THE REAL CHARACTERS OF THE KLONDIKE
An Klondike draws on many historical accounts in the construction of its storylines and many of the characters are based on actual historical persons.
One of the main inspirations for the story is Micí MacGabhann’s tale of his search for gold in the Yukon as described in Rotha Mór an tSaoil (The Great Wheel of Life). MacGabhann’s work was later translated into English and republished under the title The Hard Road to the Klondike. Many of the characters and events featured in MacGabhann’s work are incorporated into the storylines of An Klondike. Other characters, such as Soapy Smith, Sam Steele, Bridget Mannion, Father Judge, Skookum Jim, Chief Isaac, and Belinda Mulrooney, are fictionalised versions of real people that took part in the Klondike Gold Rush during the 1890's.
Belinda Mulrooney (1872 - 1967)
One of the first across the Chilkoot trail in 1897 was Belinda Mulrooney, a woman who had already developed a sharp business sense. She had been born in Ireland, in Co. Mayo, but as a teenager her family had sent her to America to make a better life for herself. In 1893, she opened a sandwich stand during the 1893 Chicago World Fair and earned several thousand dollars. She put her savings into an ice cream parlour in San Francisco, but lost everything when it was destroyed by fire.
Mulroney then took a job as a stewardess for the Pacific Coast Steamship Company. As she traveled the West Coast, she traded hats and dresses with native women in exchange for furs, which she re-sold to ship's passengers at a profit.
She had saved $5,000 when news of the gold discovery in the Klondike reached California. Mulroney spent it all on bolts of fabric and hot water bottles. She and her goods went over the Chilkoot Trail to Dawson City, where she sold everything for $30,000.
While other merchants built in the town site, Mulroney opened a lunch counter 14 miles away in the gold fields. She fed the miners well and added a bunkhouse, a popular move because it allowed miners to spend more time on their claims. With gold dust and nuggets pouring in, she then built the elegant Fairview Hotel--complete with cut-glass chandeliers and brass bedsteads which she had packed over the Chilkoot Trail.
Once the Gold Rush had ended she moved to eastern Washington and built herself a castle near Yakima, living there with her siblings until the late 1920s. When her fortune was depleted, Mulrooney was forced to rent out the castle. She spent the rest of her life in Seattle, where she gave interviews from time to time, talking about her life during the gold rush. She died in Seattle in 1967 at 95 years of age.
Sam Steele (1852 - 1919)
Sam Steele was the quintessential Canadian man of action in the Victorian era. Physically strong and courageous, he personified the heroic qualities of the early North-West Mounted Police. He even looked the part to perfection: tall, barrel-chested, and handsome, inspiring confidence in men and admiration in women.
He was born in 1849 in Upper Canada, the son of a British sea captain, who'd been a hero in the Napoleonic Wars. Steele, orphaned while still a boy, joined the militia at 16 to fight off Fenian raids from south of the border. Four years later, he travelled west as a private in the Red River Expedition. And when the North West Mounted Police were first created to bring law and order to the northwest frontier, Steele was the third man to enlist.
In 1898, when the Klondike Gold Rush began, Steele was sent to the Yukon to establish a Canadian police presence. With a force of 13 men, Steele cleaned up the saloons and gambling dens and brothels of Dawson, confiscating guns and marked cards and stemming a typhoid epidemic.
In 1900, fresh from the Klondike, Steele was offered the command of Lord Strathcona's Horse, an Alberta cavalry regiment raised by Lord Strathcona to fight in the Boer War. He took his regiment to South Africa. For his service, he was decorated by King Edward VII.
He died in 1919 in the great Spanish flu epidemic, but only after serving as a general with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in the First World War.
Bridget Mannion (1865 - 1958)
Bridget Mannion was born on February 1, 1865 in Rosmuc, County Galway, Ireland. She emigrated in 1885 to St. Paul, Minnesota. Bridget worked as housekeeper for Seattle Pioneer Henry Yesler, before settling in Chicago, where she became cook to the wealthy family of Portus B. Weare, head of the North American Trading and Transportation Company which operated merchandise and transportation facilities in the Yukon.
In 1892 her employer held a dinner party for Captain John J. Healy, another Irish born adventurer and his wife Bella. Whether it was the prospect of becoming wealthy or her innate sense of adventure, Bridget became determined to go to Alaska and persuaded the Healy’s to offer her a job as Mrs Healy’s maid. From the Healy trading post in Dyea, she moved up to the Yukon. By the winter of 1894-95 there were only twenty eight white women living in the Yukon amongst one thousand men. Unsurprisingly, Bridget received 150 proposals of marriage before she had got fifty miles up the Yukon, but it was Edward Aylward who would capture Bridget’s heart.
Edward Alyward was born in County Kilkenny, Ireland in November 1849 and emigrated to the US in 1867. He went mining for gold in Alaska in 1884 and in 1894 he met Bridget at a Yukon River Trading Post and convinced her to marry him. Their wedding was the first ever held in Fortymile, about 150 miles southeast of Fairbanks, Alaska.
Around 1900, Bridget and Edward left Alaska with their fortune and moved to live on Seattle’s Capitol Hill. A Seattle newspaper dated 3rd September 1896 carried an article about Bridget calling her the ‘Queen of Alaska’.
Edward died on 29th March 1914. He is buried in Seattle’s Calvary Cemetery. Following the deaths of her sister and a friend, Bridget longed for home. She acquired property in Rosmuc and eventually returned home to Ireland in 1948.
Bridget died at her beloved Turlough, Rosmuc, County Galway in January 1958, just weeks short of her 94th birthday. She is buried with her mother in Cill Eoin graveyard . Even in death her generous spirit lived on, and apart from bequests to family, neighbours and the local church, she set up a trust fund for the education of local children.
Father William Judge (1850 - 1899)
Father William H. Judge, S.J., was a Baltimore born Jesuit missionary.In the eyes of all those who flocked to the Yukon during the Klondike Gold Rush, he was the 'Saint of Dawson'.
Judge was an architect before he joined the Jesuits and came to Alaska as a missionary. He worked the Rocky Mountain missions beginning in the 1880's before arriving in Dawson City, in the Yukon Territory, in the spring of 1897 at the beginning of the Gold Rush.
He built a log church with the help of friends and it burned in May, 1898 and a new church was finished by the summer of 1898. He also built St. Mary's Hospital and now was able to minister to the spiritual and physical needs of the miners and others who had come to gain the riches of gold.
While there he became acquainted with the fledgling writer Jack London, who mentions Fr. Judge in his writings. The hardship of life in the North took its toll, and Father Judge finally succumbed to the harsh conditions in 1899. It is said that the town of Dawson shut down on the day of his funeral and he was buried in the church on the left gospel side of the altar.