apart some men who were to
inquire after the name and situation of the coasts discovered. Of all this an exact journal should be kept,
with which they should return to St. Petersburg.
Before these instructions could be carried out, Peter
the Great died.
His Empress, Catherine, however, faithfully carried out
The first expedition set out in 1725, under the command of Vitus Behring, a Danish captain in the Russian
service, with Lieutenants Spanberg and Chirikoff as
assistants. They carried several officers of inferior rank ;
154 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
also seamen and ship-builders. Boats were to be built at
Kamchatka, and they started overland through Siberia on
February the fifth of that year. Owing to many trials
and hardships, it was not until 1728 that Behring sailed
along the eastern shore of the peninsula, passing and
naming St. Lawrence Island, and on through Behring
Strait. There, finding that the coast turned westward,
his natural conclusion was that Asia and America were
not united, and he returned to Kamchatka. In 1734,
under the patronage of the Empress Elizabeth, Peter the
Great's daughter, a second expedition made ready ; but owing to insurmountable
difficulties, it was not until September, 1740, that Behring and Chirikoff set sail in the
packet-boats St. Peter and St. Paul - Behring commanding the former - from Kamchatka. They wintered at
Avatcha on the Kamchatkan Peninsula, where a few
buildings, including a church, were hastily erected, and
to which the name of Petropavlovsk was given.
On June 4, 1741, the two ships finally set sail on their
eventful voyage - how eventful to us of the United
States we are only, even now, beginning to realize.
They were accompanied by Lewis de Lisle de Cro pere,
professor of astronomy, and Georg Wilhelm Steller, naturalist.
Miller, the historian, and Gmelin, professor of chemistry and natural history, also volunteered in 1733 to
accompany the expedition ; but owing to the long delay,
and ill-health arising from arduous labors in Kamchatka,
they were compelled to permit the final expedition to depart without them.
On the morning of June 20, the two ships became
separated in a gale and never again sighted one an-
other. Chirikoff took an easterly course, and to him,
on the fifteenth of July, fell, by chance, the honor of the
first discovery of land on the American continent, opposite
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 155
Kamchatka, in 55° 21'. Here he lost two boatloads of
seamen whom he sent ashore for investigation, and whose
tragic fate may only be guessed from the appearance of
savages later, upon the shore.
That the first Russians landing upon the American
continent should have met with so horrible a fate as theirs
is supposed to have been, has been considered by the
superstitious as an evil omen. The first boat sent ashore
contained ten armed sailors and was commanded by the
mate, Abraham Mikhailovich Dementief. The latter is
described as a capable young man, of distinguished family,
of fine personal appearance, and of kind heart, who, having
suffered from an unfortunate love affair, had offered him-
self to serve his country in this most hazardous expedition. They were furnished with provisions and arms,
including a small brass cannon, and given a code of signals by Chirikoff, by which they might communicate with
the ship. The boat reached the shore and passed behind
a point of land. For several days signals which were
supposed to indicate that the party was alive and well,
were observed rising at intervals. At last, however,
great anxiety was experienced by those on board lest the
boat should have sustained damage in some way, making
it impossible for the party to return. On the fifth day
another boat was sent ashore with six men, including a
carpenter and a calker. They effected a landing at the
same place, and shortly afterward a great smoke was ob-
served, pushing its dark curls upward above the point of
land behind which the boats had disappeared.
The following morning two boats were discovered putting off from the shore. There was great rejoicing on
the ship, for the night had been passed in deepest anxiety,
and without further attention to the boats, preparations
were hastily made for immediate sailing. Soon, however,
to the dread and horror of all, it was discovered that the
166 ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY
boats were canoes filled with savages, who, at sight of the
ship, gave unmistakable signs of astonishment, and shouting " Agai! Agai! " turned hastily back to the shore.
Silence and consternation fell upon all. Chirikoff, humane and kind-hearted, bitterly bewailed the fate of his
men. A wind soon arising, he was forced to make for
the open sea. He remained in the vicinity, and as soon
as it was possible, returned to his anchorage ; but no
signs of the unfortunate sailors were ever discovered.
Without boats, and without sufficient men, no attempt
at a rescue could be made ; nor was further exploration
possible ; and heavy-hearted and discouraged, notwith-standing his brilliant success, Chirikoff again weighed
anchor and turned his ship homeward.
He and his crew were attacked by scurvy ; provisions
and water became almost exhausted ; Chirikoff was confined to his berth, and many died; some islands of the
chain now known as the Aleutians were discovered ; and
finally, on the 8th of October, 1741, after enduring inexpressible hardships, great physical and mental suffering,
and the loss of twenty-one men, they arrived on the coast
of Kamchatka near the point of their departure.
In the meantime, on the day following Chirikoff 's discovery of land. Commander Behring, far to the northwestward, saw, rising before his enraptured eyes, the
splendid presence of Mount St. Elias, and the countless,
and scarcely less splendid, peaks which surround it, and
which, stretching along the coast for hundreds of miles,
whitely and silently people this region with majestic beauty.
S teller, in his diary, claims to have discovered land on the
fifteenth, but was ridiculed by his associates, although it
was clearly visible to all in the same place on the following day.
They effected a landing on an island, which they named
St. Elias, in honor of the day upon which it was dis-
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 157
covered. It is now known as Kayak Island, but the
mountain retains the original name. Having accomplished the purpose of his expedition, Behring hastily-
turned the St. Peter homeward.
For this haste Behring has been most severely criticized. But when we take
into consideration the fact that preparations for this second expedition had begun in 1733 ;
that during all those years of difficult traveling through
Siberia, of boat building and the establishment of posts
and magazines for the storing of provisions, he had been
hampered and harassed almost beyond endurance by the
quarrelling, immorality, and dishonesty of his subordinates ; that for all dishonesty and blunders he was made
responsible to the government ; and that so many complaints of him had been forwarded to St. Petersburg by
officers whom he had reprimanded or otherwise punished
that at last, in 1739, officers had been sent to Ohkotsk to
investigate his management of the preparations ; that he
had now discovered that portion of the American continent which he had set out to discover, had lost Chirikoff,
upon whose youth and hopefulness he had been, perhaps
unconsciously, relying; and - most human of all - that
he had a young and lovely wife and two sons in Russia
whom he had not seen for years (and whom he was destined never to see again) ; when we take all these things
into consideration, there seems to be but little justice in
these harsh criticisms.
Today, there is no portion of the Alaskan coast more
unreliable, nor more to be dreaded by mariners, than that
in the vicinity of Behring's discovery. Even in summer
violent winds and heavy seas are usually encountered.
Steamers cannot land at Kayak, and passengers and
freight are lightered ashore ; and when this is accomplished without disaster or great difficulty, the trip is
spoken of as an exceptional one. Yet Behring remained
158 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
in this dangerous anchorage five days. Several landings
were made on the two Kayak Islands, and on various smaller
ones. Some Indian huts, without occupants, were found
and entered. They were built of logs and rough bark
and roofed with tough dried grasses. There were, also,
some sod cellars, in which dried salmon was found. In
one of the cabins were copper implements, a whetstone,
some arrows, ropes, and cords made of sea-weed, and rude
household utensils ; also herbs which had been prepared
according to Kamchatkan methods.
Returning, Behring discovered and named many of the
Aleutian Islands and exchanged presents with the friendly
natives. They were, however, overtaken by storms and
violent illness ; they suffered of hunger and thirst ; so
many died that barely enough remained to manage the
ship. Finally on November 5, in attempting to land,
the St. Peter was wrecked on a small island, where, on
the 8th of December, in a wretched hut, half covered
with sand which sifted incessantly through the rude
boards that were his only roof, and after suffering unimaginable agonies, the illustrious Dane, Vitus Behring,
died the most miserable of deaths. The island was
named for him, and still retains the name, being the
larger of the Commander Islands.
The survivors of the wreck remaining on Behring
Island dragged out a wretched existence until spring, in
holes dug in the sand and roofed with sails. Water they
had ; but their food consisted chiefly of the flesh of sea-
otters and seals. In May, weak, emaciated, and hopeless
though they were, and with their brave leader gone, they
began building a boat from the remnants of the St. Peter.
It was not completed until August ; when, with many
fervent prayers, they embarked, and, after nine days of
mingled dread and anxiety in a frail and leaking craft,
they arrived safely on the Kamchatkan shore.
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 159
All hope of their safety had long been abandoned, and
there was great rejoicing upon their return. Out of their
own deep gratitude a memorial was placed in the church
at Petropavlovsk, which is doubtless still in existence,
as it was in a good state of preservation a few years ago.
Russian historians at first seemed disposed to depreciate Behring's achievement, and to over-exalt the Russian, Chirikoff. They made the claim that the latter
was a man of high intellectual attainments, courageous,
hopeful, and straightforward ; kind-hearted, and giving
thought to and for others. He was instructor of the
marines of the guard, but after having been recommended to Peter the Great as a young man highly qualified to accompany the expedition under Behring, he was
promoted to a lieutenancy and accompanied the latter on
his first expedition in 1725 ; and on the second, in 1741,
he was made commander of the St. Pevril, or "St. Paul,"
not by seniority but on account of superior knowledge
and worth." Despite the fact that Behring was placed
by the emperor in supreme command of both expeditions,
the Russians looked upon Chirikoff as the real hero. He
was a favorite with all, and in the accounts of quarrels
and dissensions among the heads of the various detachments of scientists and naval officers of the expedition,
the name of Chirikoff does not appear. His wife and
daughter accompanied him to Siberia.
Captain Vitus Behring - or Ivan Ivanovich, as the
Russians called him - is described as a man of intelligence, honesty, and irreproachable conduct, but rather
inclined in his later years to vacillation of purpose and
indecision of character, yielding easily to an irritable and
capricious temper. Whether these facts were due to age
or disease is not known ; but that they seriously affected
his fitness for the command of an exploration is not
denied, even by his admirers. Even so sane and conscientious
160 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
an historian as Dall calls him timid, hesitating,
and indolent, and refers to his " characteristic imbecility,"
"utter incapacity," and "total incompetency." It is incredible, however, that a man of such gross faults should
have been given the command of this brilliant expedition
by so wise and great a monarch as Peter. Behring died,
old, discouraged, in indescribable anguish ; suspicious
of every one, doubting even Steller, the naturalist who
accompanied the expedition and who was his faithful
friend. Chirikoff returned, young, flushed with success,
popular and in favor with all, from the Empress down to
his subordinates. Favored at the outset by youth and
a cheerful spirit, his bright particular star guided him to
the discovery of land a few hours in advance of Behring.
This was his good luck and his good luck only. Vitus
Behring, the Dane in the Russian service, was in supreme
command of the expedition ; and to him belongs the glory.
One cannot today sail that magnificent sweep of purple
water between Alaska and Eastern Siberia without a
thrill of thankfulness that the fame and the name of the
illustrious Dane are thus splendidly perpetuated.
Today, his name is heard in Alaska a thousand times
where Chirikoff's is heard once. The glory of the latter
is fading, and Behring is coming to his own - Russians
speaking of him with a pride that approaches veneration.
Captain Martin Petrovich Spanberg, the third in command of the expedition, was also a Dane. He is everywhere described as an illiterate, coarse, cruel man;
grasping, selfish, and unscrupulous in attaining ends
that made for his own advancement. In his study of
the character of Spanberg, Bancroft - who has furnished
the most complete and painstaking description of these
expeditions - makes comment which is, perhaps unintentionally, humorous. After describing Spanberg as exceedingly
avaricious and cruel, and stating that his bad
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 161
reputation extended over all Siberia, and that his name
appears in hundreds of complaints and petitions from
victims of his licentiousness, cruelty, and avarice, Bancroft
naively adds, "He was just the man to become rich."
Wealthy people may take such comfort as they can out
of the comment.