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Captain Douglas G. Barnes drowned in the Yukon River, 1899

Arctic & Northern History

Northern Ships & Shipping

Dateline: September 26, 2021.

Captain Douglas G. Barnes drowned in the Yukon River, 1899

    It is thought that Captain Douglas G. Barnes of 627 Taylor avenue, a member of the Leonard party, was drowned in the Yukon June 10th. A small boat in which he was salling capsized and was found the next day twenty miles down the river. When the last news came from the party he had not yet been found, and there is scarcely a doubt that he perished in the waters of the Yukon.

    Captain Barnes bad gone through the winter without a day's illness and stood the rigors of the Alaska climate better than any of the young men of the party, though he was nearly 74 years old. During the winter he had built a skiff and fitted it with a sail, and it was while taking a pleasure sail that he met with the accident that is supposed to have resulted in his death.

    The steamer Dawson City was still stranded near the mouth of the Tosikakat river. Some of the members of the party were aboard the steamer and others were at the camp at the St. James Mission. On the day of the accident Captain Barnes went for a sail. The current was strong, but Captain Barnes was so skillful a yachtsman that no one thought of danger. After he had sailed about for some time and was a long distance from the Dawson City his skiff was seen to whirl about in a way that made it plain that it had been seized by a whirlpool. In a moment more it capsized and was carried swiftly down stream by the current, soon passing out of sight behind a group of islands.

    Some of the men started down stream after him at once, but were not able to overtake the skill or to get any trace of Captain Barnes. The skiff was found stranded on the bank of the river twenty miles below, the next morning. There is a possibility that Captain Barnes saved himself and made his way to some camp and had not been able to reach his own party before the news was sent out. An Indian reported that he saw him clinging to the skiff as it went out of sight among the islands, so it is known that be did not perish in the whirlpool that capsized his boat,

    The news was sent down by Joseph A. Leonard from St. Michael. Letters reached him there telling of the sad occurence and a day latter the Indian who had seen the accident reached St. Michael and still further confirmed the news. Mr. Leonard thinks there is scarcely a doubt that Captain Barnes was drowned. Charles Bruce, a member of the party, went down the river to St. Michael to meet Mr. Leonard, but he left the Dawson City June 9th, before the aceident,

    Captain Barnes would have been 74 years old next Tuesday. He was born in New York and came to California in '49. He worked at the carpenter's trade in San Francisco for several years and then returned to New York. In 1859 he came out again and settled in Oakland, establishing on First street the first planing mill started there. In the early sixties he was a member of the City Council of Oakland. He afterwards moved to Vallejo and established a planing mill there. He became prominent in public affairs and was sent to the Legislature three times.

    Eight years ago Captain Barnes moved to Alameda, and had lived here since until he joined the Leonard party. He was a member of the Encinal Yacht Club and was a skillful yachtsman, perfectly at home on the water. He owned the yacht Adelia, named after his wife. Captain Barnes was a man of remarkable constitution and was straight as an arrow and as active as a young man. He was generally taken to be a man of 50 or 55 at the most.

    Mrs. Barnes is a sister of E. B. Dunning. Harry Barnes, a son, is an electrical engineer in the electrical department of the Southera Pacific Company.

The San Francisco Chronicle of July 28th added: "He was cheerful under all difficulties, laughing to scorn any suggestion that his years incapacitated him from adventures and rough labor, and was very popular with all the members of the Leonard party."