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A report on the steamer Dawson City, 1898

Arctic & Northern History

Northern Ships & Shipping

Alameda Daily Argus (Alameda, California) - October 25, 1898

A report on the steamer Dawson City, 1898

    Joseph A. Leonard returned yesterday on the Walla Walla from Seattle, completing in the weak condition consequent upon his serious accident on the Yukon river a journey of 4000 miles, as Mrs. Leonard says, "on a spring mattress," and which occupied thirty-five weary days.

    An ARGUS reporter interviewed Mr. Leonard this morning at his home on Union street. He looked very weak as he lay on a couch drinking in the refreshing breeze which came off the bay through the open window.

    "I left the Dawson City," said he, "a few miles north of the Tanana river on the Yukon, and it was there that I got laid up by the accident. I had been gathering wood the day it happened, and wore a big pair of rubber boots. The cross-head of one of the engines broke out and it was shaking itself to pieces. The chief engineer went down to repair it and I started to follow him, when I fell down the hatchway and my right foot got caught under the crank of the other engine, crushing it badly, how seriously I did not at first realize.

    "Up to that time I had been in splendid health, and when I left the men were all well.

    "I could get no medicines up there. By good fortune I ran across Dr. Man- jon of Illinois, who was traveling through the country. We found he knew what he was about, and he had medicine with him, which, with his constant attendance, saved my life.

    "Dr. Manion left for the East when we got to Seattle, and Dr. Humphrey and I came down on the Walla Walla. Dr. Reynolds examined my foot last night and he says that there is about an even chance whether I lose it or not. He will make a further examination to-morrow, when it will be decided."

    Mrs. Leonard gave THE ARGUS man some further particulars of her husband's long journey back to civilization and home. There seemed no way for him to get down the river, but it was learned that a little worn-out steamer which had once blown up was going down. It only stopped at certain points, and the time left was brief to make connection with it.

    A lifeboat was rigged up with a canvas awning and six men, up to their waists in the water, carried the injured man and placed him in it. He was almost lifeless, having been troubled with heart failure. None of those who saw him leave ever expected to see him again, and there were tears in the eyes of strong men at the parting.

    The little boat proceeded to the St. James Mission, where Mr. Leonard was well cared for while a launch was secured to take him to Weir, where the little steamer was to touch.

    Unhappily the machinery of the launch broke down and it seemed impossible to get over the dilemma.

    Some one, whose name is unknown to Mr. Leonard, walked the entire distance in the night and notified the steamer captain to stop at the Mission. In this way the sick man was gotten aboard, but there were no accommodations. Space was made for him in the storeroom by removing a lot of spoiled bacon and beans. Mr. Leonard could eat none of the food on the steamer and other passenger would buy canned goods at points on the river or shoot a duck and divide with him.

    At St. Michael there were no hotel accommodations and the invalid was provided for by the Alaska Commercial Company, who fitted up a hut for his especial accommodation. The party came down in the steamer Roanoke as far as Seattle, and thence took the Walla Walla.

    Dr. Humphrey [J. C. Humphrey, a dentist from Alameda], who arrived with Mr. Leonard and cared for him on the long and painful journey, shows up bearded and fine. He confirms all the foregoing as to the seriousness of the accident. The Dawson City went away without her medicine chest, through the failure of the man who was to furnish it getting it aboard. At St. Michaels Mr. Leonard would have undergone au operation, but there was not chloroform enough in the place to administer to him. But for the providential meeting of the doctor on the little steamer Mr. Leonard, he says, would not have got to St. Michaels alive. Blood poisoning had already set in.

    The accident happened two months ago. They lay at St. Michaels twelve days before the steamer for San Francisco left. The experiences undergone from the time of the accident tll the arrival in Alameda forms a story that makes one shudder in the simple recital.

    Dr. Humphrey says the men left on the Dawson City are well. They intended to proceed to Minook, sixty miles farther, and there go into winter quarters. The only physical trouble they had experienced was from boils, all the members of the party having been afflicted with them.

    Dr. Humphrey thinks the Klondike is a great country and has full faith in the Dawson City's expedition. He has a high regard for Mr. Leonard and thinks he is fully able to achieve that which he started out to do. The doctor may return soon over the passes with some small but very necessary supplies for the steamer. Whether he goes or not will depend upon the action of the company. If he does not go back at once he will wait and go next spring with Mr. Leonard. The latter gentleman's chief concern now seems to be getting back, with his injured foot if it can be saved; without it if not.

    The rigors of the north have no terrors for Dr. Humphrey. He thinks the tales of hardship are largely over-told. He has no doubt of the ultimate success of the dredging scheme, though the apparatus may have to be somewhat modified. The vessel dropped her false bottom at the mouth of the Yukon, but drew five and one-half feet of water even after that. On the way up the coast she was beached and her propeller blades lengthened by bolting on plates of steel. Much trouble was experienced in finding the channel of the Yukon, but when it was found there was plenty of water. Pilots are scarce and come very high. They are mostly in the employ of the regular steamers.