Canadian Heroes of the Klondike Gold Rush
Posted on May 8, 1998
Listed by their native Province
Jim Wallwork - A cowboy from the foothills, Wallwork's claim to fame was hauling a small
steamboat, the Daisy Belle, over the mountains from Edmonton to Dawson City. It was a North
Saskatchewan sternwheeler. He dragged it over the summit from Shacktown to the Bell River, aided
by thirty Indian sled-dogs.
The little craft finally reached the Yukon and there, unable to face the swift current, ended
its days. Wallwork transferred the eight horsepower engine and the boiler to a York boat and
continued upstream to Dawson. No doubt it was enough for him that he had made it, for those who
set out from Edmonton to seek their fortunes counted themselves truly fortunate if they reached
Captain William Moore -
During the late 1880s, Moore owned a mansion in Victoria and his fleet of five steamboats had
earned him a fortune in the Cassiar stampede. Bankrupt by 1887, his possessions were auctioned
off by creditors. Long before George Carmack's strike, he was convinced there would be a gold
rush to the Klondike. He became determined to build a boom town at Skagway and in 1888 built a
cabin at the foot of the White Pass. When the influx came in 1897, newcomers ordered him off
his land to build a thoroughfare. He fought this in the courts for four years, in the meantime
building a mile-long wharf that would again earn him a fortune. Finally the courts awarded him
25% of the assessed value of all the lots within the original townsite.
Joe Brooks was a tough Vancouver extrovert who made a swift fortune as a mule packer
in Skagway, transporting goods for stampeders on their way to the Klondike. He kept the side
pockets of his sweater heavy with gold pieces so that, on entering the bar, he could pour them
onto the counter in a stream and shout: "Everybody drink!" Brooks arrived at Skagway on one of
the first boats in July, 1897. He pushed his team of seventeen mules into the water and swam
ashore with them. Soon his team had grown to three hundred and thirty-five, and he was garnering
as much as $5,000 a day. He became a familiar sight on Skagway's muddy streets, dashing up and
down Broadway on horseback at breakneck speed with his two small boys, one clutched under each
Major J.M. Walsh was an ex-N.W.M.P. officer working as a coal dealer in Winnipeg
when in June 1898 he was named commissioner (or governor) of the Yukon. His days as a Mountie
had earned him a strong reputation. He had been the first uniformed man to ride into Sitting
Bull's armed camp, the scalps of Custer's men still fresh there. His success in battles with
various Indian tribes was legendary. But Walsh only lasted two months in the Yukon. His Klondike
experience blemished his otherwise distinguished career. A series of scandalous incidents led to
his dismissal. Naturally, they involved gold. Walsh had allegedly used inside information and
coercion to ensure that his cook secured claims on Dominion Creek then turned percentages over
to Walsh and his brother.
Katherine Ryan grew up in New Brunswick and in 1898 joined the Klondike Gold Rush.
Although a dance hall girl, Kate Rockwell, took the nickname for herself, Ryan is reputed to be
the real Klondike Kate. Her participation in the gold rush involved encounters with gold diggers,
coureurs de bois and rebels. She was the first female member of the North West Mounted Police and
one of the first women to walk into the North over the rugged Stikine Trail.
"Big Alex" McDonald - The first "King of the Klondike" hailed from Nova Scotia. In addition to
"King" he was known as the "Big Moose from Antigonish" and "Big Alex." One of the shrewdest
individuals in the north, he bought when others sold and introduced the "lay" system to the
Klondike. He hired others to mine his property, allowing them a percentage keep, investing the
balance in more and more land. He rose to such heights of ownership that he became a true Dawson
"aristocrat." He became known on three continents and met with the Pope. In his final years,
McDonald's fortune disappeared. He had continued to buy land and much of it was worth nothing.
He eventually died of a heart attack while chopping wood outside his cabin on Clearwater Creek.
He was prospecting for gold until the very end.
Robert Douglas Henderson- The son of a Nova Scotia lighthouse keeper, Henderson had given up a
secure career in the carriage-making business to wander the world from one gold rush to another
in Australia, New Zealand and the United States. He is often credited with being the real
discoverer of gold in the Klondike, since he urged George Carmack to prospect the tributaries
of Indian River after panning some gold on one such creek he named "Gold Bottom."
Henderson might well have been one of the first to profit from Bonanza and Eldorado gold, but
an encounter with Carmack's Indian relatives, Skookum Jim and Dawson Charlie precluded that
eventuality. The two Indians asked Henderson if they could buy some of his tobacco and he
declined. When they later discovered the gold that would trigger the Klondike rush, they didn't
return to alert Henderson, prospecting nearby.
Bishop Isaac Stringer - Stringer had just finished his education at Wycliffe College in
Toronto when he was recruited for northern work. While spreading Christianity in the Yukon,
Stringer became better known as "The Bishop Who Ate His Boots." Lost in an ice fog at 40 below,
without provisions, Stringer hit on the idea of boiling his sealskin and walrus sole boots for
several hours, and then drinking the broth. According to the Bishop, it was "tough and stringy,
but palatable and fairly satisfying." Stringer lost 50 pounds, but eventually found his way to
a Native village where he was nursed back to health.
A.D. Stewart (former Mayor of Hamilton) -
Stewart became a public figure as a result of laying formal charges against Louis Riel after
the Saskatchewan Rebellion of 1885. His Klondike notoriety came by way of leading the Mackenzie
River expedition, planning to build a steamboat on the Athabasca. On March 13, 1899, Stewart
died of scurvy on the Peel River, "teeth all loose and gums very sore...In pitiable conditions,"
as his last diary entry reads. He was one of the most famous stampeders who died en route to the
Joseph Whiteside Boyle -
When Toronto-born Joe Boyle arrived in the Klondike at the beginning of the gold rush in 1897,
he was the thirty-year old manager, promoter and sparring partner of a declining champion
boxer named Frank Slavin. Not a wealthy man, Boyle at times boxed for money on dance hall stages.
He soon bought land along the gold-bearing creeks and rivers and became a utilities broker,
developing various industries around gold, timber, electricity and water. When he left the Yukon
in 1916, Boyle was the second man to be known as "King of the Klondike," reigning over an
enormous business empire founded on his extensive gold-dredging operations. Joe Boyle had become
one of the most prosperous and well-known figures in the North.
was Ottawa's official surveyor in the Klondike. Because of the wild manner by which
claims were initially staked on Bonanza and Eldorado Creeks, Ogilvie was called upon to re-survey.
In so doing, he found many claims were inaccurately measured. The result was a series of
"fractions," some of which yielded fortunes to new owners. Ogilvie was reputed to be as
incorruptible as he was scrupulous. Nobody dared bribe him. He was the embodiment of the
Canadian tradition of orderly administration.
Prince Edward Island:
George W. Mackintosh was a police officer in Prince Edward Island. When his wife,
who was a MicMac Indian, died, he was heartbroken. He headed for the Yukon where he served with
the North West Mounted Police during the Klondike Gold Rush. He met and married Dorthy from
California who was a PhD from Columbia University. They retired at Bear Creek where George
passed away. Dorthy continued to fend for herself in the Yukon, eventually being rewarded when
the Alaska Highway route was diverted so that it passed directly in front of her trading post.
Today, the rebuilt Mackintosh lodge sits on the very same site, rewarding visitors with a view
of the Kluane National Park Reserve.
M. Le Comte Carbonneau - "Count Carbonneau" is certainly Montreal's most famous Klondike character.
He arrived in Dawson City as a champagne salesman representing interests in Bordeaux, Paris and
New York. He married Belinda Mulroney from Scranton, Pa, who would become known as the richest
woman of the Klondike. She opened the Magnet Roadhouse at Grand Forks and the Fairview Hotel in
Dawson City before managing the largest mining company in the Yukon. In reality, Carbonneau was
no international champagne representative. Nor was he a French count. He was a barber from Rue
St. Denis in Montreal.