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Klondiker Harvey N. Leas Dies on the Trail


    The following article is copied from Page 1 of the July 27, 1898 edition of the Kokomo Dispatch from Kokomo, Indiana. Mr. Leas' burial location, stated as being the mouth of the Yetchum River, was actually at the mouth of Tatchun Creek (see a photo at the bottom of the page). Note the level of detail in the article which would be unacceptable today, with even insurance policy numbers and amounts.
    This article was sent to me by Mr. Leas' great-great-granddaughter, who had initially contacted me about the location of the Yetchum River.

Harvey N. Leas Finds Death 200 Miles From Dawson City
    Through the opening of a letter by mistake, information believed to be entirely reliable was received in this city yesterday of the death of Harvey N. Leas in the Yukon country June 17 last. The particulars are very meager, but Mr. Leas's wife as well as his parents, Worley and Mrs. Leas, accept the information at hand as final and mourn the husband and son as dead.
    Mr. Leas left Kokomo in company with J. B. Livingston for Dawson City last February. They were joined by three men experienced in mining at Chicago. The last letters were received from this party several weeks ago. One, dated June 4, was from Mr. Leas to his wife. In this he said he was suffering from dysentery, but asked that his family be not alarmed. A second was from Mr. Livingston to his wife, bearing date of July 8, in which he said Mr. Leas was somewhat better. Since the receipt of these letters Mrs. Leas has been borne down with the premonition that her husband would never return. He was not strong, and his trip over the difficult Skaguay trail was one of unusual hazard. He had nearly completed the journey. The greater hardships had been passed and the New Eldorado was but, in a comparative sense, a short distance away when he fell in the unequal struggle as many more hardy men had fallen before him, as many will yet fall.
    Yesterday there was delivered a bulky letter to the home of George E. Davis, 150 West Jefferson street, addressed to "Manager Equitable Life Insurance Company." Mr. Davis does not represent this company, nor has it a representative here so far as is known. Ordinarily the letter would have been returned to the office unopened. Mr. Davis was absent from home at the time. The envelope was partially opened at one end, and without noticing the superscription Mrs. Davis drew out one of the enclosures. She saw that it mentioned the death of Mr. Leas, whom she knew well, and immediately upon the return of Mr. Davis called his attention to it. The circumstances justified an examination of the letter.
    The first enclosure bore the letterhead of "The Dominion Adjustment Bureau, Charles D. Hanson and J. Kennedy, Proprietors, Room 23 Imperial Building, Montreal, Canada," and was as follows:
        Montreal, July 23, 1898
Manager Equitable Life Insurance Company, Kokomo, Ind., U.S.A.
    Dear Sir: - My son, Thomas Kennedy, who is on his way to the Yukon gold fields with a party, writes me from the Stewart River, N.W.T., and encloses the letter which I now hand you, notifying your company of the death of one of your insured, and has requested me to forward the notification to you.
    I know nothing whatever of the circumstances of the death alluded to, nor does my son give any particulars in his letter to me, but he is a perfectly reliable young man, and is well known in fire and life insurance circles in this city.
    A similar notification has been sent to the Northwestern Life Insurance Company, in which office the same party appears to have held a policy.
Yours truly,     J. Kennedy
    The letter referred to is as follows:
    Stewart River, N.W.T., June 22, 1898
Manager Equitable Life Insurance Company, Kokomo, Ind., U.S.A.
    Dear Sir:- I have been instructed to inform you that Harvey Newton Leas, holder of policy No. 416,711, issued January 30, 1889, died on the 17th instant while on his way to Dawson City, N.W.T. He was buried on the right hand bank of the Lewes river, at the mouth of Yetchum river, which is about one and one-half miles below Five Finger rapids. I was present at the burial.
    If there are any forms you wish filled up I will be pleased to do so, and letters sent to Dawson will find me.
    My former address was 523 St. Denis street, Montreal, Province of Quebec.
                Yours truly,
                    Thomas Kennedy
    The third enclosure was a map of the Yukon region with a mark in blue pencil indicating the burial place of Mr. Leas. It is something more than 200 miles from Dawson City. From this place to the point where the letter is dated is about 150 miles.
    Mr. Leas held policy No. 416,711 in the Equitable company and also a policy in the Northwestern Mutual, each for $1000.
    While some surprise is expressed that notification of Mr. Leas' death has not come from Mr. Livingston or other of his traveling companions, there are many reasons offered why this should be delayed. Mr. Leas was ailing on June 8, and might before June 17, then being within about 200 miles of Dawson, have concluded to travel by slower stages, or rest for a time, while the others forged ahead. No mail has been received from any of the party since that time. It is not impossible that they were with Mr. Leas when the end came and have written, but were no so prompt in finding an opportunity to send mail out as was Mr. Kennedy. It is also known that the Canadian mail service is much better than that of this government in the Yukon country; it is probable that this letter has reached Montreal and been forwarded here while communications from Mr. Leas's immediate friends are on the way.
    Mrs. Leas is utterly prostrated by the sad news and was unable to see anybody last night save a few of her closest friends. The blow falls upon her with crushing weight. But a year ago she lost her only son, a bright young man and the idol of her home, and now to feel that her husband lies in an unmarked grave on the frozen trail of the far-north gold fields is to fil her cup of grief to running over.
    Harvey Newton Leas was born at Euphenia, Ohio, November 10, 1847, and came with his parents to Kokomo in 1853. As a boy, he worked in his father's flouring mills, now the Howard mills. Later in life he studied pharmacy and engaged in the drug business here, in which business he continued, save for a short residence in Colorado, up to the time of his departure for the gold fields. He was married to Hattie Smith in this city May 2, 1878, and she with a daughter survives him. He was a man of excellent parts, kind of heart, gentle as a child and in all things considerate of his fellow men. For a home that is filled with unutterable anguish, for him who lies in that strange, far-off grave unwatered by human tears, there are hundreds of hearts beating with warmest sympathy in Kokomo today.

    The photo below, taken in August 2003, shows the view down the Yukon River from the mouth of Tatchun Creek. This is a very popular salmon-fishing location. The man in the foreground was just launching his canoe for a trip to Dawson City. The exact location of Mr. Leas' grave is not known, but was probably within a couple of hundred feet of this spot.
The Yukon River at the mouth of Tatchun Creek

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