20th Century-Back to America
millenium. Things are going well in the world. The Civil
War has been over for more than 30 years, and the Industrial Age has
money flowing in quantities unseen before. One of the most
desirable metals - gold - has been found in Colorado, California,
Alaska and the Klondike and people are moving in droves to get a piece
of the proverbial pie. Here we find Reuben, who was left to find
his own way after his mother sold the family farm. Thankfully,
Reuben took it upon himself to write his stories, which I will include
Since the gold rush Reuben went on begins in 1898
and ends in 1900, we're going to begin with his account of his
adventure entitled "No Gold - No Rush"
"My goodness, Grandpa! Weren't you ever just
scared to death?" This is the question I always hear whenever
some of my grandchildren find a little time in their active lives to
listen to a few tales of my adventures in the gold-rush days of
And just as regularly I seem to answer "Yes, there
was once when my hair really stood on end, as they say." When I
came upon footprints in the snow after being out trapping alone for
days and being sure there was no one else within miles of me, I could
hardly believe my eyes.
It was snowing heavily at the time and I had not
been able to sight my course by the trees in the distance as I usually
did, but had actually been travelling in a circle. I gazed at
these unexpected snow-shoe prints in horror and stories when through my
mind of hostile Indians who were supposed to have roamed this wild
country long ago and have resented with dire effect any intrusion upon
I soon realized the footprints were my own and
laughed at my hears but when I started out and the same thing happened
again, I decided it was time to "hole up" for a while.
To explain how I happened to be alone in all this
wide expanse I should say that when winter came down and it became too
cold to travel, my party themselves a snug shack at Brule Potange on
the Liard River and settled down to wait out the weather. Four of
us, hoping to spend the time more profitably, had decided to go
trapping for whatever food or fur we might find.
Travelling on ice and pulling our supplies on
homemade sleds, we proceeded about 75 miles up the Coal River where we
built a small log shelter, just large enough for bunks on opposite
sides and a huge fire in the middle. Two of the men soon returned
downstream to the original camp but Tom Anderson and I agreed to stay
for at least a few weeks. We finally decided to use the shack for
a week-end meeting plave and to go our seperate ways during the week
and see who had the best luck.
Natually, it was a lonely life but I have often
wondered why this incident of the surprise footprints in the one among
all the dangers and hardships we went through, which always seems to
come to mind when people ask if I was ever frightened.
There was the time, for instance, when we had to
pull our boat through Devil's Gorge after having unloaded it, packed
our goods for four miles across a 1000-foot mountain. It took us
twenty-five or thirty trips each with all we could carry on our backs
and the trail was barely visible and so steep that we first had to cut
steps in the side of the hill. On the other side we cut down
small trees and used them as sleds to get things down again but the
hardest work was getting the boat safely through the canyon, which was
so narrow and steep that we could not see the water from above.
We tied a long, heavy rope to the bow of the boat,
took the rope to the top of the hill and held on to let the empty boat
go through running wild. When it came around the point we went
down the bank hand over hand and tried to guide it along from the
shore. We soon came to a three-foot fall with a big rick in the
middle of the river bed and no water on the side nearest us. We
pulled the boat over the rocls for some distance but when the nose hit
the water again the stern jumped around so suddenly that it hit one of
the men and hurt him badly.
The only thing that saved his life wsa the fact that
he was standing directly in front of a break in the rock large enough
for his body to fall back into. We got him up the bank by lining
up two together and passing him from one pair to the next and each of
us must have felt thankful that such an accident, or even much worse,
had not happened to us.
The story was, and is sometimes repeated to this
day, that no one ever went through Devil's Gorge and lived to tell
about it and that even the Indians who worked for the Hudson's Bay
Company shunned a long stretch of the river hereabouts. But
several parties of us working together, some twenty men or more, took
out three boats through one at a time. The river had narrowed
from a two-mile width to about 70 feet and was running against us very
swiftly. Four men would get into a boat with poles, two in front
and two on the sweep, while the others pulled us along with ropes from
the shore. We got down on our knees and poled as hard as we could
to keep the boat off the rocks, while it tossed and bucked like a
bronco, but we never gave up.
After repeating this ordeal with each boat we got
them all to safer water and were ready to reload them but the whole
procedure took us more than two weeks and advanced us on our way only a
For forty or fifty miles below Devil's Portage, too,
our progress had been painfully slow. In the region called Hell's
Gate we passed through six canyons within six miles and at times we had
to crawl along the face of the cliffs with harnesses across our
shoulders and ropes attached to the boats fore and aft to keep them
straight and to pull them through the swift water. (Years later I
was able to get copies of snapshots taken by a Scotchman in another
party and sent home to Scotland to be developed. They show us
clinging to the rocks like flies and pulling ourselves around rocky
corners where we could not see ahead.)
On one such occasion when I was the last man on the
rope and it was my job to watch the boat and keep the rope up out of
the watter, the men ahead suddenly took up the slack and the rope
jumped high above my head. The rapids were so noisy that the
others could not hear my shouts and I was left to flounder the hundred
feet or more to shore. It was getting dark and in the midst of
the rushing water, I became dizzy and almost felt myself being swept
away. But after a few moments of sheer panic, I managed to reach
shore and soon overtook the others who were greatly relieved to see me
alive. Needless to say, their relief was nothing to my own!
Once during the Winter of trapping, with which I
began this account, a sudden cold spell caught me far from shelter,
though my partner had seen "sundogs" and had gone back to the shack
expecting to find me there.
During the first night the temperatures went down to
76 below, as we were told later, but I had learned how to make a pretty
good temporary shelter. Sticking up a row of poles and spreading
my canvas tarp over them to reflect the heat, I built a huge fire and
lay down without blankets or sleeping bag, managed to keep from
freezing by turning over often and pushing more and more poles toward
the center of the fire.
I gave up in the middle of the night, however, after
a spark flew out and landed on my knee, burning through my heavy
clothing and waking me up. It took the rest of the night and all
next day to reach the shack without stopping to eat or to rest. I
found that when I tried to stop for a few minutes I immediately began
to feel numb and I knew I must keep going.
Tom and I were surely glad to see each other that
time and thankful for the cozy shack we had built so carefully.
We had first laid logs to a height of about three feet to form an
8-foot square and had put on half the roof. Then we dug down
about three feet into the ground inside the logs, throwing the dirt up
onto the half roof as we worked. After finishing the rest of the
roof of poles chinked with moss, we distributed the dirt over the
whole, leaving only a square hole in the center for a chimney.
Inside, we left a moung of dift in the middle of our
little room on which to build our fire of 3 ft. logs and put up a
railing around it of longer poles pegged down at the corners. We
could sit on our bunks and put our feet on this railing and keep nice
and warm, but before going to sleep we threw the fire outside, getting
rid of the smoke and sparks which might fily, and put sacks over the
chimney hold to keep out the cold air. With a long pole which we
kept for the purpose, we could poke the sacks away in the morning and
be ready to build a new fire. Wood was kept ready and dry under
the little teepee or porch we had built over the doorway. How
young and strong we were to be able to endure this lonliness and
hardship and to enjoy at least part of it!
I remember the time when one of my snow-shoes broke
while I was floundering through deep snow and how helpless I suddenly
felt. After some deliberation I took off the good snowshoe and
laid it on the top of the snow to lean my arms on and dragged myself
along inch by inch. Finding a sort of knoll where the snow was
shallower and, luckily, there were plenty of sticks and branches lyign
about, I set out to repair the damage. I whittled down four stout
pieces, two for each side of the broken frame and bound them on tightly
with the good stout twine I always had with me and the snow-shoes were
good for the rest of the winter.
Besides the ball of twine and a good sharp knife, I
carried along an ax, a frying pan, a can for making tea, a tin plate
and eating utensils, my gun and some shells. I took no blankets
or bed-roll but only and eight-foot square of canvas to sleep on and to
wrap my other equipment in. Before long our rations were so low
that we had only flour and tea to take with us and I used to bake what
we called bannocks, sometimes only one for each meal.
I would pour water from melted snow into the top of
my sack of flour, stir it around into a ball, then flatten it out to
bake in the frying pan leaned up against the fire. I got into the
habit of baking three of these cakes in the evening as soon as I got a
good fire going, I would eat one for my supper saving one for breakfast
and the other for my mid-day snack, often carrying it inside my
clothing to keep it from freezing.
We had no traps but would make dead-falls where we
found fresh tracks and on week-ends at the shack would feast on the
rabbits and fool-hens we had managed to catch or shoot. I shall
never forget our Christmas dinner which consisted of a porcupine which
Tom had shot and roasted. After our diet of tea and bannocks it
When we rejoined our party in February after being
gone three months, they were surprised to see us and had, in fact,
started up the river without us. The two men who had returned to
camp in November had reported that they left as much food as they could
with us, but they were sure it could not last us all winter.
"Old Man" Laraway, leader of our party up until now,
had become quite weak and lame from scurvy by the time we got back and
for some forty or fifty miles we took turns hauling him up the
river. We left him at Liard Post when we reached the mouth of the
Dease River, where he joined a number of other invalids, some who were,
like him, suffering from scurvy, some with frostbitten feet and others
nearly dead from lack of food. Here they were able to receive
some medical care and, most important, a greater variety of food and
most of them lived to come back home by way of the Hudson's Bay relief
Until April of '99 we were able to travel on
ice and early that month we reached the post at Laketon where we were
able to buy a few supplies. In May and June we actually did some
prospecting at last but found so little gold that it was very
discouraging. We did find plenty of caribou all through this
region and enjoyed a welcome change of diet.
In July and August we travelled by foot through the
wild Cassiar country and in nearly six weeks never saw another man not
of any sign that a tree had been cut down by anyone. By the
middle of August we were not only ragged and worn-out, but were ready
to give up hope that our persistence was to be rewarded in any way.
Four of us built another boat with which to go down
river and across Teslin Lake heading for the Alaskan coast which was
still many miles away. For ten days we walked down the Teslin
Trail, made by men who had come in through British Columbia heading for
Dawson, and from the trail we counted no less than sixty-five forses
which had died and been abandoned there.
The group of farm boys from Eastern Quebec who had
left Edmonton so hopefully nearly eighteen months before, now had to be
rescued by the Canadian government, which had sent in relief boats with
food, medicine and free transportation, as well as reimbursing the
Hudson's Bay Company for the help they had given in various emergencies.
Along with the estimated four or five thousand other
men who tried this "deadly" Edmonton trail, either trying to travel
overland with horses or to follow the rivers and lakes in boats, we had
been lured by much false publicity. Misleading maps and pamphlets
had told us we could reach the Klondike in six weeks by well-marked
trails which we found did not exist and now we were glad to escape with
We brought home memories of adventures and narrow
escapes to talke about the rest of our lives but now the number of
those who can reminisce with us - or even listen to our stories -
grows less each year.
Late in 1961, in connection with publicity for the
annual convention of Alaska-Yukon Pioneers, we learned of Dr. Christian
Falkenberg of Seattle who was said to be the last survivor of the
Edmonton Trail. My wife wrote to him at once to let him know that
I was still among the living and only thirty miles away. He got
in touch with us immediately, inviting us to be his guest at the
reunion banquet, and we had not talked long before we realized we had
been at Devil's Portage at the same time. The doctor even
remembered some of the bantering words he had exchanged with Old Man
Laraway, our leader, who at this time was seventy-two years old, and a
veteran of practically all the gold rushers heard of during his life.
Unfortunately, sickness prevented out meeting again
and Dr. Falkenberg, who was some years old than I (though from his
erect appearance and alert manner, no one could have guessed it) passed
away last August. Does this leave me, I wonder, the last of the
many who went out from Edmonton so long ago in search for gold - or was
it mostly for adventure?"
Reuben also wrote an overlapping autobiographical
story in July, 1964. It isn't titled, but the text is as follows:
"I, Reuben Martin Westover, am now past 90 years of
age and would like to tell my grandchildren some of my adventures up
North, when I was a young man. And a little about our family,
which might be interesting.
I was born and grew up on a farm in the township of
Sutton, Quebec, about sixty miles Southwest of Montreal and just across
the border from Vermont. This farm had been in my family since
1796, when my great-grandfather got it as a "King's Grant". He
was loyal to the king during the Reovolution and gave up a large
section of land in Western Massachuetts and moved his family to
Canada. There was a lot of persecution of "Empire Loyalists" at
that time and many of them left the colonies and settled in Canada.
My father died when I was 16 and I had to manage the
farm from then on. My four half-brothers, sons of my father's
first wife, had left home before this and my own older brother, Egbert,
had lost his arm in a railroad accident the year before. Besides
my mother and brother there were four sisters to support and educate
and I had a lot of responsibility. As soon as he was old enough,
Egbert went to Montreal to study and become a lawyer. He
practiced law for many years in Montreal and then went to Northern
Quebec where there are quite a lot of French people so he had to speak
French and English. He made a fine reputation and won many
honors, even from the government. He left all his money to his 12
nieces and nephews when he died in 1954.
My oldest sister Mary, married Arthur Foss, and they
had no children. After her husband died, Mary lived with Eva for
many years, at Sandwich on Cape Cod.
Jessie's first husband died after Marion and
Marjorie were born and she moved to Everett after your Uncle Newbary
and I had settled here. She later married Mr. Allan and their
children are Bill, Pat and Barbara. Barbara is now Mrs. "Shorty"
My sister Anna married Ezra Ball and their children
are Gordon Ball, Muriel Duckworth, Evelyn Homan and Mildred
Luxton. Another son was killed in the first World War.
Eva, the youngest sister, was born on New Year's Day
in 1880 and she and I are the only ones left. Eva became a nurse
and never married.
She did some nursing here in Everett years ago but
has been living at Sandwich, Mass. for a long time. She nursed so
many people all over Cape Cod that she used to say she knew everybody
of the older generation and many of their children and
Some time after my 21st birthday we sold the farm
and I headed out west. By 1898, when the gold-rush fever broke
out, I had been working on a ranch in South Dakota for a year. I
heard that a bunch of fellows from back home were getting ready to go
to Edmonton to start out for the Klondike and I arranged to meet them
There were six of them, besides myself, including
Old Man Laraway who was 72 years old. He had been in the
California gold rush in '49 and '50 and in several others before that
and we took him for what he knew. He was a lot of help in
deciding what to take and how to pack it and he had up make waterproof
sacks for the food or anything that water would spoil and we were
better off than many of the other parties. We started out with
about five tons of stuff, including food, clothing, tools, gunds and
shells, etc. Also 100 pounds of extra canvas which we thought we
could use for water pipes when we started mining for gold. We
ended up using it to patch out clothes when they wore out and when I
went to work at Fort Townsend 18 months latre I had big canvas patches
on my seat and on both knees.
We met in Edmonton on March 28, 1898 and camped out
for five nights on the vacant prairie in front of the small wooden
store run by the Hudson Bay Co. We bought our supplies and hired
two teams to take us to Athabasca Landing about 100 miles away on the
river. There was nothing there then but a portable saw mill and a
lot of other men like us. When we visited in Edmonton in 1969 we
found a good-sized city called Athabasca at this place and we drove to
it in a couple of hours. The other time it took us four days.
We got there on April 6th and started cutting trees
and hauling them to the mill on the riverbank. We built a 34-foot
scow and a small boat to pull behind it and left on May 3rd as soon as
the ice went out of the river. We traveled about 26 miles from
noon to 9:30 the first day but started early the next day and covered
75 miles. One of us sat up each night to guard the boat while the
others took turns sleeping. We had 17ft. oars, two on each side.
Eighteen miles father down our boat got stuck on a
rock and a sand bar and I jumped into the river and lifted up on the
stern enough to get her floating again. At the mouth of the
Pelican River we found a lot of fish running and so we camped at noon
and caught fish until late that night. These were suckers just
like the ones back home and they tasted good, even if they were boney.
Next morning we went back a couple of miles to help
a boat we had seen stuck on a rock and we helped each other through the
Pelican Rapids. These rapids were easy compared with the many
others to come.
By May 10th we had reached Grand Rapids where the
Athabasca falls 240 feet in 12 miles. There is an island about a
half a mile long in the middle of the channel and the Hudsons Bay Co.
had built a tram on it. We unloaded our boat and took it across
the island on the tram and carried our stuff past the worst of the
rapids. This was our first packing job and Henry Prentiss
strapped a hundred-pound sack of flour on his back the first
thing. I took 50 pounds and got along fast, but later I got used
to it and could pack 150 pounds at a time.
That night we found out we all had cooties but we
got rid of them by boiling our clothes every night for three of four
days. It took us about five days anyways to get our boat and
goods ready to travel again and then we decided to wait a few more days
until we could get a guide to help us through the rapids we were coming
to. There were six boats and crews here together by now and in
the next three days we ran six or seven rapids. The guide had
picked his rowing crew and we took one boat through at a time. I
happened to be one of the four rowers, so I went through each of the
rapids six times and walked back up the shore five times.
On may 26 we passed the Big Cascade, where we had to
tie our boats close to shore and unload them and let them down with
ropes. One of the boats got into got into trouble when the small
tree it was tied to pulled up by the roots. There were four men
in it at the time and they tried hard to row for the opposite side
where the falls did not look so bad, but there were too many ricks and
they got a hole knocked in the bottom. They were sucked over the
falls but mananged to stay right side up by putting on all the speed
they could and all of them came through safely.
We got to Fort McMurray, about 250 miles down the
Athabasca, after going around or through 11 rapids and 2
cascades. There is a railroad now that bypasses all this bad
water but there was nothing then.
On June 2nd we reached Athabasca Lake after floating
night and day on nice smooth water for the last 200 miles. Coming
into the lake we lost the main channel and got into shallow water where
there was solid ice to the bottom and only about a foot of water on
tip. We had to take the little boat across first and wade back
and forth to pack our five tons of stuff over to it. When the
scow was light enough to pull we took it around into the main body of
the lake and loaded everything from the little boat back in.
The wind was blowing up the lake and it was hard
work holding for the opposite side. There was a high cliff of
solid rock coming right down into the water and we had to row until 1
o'clock in the morning before we found a break in the cliff and a small
cove just big enough to land on. On the shore of this lake we saw
thousands of geese resting on their way North but they were too far
away, with an overflow swamp between, and we could not get any of them
At Fort Chipewyan which we reached in a few hours
the next day, there was a crown of Indians who had brought in their
winter furs to trade.
Every tent was surrounded by big fierce-looking dogs
which were so hungry that they swam out to our boat during the night
and stole slabs of bacon and other stuff and scattered our cooking
dishes all over the place. Here we saw young squaws sitting
around picking lice out of each other's hair and cracking them between
We started down the Slave River on June 6th.
About 25 miles below where the Peace River flows into the Slave we
found ourselves rowing against the current and could not understand it
at first. It seems that for about three weeks each Spring this
stretch of river runs upstream until it brings up the level of the
lake. This is something I had not seen mentioned in print and
probably few people know about it.
In about a week we reached Fort Smith where we spent
one day and started out early the next morning. When we got to
the mouth of the Salt River about 7 o'clock in the morning, Frank
Hoffman and I took the small boat and rowed a long day's trip up the
river after salt. We came to a place where a salt spring flowed
out of a hill and everything around was white from the salt left at
high water. The stream had become so narrow that we could not
turn around but had to back the boat up to get out. We were
surprised to see this salty water full of big fish. We travelled
two days and a night without sleep, except for the time it took to
shovel up four or five hundred pounds of salt, and got back to the main
party about 7 o'clock in the evening of June 16th.
Next day we started on down the Slave River but
there heavy winds blowing from the lake and we had to lay over a day or
two. On June 23rd we left Fort Resolution and crossed the South
end of Great Slave Lake, 120 miles in 48 hours. Waves were high
and we had to keep swinging the stern around to take them. We had
a sail up all the way across and used one on the smooth parts of the
Liard later. We had to watch out for shallow places too and keep
away from the shore. On June 30th we reached Fort Simpson on the
MacKenzie at the mouth of the Liard River.
The Hudson Bay Company had a store there which was
headquarters for a large region. A man named Camsell was the
factor at this time and one of his sons, Charles, later became a high
official in the Canadian government and wrote books and articles about
his life and explorations in the North. My wife and I exchanged
letters with Charles Camsell after his book, "Son of the North" came
out in 1954 and he and his brother and I must be the last of those who
were there, at Fort Simpson when his father was there. Since that
time he too, has passed away.
This trading post collected and shipped out 2,500 or
more beaver skins and many other furs each year. There were
several other parties there at the time and everyone tied up their
boats and climbed up the bank to the store. The cook belonging to
one crew stayed behind to finish something and when he was ready to
come ashore he jumped into the water with his rubber boots on. He
slipped and fell in some way and his boots which were full of air came
to the top and pulled him down and he drowned. We never used our
boots even when wading in ice water up to our knees. They were
kept mainly for mining work but it was a long time before we did much
On July 2nd we left Fort Simpson and started up the
terrible Liard. In six days we covered 40 miles and ran 8 miles
of rapids. There were three boats in our bunch by then and we
helped each other through the rapids, one boat at a time, and it took
us nearly two weeks to reach Nahanni River 120 miles up the Liard.
At the Nelson River on August 9th we met a we met a
party which had come over land Edmonton. They had started out
with horses but they had all died or broken their legs trying to travel
over the muskeag and log jams and through the dense timber in some
plaves and then the men had decided to build a boat and try our method
The merchants of Edmonton and other boosters of the
gold0rush had put out maps and pamphlets telling us we could get to the
Klondike country in six weeks either by water route or by traveling
overland. It has been estimated that four or five thousand men
tried one way or the other. Most of them turned back from
different points along the way, many of them lost their lives from
accidents or sickness or plain starvation and only a handful ever for
to Dawson or Alaska or ever found any gold to speak of. A man
named Taylor had been hired by the Edmonton boosters to go through and
map out a trail for the overland travellers but he never got very far
and following the rivers turned out to be the best way.
It took us nearly six weeks to get through Hell's
Gate and Devil's Gorge and it was so hard and dangerous that for a
hunred mile stretch along here you could not hire an Indian to go on
the river. The Hudson Bay Company avoided this part of the river
too by running one boat only as far as Hell's Gate and going many miles
out of the way to bring another one to the upper part of the river.
By the time we got to Brule Portage early in October
it was getting pretty cold and ice was forming and we decided not to go
on. We burned our boats and built a shack to wait out the worst
of the winter. Several other parties did the same and there were
about forty men there for some weeks. Before this we had gone
through the terrible ordeal at Devil's Portage and taken our boats
through Devil's Gorge, which some people still say no one have ever
My wife has written out a lot of the details of this
and about the weeks I spent trapping up the Coal River. I will
skip some of these parts so as to tell how I reached the end of the
trail and finally landed in Everett.
After leaving the shack at Brule Portage in February
of '99 we travelled on the ice with sleds to haul our stuff until about
the middle of April. Old Man Laraway was suffering badly with
scurvy and for many days I had the job of hauling him up the river on
toboggan. We left him at Liard Post where a man named Cole was
looking after quite a collection of sick and injured men. Most of
them had scurvy and some were badly crippled with frostbitten
feet. Laraway gave me $20 for helping him and I never say him
again, but heard later that he got back home safely. By this time
I was the only one left of my party and I was travelling with
others. The fellows I started with had decided one ot two at a
time to leave the river and try to walk across to Dawson. I found
out later that Charley Ritter and Henry Prentice made it but neither of
them found much gold but earned a living by working for a while before
For about two months of the summer we prospected
around the Dease River and at Poor Man's Gulch and found some gold but
not enough to make it worth while to stay there. We found many
caribou all through this region and enjoyed the fresh meat. In
July and August we travelled for six weeks through the wild Cassiar
country and never saw a soul but ourselves and could not tell where any
one had ever cut down a tree. After going up the Nesetlin River
for two or three weeks with a man who had joined us with his three
horses we decided to give the whole thing up as a bad job.
Four of us spent three days building a boat to take
us back down the Teslin Lake and across it toward the coast. We
had to whip-saw the lumber and tear up old sacks for oakum and seal it
with spruce gum.
On August 19th we left Teslin Creek at the south end
of the lake and headed for Telegraph Creek on the Stikine River.
It took us ten or eleven days to cover the 160 miles or more. We
carried packs of about 90 pounds apiece. One morning when we woke
up it had been snowing and I had an awful crick in my back. This
was the only time on the whole trip I was laid up but I could hardly
move that day. After a day's rest we went on. The others
lightened my load a little and then lifted my pack on my back and I
carried it all day. I stopped once in a while and leaned against
a tree to rest and then went on.
We walked down what is called the Teslin Trail and
countd at least 65 dead horses in plain sight from the trail.
These had belonged to the hundreds of men who had come in through
British Columbia along this way to Dawson. A man named Scott
Marshal who was later chief of Police here in Everett and worked with
me in a sawmill here in 1900, said he had gone to Dawson this way.
Three days out of Telegraph Creek we ran so low on
food that Bar O'Brein and I offered to run on ahead and bring back what
we could get for Old Man Doyle and his nephew. Mr. Doyle wanted
us to stay together and look out for game and just before noon we came
across a boarded-up cache of food. A sign on it said, "Do not
molest, we are coming back" but we could tell they had been gone a year
or more so we took enough flour to last us to Telegraph Creek.
The law in British Columbia in those days was that if you found food
when you were badly in need you could help yourself and not feel you
We got to Telegraph Creek on September 1st and went
on to Glenora to catch the last boat down the river ro Wrangell.
Old Man Doyle had very bad feet and he and his nephew, Archie
McCormack, hired Indians to haul them the last four miles but Bat and I
walked the trail with hills and gulches all the way.
We got to Glenora about four o'clock in the morning
then had to wait three days after all. The water was very low in
the Stikine and the boat had got stuck on a sandbar which held it up
for quite a while. They got it off by fanning the sternwheel
until it dug out enough sand to let the boat float.
This was the regular steamer which carried Hudson
Bay Company's supplies to the interior but one this last trip out it
was loaded with stuff they were bringing back. This time it was
also bringing out 100 or more men who had been searching for gold in
all directions and were glad to get back alive. The officer's
wives on this boat, "The Strathcona", were the first white women I had
seen for a year, though there were often Indian squaws at the trading
posts we passed.
Earlier in the year the Canadian Mounted Police and
many other people had sent word to Ottawa that men were starving along
the Liard and the trading post people were told to feed any of the
miners who needed it. The government would pay them back and
would send in relief boats to bring any who wanted to leave out to the
coast. At Telegraph Creek we were given food to last until the
boat left and on the boat our meals were furnished. We made out
our own lists and got enough food to last until we could find job.
At Glenora when we went aboard they gave us white
tickets to show we were not paying fares but were entitled to our
meals. They fed us first and we usually jumped off and helped
load on the wood they had to pick up along the way. One morning
it was raining and we didn't want to get off but they said the white
tickets would not get any breakfast until they got out and
worked. When we refused they served the other passengers and
cleared things away without giving us anything. We sent a
committee to tell the Captain the have the table set for us or we would
do it ourselves. So they gave in and fed us.
When we got to Fort Marshall at 4 a.m. no one was
served breakfast but we had provisions we had saved and we went ashore
and built a fire and ate ourselves. We were now in American
Territory but our meal tickets were good to Vancouver or Seattle.
They called us together and asked who had $20 to pay for a
ticket. Only one man had, his home was in California and they let
him keep his money to help him get there.
We reached Port Townsend on September 14th.
One of my bunch had left us at Ketchikan and three of us Canadians
planned to cross over to Vancouver. But when I heard they were
building the fort there I decided to stay at Port Townsend and look for
work. The contractor asked me if I could hold a plow and I told
him I grew up on a farm. I had on heavy winter clothes and looked
so husky he offered me two men's jobs.
The plow weighed 250 pounds and was pulled by six
big horses. One man drove the horses and two men held the plow
which went quite east where the ground had been shot up and
drilled. But as soon as it hit hard pan the horses would have to
keep up with the plow by running and when it hit a stone it would jump
right into the air. They were paying two men $2 apiece to hold
the plow but they gave me $2.25 a day to take both their places.
I kept the job three months and a half and they
wanted me to stay until Spring. They hired about a hundred men a
month but fired them so that that I was 12th man down on the pay-roll
when I left. The contractor got fifty cents each new man paid for
the job in Seattle and he fired them fast enough to keep plenty of
I first came to Everett after my mother wrote that
our friend, Rev. Fowler was living here. He married my father and
mother and baptized me in the Methodist church back home. His
daughter had married W.G. Swalwell from Ottawa (I think he was) and
they all moved to Everett. Two girls I knew were making a trip to
California and were planning to spend Thanksgiving with the Swalwells
and I came across the Sound to see them. I had seen men plowing
their fields late in the fall all around here and when I remembered out
late Spring and cold winters back East I decided this was God's
Country. I have thought so ever since and never went back
to Quebec except to visit.
My half-brother, Newbary, sold his store in South
Dakota and came to Everett in December of '99 and I came to stay the
last day of that year. I worked in Newbary's Hardware store for a
while and when his partner who took care of the plumbing work wanted to
leave, I bought him out. Before long I had learned a lot about
the trade and finally bought another plumber's shop and that is how I
got started in the business.
My father's ancestors were loyal to the king during
the Revolution but my mother's people were patriotic Amercans.
There is still an old clock kept at the Old South Church in Boston
which belonged to one of them and the story is that she gave the lead
weights out of it to be melted down for bullets for Revolutionary
Soldiers. I wanted ot be an American citizen and took out my
naturalization papers as soon as I could.
While on the Teslin Trail we met a man named Schenk
who said he had travelled out from Chicago which a friend named John
Watson and some others. They had come by way of Edmonton, too,
but had gone down the Peace River instead of Athabasca. Schenk
left them and finally made it to Dawson by way of the Teslin Trail but
the others stayed and prospected around Great Slave Lake. Watson
and his partners found gold at a place now called Yellow Knife and in
other nearby places which have since been very productive. They
went back to Chicago in the summer of '99 hoping to raise money to
develop the mines and to build roads to get to them. But by the
following year the gold fever had pretty well died down and Watson
never got back.
As luck would have it, he and his family moved to
Everett in 1903 and being a plumber by trade, he went to work for
me. It was not long before someone mentioned the gold-rush and
the Edmonton Trail and it came out that were were up there at the same
Watson's father had gone from Scotland to Australia
in the gold rush of 1850 and made quite a fortune. He and his
wife had 15 children, seven or eight of them born in Australia,
including John, and they finally went back to Scotland.
One son went to South Africa and became a wagon
maker. He won the Victoria Cross for making strong carriers for
the cannon used during the Boer War. John and some others came to
America and settled in Chicago. One brother of his named Alex was
a sea Captain and he came to visit us about the time Howard was a
baby. His home was in California and he had a son who was killed
in the First World War. The family home in Scotland was near a
place called Arbroth on the Eastern Side.
John Watson and his wife ad four daughters and two
sons. Mary Jane Watson and I were married in 1904 and lived
together for 42 years. Besides Egbert, Howard and Harold, we had
two other sons. Francis, the third one, was hurt in a fall when
he was four years old and died in 1925 after a lond illness.
Roger, the youngest of all, was born in 1922 and died quite suddenly
when he was nine months old.
Mary's older brother, John, married Elizabeth Watson
(no relation) in Chicago before coming out here. He died quite
young and left Lizzie four boys to bring up alone. An older
sister named Jessie married a John Robertson and they lived in
Tacoma. When they both died their adopted daughter, Grace, came
to live with us for several years until she was of age.
Another sister, Isabelle, married Duana Baldwin and
they lived in Idaho many years. Agnes Watson married Sev.
Petterson and they lived in Everett but died some years ago, leaving an
adopted daughter. A young brother, Harry, moved away and did not
keep in touch but he died later, and was buried here.
In spite of poor health much of the time, Mary was a
wonderful wife and mother but she died in 1946 and Neil and Marilyn are
the only grandchildren she ever had a chance to see. She was very
proud of our five sons and would have been very proud of all our
grandchildren as I have always been. May you all be healthy and
happy and have long and useful lives."
1900: Reuben officially moved to Everett, Washington
27 April 1904: Marries Mary Jane Watson in Everett (b.16 May 1883 in
N.Y. to John Watson and Jessie Adams) Their children are listed
in the timeline.
16 Aug 1907: Egbert Watson born in Everett
14 May 1911: Howard Stephen born in Everett
21 May 1914: Reuben becomes an American citizen
10 Aug 1917: Francis James born in Everett
12 Sept 1918: Reuben submits his WWI Draft registration card, though never serves.
22 Jan 1919: Harold John born in Everett
2 Aug 1922: Roger Bruce born in Everett
21 April 1923: Roger dies suddenly (possibly SIDS?)
February 1925: Francis dies after a fall and illness
30 May 1946: Mary Jane dies in Everett
1947: Reuben marries Ida Paine
10 Aug 1964: Reuben dies just after his 90th birthday.