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White Horse Rapids, 1899. The rapids, an often fatal navigational hazard on the Yukon River, disappeared under Schwatka Lake when the Whitehorse Dam was completed in 1958. View full size.

[News accounts from the Gold Rush days often lumped all of the Far North under the heading “Alaska.” The events recounted here actually took place in Canada’s Yukon Territory.]

Marshfield Times / April 21, 1899

Bud Harkin Remembers His Cousin, Dan Harkin, With the Following Interesting Letter.

HOOTLINQUA [Hootalinqua], March 28, 1899.

D. F. HARKIN, ESQ., Marshfield, Wisconsin.


Your welcome and interesting letter received and to say that I was glad to hear from you would be putting it mild indeed. After a fellow has been holed up like a bear for five or six months, a few letters are a perfect Godsend. We were frozen in on the 5th of November and from that time until March did not hear a word from the outside. But the first part of this month I packed a blanket and 33 pounds of grub on my back and started for my mail, a nice little trip on snowshoes of 150 miles. I made the trip down, 75 miles, in three and one-half days. I had to break trail through the deep snow all the way and it was no picnic. My snowshoes were a pair I had manufactured out of rawhide and were not as light as the factory or Indian shoe, but were very good of course. The nights were not quite as comfortable as one could wish. One night I thought it was a little colder than usual and when I got down to the Hootlinqua Post I found it had been 58º below that night, and then I did not wonder that my six-pound blanket had not been sufficient to keep me warm. Still a person does not suffer from the cold up here as much as one would think. You see we had not been in a house all summer. We lived in a tent until the 20th of November, when we got our shack finished. Have been knocking around over the mountains all winter so we are used to the cold, and outside of two occasions I have noticed the cold less this winter than any winter that I can remember in Wisconsin.

I don’t know exactly where I will be this summer. It will depend a good deal on reports after the river opens up. I will prospect some of the rivers, probably the Big Salmon as some very good reports came in from there late last fall, and if they prove to have been true, this spring will see a little rush into that country. But the regulation grain of salt is not quite enough to take with the stories you hear in this northern country, for some of the reports are as misleading as anything could be. For instance, there is a company got a lease on ten miles of the Hootlinqua. It is the Klondike, Yukon & Copper River Co., and if you can get hold of one of their prospectus it will pay you to read it. Of course I do not personally know anything about any of their claims except the Hootlinqua, but they would make you believe the Hootlinqua was a Bonanza or an Eldorado, while the fact is that unless some of their other claims pay better than the Hootlinqua river, they will not make enough to pay for their printing. They publish an account of an assay they had made that went over $100 to the ton in gold and about that much in platinum. But the sample that they had the assay made on had been washed down and all the colors saved, so that while the man that made the assay might have been all right, the poor miner that would come and try to get wages out of working these same bars would find out that he would have to handle fifty tons or perhaps even a hundred to get what the report would lead him to believe was contained in one. Of course this was done to sell shares of the company’s stock. There is no doubt but what there is gold in the Hootlinqua, but thus far it has not been found in quantities that would pay, at the rate of wages and prices of provisions that rule in this country. Provisions will average 75 cents per lb., and then the cost of getting them up the river, and a man has to have something pretty good to stand it. They say provisions do not cost one-fifth as much in Dawson as they do here. The best prospect I know of on the Hootlinqua is from one to two cents a pan. They may get machinery that will make these kind of diggings pay, but the average prospector with a shovel and sluice box cannot do it, with grub at 75 cents per lb. Of course a man could bring in his provisions a good deal cheaper than that, but the prices that you must base your calculations on are the ones that prevail here. Still I think the country has a great future and after I make a little stake down the river, and they get mining down so as to get a system to make these cheap diggings pay, I will go back up the river and probably get something pretty fair out of it for there seems to be plenty of it and if they can make it pay to handle the gravel at these figures, there is enough to last for years, but at present it is N. G. in my opinion.

I came within an ace of making a pretty good haul after we were wrecked on the Teslin. The owner of the beef turned back and left us all the meat, 171 head of cattle. Well if we had got that to Dawson I would have been home for a visit by this time, but we could not make it. We have put up some and will take a little down to Dawson next spring but they say that prices are low now. There is plenty of game around us, moose, cariboo, wolves and bear, besides foxes, otter and beaver, but we had no traps or poison or we could have got a little for I shot a few wolves. They are big fellows and I guess if they ever made up their minds to tackle a man it would be all off with him unless he got up a tree.

There is a constant stream of people going and coming. Those going out are disgusted and those coming in are hopeful. I would not advise anyone who has anything at all outside to come in, but at the same time I would not quit the country for quite a bit for I firmly believe that by staying right with it and attending to one’s knitting it will pay well in the end. A great many who brought in provisions on speculation over the ice will lose money. They thought to get through to Dawson but most of them are hung up here and at other points along the river and will have to ship their stuff down on the steamboats. While provisions are high enough here the demand is limited and when they get to Dawson the prices will be less than it has cost them for transportation. Oh, it’s a curious country but I for one intend to make it win or stay in it until I am forced out.

I came in over the trail and have kept a diary and will be able to tell you all about it when I get out. Our route, the Ashcroft, was the longest overland route of the lot. On the trail I met Hamlin Garland, who was writing it up for McClure’s magazine, but of course we have got no magazines in here yet. Perhaps you have seen an account of the trip. It was a corker and no mistake — some pleasure and a good deal of hard work; but we passed through a perfect paradise for hunters or anglers.

Well I will choke off before I tire you out. Hoping to hear from you soon, I am, your cousin, BUD HARKIN.



Marshfield Times / May 22, 1903

The many friends of Bud Harkin were shocked Monday morning when they learned of the following telegram, which had been received by P. H. Harkin, telling of the drowning of Bud Sunday night at White Horse Rapids, Alaska:


P. H. Harkin, Marshfield, Wis.

Bud accidently drowned last night while coming through rapids in canoe. Cannot bring body home. BERTHA M. HARKIN.

The above dispatch is the only news that the family has been able to get, though a telegram was sent at once to Mrs. Harkin for more particulars and requesting that the body be forwarded here for burial, but up to last night nothing had been received.

The news of the young man’s sudden death came as a great surprise to his parents and other relatives as a letter dated May 1st had just been received from Bud in which he speaks of the pleasant weather they were enjoying at the time and that he and his wife, had just returned from picking wild flowers, and that they expected to make a visit to Marshfield in June.

Patrick Henry Harkin, or “Bud” as he was known and called by everybody who knew him, was born at Friendship, Fond du Lac county twenty-nine years ago last March. He secured his education in the Marshfield schools and was afterward employed as bookkeeper by B. F. McMillan at McMillan. On Sept. 8, 1897, he started for the Klondike with Jack Holton, but arriving at Seattle too late in the fall to get a boat north they remained at Seattle until the next spring when he went to Dawson and located several valuable mining claims. This spring he went to White Horse Rapids and opened up a large hotel and also established an express and transfer line between Dawson and that place, a distance of 350 miles. Besides his valuable mining properties and other interests in Alaska he leaves $6,000 life insurance, $3,000 in the Woodmen of the World, $2,000 in the Modern Woodmen of America and $1,000 in the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. Bud Harkin was a great favorite with all his acquaintances and his untimely death just at this time when he was expected home on a visit is a great blow to the family and friends. He was married to a Michigan young lady last summer.

Bud Harkin’s Body Found.

Marshfield Times / June 26, 1903

P. H. Harkin of this city received a message Wednesday from Alaska, stating that the body of his son, Bud Harkin, who was drowned recently at White Horse, had been recovered. The remains have been temporarily buried by the wife of deceased and will later be brought here for interment. The relatives of the deceased young man in this section have been greatly troubled at the failure to find the body and its recovery is a great relief to them.

Bud Harkin Interred.

Marshfield Times / August 7, 1903

The body of Bud Harkin who was drowned in White Horse Rapids, Alaska, was brought here for interment last Friday, the funeral taking place from St. John’s church on Saturday, the service being conducted by Rev. Fr. Muehlenkamp of Athens. The funeral was touching and impressive and the body was followed to the cemetery by a host of friends of the deceased.



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