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Clara Goddard, Seattle & Yukon Pioneer

Photo of Captain A. J. Goddard and Clara Goddard
A PIONEER PASSES - Reliving days in the Yukon Territory when this picture was taken were Capt. A. J. Goddard and his wife, Clara, who died Thursday in Auburn. She was 89. Mrs. Goddard, first woman steamboat pilot in the North, was by her husband's side during fabulous days of the Alaskan gold rush.

First Woman To Pilot Steamer in North Succumbs at Auburn

By Fergus Hoffman

    Clara Goddard, who long years ago followed her husband to the gold-maddened camps and creeks of the Yukon and became the first woman steamboat pilot in the North, died Thursday at their Auburn home at the age of 89.
    Out of her long and busy life, the 4-year adventure in the Alaska gold rush days always stood as the highwater mark of a flood of memories of pioneer days.
    The Goddards were the first to operate a steamer on the Upper Yukon and the first round trip in June 1898 between Whitehorse and Dawson made history. In Skagway, an editor wrote:
"When the moss and lichen begin to creep up our marble mausoleum in Skagway's cemetery, the prattlers of posterity will be lisping the name of Captain Goddard as the first navigator who braved the Upper Yukon..."


    Clara Goddard, years after, was to recall how men went wild when the steamer A. J. Goddard, named for the captain, whistled for the pioneer landing in front of the tent town of Dawson.
    Up and down the river as the steamer passed, thousands of gold seekers, rowing and paddling to reach the fevered creeks, waved their hats and cheered.
    At Selkirk, the steamer ran out of oil, but 50 pounds of moose tallow, purchased from Indians, saved the day.
    Those were the days, but were preceded by pioneering that brought the Goddards across the country from Iowa on an emmigrant train to Tacoma.
    They were married at Wilson, near Mrs. Goddard's birthplace, in 1886, when half of Iowa was planning to move to the far Northwest.


    Other relatives went first, and then the Goddards packed their blankets and enough food for the journey and took the train to Tacoma.
    The steamer T. J. Potter brought them to Seattle and another steamer carried them across Lake Union to Edgewater. It was a 5-minute walk then, on a forest trail, to what is now the heart of Fremont.
    The Goddards prospered, the husband a partner in an iron foundry, the wife planning for the Edgewater Congregational Church which was largely built with funds raised from floating "ice cream and moonlight" excursions on Lake Union aboard a barge entwined with evergreen ropes and towed by a steamer.
    There was always music, a zither and an accordion, and there were rafts of lilies in the dark and forested coves.
    But the years were full of action - statehood came a year to the day after the Goddards landed in Seattle - and many projects were afoot.
    When the gold rush came, Goddard and three partners had two small steamers built in San Francisco. They knocked them apart at Skagway and hauled them over Chilkoot pass, along with a saw mill.


    Mrs. Goddard was determined to accompany her husband, and she did. Afterward, they came back to Seattle, living for years in Fremont and then in Woodinville and moving 14 months ago to Auburn.
    In her last years, Mrs. Goddard confided in friends that she was determined to outlive her husband, "because Albert needs me so."
    Funeral services for the pioneer woman will be held at Clark-Rafferty Funeral Home at 3 p.m. Saturday and Captain Goddard, 90 years old, will tell his friends about Clara's last words. She was reliving the day that she left Seattle for the Yukon and said:
"Well, I can go now. I have my suitcase packed and Albert needs me."
    Captain Goddard said she smiled then, and it was all over.