Monday, November 28, 2011

Spotlight on Camp #4, Dawson

It's ironic to think that I've been living in Skagway, the gateway to the Klondike, for four and a half years and i've never been to Dawson City. For the last two and a half of those years I've been completely immersed in the history of the Klondike Gold Rush and Dawson is the city that was built up around the gold fields of the Klondike itself. As plans begin to fall into place and I may be working on my first trip to the place that brought hundreds of thousands of people northward, many of them through Skagway, I thought it would be pertinent to post an entry spotlighting Dawson's camp of the Arctic Brotherhood.

Over the years, the four major consistent camps of the AB became Skagway #1, Dawson #4, Nome #9, and Fairbanks #16. That's mainly due to the fact that many of the cities that the AB made its home were transient, temporary mining camps that rose and fell fairly quickly. In 1899, when the Arctic Brotherhood was founded, Dawson's population had fallen from 40,000 to 4,000. It's a significant drop, but the city was still surviving. Being on the Yukon River made it an important stop for those headed westward into Alaska's interior.

The Klondike Nugget was one of Dawson's main sources of news. Its publisher was a man by the name of Arnold F. George. While in Skagway, George was initiated into Skagway's Arctic Brotherhood, which at that time only had two other subordinate camps in Atlin and Bennett. George was initiated during the first meeting of Skagway's club in their new hall. During the meeting, George and another new initiate, E. J. Fitzpatrick, discussed the fact that Dawson could use its own chapter of the AB.

After the meeting, George boldly asked the officers of Camp #1 if he could be granted authority to be a deputy organizer. That would give him the power to organize camps without receiving prior permission each time. In the days when, if possible, mail moved slower than it does today, it was important to be able to get these things done without having to rely on the postal service.

Arnold George was a brand-new member to the club so it might seem like he was overstepping his bounds in making such a request so early. The rest of the men already present knew him to be a reputable man, and his business was well-respected in Skagway and elsewhere. And so Arnold George was given the authority to organize camps.

On November 24th, 1899 (just nine months after the AB was initially created), Dawson became home to Camp #4 of the AB. The first few meetings only had a few men present, but the camp grew fairly quickly. The first officers of the camp were George himself, Fitzpatrick, Stroller White, Rudy Kalenborn (whose descendent I was lucky enough to meet in summer 2010), Max Kollm (who allegedly discovered AB Mountain), Dr. Everett, Fred Atwood, Henry Fulda, and L. Orville Wilcoxen.

In October of 1901, Dawson's club began working on having its own building. In four days, the group collected enough money to begin construction. It cost over $16,000 in total but was known as the first building of its kind in the north, the finest hall north of Victoria. (Today, that building is Diamond Tooth Gertie's, one of very few AB halls to still stand.)

In December, the club had a formal dedication of the building. It entailed a ceremonial dedication, dinner and dancing. The club had put together an orchestra. One journalist claimed that initially dancing was hardly possible due to the fact that the building was so crowded; it ended up lasting from 10 PM to 4 in the morning. When the orchestra stopped playing, it was only because they were so exhausted that they physicaly could no longer play.

The dedication ceremony was the first of many events to be put on at Dawson's AB Hall. Over the years Dawson's club would prove to be the most creative of all 32 camps. They had their own orchestra and often housed theatrical productions. The club wrote, produced, and starred in an opera entitled "The Island of Kokomolo." In the ragtime era, Dawson #4 even put on minstrel shows in blackface.

One of the most prominent events to happen to the Dawson Arctic Brotherhood occurred when they met with Canada's Governor General, Earl Grey. (Incidentally, this Earl Grey is not the same Earl Grey after whom the tea was named, which made research a little confusing.) It seems as though the Eagles club of Dawson had received Grey at their building. As he left the Eagles to head to the dock, the AB had their own reception for him. That meant they whisked him away and led him in a parade down to the wharf. Later, when Grey sent a letter to the city of Dawson thanking them for their hospitality, he said that the AB's parade was one of the highlights.

Another event that Camp Dawson put on was a masquerade ball for New Year's of 1901. The writer covering the event for the newspaper said that the occasion was well attended by Dawson's high society. He also noted that often, in these types of events, after masks were removed women might find that they had less dancing partners when their faces were revealed. Apparently sometimes it happens that a mask is prettier than a face. The writer made sure to point out that that was not the case at this event, as everyone there had plenty of dancing partners both before and after their true appearances wer revealed.

I can't be sure when Dawson's camp went under, but it was one of the longest-lasting chapters of the club. They contributed a lot of creativity and enthusiasm to the club, and their events were covered in a lot of detail by Dawson's newspapers. If you find yourself in Dawson, visit Diamond Tooth Gertie's and take a moment, look around, and imagine the building packed to the max with people attempting to dance at the first event ever to be held there.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Welcome back to winter,.

As I look out the window and see the sun shining at me from the south, it's starting to feel like winter is here again. That means a lot of things (as opposed to "that can only mean one thing..."), but for this blog it means more posts. For the men of the Arctic Brotherhood over a century ago, winter would have meant hunkering down and, in a lot of cases, being cut off from ingoing and outgoing transportation. They were quite a bit more rugged than we are today in the north, but their legacy still lives on in a big way.

This summer I put the Arctic Brotherhood on hold, just as the men of the Arctic Brotherhood may have put things on hold during the months of working their butts off. Just before the season started, i did a little bit of research in old newspapers and found over forty new pieces of information I'd never seen before. Some of them were small and only added to things I'd already uncovered, but a good deal of them related to things I had been struggling to piece together. And then there were some articles which brought up new things altogether.

For instance, the Arctic Brotherhood and YMCA of Nome, traveling under the name Arctic Brotherhood, toured extensively the lower states, territories, and Canada in winter of 1907. Why? They were a basketball team playing against local clubs in just about every corner of the country. Whether or not the team performed well is yet to be seen, but at least two newspapers reported on the upcoming events.

Newspapers reporting on the Arctic Brotherhood weren't limited to the north. Sure, most of the coverage comes from papers in Skagway, Dawson, Nome, and other locales that had active camps; but the AB name was dropped in papers all over. There is a good representation of the club in Washington and British Columbia. As the Grand Camp of the AB met in Seattle, Tacoma, Victoria, and Vancouver, it wasn't surprising that "Arctic Brotherhood" was a common enough term to show up in papers. Also, with the proximity to Alaska, the cities of Washington and southern BC were natural meeting places of those giong to and from the North. A good deal of men and women who had headed north during the gold rushes found themselves leaving after not striking it rich and ending up in Seattle or Victoria.

Even so, the Arctic Brotherhood was somehow important enough to be mentioned in farther away places. The Bisbee Daily Review from Arizona reported on them several times, as did the Minneapolis Journal. Even papers in Missouri and Louisiana mentioned the AB in one regard or another.

Finding all of these newspaper articles accomplished a main goal of mine in diong this research, which was to find out what became of the Arctic Brotherhood after 1909 (stay tuned on that one). Beyond that, it emphasized beyond any shadow of a doubt that, without newspapers and magazines, the story of the Arctic Brotherhood would now hardly exist. One of the most important sources for telling the story is a serial article by Dr. Moore of Skagway in an Alaska magazine. Coverage of AB events, from presidential receptions to building dedication ceremonies and galas, would not exist without newspapers. And, most importantly, the cliffhanger of the Arctic Brotherhood story which occurred in 1909 would have gone unresolved in my mind without newspaper articles covering the aftermath.

The story of Alaska itself, the development of the north, the gold rushes, is all well documented. Journals, diaries, and letters all have survived the decades to provide insight into the events that shaped our northern corner of the continent. Yet the secret society of the Arctic Brotherhood is, in so many cases, left out of these first-person accounts. A majority of the sources that I've found in this year-and-a-half-long quest to write the story of the organization have been from newspapers and magazines.

So, as you go through your day-to-day life from this point onward, I hope that at some steps along the way you take time to acknowledge that the writers of newspapers, magazines, internet news sites, even blogs (current-events blogs, not historical blogs) are documenting the contexts of our lives so that future generations will be able to experience them first hand.

Monday, June 13, 2011


Sadly, there are factors now limiting my availability to blog although I've been uncovering some ground-breaking stuff about the Arctic Brotherhood. As it is summer, and summer people have infiltrated my fair city, my wifi connection is now inundated with summer people's laptops accessing the connection and is no longer available to me. I have internet on my phone for the moment but I can't get on and do much with it since it's not a smartphone (and smartphones are the devil). Also, 4 jobs in the summer prevent me from having much time to update the blog.

Regardless... I've found some really cool stuff about what happened to the AB after the 1909 schism. When I get another minute, I'll bring you all in on what's new with that. Until then... Email me if you want to know anything about the AB!


Saturday, May 14, 2011


For a while I felt like I had exhausted every shred of information that the interweb had to offer about the Arctic Brotherhood; for a while it felt like the details out there could be too vast to even comprehend; and now, with the onset of another summer, I'm somewhere in the middle.

The first draft of the book being done, I've realized that my power point presentation has been grossly inadequate in giving a condensed, 45-minute history of the Arctic Brotherhood and why it's so important to acknowledge their existence. Consequently, over the last few weeks of being back at work i have completely re-done it, this time as a chronological train of thought with a clear beginning, middle, end, cast of characters...

To that end, I did some sleuthing on some details that I was missing for the powerpoint. mainly that boils down to a lot of photos... as I'm trying to present, it seems that when, for instance, Wickersham keeps coming up it might behoove me to show people what he looked like each time in case they don't remember his name, or in case they want to be able to get a better mental image of what's going on.

Here's some of the cool stuff I've found.

When Theodore Roosevelt visited Seattle in 1903, he was received by the Arctic Brotherhood at the opera house (perceivably in Pioneer Square?) It was the first MAJOR big fish for the AB to reel in after initiating a party of senators who'd been vacationing up North in Dawson, Rampart, and Nome. Reportedly the AB's met up with some members of the Alaska Club (later to fuse together to form the Arctic Club) to host the chief executive. They were said to have built up quite the rapport, and TR was very receptive to the ideals of home rule and a territorial government.

Seattle decorated for the visit

TR in Seattle

Hotel Washington in Seattle decorated for the visit

Another photo I found which just gives me and those watching my power point a better visual was this guy:

Earl Grey

Governor General Earl Grey of Canada was initiated into the Arctic Brotherhood in Dawson. I always wondered what that dude looked like.

There've been a few more new developments in the story, but that's it for now... the Power Point is finished so for a few days I'm taking a break from the AB to focus on more important things. Like sunshine.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A history lesson with AB bullet points

In all the research I've been doing lately on Alaska history as a way to embellish the tales of the Arctic Brothehrood, I thought I'd share some of what I found.

As you may or may not know, three Alaska governors were members of the Arctic Brotherhood. Four Alaska delegates to Congress were members as well. IN fact, it was largely throught the efforts of the Arctic Brotherhood that Alaska was given representation to Congress in 1906. Prior to the decision, Alaska as a district--not yet a territory-- was dealing with the same issues that brought about the independence of the United States: Taxation without representation.

In fact, one of Skagway's premier AB members, John Garland Price, wrote an editorial to one of the Skagway papers petitioning citizens to support home rule and oppose taxation without representation. By "home rule," Price means that those who are already in Alaska should be those to govern the distric tinstead of the feds appointing people to run them. Ironically, of course, those who were petitioning for said "home rule" were newcomers to the area and completely ignored the rights of those who were there first.

The first step the Arctic Brotherhood accomplished in getting rights for Alaska was writing a letter to Congress and the President. In this letter, they demand that Alaska receive a delegate to Congress claiming that the club has an intimate knowledge of Alaska's white population, nearly sixty thousand in number. At the next meeting of Congress, it was decided that Alaska receive a delegate.

The first delegate, frank Waskey, was a member of camp Nome #9. He was in that position from 1906, when he got elected by the Alaskan people, to 1907. Thomas Cale, a member of Fairbanks #16, succeeded him from 1907-1909. The next delegate was a doozy. James Wickersham served as Alaska's delegate to Congress from 1909-1917. The only reason he ran for this office was because he had resigned his post as federal district judge. This was likely due to criticism he had received from Alaska's governor, another AB member, Wilfred Hoggatt. Hoggatt had criticized Wickersham in a letter to President Theodore Roosevelt (who had been the guest of honor at an Arctic Brotherhood reception); shortly after, Wickersham resigned.

Wickersham's term as delegate to Congress lasted 8 years. The following year, AB member Charles A. Sulzer of camp Juneau #32 was elected. The election was contested, and the following year Wickersham was back. Sulzer was elected again in 1919, but he died before his term began. When another delegate was appointed in his place, Wickersham contested it; subsequently, he was delegate again in 1921,and again in 1931. His political career did not end until he was seventy-five years old.

In spite of the fact that Wickersham was kind of a [insert derogatory term here] according to the literature, he did a lot for Alaska and so in many ways does the AB proud. It was Wickersham who championed the cause of a territorial government for Alaska, whcih came to fruition in 1912. And, decades before the end result would be seen, Wickersham was the first to propose a bill for statehood for Alaska.

In other interesting news...

In 1923 as many Skagwegians know, President Warren Harding became the first President to visit Alaska and the only President to visit Skagway (comments about 2012 presidential candidates having livesi n skagway will not be well received). Harding was received by the Arctic Brotherhood in Skagway and was the second president to be initiated into the order.

That same year, Southeast Alaska attempted to secede from the rest of the territory. By that time, a good deal of Alaska's reidents had jumped on the statehood bandwagon. Southeast Alaska, however, felt it had little in common with the rural, largely undeveloped and spread-out interior.

Southeast had developed as part of Russian America and later as part of the United States' holdings much earlier th an the interior. Sitka had been the first capital of Alaska when it was still in Russian hands; Juneau had become the new capital shortly after the purchase by the United States. Both capitals were in southeast. The first mass movement of non-natives to the northwest section of north America brought them through southeast Alaska, since most of them couldn't afford to travel through the Yukon River of the interior.

So, Southeast Alaska decided that they would have an easier time becoming a state if they split from the rest of the territory. The vote passed in southeast by nearly 1200 for secession and not even 90 against. Sadly for southeast, the decision was ultimately in the hands of a federal committee. The committee arrived in Southeast to hear the concerns and logic of its residents. The committee did not approve Southeast Alaska's desire to secede. Sometimes I really wish they had... because there's more to Alaska than Anchorage!!!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

February 26, 2011: Happy 112th birthday!

Today is the 112th anniversary of the founding of the Arctic Brotherhood. It's hard for me to even know where to begin in trying to think of what to write in honor of this incredible day.

I try and imagine that first night when the group was founded and I find that I can picture it pretty well. The eleven founding members were on board a ship, the City of Seattle, on their way back up north. Actually, depending on which source you look at, there's conflicting thoughts as to whether or not they had all been up here already by then. The Klondike Gold Rush took place between 1897-1898, with the biggest migration of people occuring in winter, '97-'98. According to folklore and certain sources, the eleven founders had all been northward during that rush. Some like to even believe that all of them had hiked one of the trails north to Bennett and points beyond, but only one of them can definitively say that his name was on the rosters of the NWMP's checkpoints.

Regardless, on the chilly evening of February 26th, 1899, eleven old friends united in the saloon (or dining room, depending who you ask) of the ship somewhere in the inside passage. Having been on a boat in those same waters countless times it's not that difficult for me to picture. Granted, the bar on the Alaska state ferry isn't exactly like what the saloon on the City of Seattle would have been, but it's a modern-day comparison.

As reminiscences of their northern experience flowed out, maybe along with anticipation and plans for the next part of their trip, the ship chugged along and the beer and champagne flowed. At some point in their revelry, as happens so often in bar room conversations, someone had a BRILLIANT idea. Unlike most of the drunk plans that i've been involved in ("let's make a 'This is Skagway' music video!" "We should all go on a road trip next weekend", "We are going to start our own business"....), this idea was more than a pipe dream. Three months later, the intoxicated plans of eleven men had become an elite force of three hundred. Ten years later, ten thousand men-- one sixth of Alaska's white population (THEY made that distinction, not me)-- had joined in the dream. But thirty years later, it had faded into just that, a dream.

Their plan, of course, was the formation of the Arctic Brotherhood.

Could these eleven men possibly have known what it turned into? (Does anyone reading this have any idea what it turned into?) Could they have seen that the brotherhood would be responsible for getting Alaska representation to congress, and champions of the cause of territorial government for Alaska? Could they have imagined that thirty-two camps of their order would be sprawled out throughout every corridor of transit north of the 54 degree line, from coastal towns to inland river camps? Could they have seen that three US Presidents, one Canadian Governor-General, three Alaska governors, and countless mayors, judges, and senators would join their ranks? Could they have really grasped what their pipe dream would turn into?

I imagine them, in the days before anyone knew about lung cancer and liver cirrhosis, sitting in the bar with their drinks and cigars, laughing and talking, everyone just trying to get a word in. "OH! So we could make it just like the masons..." one would say, "Except," another would interject, "it would JUST be for people in Alaska!"

"No, no, no," someone interjects. "It can't just be in Alaska, the gold is in the Yukon."

"And all the people who come to Alaska are just going to the Yukon anyway," someone else pipes in.

"Well," the first would say, "We could just have it be north of a certain latitude."

"North of Vancouver!" someone says definitively.

Someone who maybe up until this point has been quiet waits til the silent pause and says, "if we go north of Vancouver then Prince George will be in. They're not really a frontier town like we're looking for."

"The kid's right," someone says. "North of Prince George!" He slams his fist onto the table.

"North of Prince George!" they all say together, raising their glasses.

And from there...

When i first started doing research on the AB, I was fascinated by the one tiny detail that everyone seems to ask about: What happened to them? They lasted longer than many people expected and yet they were all but defunct within thirty years. Still-- that's thirty years longer and ten thousand people more than any idea i've ever had has gone. (That sentence was full of taxing syntax, sorry.) This detail, the demise of the AB, haunted me. I would not rest until I had figured it out.

All the research I put into trying to solve the mystery of the AB, which no one could explain to me, ended up becoming the obsession which has led to this blog, my latest tattoo, and the book I'm forty pages into writing. And in all that research what I've found to answer my question is...

There were a lot of factors involved in the dissolution of the AB. But that's not what's important. What's important is that they did exist, and that they did have an amazing impact on the North. Captain Richardson, who was in command of all the road building in Alaska (hence Richardson Highway), was an AB. The President of the WP&YR railroad was an AB. S. J. Marsh, one of the first white men to explore the Arctic, was an AB. We owe our roads, our railroads, our maps, our infrastructure, our very independence, to these men who called themselves Arctic Brothers (though none of them lived north of the Arctic Circle). Why they disbanded isn't the most important detail of this story. What they accomplished, that's the story.

And all of this because... 114 years ago, a man named Henry left his hometown in Sidney, Maine, with his wife, Pauline, heading west. Why? Probably the same reason that anyone else did-- gold. Fortune. Relief from the economic depression. A fresh start. When he got to Skagway, he went no farther. His trade as a barber proved enough for him to make money in the town that was the gateway to the gold fields. He set up his business in a store front on Broadway that had been a hotel at one time.

4 years ago, a girl named Ashley left her home on the east coast, heading west. Why? Maybe some of the same reasons as Henry. A fresh start. Independence. A new beginning. When she got to Skagway, she knew it was home. The first place she went into when she got there, a place called Moe's Frontier Bar, had been in business for decades... but at one time it had been a barber shop in a store front on Broadway.

And the only reason I started delving into the Arctic Brotherhood was because Henry, the barber, shares my last name. He was an AB and in an attempt to learn everything I could about him to find a link between his lineage and mine, I found my brothers. They've given me a purpose and a goal unlike any I've ever had. Beause of Henry Bowman of Sidney, Maine, I know what I want to do with my life: write a book about the Arctic Brotherhood and bring their story, hidden for so long, back into light. And, God willing, bring their organization back into existence.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Thinking about Dr. Moore

I've been taking long AB documents-- newspaper and magazine articles-- and transcribing them, typing them into Works Word Processor. The goal is that not only will i read them in the process, but then I'll have a more legible and more easily navigated digital copy of the sources. Last night I started typing Dr. Moore's serial for Alaska Weekly magazine which began in 1931-- a history of the AB. I typed all through Clash of the Titans, which i really wanted to watch but somehow lost interest in as soon as it started.

A few lines really stood out to me as I typed:

"I will aim in this article to give you the origin of the Arctic Brotherhood as I recall it, and to remind you of its influence upon early life in Alaska with the hope that it may help perpetuate its history authentically while facts are yet fresh in the memory of some of its early members."

That's my purpose, after all, in writing my book...

"On this holiday occasion let us survivors of the Arctic Brotherhood-- as we recall our early history-- think of those who have passed to the Camp of the Last Pass, fill our glasses, and drink to the memory of our living and absent brothers."

This is exactly how I felt when I sat in the Arctic Club in Seattle...

"To write of the men who, by crushing rock and sifting sands, produced gold and silver from a land which yields immortal youth and stored energies of inexhaustible mines, is like speaking of an imperishable race whose achievements are wonderful in scope and splendid in promise."

I just thought it was interesting that he made the metaphor of an imperishable race... considering the ABs' writings implied that they considered Alaska Natives inferior to them.

"With tender recollections of our precious cabin home in Alaska and of associations with the grand characters who made that country, I offer this second section of my story as the tribute of a grateful heart. No garlands of rhetoric or language of mine can do justice to those of whom I write and the grandeur and glory of their wonderful country I ask you to accept it with its outlines as a tribute of love which I give to associations of my life that are my richest heritage."

As I read Dr. Moore and re-type his words, the way he writes about trying to preserve the heritage of an organization that, by the time he was writing, had already fallen apart, inspires me to do the same in the book that someday will be finished. As of now it's only thirteen pages (half the length of my senior thesis, and two hundred pages shy of the length of the longest work of fiction i've ever written), but all the research is there in two massive binders and files on my desktop. It's a massive and humbling undertaking and I only hope that I can honor the memories of the men who so influenced the great land I live in.