The river steamer Dawson City lies near the mouth of the Tosikakat river in Alaska and her crew of once enthusiastic gold-hunters are scattered from Rampart City along to St. Michael, Cape Nome, San Francisco and Alameda. Misfortune followed the expedition of the Leonard party from the time it left the harbor of San Francisco, $35,000 has been spent in the enterprise, besides the time of the men who linked thelr fortunes with it. One member of the party, Captain Barnes, lost his life, and Joseph A. Leonard
and Frank Woodram suffered serious injuries. The last hope of making the enterprise a success has died, and in the spring the little steamer will probably be brought down to St. Michael and sold.
Tho long series of misfortunes that have befallen the party seem all the
more the irony of fate when it is known that the members hesitated at one time, half-decided to pass last winter in an inlet at Cape Nome. Had they done so, each of them could have secured claims on Anvil Creek that were taken up by ignorant Laplanders who are now in a fair way to be millionaires. So near were they to enormous wealth only to miss it and meet instead continuous hardship and repeated mishaps, ending in the complete failure of the expedition.
The question of responsibilty for the situation has been opened by a letter from Frank Woodrum, in which he says:
"The Dawson City expedition has been shamefully wrecked by the action
of the board of directors in San Francisco, when, I think, if it had been properly managed, it would have paid handsome dividends. I do not know what motive the board had for taking the management out of Leonard's hands, so I think, to be charitable, we should attribute it to no motive at all, but to gross ignorance."
A more accurate statement would be that Woodrum does not understand why Mr. Leonard was not again made manager after his return, as the management was taken out of his hands on account of the injury to his ankle that compelled him to return to Alameda. Woodrum's view is entertained by part of the shareholders, while another portion believe that the Board of Directors did right in leaving the managomont in Captain Dahler's hands.
The situation at present is this: The members of the expedition have all
accepted and given releases from the eighteen months' contract with the company, retaining, of course, their stock. Captain Dahler and Eugene Sherwood will stay with the Dawson City through the winter and in the spring if the company sends an engineer and a couple of men to help him the vessel will be taken down to St. Michael and sold, Captain Dahler cannot move it without the aid of a licenced engineer, as he would forfeit his master's papers if he did.
Considerable bitterness of feeling has developed within the company, particularly among the members of the expedition, in which there was discord from the start. Some of them feel that they have cause for legal action, Victor Mockel is ine of these and he he is waiting for the arrival of E. H. Cowling from Cape Nome to consult with him as to what shall be done to secure redress. Cowling, with Mockel and Frank Woodrum, feels very bitter over the fact that Mr. Leonard was not given another chance to bring success to the enterprise.
"On July 1st," Mr. Mockel said this morning, "Captain Dahler called us together in a formal meeting and said he had received instructions from the directors to offer releases to those of us who wished them. He was instructed, he said, to act on his own judgment in selling the steamer and outfit to the best advantage. He concealed from us
that his instructions were to test the dredger first and if it did not prove a success, then to offer us releases and sell the boat. Cowling asked him to wait till Mr. Leonard's arrival, as we were expecting him to reach us any day, but the Captain insisted on holding the meeting and getting through with it. The members waited for a few days in discouragement and then Cowling took his release. A few days later, July 7th, the three Sherwood boys took their releases. The next day Mr. Leonard arrived, but it was too late
then. He looked the situation over and advised the rest of us to accept releases, and he and George Leonard did so.
"Captain Dahler has taken a most peculiar course. I believe he and his
father-in-law, Dr. Miller of San Francisco, have manipulated the affair to their own advantage and to the injury of the members of the expedition. There ought to be some way to get satisfaction in the courts and if there is I intend to get it."
Other shareholders are by no means of the same mind. Some of them say that Captain Dahler's management has been characterized by good judgement under very trying circumstances. He has not had the support of the members of the expedition, who have been at sixes aud sevens from the start.
An interesting side-light on the story of the unfortunate venture is the fact that the party came near stopping at Cape Nome. After the terrible experiences of the vayage of thirty days and nights to the Aleutian Islands and with the ten days' storm they faced in the Bering Sea, some of the men wanted to lie in an inlet at Cape Nome for the winter, but thelr wish was over-ruled and the Dawson City continued on its ill-starred voyage, its members missing the chance to acquire with little exertion claims that might have given them fabulous wealth.