Alaska : The Great Country
by Ella Higginson
In 1792 Baranoff having risen to the command of
the Shelikoff-Golikoff Company, decided to transfer the
settlement of Three Saints to the northern end of the
island, as a more central location for the distribution of
supplies. Today only a few crumbling ruins remain to
mark the site of the first Russian settlement in America
an event of such vital historic interest to the United
States that a monument should be erected there by this
The new settlement was named St. Paul, and was
situated on Pavlovsk Bay, the present site of Kadiak.
The great warehouse, built of logs, and other ancient
buildings still remain.
It was during the year of Father Juvenal's death -
1796 - that the first Russo-Greek church was erected
at St. Paul. It was about this time that the conversion
of twelve thousand natives in the colonies was reported
by Father Jossaph. This amazing statement could only
have been made after one of Baranoff 's banquets - to
which the astute governor, desiring that a favorable
report should be sent to St. Petersburg, doubtless bade
the half-starved priest.
For the Russian-American Company the Kadiaks and
Aleuts were obliged to hunt and work, at the will of the
officers, and to sell all their furs to the company, at
prices established by the latter.
334 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
Baranoff, for a time after becoming Chief Director,
resided in Kodiak. All persons and affairs in the colonies
were under his control ; his authority was absolute, his
decision final, unless appeal was made to the Directory
at Irkutsk; and it was almost impossible for an appeal
to reach Irkutsk.
Today in Kodiak, as in Sitka, the old and the new
mingle. Some of the old sod-houses remain, and many
that were built of logs; but the majority of the dwellings
are modern frame structures, painted white and presenting a neat appearance, in striking contrast to many of
the settlements of Alaska where natives reside.
The Greek-Russian church shines white and attractive
against the green background of the hill. It is surrounded by a white fence and is shaded by trees.
I called at the priest's residence and was hospitably
received by his wife, an intelligent, dark-eyed native
woman. The interior of the church is interesting, but
lacks the charm and rich furnishings of the one at Sitka.
There is a chime of bells in the steeple ; and both steeple
and dome are surmounted by the peculiar Greek-Russian
cross which is everywhere seen in Alaska. It has two
short transverse bars, crossing the vertical shaft, one above
and one below the main transverse bar, the lower always
The natives of Kodiak are more highly civilized than
in other parts of Alaska. The offspring of Russian
fathers and native mothers have frequently married into
white or half-breed families, and the strain of dark blood
in the offspring of these later marriages is difficult to
I traveled on the Dora with a woman whose father
had been a Russian priest, married to a native woman
at Belkoffski. She had been sent to California for a
number of years, and returning, a graduate of a normal
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 335
school, had married a Russian. She had a comfortable,
well-furnished home, and her husband appeared extremely
fond and proud of her. Her children were as white as
any Russian I have ever seen.
A Russian priest must marry once ; but if his wife
dies, he cannot marry again.
This law fills my soul with an unholy delight. It
persuades a man to appreciate his wife's virtues and to
condone her faults. Whatever may be her sins in sight
of him and heaven, she is the only one, so far as he is
concerned. It must be she, or nobody, to the end of his
days. She may fill his soul with rage, but he may not
even relieve his feelings by killing her.
The result of this unique religious law is that Russian
priests are uncommonly kind and indulgent to their wives.
" Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes," said one who was on the
Dora, in answer to a question, " I have a wife. She
lives in Paris, where my daughter is receiving her education, I am going this year to visit them. Yes, yes, yes."
However, with all the petting and indulgence which
the Russian priest lavishes upon his wife, if what I heard
be true, - that he is permitted neither to cut nor to
wash his hair and beard, - God wot she is welcome to
The old graveyard on the hill above Kodiak tempts
the visitor, and one may loiter among the old, neglected
graves with no fear of snakes in the tall, thick grasses.
At first, a woman receives the statement that there are
no snakes in Alaska with open suspicion. It has the
sound of an Alaskan joke.
When I first heard it, I was unimpressed. We were
nearing a fine field of red-top, already waist-high, and
I waited for the gentleman from Boston, who believed
everything he heard, and imagined far more, to go
prancing innocently through the field.
336 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
He went unhesitatingly, joyously; giving praise to
God for his blessings - as, he vowed, he loved to ramble
through deep grass, yet would rather meet a hippopotamus alone in a mire than a garter-snake five inches long.
The field was the snakiest-looking place imaginable, and
when he had passed safely through, I began to have faith
in the Alaskan snake story.
The climate of Kadiak Island is delightful. The island
is so situated that it is fully exposed to the equalizing
influences of the Pacific. The mean annual temperature
is four degrees lower than at Sitka, and there is twenty
per cent less rainfall.
The coast of Alaska is noted for its rainfall and cloudy
weather. Its precipitation is to be compared only to that
of the coast of British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon ; and it will surprise many people to learn that it is
exceeded in the latter district.
The heaviest annual rainfall occurs at Nutchek, with a
decided drop to Fort Tongass ; then, Orca, Juneau, Sitka,
and Fort Liscum. Fort Wrangell, Killisnoo, and Kodiak
stand next ; while Tyonek, Skaguay, and Kenai record
only from fifteen to twenty-five inches.
Kadiak Island is a hundred miles long by about forty
in width. Its relief is comparatively low - from three to
five thousand feet - and it has many broad, open valleys,
gently rounded slopes, and wooded dells.
Lisiansky was told that the Kadiak group of islands
was once separated from the Aliaska Peninsula by the
tiniest ribbon of water. An immense otter, in attempting to swim through this pass, was caught fast and could
not extricate itself. Its desperate struggles for freedom
widened the pass into the broad sweep of water now
known as the Straits of Shelikoff, and pushed the islands
out to their present position. This legend strengthens
the general belief that the islands were once a part of the
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 337
peninsula, having been separated therefrom by one of the
mighty upheavals, with its attendant depression, which
are constantly taking place.
A native myth is that the original inhabitants were
descended from a dog. Another legend is to the eifect
that the daughter of a great chief north of the peninsula
married a dog and was banished with her dog-husband and
whelps. The dog tried to swim back, but was drowned,
his pups then falling upon the old chief and, having torn
him to pieces, reigning in his stead.
In 1791 Shelikoff reported the population of Kadiak
Island to be fifty thousand, the exaggeration being for
the purpose of enhancing the value of his operations. In
1795 the first actual census of Kadiak showed eighteen
hundred adult native males, and about the same number
of females. Today there are probably not five hundred.
I have visited Kadiak Island in June and in July. On
both occasions the weather was perfect. Clouds that
were like broken columns of pearl pushed languorously
up through the misty gold of the atmosphere ; the long
slopes of the hillside were vividly green in the higher
lights, but sank to the soft dark of dells and hollows ;
here and there shone out acres of brilliant bloom.
To one climbing the hill behind the village, island beyond island drifted
into view, with blue water-ways winding through velvety labyrinths of green ;
and, beyond all, the strong, limitless sweep of the ocean. The winds were but
the softest zephyrs, touching the face and hair like rose petals, or other
delicate, visible things ; and, the air was fragrant with things that grow day
and night and that fling their splendor forth in one riotous rush of bloom.
Shaken through and through their perfume was that thrilling, indescribable
sweetness which abides in vast spaces where snow mountains glimmer and the
opaline palisades of glaciers shine.
338 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
It is a view to quicken the blood, and to inspire an
American to give silent thanks to God that this rich and
peerlessly beautiful country is ours.
After the transfer, the village of Kodiak was the headquarters of the Alaska Commercial Company and the
Western Fur and Trading Company. The former company still maintains stores and warehouses at this point.
The house in which the manager resides occupies a commanding site above the bay. It is historic and commodious, and large house-parties are entertained with lavish
hospitality by Mr. and Mrs. Goss, visitors gathering there
from adjacent islands and settlements.
There are dances, " when the boats are in," in which
the civilized native girls join with a kind of repressed joy
that reminds one of New England. They dress well and
dance gracefully. Their soft, dark glances over their
partners' shoulders haunt even a woman dreamily. A
century's silently and gently borne wrongs smoulder now
and then in the deep eyes of some beautiful, dark-skinned
Kodiak is clean. One can stand on the hills and
For several years after the transfer a garrison of United
States troops was stationed there. Bridges were built
across the streams that flow down through the town, and
culverts to drain the marshes. Many of these improvements have been carelessly destroyed with the passing of
the years, but their early influence remains.
So charming and so idyllic did this island seem to the
Russians that it was with extreme reluctance they moved
their capital to Sitka when the change was considered
We were rowed by native boys across the satiny channel to Wood Island, where Reverend C. P. Coe conducts
a successful Baptist Orphanage for native children. Mr.
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 339
Coe was not at home, but we were cordially received by
Mrs. Coe and three or four assistants. Wood Island, or
Woody, as it was once called, is as lovely as Kadiak ; the
site for the buildings of the Orphanage being particularly
attractive, surrounded as it is by groves and dells.
There was a pale green, springlike freshness folded
over the gently rolling hills and hollows that was as entrancing as the first green mist that floats around the
leafing alders on Puget Sound in March.
The Orphanage was established in 1893 by the Woman's
American Baptist Home Mission Society of Boston, and
the first child was entered in that year. Mr. Coe assumed
charge of the Orphanage in 1895, and about one hundred
and thirty children have been educated and cared for under his administration. They have come from the east
as far as Kayak, and from the west as far as Unga. At
present there is but one other Baptist Mission field in
Alaska - at Copper Centre.
The purpose of the work is to provide a Christian
home and training for the destitute and friendless ; to
collect children, that they may receive an education ; and
to give industrial training so far as possible.
There were forty-two children in the home at the time
of our visit, and there was a full complement of helpers
in the work, including a physician.
The regular industrial work consists of all kinds of
housework for the girls. Everything that a woman who
keeps house should know is taught to these girls. The
boys are taught to plough and sow, to cultivate and harvest the crops, to raise vegetables, to care for stock and
poultry. Twenty-five acres are under cultivation, and the
hardier grains and vegetables are grown with fair success.
Potatoes yield two hundred and fifty bushels to the
acre; and barley, forty bushels. Cattle and poultry
thrive and are of exceeding value, fresh milk and
340 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
vegetables being better than medicines for the welfare of the
children. Angora goats require but little care and yield
excellent fleece each year.
The most valuable features of the work are the religious
training ; the furnishing of a comfortable home, warm
clothing, clean and wholesome food of sufficient quantity,
to children who have been rescued from vice and the
most repulsive squalor ; the atmosphere of industry,
cleanliness, kindness, and love ; and the medical care furnished to those who may be suffering because of the vices
of their ancestors.
This excellent work is supported by offerings from the
Baptist Sunday Schools of New England, and by contributions from the society with the yard-long name by which
it was established.
We were offered most delicious ginger-cake with nuts
in it and big goblets of half milk and half cream ; and we
were not surprised that the shy, dark-skinned children
looked so happy and so well cared for. We saw their
schoolrooms, their play rooms, and their bedrooms, with
the little clean cots ranged along the walls.
The children were shy, but made friends with us readily ; and holding our hands, led the way to the dells
where the violets grew. They listened to stories with
large-eyed interest, and were, in general, bright, well-
mannered, and attractive children.
It was on Wood Island that the famous and mysterious
ice-houses of the American-Russian Ice Company, whose
headquarters were in San Francisco, were located. Their
ruins still stand on the shore, as well as the deserted
buildings of the North American Commercial Company,
whose headquarters were here for many years - the furs
of the Copper River and Kenai regions having been
brought here to be shipped to San Francisco.
The operations of the ice company were shrouded in
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 841
mystery, many claiming that not a pound of ice was ever
shipped to the California seaport from Wood Island.
Other authorities, however, affirm that at one time large
quantities of ice were shipped to the southern port, and
that the agent of the company lived on Wood Island in a
manner as autocratic and princely as that of Baranoff
himself. The whole island was his park and game preserve ; and one of the first roads ever built in Alaska was
constructed here, comprising the circuit of the island, a
distance of about thirteen miles.
There is a Greek-Russian church and mission on the
Not far from Wood Island is Spruce.
" Here," says Tikhmenef, " died the last member of the
first clerical mission, the monk Herman. During his life-
time Father Herman built near his dwelling a school for
the daughters of the natives, and also cultivated potatoes.'
Bancroft pokes fun at this obituary. The growing of
potatoes, however, at that time in Alaska must have been
of far greater value than any ordinary missionary work.
Better to cultivate potatoes than to teach a lot of wretched
beings to make the sign of the cross and dabble themselves
with holy water - and it is said that this is all the average priest taught a hundred years ago, the poor natives
not being able to understand the Russian language.
The Kadiak Archipelago consists of Kadiak, Afognak,
Tugidak, Sitkinak, Marmot, Wood, Spruce, Chirikoff
(named by Vancouver for the explorer who discovered it
upon his return journey to Kamchatka), and several
smaller ones. They are all similar in appearance, but
smaller and less fertile than Kadiak. A small group
northwest of Chirikoff is named the Semidi Islands.
There is a persistent legend of a " lost " island in the
Pacific, to the southward of Kadiak.
342 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
When the Russian missionaries first came to the colonies in America, they found the natives living " as the
seals and the otters lived." They were absolutely without moral understanding, and simply followed their own
instincts and desires.
These missionaries were sent out in 1794, by command
of the Empress Catherine the Second; and by the time of
Sir George Simpson's visit in 1842, their influence had
begun to show beneficial results. An Aleutian and his
daughter who had committed an unnatural crime suddenly
found themselves, because of the drawing of new moral
lines, ostracized from the society in which they had been
accustomed to move unchallenged. - They stole away-- by
night in a bidarka, and having paddled steadily to the
southward for four days and nights they sighted an island
which had never been discovered by white man or dark.
They landed and dwelt upon this island for a year.
Upon their return to Kadiak and their favorable report
of their lone, beautiful, and sea-surrounded retreat, a
vessel was dispatched in search of it, but without success.
To this day it is " Lost " Island. Many have looked
for it, but in vain. It is the sailor's dream, and is supposed to be rich in treasure. Its streams are yellow with
gold, its mountains green with copper glance; ambergris
floats on the waters surrounding it ; and all the seals and
sea-otters that have been frightened out of the north sun
themselves, unmolested, upon its rocks and its floating
strands of kelp.
One day it will rise out of the blue Pacific before the
wondering eyes of some fortunate wanderer - even as the
Northwest Passage, for whose sake men have sailed and
suffered and failed and died for four hundred years, at
last opened an icy avenue before the amazed and unbelieving eyes of the dauntless Amundsen.
Leaving Kodiak, the steamer soon reaches Afognak, on
the island of the same name. There is no wharf at this
settlement, and we were rowed ashore.
We were greatly interested in this place. The previous
year we had made a brief voyage to Alaska. On our
steamer was an unmarried lady who was going to Afognak
as a missionary. She was to be the only white woman on
the island, and she had entertained us with stories which
she had heard of a very dreadful and wicked saloon-
keeper who had lived near her schoolhouse, and whose
evil influence had been too powerful for other missionaries
" But he can't scare me off ! " she declared, her eyes
shining with religious ardor. " I'll conquer him before
he shall conquer me ! "
She was short and stout and looked anything but brave,
and as we approached the scene of conflict, we felt much
curiosity as to the outcome.
She was on the beach when we landed, stouter, shorter,
and more energetic than ever in her movements. She
remembered us and proudly led the way up the bank to
her schoolhouse. It was large, clean, and attractive. The
missionary lived in four adjoining rooms, which were comfortable and homelike. We were offered fresh bread and
She talked rapidly and eagerly upon every subject save
the one in which we were so interested. At last, I could
endure the suspense no longer.
344 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
" And how," asked I, " about the wicked saloon-keeper ? "
A dull flush mounted to her very glasses. For a full minute there was silence. Then said she, slowly and stiffly : -
" How about what wicked saloon-keeper ? "
" Why, the one you told us about last year ; who had a
poor abused wife and seven children, and who scared the
life out of every missionary who came here."
There was another silence.
" Oh," said she then, coldly. " Well, he was rather
hard to get along with at first, but his er - hum -
wife died about three months ago, and he has er -
hum " (the words seemed to stick in her throat)
"asked me - he - asked me, you know, to" (she giggled
suddenly) ' ' marry him, you know."
" I don't know as I will, though," she added, hastily,
turning very red, as we stood staring at her, absolutely
The village of Afognak is located at the southwestern
end of Litnik Bay. It is divided into two distinct settlements, the most southerly of which has a population of
about one hundred and fifty white and half-breed people.
A high, grassy bluff, named Graveyard Point, separates
this part of the village from that to the northward, which
is entirely a native settlement of probably fifty persons.
The population of the Island of Afognak is composed of
Kadiaks, Eskimos, Russian half-breeds, and a few white
hunters and fishermen. The social conditions are similar
to those existing on the eastern shores of Cook Inlet.
When Alaska was under the control of the Russian-
American Company, many men grew old and comparatively useless in its service. These employees were too
helpless to be thrown upon their own resources, and their
condition was reported to the Russian government.
In 1835 an order was issued directing that such Russian
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 345
employees as had married native women should be
located as permanent settlers when they were no longer
able to serve the company. The company was compelled
to select suitable land, build comfortable dwellings for
them, supply agricultural implements, seed, cattle, chickens,
and a year's provisions.
These settlers were exempt from taxation and military
duty, and the Russians were known as colonial citizens, the
half-breeds as colonial settlers. The eastern shores of
Cook Inlet, Afognak Island, and Spruce Island were
selected for them. The half-breeds now occupying these
localities are largely their descendants. They have always
lived on a higher plane of civilization than the natives,
and among them may be found many skilled craftsmen.
There is no need for the inhabitants of any of these islands to suffer, for here are all natural resources for native
existence. All the hardier vegetables thrive and may be
stored for winter use; hay may be provided for cattle; the
waters are alive with salmon and cod; bear, fox, mink, and
sea-otter are still found.
In summer the men may easily earn two hundred dollars
working in the adjacent canneries; while the women,
assisted by the old men and children, dry the fish, which
is then known as ukala. There is a large demand in the
North for ukala, for dog food. There are two large stores
in Afognak, representing large trading companies, where
two cents a pound is paid for all the ukala that can be
The white men of Afognak are nearly all Scandinavians,
married to, or living with, native women. The school-
teacher I have already mentioned was the only white
woman, and she told us that we were the first white
women who had landed on the island during the year she
had spent there. Only once had she talked with white
women, and that was during a visit to Kodiak.
346 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
The town has a sheltered and attractive site on a level
green. There is a large Greek-Russian church, not far
from the noisy saloon which is presided over by the
saloon-keeper who was once bad, but who has now yielded
to the missionary's spell.
Karluk River, on the eastern side of Kadiak Island, is
the greatest salmon stream in the world. It is sixteen miles
long, less than six feet deep, and so narrow at its mouth
that a child could toss a pebble from shore to shore. It
seems absurd to enter a canoe to cross this stream, so like
a little creek is it, across which one might easily leap.
Yet up this tiny water-way millions of salmon struggle
every season to the spawning-grounds in Karluk Lake.
Before the coming of canners with traps and gill-nets in
1884, it is said that a solid mass of fish might be seen
fillinsf this stream from bank to bank, and from its mouth
to the lake in the hills.
In 1890 the largest cannery in the world was located
in Karluk Bay, but now that distinction belongs to Bristol
Bay, north of the Aliaska Peninsula. (Another " largest
in the world " is on Puget Sound !)
Karluk Bay is very small; but several canneries are on
its shores, and when they are all in operation, the employees are sufficient in number to make one of the largest
towns in Alaska. In 1890 three millions of salmon were
packed in the several canneries operating in the bay ; in
1900 more than two millions in the two canneries then
operating ; but, on account of the use of traps and gill-
nets, the pack has greatly decreased since then, and during
some seasons has proved a total failure.
Fifteen years ago two-thirds of the entire Alaskan
salmon pack were furnished by the ten canneries of Kadiak
Island, and these secured almost their entire supply from
Karluk River. Furthermore, at that time, the canners
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 347
enjoyed their vast monopoly without tax, license, or any
Immense fortunes have been made - and lost - in the
fish industry during the last twenty years.
The superintendents of these canneries alwa3's live luxuriously, and entertain like princes - or Baranoff. Their
comfortable houses are furnished with all modern luxuries,
elegant furniture, pianos, hot and cold water, electric
baths. Perfectly trained, noiseless Chinamen glide around
the table, where dinners of ten or twelve delicate courses
are served, with a different wine for each course.
Champagne is a part of the hospitality of Alaska. The
cheapest is seven dollars and a half a bottle, and Alaskans
seldom buy the cheapest of anything.
It was on a soft gray afternoon that the Do7'a entered
Karluk Bay between the two picturesque promontories
that plunge boldly out into Shelikoff Straits. It
seemed as though all the sea-birds of the world must be
gathered there. Our entrance set them afloat from their
perches on the rocky cliffs. They filled the air, from
shore to shore, like a snow-storm. Their poetic flight
and shrill, mournful plaining haunt every memory of
Now and then they settled for an instant. A cliff
would shine out suddenly - a clear, tremulous white; then,
as suddenly, there would be nothing but a sheer height
of dark stone veined with green before our bewildered
gaze. It was as if a silvery, winged cloud drifted up and
down the face of the cliffs and then floated out across
Several old sailing vessels, or " wind-jammers," lay at
anchor. They are used for conveying stores and employees
from San Francisco. The many buildings of the canneries give Karluk the appearance of a town - in fact,
during the summer, it is a town ; while in the winter
348 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
only a few caretakers of the buildings and property
Men of almost every nationality under the sun may
be found here, working side by side.
Ceaseless complaints are made of the lawless conditions
existing "to Westward." Besides the thousands of men
employed in the canneries of the Kadiak and the Aleutian islands, at least ten thousand men work in the canneries of Bristol Bay. They come from China, Japan,
the Sandwich Islands, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Porto
Rico, the Philippines, Guam, and almost every country
that may be named.
"The prevailing color of Alaska may be 'rosy lavender,' " said a gentleman who knows, " but let me tell you
that out there you will find conditions that are neither
rosy nor lavender."
There is a United States Commissioner and a Deputy
United States Marshal in the district, but they are unable
to control these men, many of whom are desperate characters. The superintendents of the canneries are there for
the purpose of putting up the season's pack as speedily as
possible; and, although they are invariably men who deplore crime, they have been known to condone it, to
the taking of themselves or their crews hundreds of miles
to await the action of some future term of court.
For many years the District of Alaska has been divided for judicial purposes into three divisions: the first
comprising the southeastern Alaska district ; the second,
Nome and the Seward Peninsula ; the third, the vast country lying between these two.
In each is organized a full United States district court.
The three judges who preside over these courts receive
the salary of five thousand dollars a year, - which, considering the high character of the services required,
and the cost of living in Alaska, is niggardly. So much
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 349
power is placed in the hands of these judges that they
are freely called czars by the people of Alaska.
The people of the third district complained bitterly
that their court facilities were entirely inadequate.
Several murders were committed, and the accused awaited
trial for many months. Witnesses were detained from
their homes and lawful pursuits. Delays were so vexatious
that many crimes remained unpunished, important wit-
nesses rebelling against being held in custody for a whole
year before they had an opportunity to testify - the
judge of the third district being kept busy along the
Yukon and at Fairbanks.
As a partial remedy for some of these abuses of government. Governor Brady, in his report for the year 1904,
suggested the creation of a fourth judicial district, to be
furnished with a sea-going vessel, which should be under
the custody of the marshal and at the command of the
court. It was recommended that this vessel be equipped
with small arms, a Gatling gun, and ammunition. All
the islands which lie along the thousands of miles of
shore-line of Kenai and Aliaska peninsulas. Cook Inlet,
the Kadiak, Shumagin, and Aleutian chains, and Bristol
Bay might be visited in season, and a wholesome respect
for law and order be enforced.
The burning question in Alaska has been for many
years the one of home government. As early as 1869 an
impassioned plea was made in Sitka that Alaska should
be given territorial rights. Yet even the bill for one
delegate to Congress was defeated as late as the winter
of 1905 - whereupon fiery Valdez instantly sent its famous message of secession.
Governor Brady criticized the appointment of United
States commissioners by the judges, claiming that there
is really no appeal from a commissioner's court to a district court, for the reason that the judge usually appoints
350 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
some particular protege' and feels bound to sustain his
decisions. The governor stated plainly in his report that
the most remunerative offices are filled by persons who
are peculiarly related, socially or politically, to the judges ;
that the attorneys and their clients understood this and
considered an appeal useless. Governor Brady also declared the fee system, as
practiced in these commissioners'
courts, to be an abomination. Unless there is trouble, the
officer cannot live ; and the inference is that he, therefore, welcomes trouble.
Whatever of truth there may have been in these pungent criticisms, President Roosevelt endorsed many of the
governor's recommendations in his message to Congress ;
and several have been adopted. During the past two
years Alaska has made rapid strides toward self-government, and important reforms have been instituted.
The territory now has a delegate to Congress. Upon
the subject of home government the people are widely
and bitterly divided. Those having large interests in
Alaska are, as a rule, opposed to home government, claiming that it is the politicians and those owning nothing upon
which taxes could be levied, who are agitating the subject.
These claim that the few who have ventured heavily to
develop Alaska would be compelled to bear the entire
burden of a heavy taxation, for the benefit of the professional politician, the carpet-bagger, and the impecunious
loafer who is "just waiting for something to turn up."
On the other hand, those favoring territorial government claim that it is opposed only by the large corporations which " have been bleeding Alaska for years."
The jurisdiction of the United States commissioners in
Alaska is far greater than is that of other court commissioners. They can sit as committing magistrates ; as jus-
tices of the peace, can try civil cases where the amount
involved is one thousand dollars or less; can try criminal
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 351
cases and sentence to one year's imprisonment ; they
are clothed with full authority as probate judges; they
may act as coroners, notaries, and recorders of precincts.
The third district, presided over by Judge Reid, whose
residence is at Fairbanks, is five hundred miles wide by
nine hundred miles long. It extends from the North
Pacific Ocean to the Arctic Ocean, and from the international boundary on the east to the Koyukuk. The chief
means of transportation within this district are steamers
along the coast and on the Yukon, and over trails by dog
It is small wonder that a man hesitates long before suing for his rights in
Alaska. The expense and hardship of even reaching the nearest seat of justice
are unimaginable. One man traveled nine hundred miles to reach
Rampart to attend court. The federal court issues all
licenses, franchises, and charters, and collects all occupation taxes. Every village or mining settlement of two or
three hundred men has a commissioner, whose sway in
his small sphere is as absolute as that of Baranoff was.
We found only one white woman at Karluk, the wife of
the manager of the cannery, a refined and accomplished
Her home was in San Francisco, but she spent the summer months with her husband at Karluk.
We were taken ashore in a boat and were most hospitably received in her comfortable home.
About two o 'clock in the afternoon we boarded a barge
and were towed by a very small, but exceedingly noisy,
launch up the Karluk River to the hatcheries, which are
maintained by the Alaska Packers Association.
It was one of those soft, cloudy afternoons when the
coloring is all in pearl and violet tones, and the air was
sweet with rain that did not fall. The little make-believe
river is very narrow, and so shallow that we were constantly in danger of running aground. We tacked from
one side of the stream to the other, as the great steamers
do on the Yukon.
On this little pearly voyage, a man who accompanied
us told a story which clings to the memory.
"Talk about your big world," said he. "You think it
'u'd be easy to hide yourself up in this God-forgotten place,
don't you ? Just let me tell you a story. A man come
up here a few years ago and went to work. He never
did much talkin'. If you ast him a question about hisself or where he come from, he shut up like a steel trap
with a rat in it. He was a nice-lookin' man, too, an' he
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 353
had an education an' kind of nice clean ways with hira.
He built a little cabin, an' he didn't go ' out ' in winter,
like the rest of us. He stayed here at Karluk an' looked
" Well, after one-two year a good-lookin' young woman
come up here - an' jiminy-cricket ! He fell in love with
her like greased lightnin' an' married her in no time. I
God, but that man was happy. He acted like a plumb
fool over that woman. After while they had a baby -
an' then he acted like two plumb fools in one. I ain't
got any wife an' babies myself an' I God ! it ust to
make me feel queer in my throat.
" Well, one summer the superintendent's wife brought up a woman to keep house for her. She was a white,
sad-faced-lookin' woman, an' when she had a little time
to rest she ust to climb up on the hill an' set there alone, watchin' the sea-gulls. I've seen her set there two hours
of a Sunday without movin'. Maybe she'd be settin'
there now if I hadn't gone and put my foot clean in it,
" I got kind of sorry for her, an' you may shoot me
dead for a fool, but one day I ast her why she didn't walk
around the bay an' set a spell with the other woman.
" ' I don't care much for women,' she says, never
changin' countenance, but just starin' out across the bay.
" ' She's got a reel nice, kind husband,' says I, tryin' to
work on her feelin's.
" ' I don't like husbands,' says she, as short as lard pie-
" ' She's got an awful nice little baby,' says I, for if
you keep on long enough, you can always get a woman.
" She turns then an' looks at me.
" ' It's a girl,' says I, ' an' Lord, the way it nestles up
into your neck an' loves you ! '
" Her lips opened an' shut, but she didn't say a word ;
354 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
but if you'd look 'way down into a well an' see a fire
burnin' in the water, it 'u'd look like her eyes did then.
" ' Its father acts like a plumb fool over it an' its
mother,' says I. ' The sun raises over there, an' sets over
here - but he thinks it raises an' sets in that woman an'
" ' The woman must be pretty,' says she, suddenly, an'
I never heard a woman speak so bitter.
" ' She is,' says I; ' she's got - '
" ' Don't tell me what she's got,' snaps she, gettin' up
off the ground, kind o' stiff-like. ' I've made up my
mind to go see her, an' maybe I'd back out if you told me
what she's like. Maybe you'd tell me she had red wavy
hair an' blue eyes an' a baby mouth an' smiled like an
angel - an' then devils couldn't drag me to look at her.'
" Say, I nearly fell dead, then, for that just described
the woman; but I'm no loon, so I just kept still.
" ' What's their name ? ' says she, as we walked along.
" 'Davis,' says I; an' mercy to heaven ! I didn't know
I was tellin' a lie.
" All of a sudden she laughed out loud - the awfullest
laugh. It sounded as harrable mo'rnful as a sea-gull just
before a storm.
" ' Husband! ' she flings out, jeerin'; ' I had a husband
once. I worshipped the ground he trod on. I thought
the sun raised an' set in him. He carried me on two
ships for a while, but I didn't have any children, an' I
took to worryin' over it, an' lost my looks an' my disposition. It goes deep with some women, an' it went deep
with me. Men don't seem to understand some things.
Instid of sympathizin' with me, he took to complainin'
an' findin' fault an' finally stayin' away from home.
" ' There's no use talkin' about what I suffered for a
year ; I never told anybody this much before - an' it
wa'n't anything to what I've suffered ever since. But
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 355
one day I stumbled on a letter he had wrote to a woman
he called Ruth. He talked about her red wavy hair an'
blue eyes an' baby mouth an' the way she smiled like an
angel. They were goin' to run away together. He told
her he'd heard of a place at the end of the earth where a
man could make a lot of money, an' he'd go there an' get
settled an' then send for her, if she was willin' to live
away from everybody, just for him. He said they'd
never see a human soul that knew them.'
" She stopped talkin' all at once, an' we walked along.
I was scared plumb to death. I didn't know the woman's
name, for he always called her ' dearie,' but the baby's
name was Ruth.
"'You've got to feelin' bad now,' says I, 'an' maybe
we'd best not go on.'
'"I'm goin' on,' says she.
" After a while she says, in a different voice, kind of
hard, ' I put that letter back an' never said a word. I
wouldn't turn my hand over to keep a man. I never saw
the woman ; but I know how she looks. I've gone over
it every night of my life since. I know the shape of
every feature. I never let on, to him or anybody else.
It's the only thing I've thanked God for, since I read that
letter - helpin' me to keep up an' never let on. It's the
only thing I've prayed for since that day. It wa'n't very
long - about a month. He just up an' disappeared.
People talked about me awful because I didn't cry, an'
take on, an' hunt him.
" ' I took what little money he left me an' went away.
I got the notion that he'd gone to South America, so I
set out to get as far in the other direction as possible. I
got to San Francisco, an' then the chance fell to me to come
up here. It sounded like the North Pole to me, so I come.
I'm awful glad I come. Them sea-gulls is the only pleasure
I've had - since ; an' it's been four year. That's all.'
356 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
" Well, sir, when we got up close to the cabin, I got to
shiverin' so's I couldn't brace up an' go in with her. It
didn't seem possible it could be the same man, but then,
such darn queer things do happen in Alaska ! Anyhow,
I'd got cold feet. I remembered that the cannery the
man worked in was shut down, so's he'd likely be at
" ' I'll go back now,' I mumbles, ' an' leave you women-folks to get acquainted.'
" I fooled along slow, an' when I'd got nearly to the
settlement I heard her comin'. I turned an' waited -
an' I God ! she won't be any ash-whiter when she's in
her coffin. She was steppin' in all directions, like a blind
woman ; her arms hung down stiff at her sides ; her
fingers were locked around her thumbs as if they'd never
loose ; an' some nights, even now, I can't sleep for thinkin'
how her eyes looked. I guess if you'd gag a dog, so's he
couldn't cry, an' then cut him up slow, inch by inch, his
eyes 'u'd look like her'n did then. At sight of me her
face worked, an' I thought she was goin' to cry ; but all
at once she burst out into the awfullest laughin' you ever
heard outside of a lunatic asylum.
" ' Lord God Almighty ! ' she cries out - ' where's his
mercy at, the Bible talks about ? You'd think he might
have a little mercy on an ugly woman who never had any
children, wouldn't you - especially when there's women
in the world with wavy red hair an' blue eyes - women
that smile like angels an' have little baby girls ! Oh,
Lord, what a joke on me ! '
" Well, she went on laughin' till my blood turned cold,
but she never told me one word of what happened to her.
She went back to California on the first boat that went,
but it was two weeks. I saw her several times ; an' at
sight of me she'd burst out into that same laughin' an'
cry out, ' My Lord, what a joke ! Did you ever see its
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 357
beat for a joke?' but she wouldn't answer a thing I ast
her. The last time I ever see her, she was leanin' over
the ship's side. She looked like a dead woman, but when
she see me she waved her hand and burst out laugh in'.
" ' Do you hear them sea-gulls ? ' she cries out. 'All
they can scream is Kar-luk ! Kar-luk !
Kar-luk ! You
can hear'm say it just as plain, Kar-luk ! I'll hear 'era
when I lay in my grave ! Oh, my Lord, what a joke ! ' "
Our progress up Karluk River in the barge was so
leisurely that we seemed to be " drifting upward with the
flood " between the low green shores that sloped, covered
with flowers, to the water. The clouds were a soft gray,
edged with violet, and the air was very sweet.
The hatchery is picturesquely situated.
A tiny rivulet, called Shasta Creek, comes tumbling
noisily down from the hills, and its waters are utilized in
the various "ponds."
The first and highest pond they enter is called the
" settling " pond, which receives, also, in one corner, the
clear, bubbling waters of a spring, whose up-flow, never
ceasing, prevents this corner of the pond from freezing.
This pond is deeper than the others, and receives the
waters of the creek so lightly that the sediment is not
disturbed in the bottom, its function being to permit the
sediment carried down from the creek to settle before the
waters pass on into the wooden flume, which carries part
of the overflow into the hatching-house, or on into the
lower ponds, which are used for ''ripening" the salmon.
There are about a dozen of these ponds, and they are
terraced down the hill with a fall of from four to six feet
They are rectangular in shape and walled with large
stones and cement. The walls are overgrown with
grasses and mosses; and the waters pouring musically
down over them from large wooden troughs suspended
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 359
horizontally above them, and whose bottoms are pierced
by numerous augur-holes, produce the effect of a series
of gentle and lovely waterfalls.
It is essential that the fall of the water should be as
light and as soft as possible, that the fish may not be disturbed and excited - ripening more quickly and perfectly
when kept quiet.'
These ponds were filled with salmon. Many of them
moved slowly and placidly through the clear waters ;
others struggled and fought to leap their barriers in a
seemingly passionate and supreme desire to reach the
highest spawning-ground. There is to me something
divine in the desperate struggle of a salmon to reach the
natural place for the propagation of its kind - the shallow, running upper waters of the stream it chooses to
ascend. It cannot be will-power - it can be only a God-given instinct - that enables it to leap cascades eight
feet in height to accomplish its uncontrollable desire.
Notwithstanding all commercial reasoning and all human
needs, it seems to me to be inhumanly cruel to corral so
many millions of salmon every year, to confine them during the ripening period, and to spawn them by hand.
In the natural method of spawning, the female salmon
seeks the upper waters of the stream, and works out a
trough in the gravelly bed by vigorous movements of her
body as she lies on one side. In this trough her eggs are
deposited and are then fertilized by the male.
The eggs are then covered with gravel to a depth of
several feet, such gravel heaps being known as " redds."
To one who has studied the marvelously beautiful
instincts of this most human of fishes, their desperate
struggles in the ripening ponds are pathetic in the extreme ; and I was glad to observe that even the gentle-
men of our party frequently turned away with faces full
of the pity of it.
360 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
A salmon will struggle until it is but a purple, shapeless mass ; it will fling itself upon the rocks ; the over-pouring waters will bear it back for many yards ; then it
will gradually recover itself and come plunging and fighting back to fling itself once more upon the same rocks.
Each time that it is washed away it is weaker, more
bruised and discolored. Battered, bleeding, with fins
broken off and eyes beaten out, it still returns again and
again, leaping and flinging itself frenziedly upon the stone
Its very rush through the water is pathetic, as one remembers it ; it is accompanied by a loud swish and the
waters fly out in foam ; but its movements are so swift
that only a line of silver - or, alas ! frequently one of
purple - is visible through the beaded foam.
Some discoloration takes place naturally when the fish has been in fresh water for some time ; but much of it is
due to bruising. A salmon newly arrived from the sea
is called a " clean " salmon, because of its bright and
sparkling appearance and excellent condition.
There is a tramway two or three hundred yards in
length, along which one may walk and view the various
ponds. It is used chiefly to convey stock-fish from the
corrals to the upper ripening-ponds.
When ripe fish are to be taken from a pond, the water
is lowered to a depth of about a foot and a half ; a kind
of slatting is then put into the water at one end and slidden gently under the fish, which are examined - the
" ripe " ones being placed in a floating car and the " green "
ones freed in the pond. A stripping platform attends every
pond, and upon this the spawning takes place.
The young fish, from one to two years old, before it has gone to sea, is
called by a dozen different names, chief of which are parr and salmon-fry. At
the end of ten weeks after hatching, the fry are fed tinned salmon flesh, -
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 361
"do-overs" furnished by the canneries, - which is thoroughly desiccated and put through a sausage-machine.
When the fry are three or four months old, they are
"planted." After being freed they work their way
gradually down to salt-water, which pushes up into the
lagoon, and finally out into the bay. They return frequently to fresh water and for at least a year work in
and out with the tides.
The majority of fry cling to the fresh-water vicinity for
two years after hatching, at which time they are about
eight inches long. The second spring after hatching they
sprout out suddenly in bright and glistening scales, which
conceal the dark markings along their sides which are
known as parr-marks. They are then called " smolt," and
are as adult salmon in all respects save size.
In all rivers smolts pass down to the sea between
March and June, weighing only a few ounces. The same
fall they return as " grilse," weighing from three to five
After their first spawning, they return during the winter to the sea ; and in the following year re-ascend the river
as adult salmon. Males mature sexually' earlier than females.
The time of year when salmon ascend from the sea
varies greatly in different rivers, and salmon rivers are
denominated as "early " or " late."
The hatchery at Karluk is a model one, and is highly
commended by government experts. It was established
in the spring of 1896, and stripping was done in August
of the same year. The cost of the present plant has
been about forty thousand dollars, and its annual expenditure for maintenance, labor, and improvements, from
ten to twenty thousand. There is a superintendent and a
permanent force of six or eight men, including a cook,
with additional help from the canneries when it is required.
362 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
There are many buildings connected with the hatchery,
and all are kept in perfect order. The first season, it is
estimated that two millions of salmon-fry were liberated,
with a gradual increase until the present time, when
forty millions are turned out in a single season.
The superintendent was taken completely by surprise by
our visit, but received us very hospitably and conducted
us through all departments with courteous explanations.
The shining, white cleanliness and order everywhere
manifest would make a German housewife green of envy.
At this point Karluk River widens into a lagoon, in
which the corrals are wired and netted off somewhat
after the fashion of fish-traps, covering an area of about
Fish for the hatcheries are called "stock-fish." They
are secured by seiners in the lagoon opposite the hatcheries,
and are then transferred to the corrals. As soon as a salmon has the appearance of ripening, it is removed by the
use of seines to the ripening-ponds.
In the hatching-house are more than sixty troughs, fourteen feet in length, sixteen inches in width, and seven
inches in depth. The wood of which they are composed
is surfaced redwood. The joints are coated with asphaltum tar, with cotton wadding used as calking material.
When the trough is completed, it is given one coat of
refined tar and two of asphaltum varnish.
In the Karluk hatchery the troughs never leak, owing
to this superior construction ; and it is said that the importance of this advantage cannot be overestimated.
Leaks make it impossible for the employees to estimate
the amount of water in the troughs ; repairs startle the
young fry and damage the eggs ; and the damp floors
cause illness among the employees. The Karluk hatchery
is noted for its dryness and cleanliness.
The setting of the hatchery is charming. The hills.
ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY 363
treeless, pale green, and velvety, slope gently to the river
and the lagoon. Now and then a slight ravine is filled
with a shrubby growth of a lighter green. Flowers flame
everywhere, and tiny rivulets come singing down to the
The greenness of the hills continues around the bay,
broken off abruptly on Karluk Head, where the soft,
veined gray of the stone cliff blends with the green.
The bay opens out into the wide, bold, purple sweep
of Shelikoff Strait.
Everybody of water has its character - some feature
that is peculiarly its own, which impresses itself upon the
beholder. The chief characteristic of Shelikoff Strait is
its boldness. There is something dauntless, daring, and
impassioned in its wide and splendid sweep to the chaste
line of snow peaks of the Aleutian Range on the Aliaska
Peninsula. It seems to hold a challenge.
I should like to live alone, or almost alone, high on
storm-swept Karluk Head, fronting that magnificent
scene that can never be twice quite the same. What
work one might do there - away from little irritating
cares ! No neighbors to " drop in " with bits of delicious gossip ; no theatres in which to waste the splendid
nights; no bridge-luncheons to tempt, - nothing but
sunlight glittering down on the pale green hills ; the
golden atmosphere above the little bay filled with tremulous, winged snow ; and miles and miles and miles of
" What kind of place is Uyak ? " I asked a deck-hand
who was a native of Sweden, as we stood out in the bow
of the Bora one day.
He turned and looked at me and grinned.
"It ees a hal of a blace," he replied, promptly and
frankly. " It ees yoost dat t'ing. You vill see."
And I did see. I should, in fact, like to take this frank-
spoken gentleman along with me wherever I go, solely to
answer people who ask me what kind of place Uyak is -
his opinion so perfectly coincides with my own.
There were canneries at Uyak, and mosquitoes, and
things to be smelled ; but if there be anything there
worth seeing, they must first kill the mosquitoes, else it
will never be seen.
The air was black with these pests, and the instant we
stepped upon the wharf we were black with them, too.
Every passenger resembled a windmill in action, as he
raced down the wharf toward the cannery, hoping to find
relief there ; and as he went his nostrils were assailed by
an odor that is surpassed in only one place on earth -
Belkoffski! - and it comes later.
The hope of relief in the canneries proved to be a vain
one. The unfortunate Chinamen and natives were covered
with mosquitoes as they worked ; their faces and arms
were swollen ; their eyes were fierce with suffering. They
did not laugh at our frantic attempts to rid ourselves of
the winged pests - as we laughed at one another. There
was nothing funny in the situation to those poor wretches.
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 365
It was a tragedy. They stared at us with desperate eyes
which asked: -
" Why don't you go away if you are suffering ? You
are free to leave. What have you to complain of ? We
We went out and tried to walk a little way along the
hill ; but the mosquitoes mounted in clouds from the
wild-rose thickets. At the end of fifteen minutes we fled
back to the steamer and locked ourselves in our state-
rooms. There we sat down and nursed our grievances
with camphor and alcohol.
We sailed up Uyak Bay to the mine of the Kodiak Gold
Mining Company. This is a free milling mine and had
been a developing property for four years. It was then
installing a ten-stamp mill, and had twenty thousand
tons of ore blocked out, the ore averaging from fifteen
to twenty dollars a ton.
This mine is located on the northern side of Kadiak
Island, and has good water power and excellent shipping
facilities. Fifty thousand dollars were taken out of the
beaches in the vicinity in 1904 by placer mining.
Here, in this lovely, lonely bay, one of the most charming women I ever met spends her summers. She is the
wife of one of the owners of the mine, and her home is in
San Francisco. She finds the summers ideal, and longs
for the novelty of a winter at the mine. She has a canoe
and spends most of her time on the water. There are no
mosquitoes at the mine ; the summers are never uncomfortably hot, and it is seldom, indeed, that the mercury
falls to zero in the winter.
From Kadiak Island we crossed Shelikoff Straits to
Cold Bay, on the Aliaska Peninsula, which we reached at
midnight, and which is the only port that could not
tempt us ashore. When our dear, dark-eyed Japanese,
" Charlie," played a gentle air upon our cabin door with
366 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
his fingers and murmured apologetically, " Cold Bay,"
we heard the rain pouring down our windows in sheets,
and we ungratefully replied, " Go away, Charlie, and
leave us alone."
No rope-ladders and dory landings for us on such a
night, at a place with such a name.
The following day was clear, however, and we sailed
all day along the peninsula. To the south of us lay the
Tugidak, Trinity, Chirikoff, and Semidi islands.
At six in the evening we landed at Chignik, another
uninteresting cannery place. From Chignik on " to Westward " the resemblance of the natives to the Japanese be-
came more remarkable. As they stood side by side on
the wharves, it was almost impossible to distinguish one
from the other. The slight figures, brown skin, softly
bright, dark eyes, narrowing at the corners, and amiable
expression made the resemblance almost startling.
At Chignik we had an amusing illustration, however,
of the ease with which even a white man may grow to
resemble a native.
The mail agent on the Dora was a great admirer of his
knowledge of natives and native customs and language.
Cham-mi is a favorite salutation with them. Approaching a man who was sitting on a barrel, and who certainly
resembled a native in color and dress, the agent pleasantly
There was no response ; the man did not lift his head ;
a slouch hat partially concealed his face.
''Cham-mil " repeated the agent, advancing a step nearer.
There was still no response, no movement of recognition.
The mail agent grew red.
" He must be deaf as a post," said he. He slapped the
man on the shoulder and, stooping, fairly shouted in his
ear, ' '-Cham-mi old man ! "
Then the man lifted his head and brought to view the
unmistakable features of a Norwegian.
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 367
" T'hal with you," said he, briefly. " Tin no tamn
The mail agent looked as though the wharf had gone
out from under his feet ; and never again did we hear
him give the native salutation to any one. The Norwegian had been living for a year among the natives ; and
by the twinkle in his eye as he again lowered his head it
was apparent that he appreciated the joke.
At the entrance to Chignik Bay stands Castle Cape, or
Tuhiumnit Point. From the southeastern side it really
resembles a castle, with turrets, towers, and domes. It is
an immense, stony pile jutting boldly out into the sea,
whose sparkling blue waves, pearled with foam, break
loudly upon its base. In color it is soft gray, richly and
evenly streaked with rose. Sea birds circled, screaming,
over it and around it. Castle Cape might be the twin
sister of " Calico Bluff " on the Yukon.
Popoff and Unga are the principal islands of the
Shumagin group, on one of which Behring landed and
buried a sailor named Shumagin. They are the centre of
famous cod-fishing grounds which extend westward and
northward to the Arctic Ocean, eastward to Cook Inlet,
and southeastward to the Straits of Juan de Faca.
There are several settlements on the Island of Unga -
Coal Harbor, Sandy Point, Apollo, and Unga. The latter
is a pretty village situated on a curving agate beach. It
is of some importance as a trading post.
Finding no one to admit us to the Russo-Greek church,
we admitted ourselves easily with our state-room key ;
but the tawdry cheapness of the interior scarcely repaid
us for the visit. The graveyard surrounding the church
was more interesting.
There is no wharf at Unga, but there is one at Apollo,
about three miles farther up the bay. We were taken up
to Apollo in a sail-boat, and it proved to be an exciting
368 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
sail. It is not sailing unless the rail is awash; but it
seemed as though the entire boat were awash that June
afternoon in the Bay of Unga. Scarcely had we left the
ship when we were struck by a succession of squalls which
lasted until our boat reeled, hissing, up to the wharf at
Water poured over us in sheets, drenching us. We
could not stay on the seats, as the bottom of the boat
stood up in the air almost perpendicularly. We therefore stood up with it, our feet on the lower rail with the
sea flowing over them, and our shoulders pressed against
the gunwale. Had it not been for the broad shoulders of
two Englishmen, our boat would surely have gone over.
It all came upon us so suddenly that we had no time to be
frightened, and, with all the danger, it was glorious. No
whale - no "right " whale, even - could be prouder than
we were of the wild splashing and spouting that attended
our tipsy race up Unga Bay.
The wharf floated dizzily above us, and we were compelled to climb a high perpendicular ladder to reach it.
No woman who minds climbing should go to Alaska. She
is called upon at a moment's notice to climb everything,
from rope-ladders and perpendicular ladders to volcanoes.
A mile's walk up a tramway brought us to the Apollo.
This is a well-known mine, which has been what is called
a " paying proposition " for many years. At the time of
our visit it was worked out in its main lode, and the
owners had been seeking desperately for a new one. It
was discovered the following year, and the Apollo is once
more a rich producer.
In a large and commodious house two of the owners of
the mine lived, their wives being with them for the summer.
They were gay and charming women, fond of society, and
pining for the fleshpots of San Francisco. The white
women living between Kodiak and Dutch Harbor are so
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 369
few that they may be counted on one hand, and the
luxurious furnishings of their homes in these out-of-the-
way places are almost startling in their unexpectedness.
We spent the afternoon at the mine, and the ladies returned to the Bora with us for dinner. The squalls had
taken themselves off, and we had a prosaic return in the
" What do we do ? " said one of the ladies, in reply to
my question. "Oh, we read, walk, write letters, go out on
the water, play cards, sew, and do so much fancy work that
when we get back to San Francisco we have nothing to do
but enjoy ourselves and brag about the good time we have
in Alaska. We are all packed now to go camping - "
''' Camping ! " I repeated, too astonished to be polite.
" Yes, camping," replied she, coloring, and speaking
somewhat coldly. " We go in the launch to the most
beautiful beach about ten miles from Unga. We stay a
month. It is a sheltered beach of white sand. The waves
lap on it all day long, blue, sparkling, and warm, and we
almost live in them. The hills above the beach are
simply covered with the big blueberries that grow only
in Alaska. They are somewhat like the black mountain
huckleberry, only more delicious. We can them, preserve them, and dry them, and take them back to San
Francisco with us. They are the best things I ever ate
with thick cream on them. I had some in the house ;
I wish I had thought to offer you some."
She wished she had thought to offer me some !
On the Dora we were rapidly getting down to bacon and
fish, - being about two thousand miles from Seattle, with
no ice aboard in this land of ice, - and I am not enthusiastic
And she wished that she had thought to offer me some Alaskan blueberries that
are more delicious than mountain huckleberries, and thick cream !
I have heard of steamers that have been built and
sent out by missionary or church societies to do good in
far and lonely places.
The little Dora is not one of these, nor is religion her
cargo; her hold is filled with other things. Yet blessings
be on her for the good, she does! Her mission is to carry
mail, food, freight, and good cheer to the people of these
green islands that go drifting out to Siberia, one by one.
She is the one link that connects them with the great world
outside; through her they obtain their sole touch of society,
of which their appreciation is pitiful.
Our captain was a big, violet-eyed Norwegian, about
forty years old. He showed a kindness, a courtesy, and a
patience to those lonely people that endeared him to us.
He knew them all by name and greeted them cordially as they stood, smiling
and eager, on the wharves. All kinds of commissions had been entrusted to him on
his last monthly trip. To one he brought a hat ; to another a phonograph ; to
another a box of fruit; dogs, cats, chairs, flowers, books - there seemed to be
nothing that he had not personally selected for the people at the various ports.
Even a little seven-year-old half-breed girl had traveled in
his care from Valdez to join her father on one of the
Wherever there was a woman, native or half-breed, he
took us ashore to make her acquaintance.
" Come along now," he would say, in a tone of command,
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 371
" and be nice. They don't get a chance to talk to many
women. Haven't you got some little womanly thing
along with you that you can give them ? It'll make them
happy for months."
We were eager enough to talk to them, heaven knows, and to give them what we
could ; but the " little womanly things " that we could spare on a two months'
voyage in Alaska were distressingly few. When we had nothing more that we could
give, the stern disapproval in the captain's eyes went to our hearts. Box after box of bonbons,
figs, salted almonds, preserved ginger, oranges, apples,
ribbons, belts, pretty bags - one after one they went,
until, like Olive Schreiner's woman, I felt that I had given
up everything save the one green leaf in my bosom ; and
that the time would come when the captain would command me to give that up, too.
There seems to be something in those great lonely
spaces that moves the people to kindness, to patience and
consideration - to tenderness, even. I never before came
close to such humanness. It shone out of people in whom
one would least expect to find it.
Several times while we were at dinner the chief steward, a gay and handsome youth not more than twenty-
one years old, rushed through the dining room, crying: -
" Give me your old magazines - quick I There's a
whaler's boat alongside."
A stampede to our cabins would follow, and a hasty
up-gathering of such literature as we could lay our hands
The whaling and cod-fishing schooners cruise these
waters for months without a word from the outside until
they come close enough to a steamer to send out a boat.
The crew of the steamer, discovering the approach
of this boat, gather up everything they can throw into
it as it flashes for a moment alongside. Frequently
372 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
the occupants of the boat throw fresh cod aboard, and
then there are smiling faces at dinner. It is my opinion,
however, that any one who would smile at cod would smile
The most marvelous voyage ever made in the beautiful
and not always peaceful Pacific Ocean was the one upon
which the Dora started at an instant's notice, and by no
will of her master's, on the first day of January, 1906.
Blown from the coast down into the Pacific in a freezing
storm, she became disabled and drifted helplessly for more
than two months.
During that time the weather was the worst ever known
by seafaring men on the coast. The steamship Santa
Ana and the United States steamship Hush were sent in
search of the Dora and when both had returned without
tidings, hope for her safety was abandoned.
Eighty-one days from the time she had sailed from
Valdez, she crawled into the harbor of Seattle, two thousand miles off her course. She carried a crew of seven
men and three or four passengers, one of whom was a
young Aleutian lad of Unalaska. As the Dora was on her
outward trip when blown to sea, she was well stocked
with provisions which she was carrying to the islanders ;
but there was no fuel and but a scant supply of water aboard.
The physical and mental sufferings of all were ferocious;
and it was but a feeble cheer that arose from the little ship-
wrecked band when the Dora at last crept up beside the
Seattle pier. For two months they had expected each
day to be their last, and their joy was now too deep for
The welcome they received when they returned to their
regular run among the Aleutian Islands is still described
by the settlers.
The Dora reached Kodiak late on a boisterous night;
but her whistle was heard, and the whole town was on the
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 373
wharf when she docked, to welcome the crew and to congratulate them on their safety. Some greeted their old
friends hilariously, and others simply pressed their hands
in emotion too deep for expression.
So completely are the people of the smaller places on
the route cut off from the world, save for the monthly
visits of the Dora that they had not heard of her safety.
When, after supposing her to be lost for two months,
they beheld her steaming into their harbors, the superstitious believed her to be a spectre-ship.
The greatest demonstration was at Unalaska. A
schooner had brought the news of her safety to Dutch
Harbor ; from there a messenger was dispatched to Unalaska, two miles away, to carry the glad tidings to the
father of the little lad aboard the Dora.
The news flashed wildly through the town. People in
bed, or sitting by their firesides, were startled by the flinging open of their door and the shouting of a voice from
the darkness outside : -
" The Doras safe! " - but before they could reach the
door, messenger and voice would be gone - fleeing on
through the town.
At last he reached the Jessie Lee Missionary Home,
at the end of the street, where a prayer-meeting was
in progress. Undaunted, he flung wide the door, burst
into the room, shouting, "The Dora's safe!" - and was
gone. Instantly the meeting broke up, people sprang to
their feet, and prayer gave place to a glad thanksgiving
When the Dora finally reached Unalaska once more, the
whole town was in holiday garb. Flags were flying, and
every one that could walk was on the wharf. Children,
native and white, carried flags which they joyfully waved.
Their welcome was enthusiastic and sincere, and the men
on the boat were deeply affected.
374 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
The Dora is not a fine steamship, but she is stanch,
seaworthy, and comfortable ; and the islanders are as attached to her as though she were a thing of flesh and blood.
No steamer could have a twelve-hundred-mile route
more fascinating than the one from Valdez to Unalaska.
It is intensely lovely. Behind the gray cliffs of the
peninsula float the snow-peaks of the Aleutian Range.
Here and there a volcano winds its own dark, fleecy turban round its crest, or flings out a scarlet scarf of flame.
There are glaciers sweeping everything before them ; bold
headlands plunging out into the sea, where they pause
with a sheer drop of thousands of feet; and flowery vales
and dells. There are countless islands - some of them
mere bits of green floating upon the blue.
At times a kind of divine blueness seems to swim over
everything. Wherever one turns, the eye is rested and
charmed with blue. Sea, shore, islands, atmosphere, and
sky - all are blue. A mist of it rests upon the snow
mountains and goes drifting down the straits. It is a warm,
delicate, luscious blue. It is like the blue of frost-touched
grapes when the imprisoned wine shines through.
Sand Point, a trading post on Unga Island, is a wild
and picturesque place. It impressed me chiefly, however,
by the enormous size of its crabs and starfishes, which I
saw in great numbers under the wharf. Rocks, timbers,
and boards were incrusted with rosy-purple starfishes,
some measuring three feet from the tip of one ray to the
tip of the ray nearly opposite. Smaller ones were wedged
in between the rays of the larger ones, so that frequently
a piling from the wharf to the sandy bottom of the bay,
which we could plainly see, would seem to be solid
As for the crabs - they were so large that they were
positively startling. They were three and four feet from
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 375
tip to tip; yet their movements, as they floated in the
clear green water, were exceedingly graceful.
Sand Point has a wild, weird, and lonely look. It is just
the place for the desperate murder that was committed in
the house that stands alone across the bay, - a dull and
neglected house with open windows and banging doors.
"Does no one live there?" I asked the storekeeper's wife.
" Live there ! " she repeated with a quick shudder.
" No one could be hired at any price to live there."
The murdered man had purchased a young Aleutian girl,
twelve years old, for ten dollars and some tobacco. When
she grew older, he lived with her and called her his wife.
He abused her shamefully. A Russian half-breed named
Gerassenoff - the name fits the story - fell in love with
the girl, loved her to desperation, and tried to persuade
her to run away with him.
She dared not, for fear of the brutal white wretch who
owned her, body and soul. Gerassenoff, seeing the cruelties and abuse to which she was daily subjected, brooded
upon his troubles until he became partially insane. He
entered the house when the man was asleep and murdered
him - foully, horribly, cold-bloodedly.
Gerassenoff is now serving a life-sentence in the government penitentiary on McNeil's Island; the man he murdered lies in an unmarked grave ; the girl - for the story
has its touch of awful humor I - the girl married another
man within a twelvemonth.
There is a persistent invitation at Sand Point to the swimmer. The temptation to sink down, down, through those
translucent depths, and then to rise and float lazily with
the jelly-fishes, is almost irresistible. There is a seductive,
languorous charm in the slow curve of the waves, as though
they reached soft arms and wet lips to caress. There are
more beautiful waters along the Alaskan coast, but none in
which the very spirit of the swimmer seems so surely to dwell.
Belkoffski ! There was something in the name that
attracted my attention the first time I heard it ; and my
interest increased with each mile that brought it nearer.
It is situated on the green and sloping shores of Pavloff
Bay, which rise gradually to hills of considerable height.
Behind it smokes the active volcano, Mount Pavloff, with
whose ashes the hills are in places gray, and whose fires
frequently light the night with scarlet beauty.
The Bora anchored more than a mile from shore, and
when the boat was lowered we joyfully made ready to descend. We were surprised that no one would go ashore
with us. Important duties claimed the attention of officers
and passengers ; yet they seemed interested in our preparations.
" Won't you come ashore with us ? " we asked.
" No, I thank you," they all replied, as one.
" Have you ever been ashore here ? "
" Oh, yes, thank you."
" Isn't it interesting, then ? "
"Oh, very interesting, indeed."
" There is something in their manner that I do not like,"
I whispered to my companion. " What do you suppose is
the matter with Belkoffski."
" Smallpox, perhaps," she whispered back.
"I don't care; I'm going."
"So am I."
" What kind of place is Belkoffski ? " I asked one of the
sailors who rowed us ashore.
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 377
He grinned until it seemed that he would never again
be able to get his mouth shut.
" Jou vill see vot kind oof a blace it ees," he replied
" Is it not a nice place, then ? "
"Jou vill see."
We did see.
The tide was so low and the shore so rocky that we
could not get within a hundred yards of any land. A
sailor named " Nelse " volunteered to carry us on his back ;
and as nothing better presented itself for our consideration, we promptly and joyfully went pick-a-back.
This was my most painful experience in Alaska. My
father used to make stirrups of his hands ; but as Nelse
did not offer, diffidence kept me from requesting this
added gallantry of him. It was well that I went first ;
for after viewing my friend's progress shoreward, had I
not already been upon the beach, I should never have
landed at Belkoffski.
For many years Belkoffski was the centre of the sea-
otter trade. This small animal, which has the most valuable fur in the world, was found only along the rock shores
of the Aliaska Peninsula and the Aleutian Islands. The
Shumagins and Sannak islands were the richest grounds.
Sea-otter, furnishing the court fur of both Russia and
China, were in such demand that they have been almost
entirely exterminated - as the fur-bearing seal will soon
The fur of the sea-otter is extremely beautiful. It is
thick and velvety, its rich brown under-fur being remarkable. The general color is a frosted, or silvery, purplish
The sea-otter frequented the stormiest and most dangerous shores, where they were found lying on the rocks, or
sometimes floating, asleep, upon fronds of an immense
378 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
kelp which was called " sea-otter's cabbage." The hunters
would patiently lie in hiding for days, awaiting a favorable opportunity to surround their game.
They were killed at first by ivory spears, which were deftly cast by natives.
In later years they were captured in nets, clubbed brutally, or shot. They were
excessively shy, and the difficulty and danger of securing them increased as
their slaughter became more pitiless. Only natives were allowed to kill otter
until 1878, when white men married to native women were permitted by the Secretary of the Treasury to consider themselves, and to be
considered, natives, so far as hunting privileges were concerned.
The rarest and most valuable of otter are the deep-sea
otter, which never go ashore, as do the " rock-hobbers,"
unless driven there by unusual storms. "Silver-tips" -
deep-sea otter having a silvery tinge on the tips of the
fur - bring the most fabulous prices.
The hunting of these scarce and precious animals calls
for greater bravery, hardship, perilous hazard, and actual
suffering than does the chase of any other fur-bearing
animal. Pitiful, shameful, and loathsome though the
slaughter of seals be, it is not attended by the exposure
and the hourly peril which the otter hunter unflinchingly
Sea-otter swim and sleep upon their backs, with their
paws held over their eyes, like sleepy puppies, their bodies
barely visible and their hind flippers sticking up out of
The young are born sometimes at sea, but usually on
kelp-beds ; and the mother swims, sleeps, and even suckles
her young stretched at full length in the water upon her
back. She carries her offspring upon her breast, held in
her forearms, and has many humanly maternal ways with
it, - fondling it, tossing it into the air and catching
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 379
it, and even lulling it to sleep with a kind of purring
Both the male and female are fond of their young, caring
for it with every appearance of tenderness. In making difficult landings, the male " hauls out " first and catches
the young, which the mother tosses to him. Sometimes,
when a baby is left alone for a few minutes, it is attacked
by some water enemy and killed or turned over, when it
invariably drowns. The mother, returning and finding it
floating, dead, takes it in her arms and makes every attempt possible to bring it to life. Failing, she utters a
wild cry of almost human grief and slides down into
the sea, leaving it.
The otter hunters used to go out to sea in their bidarkas, with bows, arrows, and harpoons ; several would go
together, keeping two or three hundred yards apart and
proceeding noiselessly. When one discovered an otter,
he would hold his paddle straight up in the air, uttering
a loud shout. Then all would paddle cautiously about,
keeping a close watch for the otter, which cannot remain
under water longer than fifteen or twenty minutes. When
it came up, the native nearest its breathing place yelled
and held up his paddle, startling it under the water again
so suddenly that it could not draw a fair breath. In
this manner they forced the poor thing to dive again
and again, until it was exhausted and floated helplessly
upon the water, when it was easily killed. Frequently
two or three hours were required to tire an otter.
This picturesque method of hunting has given place to
shooting and clubbing the otter to death as he lies asleep
on the rocks. As they come ashore during the fiercest
weather, the hunter must brave the most violent storms
and perilous surfs to reach the otter's retreat in his frail,
but beautiful, bidarka. With his gut kamelinka - thin
and yellow as the "gold-beater's leaf" - tied tightly
380 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
around his face, wrists, and the "man-hole" in which he
sits or kneels, his bidarka may turn over and over in the
sea without drowning him or shipping a drop of water -
on his lucky days. But the unlucky day comes ; an
accident occurs ; and a dark-eyed woman watches and
waits on the green slopes of Belkoffski for the bidarka
that does not come.
There were only women and children in the village of
Belkoffski that June day. The men - with the exception
of two or three old ones, who are always left, probably as
male chaperons, at the village - were away, hunting.
The beach was alive, and very noisy, with little brown
lads, half-bare, bright-eyed, and with faces that revealed
much intelligence, kindness, and humor.
They clung to us, begging for pennies, which, to our very real regret, we had
not thought to take with us. Candy did not go far, and dimes, even if we had
been provided with them, would have too rapidly run into
Long-stemmed violets and dozens of other varieties of
wild flowers covered the slopes. One little creek flowed
down to the sea between banks that were of the solid blue
But the village itself ! With one of the prettiest natural
locations in Alaska ; with singing rills and flowery slopes
and a volcano burning splendidly behind it ; with little
clean-looking brown lads playing upon its sands, a Greek-
Russian church in its center, and a resident priest who
ought to know that cleanliness is next to godliness - with
all these blessings, if blessings they all be, Belkoffski is
surely the most unclean place on this fair earth.
The filth, ignorance, and apparent degradation of these
villagers were revolting in the extreme. Nauseous odors
assailed us. They came out of the doors and windows ;
they swam out of barns and empty sheds ; they oozed up
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 381
out of the earth ; they seemed, even, to sink upon us out
of the blue sky. The sweetness and the freshness of
green grass and blowing flowers, of dews and mists,
of mountain and sea scented winds, are not sufficient to
cleanse Belkoffski - the Caliban among towns.
An educated half-breed Aleutian woman, married to a
white man, accompanied us ashore. She was on her way
to Unalaska, and had been eager to land at Belkoffski,
where she was born.
Her father had been a priest of the Greek-Russian
church and her mother a native woman. She had told
us much of the kind-heartedness and generosity of the
villagers. Her heart was full of love and gratitude to
them for their tenderness to her when her father, of
blessed memory, had died.
" I have never had such friends since," she said. " They
would do anything on earth for those in trouble, and give
their own daily food, if necessary. I have never seen
anything like it since. Education doesn't put that into
our hearts. Such sympathy, such tenderness, such understanding of grief and trouble ! - and the kind of help
that helps most."
If this be the real nature of these people, only the right
influence is needed to lift them from their degradation.
The larger children - the brown-limbed, joyous children
down on the beach - looked clean, probably from spending much time in the healing sea.
The people of the islands do not travel much, and our
fellow-voyager had not been to Belkoffski since she was
a little girl. For many years she had been living among
white people, with all the comforts and cleanliness of a
white woman. I watched her narrowly as we went from
house to house, looking for baskets.
We had told her we desired baskets, and she had offered
to find some for us. After we saw the houses and the
382 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
women, we would have touched a leper as readily as we
would have touched one of the baskets that were brought
out for our inspection ; but politeness kept us from admitting to her our feeling.
As for her own courtesy and restraint, I have never seen
them surpassed by any one. Shock upon shock must have
been hers as we passed through that village of her childhood and affection. She went into those noisome hovels
without the faintest hesitation ; she breathed their atmosphere without complaint ; she embraced the women without shrinking.
She knew perfectly why we did not buy the baskets ;
but she received our excuses with every appearance of
believing them to be sincere, and she offered us others
with utmost dignity and with the manner of serving us,
strangers, in a strange land.
If her delicacy was outraged by the scenes she witnessed, there was not the faintest trace of it visible in her
manner. She made no excuses for the people, nor for
their manner of living, nor for the village. Belkoffski
had been her childhood's home, her father's field ; its
people had befriended her and had given her love and
tenderness when she was in need ; therefore, both were
sacred and beyond criticism.
When we returned to the ship, she could not have
failed to hear the jests and frank opinions of Belkoffski
which were freely expressed among the passengers ; but
her grave, dark face gave no sign that she disapproved,
or even that she heard.
A government cutter should be sent to Belkoffski with
orders to clean it up, and to burn such portions as are past
cleansing. So far as the Russian priest and the people in
his charge are concerned, they would be benefited by less
religion and more cleanliness.
Dr. Hutton, an army surgeon stationed at Fort Seward
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 383
on Lynn Canal, and Judge Gunnison, of Juneau, have
recently made an appeal to President Roosevelt for relief
for diseased and suffering Indians of Alaska.
Tuberculosis and trachoma prevail among the many
tribes and are increasing at an alarming rate, owing to
the utter lack of sanitation in the villages. Alaskans traveling in the territory are thrown in constant contact
with the Indians. They are encountered on steamers and
trains, in stores and hotels. Owing to the pure air and
the general healthfulness of the northern climate, Alaskans
feel no real alarm over the conditions prevailing as yet ;
but all feel that the time has arrived when the Indians
should be cared for.
Everything purchased of an Indian should be at once
fumigated - especially furs, blankets, baskets, and every
article that has been handled by him or housed in one of
his vile shacks.
The United States Grand Jury recently recommended
that medical men be sent by the government to attend the
disease-stricken creatures, and that a system of inspection
and education along sanitary lines - with special stress
laid upon domestic sanitation - should be established.
This system should be extended to the last island of the
Aleutian Chain, and in the interior down the Yukon to
Nome. The fur trade and the canneries depend largely
upon the labor of Indians. The former industry could
scarcely be made successful without them. The Indians
are rapidly becoming a ''vanishing race " in the North, as
elsewhere. For the vices that are today responsible for
their unfortunate condition they are indebted to the white
men who have kept them supplied with cheap whiskey
ever since the advent of the first American traders who
taught them, soon after the purchase of Alaska by the
United States, to make " hootchenoo " of molasses, flour,
dried apples, or rice, and hops. This highly intoxicating
384 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
and degrading liquor was known also as molasses-rum.
During the latter part of the seventies, six thousand five
hundred and twenty-four gallons of molasses were delivered at Sitka and Wrangell.
The loss of their help, however, is not so serious -
being merely a commercial loss - as the danger to civilized
people by coming in contact with these dreaded diseases.
An Indian in Alaska whose eyes are not diseased is an
exception, while the ravages of consumption are very
frequently visible to the most careless observer. Both
diseases are aggravated by such conditions as those existing at Belkoffski. A physician should be stationed there
for a few years at least, to teach these poor, kind-hearted
people what the Russian priest has not taught them - the
science of sanitation.
Bishop Rowe reports that if there were no missionaries
to protect the Eskimo and Indians from unscrupulous
white whiskey-traders, they would survive but a short
time. When they can obtain cheap liquors they go on
prolonged and licentious debauches, and are unable to
provide for their actual physical needs for the long, hard
winter. Their condition then becomes pitiable, and many
die of hunger and privation. Prosecutions are made entirely by missionaries. One Episcopal missionary post is
conducted by two young women, one of whom was formerly a society woman of Los Angeles. The post is more
than a thousand miles from Fairbanks, the nearest city,
and one hundred and twenty-five miles from the nearest
white settler. It is owing to the reports and the prosecutions of missionaries in all parts of Alaska that the out-
rages formerly practiced upon Eskimo women by licentious
white traders are on the decrease.
Federal Commissioner of Education Brown advocates
a compulsory school law for Alaska. He favors instruction in modern methods of fishing and of curing fish ; in
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 385
the care of all parts of walrus that are merchantable ; in
the handling of wooden boats, the tanning and preparing
of skins, in coal mining and the elements of agriculture.
In 1907 fifty-two native schools were maintained in
Alaska, with two thousand five hundred children enrolled.
Ten new school buildings have recently been constructed.
The reindeer service has been one of Alaska's grave
scandals, but it has greatly improved during the past year.
The Eskimo, or Innuit, inhabit a broad belt of the coast
line bordering on Behring Sea and the Arctic Ocean, as
well as along the coast " to Westward '' from Yakutat ;
also the lower part of the Yukon.
Lieutenant Emmons, who is one of the highest authori-
ties on the natives of Alaska and their customs, has frequently reported the deplorable condition of the Eskimo,
and the prevalence of tuberculosis and other dread diseases among them.
In 1900 an epidemic of measles and la grippe devastated
the Northwestern Coast. Out of a total population of three
thousand natives about the mouth of the Kuskokwim,
fully half died, without medical attendance or nursing,
within a few months.
The hospitality and generous kindness of the Eskimo to
those in need is proverbial. Ever since their subjection
by the early Russians - to whom, also, they would doubtless have shown kindness had they not been afraid of
them - no shipwrecked mariner has sought their huts in
vain. Often the entire crew of an abandoned vessel has
been succored, clothed, and kept from starvation during a
whole winter - the season when provisions are scarce and
the Eskimo themselves scarcely know how to find the
means of existence.
Along the islands, the rivers, and lakes, nature has provided them with food
and clothing, if they were but educated to make the most of these blessings.
386 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
But the vast country bordering the coast between the
Kuskokwim and the Yukon, and extending inland a hundred and fifty miles, is low and swampy. This is the
dreariest portion of Alaska. Tundra, swamps, and sluggish rivers abound. There is no game, and the natives
live on fish and seal. The winters are severe, the climate
is cold and excessively moist. Food has often failed, and
the old or helpless are called upon to go alone out upon
the storm-swept tundra and yield their hard lives - bitter
and cheerless at the best - that the young and strong may
live. As late as 1901 Lieutenant Emmons reports that
this system of unselfish and heart-breaking suicide was practiced ; and it is probably still in vogue in isolated
places when occasion demands.
This district is so poor and unprofitable that the prospector and the trader have so far passed it by; yet, by
some means, the white man's worst diseases have been
carried in to them.
These people are in dire need of schools, hospitals,
medical treatment, and often simple food and clothing.
Farther north, on Seward Peninsula and along the
lower Yukon, the natives who have mingled with the
miners and traders could easily be taught to be not only
self-supporting but of real value to the communities in
which they live. They are intelligent, docile, easily directed, and eager to learn. Lieutenant Emmons found
that everywhere they asked for schools, that their children, to whom they are most affectionately devoted, may
learn to be " smart like the white man."
They are more humble, dependent, and trustful than the
Indians, and could easily be influenced. But people do
not go to Alaska to educate and care for diseased and
loathsome natives, unless they are paid well for the mission. So long as the natives obey the laws of the country,
no one has authority over them. No one is interested in
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 387
them, or has the time to spare in teaching them. The
United States government should take, care of these people. It should take measures to protect them from the
death-dealing whiskey with which they are supplied ; to
provide them with schools, hospitals, medical care ; it
should supply them with reindeer and teach them to care
for these animals.
Surely the government of the United States asks not to
be informed more than once by such authorities as Lieu-
tenant Emmons, Bishop Rowe, Judge Gunnison, ex-Governor Brady, and Doctor Hutton that these most
wretched beings on the outskirts of the world are begging
for education, and that they are sorely in need of medical
The government schools in the territory of Alaska are
supported by a portion of the license moneys levied on the
various industries of the country. Alaska has an area of
six hundred thousand square miles and an estimated native
and half-breed population of twenty-five thousand ; and
for these people only fifty-two schools and as many
poorly paid teachers !
When I have criticized the Russian Church because it
has not taught these people cleanliness, I blush - remembering- how my own government has failed them in needs
as vital. And when I reflect upon the outrages perpetrated upon them by my own fellow-country men who
have deprived them largely of their means of livelihood,
robbed them, debauched them, ravished their women, and
lured away their young girls - when I reflect upon these
things, my face burns with shame that I should ever
criticize any other people or any other government than
The recent rapid development of Alaska, and the appropriation of the native food-supplies by miners, traders,
canners, and settlers, present a problem that must be
388 ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY
solved at once. In regard to the Philippines, we were
like a child with a new toy ; we could not play with them
and experiment with them enough; yet for forty years
these dark, gentle, uncomplaining people of our most
northern and most splendid possession - beautiful, glorious Alaska - have been patiently waiting for all that we
should long ago have given them : protection, interest,
and the education and training that would have converted
them from diseased and wretched beings into decent and
According to Lieutenant Emmons, the condition of the
Copper River Indians is exceptionally miserable ; and of
all the native people, either coastal or of the interior, they
are most needy and in want of immediate assistance.
Reduced in number to barely two hundred and fifty souls,
scattered in small communities along the river valleys
amidst the loftiest mountains of the continent and under
the most rigid climatic conditions, their natural living has
been taken from them by the white man, without the
establishment of any labor market for their self-support
Prior to 1888 they lived in a very primitive state, and
were, even then, barely able to maintain themselves on the
not over-abundant game life of the valley, together with
the salmon coming up the river for spawning purposes.
The mining excitement of that year brought several thousand men into the Copper River Valley, on their way to
the Yukon and the Klondike.
They swept the country clean of game, burnt over vast
districts, and frequently destroyed what they could not
use. About the same time the salmon canneries in Prince
William Sound, having exhausted the home streams, extended their operations to the Copper River delta, decreasing the
Indians' salmon catch, which had always provided
them with food for the bitter winters.
ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY 389
These Indians are simple, kind-hearted, and have ever
been friendly and hospitable to the white man. They respect his cache, although their own has not always been
respected by him.
At Copper Centre, which is connected by military
wagon road with the coast at Valdez, flour sells for twenty-
four dollars a hundredweight, and all other provisions
and clothing in proportion ; so it may be readily understood that the white people of the interior cannot afford
to divide their provisions with the starving Indians, else
they would soon be in the same condition themselves.
Therefore, for these Indians, too, - fortunately few in
number, - the government must provide liberally and at
At sunset on the day of our landing at Belkoffski we
passed the active volcanoes of Pogromni and Shishaldin,
on the island of Unimak. For years I had longed to see
Shishaldin ; and one of my nightly prayers during the
voyage had been for a clear and beautiful light in which
to see it. Not to pass it in the night, nor in the rain,
nor in the fog ; not to be too ill to get on deck in some
fashion - this had been my prayer.
For days I had trembled at the thought of missing
Shishaldin. To long for a thing for years ; to think of it
by day and to dream of it by night, as though it were a
sweetheart ; to draw near to it once, and once only in a
lifetime - and then, to pass it without one glimpse of its
coveted loveliness ! - that would be too bitter a fate to be
In a few earnest words, soon after leaving Valdez, I
had acquainted the captain with my desire.
It was his watch when I told him. He was pacing in
front of the pilot-house. A cigar was set immovably
between his lips. He heard me to the end and then, without looking at me, smiled out into the golden distance
ahead of us.
" You fix the weather," said he, " and I'll fix the mountain."
I, or some other, had surely "fixed" the weather.
No such trip had ever been known by the oldest member
of the crew. Only one rainy night and one sweet half-
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 391
cloudy afternoon. For the rest, blue and golden days and
nights of amethyst.
But would the captain forget? The thought always
made my heart pause ; yet there was something in the
firm lines of his strong, brown face that made it impossible for me to mention it to him again.
But on that evening I was sitting in the dining room
which, when the tables were cleared, was a kind of general
family living room, when Charlie can\e to me with his
" The captain, he say you please come on deck right
I went up the companion-way and stepped out upon the
deck ; and there in the north, across the blue, mist-
softened sea, in the rich splendor of an Aleutian sunset,
trembled and glowed the exquisite thing of my desire.
In the absolute perfection of its conical form, its chaste
and delicate beauty of outline, and the slender column of
smoke pushing up from its finely pointed crest, Shishaldin
stands alone. Its height is not great, only nine thousand
feet ; but in any company of loftier mountains it would
shine out with a peerlessness that would set it apart.
The sunset trembled upon the North Pacific Ocean,
changing hourly as the evening wore on. Through scarlet
and purple and gold, the mountain shone ; through lav-
ender, pearl, and rose; growing ever more distant and
more dim, but not less beautiful. At last, it could barely
be seen, in a flood of rich violet mist, just touched with
So steadily I looked, and with such a longing passion of
greeting, rapture, possession, and farewell in my gaze and
in my heart, that lo ! when its last outline had blurred
lingeringly and sweetly into the rose-violet mist, I found
that it was painted in all its delicacy of outline and soft
splendor of coloring upon my memory. There it burns
392 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
today in all its loveliness as vividly as it burned that night, ere it faded,
line by line, across the widening sea. It is mine. I own it as surely as I own
the green hill upon which I live, the blue sea that sparkles daily beneath my windows, the gold-brilliant constellations that
move nightly above my home, or the song that the meadowlark sings to his mate in the April dawn.
The sea breaks into surf upon Shishaldin's base, and
snow covers the slender cone from summit to sea level,
save for a month or two in summer when it melts around
the base. Owing to the mists, it is almost impossible to
obtain a sharp negative of Shishaldin from the water.
They played with it constantly. They wrapped soft
rose-colored scarfs about its crest ; they wound girdles of
purple and gold and ' pearl about its middle ; they set
rayed gold upon it, like a crown. Now and then, for a
few seconds at a time, they drew away completely, as if
to contemplate its loveliness ; and then, as if overcome
and compelled by its dazzling brilliance, they flung themselves back upon it impetuously and crushed it for several
moments completely from our view.
Large and small, the islands of the Aleutian Archipelago number about one hundred. They drift for nearly
fifteen hundred miles from the point of the Aliaska Peninsula toward the Kamchatkan shore ; and Attn, the last
one, lies within the eastern hemisphere. This chain of
islands, reaching as far west as the Komandorski, or Commander, Islands - upon one of which Commander Behring died and was buried - was named, in 1786, the
Catherina Archipelago, by Forster, in honor of the liberal
and enlightened Empress Catherine the Second, of
The Aleutian Islands are divided into four groups.
The most westerly are Nearer, or Blizni, Islands, of which
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 393
the famed Attu is the largest ; the next group to eastward is known as Rat, or Kreesi,
Islands; then, Andreanoffski Islands, named for Andreanoff, who discovered
them, and whose largest island is Atka, where it is said
the baskets known as the Attu baskets are now woven.
East of this group are the Fox, or Leesi, Islands. This
is the largest of the four Aleutian groups, and contains
thirty-one islands, including Unimak, which is the largest
in the archipelago. Others of importance in this group
are Unalaska, formerly spelled Unalashka ; Umnak ;
Akutan ; Akhun ; Ukamak ; and the famed volcano
islands of St. John the Theologian, or Joanna Bogoslova,
and the Four Craters. Unimak Pass, the best known
and most used passage into Behring Sea, is between
Unimak and Akhun islands. Akutan Pass is between
Akutan and Unalaska islands ; Umnak Pass, between
Unalaska and Umnak islands. (These uq are pronounced
as though spelled oo.)
Unalaska and Dutch Harbor are situated on the Island
of Unalaska. By the little flower-bordered path leading
up and down the green, velvety hills, these two settlements
are fully two miles apart ; by water, they seem scarcely
two hundred yards from one another. The steamer, after
landing at Dutch Harbor, draws her prow from the wharf,
turns it gently around a green point, and lays it beside
the wharf at Unalaska.
The bay is so surrounded by hills that slope softly to
the water, that one can scarcely remember which blue
water-way leads to the sea. There is a curving white
beach, from which the town of Unalaska received its
ancient name of Iliuliuk, meaning " the beach that curves."
The white-painted, red-roofed buildings follow this beach,
and loiter picturesquely back over the green level to the
stream that flows around the base of the hills and finds
the sea at the Unalaska wharf.
394 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
This is one of the safest harbors in the world. It is
one great, sparkling sapphire, set deep in solid emerald
and pearl. It is entered more beautifully than even the
Bay of Sitka. It is completely surrounded by high
mountains, peak rising behind peak, and all covered with
a thick, green, velvety nap and crowned with eternal
The entrance way is so winding that these peaks have
the appearance of leaning aside to let us slide through,
and then drawing together behind us, to keep out the
storms ; for ships of the heaviest draught find refuge here
and lie safely at anchor while tempests rage outside.
Now and then, between two enchantingly green near
peaks, a third shines out white, far, glistening mistily -
covered with snow from summit to base, but with a dark
scarf of its own internal passion twisted about its outwardly serene brow.
The Kuro Siwo, or Japan Current, breaks on the western end of the Aleutian Chain ; half flows eastward south
of the islands, and carries with it the warm, moist atmosphere which is condensed on the snow-peaks and sinks
downward in the fine and delicious mist that gives the
grass and mosses their vivid, brilliant, perpetual green.
The other half passes northward into Behring Sea and
drives the ice back into the " Frozen Ocean." Dall was
told that the whalers in early spring have seen large icebergs steadily sailing northward through the strait at a
knot and a half an hour, against a very stiff breeze from
the north. In May the first whalers follow the Kamchatkan Coast northward, as the ice melts on that shore earlier
than on ours. The first whaler to pass East Cape secures
the spring trade and the best catch of whales.
The color of the Kuro Siivo is darker than the waters
through which it flows, and its Japanese name signifies
"Black Stream." Passing on down the coast, it carries a
ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY 396
warm and vivifying moisture as far southwest as Oregon.
It gives the Aleutians their balmy climate. The average
winter temperature is about thirty degrees above zero ;
and the summer temperature, from fifty to sixty degrees.
The volcano Makushin is the noted " smoker " of this
island, and there is a hot spring, containing sulphur, in
the vicinity, from which loud, cannon -like reports are
frequently heard. The natives believe that the mountains fouofht too-ether and that Makushin remained the
victor. These reports were probably supposed to be
fired at his command, as warnings of his fortified position
to any inquisitive peak that might chance to fire a lava
interrogation-point at him.
In June, and again in October, of 1778, Cook visited
the vicinity, anchoring in Saraghanooda Harbor. There
he was visited by the commander of the Russian expedition in this region, Gregorovich Ismailoff. The
usual civilities and gifts were exchanged. Cook sent
the Russian some liquid gifts which were keenly appreciated, and was in return offered a sea-otter skin of
such value that Cook courteously declined it, accepting,
instead, some dried fish and several baskets of lily root.
The Russian settlement was at Iliuliuk, which was distant several miles from Samghanooda. Several of the
members of Cook's party visited the settlement, notably Corporal Ledyard, who reported that it consisted
of a dwelling-house and two storehouses, about thirty
Russians, and a number of Kamchatkans and natives who
were used as servants by the Russians. They all lived
in the same houses, but ate at three different tables.
Cook considered the natives themselves the most gentle
and inoffensive people he had ever " met with " in his
travels ; while as to honesty, " they might serve as a
pattern to the most civilized nation upon earth." He
was convinced, however, that this disposition had been
396 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
produced by the severities at first practiced upon them
by the Russians in an effort to subdue them.
Cook described them as low of stature, but plump and
well-formed, dark-eyed, and dark-haired. The women
wore a single garment, loose-fitting, of sealskin, reaching
below the knee - -the parka ; the men, the same kind of
garment, made of the skin of birds, with the feathers
worn against the flesh. Over this garment, the men
wore another made of gut, which I have elsewhere described under the name of kamelinka, or kamelayka. All
wore " oval-snouted " caps made of wood, dyed in colors
and decorated with glass beads.
The women punctured their lips and wore bone labrets.
" It is as uncommon, at Oonalashka, to see a man with
this ornament as to see a woman without it," he adds.
The chief was seen making his dinner of the raw head
of a large halibut. Two of his servants ate the gills,
which were cleaned simply " by squeezing out the slime."
The chief devoured large pieces of the raw meat with as
great satisfaction as though they had been raw oysters.
These natives lived in barabaras. (This word is pronounced with the accent on the second syllable; the
correct spelling cannot be vouched for here, because no
two authorities spell it in the same way.)
They were usually made by forming shallow circular
excavations and erecting over them a framework of drift-
wood, or whale-ribs, with double walls filled with earth
and stones and covered over with sod.
The roofs contained square openings in the centre for
the escape of smoke; and these low earth roofs were used
by the natives as family gathering places in pleasant
weather. Here they would sit for hours, doing nothing and gazing blankly at nothing.
The entrance was through a square hole in, or near,
the roof. It was reached by a ladder, and descent into
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 397
the interior was made in the same way, or by means of
steps cut in a post. A narrow dark tunnel led to the
inner room, which was from ten to twenty feet in
These barabaras were sometimes warmed only by lamps ;
but usually a fire was built in the centre, directly under
the opening in the roof. Mats and skins were placed on
shelves, slightly elevated above the floor, around the
walls. Many persons of both sexes and all ages lived in
these places ; frequently several dwellings were connected
by tunnels and had one common hole-entrance. The
filth of these airless habitations was nauseating.
Their household furniture consisted of bowls, spoons,
buckets, cans, baskets, and one or two Russian pots ; a
knife and a hatchet were the only tools they possessed.
The huts were lighted by lamps made of flat stones
which were hollowed on one side to hold oil, in which
dry grass was burned. Both men and women warmed
their bodies by sitting over these lamps and spreading
their garments around them.
The natives used the bidarka here, as elsewhere.
They buried their dead on the summits of hills, raising little hillocks over the graves. Cook saw one grave
covered with stones, to which every one passing added a
stone, after the manner fancied by Helen Hunt Jackson
a hundred years later ; and he saw several stone hillocks
that had an appearance of great antiquity.
In Unalaska today may still be "seen several barabaras.
They must be very old, because the native habitations
of the coast are constructed along the lines of the white
man's dwellings at the present time. They add to the
general quaint and picturesque appearance of the town,
however. Their sod roofs are overgrown with tall
grasses, among which wild flowers flame out brightly.
(Unalaska is pronounced Oo-na-las'-ka, the a's having
398 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
the sound of a in arm. Aleutian is pronounced in five
syllables : A-le-oo'-shi-an, with the same sound of a.)
The island of Unalaska was sighted by Chirikoff on his
return to Kamchatka, on the 4th of September, 1741.
The chronicles of the first expeditions of the Russian
traders - or promyshleniki, as they were called - are
wrapped in mystery. But it is believed that as early as
1744 Emilian Bassof and Andrei Serebrennikof voyaged
into the islands and were rewarded by a catch of sixteen
hundred sea-otters, two thousand fur-seals, and as many
Stephan Glottoff was the first to trade with the natives
of Unalaska, whom he found peaceable and friendly.
The next, however, Korovin, attempted to make a settlement upon the island, but met with repulse from the
natives, and several of his party were killed.
Glottoff returned to his rescue, and the latter's expedition was the most important of the earlier ones to the
islands. On his previous visit he had found the highly
prized black foxes on the island of Unalaska, and had
carried a number to Kamchatka.
I have related elsewhere the story of the atrocities
perpetrated upon the natives of these islands by the early
promyshleniki. During the years between 1760 and 1770
the natives were in active revolt against their oppressors;
and it was not until the advent of Solovioff the Butcher
that they were tortured into the mild state of submission
in which they were found by Cook in 1778, and in which
they have since dwelt.
Father Veniaminoff made the most careful study of the
Aleutians, beginning about 1824. It has been claimed
that this noble and devout priest was so good that he perceived good where it did not exist ; and his statements
concerning his beloved Aleutians are not borne out by
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 399
the proinyshleniki. Considering the character of the
hitter, I prefer to believe Veniaminoff.
The most influential Aleuts were those who were most
successful in hunting, which seemed to be their highest
ambition. The best hunters possessed the greatest number of wives ; and they were never stinted in this luxury.
Even Veniaminoff, with his rose-colored glasses on, failed
to discover virtue or the faintest moral sense among them.
"They incline to sensuality," he put it, politely. "Be-
fore the teachings of the Christian religion had enlightened
them, this inclination had full sway. The nearest consanguinity, only, puts limits to their passions. Although
polygamy was general, nevertheless there were frequently
secret orgies, in which all joined. . . . The bad example
and worse teachings of the early Russian settlers increased
their tendency to licentiousness."
Child-murder was rare, owing to the belief that it brought
misfortune upon the whole village.
Among the half-breeds, the character of the dark mother
invariably came out more strongly than that of the Russian father. They learned readily and intelligently, and
fulfilled all church duties imposed upon them cheerfully,
punctually, and with apparent pleasure.
Under the teaching of Veniaminoff, the Aleuts were
easily weaned from their early Pantheism, and from their
savage songs and dances, described by the earlier voyagers.
They no longer wore their painted masks and hats, al-
though some treasured them in secret.
The successful hunter, in times of famine or scarcity of
food, shared with all who were in need. The latter met
him when his boat returned, and sat down silently on the
shore. This is a sign that they ask for aid ; and the
hunter supplies them, without receiving, or expecting,
either restitution or thanks. This generosity is like that
of the people of Belkoffski; it comes from the heart.
400 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
The Aleutians were frequently intoxicated ; but this
condition did not lead to quarrelling or trouble. Murder
and attempts at murder were unknown among them.
If an Aleut were injured, or offended, after the introduction of Christianity, he received and bore the insult in
silence. They had no oaths or violent epithets in their
language ; and they would rather commit suicide than to
receive a blow. The sting that lies in cruel words they
dreaded as keenly.
Veniaminoff found that the Aleuts would steal nothing
more than a few leaves of tobacco, a few swallows of
brandy, or a little food ; and these articles but rarely.
The most striking trait of character displayed by the
Aleut was, and still is, his patience. He never complained,
even when slowly starving to death. He sat by the shore ;
and if food were not offered to him, he would not ask. He
was never known to sigh," nor to groan, nor to shed tears.
These people were found to be very sensitive, however,
and capable of deep emotion, even though it was never revealed in their faces. They were exceedingly fond of,
and tender with, their children, and readily interpreted a
look of contempt or ridicule, which invariably offended in
the highest degree.
The most beautiful thing recorded of the Aleut is that
when one has done him a favor or kindness, and has afterward offended him, he does not forget the former favor,
but permits it to cancel the offence.
They scorn lying, hypocrisy, and exaggeration ; and
they never betray a secret. They are so hospitable that
they will deny themselves to give to the stranger that is
in need. They detest a braggart, but they never dispute
not even when they know that their own opinion is the
Veniaminoff admitted that the Aleuts who had lived
among the Russians were passionately addicted to the use
ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY 401
of liquor and tobacco. But even with their drunkenness,
their uncleanness, and their immorality, the Aleutian character seems to have possessed so many admirable, and even
unusual, traits that, if the training and everyday influences of these people had been of a different nature from
what they have been since they lost Veniaminoff, they
would have, ere this, been able to overcome their inherited
and acquired vices, and to have become useful and desirable citizens.
They were formerly of a revengeful nature, but after
coming under the influence of Veniaminoff, no instance of
revenge was discovered by him.
They learned readily, with but little teaching, not only
mechanical things, but those, also, which require deep
thought - such as chess, at which they became experts.
One became an excellent navigator, and made charts
which were followed by other voyagers for many years.
Others worked skillfully in ivory, and the dark-eyed women
wove their dreams into the most precious basketry of the
We sailed into the lovely bay of Unalaska on the fourth
day of July. The entire village, native and white, had
gone on a picnic to the hills.
We spent the afternoon loitering about the deserted
streets and the green and flowery hills. One could sit
contentedly for a week upon the hills, - as the natives used
to sit upon the roofs of their barabaras, - doing nothing
but looking down upon the idyllic loveliness shimmering
in every direction.
In the centre of the town rises the Greek-Russian church,
green-roofed and bulbous-domed, adding the final touch
of mysticism and poetry to this already enchanting scene.
At sunset the mists gathered, slowly, delicately, beautifully. They moved in softly through the same strait by
which we had entered - little rose-colored masses that
drifted up to meet the violet-tinted ones from the other
end of the bay. In the centre of the water valley they
met and mixed together, and, in their new and more marvelous coloring, pushed up about the town and the lower
slopes. Out of them lifted and shone the green roof and
domes of the church ; more brilliantly above them, napped
thick and soft as velvet, glowed the hills ; and more lustrously against the saffron sky flashed the pearl of the
There was a gay dinner party aboard the Dora that night.
Afterward, we all attended a dance. There was only one
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 403
white woman in the hall besides my friend and myself ;
and we three were belles ! We danced with every man
who asked us to dance, to the most wonderful music I have
ever heard. One of the musicians played a violin with his
hands and a French harp with his mouth, both at the same
time - besides making quite as much noise with one foot
as he did with both of the instruments together.
There were several good-looking Aleutian girls at the
dance. They had pretty, slender figures, would have
been considered well dressed in any small village in
the states, and danced with exceeding grace and ease.
We went to this dance not without some qualms of
various kinds ; but we went for the same reason that
"Cyanide Bill" told us he had journeyed three times
to the shores of the "Frozen Ocean" - "just to see."
Toward midnight a pretty and stylishly gowned young
woman came in with an escort and joined in the dancing. As she whirled past us, with diamonds flashing
from her hands, ears, and neck, my inquiring Scotch
friend asked a gentleman with whom she was dancing,
"Who is the pretty dark-eyed lady? We have not
seen her before."
She was completely extinguished for some time by
his reply, given with the cheerful frankness of the
"Oh, that's Nelly, miss. I don't know any other
name for her. We just always call her Nelly, miss."
We returned to the steamer, leaving " Nelly " to twinkle
on. Our curiosity was entirely satisfied. We went "to
see," and we had seen.
Captain Gray might be called " the lord of Unalaska." He is the " great
gentleman " of the place. He has for many years managed the affairs of the
Alaska Commercial Company, and he has acted as host to almost every traveler who has voyaged to this lovely isle.
404 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
After supper, which was served on the steamer at midnight, we were invited to his home " to finish the evening."
"At one o'clock in the morning!" gasped my companion.
" Hours don't count up here," said our captain. " It is
broad daylight. Besides, it is the 4th of July. I think
we should accept the invitation."
We did accept it, in the same spirit in which it was
given, and it was one of the most profitable of evenings.
We found a home of comfort and refinement in the
farthest outpost of civilization in the North Pacific.
The hours were spent pleasantly with good music, singing, and reading ; and delicate refreshments were served.
The sun shone upon my friend's scandalized face as we
returned to our steamer. It was nearly five o'clock.
" I know it was innocent enough," said she, " but think
how it sounds! - a dance, with only three white women
present - not to mention ' Nelly ' ! - a midnight supper,
and then an invitation to ' finish the evening ' ! It sounds
like one of Edith Wharton's novels."
" It's Alaska," said the captain. " You want local color
and you're getting it. But let me tell you that you
have never been safer in your life than you have been
" Safe ! " echoed she. " I'm not talking about the safety
of it. It's the form of it."
" Form doesn't count, as yet, in the Aleutians," said the
captain. " ' There's never a law of God or man runs
north of fifty-three ! ' "
" There's surely never a social law runs north of it,"
was the scornful reply.
The next morning we went to the great warehouses of
the company, to look at old Russian samovars. Captain
Gray personally escorted us through their dim, cob-
webby, high-raftered spaces. There was one long counter
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 405
covered with samovars, and we began eagerly to examine
and price them.
The cheapest was twenty-five dollars ; and the most
expensive, more than a hundred.
" Bat they are all sold," added Captain Gray, gloomily.
" All sold ! " we exclaimed, in a breath. "What - all ?
Every one? "
" Yes ; every one," he answered mournfully.
" Why, how very odd," said I, " for them all to be sold,
and all to be left here."
" Yes," said he, sighing. " The captain of a government cutter bought them for his friends in Boston. He
has gone on up into Behring Sea, and will call for them
on his return."
Far be it from me to try to buy anything that is not for
sale. I thanked him politely for showing them to us ; and
we went on to another part of the warehouse.
We found nothing else that was already "sold." We
bought several holy-lamps, baskets, and other things.
" I'm sorry about the samovars," said I, as I paid
" So am I," said he. Then he sighed. " There's one,
now," said he, after a moment, thoughtfully. " I might -
Wait a moment."
He disappeared, and presently returned with a perfect
treasure of a samovar, - old, battered, green with age and
use. We went into ecstasies over it.
" I'll take it," I said. " How much is it? "
" It was twenty-five dollars," said he, dismally. " It is
" How very peculiar," said my companion, as we went
away, "to keep bringing out samovars that are sold."
For two years my thoughts reverted at intervals to those "sold" samovars at
Unalaska. Last summer I went down the Yukon. At St. Michael I was
406 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
entertained at the famous " Cottage " for several days. One
day at dinner I asked a gentleman if he knew Captain
"Of Unalaska? " exclaimed two or three at once. Then
they all burst out laughing.
" We all know him," one said. " Everybody knows
" But why do you laugh ? "
" Oh, because he is so ' slick ' at taking in a tourist."
"In what manner? " asked I, stiffly. I remembered that
Captain Gray had asked me if I were a tourist.
They all laughed again.
" Oh, especially on samovars."
My face burned suddenly.
" On samovars ! "
" Yes. You see he gets a tourist into his warehouses and
shows him samovar after samovar - fifty or sixty of them
and tells him that every one is sold. He puts on the
most mournful look.
" ' This one was twenty-five dollars,' he says. ' A
captain on a government cutter bought them to take to
Boston.' Then the tourist gets wild. He offers five, ten,
twenty dollars more to get one of those samovars. He
always gets it ; because, you see, Gray wants to sell it to
him even worse than he wants to buy it. It always
We walked over the hills to Dutch Harbor - once
called Lincoln Harbor. There is a stretch of blue water
to cross, and we were ferried over by a gentleman having
much Fourth-of-July in his speech and upon his breath.
His efforts at politeness are remembered joys, while a
sober ferryman would have been forgotten long ago. But
the sober ferrymen that morning were like the core of the
little boy's apple.
ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY 407
It was the most beautiful walk of my life. A hard,
narrow, white path climbed and wound and fell over the
vivid green hills ; it led around lakes that lay in the hollows like still, liquid sapphire, set with the pearl of
clouds ; it lured through banks of violets and over slopes
of trembling bluebells ; it sent out tempting by-paths that
ended in the fireweed's rosy drifts; but always it led on
narrow, well-trodden, yet oh, so lonely and so still I
Birds sang and the sound of the waves came to us -
that was all. Once a little brown Aleutian lad came
whistling around the curve in the path, stood still, and
gazed at us with startled eyes as soft and dark as a
gazelle's ; but he was the only human being we saw
upon the hills that day.
We saw acres that were deep blue with violets. They
were large enough to cover silver half-dollars, and their
stems were several inches in length. Fireweed grew low,
but the blooms were large and of a deep rose color.
Standing still, we counted thirteen varieties of wild
flowers within a radius of six feet. There were the snap-
dragon, wild rose, columbine, buttercup, Solomon's seal,
anemone, larkspur, lupine, dandelion, iris, geranium,
monk's-hood, and too many others to name, to be found
on the hills of Unalaska. There are more than two
thousand varieties of wild flowers in Alaska and the Yukon
Territory. The blossoms are large and brilliant, and they
cover whole hillsides and fill deep hollows with beautiful
color. The bluebells and violets are exquisite. The
latter are unbelievably large ; of a rich blue veined with
silver. They poise delicately on stems longer than those
of the hot-house flower ; so that we could gather and carry
armfuls of them.
The site of Dutch Harbor is green and level. Fronting
the bay are the large buildings of the North American
408 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
Commercial Company, with many small frame cottages
scattered around them. All are painted white, with
bright red roofs, and the town presents a clean and attractive appearance.
Dutch Harbor is the prose, and Unalaska the poetry, of
the island. There is neither a hotel nor a restaurant at
either place. It was one o'clock when we reached Dutch
Harbor; we had breakfasted early, and we sought, in vain,
for some building that might resemble an "eating-house."
We finally went into the big store, and meeting the
manager of the company, asked to be directed to the
" There isn't any," he said.
" Is there no place where one may get something to eat ?
Bread and milk? We saw cows upon the hills."
" You would not care to go to the native houses," he replied, still smiling. "But come with me."
He led the way along a neat board walk to a residence
that would attract attention in any town. It was large
and of artistic design.
" It was designed by Molly Garfield," the young man
somewhat proudly informed us. " Her husband was connected with the company for several years, and they built
and lived in this house."
The house was richly papered and furnished. It was
past the luncheon hour, but we were excellently served by
a perfectly trained Chinaman.
For more than a hundred years the great commercial
companies - beginning with the Shelikoff Company -
have dispensed the hospitality of Alaska, and have acted
as hosts to the stranger within their gates. The managers
are instructed to sell provisions at reasonable prices, and
to supply any one who may be in distress and unable to
pay for food.
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 409
They frequently entertain, as guests of the company they represent, travelers to these lonely places, not be-
cause the latter are in need, but merely as a courtesy ;
and their hospitality is as free and generous - but not as
embarrassing - as that of Baranoff .
That night I sat late alone upon the hills, on a tundra
slope that was blue with violets. I could not put my
hand down without crushing them. The lights moving
across Unalaska were as poignantly interesting as the
thoughts that come and go across a stranger's face when
he does not know that one is observing.
All the lights and shadows of the vanishing Aleutian
race seemed to be moving across the hills, the village, the
Scarcely a day has passed that I have not gone back
across the blue and emerald water-ways that stretch between, to that lovely place and that luminous hour.
Perhaps, I thought, Veniaminoff may have looked down
upon this exquisite scene from this same violeted spot -
Veniaminoff, the humble, devout, and devoted missionary,
whom I should rather have been than any man or woman
whose history I know ; Veniaminoff, who lived - instead
of wrote - a great, a sublime, poem.
Unalaska's commercial glory has faded. It was once
port of entry for all vessels passing in or out of Behring
Sea ; the ships of the Arctic whaling fleet called here for
water, coal, supplies, and mail ; during the years that the
modus Vivendi was in force it was headquarters of the
United States and the British fleets patrolling Behring
Sea, and lines of captured sealers often lay here at
During the early part of the present decade Unalaska
saw its most prosperous times. Thousands of people
waited here for transportation to the Klondike, via St.
410 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
Michael and the Yukon. Many ships were built here,
and one still lies rotting upon the ways.
The Greek church is second in size and importance to
the one at Sitka only, and the bishop once resided here.
There is a Russian parish school, a government day-school,
and a Methodist mission, the Jessie Lee Home. The
only white women on the island reside at the Home. The
bay has frequently presented the appearance of a naval
parade, from the number of government and other vessels
lying at anchor.
No traveler will weary soon of Unalaska. There are
caves and waterfalls to visit, and unnumbered excursions
to make to beautiful places among the hills. Especially
interesting is Samghanooda, or English, Harbor, where
Cook mended his ships ; while Makushin Harbor, on the
western coast, where Glottoff and his Russians first landed
in 1756, is only thirty miles away.
The great volcano itself is easy of ascent, and the view
from its crest is one of the memories of a lifetime.
Borka, a tiny village at Samghanooda, is as noted for its
Dutch-liks cleanliness as Belkoifski is for its filth.
The other islands of the Aleutian chain drift on to
westward, lonely, unknown - almost, if not entirely, uninhabited. Now and then a small trading settlement is
found, which is visited only by Captain Applegate, - the
last remaining white deep-sea otter hunter, - and once a
year by a government cutter, or the Russian priest from
Unalaska, or a shrewd and wandering trader.
These green and unknown islands are the islands of my
dreams - and dreams do " come true " sometimes. This
voyage out among the Aleutians is the most poetic and
enchanting in the world today : and I shall never be
entirely happy until I have drifted on out to the farthest
island of Attn, lying within the eastern hemisphere, and
watched those lonely, dark women, with the souls of poets
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 411
and artists and the patience of angels, weaving their dreams into ravishing
beauty and sending them out into the world as the farewell messages of a
betrayed and vanishing people. As we treat them for their few remaining
years, so let us in the end be treated.
Alaska is today the centre of the world's volcanic activity, and the mountainous appearances and disappearances that have been recorded in the Aleutian Islands
are marvelous and awesome. To these upheavals in the
North Pacific and Behring Sea Whidbey's adjectives,
"stupendous," "tremendous," and "awfully dreadful,"
might be appropriately applied.
On July the fourth, 1907, officers of the revenue cutter
McCulloch discovered the new peak which they named in
honor of their vessel. It was in the vicinity of the famous volcano of Joanna Bogoslova, or Saint John the
In 1796 the natives of Unalaska and the adjoining
islands for many miles were startled by violent reports,
like continued cannonading, followed by frightful tremblings of the earth upon which they stood.
A dense volume of smoke, ashes, and gas descended
upon them in a kind of cloud, and shut everything from
their view. They were thus enveloped and cannonaded
for about ten days, when the atmosphere gradually cleared
and they observed a bright light shining upon the sea
from thirty to forty miles north of Unalaska. The brave
ones of the island went forth in bidarkas and discovered
that a small island had risen from the sea to a height of
one hundred feet and that it was still rising.
This was the main peak of the Bogosloff group, and it
continued to grow until 1825, when it reached a height of
about three hundred feet and cooled sufficiently for Russians to land upon it for the first time. The heat was
412 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
still so intense, however, and the danger from running
lava so great, that they soon withdrew to their boats.
In the early eighties, after similar disturbances, another
peak arose near the first and joined to it by a low isthmus,
upon which stood a rock seventy feet in height, which was
named Ship-Rock. In 1891 the isthmus sank out of sight
in the sea, and a new peak arose.
Since then no important changes have occurred. The
peaks themselves remained too hot and dangerous for examination ; but the short voyage out from Unalaska has
been a favorite one for tourists who were able to land
upon the lower rocks and spend a day gathering specimens and studying the sea-lions that doze in polygamous
herds in the warmth, and the shrieking murres that nest
in the cliffs and cover them like a tremulous gray-white
Every inch of space on these cliffs seems to be taken
by these birds for "the creation of life. On every tiniest
shelf they perch upright, black-backed and white-bellied,
brooding their eggs - although these hot and steaming cliffs
are sufficient incubators to bring forth life out of every
egg deposited upon them. When the murres are suddenly disturbed, their eggs slip from their hold and plunge
down the cliffs, splattering them with the yellow of their
The last week in July, 1907, I passed close to the
Bogosloff Islands, which had grown to the importance
of four peaks. Three days later a violent earthquake
occurred in this vicinity. Once more dense clouds of
smoke descended upon Unalaska and the adjoining islands,
and ashes poured upon the sea and land, as far north as
Nome, covering the decks of passing steamers to a depth
of several inches, and affecting sailors so powerfully that
they could only stay on deck for a few moments at a time.
On September the first, the captain and men of the
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 413
whaler Herman, passing the Bogosloff group, beheld a
sight to observe which I would cheerfully have yielded
several years of life. They saw the two-months-old
McCulloch peak burn itself down into the sea, with vast
columns of steam ascending miles into the air above it,
and the waters boiling madly on all sides. It went down,
foot by foot, and the men stood spellbound, watching it
disappear. For miles around the sea was violently agitated and was mixed with volcanic ash, which also covered
the decks, and at intervals steam poured up unexpectedly
out of the ocean.
As soon as possible the revenue cutter Buffalo went to
the wonderful volcanic group, and it was found that their
whole appearance was changed.
There were three peaks where four had been; but
whereas they had formerly been separate and distinct
islands, they were now connected and formed one island.
This island is two and a half miles long. Perry Peak,
which arose in 1906, had increased in height ; and there
was a crater-like depression on its south side, around
which the waters were continually throwing off vast clouds
of steam and smoke. Captain Pond reported that rocks
as large as a house were constantly rolling down from
Perry Peak, and that the whole scene was one of wonderful interest. To his surprise, the colony of sea-lions, which
must have been frightened away, had returned, and seemed
to be enjoying the steamy heat on the rocks of the main
and oldest peak of the group.
The disappearance of McCulloch peak was accompanied
by earthquake shocks as far to eastward as Sitka.
Makushin, the great volcano of Unalaska, and others,
smoked violently, and ashes fell over the Aleutian Islands
and the mainland. At the same time uncharted rocks
began to make their appearance all along the coast, to the
grave danger of navigation.
In the heart of Behring Sea, about two hundred miles
north of Unalaska, lie two tiny cloud and mist haunted
and wind-racked islands which are the great slaughter-grounds of Alaska. Here, for a hundred and twenty
years, during the shoft seal season each year, men have
literally waded through the bloody gore of the helpless
animals, which they have clubbed to death by thousands
that women may be handsomely clothed.
The surviving members of Vitus Behring's ill-starred
expedition carried back with them a large number of
skins of the valuable sea-otter. From that date - 1742 - until about 1770 the promyshleniki engaged in such an
unresting slaughter of the otter that it was almost exterminated.
In desperation, they turned, then, to the chase of the
fur-seal, and for years sought in vain for the rumored
breeding-grounds of tins pelagic animal. The islands of
St. Paul and St. George were finally discovered in 1786,
by Gerassim Pribyloff, who heard the seals barking and roaring through the heavy fogs, and, sailing cautiously on,
surprised them as they lay in polygamous groups by the
million upon the rocky shores.
Pribyloff was the son of a sailor who had accompanied
Behring on the St. Peter. He modestly named his price-
less discovery " Subov," for the captain and part owner
of the trading association for which he worked. He him-
self was not engaged in sealing, but was simply the first
ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY 415
mate of the sloop St. George. The Russians, however,
renamed the islands for their discoverer; and happily the
name has endured.
St. George Island is ten miles in length by from two
to four in width. It is higher than the larger St. Paul,
which lies twenty-seven miles farther north, and rises
more abruptly from the water.
The temperature of these islands is not low, rarely falling to zero; but the w4nd blows at so great velocity that
frequently for days at a time the natives can only go from
one place to another by crawling upon their hands and
To conserve the sealing industry, after the purchase of
Alaska, the exclusive privilege of killing seals on these
islands was granted to the Alaska Commercial Company
for a period of twenty years. When this lease expired in
1890, a new one was made out for a like period to the
North American Commercial Company, which still holds
possession. The company has agents on both islands, and
the government maintains an agent and his assistant on
St. Paul Island, and an assistant on St. George, to enforce
the terms of the concession.
When the Russians first took possession of the Pribyloft"
Islands, they brought several hundred Aleutians and
established them upon the islands in sod houses, where
they were held under the usual slave-like conditions of
this abused people. They were miserably housed and
fed, received only the smallest wage, - from which they
were compelled to contribute to the support of the church,
and were held, against their wishes, upon these dreary
and inhospitable shores.
With the coming of the American companies all was
changed. Comfortable, clean habitations of frame were
erected for them ; their pay was increased from ten to
forty cents each for the removal of pelts; schools and
416 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
hospitals were provided, children being compelled to attend the former ; and the sale of intoxicating liquors was
prohibited. There are between a hundred and fifty and
two hundred natives on the islands at present.
The houses are lined with tar paper, painted white, with
red roofs, and furnished with stoves. There are streets
and large storehouses, and the village presents an attractive appearance.
As a result of good care, food, and cleanliness, the
natives are able to do twice the amount of work accomplished by the same number under the old conditions.
They are healthier, happier, and more industrious.
The value of the fur-seal catch from the time of the
purchase of Alaska to the early part of the present decade
was more than thirty-five millions of dollars. In 1903
the yearly catch, however, had dwindled from two millions
at the time of discovery to twenty-two thousands.
Indiscriminate and reckless slaughter, and particularly
the pelagic sealing carried on by poachers - it being impossible to distinguish the males f rom the females at sea -
have nearly exterminated the seals. They will soon be
as rare as the sea-otter, which vanished for the same shame-
less reasons. In the government's lease it is provided
that not more than one hundred thousand seals shall be
taken in a single year ; but of recent years the catch has
fallen so far short of that number that the annual rental,
which was first set at sixty thousand dollars, has had a
sliding, diminishing scale until it has finally reached
twelve thousand dollars.
Great trouble has been experienced with pelagic sealers.
Pelagic sealing means simply following the seals on their
way north and killing them in the deep sea before they
reach the breeding-grounds. There have been American
poachers, but the majority have been Canadians. The
United States government at first claimed exclusive rights
ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY 417
to the seals, and patrolled the waters of Behring Sea, as
inland waters, frequently seizing vessels belonging to other
The matter, after much bitter feeling on both sides,
was finally submitted to the " Paris Tribunal," which did
not allow our claim to exclusive sealing rights in Behring
Sea. It, however, forbade pelagic sealing within a zone of
sixty miles of the Pribyloff islands.
These waters are now patrolled by vessels of both nations ; but Japanese vessels are frequently transgressors,
the Japanese claiming that they are not bound by the
regulations of the Paris Tribunal. Both British and American sealers have been known to fly the Japanese flag when
engaged in pelagic sealing in forbidden waters. Trouble
of a serious nature with Japan may yet arise over this
The habits and the life of the seal are exceedingly interesting. In many ways these graceful creatures are
human-like, particularly in their appealing, reproachful
looks when a death-dealing blow is about to be struck.
Some, it is true, yield to a violent, fighting rage, - growing more furious as their helplessness is realized, - and at
such times the eyes flame with the green and red fire of
hate and passion, and resemble the eyes of a human being
possessed with rage and terror.
The bull seals have been called "beach-masters,"
" polygamists," and "harem-lords."
These old bulls, then, are the first to return to the breeding-grounds in the
spring. They begin to " haul out " upon the rocks during the first week in May.
Each locates upon his chosen " ground," and awaits the arrival of the females,
which does not occur until the last of June. While awaiting their arrival,
incessant and terrible fighting takes place among the bulls, frequently to the
death - so stubbornly and so ferociously does each struggle to
418 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
retain the place he has selected in which to receive the
females of his harem. The older the bull the more successful is he both in love and in war ; and woe betide any
young and bold bachelor who dares to pause for but an
instant and cast tempting glances at a gay and coquettish
young favorite under an old bull's protection. There is
instant battle - in which the festive bachelor invariably
When the females arrive, a very orgy of fighting takes
place. An old bull swaggers down to the water, receives
a graceful and beautiful female, and beguiles her to his
harem. If he but turn his back upon her for an instant
another bull seizes her and bears her bodily to his harem ;
the first bull returns, and the fight is on - the female
sometimes being torn to pieces between them, because
neither will give her up. The bulls do not mind a small
matter like that, however, there being so many females ;
and it is never the desire for a special female that impels
to the fray, but the human -like lust to triumph over one
who dares to set himself up as a rival.
The old bulls take possession of the lower rocks, and
these they hold from all comers, yet fighting, fighting,
fighting, till they are frequently but half-alive masses of
torn flesh and fur.
The bachelors are at last forced, foot by foot, past the
harems to the higher grounds, where they herd alone.
As they are supposed to be the only seals killed for their
skin, they are forced by the drivers away from the vicinity of the rookeries, to the higher slopes.
These graceful creatures drag themselves on shore with
pitiable awkwardness and helplessness. They proceed
painfully, with a kind of rolling movement, uttering
plaintive sounds that are neither barks nor bleats. They
easily become heated to exhaustion, and pause at every
opportunity to rest. When they sink down for this purpose,
ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY 419
they either separate their hind flippers, or draw
them both to one side.
They are driven carefully and are permitted frequent
rests, as heating ruins the fur. They usually rest and
cool off, after reaching the killing grounds, while the men
are eating breakfast. By seven o'clock the butchery begins.
The seals are still brutally clubbed to death. The
killers are spattered with blood and bloody tufts of hair ;
and by-standers are said to have been horribly pelted by
eyeballs bursting like bullets from the sockets, at the
force of the blows. The killers aim to stun at the first
blow ; but the poor things are often literally beaten to
death. In either event a sharp stabbing-knife is instantly run to its heart, to bleed it. The crimson life-
stream gushes forth, there is a violent quivering of the
great, jelly-like bulk ; then, all is still. It is no longer a
living, beautiful, pleading-eyed animal, but only a portion
of some dainty gentlewoman's cloak. I have not seen it
with my own eyes, but I have heard, in ways which make
me refuse to discredit it, that sometimes the skinning is
begun before the seal is dead ; that sometimes the razor-like knife is run down the belly before it is run to the
heart - not in useless cruelty, but because of the great
need of haste. The tender, beseeching eyes, touching cries,
and unavailing attempts to escape, of the seal that is being
clubbed to death, are things to remember for the rest of one's
life. Strong men, unused to the horrible sight, flee from it,
sick and tortured with the pity of it ; and surely no woman
who has ever beheld it could be tempted to buy sealskin.
No effort is made to dispose of the dead bodies of the
seals. They are left where they are killed, and the stench
arising therefrom is not surpassed even in Belkoffski. It
nauseates the white inhabitants of the islands, and drifts
out to sea for miles to meet and salute the visitor. It is,
however, caviar to the native nostril.
Authorities differ as to the proper boundaries of
Bristol Bay, but it may be said to be the vast indentation
of Behring Sea lying east of a line drawn from Unimak
Island to the mouth of the Kuskokwim River ; or, possibly, from Scotch Cap to Cape Newenham would be
better. The commercial salmon fisheries of this district
are on the Ugashik, Egegak, Naknek, Kvichak, Nushagak,
and Wood rivers and the sea-waters leading to them.
Nushagak Bay is about fifteen miles long and ten wide.
It is exceedingly shallow, and is obstructed by sand-bars
and shoals. The Redoubt- Alexandra was established at
the mouth of the river in 1834 by Kolmakoff.
The rivers are all large and, with one exception, -
Wood River, - drain 'the western slope of the Aleutian
Chain which, beginning on the western shore of Cook
Inlet, extends down the Aliaska Peninsula, crowning it
with fire and snow.
There are several breaks in the range which afford easy
portages from Bristol Bay to the North Pacific. The
rivers flowing into Bristol Bay have lake sources and
have been remarkably rich spawning-streams for salmon.
The present chain of islands known as the Aleutians is
supposed to have once belonged to the peninsula and to
have been separated by volcanic disturbances which are
so common in the region.
The interior of the Bristol Bay country has not been
explored. It is sparsely populated by Innuit, or Eskimo,
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 421
who live in primitive fashion in small settlements, - usually on high bluffs near a river. They make a poor living
by hunting and fishing. Their food is largely salmon,
fresh and dried; game, seal, and walrus are delicacies.
The " higher " the food the greater delicacy is it considered. Decayed salmon-heads and the decaying carcass
of a whale that has been cast upon the beach, by their
own abominable odors summon the natives for miles to a
feast. Their food is all cooked with rancid oil.
Their dwellings are more primitive than those of the
island natives, for they have clung to the barabaras and
other ancient structures that were in use among the
Aleutians when the Russians first discovered them. Near
these dwellings are the drying-frames - so familiar along
the Yukon - from which hang thousands of red-fleshed
salmon drying in the sun. Little houses are erected on
rude pole scaffoldings, high out of the reach of dogs, for
the storing of this fish when it has become " ukala " and
for other provisions. These are everywhere known as
The Innuit's summer home is very different from his
winter home. It is erected above ground, of small pole
frames, roofed with skins and open in front - somewhat
like an Indian tepee. There is no opening in the roof,
all cooking being done in the open air in summer.
These natives were once thrifty hunters and trappers
of wild animals, from the reindeer down to the beaver
and marten, but the cannery life has so debauched them
that they have no strength left for this energetic work.
Formerly every Innuit settlement contained a '' kashga,"
or town hall, which was built after the fashion of all
winter houses, only larger. There the men gathered to
talk and manage the affairs of their small world. It was
a kind of " corner grocery " or " back-room " of a village
drug store. The men usually slept there, and in the
422 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
mornings their wives arose, cooked their breakfast, and
carried it to them in the kashga, turning their backs
while their husbands ate - it being considered exceedingly bad form for a woman to look at a man when he is
eating in public, although they think nothing of bathing
together. The habits of the people are nauseatingly
filthy, and the interiors of their dwellings must be seen
to be appreciated.
Near the canneries the natives obtain work during the
summer, but soon squander their wages in debauches
and are left, when winter arrives, in a starving condition.
The season is very short in Bristol Bay, but the " run "
of salmon is enormous. When this district is operating
thirteen canneries, it packs each day two hundred and
fifty thousand fish. In Nushagak Bay the fish frequently
run so heavily that they catch in the propellers of launches
and stop the engines.
Bristol Bay has always been a dangerous locality to
navigate. It is only by the greatest vigilance and the
most careful use of the lead, upon approaching the shore,
that disaster can be averted.
Nearly all the canneries in this region are operated by
the Alaska Packers Association, which also operates the
greater number of canneries in Alaska.
In 1907 the value of food fishes taken from Alaskan
waters was nearly ten millions of dollars ; in the forty
years since the purchase of that country, one hundred
millions, although up to 1885 the pack was insignificant.
At the present time it exceeds by more than half a million
cases the entire pack of British Columbia, Puget Sound,
Columbia River, and the Oregon and Washington coasts.
In 1907 forty-four canneries packed salmon in Alaska,
and those on Bristol Bay were of the most importance.
The Nushagak River rivals the Karluk as a salmon
stream, but not in picturesque beauty. The Nushagak
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 423
and Wood rivers were both closed during the past season
by order of the President, to protect the salmon industry
of the future.
Cod is abundant in Behring Sea, Bristol Bay, and south
of the Aleutian, Shumagin, and Kadiak islands, covering
an area of thirty thousand miles. Halibut is plentiful in
all the waters of southeastern Alaska. This stupid-looking fish is wiser than it appears, and declines to swim into
the parlor of a net. It is still caught by hook and line, is
packed in ice, and sent, by regular steamer, to Seattle -
whence it goes in refrigerator cars to the markets of the
Herring, black cod, candle-fish, smelt, tom-cod, white-
fish, black bass, flounders, clams, crabs, mussels, shrimp,
and five species of trout - steelhead, Dolly Varden, cutthroat, rainbow, and lake - are all found in abundance in
Cook, entering Bristol Bay in 1778, named it for the
Earl of Bristol, with difficulty avoiding its shoals. He
saw the shoaled entrance to a river which he called Bristol
River, but which must have been the Nushagak. He saw
many salmon leaping, and found them in the maws of cod.
The following day, seeing a high promontory, he sent
Lieutenant Williamson ashore. Possession of the country
in his Majesty's name was taken, and a bottle was left
containing the names of Cook's ships and the date of discovery. To the promontory was given the name which it
retains of Cape Newenham.
Proceeding up the coast Cook met natives who were of
a friendly disposition, but who seemed unfamiliar with
the sight of white men and vessels ; they were dressed
somewhat like Aleutians, wearing, also, skin hoods and
The ships were caught in the shoals of Kuskokwim Bay,
but Cook does not appear to have discovered this great
424 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
river, which is the second in size of Alaskan rivers and
whose length is nine hundred miles. In the bay the tides
have a fifty-foot rise and fall, entering in a tremendous
bore. This vicinity formerly furnished exceedingly fine
black bear skins.
Cook's surgeon died of consumption and was buried on
an island which was named Anderson, in his memory.
Upon an island about four leagues in circuit a rude sledge
was found, and the name of Sledge Island was bestowed
upon it. He entered Norton Sound, but only " suspected "
the existence of a mighty river, completely missing the
He named the extreme western point of North America,
which plunges out into Behring Sea, almost meeting the
East Cape of Siberia, Cape Prince of Wales. In the
centre of the strait are the two Diomede Islands, between
which the boundary line runs, one belonging to Russia,
the other to the United States.
Cook sailed up into the Frozen Ocean and named Icy
Cape, narrowly missing disaster in the ice pack. There
he saw many herds of sea-horses, or walrus, lying upon
the ice in companies numbering many hundreds. They
huddled over one another like swine, roaring and braying ;
so that in the night or in a fog they gave warning of
the nearness of ice. Some members of the herd kept
watch ; they aroused those nearest to them and warned
them of the approach of enemies. Those, in turn, warned
others, and so the word was passed along in a kind of ripple
until the entire herd was awake. When fired upon, they
tumbled one over another into the sea, in the utmost confusion. The female defends her young to the very last, and
at the sacrifice of her own life, if necessary, fighting ferociously.
The walrus does not in the least resemble a horse, and it
is difficult to understand whence the name arose. It is
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 425
somewhat like a seal, only much larger. Those found by
Cook in the Arctic were from nine to twelve feet in length
and weighed about a thousand pounds. Their tusks have
alwa3's been valuable, and have greatly increased in value
of recent years, as the walrus diminish in number.
Cook named Cape Denbigh and Cape Darby on either
side of Norton Bay ; and Besborough Island south of Cape
Going ashore, he encountered a family of natives which
he and Captain King describe in such wise that no one,
having read the description, can ever enter Norton Sound
without recalling it. The family consisted of a man, his
wife, and a child ; and a fourth person who bore the human
shape, and that was all, for he was the most horribly, the
most pitiably, deformed cripple ever seen, heard of, or imagined. The husband was blind ; and all were extremely
unpleasant in appearance. The underlips were bored.
These natives would have evidently sold their souls
for iron. For four knives made out of old iron hoop,
they traded four hundred pounds of fish - and Cook
must have lost his conscience overboard with his anchor in
Kuskokwim Bay. He recovered the anchor !
He gave the girl-child a few beads, " whereupon the
mother burst into tears, then the father, then the cripple,
and, at last, the girl herself."
Many different passages, or sentences, have been called
"the most pathetic ever written"; but, myself, I confess
that I have never been so powerfully or so lastingly moved
by any sentence as I was when I first read that one of
Cook's. Almost equaling it, however, in pathos is the simple account of Captain
King's of his meeting with the same family. He was on shore with a party
obtaining wood when these people approached in a canoe. He beckoned to them to land, and the husband and wife came
ashore. He gave the woman a knife, saying that he would
426 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
give her a larger one for some fish. She made signs for
him to follow them.
" I had proceeded with them about a mile, when the
man, in crossing a stony beach, fell down and cut his foot
very much. This made me stop, upon which the woman
pointed to the man's eyes, which, I observed, were covered
with a thick, white film. He afterward kept close to his
wife, who apprised him of the obstacles in his way. The
woman had a little child on her back, covered with a
hood, and which I took for a bundle until I heard it
cry. At about two miles distant we came upon their open
skin-boat, which was turned on its side, the convex
part toward the wind, and served for their house. I was
now made to perform a singular operation upon the man's
eyes. First, I was directed to hold my breath ; afterward,
to breathe on the diseased eyes ; and next, to spit on them.
The woman then took both my hands and, pressing them
to his stomach, held them there while she related some
calamitous history of her family, pointing sometimes to
her husband, sometimes to a frightful cripple belonging
to the family, and sometimes to her child."
Berries, birch, willow, alders, broom, and spruce were
found. Beer was brewed of the spruce.
Cook now sailed past that divinely beautiful shore upon
which St. Michael's is situated, and named Stuart Island
and Cape Stephens, but did not hear the Yukon calling
him. He did find shoal water, very much discolored and
muddy, and "inferred that a considerable river runs into
the sea." If he had only guessed how considerable !
Passing south, he named Clerk's, Gore's, and Pinnacle
Islands, and returned to Unalaska.
A famous engineering feat was the building of the
White Pass and Yukon Railway from Skaguay to White
Horse. Work was commenced on this road in May, 1898,
and finished in January, 1900.
Its completion opened the interior of Alaska and the
Klondike to the world, and brought enduring fame to
Mr. M. J. Heney, the builder, and Mr. E. C. Hawkins,
In 1897 Mr. Heney went North to look for a pass
through the Coast Range. Up to that time travel to the
Klondike had been about equally divided between the
Dyea, Skaguay, and Jack Dalton trails ; the route by way
of the Stikine and Hootalinqua rivers ; and the one to St. Michael's by ocean
steamers and thence up the Yukon by small and, at that time, inferior steamers.
Mr. Heney and his engineers at once grasped the possibilities of the "Skaguay Trail." This pass was first
explored and surveyed by Captain Moore, of Mr. Ogilvie's survey of June, 1887,
who named it White Pass, for Honorable Thomas White, Canadian Minister of the
Interior. It could not have been more appropriately named, even though named for
a man, as there is never a day in the warmest weather that snow-peaks are not in
view to the traveler over this pass ; while from September to June the trains wind through sparkling and
Mr. Heney, coming out to finance the road, faced serious
428 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
difficulties and discouragements in America. Owing to
the enormous cost of this short piece of road, as planned,
as well as the daring nature of its conception, the boldest financiers of this country, upon investigation, declined
to entertain the proposition.
Mr. Heney was a young man who, up to that time,
although possessed of great ability, had made no marked
success - his opportunity not having as yet presented
Recovering from his first disappointment, he undauntedly voyaged to England, where some of the most conservative capitalists, moved and convinced by his enthusiasm
and his clear descriptions of the northern country and its
future, freely financed the railroad whose successful building was to become one of the most brilliant achievements
of the century.
They were entirely unacquainted with Mr. Heney, and
after this proof of confidence in him and his project, the
word " fail " dropped out of the English language, so far
as the intrepid young builder was concerned.
" After that," he said, " I could not fail."
He returned and work was at once begun. A man big
of body, mind, and heart, he was specially fitted for the
perilous and daring work. Calm, low- voiced, compelling
in repressed power and unswerving courage and will, he
was a harder worker than any of his men.
Associated with him was a man equally large and equally
gifted. Mr. Hawkins is one of the most famous engineers
of this country, if not of any country.
The difficult miles that these two men tramped; the long, long hours of each
day that they worked; the hardships that they endured, unflinching ; the
appalling obstacles that they overcame - are a part of Alaskan
The first twenty miles of this road from Skaguay cost
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 429
two millions of dollars ; the average cost to the summit
was a hundred thousand dollars a mile, and now and then
a single mile cost a hundred and fifty thousand dollars.
The road is built on mountainsides so precipitous that
men were suspended from the heights above by ropes, to
prevent disaster while cutting grades. At one point a
cliff a hundred and twenty feet high, eighty feet deep,
and twenty feet in width was blasted entirely away for
Thirty-five hundred men in all were employed in constructing the road, but thirty of whom died, of accident
and disease, during the construction. Taking into consideration the perilous nature of the work, the rigors of
the winter climate, and the fact that work did not cease
during the worst weather, this is a remarkably small proportion.
A force of finer men never built a railroad. Many were
prospectors, eager to work their way into the land of gold ;
others were graduates of eastern colleges ; all were self-
respecting, energetic men.
Skaguay is a thousand miles from Seattle; and from the
latter city and Vancouver, men, supplies, and all materials
were shipped. This was not one of the least of the hindrances to a rapid completion of the road. Rich strikes
were common occurrences at that time. In one day, after
the report of a new discovery in the Athn country had
reached headquarters, fifteen hundred men drew their
pay and stampeded for the new gold fields.
But all obstacles to the building of the road were surmounted. Within eighteen months from the date of be-
ginning work it was completed to White Horse, a distance
of one hundred and eleven miles, and trains were running
A legend tells us that an old Indian chief saw the canoe
430 ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY
of his son upset in the waves lashed by the terrific winds
that blow down between the mountains. The lad was
drowned before the helpless father's eyes, and in his sorrow the old chief named the place Shkag-ua, or " Home of
the North Wind." It has been abbreviated to Skaguay ;
and has been even further disfigured by a w, in place of
Between salt water and the foot of White Pass Trail,
two miles up the canyon, in the winter of 1897-1898, ten
thousand men were camped. Some were trying to get
their outfits packed over the trail ; others were impatiently
waiting for the completion of the wagon road which George
Brackett was building. This road was completed
almost to the summit when the railroad overtook it and
bought its right of way. It is not ten years old ; yet it
is always called "the old Brackett road."
At half-past nine of a July morning our train left
Skaguay for White Horse. We traversed the entire
length of the town before entering the canyon. There
are low, brown flats at the mouth of the river, which spreads
over them in shallow streams fringed with alders and
Above, on both sides, rose the gray, stony cliffs. Here
and there were wooded slopes ; others were rosy with fireweed that moved softly, like clouds.
We soon passed the ruined bridge of the Brackett road ,
the water brawling noisily, gray-white, over the stones.
Our train was a long one drawn by four engines. There
were a baggage-car, two passenger-cars, and twenty flat
and freight cars loaded with boilers, machinery, cattle,
chickens, merchandise, and food-stuffs of all kinds.
After crossing Skaguay River the train turns back,
climbing rapidly, and Skaguay and Lynn Canal are seen
shining in the distance. . . . We turn again. The river
foams between mountains of stone, hundreds of feet below
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 431
SO far below that the trees growing sparsely along its
banks seem as the tiniest shrubs.
The Brackett road winds along the bed of the river,
while the old White Pass, or Heartbreak, Trail climbs and
falls along the stone and crumbling shale of the opposite
mountain - in many places rising to an altitude of several
hundred feet, in others sinking to a level with the river.
The Brackett road ends at White Pass City, where, ten
years ago, was the largest tent-city in the world ; and where
now are only the crumbling ruins of a couple of log cabins,
silence, and loneliness.
At White Pass City that was, the old Trail of Heartbreak
leads up the canyon of the north fork of the Skaguay, directly away from the railroad. The latter makes a loop of
many miles and returns to the canyon hundreds of feet
above its bed. The scenery is of constantly increasing
grandeur. Cascades, snow-peaks, glaciers, and overhanging cliffs of stone make the way one of austere beauty. In
two hours and a half we climb leisurely, with frequent
stops, from the level of the sea to the summit of the pass ;
and although skirting peaks from five to eight thousand
feet in height, we pass through only one short tunnel.
It is a thrilling experience. The rocking train clings to
the leaning wall of solid stone. A gulf of purple ether
sinks sheer on the other side - so sheer, so deep, that one
dare not look too long or too intently into its depth.
Hundreds of feet below, the river roars through its narrow
banks, and in many places the train overhangs it. In
others, solid rock cliffs jut out boldly over the train.
After passing through the tunnel, the train creeps
across the steel cantilever bridge which seems to have been
flung, as a spider flings his glistening threads, from cliff to
cliff, two hundred and fifteen feet above the river, foaming
white over the immense boulders that here barricade its
headlong race to the sea.
432 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
Beautiful and impressive though this trip is in the green
time and the bloom time of the year, it remains for the
winter to make it sublime.
The mountains are covered deeply with snow, which
drifts to a tremendous depth in canyons and cuts.
Through these drifts the powerful rotary snow-plough
cleaves a white and glistening tunnel, along which the
train slowly makes its way. The fascinating element of
momentary peril - of snow-slides burying the train enters into the winter trip.
Near Clifton one looks down upon an immense block of
stone, the size of a house but perfectly flat, beneath which
three men were buried by a blast during the building of
the road. The stone is covered with grass and flowers
and is marked with a white cross.
At the summit, twenty miles from Skaguay, is a red
station named White Pass. A monument marks the
boundary between the United States and Yukon Terri-
tory. The American flag floats on one side, the Canadian
on the other. A cone of rocks on the crest of the hill
leading away from the sea marks the direction the boundary takes.
The White Pass Railway has an average grade of three
per cent, and it ascends with gradual, splendid sweeps
around mountainsides and projecting cliffs.
The old trail is frequently called " Dead Horse Trail."
Thousands of horses and mules were employed by the
stampeders. The poor beasts were overloaded, overworked, and, in many instances, treated with unspeakable
cruelty. It was one of the shames of the century, and
no humane person can ever remember it without horror.
At one time in 1897 more than five thousand dead horses were counted on the
trail. Some had lost their footing and were dashed to death on the rocks below ;
others had sunken under their cruel burdens in utter
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 433
exhaustion ; others had been shot ; and still others had
been brutally abandoned and had slowly starved to death.
" What became of the horses," I asked an old stampeder,
" when you reached Lake Bennett? Did you sell them ?"
" Lord, no, ma'am," returned he, politely ; " there
wa'n't nothing left of 'em to sell. You see, they was
" But I mean the ones that did not die."
"There wa'n't any of that kind, ma'am."
" Do you mean," I asked, in dismay, " that they all
died ? - that none survived that awful experience ? "
"That's about it, ma'am. When we got to Lake Bennett there wa'n't any more use for horses. Nobody was
goin' the other way - and if they had been, the horses
that reached Lake Bennett wa'n't fit to stand alone, let
alone pack. The ones that wa'n't shot, died of starvation.
Yes, ma'am, it made a man's soul sick."
Boundary lines are interesting in all parts of the
world; but the one at the summit of the White Pass
is of unusual historic interest. Side by side float the
flags of America and Canada. They are about twenty
yards from the little station, and every passenger left
the train and walked to them, solely to experience a
big patriotic American, or Canadian, thrill ; to strut,
glow, and walk back to the train again. Myself, I gave
thanks to God, silently and alone, that those two flags
were floating side by side there on that mountain, beside
the little sapphire lake, instead of at the head of Chilkoot Inlet.
There are Canadian and United States inspectors of
customs at the summit ; also a railway agent. Their
families live there with them, and there is no one else
and nothing else, save the little sapphire lake lying in
the bare hills.
434 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
Its blue waves lipped the porch whereon sat the young,
sweet-faced wife of the Canadian inspector, with her baby
in its carriage at her side.
This bit of liquid sapphire, scarcely larger than an artificial pond in a
park, is really one of the chief sources of the Yukon - which, had these clear
waters turned toward Lynn Canal, instead of away from it, might have
never been. It seems so marvelous. The merest breath,
in the beginning, might have toppled their liquid bulk
over into the canyon through which we had so slowly and
so enchantingly mounted, and in an hour or two they
might have forced their foaming, furious way to the ocean.
But some power turned the blue waters to the north and
set them singing down through the beautiful chain of
lakes - Lindeman, Bennett, Tagish, Marsh, Labarge -
winding, widening, past ramparts and mountains, through
canyons and plains, to Behring Sea, twenty-three hundred miles from this lonely spot.
This beginning of the Yukon is called the Lewes River.
Far away, in the Pelly Mountains, the Pelly River rises
and flows down to its confluence with the Lewes at old
Fort Selkirk, and the Yukon is born of their union.
The Lewes has many tributaries, the most important
of which is the Hootalinqua - or, as the Indians named
it, Teslin - having its source in Teslin Lake, near the
source of the Stikine River.
After leaving the summit the railway follows the shores
of the river and the lakes, and the way is one of loveliness
rather than grandeur. The saltish atmosphere is left behind,
and the air tings with the sweetness of mountain and lake.
We had eaten an early breakfast, and we did not reach
an eating station until we arrived at the head of Lake
Bennett at half after one o'clock ; and then we were
given fifteen minutes in which to eat our lunch and get
back to the train.
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 435
I do not think I have ever been so hungry in ray life -
and fifteen minutes! The dining room was clean and
attractive ; two long, narrow tables, or counters, extended
the entire length of the room. They were decorated with
great bouquets of wild flowers ; the sweet air from the
lake blew in through open windows and shook the white
curtains out into the room.
The tables were provided with good food, all ready to
be eaten. There were ham sandwiches made of lean ham.
It was not edged with fat and embittered with mustard ; it
must have been baked, too, because no boiled ham could be so
sweet. There were big brown lima beans, also baked, not
boiled, and dill-pickles - no insipid pin-moneys, but good,
sour, delicious dills ! There were salads, home-made bread,
" salt-rising " bread and butter, cakes and cookies and
fruit - and huckleberry pie. Blueberries, they are called
in Alaska, but they are our own mountain huckleberries.
No twelve-course luncheon, with a different wine for
each course, could impress itself upon my memory as did
that lunch-counter meal. We ate as children eat; with
their pure, animal enjoyment and satisfaction. For fifteen
minutes we had not a desire in the world save to gratify
our appetites with plain, wholesome food. There was no
crowding, no selfishness and rudeness, - as there had been
in that wild scene on the excursion-boat, where the struggle
had been for place rather than for food, - but a polite consideration for one another. And outside the sun shone,
the blue waves sparkled and rippled along the shore, and
their music came in through the open windows.
Here, in 1897, was a city of tents. Several thousand
men and women camped here, waiting for the completion
of boats and rafts to convey themselves and their outfits
down the lakes and the river to the golden land of their
Standing between cars, clinging to a rattling brake, I
436 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
made the acquaintance of Cyanide Bill, and he told me
" Tents ! " said he. " Did you say tents ? Hunh !
Why, lady, tents was as thick here in '97 and '98 as seeds
on a strawberry. They was so thick it took a man an
hour to find his own. Hunh ! You tripped up every
other step on a tent-peg. I guess nobody knows anything
about tents unless he was mushin' around Lake Bennett in
the summer of '97. From live to ten thousand men and
women was camped here off an' on. Fresh ones by the
hundred come strugglin', sweatin', dyin', in over the
trail every day, and every day hundreds got their rafts
finished, bundled their things and theirselves on to 'em.
and went tearin' and yellin' down the lake, gloatin' over
the poor tired-out wretches that just got in. Often as
not they come sneakin' back afoot without any raft and
without any outfit and worked their way back to the
states to get another. Them that went slow, went sure,
and got in ahead of the rushers.
"I wisht you could of seen the tent town! - young
fellows right out of college flauntin' around as if they knew
somethin' ; old men, stooped and gray-headed ; gamblers,
tin horns, cut-throats, and thieves ; honest women, workin'
their way in with their husbands or sons, their noses bent
to the earth, with heavy packs on their backs, like men ;
and gay, painted dance-hall girls, sailin' past 'em on horse-
back and dressed to kill and livin' on the fat of the land.
I bet more good women went to the bad on this here layout than you could shake a stick at. It seemed to get
on to their nerves to struggle along, week after week,
packin' like animals, sufferin' like dogs, et up by mosquitoes and gnats, pushed and crowded out by men - and
then to see them gay girls go singin' by, livin' on luxu-
ries, men fallin' all over theirselves to wait on 'em,
champagne to drink - it sure did get on to their nerves !
ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY 437
" You see, somehow, up here, in them clays, things didn't
seem the way they do down below. Nature kind of gets
in her work ahead of custom up here. Wrong don't look
so terrible different from right to a woman a thousand
miles from civilization. When she sees women all around
her walkin' on flowers, and her own feet blistered and
bleedin' on stones and thorns, she's pretty apt to ask herself whether beiu' good and workin' like a horse pays.
And up here on the trail in '97 the minute a woman begun
to ask herself that question, it was all up with her. The
end was in plain sight, like the nose on a man's face. The
dance hall on in Dawson answered the question practical.
" Of course, lots of 'em went in straight and stayed
straight ; and they're the ones that made Dawson and
saved Dawson. You get a handful of good women located
in a minin'-camp and you can build up a town, and you
can't do it before, mounted police or no mounted police."
I had heard these hard truths of the Trail of Heartbreak
before ; but having been worded more vaguely, they had
not impressed me as they did now, spoken with the plain,
honest directness of the old trail days.
" If you want straight facts about '97," the collector had
said to me, " I'll introduce you to Cyanide Bill, out there.
He was all through here time and again. He will tell you
everything you want to know. But be careful what you
ask him ; he'll answer anything - and he doesn't talk
" The hardships such women went through," continued
Cyanide Bill, " the insults and humiliations they faced and
lived down, ought to of set 'em on a pedestal when all was
said and done and decency had the upper hand. The
time come when the other'ns got their come-upin's ; when
they found out whether it paid to live straight.
" The workr'l never see such a rush for gold again,"
went on Cyanide Bill, after a pause. " I tell you it takes
438 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
a lot to make any impress on me, I've been toughenin' up
in this country so many years ; but when I arrives and
sees the orgy goin' on along this trail, my heart up and
stood still a spell. The strong ones was all
weak ones down. The weak ones went down and out,
and the strong ones never looked behind. Men just went
crazy. Men that had always been kind-hearted went
plumb locoed and 'u'd trample down their best friend, to
get ahead of him. They got just like brutes and didn't
know their own selves. It's no wonder the best women
give up. Did you ever hear the story of Lady Belle ? "
I remembered Lady Belle, probably because of the name,
but I had never heard the details of her tragic story, and
I frankly confessed that I would like to hear them -
" parlor " language or " trail," it mattered not.
"Well," - he half closed his eyes and stared down the
blue lake, - " she come along this trail the first of July,
the prettiest woman you ever laid eyes on. Her husband
was with her. He seemed to be kind to her at first, but
the horrors of the trail worked on him, and he went kind
of locoed. He took to abusin' her and blamin' her for
everything. She worked like a dog and he treated her
about like one ; but she never lost her beauty nor her
sweetness. She had the sweetest smile I ever saw on
any human bein's face ; and she was the only one that
thought about others.
" ' Don't crowd ! ' she used to cry, with that smile of
her'n. 'We're all havin' a hard time together.'
" Well, they lost their outfit in White Horse Rapids ;
her husband cursed her and said it wouldn't of happened
if she hadn't been hell-bent to come along ; he took to
drinkin' and up and left her there at the rapids. He
went back to the states, sayin' he didn't ever want to see
" She was left there without an ounce of grub or a cent
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 439
of money. Yakataga Pete had been workin' along the
trail with a big outfit, and had gone on in ahead. He'd
fell in love with her before he knew she was married.
He went on up into the cricks, and when he come down
to Dawson six months later, she was in a dance hall.
Dawson was wild about her. They called her Lady
Belle because she was always such a lady.
"Yakataga went straight to her and asked her to marry
him. She burst out into the most terrible cryiu' you ever
hear. ' As if I could ever marry anybody ! ' she cries
out ; and that's all the answer he ever got. We found
out she had a little blind sister down in the states. She
had to send money to keep her in a blind school. She
danced and acted cheerful ; but her face was as white as
chalk, and her big dark eyes looked like a fawn's eyes
when you've shot it and not quite killed it, so's it can't
get away from you, nor die, nor anything ; but she was
always just as sweet as ever.
"Two months after that she - she - killed herself.
Yakataga was up in the cricks. He come down and
It was told, the simple and tragic tale of Lady Belle,
and presently Cyanide Bill went away and left me.
The breeze grew cooler ; it crested the waves with
silver. Pearly clouds floated slowly overhead and were
reflected in the depths below.
The mountains surrounding Lake Bennett are of an
unusual color. It is a soft old-rose in the distance. The
color is not caused by light and shade ; nor by the sun ;
nor by flowers. It is the color of the mountains themselves. They are said to be almost solid mountains of
iron, which gives them their name of " Iron-Crowned," I
believe ; but to me they will always be the Rose-colored
Mountains. They soften and enrich the sparkling, al-
most dazzling, blue atmosphere, and give the horizon a
440 ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY
look of sunset even at midday. The color reminded me
of the dull old-rose of Columbia Glacier.
Lake Bennett dashes its foam-crested blue waves along
the pebbly beaches and stone terraces for a distance of
twenty-seven miles. At its widest it is not more than
two miles, and it narrows in places to less than half a
mile. It winds and curves like a river.
The railway runs along the eastern shore of the lake, and mountains slope
abruptly from the opposite shore to a height of five thousand feet. The scenery
is never monotonous. It charms constantly, and the air keeps the traveler as fresh and sparkling in spirit as champagne.
For many miles a solid road-bed, four or five feet
above the water, is hewn out of the base of the mountains ; the tei'race from the railway to the water is a
solid blaze of bloom ; white sails, blown full, drift up
and down the blue water avenue ; cloud-fragments move silently over the nearer
rose-colored mountains ; while in the distance, in every direction that the eye
may turn, the enchanted traveler is saluted by some lonely and beautiful peak of snow. It is an exquisitely lovely lake.
We had passed Lake Lindeman - named by Lieutenant
Schwatka for Dr. Lindeman of the Breman Geographical
Society - before reaching Bennett.
Lake Lindeman is a clear and lovely lake seven miles
long, half a mile wide, and of a good depth for any navigation required here. A mountain stream pours tumultuously into it, adding to its picturesque beauty.
Sea birds haunt these lakes, drift on to the Yukon, and
follow the voyager until they meet their silvery fellows
coming up from Behring Sea.
Between Lakes Lindeman and Bennett the river connecting link is only three quarters of a mile long, about
thirty yards wide, and only two or three feet deep. It is
filled with shoals, rapids, cascades, boulders, and bars ;
ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY 441
and navigation is rendered so difficult and so dangerous
that in the old " raft " days outfits were usually portaged
to Lake Bennett.
During the rush to the Klondike a saw-mill was established at the head of Lake Bennett, and lumber for boat
building was sold for one hundred dollars a thousand
The air in these lake valleys on a warm day is indescribably soft and balmy. It is scented with pine, balm, Cottonwood, and flowers. The lower slopes are covered with
fireweed, lark-spur, dandelions, monk's-hood, purple asters, marguerites, wild roses, dwarf goldenrod, and many
other varieties of wild flowers. The fireweed is of special
beauty. Its blooms are larger and of a richer red than
along the coast. Blooms covering acres of hillside seem
to float like a rosy mist suspended in the atmosphere.
The grasses are also very beautiful, some having the rich,
changeable tints of a humming-bird.
The short stream a couple of hundred yards in width
connecting Lake Bennett with the next lake - a very
small, but pretty one which Schwatka named Nares -
was called by the natives " the place where the caribou
cross," and now bears the name of Caribou Crossing. At
certain seasons the caribou were supposed to cross this
part of the river in vast herds on their way to different
feeding-grounds, the current being very shallow at this
There is a small settlement here now, and boats were
waiting to carry passengers to the Athn mining district.
The caribou have now found less populous territories in
which to range. In the winter of 1907-1908 they ranged
in droves of many thousands - some reports said hundreds of thousands - through the hills and valleys of the
Stewart, Klondike, and Sixty-Mile rivers, in the Upper
442 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
Miners killed them by the hundreds, dressed them, and
stored them in the shafts and tunnels of their mines,
down in the eternally frozen caverns of the earth - thus
supplying themselves with the most delicious meat for a
year. The trek of caribou from the Tanana River valley
to the head of White River consumed more than ninety
days in passing the head of the Forty-Mile valley - at
least a thousand a day passing during that period. They
covered from one to five miles in width, and trod the
snow down as solidly as it is trodden in a city street. A
great wolf-pack clung to the flank of the herd. The
wolves easily cut out the weak or tired-out caribou and
Caribou Crossing is a lonely and desolate cluster of
tents and cabins huddling in the sand on the water's edge.
Considerable business is transacted here, and many passengers transfer here in summer to Athn. In winter they
leave the train at Log- Cabin, which we passed during the
forenoon, and make the journey overland in sleighs.
The voyage from Caribou Crossing to Athn is by way
of a chain of blue lakes, pearled by snow mountains. It
is a popular round-trip tourist trip, which may be taken
with but little extra expense from Skaguay.
Tagish Lake, as it was named by Dr. Dawson, - the
distinguished British explorer and chief director of the
natural history and geological survey of the Dominion of
Canada, - was also-known as Bove lake. Ten miles from
its head it is joined by Taku Arm - Tahk-o Lake, it was
called by Schwatka.
The shores of Tagish Lake are terraced beautifully to
the water, the terraces rising evenly one above another.
They were probably formed by the regular movement of
ice in other ages, when the waters in these valleys were
deeper and wider. There are some striking points of
ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY 443
limestone in this vicinity, their pearl-white shoulders
gleaming brilliantly in the sunshine, with sparkling blue
waves dashing against them.
Marsh Lake, and another with a name so distasteful that
I will not write it, are further links in the brilliant sapphire
water chain by which the courageous voyagers of the
Heartbreak days used to drift hopefully, yet fearfully,
down to the Klondike. The bed of a lake which was unintentionally drained completely dry by the builders of
the railroad is passed just before reaching Grand Canyon.
The train pauses at the canyon and again at White
Horse Rapids, to give passengers a glimpse of these famed
and dreaded places of navigation of a decade ago.
At six o'clock in the evening of the day we left Skaguay
we reached White Horse.
This is a new, clean, wooden town, the first of any importance in Yukon Territory. It has about fifteen hundred inhabitants, is the terminus of the railroad, and is
growing rapidly. The town is on the banks of Lewes
River, or, as they call it here, the Yukon.
There is an air of tidiness, order, and thrift about this
town which is never found in a frontier town in " the
states." There are no old newspapers huddled into gutters,
nor blowing up and down the street. Men do not stand
on corners with their hands in their pockets, or whittling out toothpicks, and waiting for a railroad to be built
or a mine to be discovered. They walk the streets with
the manner of men who have work to do and who feel
that life is worth while, even on the outposts of civilization.
All passengers, freight, and supplies for the interior
now pass through White Horse. The river bank is lined
with vast warehouses which, by the time the river opens
in June, are piled to the roofs with freight. The shipments of heavy machinery are large. From the river one
can see little besides these warehouses, the shipyards to
the south, and the hills.
Passing through the depot one is confronted by
the largest hotel, the White Pass, directly across the
street. To this we walked ; and from an upstairs
window had a good view of the town. The streets are
wide and level; the whole town site is as level as a
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 445
parade-ground. The buildings are frame and log ;
merchandise is fair in quality and style, and in price,
high. Mounted police strut stiffly and importantly up
and down the streets to and from their picturesque log
barracks. One unconsciously holds one's chin level and
one's shoulders high the instant one enters a Yukon
town. It is in the air.
Excellent grounds are provided for all outdoor sports ;
and in the evening every man one meets has a tennis
racket or a golf stick in his hand, and on his face that
look of enthusiastic anticipation which is seen only on a
British sportsman's face. No American, however enthusiastic or " keen " he may be on outdoor sports, ever
quite gets that look.
There was no key to our door. Furthermore, the door
would not even close securely, but remained a few hair
breadths ajar. There was no bell ; but on our way down
to dinner, having left some valuables in our room, we reported the matter to a porter whom we met in the hall,
and asked him to lock our door.
" It doesn't lock," he replied politely. " It doesn't
even latch, and the key is lost."
Observing our amazed faces, he added, smiling : -
" You don't need it, ladies. You will be as safe as
you would be at home. We never lock doors in White
This was my first Yukon shock, but not my last. My
faith in mounted police has always been strong, but it
went down before that unlocked door.
" Possibly the people of White Horse never take what
does not belong to them," I said ; " but a hundred
strangers came in on that train. Might not one be
afflicted with kleptomania?"
"He wouldn't steal here," said the boy, confidently.
"Nobody ever does."
446 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
There seemed to be nothing more to say. We left our
door ajar and, with lingering backward glances, went
down to the dining room.
Never shall I forget that dinner. It was as bad as our
lunch had been good. The room was hot ; the table-cloth
was far from being immaculate ; the waitress was untidy
and ill-bred ; and there was nothing that we could eat.
Nor were we fastidious. We neither expected, nor desired, luxuries ; we asked only well-cooked, clean, whole-
some food ; but if this is to be obtained in White Horse,
we found it not - although we did not cease trying while
we were there.
We went out and walked the clean streets and looked into restaurants, and
tried to see something good to eat, or at least a clean table-cloth ; but in the
end we went hungry to bed. We had wine and graham wafers in our bags, and they
consoled ; but we craved something substantial, notwithstanding our hearty lunch. It was the
air - the light, fresh, sparkling air of mountain, river,
and lake - that gave us our appetites.
When we had walked until our feet could no longer
support us, we returned to the hotel. On the way, we
saw a sign announcing ice-cream soda. We went in and
asked for some, but the ice-cream was "all out."
" But we have plain soda," said the man, looking so
wistful that we at once decided to have some, although
we both detested it.
He fizzed it elaborately into two very small glasses and
led us back into a little dark room, where were chairs and
tables, and he gave us spoons with which to eat our plain
soda. "Let me pay," said my friend, airily; and she put
ten cents on the table.
The man looked at it and grinned. He did not smile ;
he grinned. Then he went away and left it lying there.
We tried to drink the soda-water ; then we tried to
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 447
coax it through straws ; finally we tried to eat it with
spoons - as others about us were doing; but we could
not. It looked like soap-bubbles and it tasted like soap-
" He didn't see his ten cents," said my friend, gathering it up. "I suppose one pays at the counter out there.
I would cheerfully pay him an extra ten if I had not
gotten the taste of the abominable stuff in my mouth."
She laid the ten cents on the counter grudgingly.
The man looked at it and grinned again.
" Them things don't go here," said he. " It's fifty
There was a silence. I found my handkerchief and
laughed into it, wishing I had taken a second glass.
" Oh, I see," said she, slowly and sweetly, as a half-
dollar slid lingering down her fingers to the counter.
"For the spoons. They were worth it."
It was two o'clock before we could leave our windows
that night. It was not dark, not even dusk. A kind of
blue-white light lay over the town and valley, deepening
toward the hills. In the air was that delicious quality
which charms the senses like perfumes. Only to breathe
it in was a drowsy, languorous joy. At White Horse one
opens the magic, invisible gate and passes into the enchanted land of Forgetfulness - and the gate swings shut
Home and friends seem far away. If every soul that
one loves were at death's door, one could not get home in
time to say farewell - so why not banish care and enjoy
each hour as it comes ?
This is the same reckless spirit which, greatly intensified, possessed desperate men when they went to the
Klondike ten years ago. There was no telegraph, then,
and mails were carried in only once or twice a year.
Letters were lost. Men did not hear from their wives.
448 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
and, discouraged and disheartened, decided that the
women had died or had forgotten; so they went the way
of the country, and it often came to pass that Heartbreak
Trail led to the Land of Heartbreak.
In the morning we learned that the boat for Dawson
was not yet " in," and, even if it should arrive during the
day, - which seemed to be as uncertain as the opening of
the river in spring, - would not leave until some time
during the night; so at nine o'clock we took the Skaguay
train for the Grand Canyon.
One " oldest " resident of White Horse told us that it
was only a mile to the canyon ; another oldest one, that
it was four miles ; still another, that it was five ; all
agreed that we should take the train out and walk back.
" There's a tram," they told us, " an old, abandoned
tram, and you can't get lost. You've only to follow the
tram. Why, a goose couldn't get lost. Norman McCauley built the tram, and outfits were portaged around the
canyon and the rapids two seasons ; then the railroad
come in and the tram went out of business. "
We took our bundles of mosquito netting and boarded
the train. In summer the travel is all " in," and we were
the only passengers. When the White Pass Railway Company was organized, stock was worth ten dollars a share ;
now it is worth six hundred and fifty dollars, and it is not
for sale. Freight rates are five cents a pound, one hundred dollars a ton, or fifty in car-load lots, from Skaguay to
White Horse. Passenger rates are supposed to be twenty
cents a mile. We paid seventy-five cents to return to the
canyon which we passed the previous day. This rate
should make the distance four miles, and we barely had
time to arrange our mosquito veils, according to the instructions of the conductor, when the train stopped.
We were told that we might not see a mosquito ; and
again, that we might not be able to see anything else.
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 449
We were put off and left standing ankle-deep in sand, on
the brink of a precipice, four miles from any human being
in the wilds of Alaska. At that moment the trainmen
looked like old and dear friends.
" The path down is right in front of you," the collector
called, as the train started. " Don't be afraid of the
bears ! They will not harm you at this time of the
We had considered heat, mosquitoes, losing our way,
hunger, exhaustion, - everything, it appeared, except
bears. We looked at one another.
"I had not thought of bears."
"Nor had I."
We looked down at the bushes growing along the
canyon; little heat-worms glimmered in the still atmosphere.
" Perhaps it is an Alaskan joke," I suggested feebly.
We stood for some time trying to decide whether we
should make the descent or return to White Horse, when
suddenly the matter was decided for us. I was standing
on the brink of the sandy precipice, down which a path
went, almost perpendicularly, without bend or pause, to
the bank of the river several hundred yards below.
The sandy soil upon which I stood suddenly caved and
went down into the path. I went with it. I landed
several yards below the brink, gave one cry, and then -
by no will of my own - was off for the canyon.
The caving of the brink had started a sand and gravel slide ; and I,
knee-deep in it, was going down with it - slowly, but oh, most surely. There was
no pausing, no looking back. I could hear my companion calling to me to "stop";
to "wait" ; to "be careful " - and all her entreaties were the bitterest irony
by the time they floated down to me. So long as the slide did not stop, it was
450 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
useless to tell me to do so ; for I was embedded in it half-
way to my waist. We kept going, slowly and hesitatingly ; but never slowly enough for me to get out.
It was eighty in the shade, and the sand was hot. I
was wearing a white waist, a dark blue cheviot skirt, and
patent-leather shoes ; and my appearance, when I finally
reached level ground and cool alder trees, may be im-
agined. Furthermore, our trunks had been bonded to
Dawson, and I had no extra skirts or shoes with me.
My companion, profiting by my misfortune, had armed
herself with an alpenstock and was " tacking " down the
slope. It was half an hour before she arrived.
I have never forgiven her for the way she laughed.
We soon forgot the bears in the beauty of the scene
before us. We even forgot the comedy of my unwilling
The Lewes River gradually narrows from a width of
three or four hundred yards to one of about fifty yards at
the mouth of the Grand Canyon, which it enters in a great
The walls of the canyon are perpendicular columns and
palisades of basalt. They rise without bend to a height
of from one to two hundred feet, and then, set thickly
with dark and gloomy spruce trees, slope gradually into
mountains of considerable height. The canyon is five-
eighths of a mile long, and in that interval the water drops
thirty feet. Halfway through, it widens abruptly into a
round water chamber, or basin, where the waters boil and
seethe in dangerous whirlpools and eddies. Then it again
narrows, and the waters rush wildly and tumultuously
through walls of dark stone, veined with gray and lavender. The current runs fifteen miles an hour, and rafts
" shooting " the rapids are hurled violently from side to
side, pushed on end, spun round in whirlpools, buried for
seconds in boiling foam, and at last are shot through
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 451
the final narrow avenue like spears from a catapult - only
to plunge madly on to the more dangerous White Horse
The waves dash to a height of four or five feet and
break into vast sheets of spray and foam. Their roar, flung
back by the stone walls, may be heard for a long distance ; and that of the rapids drifts over the streets of
White Horse like distant, continuous thunder, when all
else is still.
We found a difficult way by which, with the assistance
of alpenstocks and overhanging tree branches, we could
slide down to the very water, just above Whirlpool Basin.
We stood there long, thinking of the tragedies that had
been enacted in that short and lonely stretch ; of the lost
outfits, the worn and wounded bodies, the spirits sore ; of
the hearts that had gone through, beating high and strong
With hope, and that had returned broken. It is almost
as poignantly interesting as the old trail ; and not for two
generations, at least, will the perils of those days be
It was about noon that, remembering our long walk, we
turned reluctantly and set out for White Horse.
Somewhere back of the basin we lost our way. We
could not find the "tram" ; searching for it, we got into
a swamp and could not make our way back to the river ;
and suddenly the mosquitoes were upon us.
The underbrush was so thick that our netting was torn
into shreds and left in festoons and tatters upon every
bush; yet I still bear in my memory the vision of my
friend floating like a tall, blond bride - for my dark-
haired Scotch friend was not with me on the Yukon vo3-age
through the shadows of that swamp before her bridal
veil went to pieces.
Her bridal glory was grief. In a few moments we were
both as black as negroes with mosquitoes ; for, desperately
452 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
though we fought, we could not drive them away. The
air in the swamp was heavy and still ; our progress was
unspeakably difficult - through mire and tall, lush grasses
which, in any other country on earth, would have been
alive with snakes and crawling things.
The pests bit and stung our faces, necks, shoulders, and
arms ; they even swarmed about our ankles ; while, for
our hands - they were soon swollen to twice their original
We wept ; we prayed ; we said evil things in the hearing of heaven ; we asked God to forgive us our sins, or,
at the very least, to punish us for them in some other
way ; but I, at least, in the heaviest of my afflictions, did
not forget to thank Him because there are no snakes in
Alaska or the Yukon. It seemed to me, even, in the
fervor of ray gratitude, that it had all been planned eons
ago for our special benefit in this extreme hour.
But I shall spare the reader a further description of
I had always considered the Alaskan mosquito a joke.
I did not know that they torture men and beasts to a
terrible death. They mount in a black mist from the
grass; it is impossible for one to keep one's eyes open.
Dogs, bears, and strong men have been known to die of
pain and nervous exhaustion under their attacks.
After an hour of torture we forced our way through the
network of underbrush back to the river, and soon found
a narrow path. There was a slight breeze, and the mosquitoes were not so aggressive. There was still a three-
mile walk, along the shore bordering the rapids, before
we could rest ; and during the last mile each step caused
such agony that we almost crawled.
When we removed our shoes, we found them full of
blood. Our feet were blistered ; the blisters had broken
and blistered again.
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 453
But we had seen the Grand Canyon of the Yukon -
which Schwatka in an evil hour named Miles, for the
distinguished army-general - and White Horse Rapids ;
and seeing them was worth the blisters and the blood.
And we know how far it is from the head of the canyon
to White Horse town. No matter what the three " oldest "
settlers, the railway folders, Schwatka, and all the others
say, - we know. It is fifteen miles ! Also, among those
who scoff at Rex Beach for having the villain in his last
novel eaten up by mosquitoes on the Yukon, we are not
to be included.
Numerous and valuable copper mines lie within a radius of fifteen miles from White Horse. The more important ones are those of the Pennsylvania syndicate, The B.
White Company, The Arctic Chief, The Grafter, the
Anaconda, and the Best Chance. The Puebla, operated
by B. N. White, lies four miles northwest of town. It
makes a rich showing of magnetite, carrying copper values averaging four and five per cent, with a small by-product
of gold and silver.
In the summer of 1907 this mine had in sight two hundred and fifty thousand tons of pay ore. The deepest
development then obtained had a hundred-foot surface
showing three hundred feet in width, and stripped along
with the strike of the vein seven hundred feet, showing
a solid, unbroken mass of ore. Tunnels and cross-cuts
driven from the bottom of the shaft showed the body to
be the same width and the values the same as the surface
The Arctic Chief ranks second in importance ; and
extensive development work is being carried on at all
the mines. The railway is building out into the mining
Six-horse stages are run from White Horse to Dawson
454 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
after the river closes. The distance is four hundred and
thirty-five miles ; the fare in the early autumn and late
spring is a hundred and twenty-five dollars ; in winter,
when sleighing is good, sixty dollars.
White Horse was first named Closeleigh by the railway
company ; but the name was not popular. At one place
in the rapids the waves curving over rocks somewhat
resemble a white horse, with wildly floating mane and
tail of foam. This is said to be the origin of the name.
White Horse is only eight years old. The hotel accommodations, if one does not mind a little thing like not
being able to eat, are good. The rooms are clean and
comfortable and filled with sweet mountain and river air.
At eight o'clock that evening the steamer Dawson
struggled up the river and landed within fifty yards of
the hotel. We immediately went aboard ; but it was
nine o'clock the next morning before we started, so we
had another night in White Horse.
The Yukon steamers are four stories high, with a place
for a roof garden. I could do nothing for some time but
regard the Dawson in silent wonder. It seemed to glide
along on the surface of the water, like a smooth, flat stone
when it is " skipped."
The lower deck is within a few inches of the water ;
and high above is the pilot-house, with its lonely-looking
captain and pilot ; and high, oh, very high, above them -
like a charred monarch of a Puget Sound forest - rises the
black smoke-stack, from which issue such vast funnels of
smoke and such slow and tremendous breathing.
This breathing is a sound that haunts every memory of
the Yukon. It is not easy to describe, it is so slow and
so powerful. It is not quite like a cough - unless one
could cough in instead of out; it is more like a sobbing,
shivering in-drawing of the breath of some mighty animal.
It echoes from point to point, and may be heard for
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 455
several miles on a still day. Day and night it moves
through the upper air, and floats on ahead, often echoing
so insistently around some point which the steamer has
not turned, that the "cheechaco" is deluded into the
belief that another steamer is approaching.
The captains and pilots of the Yukon are the loneliest-
looking men! First of all, they are so far away from
everybody else ; and second, passengers, particularly
women, are not permitted to be in the pilot-house, nor on
the texas, nor even on the hurricane-deck, of steamers
passing through Yukon Territory.
Between White Horse and Lake Lebarge the river is
about two hundred yards wide. The water is smooth and
deep. It loiters along the shore, but the current is strong
and bears the steamer down with a rush, compelling it to
zigzag ceaselessly from shore to shore.
Going down the Yukon for the first time, one's heart
stands still nearly half the time. The steamer heads
straight for one shore, approaches it so closely that its
bow is within six inches of it, and then swings powerfully
and starts for the opposite shore - its great stern wheel
barely clearing the rocky wall.
The serious vexations and real dangers of navigation
in this great river, from source to mouth, are the sand and
gravel bars. One may go down the Yukon from White
Horse to St. Michael in fourteen days ; and one may be a
month on the way - pausing, by no will of his own, on
The treacherous current changes hourly. It is seldom
found twice the same. It washes the sand from side to
side, or heaps it up in the middle - creating new channels
and new dangers. The pilot can only be cautious, untiringly watchful - and lucky. The rest he must leave
It is twenty-seven miles from White Horse to Lake
456 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
Lebarge. Midway, the Talkeena River flows into the
Lewes, running through banks of clay.
Lake Lebarge is thirty-two miles long and three and a
half wide. The day was suave. The water was silvery
blue, and as smooth as satin; gray, deeply veined cliffs were
reflected in the water, whose surface was not disturbed
by a ripple or wave ; the air was soft ; farther down the
river were forest fires, and just sufficient haze floated
back to give the milky old-rose lights of the opal to the
atmosphere. There is one small island in the lake. It
was not named ; and it received the name - as Vancouver
would say - of Fireweed Isle, because it floated like a
rosy cloud on the pale blue water.
The Indians called this lake Kluk-tas-si, and Schwatka
favored retaining it ; but the French name has endured,
and it is not bad.
The Lake Lebarge grayling and whitefish are justly
famed. Steamers stop at some lone fisherman's landing
and take them down to Dawson, where they find ready
sale. At Lower Lebarge there is a post-office and a
telegraph station. Our steamer paused ; two men came
out in a boat, delivered a large su pply of fish, received a
few parcels of mail, and went swinging back across the
A dreary log-cabin stood on the bank, labeled " Clark's
Place." A woman in a scarlet dress, walking through
the reeds beside the beach, made a bit of vivid color. It
seemed very, very lonely - with that kind of loneliness
that is unendurable.
A quarter of a mile farther, around a bend in the shore,
the boat landed at the telegraph station, where the Cana-
dian flag was flying.
The different reaches of the Yukon are called locally
by very confusing names. The river rising in Summit
Lake on the White Pass railway is called both Lewes and
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 457
Yukon ; the stretch immediately below Lake Lebarge is
called Lewes, Thirty-Mile, and Yukon. When we reach
the old Hudson Bay post of Selkirk, however, our perplexities over this matter are at an end. The Pelly River
here joins the Lewes, and all agree that the splendid
river that now surges on to the sea is the Yukon.
It is daylight all the time, and no one should sleep between White Horse and Dawson. Not an hour of this
beautiful voyage on the Upper Yukon should be wasted.
The banks are high and bold, for the most part springing sheer out of the water in columns and pinnacles of
solid stone. There are also fore-stated slopes rising to
peaks of snow ; and the same kind of clay cliffs that we
saw at White Horse, white and shining in the bluish light
of morning, but more beautiful still in the mysterious
rosy shadows of midnight.
There are some striking columns of red rock along
Lake Lebarge, and their reflections in the water at sunset
of a still evening are said to be entrancing: "two warm
pictures of rosy red in the sinking sun, joined base to
base by a thread of silver, at the edge of the other shore."
There are many high hills of soft gray limestone,
veined and shaded with the green of spruce ; vast slopes,
timbered heavily ; low valleys and picturesque mouths of
Five-Finger, or Rink, Rapids is caused by a contraction
of the river from its usual width to one of a hundred and
fifty yards. Five bulks of stone, rising to a perpendicular
height of forty or fifty feet, are stretched across the channel. The steamer seems to touch the stone walls as it
rushes through on the boiling rapids.
The Upper Ramparts of the Yukon begin at Fort Selkirk. Here the waters cut through the lower spurs of
the mountains, and for a distance of a hundred and fifty
miles, reaching to Dawson, the scenery is sublime.
458 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
" Quiet Sentinel " is a rocky promontory which, seen in
profile, resembles the face and entire figure of a woman.
She stands with her head slightly bowed, as if in pra per,
with loose draperies flowing in classic lines to her feet,
and with a rose held to her lips. One of the greatest
singers of the present time might have posed for the
" Quiet Sentinel."
Rivers and their valleys are more famed in the northern
interior than towns. Teslin, Talkeena, Teslintoo, Big
and Little Salmon, Pelly, Stewart, White, Forty-Mile,
Indian, Sixty-Mile, Macmillan, Klotassin, Porcupine,
Chandlar, Koyukuk, Unalaklik, Xanana, Mynook, - these
be names to conjure with in the North ; while those south
of the Yukon and tributary to other waters have equal
As for the Klondike, it is the only stream of its size,
being but the merest creek and averaging a hundred feet
in width, which has given its name to one whole country
and to a portion of another country. During the past
decade it has not been unusual to hear the name Klondike
Country applied to all Alaska and that part of Canada
adjacent to the Klondike district. The tiny, gold-bearing
creeks, from ten to twenty feet wide, tributary to the
Klondike, are known by name and fame in all parts of
the world today. They are Bonanza, Hunker, Too-
Much-Gold, Eldorado, Rock, North Fork, All-Gold, Gold-Bottom, and others of less
importance. The Bonanza flows into the Klondike at Dawson, and it is but
a half-hour's walk to the dredge at work in this stream.
In 1833 Baron Wrangell directed Michael Tebenkoff to
establish Fort St. Michael's on the small island in Norton
Sound to which the name of the fort was given. Three
years later it was attacked by natives, but was success-
fully defended by Kurupanoff, who was in charge.
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 459
In 1836 a Russian named Glasunoff entered the delta
of the Yukon, ascending the river as far as the mouth ot
the Anvik River. In 1838 Malakoff extended the exploration as far as Nulato, where he established a Russian
post and placed Notarmi in command.
When the garrison returned to St. Michael's on account of the failure of provisions, the following winter,
natives destroyed the fort and all buildings which had
been erected. It was rebuilt and again destroyed in
1839. In 1841 it once more arose under Derabin, who
remained in command. The following year Lieutenant
Zagoskin reached Nulato, ascending to Nowikakat in 1843.
The Russians were therefore established on the lower
Yukon several years before the English established themselves upon the upper river.
In 1840 Mr. Robert Campbell was sent by Sir George
Simpson to explore the Upper Liard River. Mr. Campbell ascended the river to its head waters, crossed the
mountains, and descended the Pelly River to the Lewes,
where, eight years later, he established Fort Selkirk.
This famous trading post was short-lived. In 1851 it
was attacked by a band of savage Chilkahts and was surrendered, without resistance, by Mr. Campbell, who had
but two men with him at the time. They were not
molested by the Indians, who plundered and burned the
warehouses and forts.
Only the chimneys of the fort were found by Lieutenant Schwatka in 1883. As late as 1890 this point was
considered the head of navigation on the Yukon.
In 1847 Fort Yukon was established by Mr. A. H.
McMurray, of the Hudson Bay Company. Following
McMurray and Campbell, came Joseph Harper, Jack
McQuesten, and A. H. Mayo, who established a trading
post on the Yukon at Fort Reliance, six miles below the
mouth of the Klondike.
460 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
In 1860 Robert Kennicott reached Fort Yukon, and in
the following spring descended to a point that was for
several years known as " the Small Houses " - the most
attractive name in the Yukon country. In 1865 an expedition was organized in San Francisco by the Western
Union Telegraph Company for the purpose of building a
telegraph line from San Francisco to Behring Strait -
which was to be crossed by cable to meet the Russian
government line at the mouth of the Amoor River. One
party, headed by Robert Kennicott, was sent by ocean to
the mouth of the Yukon ; and another, in charge of
Michael Byrnes, up the inside route to the Stikine River.
Going from that river to the head waters of the Taku,
they followed the chain of lakes and the Hootalinqua
River to the Lewes, which they reached on the Tahco
Arm of Lake Tagish. At that time it became known
that the Atlantic cable had proven to be a success, and
the daring and hazardous northern project was abandoned.
As late as the date of this expedition it was not determined positively whether the Kwihkpak was one of the
mouths of the Yukon, or a separate river. Upon the recall of the telegraph expedition, the only portion of the
great river that had not been explored was the short
distance between Lake Tagish and Lake Lebarge.
There have been several claimants for the honor of
having been the first white man to cross the divide between Lynn Canal and the head waters of the Yukon.
The first was a mythological, nameless Scotchman employed by the Hudson Bay Company, who is supposed to
have reached Fort Selkirk in 1864, and to have proceeded
alone over the old " grease-trail " of the Chilkahts to
Lynn Canal. He fell into the hands of the Indians and
was held until ransomed by the captain of the LahoucTiere.
Because he had long, flowing locks of red hair, he was
supposed to be a kind of white shaman, and his life was
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 461
spared by the savages. This story is doubted by many
The honor was claimed, also, by George Holt, who is
known to have crossed one of the passes in 1872, and
twice in later years. James Wynn, of Juneau, went over
in 1879 and returned in 1880.
About this time the Indians seemed to realize that packing over the trail might become more profitable than acting as middlemen between the coast
Indians and those of
the interior. In 1881 and 1882 small parties of miners,
and even one or two traveling alone, crossed unmolested.
In 1883 Lieutenant Schwatka had his outfit packed over
the Dyea - Taiya, or Dayay, it was then called - Trail ;
and then, dismissing his packers, built rafts and made
his perilous way down the unknown river - portaging,
" shooting " the Grand Canyon, White Horse, and Rink
Rapids, sticking on sand-bars, almost dying of mosquitoes,
and, saddest of all for us who come after him, naming
every object that met his eyes with the deplorable taste
Of a river, called Kut-lah-cook-ah by the Chilkahts, he
complacently remarks : -
" I shortened its name and called it after Professor
Nourse, of the United States Naval Observatory."
Nourse, Saussure, Perrier, Payer, Bennett, Wheaton,
Prejevalsky, Richards, Watson, Nares, Bove, Marsh,
McClintock, Miles, Richthofen, Hancock, d'Abbadie, Daly,
Nordenskiold, Von Wilczek ; these be the choice namings
that he bestowed upon the beautiful objects along the
Yukon. It is, perhaps, a cause for thankfulness that he
did not rename the Yukon Schwatka or Ridderhjelka !
However, many of his namings have died a natural death.
The name Yukon is said to have first been applied to
the river in 1846 by Mr. J. Bell, of the Hudson Bay
Company, who went over from the MacKenzie and
462 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
descended the Porcupine to the great river which the Indians called Yukon. He retained the name, although
for some time it was spelled Youkon. For this, may he
ever be of blessed memory. I should like to contribute
to a monument to perpetuate his name and fame.
Today Fort Selkirk is of some importance as a trading
post and because of the successful farming of the vicinity,
and all passing steamers call there. Joseph Harper was
located there at the time of George Carmack's brilliant
discovery of gold on Bonanza Creek, in August, 1896.
Harper and Joseph Ladue, who was settled as a trader at
Sixty-Mile, immediately transferred their stocks to the
junction of the Yukon, Klondike, and Bonanza, and established the town which they named Dawson, in honor of
Dr. George M. Dawson.
In 1887 Mr. William Ogilvie headed a Canadian exploring party into the Yukon. His boats were towed up
to Taiya Inlet by the United States naval vessel Pinta ;
and while waiting there for supplies, he, having asked for,
and received, authority from Commander Newell, made
surveys at the heads of the inlets. It was only through
the intercession of the commander, furthermore, that Mr.
Ogilvie was permitted by the Chilkahts to proceed over
the pass. " I am strongly of the opinion," Mr. Ogilvie
says in his report, " that these Indians would have been
much more difficult to deal with if they had not known
that Commander Newell remained in the inlet to see that
I got through in safety."
Miners had been going over the trail for several years,
but the Chilkahts were enraged at the British because employees of the Hudson Bay Company had killed some of
In the meantime Dr. George M. Dawson, heading an-
other Dominion party, was working along the Stikine
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 463
Dr. Dawson and Mr. Ogilvie - afterward governor of
Yukon territory - made extensive surveys and explorations throughout the Yukon district; their reports upon
the country are voluminous, thorough, and of much interest. They were both men of superior attainments, and
their influence upon the country and upon the people who
rushed into the new mining district was great. Today
the name of ex-Governor Ogilvie is heard more frequently
in the Klondike than that of any other person, even though
his residence is elsewhere. He served as governor during
the reckless and picturesque days when to be a governor
meant to be a man in the largest sense of the word.
Dawson ! It was a name to stir men's blood ten years
ago, - a wild, picturesque, lawless mining-camp, whose like
had never been known and never will be known again.
All kinds and conditions of men and women were rep-
resented. Miners, prospectors, millionaires, adventurers,
wanderers, desperadoes ; brave-hearted, earnest women,
dissolute dance-hall girls, and, more dangerous still, the
quiet, seductive adventuress - they were all there, side by
side, tent by tent, cabin by cabin.
Almost daily new discoveries were made and stampedes
occurred. Every little creek flowing into the Klondike
was found rich in gold. The very names that these
creeks received - All-Gold, Too-Much-Gold, Gold-Bottom
turned men's blood to fire. The whole country seemed
to have gone mad of excitement and the lust for gold.
The white mountain passes grew black with struggling
human beings fighting, falling, rising, fighting on. It was like the blind
stampeding of crazed animals upon a plain ; nothing could check them save
exhaustion or death. When the fever burned out in one and left him low,
another sprang to take his place. Dawson, like Skaguay, grew from dozens to
hundreds in a day ; from hundreds to thousands ; tents gave place to cabins
; cabins, to substantial frame buildings.
Ah, to have been there in the old days ! Who would
not have suffered the early hardships, paid the price,
and paid it cheerfully, for the sake of seeing the life and
being a part of it before it was too late?
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 465
Now it is forever too late. The glory of what it once
was is all that remains. Today Dawson is so quiet, so
dull, so respectable, that one unconsciously yawns in its
But men's eyes still kindle when their memories of old
days are stirred.
"They were great times," they say, looking at one
" They could only come once. They were times of
blood and gold ; of dance and song ; of glitter and show
and starvation and death. We worked all day and
danced or gambled all night. Our only passions were
for women and gold. If we couldn't get the women we
wanted, the men that did get 'em fought their way to
'em, inch by inch ; if we couldn't dig the gold out of
the earth, we got it in some other way.
"All the best buildings were occupied by saloons.
Every saloon had a dance-hall in the back of it; not
that the girls had to keep to their quarters, either - they
had the run of the whole shebang. Every saloon had
its gambling rooms, too - unless the tables and games
were right out in the open. I tell you, it was tough.
You can't begin to understand the situation unless you'd
been here. There wasn't a hotel nor a corner where a
man could go in and get warm except in a saloon -
and with the thermometer fooling in the neighborhood
of fifty below, he didn't stand around outside with his
hands in his pockets, not to any great extent. Most
likely his pockets was naturally froze shut, anyhow, and
the only way he could get 'em thawed out was to go
into a saloon. That thawed 'em quick enough. It not
only thawed 'em out ; it most gen'rally thawed 'em wide
"I tell you, the worst element in a mining-camp is
women. They follow a man and console him when he's
466 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
down on his luck ; they follow him through thick and
thin ; and they get such a hold on him that, when he
wants to get back to decent ways and decent women,
he just naturally can't do it. Young fellows don't realize it. They don't see it being done; they see it after
it is done and can't be undone.
"As soon as the mounted police took holt of Dawson, with Inspector Constantine at the head, there was
a sure change. Still, even the mounted-police doctrine
does have some drawbacks. I noticed they couldn't
make the post-office clerks turn out letters unless you
slipped two-three dollars into their outstretched hands.
I noticed that."
Today Dawson is a pretty, clean-streeted town built
of log and frame buildings. In the hottest summer the
earth never thaws deeper than eighteen inches, and no
foundation can be obtained for brick buildings. For the
same reason plastering is not advisable, the uneven
freezing and thawing proving ruinous to both brick and
The first objects to greet the visitor's eyes are the
large buildings of the great commercial and transportation companies of the North, along the bank of the
river. Passing through these one finds one's self upon a
busy, but unconventional, thoroughfare. Dawson is built
solidly to the hill, extending about a mile along the
water-front ; and the most attractive part of the town
is the village of picturesque log cabins climbing over
the lower slopes of the hill. They are not large, but
they are all built with the roof extending over a wide
front porch. The entire roof of each cabin is covered
several inches deep with earth, and at the time of our
visit - the first week of August - these roofs were grown
with brilliant green grasses and flowers to a height of
from twelve to eighteen inches. They were literally
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 467
covered with the bloom of a dozen or more varieties of
wild flowers. Every window had its flaming window-box ; every garden, its gay beds ; and there were even
boxes set on square fence posts and running the entire
length of fences themselves, from which vines drooped
and trailed and flowers blew. Standing at the river
and looking toward the hill, the whole town seemed
a mass of bloom sloping up to the green, which, in
turn, sloped on up to the blue.
We had heard so much about the exorbitant prices of
the Klondike, that we were simply speechless when a very
jolly, sandy-haired Scotch gentleman offered to take our
two steamer trunks, three heavy suit cases, and two shawl-
straps to the hotel which we had blindly chosen, for the
sum of two dollars. We had expected to pay five ; and
when he first asked two and a half, we stood as still
as though turned to stone - and all for joy. He, however, evidently mistaking our silence, doubtless felt the
prick of the stern conscience of his ancestors, for he
hastily added : -
"Well, seeing you're ladies, we'll call it an even two."
We agreed to the price coldly, pretending to consider
it an outrage.
" My name is Angus McDonald," said he, with reproach. " When a McDonald says that his price is the
lowest in the town, his word may be taken. If you come to
Dawson twenty years from now, Angus will be standing
here waiting to handle your baggage at the lowest price."
We gave him our keys and he attended to all the customs details for us. We had left Seattle on the evening
of the 24th of July; had stopped for several hours at
Ketchikan, Wrangell, Metlakahtla, Juneau, Treadwell,
and Taku Glacier ; a day and a night at Skaguay ; two
nights and a day at White Horse ; had made short pauses
at Selkirk and Lower Lebarge - to say nothing of hours
468 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
spent in " wooding-up," which is a picturesque and sure
feature of Yukon voyages; and at noon on the fifth day
of August we were settled at the " Kenwood " - the
dearest hotel at which it has ever been my good fortune
to tarry even for a day. I do not mean the most stylish,
nor the most elegant, nor even the most comfortable ; nor
do I mean the dearest in price ; but the dearest to my
heart. It is kept in a neat, cheerful, and homelike style
by Miss Kinney - who had almost as many malamute
puppies, by the way, as she had guests.
When we gave Mr. Angus McDonald our keys, it was
not quite decided as to our hotel ; but when we learned
that we were sufficiently respectable in appearance to be
accepted by Miss Kinney, we telephoned for our trunks.
Then we forgot all about paying for them, and set out for
a walk. When we returned, luncheon was being served ;
our trunks were in our rooms, but - Mr. Angus Mc-
Donald had gone off with our keys ! We did not know
then what we know now ; that Mr. Angus McDonald and
his retained keys are a Dawson joke. It seems that whenever one does not pay in advance for the delivery of his
trunks, Mr. McDonald drives away with the keys in his
pocket, whistling the merriest of Scotch tunes.
The joke has its embarrassments, particularly when one
has descended to the Grand Canyon of the Yukon in a
The traveler in Alaska who desires to retain his own
self-respect and that of his fellow-man will never criticize
a price nor ask to have it reduced. He is expected
to contribute liberally to every church he enters, every
Indian band he hears play, every charitable institution
that may present its merits for his consideration, every
purse that may be made up on steamers, whatsoever its
object may be. Fees are from fifty cents to five dollars.
A waiter on a Yukon steamer threw a quarter back at a
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 469
man who had innocently slipped it into his hand. Later, I
saw him in the centre of a group of angry waiters and
cabin-boys to whom he was relating his grievance.
Since one is constantly changing steamers, and has
a waiter, a cabin-boy, a night-boy, and frequently a
stewardess to fee on each steamer, this must be counted
as one of the regular expenses of the trip.
Other expenses we found to be greatly exaggerated on
the "outside." Aside from our amusing experience with
soap-bubble soda at White Horse and a bill for eight dollars and fifty cents for the poor pressing of three plain
dress skirts and one jacket at Nome, we found nothing to
criticize in northern prices.
The best rooms at the " Kenwood " were only two dollars
a day, and each meal was one dollar - whether one ate
little or whether one ate much. It was always the latter
with us ; for I have never been so hungry except at Bennett. I am convinced that the climate of the Yukon will
cure every disease and every ill. We walked miles each
day, drank much cold, pure water, and ate much whole-
some, well-cooked, delicious food - including blueberries
three times a day ; and our sleep was sound, sweet, and
Dawson has about ten thousand inhabitants now : it
once had twice as many, and it will have again. Mining
in the Klondike is in the transition stage. It is passing
from the individual owners to large companies and corporations which have ample capital to install expensive
machinery and develop rich properties. It is the history
of every mining district, and its coming to the Klondike
was inevitable. Its first effect, however, is always " to
ruin the camp."
"Dawson's a camp no longer," said one who "went in"
in 1897, sadly. " It's all spoiled. The individual miner
has let go and the monopolists are coming in to take his
470 ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY
place. The good days are things of the past. Pretty
soon they'll be giving you change when you throw down
two-bits for a lead pencil ! " he concluded, with a lofty
scorn - as much as to say : " It will then be time to die."
Dawson is connected with the " outside " by telegraph.
It has two daily newspapers, - which are metropolitan in
style, - an electric-light plant, and a telephone system.
Its streets are graded and sidewalked, and it is piped for
water; but its lack of systematized sewerage - or what
might be more appropriately called its systematized lack
of sewerage - is an abomination. It is, however, not
alone in its unsanitation in this respect, for Nome follows
Both homes and public buildings are of exceeding plainness of style, owing to the excessive cost of building in a
region bounded by the Arctic Circle. The interiors of
both, however, are attractive and luxurious in finish and
furnishings ; and owing to the sway of the mounted
police, the town has an air of cleanliness and orderliness
that is admirable.
A creditable building holds the post-office and customs
office, and there is a public school building which cost
fifty thousand dollars. The handsome administration
building, standing in a green, park-like place, cost as
much. There is a large court-house, the barracks of the
mounted police, and other public buildings. Only the
ruins remain of the executive mansion on the bank of
the river, which was destroyed by fire two years ago and
has not been rebuilt. It was the pride of Dawson. It
was a large residence of pleasing architecture, lighted by
electricity and finished throughout in British Columbia
fir in natural tones. It contained the governor's private
office, palatial reception rooms and parlors, a library, a
noble hall and stairway, a state dining room, a billiard
room and smoking room, and spacious chambers.
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 471
The governor's office in the administration building is
large and handsomely furnished. The commissioner of
Yukon Territory is called by courtesy governor, and the
present commissioner, Governor Henderson, is a gentle-
man of distinguished presence and courtly manners. He
had just returned from an automobile tour of inspection
among "the creeks."
Governors, elegant executive mansions and offices, and
automobile tours - where eleven years ago was nothing
but the creeks and the virgin gold which brought all that
is there today ! We did not rebel at anything but the
automobile; somehow, it jarred like an insult. An auto-
mobile up among the storied creeks!
There is a railroad, also, on which daily trains are run
for a distance of twenty miles through the mining district. Six and eight horse stages wall make the trip in
one day for a party of six for fifty dollars.
Thirty dollars is first asked. When that price is found to
be satisfactory, it is immediately discovered that the small
stage is engaged or out of repair ; a larger one must be
used, for which the price is forty dollars. When this price
is agreed upon, some infirmity is discovered in the second
stage; a third must be substituted, for whose all-day use
the price is fifty dollars. If one cares to see the "cricks,"
with no assurance that he will stumble upon a clean-up,
at this price, he meekly takes his seat and is jolted up
into the hills, paying a few dollars extra for his meals.
He may, however, take an hour's walk up Bonanza
Creek and see the great dredges at work and the steam -
pipes thawing the frozen gravel ; and if he should voyage
on down to Nome, he may take an hour's run by railway
out on the tundra and see thirty thousand dollars sluiced
out any day. Almost anything is preferable to the
"graft" that is worked by the stage companies upon
the helpless cheechacos at Dawson.
472 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
The British Yukon is an organized territory, having a
commissioner, three judges, and an executive legislature,
of whose ten members five are elected and five appointed.
The governor is also appointed. He presides over the
sessions of the legislature, giving the appointed members
a majority of one.
The Yukon has a delegate in parliament, a gold commissioner, a land agent, and a superintendent of roads.
Three-fourths of the population of the territory are Americans, yet the town has a distinctly English, or Canadian,
atmosphere. In incorporated towns there is a tax levy
on property for municipal purposes.
Order is preserved by the well-known organization of
Northwest Mounted Police, whose members might be
recognized anywhere, even when not in uniform, by
their stern eyes, set lips, and peculiar carriage.
The first station of mounted police in the Yukon was
established at Forty-Mile, or Fort Cudahy, in 1895, when
the discovery of gold was creating a mild excitement.
Although so many boasts have been made by the British
of their early settlement of the Yukon, not only was Mr.
Ogilvie compelled to cross in 1887 under protection of
the American Commander Newell, but in 1895 the members of the first force of mounted police to come into the
country were forced to ascend the Yukon, by special permission of the United States government, so difficult
were all routes through Yukon Territory.
There are at the present time about sixty police
stations in the territory, as well as garrisons at Dawson
and White Horse. The smaller stations have only three
men. They are scattered throughout the mining country,
wherever a handful of men are gathered together. between Dawson and White Horse, where travel is heavy, a
weekly patrol is maintained, and a careful register is kept
of all boats and passengers going up or down the river.
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 473
On the winter trail passengers are registered at each road house, with date
of arrival and departure, making it easy to locate any traveler in the territory at any time.
In the larger towns the mounted police serve as police
officers ; they also assist the customs officers and fill the
offices of police magistrate and coroner. A police launch
to patrol the river in summer has been recommended.
Dawson is laid out in rectangular shape, with streets
about seventy feet wide and appearing wider because the
buildings are for the most part low. In 1897 town lots
sold for five thousand dollars, when there was nothing but
tents on the flat at the mouth of the Klondike. The half-
dollar was the smallest piece of money in circulation, as
the quarter is today. Saw-mills were in operation, and
dressed lumber sold for two hundred and fifty dollars a
thousand feet. Fifteen dollars a day, however, was the
ordinary wage of men working in the mines ; so that such
prices as fifty cents for an orange, two dollars a dozen for
eggs, and twenty-five cents a pound for potatoes did not
There are rival claimants for the honor of the first
discovery of gold on the Klondike, but George Carmack
is generally credited with being the fortunate man. In
August, 1896, he and the Indians " Skookum Jim " and
"Tagish Charlie,"- Mr. Carmack's brothers-in-law -
were fishing one day at the mouth of the Klondike
River. (This river was formerly called Thron-Dieuek,
or Troan-Dike.) Not being successful, they concluded to go a little way up the
river to prospect. On the sixteenth day of the month they detected signs of gold on
what has since been named Bonanza Creek ; and from the
first pan they washed out twelve dollars. They staked a
'' discovery " claim, and one above and below it, as is the
right of discoverers.
At that time the gold flurry was in the vicinity of
474 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
Forty-Mile. The first building ever done on the site of
Dawson was that of a raft, upon which they proceeded
to Forty-Mile to file their claims. On the same day
began the great stampede to the little river which was
soon to become world-famous.
The days of the bucket and windlass have passed for
the Klondike. Dredging and hydraulicking have taken
their place, and the trains and steamers are loaded with
powerful machinery to be operated by vast corporations.
It is certain that there are extensive quartz deposits in
the vicinity, and when they are located the good and
stirring days of the nineties will be repeated. Ground
that was panned and sluiced by the individual miner is
now being again profitably worked by modern methods.
Scarcity of water has been the chief obstacle to a rapid
development of the mines among the creeks ; but experiments are constantly being made in the way of carrying
water from other sources.
It was perplexing to hear people talking about "Number One Above on Bonanza," " Number Nine Below on
Hunker," "Number Twenty-six Above on Eldorado,"
and others, until it was explained that claims are numbered above and below the one originally discovered on a
creek. Eldorado is one of the smallest of creeks ; yet,
notwithstanding its limited water supply, it has been one
of the richest producers. One reach, of about four miles
in length, has yielded already more than thirty millions
of dollars in coarse gold.
The gold of the Klondike is beautiful. It is not a fine
dust. It runs from grains like mustard seed up to large
When one goes up among the creeks, sees and hears
what has actually been done, one can but wonder that
any young and strong man can stay away from this marvelous country. Gold is still there, undiscovered ; it is
ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY 475
seldom the old prospector, the experienced miner, the
"sour-dough," that finds it; it is usually the ignorant,
lucky "cheechaco." It is like the game of poker, to
which sits down one who never saw the game played and
holds a royal flush, or four aces, every other hand. How
young men can clerk in stores, study pharmacy, or learn
politics in provincial towns, while this glorious country
waits to be found, is incomprehensible to one with the
red blood of adventure in his veins and the quick pulse
of chance. Better to dare, to risk all and lose all, if it
must be, than never to live at all ; than always to be a
drone in a narrow, commonplace groove ; than never to
know the surge of this lonely river of mystery and never
to feel the air of these vast spaces upon one's brow.
No one can even tread the deck of a Yukon steamer
and be quite so small and narrow again as lie was before.
The loneliness, the mystery, the majesty of it, reveals his
own soul to his shrinking eyes, and he grows - in a day,
in an hour, in the flash of a thought out of his old self.
If only to be borne through this great country on this
wide water-way to the sea can work this change in a man's
heart, what miracle might not be wrought by a few years
of life in its solitude?
The principle of "panning" out gold is simple, and
any woman could perform the work successfully without
instruction, success depending upon the delicacy of manipulation. From fifty cents to two hundred dollars a pan
are obtained by this old-fashioned but fascinating method.
Think of wandering through this splendid, gold-set
country in the matchless summers when there is not an
hour of darkness; with the health and the appetite to
enjoy plain food and the spirit to welcome adventure ; to
pause on the banks of unknown creeks and try one's luck,
not knowing what a pan may bring forth ; to lie down
476 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
one night a penniless wanderer, so far as gold is concerned, and, perhaps, to sleep the next night on banks
that wash out a hundred dollars to the pan - could one
choose a more fascinating life than this?
Rockers are wooden boxes which are so constructed
that they gently shake down the gold and dispose of the
gravel through an opening in the bottom. Sluicing is
more interesting than any other method of extracting
gold, but this will be described as we saw the process
separate the glittering gold from the dull gravel at Nome.
The two great commercial companies of the North
today are the Northern Commercial Company and the
North American Transportation and Trading Company.
The Alaska Commercial Company and the North American Transportation and Trading Company were the first
to be established on the Yukon, with headquarters at St.
Michael, near the mouth of the river. In 1898 the Alaska
Exploration Company established its station across the bay
from St. Michael on the mainland ; and during that year
a number of other companies were located there, only
two of which, however, proved to be of any permanency -
the Empire Transportation Company and the Seattle-
Yukon Transportation Company.
In 1901 the Alaska Commercial, Empire Transportation,
and Alaska Exploration companies formed a combination
which operated under the names of the Northern Commercial Company and the Northern Navigation Company, the
former being a trading and the latter a steamship company. Owing to certain conditions, the Seattle-Yukon
Transportation Company was unable to join the combination ; and its properties, consisting principally of three
steamers, together with four barges, were sold to the
newly formed company. During the first year of the
consolidation the North American Transportation and
Trading Company worked in harmony with the Northern
Navigation Company, Captain I. N. Hibberd, of San Francisco, having charge of the entire lower river fleet, with
the exception of one or two small tramp boats.
478 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
By that time very fine combination passenger and
freight boats were in operation, having been built at
Unalaska and towed to St. Michael. In its trips up and
down the river, each steamer towed one or two barges,
the combined cargo of the steamer and tow being about
eight hundred tons. It was impossible for a boat to make
more than two round trips during the summer season, the average time required being fourteen days on the "up"
trip and eight on the " down " for the better boats, and
twenty and ten days respectively for inferior ones, without barges, which always added at least ten days to a
After a year the North American Transportation and
Trading Company withdrew from the combination and
has since operated its own steamers.
Of all these companies the Alaska Commercial is the
oldest, having been founded in 1868 ; it was the pioneer
of American trading companies in Alaska, and was for
twenty years the lessee of the Pribyloff seal rookeries.
It had a small passenger and freight boat on the Yukon
in 1869. The other companies owed their existence to
the Klondike gold discoveries.
The two companies now operating on the Yukon have
immense stores and warehouses at Dawson and St. Michael,
and smaller ones at almost every post on the Yukon ;
while the N. C. Company, as it is commonly known, has
establishments up many of the tributary rivers.
As picturesque as the Hudson Bay Company, and far
more just and humane in their treatment of the Indians, the American companies
have reason to be proud of their record in the far North. In 1886, when a large
number of miners started for the Stewart River mines, the agent of the A. C.
Company at St. Michael received advice from headquarters in San Francisco that
an extra amount of provisions had been sent to him, to meet all possible
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 479
demands that might be invade upon him during the winter.
He was further advised that the shipment was not made
for the purpose of realizing profits beyond the regular
schedule of prices already established, but for humane
purposes entirely - to avoid any suffering that might
occur, owing to the large increase in population. He
was, therefore, directed to store the extra supplies as a
reserve to meet the probable need, to dispose of the same
to actual customers only and in such quantities as would
enable him to relieve the necessities of each and every
person that might apply. Excessive prices were prohibited, and instructions to supply all persons who might
be in absolute poverty, free of charge, were plain and unmistakable.
Men of the highest character and address have been placed at the head of the
various stations, - men with the business ability to successfully conduct the
company's important interests and the social qualifications that would enable
them to meet and entertain distinguished travelers
through the wilderness in a manner creditable to the company. Tourists, by the way, who go to Alaska without
providing themselves with clothes suitable for formal
social functions are frequently embarrassed by the omission. Gentlemen may hasten to the company's store -
which carries everything that men can use, from a toothpick to a steamboat - and array themselves in evening
clothes, provided that they are not too fastidious concerning the fit and the style ; but ladies might not be so fortunate. Nothing is too good for the people of Alaska,
and when they offer hospitality to the stranger within
their gates, they prefer to have him pay them the compliment of dressing appropriately to the occasion. If voyagers to Alaska will consider this advice they may spare
themselves and their hosts in the Arctic Circle some unhappy moments.
480 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
Yukon summers are glorious. There is not an hour
of darkness. A gentleman who came down from " the
creeks " to call upon us did not reach our hotel until
eleven o'clock. He remained until midnight, and the
light in the parlor when he took his departure was as at
eight o'clock of a June evening at home. The lights were
not turned on while we were in Dawson; but it is another
story in winter.
Clothes are not " blued " in Dawson. The first morning after our arrival I was summoned to a window to
inspect a clothes-line.
" Will you look at those clothes! Did you ever see
such whiteness in clothes before ? "
I never had, and I promptly asked Miss Kinney what
her laundress did to the clothes to make them look so
" I'm the laundress," said she, brusquely. " I come
out here from Chicago to work, and I work. I was half
dead, clerking in a store, when the Klondike craze come
along and swept me off my feet. I struck Dawson broke.
I went to work, and I've been at work ever since. I
have cooks, and chambermaids, and laundresses ; but it
often happens that I have to be all three, besides landlady,
at once. That's the way of the Klondike. Now, I must
go and feed those malamute pups ; that little yellow one
is getting sassy."
She had almost escaped when I caught her sleeve and
"But the clothes - I asked you what makes them so
white - "
" Don't you suppose," interrupted she, irascibly, " that
I have too much work to do to fool around answering the
questions of a cheechaco ? I'm not traveling down the
Yukon for fun ! "
This was distinctly discouraging; but I had set out to
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 481
learn what had made those clothes so white. Besides, I was
beginning to perceive dimly that she was not so hard as
she spoke herself to be ; so I advised her that I should not
release her sleeve until she had answered my question.
She burst into a kind of lawless laughter and threw her
hand out at me.
" Oh, you ! Well, there, then ! I never saw your beat !
There ain't a thing in them there clothes but soap-suds,
renched out, and sunshine. We don't even have to rub
clothes up here the way you have to in other places; and
we never put in a pinch of blueing. Two-three hours of
sunshine makes 'em like snow."
" But how is it in winter ? "
She laughed again.
" Oh, that's another matter. We bleach 'em out enough
in summer so's it'll do for all winter. Let go my sleeve
or you won't get any blueberries for lunch."
This threat had the desired effect. Surely no woman
ever worked harder than Miss Kinney worked. At four
o'clock in the mornings we heard her ordering maids and
malamute puppies about ; and at midnight, or later, her
springing step might be heard as she made the final rounds,
to make sure that all was well with her family.
We were greatly amused and somewhat embarrassed on
the day of our arrival. We saw at a glance that the only
vacant room was too small to receive our baggage.
" I'll fix that," said she, snapping her fingers. " I just
gave a big room on the first floor to two young men. I'll
make them exchange with you."
It was in vain that we protested.
" Now, you let me be ! " she exclaimed ; " I'll fix this.
You're in the Klondike now, and you'll learn how white
men can be. Young men don't take the best room and let
women take the worst up here. If they come up here
with that notion, they soon get it taken out of 'em - and
482 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
I'm just the one to do it. Now, you let me be ! They'll
be tickled to death."
Whatever their state of mind may have been, the exchange was made ; but when we endeavored to thank
her, she snapped us up with: -
" Anybody'd know you never lived in a white country,
or you wouldn't make such a fuss over such a little thing.
We're used to doing things for other people up here ", she
Miss Kinney gave us many surprises during our stay,
but at the last moment she gave us the greatest surprise
of all. Just as our steamer was on the point of leaving,
she came running down the gangway and straight to us.
Her hands and arms were filled with large paper bags,
which she began forcing upon us.
"There! " she said. "I've come to say good-by and
bring you some fruit. I'd given you one of those malamute puppies if I could have spared him. Well, good-by
and good luck ! "
We were both so touched by this unexpected kindness in
one who had taken so much pains to conceal every touch of
tenderness in her nature, that we could not look at one an-
other for some time ; nor did it lessen our appreciation to
remember how ceaselessly and how drudgingly Miss Kinney worked and the price she must have paid for those
great bags of oranges, apples, and peaches - for freight
rates are a hundred and forty dollars a ton on " perishables."
It set a mist in our eyes every time we thought about it.
It was our first taste of Arctic kindness ; and, somehow,
its flavor was different from that of other latitudes.
Dawson is gay socially, as it has always been. In
summer the people are devoted to outdoor sports, which
are enjoyed during the long evenings. There is a good
club-house for athletic sports in winter, and the theatres
are well patronized, although, in summer, plays commence
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 483
at ten or ten-thirty and are not concluded before one. As
in all English and Canadian towns, business is resumed at
a late hour in the morning, making the hours of rest correspond in length to ours.
Two young Yale men who were traveling in our party
had been longing to see a dance-hall, - a " real Klondike
dance-hall," - but they came in one midnight, their faces
eloquent with disgust.
" We found a dance-hall at last,'' said one. "They hide
their light under such bushels now that it takes a week to
find one ; the mounted police don't stand any foolishness.
Then - think of a dance-hall running in broad daylight!
No mystery no glitter, no soft, rosy glamour - say, it
made me yearn for bread and butter. Do you know
where Miss Kinney keeps her bread jar and blueberries?
Honestly, I don't know anything or any place that could
cultivate a taste in a young man for sane and decent things
like one of these dance-halls here. I never was so disappointed in my life. I can go to church at home ; I didn't
come to the Klondike for that. Why, the very music itself sounded about as lively as 'Come, Ye Disconsolate
Come on, Billy ; let's go to bed."
Xo one should visit Dawson without climbing, on a clear
day, to the summit of the hill behind the town, which is
called " the Dome." The view of the surrounding country
from this point is magnificent. The course of the winding,
widening Yukon maybe traced for countless miles; the
little creeks pour their tawny floods down into the Klondike before the longing eyes of the beholder ; and faraway
on the horizon faintly shine the snow-peaks that beautify
almost every portion of the northern land.
The. wagon roads leading from Dawson to the mining
districts up the various creeks are a distinct surprise.
They were built by the Dominion government and are
said to be the best roads to be found in any mining district
484 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
in the world. A Dawson man will brag about the roads,
while modestly silent about the gold to which the roads lead.
" You must go up into the creeks, if only to see the
roads," every man to whom one talks will presently say.
" You can't beat 'em anywheres."
Claim staking in the Klondike is a serious matter.
The mining is practically all placer, as yet, and a creek
claim comprises an area two hundred and fifty feet along
the creek and two thousand feet wide. This information
was a shock to me. I had always supposed, vaguely, that
a mining claim was a kind of farm, of anywhere from
twenty to sixty acres; and to find it but little larger than
the half of a city block was a chill to my enthusiasm.
They explained, however, that the gravel filling a pan
was but small in quantity, that it could be washed out in
ten minutes, and that if every pan turned out but ten
dollars, the results of a long day's work would not be bad.
Claims lying behind and above the ones that front on
the creeks are called "hill" claims. They have the same
length of frontage, but are only a thousand feet in width.
In staking a claim, a post must be placed at each corner
on the creek, with the names of the claim and owner and
a general description of any features by which it may be
identified; the locator must take out a free miner's license,
costing seven dollars and a half, and file his claim at the
mining recorder's office within ten days after staking.
No one can stake more than one claim on a single creek,
but he may hold all that he cares to acquire by purchase,
and he may locate on other creeks. Development work
to the amount of two hundred dollars must be done yearly
for three years, or that amount paid to the mining recorder; this amount is increased to four hundred dollars
with the fourth year. The locator must secure a certificate to the effect that the necessary amount of yearly
work has been done, else the claim will be cancelled.
When the B. R. Campbell drew away from the Dawson
wharf at nine o'clock of an August morning, another of
my dreams was "come true." I was on my way down'
the weird and mysterious river that calls as powerfully in
its way as the North Pacific Ocean. For years the mere
sound of the word " Yukon " had affected me like the
clash of a wild and musical bell. The sweep of great
waters was in it - the ring of breaking ice and its thunderous fall ; the roar of forest fires, of undermined plunging cliffs, of falling trees, of pitiless winds ; the sobs of
dark women, deserted upon its shores, with white children
on their breasts ; the mournful howls of dogs and of their
wild brothers, wolves; the slide of avalanches and the
long rattle of thunder - for years the word "Yukon" had
set these sounds ringing in my ears, and had swung
before my eyes the shifting pictures of canyon, rampart,
and plain ; of waters rushing through rock walls and
again loitering over vast lowlands to the sea ; of fore-stated
mountains, rose thickets, bare hills, pale cliffs of clay, and
ranges of sublime snow-mountains. Yet, with all that I
had read, and all that I had heard, and all that I had
imagined, I was unprepared for the spell of the Yukon;
for the spaces, the solitude, the silence. At last I was to
learn how well the name fits the river and the country,
and how feeble and how ineffectual are both description
and imagination to picture this country so that it may be
486 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
Six miles below Dawson the site of old Port Reliance is
passed, and forty-six miles farther Forty-Mile River
pours its broad flood into the Yukon. About eight miles
up this river, at the lower end of a canyon, a strong current has swept many small boats upon dangerous rocks
and the occupants have been drowned. The head of
the Forty-Mile is but a short distance from the great
The settlement of Forty-Mile is the pioneer mining-
camp of the Yukon. The Alaska Commercial Company
established a station here soon after the gold excitement
of 1887; and, as the international boundary line crosses
Forty-Mile River twenty-three miles from its mouth and
many of the most important mining interests depending
upon the town for supplies are on the American side, a
bonded' warehouse is maintained, from which American
goods can be drawn without the payment of duties. As
late as 1895 quite a lively town was at the mouth of the
river, boasting even an opera house; but the town was
depopulated upon the discovery of gold on the Klondike.
Six years ago the settlement was flooded by water banked
up in Forty-Mile River by ice, and the residents were
taken from upstairs windows in boats. The former name
of this river was Che-ton-deg, or "Green Leaf," River.
Now there are a couple of dozen log cabins, a dozen or
more red-roofed houses, and store buildings. The steamer
pushed up sidewise to the rocky beach, a gang-plank was
floated ashore, and a customs inspector came aboard. On
the beach were a couple of ladies, some members of the
mounted police in scarlet coats, and fifty malamute dogs,
snapping, snarling, and fighting like wolves over the food
flung from the steamer.
The dog is to Alaska what the horse is to more civilized countries - the intelligent, patient, faithful beast of
burden. He is of the Eskimo or " malamute " breed.
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 487
Laving been bred with the wolf for endurance; or he is a
" husky " from the Mackenzie River.
Eskimo dogs are driven with harness, hitched to sleds,
and teams of five or seven with a good leader can haul
several hundred pounds, if blessed with a kind driver. In
summer they have nothing to do but sleep, and find their
food as best they may. Along the Yukon they haunt
steamer landings and are always fed by the stewards
who can thus muster a dog fight for the pleasure of heart-
less passengers at a moment's notice.
With the coming of winter a kind of electric strength
seems to enter into these dogs. They long for the harness
and the journeys over snow and ice ; and for a time they
leap and frisk like puppies and will not be restrained. They
are about the size of a St. Bernard dog, but of very different shape ; the leader is always an intelligent and superior
animal and his eyes frequently hold an almost human appeal.
He is fairly dynamic in force, and when not in harness will
fling himself upon food with a swiftness and a strength
that suggest a missile hurled from a catapult. Nothing
can check his course ; and he has been known to strike his
master to the earth in his headlong rush of greeting -
although it has been cruelly said of him that he has no
affection for any save the one that feeds him, and not for
him after his hunger is satisfied.
The Eskimo dog seldom barks, but he has a mournful,
wolflike howl. His coat is thick and somewhat like wool,
and his feet are hard; he travels for great distances without becoming footsore, and at night he digs a deep hole
in the snow, crawls into it, curls up in his own wool, and
sleeps as sweetly as a pet Spitz on a cushion of down.
His chief food is fish. If the Alaska dog is not affectionate, it is because for generations he has had no cause for affection. No dog with such eyes - so asking and so
human-like in their expression - could fail to be
488 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
affectionate and devoted to a master possessing the qualities
which inspire affection and devotion.
In winter all the mails are carried by dogs, covering
hundreds of miles.
Half a mile below Forty-Mile the town of Cudahy was
founded in 1892 by the North American Trading and
Transportation Company, as a rival settlement.
Fifty miles below Forty-Mile, at the confluence of Mission Creek with the Yukon, is Eagle, having a population
of three or four hundred people. It has the most northerly customs office and military post, Fort Egbert, belonging to the United States, and is the terminus of the
Valdez-Eagle mail route and telegraph line. It is also of
importance as being but a few miles from the boundary.
Fort Egbert is a two-company post, and usually, as at
the time of our visit, two companies are stationed there.
The winter of 1904-1905 was the gayest in the social history of the fort. Several ladies, the wives and the sisters
of officers, were there, and these, with the wife of the company's agent and other residents of the town, formed a
brilliant and refined social club.
From November the 27th to January the 16th the sun
does not appear above the hills to the south. The two
" great " days at Eagle are the 16th of January, - " when
the sun comes back," - and the day " when the ice breaks
in the river," usually the 12th of May. On the former
occasion the people assemble, like a band of sun-worshippers, and celebrate its return.
The vegetable and flower gardens of Eagle were a revelation of what may be
expected in the agricultural and floral line in the vicinity of the Arctic
Circle. Potatoes, cabbages, cauliflower, lettuce, turnips, radishes, and other
vegetables were in a state of spendthrift luxuriance that cannot be imagined by
one who has not traveled in a
country where vegetables grow day and night.
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 489
In winter Eagle is a lonely place. The only mail it
receives is the monthly mail passing through from Dawson to Nome by dog sleds ; and no magazines, papers, or
parcels are carried.
It was from Eagle that the first news was sent out to
the world concerning Captain Amundsen's wonderful discovery of the Northwest Passage; here he arrived in midwinter after a long, hard journey by dog team from the
Arctic Ocean and sent out the news which so many brave
navigators of early days would have given their lives to
be able to announce.
Within five years a railroad will probably connect Eagle
with the coast at Valdez ; meantime, there is a good government trail, poled by a government telegraph line.
Eagle came into existence in 1898, and the fort was
established in 1899.
" Woodings-up " are picturesque features of Yukon
travel. When the steamer does not land at a wood yard,
mail is tied around a stick and thrown ashore. Fancy
standing, a forlorn and homesick creature, on the bank
of this great river and watching a letter from home
caught by the rushing current and borne away! Yet
this frequently happens, for heart affairs are small
matters in the Arctic Circle and receive but scant
On the Upper Yukon wood is five dollars a cord ; on
the Lower, seven dollars ; and a cord an hour is thrust
into the immense and roaring furnaces.
During " wooding-up " times passengers go ashore and
enjoy the forest. There are red and black currants, crab-
apples, two varieties of salmon-berries, five of huckleberries, and strawberries. The high-bush cranberries are
very pretty, with their red berries and delicate foliage.
Nation is a settlement of a dozen log cabins roofed with
dirt and flowers, the roofs projecting prettily over the
490 ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY
front porches. The wife of the storekeeper has lived
here twenty-five years, and has been " outside " only once
in twelve years. Passengers usually go ashore especially
to meet her, and are always cordially welcomed, but are
never permitted to condole with her on her isolated life.
The spell of the Yukon has her in thrall, and content
shines upon her brow as a star. Those who go ashore to
pity, return with the dull ache of envy in their worldly
hearts ; for there be things on the Yukon that no worldly
heart can understand.
We left Eagle in the forenoon and at midnight landed
at Circle City, which received this name because it was
first supposed to be located within the Arctic Circle. We
found natives building houses at that hour, and this is
my most vivid remembrance of Circle. Gold was discovered on Birch Creek, within eight miles of the settlement, as early as 1892 ; and until the Klondike excitement this was the most populous camp on the Yukon,
more than a thousand miners being quartered in the
vicinity. Like other camps, it was then depopulated ;
but many miners have now returned and a brilliant discovery in this vicinity may yet startle the world. The
output of gold for 1906 was two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. About three hundred miners are operating
on tributaries up Birch Creek. The great commercial
companies are established at all these settlements on the
Yukon, where they have large stores and warehouses.
Early on the following morning we were on deck to
cross the Arctic Circle. One has a feeling that a line
with icicles dangling from it must be strung overhead,
under which one passes into the enchanted realm of the
" Feel that ? " asked the man from Iowa of a big, unsmiling Englishman.
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 491
"Feel er - what?" said the Englishman.
"That shock. It felt like stepping on the third rail of
an electric railway."
But the Iowa humor was scorned, and the Englishman
We soon landed at Fort Yukon, the only landing in the
Arctic Circle and the most northerly point on the Yukon.
This post was established at the mouth of the Porcupine
in 1847 by A. H. McMurray, of the Hudson Bay Company, and was moved in 1864 a mile lower on the Yukon,
on account of the undermining of the bank by the wash
of the river. During the early days of this post goods
were brought from York Factory on Hudson Bay, four
thousand miles distant, and were two years in transit.
The whole Hudson Bay system, according to Dall, was
one of exacting tyranny that almost equaled that of the
Russian Company. The white men were urged to marry
Indian, or native, women, to attach them to the country.
The provisions sent in were few and these were consumed
by the commanders of the trading posts or given to chiefs,
to induce them to bring in furs. The white men received
three pounds of tea and six of sugar annually, and no flour.
This scanty supply was uncertain and often failed. Two
suits of clothes were granted to the men, but nothing else
until the furs were all purchased. If anything remained
after the Indians were satisfied, the men were permitted to
purchase ; but Indians are rarely satisfied.
Fort Yukon has never been of importance as a mining
centre, but has long been a great fur trading post for the
Indians up the Porcupine. This trade has waned, however, and little remains but an Indian village and the old
buildings of the post. We walked a mile into the woods
to an old graveyard in a still, dim grove, probably the
only one in the Arctic Circle.
The Yukon is a mighty and a beautiful river, and its
memory becomes more haunting and more compelling
with the passage of time. From the slender blue stream
of its source, it grows, in its twenty-three hundred miles of
wandering to the sea, to a width of sixty miles at its mouth.
In its great course it widens, narrows, and widens ; cuts
through the foot-hills of vast mountain systems, spreads
over flats, makes many splendid sweeping curves, and
slides into hundreds of narrow channels around spruce-
It is divided into four great districts, each of which has
its own characteristic features. The valley extending
from White Horse to some distance below Dawson is
called the " upper Yukon," or " upper Ramparts," the
river having a width of half a mile and a current of four
or five miles an hour, and the valley in this district being
from one to three miles in width.
Following this are the great "Flats" - of which one
hears from his first hour on the Yukon ; then, the " Ram-
parts"; and last, the "lower Yukon" or "lower river."
The Flats are vast lowlands stretching for two hundred
miles along the river, with a width in places of a hundred
miles. Their very monotony is picturesque and fascinates
by its immensity. Countless islands are constantly forming, appearing and disappearing in the whimsical changes
of the currents. Indian, white, and half-breed pilots
patrol these reaches, guiding one steamer down and
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 493
another up, and by constant travel keeping themselves
fairly familiar with the changing currents. Yet even
these pilots frequently fail in their calculations.
At Eagle a couple of gentlemen joined our party down
the river on the Campbell, expecting to meet the same day
and return on the famous Sarah - as famous as a steamer
as is the island of the same name on the inland passage ;
but they went on and on and the Sarah came not. One
day, two days, three days, went by and they were still
with us. One was in the customs service and his time
was precious. Whenever we approached a bend in the
river, they stood in the bow of the boat, eagerly staring
ahead ; but not until the fourth day did the cry of
" Sarah " ring through our steamer. Hastening on deck,
we beheld her, white and shining, on a sand-bar, where
she had been lying for several days, notwithstanding the
fact that she had an experienced pilot aboard.
Throughout the Flats lies a vast network of islands,
estimated as high as ten thousand in number, threaded
by countless channels, many of which have strong currents,
while others are but still, sluggish sloughs. Mountains
line the far horizon lines, but so far away that they frequently appear as clouds of bluish pearl piled along the
sky; at other times snow-peaks are distinctly visible.
Cottonwoods, birches, and spruce trees cover the islands
so heavily that, from the lower deck of a steamer, one
would believe that he was drifting down the single channel of a narrow river, instead of down one channel of a
river twenty miles wide.
It is within the Arctic Circle that the Yukon makes its
sweeping bend from its northwest course to the southwest, and here it is entered by the Porcupine ; twenty
miles farther, by the Chandelar ; and just above the Ram-
parts, by the Dall. These are the three important rivers
of this stretch of the Yukon.
494 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
Many complain of the monotony of the Flats ; but for
me, there was not one dull or uninteresting hour on the
Yukon. In my quiet home on summer evenings I can
still see the men taking soundings from the square bow of
our steamer and hear their hoarse cries : -
" Six feet starboard ! Five feet port ! Seven feet starboard ! Five feet port ! Five feet starboard ! . Four feet
port ! " At the latter cry the silent watchers of the pilot-
house came to attention, and we proceeded under slow bell
until a greater depth was reached.
On the shores, as we swept past, we caught glimpses of
dark figures and Indian villages, or, farther down the
river, primitive Eskimo settlements ; and the stillness,
the pure and sparkling air, the untouched wilderness, the
blue smoke of a wood-chopper's lonely fire, the wide spaces
swimming over us and on all sides of us, charmed our
senses as only the elemental forces of nature can charm.
One longs to stay awake always on this river ; to pace
the wide decks and be one with the solitude and the still-
ness that are not of the earth, as we know it, but of God,
as we have dreamed of him. .
The blue hills of the Ramparts are seen long before entering them. The valley contracts into a kind of canyon,
from which the rampart-like walls of solid stone rise
abruptly from the water. The hills are not so high as
those of the Upper Ramparts, which bear marked resemblance to the lower ; and although many consider the
latter more picturesque, I must confess that I found no
beauty below Dawson so majestic as that above. Many
of the hills here have a rose-colored tinge, like the hills
of Lake Bennett.
In places the river does not reach a width of half a
mile and is deep and swift. The shadows between the
high rock-bluffs and pinnacled cliffs take on the mysterious purple tones of twilight ; many of the hills are
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 495
covered with spruce, whose dark green blends agreeably with
the gray and rose color. The bends here are sharp and
many ; at the Rapids the current is exceedingly rapid,
and Dall reported a fall of twelve feet to the half mile,
with the water running in sheets of foam over a granite
island in the middle of the stream. This was on June 1,
1866. In August, 1883, Schwatka, after many hours of
anxiety and dread of the reputed rapids, inquired of Indians and learned that he had already passed them.
They were not formidable at the time of our voyage, -
August, - and it is only during high stages of water that
they present a bar to navigation.
We reached Rampart at six o'clock in the morning.
After Tanana, this is the loveliest place on the Yukon.
Its sparkling, emerald beauty shone under a silvery blue
sky. There was a long street of artistic log houses and
stores on a commanding bluff, up which paths wound
from the water. Roofs covered with earth and flowers,
carried out in brilliant bloom over the porches, added the
characteristic Yukon touch. Every dooryard and window blazed with color. Narrow paths ran through tall
fireweed and grasses over and around the hill - each
path terminating, like a winding lane, in a pretty log-
cabin home. There was an atmosphere of cleanliness,
tidiness, and thrift not found in other settlements along
Captain Mayo, who, with McQuesten, founded Rampart
in 1873, still lives here. The two commercial companies
have large stores and warehouses ; and residences were
comfortably, and even luxuriously, furnished.
Rampart is two hundred and thirty miles below Fort
Yukon, and is about halfway between Dawson and the
sea. It has a population of four or five hundred people
when they are in from the mines I - and almost as
many fighting, hungry dogs. Its street winds, and the
496 ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY
buildings follow its windings ; sometimes it stops altogether, and the buildings stop with it - then both go on
again ; and in front of all the public buildings are clean
rustic benches, where one may sit and " look to the rose
about him." The river here is half a mile wide, and on
its opposite shore the green fields of the government experimental station slope up from the water.
Gold was discovered on Minook Creek, half a mile from
town, in 1895, and the camp is regarded as one of the
most even producers in Alaska. In 1906, despite an unusually dry season, the output of the district was three
hundred and fifty thousand dollars.
In the afternoon of the same day we reached Tanana,
which is, as I have said, the most beautiful place on the
Yukon. It has a splendid site on a level plateau ; and
all the spring-like greenness, the cleanliness and order,
the luxuriant vegetation, of Dawson, are outdone here.
One walks in a maze of delight along streets of tropic, instead of arctic, bloom. The log houses are set far back
from the streets, and the deep dooryards are seas of tremulous color, through which neat paths lead to flower-roofed
homes. Cleanliness, color, and perfume are everywhere
delights, but on the lonely Yukon their unexpectedness
In 1900 Fort Gibbon was established here, and this
post has the most attractive surroundings of any in Alaska.
Tanana is situated at the mouth of the Tanana River,
seventy-five miles below Rampart, and passengers for
Fairbanks connect here with luxurious steamers for a
voyage of three hundred miles up the Tanana. It is a
beautiful voyage and it ends at the most progressive and
metropolitan town of the North.
In the autumn of 1902 Felix Pedro, an experienced
miner and prospector, crossed the divide between Birch
and McManus creeks and entered the Tanana Valley.
Previous to that year many people had traveled
through the valley, on their way to the Klondike, by the
Valdez route ; and a few miners from the Birch Creek
and Forty-Mile diggings had wandered into the Tanana
country, without being able to do any important prospecting because of the distance from supplies; but Pedro was
the first man to discover that gold existed in economic
quantities in this region, and his coming was an event of
One of the best tests of the importance and value of
geological survey work lies in the significant report of
Mr. Alfred H. Brooks for the year of 1898 - four years
before the discoveries of Mr. Pedro : -
"We have seen that the little prospecting which has
been done up to the present time has been too hurried and
too superficial to be regarded as a fair test of the region.
Our best information leads us to believe that the same
horizons which carry gold in the Forty-Mile and Birch
Creek districts are represented in the Tanana and White
River basins. ... I should advise prospectors to carefully investigate the small tributary streams of the lower
White and of the Tanana from Mirror Creek to the
Pedro's discovery was on the creek which bears his
498 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
name, and before another year gold was discovered on
several other creeks. In 1901 a trading post was established by Captain E. T. Barnette, on the present site of
Fairbanks, and the development of the country progressed
rapidly. The Fairbanks Mining District was organized
and named for the present Vice-President of the United
States. In the autumn of 1903 eight hundred people
were in the district, and about thirty thousand dollars
had been produced, the more important creeks at that
time being Pedro, Goldstream, Twin Creek, Cleary, Wolf,
Chatham, and Fairbanks. In the fall of 190-t nearly
four thousand miners had come in, and the year's output
was three hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Fairbanks
and Chena had grown to thriving camps, and a brilliant
prosperity reigned in the entire district. Roads were
built to the creeks, sloughs were bridged, and Fairbanks'
" boom " was in full swing. It was the old story of a
camp growing from tents to shacks in a night, from
shacks to three-story buildings in a month. The glory
of the Klondike trembled and paled in the brilliance
of that of Fairbanks. Every steamer for Valdez was
crowded with men and women bound for the new camp
by way of the Valdez trail; while thousands went by
steamer, either to St. Michael and up the Yukon, or
to Skaguay and down the Yukon, to the mouth of the Tanana.
Fairbanks is now a camp only in name. It has all the
comforts and luxuries of a city, and is more prosperous
and progressive than any other town in Alaska or the
Yukon. It started with such a rush that it does not seem
to be able to stop. It is the headquarters of the Third
Judicial District of Alaska, which was formerly at Rampart ; it has electric light and water systems, a fire department, excellent and modern hotels, schools, churches,
hospitals, daily newspapers, a telegraph line to the outside
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 499
world which is operated by the government, and a telephone system which serves not only the city, but all the
creeks as well.
The Tanana Mines Railway, or Tanana Valley Railway,
as it is now called, was built in 1905 to connect Fairbanks
with Chena and the richest mining claims of the district ;
and two great railroads are in coarse of construction
from Prince William Sound.
In 1906 the output of gold was more than nine millions
of dollars, and had it not been for the labor troubles in
1907, this output would have been doubled. In the
earlier days of the camp the crudest methods of mining
were employed ; but with the improved transportation
facilities, modern machinery was brought in and the difficulties of the development were greatly lessened.
Upon a first trip to Fairbanks, the visitor is amazed
at the size and the metropolitan style and tone of this
six-year-old camp in the wilderness.
It is situated on the banks of the Chena River, about
nine miles from its confluence with the Tanana. It has
a level town site, which looks as though it might extend to the Arctic Circle. The main portion of the
town is on the right bank of the river, the railway
terminal yards, saw-mills, manufacturing plants, and industries of a similar nature being located on the opposite shore, on what is known as Garden Island, the
two being connected by substantial bridges. The city
is incorporated and, like other incorporated towns of
Alaska, is governed by a council of seven members,
who elect a presiding officer who is, by courtesy, known
as mayor. The executive officers of the municipal government consist of a clerk, treasurer, police magistrate,
chief of police, chief of the fire department, street commissioner, and physician.
The municipal finances are derived from a share in
500 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
federal licenses, from the income derived from the local
court, from poll taxes, and from local taxation of real
and personal property. From all these sources the
municipal treasury was enriched during the year of 1906
by about ninety-five thousand dollars.
Each of the three banks operates an assay office under
the supervision of an expert. The population of the district is from fifteen to twenty thousand, of which five
thousand belong permanently to the town. The climate
is dry and sparkling ; the summers are delightful, the
winters still and not colder than those of Minnesota,
Montana, and the Dakotas, but without the blizzards of
those states. In 1906 the coldest month was January,
the daily mean temperature being thirty-six degrees below
zero, but dry and still. Travel over the trail by dog team
is continued throughout the winter, skating and other
outdoor sports being as common as in Canada.
Five saw-mills are in operation, with an aggregate daily
capacity of a hundred and ten thousand feet, the entire
product being used locally. There is an abundance of
poplar, spruce, hemlock, and birch ; an unlimited water
supply ; a municipal steam-heating plant ; two good hospitals ; two daily newspapers ; graded schools, - the four-year course of the high school admitting the student to
the Washington State University and to high educational
institutions of other states ; a Chamber of Commerce and
a Business Men's Association ; twelve hotels, five of which
are first class ; while every industry is represented several
This is Fairbanks, the six-year-old mining-camp of the
At Tanana our party was enlarged by a party of four
gentlemen, headed by Governor Wilford B. Hoggatt, of
Juneau, who was on a tour of inspection of the country
Our steamer, too, underwent a change while we were
ashore. We now learned why its bow was square and
wide. It was that it might push barges up and down the
Yukon ; and it now proceeded, under our astonished eyes,
to push four, each of which was nearly as large as itself.
All the days of my life, as Mr. Pepys would say, I have
never beheld such an object floating upon the water.
The barges were fastened in front of us and on both sides
of us; two were flat and uncovered, one was covered, but
open on the sides, while the fourth was a kind of boat and
was crowned with a real pilot-house, in which was a real
We viewed them in open and hostile dismay, not yet
recognizing them as blessings in disguise ; we then laughed
till we wept, over our amazing appearance as we went
sweeping, be-barged, down to the sea. Four barges to one
steamboat ! One barge would have seemed like an insult,
but four were perfectly ridiculous. The governor was
told that they constituted his escort of honor, but he would
not smile. He was in haste to get to Nome ; and barges
We swept down the Yukon like a huge bird with wide
wings outspread; and those of us who did not care
502 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
whether we went upon a sand-bar or not soon became infatuated with barges.
Straight in front of our steamer we had, on one barge, a low, clean promenade a
hundred feet long by fifty wide; on the others were shady, secluded nooks, where one might lie on rugs and cushions,
reading or dreaming, ever and anon catching glimpses
of native settlements - tents and cabins ; thousands of
coral-red salmon drying on frames ; groups of howling
dogs ; dozens of silent dark people sitting or standing
motionless, staring at their whiter and more fortunate
brothers sweeping past them on the rushing river.
Poor, lonely, dark people ! As lonely and as mysterious,
as little known and as little understood, as the mighty
river on whose shores their few and hard days are spent.
Little we know of them, and less we care for them. The
hopeless tragedy of their race is in their long, yearning
gaze ; but we read it not. We look at them in idle curiosity as we flash past them; and each year, as we return,
we find them fewer, lonelier, - more like dark sphinxes
on the river's banks. As the years pass and their
numbers diminish, the mournfulness deepens in their
gaze ; it becomes more questioning, more haunting. The
day will come when they will all be gone, when no longer
dark figures will people those lonely shores ; and then we
will look at one another in useless remorse and cry : -
" Why did they not complain ? Why did they not ask
us to help them ? Why did they sit and starve for every-
thing, staring at us and making no sign ? "
Alas I when that day comes, we will learn - too late !
that there is no appeal so poignant and so haunting as
that which lies in the silence and in the asking eyes of
these dark and vanishing people.
Below Rampart the hills withdraw gradually until they
become but blue blurs on the horizon line during the last
miles of the river's course. It is now the lower river
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 503
and becomes beautifully channeled and islanded. Across
these low, wooded, and watered plains the sunset burns
like a maze of thistledown touched with ruby fire - burns
down, at last, into the rose of dawn ; and the rose into
emerald, beryl, and pearl.
Not far above Nulato the Koyukuk pours its tawny
flood into the Yukon. For many years the Koyukuk has
given evidences of great richness in gold, but high prices
of freight and labor have retarded its progress. During
the past winter, however, discoveries have been made
which promise one of the greatest stampedes ever known.
Louis Olson, after several seasons in the district, experienced a gambler's "hunch" that there "was pay on
Nolan Creek." He and his associates started to sink, and
the first bucket they got off bedrock netted seven dollars ;
the bedrock, a slate, pitched to one side of the hole, and
when they had followed it down and struck a level bedrock, they got two hundred and sixty dollars.
" Our biggest pan," said Mr. Olson, telling the story
when he came out, one of the richest men in Alaska, " was
eighteen hundred dollars. You can see the gold lying in
Captain E. W. Johnson, of Nome, who had grub-staked
two men in the Koyukuk, " fell into it," as miners say.
They struck great richness on bedrock, and Captain Johnson promptly celebrated the strike by opening fifteen
hundred dollars' worth of champagne to the cam[).
Within ten days three pans of a thousand dollars each
were washed out. Coldfoot, Bettles, Bergman, and
Koyukuk are the leading settlements of this region, the
first two lying within the Arctic Circle. Interest has revived in the Chandelar country which adjoins on the east.
Really, Seward's "land of icebergs, polar bears, and
walrus," his "worthless, God-forsaken region," is doing
fairly well, as countries go.
504 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
Nulato, nearly three hundred miles below Tanana, is
one of the most historic places on the Yukon, and has the
most sanguinary history. It was founded in 1838 by a
Russian half-breed named Malakoff, who built a trading
post. During the following winter, owing to scarcity of
provisions, he was compelled to return to St. Michael,
and the buildings were burned by natives who were jealous of the advance of white people up the river. The
following year the post was reestablished and was again
destroyed. In 1841 Derabin erected a fort at this point,
and for ten years the settlement flourished. In 1851,
however. Lieutenant Bernard, of the British ship Enterprise, arrived in search of information as to the fate of Sir
John Franklin. Unfortunately, he remarked that he intended to " send for " the principal chief of the Koyukuks.
This was considered an insult by the haughty chief, and
it led to an assault upon the fort, which was destroyed.
Derabin, Bernard and his companions, and all other white
people at the fort were brutally murdered, as well as
many resident Indians. The atrocity was never avenged.
Nulato is now one of the largest and most prosperous
Indian settlements on the river. A large herd of reindeer
is quartered there. There was, as every one interested in
Alaska knows, a grave scandal connected with the reindeer industry a few years ago. Many of the animals imported by the government from Siberia at great expense,
for the benefit of needy natives and miners, were appropriated by missionaries without authority ; but after an
investigation by a special agent of the government there
was an entire reorganization of the system. In all. congress appropriated more than two hundred and twenty
thousand dollars, with which twelve hundred reindeer
have, at various times, been imported. There are now
about twelve thousand head in Alaska, of which the government owns not more than twenty-five hundred. There
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 505
are also stations at Bethel, Beetles, Iliamna, Kotzebue,
St. Lawrence Island, Golovnin, Teller, Cape Prince of
Wales, Point Barrow, and at several other points. They
are used for sledding purposes and for their meat and
hides, really beautiful parkas and mukluks - the latter
a kind of skin boot - being made of the hides.
A native woman named Mary Andrewuk has a large
herd, is quite wealthy, and is known as the " Reindeer
We reached Anvik at seven in the evening. Anvik
is like Uyak on Kadiak Island, and I longed for the
frank Swedish sailor who had so luminously described
Uyak. If there be anything worth seeing at Anvik -
and they say there is a graveyard! - they must first kill
the mosquitoes ; else, so far as I am concerned, it will
forever remain unseen. Under a rocky bluff two dozen
Eskimo, men and women, sat fighting mosquitoes and
trying to sell wares so poorly made that no one desired
them. Eskimo dolls and toy parkas were the only things
that tempted us ; and hastily paying for them, we fled on
board to our big, comfortable stateroom, whose window
was securely netted from the pests which made the very
We left Anvik at midnight. We were to arrive at
Holy Cross Mission at four o'clock the same morning.
Expecting the Campbell to arrive later in the day, the
priest and sisters had arranged a reception for the governor, in which the children of the mission were to take
part. Thinking of the disappointment of the children,
the governor decided to go ashore, even at that unearthly
hour, and we were invited to accompany him. We were
awakened at three o'clock.
The dawn was bleak and cheerless ; it was raining
slightly, and the mosquitoes were as thick and as
hungry as they had been at the Grand Canyon. Of all
506 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
the passengers that had planned to go ashore, there
appeared upon the sloppy deck only four - the governor,
a gentleman who was traveling with him, my friend, and
myself. We looked at one another silently through rain
and mosquitoes, and before we could muster up smiles
and exchange greetings, an officer of the boat called out: -
" Governor, if it wasn't for those damn disappointed
children, I'd advise you not to go ashore."
We all smiled then, for the man had put the thought
of each of us into most forcible English.
We were landed upon the wet sand and we waded through
the tall wet grasses of the beach to the mission. At every
step fresh swarms of mosquitoes rose from the grass and
assailed us. A gentleman had sent us his mosquito hats.
These were simply broad-brimmed felt hats, with the
netting gathered about the crowns and a kind of harness
fastening around the waist.
The governor had no protection ; and never, I am sure,
did any governor go forth to a reception and a "programme " in his honor in such a frame of mind and with
such an expression of torture as went that morning the
governor of "the great country." It was a silent and
dismal procession that moved up the flower-bordered walk
to the mission - a procession of waving arms and flapping
handkerchiefs. At a distance it must have resembled a
procession of windmills in operation, rather than of human
beings on their way to a reception in the vicinity of the
So ceaseless and so ferocious were the attacks of the
mosquitoes that before the sleeping children were aroused
and ready for their programme, ray friend and I, notwithstanding the protection of the hats, yielded in sheer exhaustion, and, without apology or farewell, left the unfortunate governor to pay the penalty of greatness ; left him
to his reception and his programme ; to the earnest priests,
ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY 507
the smiling, sweet-faced sisters, and the little solemn-eyed
This mission is cared for by the order of Jesuits. Two
priests and several brothers and sisters reside there.
Fifty or more children are cared for yearly, educated
and guided in ways of thrift, cleanliness, industry, and
morality. They are instructed in all kinds of useful
work. About forty acres of land are in cultivation; the
flowers and vegetables which we saw would attract
admiration and wonder in any climate. The buildings
were of logs, but were substantially built and attractive,
each in its setting of brilliant bloom. How these sisters,
these gentle and refined women, whose faces and manner
unconsciously reveal superior breeding and position, can
endure the daily and nightly tortures of the mosquitoes
" They are not worth notice now," one said, with her
sweet and patient smile. " Oh, no ! You should come
earlier if you would see mosquitoes."
" Our religion, you know," another said gently, " helps
us to bear all things that are not pleasant. In time one
does not mind."
In time one does not mind! It is another of the lessons
of the Yukon ; and reading, one stands ashamed. There
those saintly beings spend their lives in God's service.
Nothing save a divine faith could sustain a delicate
woman to endure such ceaseless torment for three months
in every year; and yet, like the lone woman at Nation,
their faces tell us that we, rather than they, are for pity.
The stars upon their brows are the white and blessed stars
The steamer lands at neither Russian Mission nor Andreaofsky; but at both may be seen, on grassy slopes,
beautiful Greek churches, with green, pale blue, and yellow
roofs, domes and bell-towers, chimes and glittering crosses.
508 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
Down where the mouth of the Yukon attains a width
of sixty miles we ran upon a sand-bar early in the afternoon, and there we remained until nearly midnight. It
was a weird experience. Dozens of natives in bidarkas
surrounded our steamer, boarded our barges, and offered
their inferior work for sale. The brown lads in reindeer
parkas were bright-eyed and amiable. Cookies and gum
sweetened the way to their little wild hearts, and they
would hold our hands, cling to our skirts, and beg for
A splendid, stormy sunset burned over those miles of
water-threaded lowlands at evening. Rose and lavender
mists rolled in from the sea, parted, and drifted away into
the distances stretching on all sides; they huddled upon
islands, covering them for a few moments, and then, with-
drawing, leaving them drenched in sparkling emerald
beauty in the vivid light; they coiled along the horizon,
like peaks of rosy pearl; and they went sailing, like elfin
shallops, down poppy-tinted water-ways. Everywhere
overhead geese drew dark lines through the brilliant atmosphere, their mournful cries filling the upper air with the
weird and lonely music of the great spaces. Up and
down the water-ways slid the bidarkas noiselessly; and
along the shores the brown women moved among the
willows and sedges, or stood motionless, staring out at
their white sisters on the stranded boat. There were
times when every one of the millions of sedges on island
and shore seemed to flash out alone and apart, like a dazzling emerald lance quivering to strike.
They are dull of soul and dull of imagination who complain of monotony on the Yukon Flats. There is beauty
for all that have eyes wherewith to see. It is the beauty
of the desert ; the beauty and the lure of wonderful
distances, of marvelous lights and low skies, of dawns
that are like blown roses, and as perfumed, and sunsets
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 509
whose mists are as burning dust. When there is no color
anywhere, there is still the haunting, compelling beauty
that lies in distance alone. Vast spaces are majestic and
awesome ; the eye goes into them as the thought goes into
the realm of eternity - only to return, wearied out with the
beauty and the immensity that forever end in the fathom-
less mist that lies on the far horizon's rim. It is a mist
that nothing can pierce ; vision and thought return from
it upon themselves, only to go out again upon that mute
and trembling quest which ceases not until life itself ceases.
The northernmost mouth of the Yukon has been called
the Aphoon or Uphoon, ever since the advent of the Russians, and is the channel usually selected by steamers, the
Kwikhpak lying next to it on the south. By sea-coast
measurement the most northerly mouth is nearly a hundred
miles from the most southerly, and five others between
them assist in carrying the Yukon's gray, dull yellow, or
rose-colored floods out into Behring Sea, whose shallow
waters they make fresh for a long distance. It is not
without hazard that the flat-bottomed river boats make
the run to St. Michael ; and the pilots of steamers crossing out anxiously scan the sea and relax not in vigilance until the port is entered.
We were released from the sand-bar near midnight, and at eight o'clock on the
following morning we steamed around a green and lovely point and entered Norton
Sound, in whose curving blue arm lies storied St. Michael.
St. Michael is situated on the island of the same name,
about sixty miles north of the mouth of the Yukon. It was
founded in 1833 by Michael Tebenkoff, and was originally
named Michaelovski Redoubt. The Russian buildings
were of spruce logs brought by sea from the Yukon and
Kuskoquim rivers, as no timber grows in the vicinity of
St. Michael or Nome. Some of the original Russian buildings yet remain, - notably, the storehouse and the redoubt.
The latter is an hexagonal building of heavy hewn logs, with sloping roof,
flagstaff, door, and port-holes. It stands upon the shore, within a dozen steps
of the famous " Cottage," - the residence of the managers of the Northern
Commercial Company, under whose hospitable roof every traveler of note has been entertained for many years, -
and in front of it the shore slopes green to the water. inside lie half a dozen rusty Russian cannons, mutely testifying to the sanguinary past of the North.
The redoubt was attacked in 1836 by the hostile Unaligmuts of the vicinity, but it was successfully defended
by Kurupanoff. The Russians had a temporary landing-
place built out to deep water to accommodate boats drawing five feet ; this was removed when ice formed in the
ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY 511
bay. The tundra is rolling, with numerous pools that flame
like brass at sunset ; only low willows and alders grow on
the island and adjacent shores. The island is seven miles
wide and twenty-live long, and is separated from the mainland by a tortuous channel, as narrow as fifty feet in places.
The land gradually rises to low hills of volcanic origin
near the centre of the island. These hills are called the
Shaman Mountains. The meadow upon which the main
part of the town and the buildings of the post are situated
is as level as a vast parade-ground ; but the land rises
gently to a slender point that plunges out into Behring
Sea, whose blue waves beat themselves to foam and music
upon its tundra-covered cliffs.
On the day that I stood upon this headland the sunlight
lay like gold upon the island; the winds were low, murmurous, and soothing; flowers spent their color riotously about
me; the tundra was as soft as deep-napped velvet ; and
the blue waves, set with flashes of gold, went pushing
languorously away to the shores of another continent.
Scarcely a stone's throw from me was a small mountain-island, only large enough for a few graves, but with no
graves upon it. In all the world there cannot be another
spot so noble in which to lie down and rest when " life's
fevers and life's passions - all are past." There, alone, -
but never again to be lonely ! - facing that sublime sweep
of sapphire summer sea, set here and there with islands,
and those miles upon miles of glittering winter ice ; with
white sails drifting by in summer, and in winter the wild
and roaring march of icebergs ; with summer nights of
lavender dusk, and winter nights set with the great stars
and the magnificent brilliance of Northern Lights ; with
the perfume of flowers, the songs of birds, the music of lone
winds and waves, out on the edge of the world - could
any clipped and cared-for-plot be so noble a place in which
to lie down for the last time ? Could any be so close to God ?
512 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
The entire island is a military reservation, and it is only
by concessions from the government that commercial and
transportation companies may establish themselves there.
Fort St. Michael is a two-company post, under the command of Captain Stokes, at
whose residence a reception
was tendered to Governor Hoggatt. The filmy white
gowns of beautiful women, the uniforms of the officers, the
music, flowers, and delicate ices in a handsomely furnished
home made it difficult for one to realize that the function
was on the shores of Behring Sea instead of in the capital
of our country.
There is an excellent hotel at St. Michael, and the
large stores of the companies are well supplied with furs
and Indian and Eskimo wares. Beautiful ivory carvings,
bidarkas, parkas, kamelinkas, baskets, and many other
curios may be obtained here at more reasonable prices
than at Nome. There are public bath-houses where one
may float and splash in red-brown water that is never any
other color, no matter how long it may run, but which is
always pure and clean.
No description of St. Michael is complete that does
not include " Lottie." No liquors are sold upon the military reservation, and Lottie conducts a floating groggery
upon a scow. It has been her custom each fall to have her
barge towed up the canal just beyond the line of the military reservation, ten miles from the flag-staff at the barracks, thus placing herself beyond the control of the
authorities, greatly to their chagrin. In summer she
anchors her barge in one of the numerous bights along
the shore, and they are again powerless to interfere with
her brilliantly managed traffic, since it has been decided
that their sway extends over the land only.
It is Lottie's practice to have the barge made fast in
such a way that a boat can be run to it from the shore
on an endless line. One desiring a bottle of whiskey
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 513
approaches the boat and drops his money and order into
the bottom of it. The boat is then drawn out to the
barge, whiskey is substituted for the money, and the purchaser pulls the boat ashore, where it is left for the next
There is no witness to the transaction and it has been impossible to prove, the authorities claim, who put the money
and the whiskey into the boat, or took either therefrom.
Lottie's barge has operated for many years. Its illicit
transactions could easily have been stopped had the civil
authorities on shore taken a firm stand and worked in
conjunction with the military ; but there was the usual
jealousy as to the rights of the different officials - and
Lottie has profited by these conditions. Furthermore,
many people of the vicinity entertained a friendly feeling
for Lottie - not only those who were wont to draw the
little boat back and forth, but others in sheer admiration
of the ingenuity and skill with which she carried on her
business. She was careful in preserving order in her
vicinity, was very charitable, and frequently provided
for natives who would have otherwise suffered. Thus,
by her diplomacy, self-control, good business sense, and
many really worthy traits of character, Lottie has been
able to outwit the officials for years. Her barge still
floats upon the blue waves of Norton Sound. However,
it seems, even to a woman, that Lottie must be blessed
with " a friend at court."
We had been invited to voyage from St. Michael to
Nome - a distance of a hundred and eleven miles - on
the Meteor, a very small tug ; being warned, however,
that, should the weather prove to be unfavorable, our
hardships would be almost unendurable, as there was
only an open after-deck and no cabin in which to take
refuge. We boldly took our chances, remaining three
days at St. Michael.
514 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
Never had Beliring Sea, or Norton Sound, been known
to be so beautiful as it was on that fourteenth day of
August. We started at nine in the morning, and until
evening the whole sea, as far as the eye could reach in all
directions, was as smooth as satin, of the palest silvery
blue. Never have I seen its like, nor do I hope ever to
see it again. To think that such seductive beauty could
bloom upon a sea whereon, in winter, one may travel for
hundreds of miles on solid ice! At evening it was still
smooth, but its color burned to a silvery rose.
The waters we sailed now were almost sacred to some of
us. Over them the brave and gallant Captain Cook had
sailed in 1778, naming Capes Darby and Denbigh, on
either side of Norton Bay; he also named the bay and the
sound and Besborough, Stuart, and Sledge islands ; and
it was in this vicinity that he met the family of cripples.
But of most poignant interest was St. Lawrence Island, lying far to our westward, discovered and named by
Vitus Behring on his voyage of 1728. If he had then
sailed to the eastward for but one day !
Everyone has read of the terrors of landing through the
pounding surf of the open roadstead at Nome. Large ships
cannot approach within two miles of the shore. Passengers and freight are taken off in lighters and launches
when the weather is " fair " ; but fair weather at Nome is
rough weather elsewhere. When they call it rough at
Nome, passengers remain on the ships for days, waiting to
land. Frequently it is necessary to transfer passengers
from the ships to dories, from the dories to tugs, from
the tugs to flat barges. The barges are floated in as
far as possible; then an open platform - miscalled a cage
is dropped from a great arm, which looks as though it
might break at any moment ; the platform is crowded
with passengers and hoisted up over the boiling surf.
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 515
swinging and creaking in a hair-crinkling fashion, and at
last depositing its large-eyed burden upon the wharf at
Nome. I had pitied cattle when I had seen them unloaded in this manner at Valdez and other coast towns!
We anchored at eleven o'clock that night in the Nome
roadstead. In two minutes a launch was alongside and
a dozen gentlemen came aboard to greet the governor.
We were hastily transferred in the purple dusk to the
launch. The town, brilliantly illuminated, glittered like
a string of jewels along the low beach ; bells were ringing, whistles were blowing, bands were playing, and all
Nome was on the beach shouting itself hoarse in welcome.
There was no surf, there was not a wave, there was
scarce a ripple on the sea. The launch ran smoothly
upon the beach and a gangway was put out. It did not
quite reach to dry land and men ran out in the water,
picked us up unceremoniously, and carried us ashore.
The most beautiful landing ever made at Nome was the
one made that night ; and the people said it was all
arranged for the governor.
There was an enthusiastic reception at the Golden Gate
Hotel, followed by a week's brilliant functions in his
Three days later the Meteor came over from St. Michael,
with a distinguished Congressman aboard. The weather
was rough, even for Nome, and for three blessed days
the Meteor rolled in the roadstead, and with every roll it
went clear out of sight.
There were those at the hotel who differed politically
from the Congressman aboard the little tug ; and, like the
people of Nome when the senatorial committee was handed
under such distressful circumstances a few years ago,
their faces did not put on mourning as they watched the
Nome ! Never in all the world has been, and never again will be, a town so
wonderfully and so picturesquely built. Imagine a couple of miles of two and
three story frame buildings set upon a low, ocean-drenched beach and, for the
most part, painted white, with the back doors of one side of the main business
street jutting out over the water ; the town widening for a considerable
distance back over the tundra; all things jumbled together - saloons, banks,
dance-halls, millinery-shops, residences, churches, hotels, life-saving
stations, government buildings, Eskimo camps, sacked coal piled a hundred feet
high, steamship offices, hospitals, schools - presenting the appearance of having been flung up into the air and left
wherever they chanced to fall ; with streets zigzagging in
every conceivable and inconceivable, way - following the
beach, drifting away from it, and returning to it ; one
building stepping out proudly two feet ahead of its
neighbor, another modestly retiring, another slipping in at
right angles and leaving a V-shaped space; board sidewalks, narrow for a few steps, then wide, then narrow
again, running straight, curving, jutting out sharply ;
in places, steps leading up from the street, in others the
streets rising higher than the sidewalks ; boards, laid upon
the bare sand in the middle of the streets for planking,
wearing out and wobbling noisily under travel ; every
second floor a residence or an apartment-house ; crude
signs everywhere, and tipsy telephone poles ; the streets
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 517
crowded with men at all hours of the day and night; and a blare of music
bursting from every saloon. This is Nome at first sight ; and it was with a sore
and disappointed heart that I laid my head upon my pillow that
But Nome grows upon one ; and by the end of a week
it had drawn my heartstrings around it as no orderly,
conventional town could do. From the very centre of
the business section it is but twenty steps to the sea ;
and there, day and night, its surf pounds upon the beach,
its musical thunder and fine mist drifting across the
Ten years ago there was nothing here save the golden
sands, the sea that broke upon them, and the gray-green
tundra slopes ; there is not a tree for fifty miles or more.
Today there is a town of seven thousand people in summer, and of three or four thousand in winter - a town
having most of the comforts and many of the luxuries to
be obtained in cities of older civilization. Nome sprang
into existence in the summer of 1899, and grew like Fairbanks and Dawson ; but it is more wonderfully situated
than, probably, any town in the world. For eight months
of the year it is cut off from steamship service, and its front
door-yard is a sea of solid ice stretching to the shores of
Siberia, while its back jard is a gold-mine. There are
many weeks when the sun rises but a little way, glimmers
faintly for three or four hours, and fades behind the palisades of ice, leaving the people to darkness and unspeakable loneliness until it returns to its full brilliance
in spring and opens the way for the return of the ships.
Nome is picturesque by day or by night and at any
season. Its streets are constantly crowded with traffic
and thronged by a cosmopolitan population. The Eskimo
encampment is on the " sand-spit " at the northern end of
the main street, where Snake River flows into the sea ;
518 ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY
and the men, women, and children may be seen at all hours
loitering about the streets in reindeer parkas and mukluks.
Especially in the evenings do they haunt the streets and
the hotels, offering their beautifully carved ivories for sale.
Both the Eskimos and the Indians are lovers of music,
and the former readily yield to emotion when they hear
melodious strains. When a " Buluga," or white whale, is
killed, a feast is held and the natives sing their songs
and dance. The music of stringed instruments invariably
moves them to tears. At a recent Thanksgiving service
in Fairbanks, some visiting Indians were invited to sing
"Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful." With evident pleasure,
they sang it as follows : -
" Oni, tsenuan whuduguduwhuta yilh,
Oni, yuwhun duthsh, oui nokhlhan,
At Point Barrow, three hundred miles northeast of
Behring Strait, an old Eskimo who could not speak one
word of English was heard to whistle " The Holy City,"
and it filled the hearer's heart with home-loneliness. A
trader had sold the old native music-lover a phonograph,
receiving in pay two white polar bear-skins, worth several
Some one gave an ordinary French harp to a little Es-
kimo lad on our steamer ; and from early morning until
late at night he sat on a companionway, alone, indifferent
to all passers-by, blowing out softly and sweetly with
dark lips the imprisoned beauty of his soul.
All the islands of Behring Sea, as well as the coast of
the Arctic Ocean, are inhabited by Eskimos. From the
largest island, St. Lawrence, to the small Diomede on
the American side, they have settlements and schools.
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 519
St. Lawrence is eighty miles long- by fifteen in width;
while the Diomede is only two miles by one. The natives
beg pitifully for education - " to be smart, like the white
man." We shrink from their filth and their immorality,
but we teach them nothing better ; yet we might see
through their asking eyes down into their starved souls
if we would but look.
In many ways Nome is the most interesting place in
Alaska. It is at once so pagan and so civilized; so crude
and so refined. It is the golden gateway through which
thousands of people pass each summer to and from the
interior of Alaska. Treeless and harborless it began
and has continued, surmounting all obstacles that lay in
its way of becoming a city. It has a water system that
supplies its household needs, with steam pipes laid parallel
to the water pipes, to thaw them in winter - and then it
has not a yard of sewerage. It has a wireless telegraph
station, a telephone service, and electric-light plant ; and
it is seeking municipal steam-heating. Electric lighting
is excessively high, owing to the price of coal, and many
use lamps and candles. There are three good newspapers,
which play important parts in the politics of Alaska -
the Nugget, the Gold-Digger, and the News; three banks,
with capital stocks ranging from one to two hundred
thousand dollars, each of which has an assay-office ;
two good public schools ; three churches ; hospitals ;
and a telephone system connecting all the creeks and
camps within a radius of fifty miles with Nome. The
orders of Masons, Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias,
Eagles, and Arctic Brotherhood have clubs at Nome. The
Arctic Brotherhood is the most popular order of the
North, and the more important entertainments are usually
given under its auspices and are held in its club-rooms;
the wives of its members form the most exclusive society
of the North.
520 ALASKA : THE GREAT COUNTRY
The spirit of Nome is restless ; it is the spirit of the
gold-seeker, the seafarer, the victim of wanderlust ; and it
soon gets into even the visitor's blood. Millions of dollars have been taken out of the sands whereon Nome is
now built, and millions more may be waiting beneath it.
It seemed as though every man in Nome should be digging
on the beach, in the streets, in cellars.
" Why are not all these men digging ? " I asked, and
they laughed at me.
" Because every inch of tundra for miles back is
" Then why do not the locators dig, dig, day and night? "
" Oh, for one reason or another."
If I owned a claim on the tundra back of Nome, nothing
save sudden death could prevent my digging.
New strikes are constantly being made, to keep the
people of Nome in a state of feverish excitement and
dynamic energy. When we landed, we found the town
wild over a thirty-thousand-dollar clean-up on a claim
named " Number Eight, Cooper Gulch." Four days later
an excursion was arranged to go out on the railroad - for
they have a railroad - to see another clean-up at this
We started at nine o'clock, and we did not return until
five ; and it rained steadily and with exceeding coldness
all day. There was a comfortable passenger-car, but
despite the wind and the rain we preferred the box-cars,
roofed, but open at the sides. The country which we
traversed for six miles possessed the indescribable fascination of desolation. Behind us rolled the sea ; but on all
other sides stretched wide gray tundra levels, varied by
low hills. Hills they call them here, but they are only
slopes, or mounds, with here and there a treeless creek
winding through them. The mist of the rain drove across
them like smoke.
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 521
We were received at the mine by Captain and Mrs.
Johnson and Mr. Corson, the owners. The ladies were
entertained in the Johnsons' cabin home and the gentle-
men at a near-by cabin, there being twelve ladies and
twenty gentlemen in the party. An immense bowl of
champagne punch - the word " punch " being used for
courtesy - stood outside the ladies' cabin and was not
allowed to grow empty. Late in the afternoon the heap
of empty champagne bottles outside the gentlemen's cabin
resembled in size one of the numerous gravel dumps scattered over the tundra ; yet not a person showed signs of
intoxication. They told us that one may drink champagne as though it were water in that latitude ; and
this is one northern " story " which I am quite willing to
At noon a bountiful and delicious luncheon was served
at the mess-house. It was this same fortunate Captain
Johnson, by the way, who opened fifteen hundred dollars'
worth of champagne when bedrock was reached in his
Sluicing is fascinating. A good supply of water with
sufficient fall is necessary. Some of the claims are on
creeks, but the owners of others are compelled to buy
water from companies who supply it by pumping-plants
and ditches. Boxes, or flat-bottomed troughs, are formed
of planks with slats, or " riffles," fastened at intervals
across the bottom. Several boxes are arranged on a
gentle slope and fitted into one another. The boxes
at " Number Eight " were twenty feet in length and
slanted from the ground to a height of twelve feet on
scaffolding. A narrow planking ran along each side of
the telescoped boxes, and upon these frail foundations we
stood to view the sluicing. The gravel is usually shoveled
into the boxes, but "Number Eight" has an improved
method. The gravel is elevated into an immense hopper-like
522 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
receptacle, from which it sifts down into the sluice-
boxes on each side, and a stream of water is kept running
steadily upon it from a large hose at the upper end. Men
with whisk brooms sweep up the gold into glistening heaps,
working out the gravel and passing it on, as a housewife
works the whey out of the yellowing butter. The gold,
being heavy, is caught and held by the riffles ; if it is very
fine, the bottoms of the boxes are covered with blankets,
or mercury is placed at the slats to detain it.
The clean-up that day was twenty-nine thousand dollars, and each lady of the party was presented with a gold
nugget by Mrs. Johnson. We were taken down into the
mine, where we went about like a company of fireflies, each
carrying his own candle. The ceiling was so low that we
were compelled to walk in a stooping position. On the
following morning we went to a bank and saw this clean-
up melted and run into great bricks.
The lure and the fascination of virgin gold is undeniable. It catches one and all in its glistening, mysterious
web. A man may sell his potato patch in town lots and
become a millionaire, without attracting attention ; but
let him " strike pay on bedrock " - and instantly he walks
in a golden mist of glory and romance before his fellow-
men. It may be because the farmer deposits his money in
the bank, while the miner "sets up" the champagne to
his less fortunate friends. Be that as it may, it is a sluggish pulse that does not quicken when one sees cones of
beautiful coarse gold and nuggets washed and swept out
of the gravel in which it has been lying hundreds of years,
waiting. If Behring had but landed upon this golden
beach, Alaska - despite all the eloquence and the earnest-
ness of Seward and Sumner - might not now be ours.
To the Nome district have been gradually added those
of Topkuk, Solomon, and Golovin Bay, forty-five miles to
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 523
eastward on the shores of Norton Sound, Cripple Creek,
Bluff, Penny, and a chain of diggings extending up the
coast and into the Kotzebue country, including the rich
Kougarok and Blue Stone districts, Candle Creek, and
When gold was discovered at Nome, prospectors scattered over the Seward Peninsula in all directions. Some
drifted west into the York district, near Cape Prince of
Wales, the extreme western point of the North American
continent. In this region they found gold in the streams,
but sluicing was so difficult, owing to a heavy gravel which
they encountered, that they abandoned their claims, not
knowing that the impediment was stream-tin. Wiser
prospectors later recognized the metal and located claims.
The tin is irregularly distributed over an area of four hundred and fifty square miles, embracing the western end of
the peninsula. The United States uses annually twenty
million dollars' worth of tin, which is obtained largely
from the Straits Settlement, although much comes from
Ecuador, Bolivia, Australia, and Cornwall. Tin cannot at
present be treated successfully in this country, owing to
the lack of smelter facilities ; but now that it has been
discovered in so vast quantities and of so pure quality in
the Seward Peninsula, smelters in this country will doubtless be equipped for reducing tin ores.
The centre of the tin-mining industry is at Tin City, a
small settlement three miles west of Teller, Cape Prince
of Wales, and is reached by small steamers which ply from
Nome. Several corporations are developing promising-
properties with large stamp-mills. Both stream-tin and
tin ore in ledges are found throughout the district.
The Council district is the oldest of Seward Peninsula,
the first discovery of gold having been made therein 1898,
by a party headed by Daniel P. Libby, who had been
through the country with the Western Union's Expedition
524 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
in 1866. Hearing of the Klondike's richness, he returned to Seward Peninsula and soon found gold on Fish
River. He and his party established the town of Council
and built the first residence ; it now has a population of
eight hundred. This district is fore-stated with spruce of
fair size and quality.
The Ophir Creek Mines are of great value, having produced more than five millions of dollars by the crudest of
mining methods. The Kougarok is the famous district of
the interior of the peninsula. Mary's Igloo - deriving its
name from an Eskimo woman of some importance in early
days - is the seat of the recorder's office for this district.
It has a post-office and is an important station. May it
never change its striking and picturesque name !
The entire peninsula, having an area of nearly twenty-
three thousand miles, is liable to prove to be one vast goldmine, the extreme richness of strikes in various localities
indicating that time and money to install modern machinery and develop the country are all that are required to
make this one of the richest producing districts of the
The leading towns of the peninsula are Council, Solomon,
Teller, Candle, Mary's Igloo, and Deering, on Kotzebue
Sound. Solomon is on Norton Sound, at the mouth of
Solomon River ; a railroad runs from this point to Council.
The early name of Seward Peninsula was Kaviak - the
name of the Innuit people inhabiting it.
Gold was discovered on Anvil Creek in the hills behind
Nome in September, 1898, by Jafet Lindeberg, Erik Lindblom, and John Brynteson, the "three lucky Swedes."
In the following summer gold was discovered on the beach,
and in 1900 occurred the memorable stampede to Nome,
when fifteen thousand people struggled through the surf
during one fortnight. Then began the amazing building
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 525
of the mining-camp on the northwesternmost point of the
continent. Anvil Creek, Dexter, Dry and Glacier creeks.
Snow and Cooper gulches, have yielded millions of dollars. The tundra reaching back to the hills five or six
miles from the sea is made up of a series of beach lines,
all containing deposits of gold. Five millions of dollars
in dust were taken from the famous " third " beach line in
one season ; and its length is estimated at thirty or forty
miles. The hills are low and round-topped, and beyond
them - thirty miles distant - are the Kigluaik Mountains,
known to prospectors by the name of Sawtooth. Among
their sharp and austere peaks is the highest of the peninsula, rising to an altitude of four thousand seven hundred
feet by geological survey.
There are several railroads on the peninsula. Some are
but a few miles in length, the rails are narrow and " wavy,"
the trains run by starts and plunges and stop fearsomely ;
but they are railroads. One can climb into the box-cars
or the one warm passenger-coach and go from Nome out
among the creeks, - to Nome River, to Anvil Creek, to
Kougarok and Hot Springs, from Solomon to the Council Country, - and Nome is only ten years old.
Nome has a woman's club. It is federated and it owns
its club-house, a small but pretty building. Its name is
Kegoayah Kosga, or Northern Lights. It held an open
meeting while we were in Nome. Bishop Rowe described
a journey by dog sled and canoe. Congressman Sulzer
gave an informal talk, and the ladies of the club presented an interesting programme. The afternoon was
the most profitable I have spent at a woman's club.
For two or three months in summer it is all work at
Nome ; but when the snow begins to drive in across the
town ; when the last steamer drifts down the roadstead
and disappears before the longing eyes that follow it;
when the ice piles up, mile on mile, where the surf
526 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
dashed in summer, and the wind in the chimneys plays
a weird and lonely tune ; then the people turn to cards
and dance and song to while away the long and dreary
months of darkness. The social life is gay; and poker
parties, whereat gambling runs high, are frequent.
" I'd like to give a poker party for you," said a handsome young woman, laughing, " but I suppose it would
shock you to death."
We confessed that we would not be shocked, but that,
not knowing how to play the game, we declined to be
"bluffed" out of all our money.
" Oh, we are easy on cheechacos," said she, lightly.
" Do come. We'll play till two o'clock, and then have a
little supper ; curlew, plovers, and champagne - the ' big
cold bottle and the small hot bird.' "
When we still declined, she looked bored as she said
politely : -
" Oh, very well ; let us call it a five-hundred party.
Surely, that is childlike enough for you. But the
I laughed at the thought of the men I had met in
Nome playing the insipid game of five-hundred.
" Then," said she, dolefully, " there's nothing left but
bridge - and we just gamble our pockets inside out on
bridge; it's worse than poker, and we play like fiends."
We suggested that, as General Greeley had come down
the river with us and would be over from St. Michael the
next day, they should wait for him ; when the first player
has led the first card, General Greeley knows in whose
hand every deuce lies, and I wickedly longed to see the
inside of Nome's composite pocket by the time General
Greeley had sailed away.
There was no party for us that night ; but there is a
wide, public porch behind a big store by the life-saving
station. It projects over the sea and about ten feet above
ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY 527
it, and upon this porch are benches whereon one may sit
alone and undisturbed until midnight, or until dawn,
for that matter, but alone - with the glitter of Nome
and the golden tundra behind one, and in front, the far,
faint lights of the ships anchored in the roadstead and
the tumultuous passion of waves that have lapped the
shores of other lands.
Sitting here, what thoughts come, unbidden, of the
brave and shadowy navigators of the past who have
sailed these waters through hardships and sufferings
that would cause the stoutest hearts of today to hesitate. Read the descriptions of the ships upon which
Arctic explorers embark at the present time - of their
stores and comforts ; and then turn back and imagine
how Simeon Deshneff, a Cossack chief, set sail in June,
two hundred and sixty years ago, from the mouth of the
Kolyma River in Siberia in search of fabled ivory. In
company with two other "kotches," which were lost, he
sailed dauntlessly along the Arctic sea-coast and through
Behring Strait from the Frozen Ocean. His " kotch "
was a small-decked craft, rudely and frailly fashioned of
wood ; in September of that year, 1648, he landed upon
the shores of the Chukchi Peninsula and saw the two
Diomede Islands, between which the boundary line now
runs. He must have seen the low hills of Cape Prince of
Wales, for it plunges boldly out into the sea, within twenty
miles of the Diomedes, but probably mistook them for
islands. Half a century later Popoff, another Cossack,
was sent to East Cape to persuade the rebellious Chukchis - as the Siberian natives of that region are called -
to pay tribute ; he was not successful, but he brought
back a description of the Diomede Islands and rumors of
a continent said to lie to the east. The next passage of
importance through the strait was that of Behring, who,
it 1728, sailed along the Siberian coast from Okhotsk,
528 ALASKA: THE GREAT COUNTRY
rounded East Cape, passed through the strait, and, after
sailing to the northeast for a day, returned to Okhotsk,
marvelously missing the American continent. Geographers refused to accept Behring's statement that Asia and
North America were not connected until it was verified
in 1778 by Cook, who generously named the strait for
the illustrious Dane.
Less than a day's voyage from Nome is the westernmost point of our country -
Cape Prince of Wales, the " Kingegan " of the natives. It is fifty-four miles from this cape
to the East Cape of Siberia, and like stepping-stones between lie Fairway Rock and the Diomedes. Beyond is
the Frozen Ocean. These islands are of almost solid
stone. They are snow-swept, ice-bound, and ice-bounded
for eight months of every year. But ah, the auroral
magnificence that at times must stream through the gates
of frozen pearl which swing open and shut to the Arctic
Sea ! What moonlights must glitter there like millions
of diamonds ; what sunrises and sunsets must burn like
opaline mist ! How large the stars must be - and how
bright and low! And in the spring - how this whole
northern world must tremble and thrill at the mighty
march of icebergs sweeping splendidly down through the
gates of pearl into Behring Sea.
In the preparation of this volume the following works have
been consulted, which treat wholly, or in part, of Alaska.
After the narratives of the early voyages and discoveries,
the more important works of the list are Bancroft's " History,"
Dall's " Alaska and Its Resources," Brooks' " Geography and
Geology," Davidson's "Alaska Boundary," Elliott's "Arctic
Province," Mason's " Aboriginal Basketry," Miss Scidmore's
" Guide-book," and " Proceedings of the Alaska Boundary
Abercrombie, Captain. Government Reports.
Alaska Club's Almanac. 1907, 1908.
Bales, L. L. Habits and Haunts of the Sea-otter. Seattle
Post-Intelligencer. April 7, 1907.
Bancroft, Hubert H. History of the Pacific States.
Volumes on Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Alaska,
and Northwest Coast. The volume on Alaska is a conscientious and valuable study of that country, the material for
which was gathered largely by Ivan Petroff.
Beattie, W. G. Alaska-Yukon Magazine. October, 1907.
Blaine, J. G. Twenty Years of Congress. Two volumes.
Bradt, J. G. Governor's Reports. 1902, 1904, 1905.
Brooks, Alfred H. The Geography and Geology of
Alaska. 1906. Also, Coal Resources of Alaska.
Butler, Sir William. Wild Northland. 1873.
Clark, Reed P. Mirror and American.
Cook, James. Voyage to the Pacific Ocean. 1784.
Coxe, William. Russian Discoveries. Containing diaries
of Steller, the naturalist, who accompanied Behring and Shelikoff, who made the first permanent Russian settlement in
America; also, an account of Deslmeff's passage through
Behring Strait in 1648. Fourth Edition. Enlarged. 1803.
Cunningham, J. T. Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Dall, William Healy. Alaska and Its Resources. An
accurate and important work. This volume and Bancroft's
Alaska are the standard historical works on Alaska.
Davidson, George. The Alaska Boundary. 1903. Also,
Glaciers of Alaska. 1904. Mr. Davidson's work for Alaska
covers many years and is of great value.
Dixon, George. Voyage Around the World. 1789.
Dorsey, John. Alaska- Yukon Magazine. October, 1907.
Dunn, Robert. Outing. February, 1908.
Elliott, Henry W. Our Arctic Province. 1886. This
book covers the greater part of Alaska in an entertaining
style and contains a comprehensive study of the Seal Islands.
Georgeson, C. C. Report of Alaska Agricultural Experimental Work. 1903, 1904, 1905, 1906.
Harriman. Alaska Expedition. 1904.
Harrison, E. S. Nome and Seward Peninsula.
Holmes, W. H. Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology. 1907.
Irving, Washington. Astoria.
Jewitt, John. Adventures. Edited by Robert Brown.
1896. John Jewitt was captured and held as a slave by the
Nootka Indians from 1803 until 1805.
Jones, R. D, Alaska- Yukon Magazine. October, 1907.
Kinzie, R. A. Treadwell Group of Mines. 1903.
Kostrometinoff, George. Letters and Papers.
La Perouse, Jean Francois. Voyage Around the World.
Mackenzie, Alexander. Voyages to the Arctic in 1789
and 1793. Two volumes.
McLain, J. S. Alaska and the Klondike. 1905.
Mason, Otis T. Aboriginal American Basketry. An exquisite and poetic work.
Moser, Commander. Alaska Salmon Investigations.
Muir, John. The Alaska Trip. Century Magazine. August,
Miller, Gerhard T. Voyages from Asia to America.
1761 and 1764.
Nord, Captain J. G. Letters and papers.
Portlock, Nathaniel. Voyage Around the World. 1789.
Proceedings of the Alaska Boundary Tribunal. Seven
Schwatka, Frederick. Along Alaska's Great River. 1886.
Lieutenant Schwatka voyaged down the Yukon on rafts in
1883 and wrote an interesting book. His namings were unfortunate, but his voyage was of value, and many of his surmises have proven to be almost
Scidmore, Eliza Ruhamah. Guide-book to Alaska. 1893.
Miss Scidmore's style is superior to that of any other writer on
Seattle Mail and Herald. March 7, 1903.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer. 1906, 1907, 1908.
Seattle Times. 1908.
Seward, Frederick W. Inside History of Alaska Purchase. Seward Gateway. March 17, 1906.
Shaw, W. T. Alaska- Yukon Magazine. October, 1907.
Simpson, Sir George. Journey Around the World. 1847.
Sumner, Charles. Oration on the Cession of Russian
America to the United States. 1867.
Tuttle, C. R. The Golden North. 1897.
Vancouver, George. Voyage of Discovery to the North Pacific Ocean. Three