IN AN OPEN BOAT
1897 - 1898
A Trip to the Yukon Goldfields
Abel Seneca Weekes
Miriam Lydia Weekes
In July 1897 I was mining at Miners' Flat near Edmonton with A.G. Schaefer. We were approached by Fred and Al Jenner, who had been operating a mining dredge in the vicinity, with a proposal to join in the stampede to the Yukon, which was just getting underway. And, after some negotiations, we agreed to the proposal. The water in the Saskatchewan was very high at the time so we were not working, so we sold the couple of pack horses. They brought $10 per each, if I remember rightly. About August 8th, we moved to Walter's flat where we camped and set about building a boat for the trip. We built a very nice cedar boat of the lapstrake type. It was a fine boat and sailed well but, we as found out afterward, was not well adapted to the work. Then, having laid in a good stock of provisions, we hired a couple of farmers from Horse Hills to haul our outfit to Athabaska Landing. Arriving at the Landing we found that, while our boat carried the load as calculated, it was going to be much too crowded for such a long trip. So, buying some cheap lumber from Colin Johnson (a trader for Ross Brothers had a post about a mile up the river) we set to work and, in less than a day, put together a rough and ready flat-bottomed boat which carried two men and about 1,000 pounds of stores very nicely. I embarked in this with Al Jenner while Fred Jenner and Schaefer took the other boat.
On starting we soon fell in with three other boats starting on the same trip. These boats were much larger than ours and had cook stoves on board. We, in order to keep pace with the flotilla, found it necessary to row ahead, go ashore and prepare a very hasty meal, then push off and eat as the boats floated down stream. We usually only made porridge.
At Pelican Rapids we saw the original well drilling outfit sent in by the Dominion Government to test the reported oil and gas fields in that locality. It was in charge of W.A. Fraser, who has since gained some fame as a novelist. At Grand Rapids we transported our boats and goods across the island on the Hudson Bay train.
The larger boats in the party were run down the east channel after being unloaded. At the foot of the rapids they caught a line and buoy let down from the foot of the island and were hauled in to the landing. From there down we ran the rapids between there and McMurray without difficulty except the Big Cascade where we unloaded our boats and let them down with a line. As this rapid the Hudson's Bay Company had set ring bolts in the rock to tie boats to while unloading. At high water this rapid is easily run but at low water there is a fall of several feet. At Mountain Rapid we met Fletcher Bredin and Billy Armstrong returning from a winter's trading in the North. They were then 40 days out from Fort Norman and had probably 12 more to do to Athabaska Landing. This was Bredin's first season trading in the north. He afterward traded many seasons on the Peace River and was, for several years member for Peace River in the Alberta Legislature.
The trip from McMurray to Athabaska was without incident, the river being slow and deep and running through a thickly wooded plain. Evidently this plain was once the site of an arm of Lake Athabaska and had been gradually filled in by silt brought down by the river. In a few more centuries the west end of the lake will probably fill up and there will be continuous river from where it joins the Peace.
At Chipwayan we traded our two small boats to Colin Fraser, a trader there, for a 30 foot scow with 7 ft. beam which carried our whole load readily and, after a rest of half a day, went on north. Except for a deep channel, the lake west of Chipwayan is very shallow. As we went along we saw several boats aground and one, a trader's named Billy Conners, was still hard and fast as we went out of sight. He did get off eventually as I met him years later when he was keeping the hotel at Lac Ste. Anne. Going on down the Slave River, we passed the mouth of the Peace River and 50 or 60 miles further we came to what was then called Graham's Landing (now Fitzgerald).
From this point there was a wagon road to Fort Smith. There was a small half breed settlement. There a couple of the larger boats took on pilots for the rapids between there and Fort Smith, and we engaged a young half breed named Boney Dupuis to help us at the portages. By watching the course of the other boats we got through all the rapids except the last in good order. The pilots, after consulting together, decided it was not safe to have such small boats go down the regular channel at this point but said they would take ours and one owned by "Crazy" Graham, down a narrow channel where the water was not so bad. We got down all right except that in one chute the stern dropped on a rock and smashed a hole which let in the water pretty fast and a half minute later Graham's boat broke on the same rock. We had to go down another chute before we could land and by that time the cargo was all afloat, the water being nearly to the thwarts of the boats. We pulled up on the shore and unloaded and mended the broken board, caulking it well with oakum and covering it with tallow as pitch would not cling to the wet wood. Instead of melting the tallow we chewed it to a paste and I thought it tasted as bad as anything I had ever tasted, not supposing that the next year I would be eating it and regarding it as tasting like candy.
Arriving at Fort Smith, we found the Hudson's Bay steamer Wrigley loading for the lower river and Captain Mills agreed, for a consideration, to tow all our boats across Great Slave Lake. We went down the river a few miles to clear of the swarm of dogs that hung around the camps at Smith and which kept us on the alert every minute to keep our provisions intact. The next morning the steamer picked us up and towed us to the Burnt Island in Great Slave Lake. As there was a good deal of wind we camped there while the steamer called at Fort Resolution. While at Burnt Island we picked a large supply of berries, chiefly gooseberries, which grew there in great abundance. These, on being stewed, made an agreeable addition to our bill of fare. The next morning about 4 o'clock the steamer returned and we proceeded to Hay River Post where we stopped for several hours while the winter supplies for the post were unloaded. Crossing the end of the lake the following night, a wind sprung up that soon [produced] a pretty heavy swell which caused some alarm for the safety of the smaller boats - including ours. However we made it all right and soon drew into the MacKenzie River and, after a short stop at Fort Providence, went on to Fort Simpson.
At Fort Simpson many of our plans were rearranged. We decided to go up the Liard River and prospect in the Campbell Mountains instead of going direct to Dawson. A number of others concluded that the best way to Dawson would be by way of the Liard and Pelly rivers. So in the end we sold our boat to two Englishmen named Wright and Pelly. (Pelly was a nephew of the man after whom the Pelly river was named.) We joined a party of Edmonton men who had a larger boat than they needed. I have forgotten the names of some of the party but remember best Billy Howey (a butcher, later a policeman in Edmonton ) and Stevens of Clover Bar, proprietor of the "The Hog Ranch". There was also an electrician named Lee and three others, two of whom afterward drowned in the rapids on the Pelly the following spring.
Tracking a heavy boat up the Liard was pretty strenuous work but we made fairly good time to Fort Liard, in charge of Murdo MacLeod, a old timer in the north. He had been at Peel River Post for 10 years and about 30 at Liard. His sons Frank and Billy died, or were murdered, in the Nahanni country in 1898, of whom a great deal has been written lately.
Going on up the river we got nearly to the site of the old Toad River Post when, on turning out one morning, we found the river full of drifting ice so we tied up and waited for the river to freeze. There were six camps within about 15 miles. After it froze a little we set about exploring to find, if possible, an overland route past the bad water we had heard was further up the river. Being at this point up among the foothills, we soon found the river was the only practicable route so the parties, one by one, started with toboggans up the river, abandoning everything but food. Our outfit looked too valuable to abandon and too heavy to haul 200 miles through the mountains so we concluded to pull up the river a few miles and winter. This we did, moving into a cabin on Bell Island, so called because it was one "spell" from Toad River, H.B. Post and at this point incoming voyageurs stopped to put the bells on their dog trains and also to change into their better clothes and fancy moccasins etc., in order to make a good showing when they drew into the post. This post was called by the Indians, Irwin House from the name of the man in charge.
After this route to the Yukon was abandoned by the Hudson's Bay Company the post did not pay and was closed up, as were the posts at Fort Sylvester and Lake Frances and perhaps some others. The posts on Dease Lake etc. were supplied from the Pacific coast by way of the Stikine River.
After the winter set in the party, as arranged at Fort Simpson, broke up, Stevens and Howey returning to Edmonton and the others going up river, leaving only our original party. This left our boat much too large for our needs so it was broken up and toward spring we set in to build ourselves a new one. So we rigged a saw pit and cut and kiln dried our lumber, keeping a small fire of chips and sawdust burning under it for about two weeks. Then as the weather got warm enough to work comfortably out-of-doors, we set to work. Having lots of time and some ideas, we turned out about the finest boat for the work I have ever seen. It was 30 feet over all and 6 foot beam, being of the general type of the Ottawa lumberman's boat with a long overhung pointed bow and stern. Gathering a lot of spruce gum, we mixed it with grease and, after going over the seams, we made a lot of it boiling hot and painted the boat thoroughly inside and out. It dried slowly, was a pale yellow color and it never absorbed a bit of water but it handled like a new boat after 3,000 miles of river work. To protect the forefoot from rocks we made a shoe of an old frying pan heated red hot and hammered to fit. The boat was then fitted with a mast and four oars besides a steering sweep, all shaped from spruce trees, cut and dried like the lumber and also varnished like the boat itself.
Our supply of fresh food being small, and not knowing then the virtues of "spruce tea", Al Jenner and Schaefer had an attack of that deadly scourge of explorers, scurvy and, when the ice went out in the spring, were not able to undertake anything so strenuous as a trip up stream, we abandoned our idea of work around the head of the Pelly and resolved to go to the Yukon by way of the Peel river.
When we were launching our boat we had a visitor from up river, an American naturalist named Stone who had wintered on Dease river. This was the Stone after whom Ovus Stone, the Black Big Horn of the Cassiar country was named. He had news from the outside of fairly recent date having heard of the Spanish American War and the capture of Manila by Admiral Dewey. Also he told us of the snow slide at Sheep Camp where the camp of Klondike stampeders was overwhelmed and 150 men, more or less, killed.
We got packed up and moved down to Fort Liard where Mrs. MacLeod furnished us with some medicine for the sick men. We also got a small amount of fresh meat from an Indian and a big bundle of early onions from the R.C. Mission. Nearly every post in the north had a bed of these ever-lasting onions which we found to be an excellent anti-scorbutic and the boys improved rapidly. Here also we met Geo. Purchas and Geo. Philido who had wintered in the vicinity and who, like ourselves, had turned down stream. Purchas had been a sergeant in the N.W.M.P. and Philido was a French Canadian lumberjack.
After a stay of 3 or 4 days at the Post we went on down stream and killed two moose and dried what meat we could not eat fresh. Passing an Indian camp we stopped and got the women to cut the meat in shape for drying. The abundant supply of fresh meat helped the scurvy patients greatly and when we reached Ft. Simpson on May 21st. they were in pretty good shape. Camping here for three days to complete the drying of our meat and to write some letters about completed their cure. Al Jenner decided to turn back from here and what money we had on hand and some fur we had taken during the winter made up a steamer ticket and we bade him goodbye. He died of some disease of the liver a couple of years later but the trip probably had nothing to do with it.
On May 24th we started north. The ice having gone out of the river May 10th we thought it would be safe. Catching a fair wind and a good strong current we rambled right along and at Fort Norman we overtook parties which had left Simpson 10 days ahead of us but had been delayed by the ice. There were still plenty of big blocks of ice along the shore when we arrived but the river was clear.
All this rush of travellers with their stories of fabulous finds of mineral wealth had the effect of directing the attention of the resident population to native stories of finds, many of them legendary but having probably some basis of fact. In connection with this I would just mention that shortly after leaving Fort Norman we met Timothy Gaudet, a son of the trader in charge of the Hudson Bay Post at Fort Good Hope, with a party of Indians, on his way to investigate some story of a gold deposit on the Great Slave Lake. I never heard if he found anything of interest, probably not.
Shortly before reaching Fort Good Hope the river, which is broad and slow with numerous small islands, passes through a narrow gap in a high ledge of rocks knows as The Ramparts. At this point the stream is about 300 yards wide and about 300 feet deep. This canyon is about a half mile long. Near the centre there is a circular expansion to nearly twice the width, apparently the crater of a long extinct volcano. Fort Good Hope lies about a mile north of the end of the canyon. Since the water is so deep through this gorge, the current is not very swift, probably 5 miles per hour at the stage of water we encountered.
At Good Hope we encountered a lone traveller named Tony Brabant who joined our party for the balance of the trip. He was a typical French frontiersman, a good boatman, cheerful and industrious.
He had been prospecting in mountains west of the MacKenzie river during the winter and, although broke and with practically no outfit, was trying his luck on the Yukon. Here we also again met Purchas and Philido and a party from Fort Simpson consisting of Harry Anthony and Joe Hosfell. Hosfall was married to an Indian Woman named Julie, a native of Fort Yukon, who had been brought up in the household of Bishop Reeve at Fort Simpson and who was returning with her husband to her native land. From there the parties travelled with us to Fort Yukon
As we met parties that had wintered in the north we began to hear numerous stories of "Cabin Fever" and of parties breaking up and sawing boats in two and realized it might attack any party and that we were lucky to escape it
Reaching the delta of the MacKenzie we began a search for the mouth of the Rat River, it being small and falling in among a mess of small willow islands. The water was high and the muskrats had been flooded out of their holes. The whole delta was aswarm with them. The skins had very little value then selling 20 for a skin. We did not make the attempt to get any, even for food, which we afterward realized was a mistake, as our stock of dried meat and pemmican was running rather low.
The Rat River is a swift and narrow stream about 90 miles in length and having a fall of about 15 feet per mile for most of it's length. So naturally it was bit of a proposition to take a loaded boat up it. At one point it was found necessary to relay the load for several miles, taking half of the stuff up and coming back for the balance. We worked up stream once for a day and a half and ran back in the empty boat in 40 minutes. Still we worked our way up a little each day and at last reached the lake at the summit of McDougald's pass about 1200 feet above the Peel River. There are two small lakes about half a mile apart, one draining east to the Rat River and the other one west to the Bell and so on into the Yukon. These lakes are separated by a mossy flat and the boats were hauled across without any great difficulty.
High snow capped peaks rose on both sides of the pass and on one day, July 12th it being rainy, we could see the peculiar phenomenon of snow falling on the slopes about 1,000 feet above us while we had rain and mosquitoes in the valley. That night, however, snow fell to a depth of about 4 inches which checked the mosquitoes for several days. Launching our boats in the western lake we soon found the outlet, a small creek so narrow and crooked that, at some of the turns, it was found necessary to get out on shore and lift the stern of the boat around. It soon fell into a large stream, about 50 feet wide where progress was easier. In about half a day we entered the Bell River about 50 miles above the site of the old H.B. post called La Pierre's House which is at the end of the Long Portage from Fort MacPherson on the Peel River. This portage is about 75 miles long and was a route of considerable importance when the H.B.C. maintained a number of posts in the Yukon valley, as the supplies for these posts had to be hauled across in winter and sent down to the posts by boat in the spring. I was told by Mr. MacLeod at For Liard, who was for several years in charge of the post at MacPherson, that it was not usual to send any freight across the portage in summer unless it might be sometimes to send a few packs of tea, tobacco or ammunition to supply a shortage on the western slope. In connection with this portage it is said the Chief Factor for many years kept sending a few every year of the finest and strongest dogs from the other posts to be used on this transport work. The result was that many years after the route was abandoned the district was famous for the quality of its dog trains. Many dogs were sent from there to be sold for the very high prices prevailing on the Yukon after the opening up of the mines.
Going down the Bell River, which was in that part a calm rather slow running stream about 400 feet wide, we were able to relax a bit after our strenuous work crossing the mountains and made no attempt to hasten the speed of the boats by rowing. At La Pierre's House we met a number of parties who had come across the portage and had built boats at that point and were just getting underway.
Here, too, Philido met a party of Frenchmen and joined them, to depart out of the story as I never heard of him again. Purchas then joined Anthony and Hosfall in their boat and we made a new start down the Bell River.
At the junction of the Bell and Porcupine rivers a further debate arose as to the advisability of going up stream and crossing to the Yukon from the head waters of the Porcupine. Finally we decided against it but one party of about 9 men turned up stream and one of their party, George Rouse, joined us. Of the party which went upstream only two ever got across, the remainder starving or freezing the following winter, so perhaps we were lucky not to have tried it.
We drifted on down the Porcupine for several days without any particular incident until reaching Rampart House where the Church of England had maintained a mission for many years until, following the closing of the H.B. post, the Indians had moved to other hunting grounds. The Mission buildings were still all in order, having been left with furniture, kitchen utensils etc. as when in use. I remember walking up and rapping at the door, which was alightly ajar, and the chaff of the bunch when it was found that the place had been unoccupied for years.
A few days further down we met the first of the Yukon Indians we had seen. This was a lone hunter named Peter Brule. He spoke some English and Mrs. Hosfall still had some knowledge of her native language so we got some news of what had gone on along the Yukon from an Indian stand-point. We camped on the shore and in the early morning I wakened and saw a bear swimming the river a little below camp. I wakened the Indian and he took his canoe and crossed after him to a broad sandbar where the bear had landed. He managed to wound the bear badly and it turned and charged him and he fled for his canoe, his gun, a double barrelled muzzle loader being empty. The bear, being badly hurt, soon turned aside and lay down among some small willows. Hosfall took his rifle, an old 45-70 Hotchkiss, and went over with the Indian but they found the bear dead on their arrival. The thought of fresh meat cheered us up a bit and we boiled a big pot for breakfast but it was so tough and lean as to be almost inedible. Even our dogs disdained it after the first feed.
A couple of days more brought us to Fort Yukon at the mouth of the Porcupine where we arrived on or about July 27th almost exactly a year from the time we left Miners' Flat to prepare for our trip. While we had rested a day or two at Fort Yukon we had considered whether to take our boat up the 400 odd miles to Dawson or to try to make other arrangements as we had no money to pay fares on the steamers. Eventually Jenner got a chance to work his way up the river while the rest of us got a job to go back up the Porcupine river to salvage the furniture at the Mission at Rampart House. We took two boats. The party consisted of Purchas, Anthony, Brabant, Schaefer and myself. We were accompanied by the local missionary, Rev. John Hawksley, and the U.S. Customs Officer Mr. Wm. Millamn. Upstream work was a bit tedious after so many miles of drifting but we soon got used to it.
On the way up the river we bought some partly dried salmon from an Indian camp at the mouth of the Salmon River. Finding them too green to pack in the boat, we landed and built a rack and hung them up to dry while we were away but unfortunately some bears found them.
We arrived at Rampart House and, the weather being rainy, we waited a while for it to clear up. While there we had some visitors in the persons of Buffalo Jones and his travelling companion Jack Rae. They were returning from their trip into the Barrens where Jones had intended to capture musk-ox calves. He told us stories without end, many of the same ones quoted by Zane Grey in "The Last of the Plainsmen" and the listeners reaction was very similar to that of the cowboys in Grey's book. After they had departed in the morning Anthony summed it up about as follows: "It seems to me that this Jones person it just about the best single handed liar ever born in captivity."
On the way up we fell in with two Indian men and a boy going up to Old Crow River to hunt caribou, Moses and his son Peter who was making his first trip after big game, and John Vet-sa-a-yen (he looks a grand-father). They had two canoes of the usual Yukon type of birch bark, about 20 feet long and 2 1/2 ft beam, quite different from the Eastern ones but well adapted to the swift but smooth waters of the western rivers. At the request of Moses we took Peter into our boat where he relieved Mr. Millman as bowsman to Millman's great relief as he had no genius for boating. We got our boats loaded high with furniture and drifted back without any event of interest to Fort Yukon.
Finding here the walls of a cabin built by some prospector long departed, we put a roof, windows and doors on it and stowed our stuff here. We bought a bunch of dogs from a new arrival from MacKenzie River who had had his fill of frontier life and was anxious to get back to Los Angeles. As the salmon were not running Brabant and I moved over to the Porcupine and, finding an eddy that was not being fished by the Indians, we set out our nets. The Indians had said that the water was too swift there but we were very successful, drying about 3,000 fish before the cold weather set in and hanging about a thousand more to freeze before the ice got too bad for us to use the nets. These fish were of several varieties and ranged in size from 6 to 20 pounds, mainly about 10 pounds. The "King" salmon grow much larger but they come up earlier so we got none of them. They have been caught weighing 50 to 60 pounds and seem to be the same species as the Spring salmon of the Fraser River.
Buffalo Jones coming around again, we gave him the boat we had built on the Liard for a trip down the river to St. Michael and I never saw either again.
When winter set in we sold some of our fish to the trading company and freighted some to Circle City with the dogs. Harry Anthony we sent on up river and staked some claims in the vicinity of Charlie river but they did not pan out any good.
After Christmas I got a job in the store of N.A.T. & T. and earned enough to outfit Schaefer and Purchas for a number of stampedes to various reported strikes but nothing came of them.
The following spring Mr. Stone, the naturalist we had met on the Liard, arrived at Fort Yukon, accompanied by Johnny MacLeod, son of the Factor at Fort Liard. They had been collecting specimens along the MacKenzie during the previous summer and had wintered at Herschel Island at about the mouth of the river. Stone had intended taking a trip into the Barrens east of the MacKenzie by way of Bailey Island but had abandoned the idea.
On our way down the Porcupine returning from Rampart House we had met two parties of prospectors headed for Black River. About July 1st 1899 one survivor of each party reached Fort Yukon, the remainder having died of scurvy. The survivors were a pretty bad case. One, when his last comrade died, was 3 day in the cabin with the dead man before he was able to rig a block and tackle and haul him out to the chip yard. When the ice went out of the river he managed to launch a boat and drifted down the river to where an Indian family were camped. The Indian, John Herbert, gave him some fresh food and fixed him up a bit and brought him to Fort Yukon. We fed him up for a few days and sent him on a steamer to the hospital at Circle City. I saw him on a down river boat 6 weeks later going out of the country and, except for being a bit thin, he looked good as new. I bought his outfit, or the part of it that had been stored in the Company's warehouse since the fall before, including the most elaborate medicine chest I ever saw, about 20 packs of playing cards and two cross cut saws which later I sold to a French woodcutter named Lee Provost. The survivor of the other party was not in such bad case and managed to depart up the river under his own steam. He sold me a Parker 10 bore shot gun which was a little bit the nicest gun I ever owned, although of the old fashioned hammer type. Passing strangers when hard up, always sold me something, rifles, revolvers, shot guns and all sorts of plunder for which I had no especial use. Some of it I managed to sell and more to lend or give away.
About Sept. 15th/99, business not being very brisk in the store, I got a job in the engine room of the A.C. Company's steamer Victoria and made a couple of trips to Circle City and one as far as Eagle carrying a small line of supplies that were scarce at those points. On returning to the store after the freeze-up I found the agent. Mr. Fred Gash, had gone outside on leave and had been succeeded by Hugo Byers, a little hunched back Prussian. He was not nearly so pleasant to work for as Gasch. However I always got on well enough with him. I had handled the fur trade the previous winter but Byers did it himself, and his knowledge of fur not being so great as he supposed, he was often stung.
Just after Christmas that winter the store caught fire from the stove in the agent's room and burned down. We salvaged about two-thirds of the goods in the store room but nothing at all from the store or living quarters. The warehouse 30 feet away was saved. The weather was about 65 degrees below and stayed at about that for two weeks after the fire. We rigged up a room in the back of the warehouse and carried on in that until a small temporary could be built and we rented a cabin or two to live in.
Business was brisk that winter as the stampede to Nome had started and about a thousand people trekked down over the ice. Awhile after the fire the Company sent H.R. Mountafield, as expert accountant from the Circle City store, to straighten up affairs and when spring came he took over the post and relieved Byers who departed up river. Mountafield laid me off and gave me and a couple of other men a job by the hour to paint a large barge, about 150 ft. X 30 feet, which yielded me about 3 times the pay I got in the store. This lasted until spring came when I went on the steamer Victoria again as 2nd Engineer.
Captain Hill was in charge. The Chief Engineer was Harry Dalker, a Norwegian born in California. He was a real Viking in appearance, being about 6'5"and weighing about 240 lbs. He was only about 24 years old and not yet came to his full strength but must have been a powerful man when "set". He was the most nearly ambidextrous of any man I have ever known. He was not able to buy either a hat or shoes to fit him on the Yukon so he wore a toque and moccasins winter and summer.
The steamer was a small one of about 60 tons, kept usually for sounding the intricate and varying channels through the Yukon flats between Circle City and Rampart City, 400 miles below. For this whole distance the river runs through a wide flat with many islands and is, in places, as much as 7 miles from mainland to mainland, although none of the channels was much over 1/4 of a mile wide. Through these islands the main channel is constantly changing - a good channel one year would be nearly dry the next. The A.C. Company bought about 1,000 cords of wood at one point one winter and in the summer could not get within 1 1/2 miles of it.
This summer we made one trip to Circle and got orders to go to St. Michael on Behring Sea to outfit for some explorations on the Koyukuk river where some good mines had been found, causing a good deal of activity in shipping in supplies. At St. Michael we picked up Mr. Wilson, the Gen. Manager of the A.C. Co., and Mr. Turner, previously in charge of the store at Circle City, who were going up to open a new post at the head of navigation on the Koyukuk. While at St. Michael the Govt. boiler inspector came around to inspect our boilers. On applying 220 lbs cold water pressure it started a number of flues leaking and they gave us trouble all the rest of the summer. Also he had us put in a new fusible plug in our crown sheet and set our safety valve at 120 lbs. which we changed to 150 lbs. when we got away. The new plug promptly melted out as did several more so we put in a solid brass one and had no further trouble. When these plugs melted we would draw the fire and blow the boiler down until no water came out then I, being the only one of the engine room crew small, would crawl into the fire box to screw in the new plug. The steam would still show a pressure of about 10 pounds and the grates would be nearly red hot so, naturally, I found it warm. We left St. Michael late one night and, while the weather would have been only a plain sail breeze for a sea going boat, it was pretty rough for a little flat bottomed river steamer. The waves would come over the bows and roll back and run out of the engine room doors. The fireman on my watch, Dan Cadzow, got sea sick and I had to call the man from the Chief's watch, Andy Christianson. He was an old sailor and a little rolling and pitching was nothing to him. Owing to some slight celebrating at St. Michael the Captain and Mate sunk in slumber, leaving the deck in charge of the pilot, an Indian from The .....
This account was left uncompleted when Abel Seneca Weekes died in 1936. In May of 2021 the above was provided by Larry Sutton to Robert Park, who made minor corrections to apparent typos and scanning errors and added several internal links. Comments from readers