Historical Features

from the 2003 SKAGUAY ALASKAN Visitor Guide


In this photo shot in August 1897, Jack London is believed to be the young man in the group on the right, second from left.
– Frank LaRoche photo, courtesy of Dick North and the Jack London Museum in Dawson City

The Jack London Sheep Camp Photo

By DICK NORTH © 2003
World literary giant Jack London, veteran of the Klondike gold rush of 1897-98, once posed in stampede garb with a fake backdrop for a publicity shot he readily acknowledged was not taken in the north. Presumably, he would have desired the real thing for lending authenticity to advertising his narratives.
One other photo regularly appears in various references to Jack as having been taken in the Klondike. This displays London in a parka and wearing a toque while standing in the snow. A dog team is in front of him. There is no question the snow and dog team are legitimate, but the photo could not have been taken in the Klondike. London was only 21 when he went north and 22 when he returned to California. The Jack London of the toque and parka was much older. In other words the photo was not taken in the Klondike, but in Truckee, California where he attended dog sled races in 1915, just a year before he died at forty.
However, I found a gold rush photo that included Jack. This came about by my obtaining a copy of a diary written by one of Jack’s partners, Fred Thompson. Given to me by King Hendricks, head of the English Department of Utah State University, it enabled me to trace London on a day-by-day basis across Chilkoot Pass and down the upper lakes and Yukon River to Dawson in the summer and fall of 1897. Thompson gave the precise location of his party every day of the trip. Thus, any photo taken at one of those locations in that time frame might include the figure of Jack London.
I was not unaware such foraging made looking for a needle in a haystack comparatively simple. Possibly that was the reason the idea was not pursued for roughly thirteen years. Then one day while prowling through the Whitehorse Library I asked the librarian if there were any professional photographers who journeyed over Chilkoot Pass in 1897. She looked in the records and found two, Henry Sarvant and Frank LaRoche. Sarvant’s photos turned up nothing of consequence, but Frank LaRoche’s were more encouraging. Not only did the librarian mention his name, she dragged out a book he had produced and published in 1897. As soon as I saw that date my hopes dropped, figuring the material must have been amassed in 1896, or before Jack London went north. However, on reading it I noted the contents were gathered in the summer of 1897. This book, En Route to the Klondike, featured hundreds of photos, and one entitled “Front Street at Sheep Camp” seemed relative. There appeared to be a youth in it similar to Jack London. In the group at right were roughly 10 men including two Tlingit Indians. They all looked to be older than the youth. A magnifying glass tended to confirm this and piqued my mind.
Perusing the pages of the LaRoche book, I came across a photo of Samuel Hall Young, taken by LaRoche at Long Lake on the Chilkoot Pass trail.
Though there was no date on either photo it was easy to fetch an autobiography written by the well known missionary, and this produced a lead. He said he celebrated his fiftieth birthday at Lake Bennett. His birth date was easily found, that being September 12, 1847. This meant he would have been at Long Lake near the date Jack and his partners were there, or around September 7. Spurred on by this I traced the original photographs of LaRoche to the University of Washington’s Northwest Collection with Dennis Anderson then presiding. From then on my research was pure trench digging, wherein I amassed other photos of Jack, then made overlays of a transparency of the Sheep Camp photo with the photos I had of the “known”. Needless to say, this Sheep Camp “unknown” fits in with virtually every photo ever taken of Jack. However to be completely sure of my findings, I shipped off the material I had mustered to Identification expert David Sills, of the Toronto, Canada police department. Not only is he knowledgeable in his chosen field, but his paintings of wildlife are on a par with those of Roger Pruess, whose renditions of game birds we find on “Duck” stamps. Sills labeled the three comparisons he put together as: “A,” “B” and “C”. These are compared with the Sheep Camp shot otherwise delegated as “unknown.”

The youth in the Sheep Camp photo on the left was compared with a posed photo of London in a “Klondike” scene after his return, middle, and the publicity shot used for one of his books, right. – Jack London Museum

A. This comparison displays a photo of Jack London (dressed in Klondike clothing) which he acknowledged was taken in California. This is designated as “known” by Sills and is compared at full height with the Sheep Camp photo. Allowing for differences in the angle of the shots, Sills (paraphrased) writes: “The height and build of the two figures are very close; their stances are similar; face shapes for both are alike; placement and manner of extending their hands are the same; the jaw lines are parallel, and the shoulders are sloped down in both figures.”
B. This image is the same as “B” but the comparison with the Sheep Camp shot extends from the hips to the top of the head. I quote Sills: “The eye lines match up. This holds true for the shadow lines on the cheeks and of the jaws. Their ear shapes are the same. The shoulders are sloped down in both figures.”
C. This comparison concentrates on the face of the “known” utilizing a photo Jack used as a publicity blurb for his book, The People of the Abyss. It is compared with the Sheep Camp shot. Taking into consideration the photos are at an angle, Sills (paraphrased) points out: “The faces line up at the eyebrows. The nose length of both is 1.5 cm. The contours of the faces are similar. Cheek shadow lines correspond. The ear formations are analogous. Both faces display low eyebrows.”
Sills’ final conclusion: “As a result of the comparisons of the three photographs even though the two full length photos do not have the best detail – particularly the Sheep Camp photo – it is my opinion the unknown person in the Sheep Camp photo is that of Jack London.”
Frank LaRoche, now virtually unknown and unsung in his hometown of Seattle, was one of America’s foremost masters of black and white photography. His photos of the Olympic Mountain Range have been judged to be the finest ever made. LaRoche possessed a great sense of history, and when the Klondike stampede began, one goal of his was to photograph as much of it as he could, and to publish a book of photos with an 1897 copyright. He made at least five voyages between Seattle and Alaska ports that summer in order to portray stampeders scaling Chilkoot and White Passes. He died at 81 in 1934.

Here’s a current Jack London reading list:
The Call of the Wild, 100th Anniversary edition & selected stories by Jack London, Signet Classic, 179 pp., $3.95.
White Fang and The Call of the Wild by Jack London, Signet Classic, 278 pp., $4.95.
Klondike Tales by Jack London, Modern Library Classic, stories from four collections, 281 pp., $10.95.
Audio Book: Buckwheat Reads Jack London, (3 stories: “Love of Life,” “To Build a Fire,” and “That Spot.” Double CD, $18.00.
The Last Great Gold Rush: A Klondike Reader, tales by London, Robert Service and others, Wolf Creek Books, 223 pp., $14.95.
Gold Rush Dogs by Claire Rudolf Murphy and Jane G. Haigh, includes essay on London and “literary lead dogs,” Alaska Northwest Books, 117 pp., $16.95.
Jason’s Gold by Will Hobbs, an ALA Best Book for young adults, includes Jack London as fictional character, 221 pp., $5.99.


Jean, Matilda, Tad, Virginia, and Jeanette Hillery stand among the huge sweet peas in Charley Walker’s garden, a popular “Garden City of Alaska” attraction in the 1920s. Courtesy DeGruyter/Hillery family collection

Pat and Buck - Their Ultimate Fate

By DICK NORTH © 2003
“Buck,” the famous dog of Jack London’s The Call of the Wild was at one time, an “employee” of the White Pass and Yukon Railroad. This being the case, possibly White Pass could put up a sign to that effect at Lake Bennett where the dog once fetched sticks thrown into the lake by his masters.
Many of Jack London’s readers have wondered through the years what became of the actual animal on which Buck of The Call of the Wild was based. This animal was Jack, a cross between a St. Bernard and a Scots shepherd.
Fortunately, we know a lot about the canine thanks to his owners, Marshall and Louis Bond of Santa Clara, California, who kept diaries, the excerpts of which appear in Marshall Bond Jr.’s book Gold Hunter, published by the University of New Mexico Press.
Jack, and another dog, Pat, a St. Bernard, were purchased by Louis Bond in Seattle just prior to his going north aboard the S.S. Mexico in the summer of 1897. Bond met his brother, Marshall, in Skagway and teamed up with Stanley Pearce, a British mining engineer, in the rush to the Klondike. Pearce was to play an interesting part in this yarn about both dogs.
Shortly after landing, the Bonds and Pearce partook in a few drinks at the Pack Train, a half tent, half log saloon operating in Skagway. It can be assumed the two dogs were brought along with their masters for the reason that potential sled dogs came at a premium and, if left unattended, were often stolen. The Pack Train is still standing though no longer a bistro.
The men and dogs scaled White Pass arriving at Lake Bennett in August, 1897. Once they reached Bennett, they made a semi-permanent camp until they could arrange to obtain boats for the trip down through the upper lakes and Yukon River to Dawson City. During this time Marshall Bond reported he and his partners entertained themselves by hurling sticks into the lake and watching the dogs retrieve them.
Finally, the party obtained two boats and sailed them down to Dawson City arriving there in September. They immediately purchased a log cabin located next to St. Mary’s hospital then being built at the north end of town by a Jesuit missionary, Father William H. Judge.
Jack London, who climbed over Chilkoot Pass, finally met up with the Bond brothers and their dogs, when he camped in a tent next to the Bond cabin in October, 1897. London and his partners, after registering claims they had staked on the Left Fork of Henderson Creek, spent many days with the Bonds. This included accompanying the Bonds and their dogs to claims Marshall and Louis had leased from a man named Fox on Eldorado Creek.
London was very much impressed with the work ethic of the dog, Jack. He later incorporated the impressive characteristics of the animal in his descriptions of Buck in The Call of the Wild. London was equally impressed with Pat, who was an ultimate slacker when it came to work. The St. Bernard could run for miles at the same time adjusting his pace so he would not pull any weight, let alone his own! There is little doubt Pat was the inspiration for London&Mac226;s hilarious short story, “That Spot”.
What then, was the ultimate fate of the dogs? Pat’s future was probably revealed by Belinda Mulrooney, who successfully ran a road house and hotel at Grand Forks, located in the immediate vicinity of the Fox claims worked by the Bond brothers. She told Seattle Times reporter that she had purchased her dog, Nero, from a British mining engineer. (My guess is this man was Stanley Pearce as the photos of the dog herein presented, though taken at different angles, appear to portray the same animal.)
What then happened to Jack, the prototype for Buck?
My guess is the dog, Jack, spent his last days as a working animal around Carcross, Yukon Territory, and possibly Skagway.
Marshall Bond, Jr. wrote in his book Gold Hunter that his father and uncle, when they were ready to return home, asked Stanley Pearce, the British mining engineer, to sell the two dogs for them.
Later, much later, after The Call of the Wild was published and turned out to re a run-a-way best seller, Louis Bond, was reported to have said he could not get the dog aboard his ship and left the animal for a shipping clerk to send along later. The dog never showed up and Bond assumed the shipping clerk had sold the animal and pocketed the money.
This account, in the light of history, seems a bit specious, especially in view of the fact the brothers earlier had sent Pearce out to sell the animals. Could this have been a “white lie” the Bonds told to ameliorate their progeny who possibly asked why their fathers did not bring such a wonderful dog home with them?
I thank the late James Sinclair, whose son currently lives in Carcross, for furnishing clues to Jack’s ultimate fate. James, in a book about his father, John, who built the “gold rush” church at Lake Bennett, was a good friend of Otto Partridge, a clever and successful business man. John occasionally helped Partridge by driving his dog team. In doing this, John was quickly impressed by one of the dogs. I quote: “Jack, the wheel dog, who can do just about everything but talk, slips out of his harness and – if the others do not pull when starting – he barks at them, as if ashamed of the others...who do not do as much work as he does.”
Ordinarily such praise would not be unusual for such an exceptional dog, but for the fact Partridge, though a Brit, came up from California, where he was a member, no less, of the Santa Clara Fruit Growers Association. This was a closely knit group united together to obtain the best prices for their products!
Partridge employed the dog team in contracts he signed with the White Pass and Yukon when they built the railroad in 1897-99. This means the dog, Jack, was in essence, an “employee” of the railroad! Partridge later set up and operated for many years a resort on Taku Arm. White Pass and Yukon ran a boat on a daily basis to the Partridge’s place at Ben-My-Chree. This means the dog of whom Sinclair speaks, was probably treated well in his old age.
Looking into the history of the Bonds, I was surprised to find out that Hiram Bond, the father of Louis and Marshall, was also member of the Santa Clara Fruit Growers Association. Their concurrent membership makes the connection fairly obvious. Otto Partridge was probably the guy who purchased the dogs from Pearce.
Need I say more?

Dick North covered the State Legislature and sports for the Juneau Empire in 1963-65. He spent a couple of months with the 173rd Abn. Bde. in Vietnam working for Chuck Keen of Alaska pictures in the winter of 1966, and also worked for the Yukon News in Whitehorse. The Alaska Department of Public Safety hired him as the Department’s first Public Information Officer under Commissioner Emory Chapple and Deputy Commissioner Pat Wellington from 1971-75. He also spent two years with NANA Security as a guard and badging officer on the Alaska oil pipeline. For the last 15 years, North has been curator of the Jac
k London Museum in Dawson City. Books: The Mad Trapper of Rat River, The Lost Patrol, Arctic Exodus, and Trackdown ( sequel to MT).


Yukon Commissioner William Ogilvie and other “Boundary Hunters” pose outside a saloon, probably at Sheep Camp. Note the crack from the glass plate negative. After the dispute was settled, the final boundary line was surveyed in 1906. –Barley Collection,Yukon Archives-KGRNHP

Alaska Boundary Treaty Is Finally Signed

Matter to be Left to 3 Citizens of the United States and 3 Representatives of Canada.

Secretary Hay and Sir Michael Herbert, the British ambassador, today signed a treaty providing for the settlement of the Alaska Boundary question, says a Washington dispatch of the 24th (Jan. 1903). Efforts in this direction have been put forth for a long time, the pressure coming from both sides, the Canadian miners being anxious to get through the Klondike to sea without passing through American territory and the Americans insisting upon their right to the coast line and the control of the ports. – DAILY ALASKAN, Feb. 5, 1903

The above article spells out clearly the issues arising from the boundary dispute. It is a complicated issue for many readers to understand, but in summary, during the gold rush, both sides claimed territory on either side of the eventual boundary at the summits of Chilkoot and White Pass. The Canadians sought territory that was in some places 40 miles seaward of the summits, including Skagway, Haines, Glacier Bay and Juneau. The Americans were not as ambitious, claiming about 20 miles inland, including Bennett City.
The Canadians initially tried to establish a North West Mounted Police Post in Skagway in 1897, but they soon moved north to the summits, where they set up Maxim machine guns to control the flow of stampeders. The Americans responded by threatening to push them back to Bennett. After the talk of “invasions” by both sides subsided, instead of skirmishing the two nations reached an agreement to man the summits at a temporary borderline that would be made permanent by the politicians in 1903.
Here was how The Skaguay News editor summed up the feeling of Skagway residents on the boundary issue in an Oct. 14, 1898 editorial:
“The article in last week’s News relative to a proposition to incorporate Skaguay in the British domain caused considerable criticism, favorable and otherwise, in this city. The preponderance of sentiment here is favorable to our continuing under the stars and stripes, and the News most heartily endorses the sentiment. We are Americans, and loyal, true-hearted Americans seldom espouse or endorse the principles of other nations to the exclusion of their own. The British are good people, and , if coerced into forsaking their own country, Britain would be our first choice, but out embracing of British laws would be with about the same degree of enthusiasm that a sick man eats cold potatoes. Let us remain as we are, subjects of our dear old Uncle Samuel. In the meantime, none need be alarmed, as a contract has just been let by the U.S. government for the erection of a building at Log Cabin, on the White Pass trail, to be used by J.N. Wheeler, deputy collector of U.S. Customs for the interior, as his office. This does not look as though we are to become subjects of J. Bull, Esq., in the very near future, at least.”
By 1903, the tone hadn’t changed, even in the political arena. Reacting to an outcry from Alaskans over the possibility of giving up a harbor, Americans on the commission convinced a member of the Canadian delegation to back off. John Troy, editor of the Daily Alaskan, a man who later would become governor of Alaska, was suspicious in his Feb. 6, 1903 editorial that the U.S. Senate might dabble with the border: “The government of the United States cannot with dignity give up any of the territory within thirty miles of the salt water. The state department has undoubtedly been jockeying with a view to no one knows what, and has allowed the occupancy of a territory that will cause our neighbors much pain to give up. But while the state department might have made a deep down dicker with the Canadians for a cession(sic), it is hardly to be expected that a senate can be very immediately shaped to bear the shame and humiliation incident to such a pusillanimous transaction.”

The treaty was later ratified by the Senate and signed. – JEFF BRADY

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