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James F. Black, lost en route to the Klondike, 1898


To Drownings in the Yukon & Alaska


Dateline: March 7, 2007. Scans of documents and newspaper articles added December 22, 2023.

    While moving his outfit across the Stikine River in northern British Columbia on April 1, 1898, while enroute to the Klondike gold fields, James Black fell through the ice, and despite rescue attempts was swept away under the ice.

    Click on each of the estate file images to greatly enlarge it in a new window.




January 12, 1898, James F. Black transferred to William H. Black (eldest brother), E. 106 ⅔ acres of the S. W. ¼ of Sec. 16, T. 17, R. 7 east. (Champaign County Gazette)



Morning Herald-Despatch (Decatur, Illinois), Saturday, January 12, 1898.

KLONDIKERS


They Examine Sleeping Bags, Discuss the Copper River
and Bonanza Creek, Etc.


    James F. Black, of Sadorousis, in Decatur, is visiting his brother, W. H. Black, and completing his preparations for his journey to the Klondike gold fields. Much of his out is being obtained here. He has not yet determined just when be will start or what party he will join. There are a number of parties getting ready to start and he has had opportunity to join them but has not yet decided what he will do. He expects to start early in February. There has been a persistent rumor that Attorney W. H. Black would be one of a party to go to the Klondike, but last night he said that there was nothing in such a story. The rumor grew from the fact that he has been transacting some business for his brother in order to save him trips here from Sadorus.

    Chamberlain, the mattress maker, has received from Chicago a sample sleeping bag and this was inspecled by the Klondikers yesterday. This bag is so large that a man can crawl into it and button the flap over his head. The outer covering is made of heavy ducking followed by another thickness of heavy cloth. Next comes a lining of sheep skin (with the wool) and last there is another thickness of heavy cloth similar to the stuff overalls are made of. The bag complete weighs eighteen pounds.

    The members of the Conklin-Williams party has not yet decided when they will start on their long journey but is likely that the middle of February will see them well on the way.

    At the shop of B. M. Dennis on North Water street James Black is having a stove made for use in Alaska. It is constructed of heavy sheet iron and has two holes for pots and kettles. Into the fire box there is fitted an oven made of two thicknesses of this iron and between them is a lining of asbestos. From his own experience in camping the maker knows that this sort of a stove is what will best serve the purpose of the owner when he is roughing it on the Yukon.




Champaign Daily Gazette (Champaign, Illinois), Saturday, April 30, 1898.

Headline: DROWNED IN ALASKA. James F. Black of This City Who Was On His Way to the Klondike Country, 1898


    James F. Black, who left here Feb. 6 for Alaska, with his brother, was drowned April 1 in the Stikeen river, about forty miles south of Telegraph creek. He was pushing a sled across the river when the ice gave away. He swam about thirty yards but the current ahead was so strong it took him under the ice.

    James F. Black was the son of William Black, of this city, and was born Dec. 15, 1861, in Sadorus township, where he had spent his life.

    He leaves his father and mother, three brothers and four sisters. His family considered him their strongest member, and when word of his death reached them it made a wound so deep that time can hardly heal it.





James F. Black, Estate File #2318

From the Champaign County (IL) Historical Archives
(Contributed to ExploreNorth by Joan Lund)

Affidavit

I Wallace B. Walton do solemnly and sincerely declare that I was present when James F. Black was drowned on the first day of April 1898 at about half past one o’clock in the afternoon in the waters of the Stickine River about twenty miles below the town of Glenora in the County of Nanaimo in the Province of British Columbia in the Dominion of Canada.

I saw the said James F. Black go down under the ice and I saw him come up again and then go under an ice cake and I tried to save him and had hold of him, but I was obliged to let go to save my own life.

I saw the said James F. Black go down the river for about thirty rods, when the said James F. Black went down under the water of the Stickine River under the ice.

And I make this solemn declaration conscientiously believing it to be true, and knowing that it is of the same force and effect as if made under oath, and by virtue of I believe a evidence Act 1893.

Signed Wallace B. Walton

Declared before me at Telegraph Creek in the County of Nanaimo, Province of British Columbia, this Eleventh day of April A.D. 1898.

Wm. H. Bullock-Webster, a Stipendiary Magistrate for the County of Nanaimo.




Affidavit

I, Jacob L. Hill, of Memphis, Tenessee [sic], U. S. A. Do solemnly and sincerely declare that on the First day of April 1898 I saw James F. Black while trying to take his outfit across the Stickine river break through the ice after which he was grabbed by the arm by W. Walton, the ice breaking beneath Walton he let go his hold and as Black floated to the lower side of the hole I sprang to the edge and grabbed the said James F. Black by the arm and was pulling him out when the ice gave way and both of us went into the river then letting go my hold of him. I grabbed upon the firm ice and I was drawn out by another man who stood near, after which I saw the James F. Black come up from below the ice and after going for about twenty rods he sank to be seen no more.

Several men tried to reach him with ropes but could not do so before he went down. There is no doubt in my opinion that the said James F. Black was drowned. And I make this solemn declaration conscientiously believing the same to be true and knowing that it is of the same force and effect as if it were made under oath, and by virtue of the Canada Evidence Act 1893.

Declared before me at Telegraph Creek in the County of Nanaimo, Province of British Columbia, this Eleventh day of April A. D. 1898.

Signed Jacob L. Hill

Signed Wm. H. Bullock-Webster, a Stipendiary Magistrate of the County of Nanaimo.




Affidavit

I, Asa J. Townsend do solemnly and sincerely declare that I was present when James F. Black was drowned on the First day of April 1898 in the Stickine River, in the County of Nanaimo, in the Province of British Columbia in the Dominion of Canada, I saw the said James F. Black fall through the ice and I ran to get a rope, by the time that I returned he had disappeared. And I make this solemn declaration concientiously [sic] believing it to be true, and knowing that it is of the same force and effect as if made under oath, and by virtue of the Canada Evidence Act 1893.

Declared before me at Telegraph Creek in the County of Nanaimo, Province of British of Columbia this Twenty fifth day of April, A. D. 1898.

Signed A. J. Townsend

William H. Bullock-Webster, a stipendiary Magistrate for the County of Nanaimo.




State of Illinois, Champaign County in the County Court, In Probate May Term, A. D. 1898.

To the Hon. C. C. Staley, Judge of Said Court:

The undersigned petitioner John L. Black respectfully represents to your Honor that the attached instrument of writing to be the Last Will and Testament of James F. Black.

That the said deceased depart this life at the Stickeen River in British Columbia on or about the First day of April A.D. 1898, and also that the said James F. Black at the time of his death, resided in the County of Champaign and State of Illinois.

Your Petitioner further represents that the said James F. Black left, at the time of his death, the following names heirs-at-law and legatees your Petitioner, his brother, and
William Black, father, 506 W. Washington St., Champaign
Mary Black, mother, 506 W. Washington St., Champaign
Oliver G. Black, brother, 506 W. Washington St., Champaign
Lana L. Black, sister, 506 W. Washington St., Champaign
Alice M. Black, sister, 506 W. Washington St., Champaign
William H. Black, brother, Address Unknown
Isabelle Armstrong, sister, Sadorus, Illinois
Margarette Barricke, sister, Sadorus, Illinois
John L. Black, brother, Seymour, Illinois.

And that the above named persons are all the heirs-at-law and legatees.

Your Petitioner further asks that the said Last Will and Testament be admitted to Probate.

John L. Black

State of Illinois, Champaign County, John L. Black being duly sworn, deposes and says that the allegations contained in the foregoing Petition are true, to the best of his knowledge and belief.

John L. Black

Subscribed and sworn to before me, this 12 day of May A. D. 1898

Clerk

It is ordered by the court that the 20 day of June, A. D. 1898 10: a.m. be set for a hearing on said will.





The Evening Republican (Decatur, Illinois), Wednesday, May 11, 1898.

Will Remain in Alaska


    Attorney J. M. Clokey yesterday received a letter from Attorney W. H. Black confirming the details as they were published of the sad death from drowning of his brother, James, a few weeks ago. Mr. Black was drowned in tbe Stikeen river and it was impossible to recover the body as it floated down under the ice.

    Mr. W. H. Black is much saddened and discouraged at the sudden death of his brother and would have turned back had it not been for the fact that the ice is breaking so rapidly and the snow melting in a manner that makes the trail unsafe until the enow and ice have completely disappeared. To wait for this would have meant several weeks of lonely camp life beside the Stikeen river and Mr. Black resolved to go on with the party to the gold fields. The party were only 150 miles from the point where they had intended to stop and prospect when the accident occurred. The remainder of the party are well and enjoying their novel experiences as much as the discomforts of the march will permit them.




The Champaign Daily News (Champaign, Illinois), Thursday, May 12, 1898.

Headline: The Death of James Black, 1898


    A letter from W. H. Black was received yesterday telling of the unfortunate death of his brother, James Black of Champaign, on the Sticken river, while en route to the gold fields of Alaska. It was thought that the accident would cause the Decatur attorney to turn back, but he wrote that it was so difficult to get out of the country that he had concluded to carry out his plan and go with his party to the diggings.

    Had it been possible for him to recover the body of his brother he would of course have turned back but this was out of the question. The unfortunate young man was carried by the current under the ice and a month or six weeks will elapse before it will be possible to make a search for the remains.

    Attorney Black wrote from Telegraph Creek, forty miles further inland than where the accident happened. He said that before the party attempted to cross the Stricken river they were a little fearful that the ice was not safe but they tested it carefully and finally came to the conclusion that it would bear their weight. All of their baggage had been taken across except one sled load. Attorney Black was at the head of the horses drawing this load, and his brother and another man were behind pushing on the sled to give the horses all the aid that they could. Attorney Black heard a crash and looking back saw his brother and the other man struggling in the rapidly moving current of the river. The stranger fought his way to the ice and managed to escape. Before Attorney Black could get to a point where he could have been of any assistance to his brother the body had been drawn under the ice and disappeared forever.




The Evening Republican (Decatur, Illinois), Thursday, June 9, 1898.

Headline: ATTORNEY BLACK HOME From a Trip to the Klondike Country - Had a Sad Experience, 1898


    Attorney W. H. Black, who left last February for the Klondike country, has returned to Decatur to again make his home in the city. Mr. Black's experience in the north was particularly sad. He went with his brother, James Black, of Champaign, who was downed in the Stikeen river. The party was crossing the river on sledges when the ice gave way and Mr. Black was drowned and his body was never recovered. Attorney Black, becoming disheartened, turned back and returned home. He reports that the hardships in the Klondike country are terrible and that not half of the suffering has been told.