Chapter II. Our First Alaskan Missions
BEFORE we embark on our study of the Alaskan missions, it becomes necessary to convey to the reader, unless he be of the few who are geographically minded and read, some general notion of the country. It is not possible to understand Alaskan problems nor to form an intelligent opinion about Alaskan matters without a knowledge of the map, and unless the reader be willing to take the trouble to refer to the map now, and to repeat such reference from time to time when fresh place-names occur, the time spent in reading will be largely wasted.
Alaska on the Map
Alaska is that northwestern extension of the North American continent which, approaching closely to the shores of Asia, was discovered by the Russians and was known for upwards of a century as Russian America. It consists of a compact central mass with two straggling appendages running from its southwest and southeast corners respectively, the first the southwestward-stretching chain of the Aleutian Islands, 1,200 miles long; the second, the narrow southeastward-stretching strip of mountainous coast line about 400 miles long, known as "the panhandle". It embraces, all told, more than sixteen degrees of latitude and fifty-eight of longitude and has an approximate area of 590,000 square miles, with a general ocean coast line of some 4,750 miles, or, including islands, bays, inlets and rivers to the head of tidewater, of some 26,000 miles.
It is evident that such a wide-stretching country will afford great variety of climate and resources, but it is not evident at first how very greatly its parts differ from one another nor by what tremendous natural barriers they are separated.
The narrow southeastward-stretching "panhandle" extension, with its clusters of islands, is a region entirely by itself. It is cut off from its hinterland of British Columbia by impassable rugged mountains as well as by the international boundary, and is simply an isolated strip of deeply-indented coast line rich in minerals and fisheries and forests. It constitutes about one-twelfth of the area of Alaska.
The continental interior, again, is cut off not only from this strip of coast but from its own proper southern coast line by lofty rugged mountain chains heavily glaciated, penetrable only in two or three places and then with great difficulty. The western coast lies on the foggy waters of Bering Sea or the ice-encumbered waters of the Arctic Ocean, the chain of the Aleutian Islands making an effective division and barrier between them and the open north Pacific.
Right through the midst of this continental region of Alaska, almost bisecting it, runs the Yukon River, which, with its many great tributaries, constitutes one of the world's capital drainage systems. Near where the panhandle extension joins the continental mass, a bold mountain railway of an hundred and twenty miles connects tidewater with the head of Yukon navigation, and affords one of the two main entrances to the interior country. The mouth of the Yukon in Bering Sea, 2,200 miles away, affords the other. When the railway train has made the exciting climb over the White Pass and begins its descent to the Yukon, or when the ocean steamship has felt its way in the fog through Unimak Pass into the shallow stormy waters of Bering Sea, the traveller is "inside" in the language of the country. All the rest of the world is "outside".
We have, then, the southeastern coast as one separate Alaskan province, the southwestern coast as another; marine climates both with enormous precipitation of moisture and a corresponding vegetation; then we have the dry continental interior, in area about one-half of the whole, with greater warmth in summer and immensely greater cold in winter; then we have the province of the arctic coasts with a marine climate again, but a marine climate of the arctic regions. And these provinces differ from one another so widely and are separated so completely that they are indeed different countries.
The Native Inhabitants
Now we shall be prepared for our narrative after one word about the aboriginal inhabitants. They are broadly divided into two groups, those who inhabit the interior and those who inhabit the coasts, and it is well to keep this main division in mind. Nowadays ethnologists seem to incline to regard all the American aborigines as of one original stock, but many ages of differentiation must have elapsed to bring about the wide separation between the Eskimos and the Athabascans, or between the Athabascans and the Haidas, in language, culture, and even in physical characteristics. Pronouncements about the origin of the native peoples of America are little more than speculations and conjectures. No one for instance has yet given a reasonable explanation of the fifty-eight or fifty-nine different language stocks found amongst them, from which arose hundreds of different languages.
The natives of the interior of Alaska belong to the great American family of Athabascans, so widespread throughout the continent in many branches. The natives of the arctic and sub-arctic coasts are Eskimos, with whom also the Aleuts are classed; those of the southeastern and southwestern coasts are of Indian stock, apparently, though differing widely from the Indians of the interior. The lower regions of the great rivers, and the whole courses of the lesser rivers debouching on the western coast, are Eskimo in their population; the last 300 miles of the Yukon and Kuskokwim, the whole of the Kobuk and the Noatak. The coast people prevailed upon the interior people to the extent of this occupation of the lower reaches of the Yukon. Between the coast and interior natives there existed a secular antagonism which often broke into hostility and effectually debarred the latter from the ocean shores. Trade, however, managed to find openings between them; indeed the relations between the people of the two regions may be described as a series of alternate barterings and butcherings.
In July, 1886, under Dr. Sheldon Jackson's urging, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church entered into a contract with the United States Bureau of Education to provide a teacher for a school in the Yukon valley, and the Rev. Octavius Theodore Parker, a missionary of Oregon, volunteering, was sent out to St. Michael at the mouth of the Yukon.
At that time the upper Yukon was the scene of scattered prospecting for gold. That same summer was marked by the discovery of coarse gold on the Fortymile River, followed by the first mild "rush" to the diggings. The traders from one or two supply posts far up the river came down to St. Michael every summer to obtain their stock of goods and ship out their furs, and a small stern-wheel, wood-burning steamboat was already plying the Yukon for some fifteen hundred miles, making one round trip in a season, to carry up the miners' supplies. Most of the men had entered the country by the difficult foot trail over the Chilkoot Pass, and by boat or raft from the headwaters of the Yukon, but they were dependent for the importation of all their necessaries upon the Bering Sea and lower Yukon route. Upon this means also were the missionaries from the first dependent.
It was however to the native peoples of the Yukon that the mission was sent, and after a winter at St. Michael, during which journeys were made to discover a suitable location, An-vik, a village between three and four hundred miles up the river, was decided upon, and the next summer a settlement was made there. The Rev. Mr. Parker was shortly compelled to withdraw from the work for family reasons, and the Rev. John Wight Chapman, having served his diaconate as a city missionary in New York, took priest's orders, and going out that summer to assist Mr. Parker, remained to replace him. It was under Mr. Chapman that the definite beginnings of the mission were made, and there, ever since, he has remained, giving his life work to the Indians of that region, the dean of all missionaries of any name now at work in Alaska. In 1912 a gathering of the clergy and other workers of Alaska who could possibly attend was held at Anvik, and Dr. Chapman's colleagues joined in presenting him with a silver loving cup to mark the completion of his twenty-five years' service.
The natives at Anvik are described by those who visited the Yukon at this period as amongst the most degraded in all Alaska. They lived the winter through in underground huts in a general surrounding of filth; they were perhaps more completely than in other regions under the domination of the "medicine man", sunk in subserviency to gross superstition; there was much distressing sickness amongst them and many cases of blindness and deformity. While some four hundred miles from salt water by the course of the river, Anvik is not more than an hundred and fifty miles by cross country from the shores of Norton Sound, and the more vigorous and enterprising Eskimo people of the coast are described by the early travellers as making incursions hither, overawing the Indians and compelling them to part with their furs at whatever price might be offered; so that to the other factors in their degradation must be added these periodic oppressions. It would have been difficult anywhere in the world to find a more unattractive people or a more unpromising field of labour.
Amongst these people Mr. Chapman cast his lot and made his home, gradually and slowly seeing their condition and their character change as the teachings of Christianity and the influence of his example made themselves felt. Here is perhaps as good an example of the result of a life of quiet, loving devotion as will be found anywhere in the world. A rude schoolhouse and dwelling were the first buildings to be erected; in 1889 a sawmill was sent in, and "a carpenter with some knowledge of pharmacy" named Cherry came to help in the erection of the buildings. Not until 1894 was the church built, from a part of the first United Offering of the Woman's Auxiliary. Since it has now been standing twenty-five years, I know not if there be any older building in the interior of Alaska. A sentiment connected with its origin has retained it when it might well have been replaced.
The sawmill greatly aided the natives in the construction of better dwellings; dormitories for boys and girls were built in which boarding scholars might be received; gardens were planted and the people taught to supplement their hitherto almost exclusive diet of fish by potatoes and turnips and other vegetables.
As a centre for influencing the native people of a wide region, Anvik was a wisely-chosen spot That curious arm of the Yukon River known as the Chageluk Slough re-enters the Yukon about forty miles below, having received the waters of a very considerable tributary, and is accessible in the winter, across the island which it forms, in a day's journey. The natives of the Chageluk Slough, isolated from all contact with other peoples, remained until lately the most primitive folk of the interior of Alaska. To them, with much itinerant preaching, the gospel was carried from Anvik; their children were received into the Anvik school, and gradually the same changes were effected in their condition that had been brought about at Anvik itself.
There is a certain phraseology which a missionary is likely to become accustomed to (as George Borrow when distributing Bibles in Spain became accustomed to "the dialect of Earl Street"), a sort of sanctimonious terminology almost as technical as the terminology of science, a pious convention of expression, which a man who is conscious and careful of the sincerity of language will avoid, because, when so used, it differs little from cant. There is, I think, little of it in the really great missionaries; there is very little of it indeed in David Livingstone, for instance, whom I hold to be of the very greatest, but in general missionary writing it is common enough. Of such are the expressions about "the light of the gospel" and "the darkness of heathenism". They are written almost unconsciously, I suppose, ten times, for once that they are written with realization of their import. Yet figurative as they are, if they were not so hackneyed, so much a part of the patois that everyone who says anything about missions feels must be employed, no better figure could be found to illustrate the contrast which it is intended to illustrate. And few places in the world could be found where the contrast was more marked than it was in those early days at Anvik.
The "animism" of the Yukon Indians was a gloomy and degrading superstition. It had not anywhere, I think, the horrible accompaniments of human sacrifice and cannibalism found elsewhere, but it lived in a constant dread of the baleful activities of disembodied spirits, and in constant subjection to the shaman or medicine man, who possessed the secret of propitiating these spirits and of subjecting them to his own commands. Witchcraft was the great power in the world; sickness and death were caused by it, and by it alone might be cured or prevented; the forces of nature were controlled, floods and storms provoked, good or bad seasons brought about, personal disasters induced or averted, children obtained or denied, by the charms and incantations of the medicine man. Many of the thaumaturgic stories told of these conjurers suggest the possession of clairvoyant and hypnotic powers. The people, without exception, cowered under this sordid tyranny, a prey to its panic terrors. Each death added one more to the ranks of the unkindly spirits, and while the immortality of the soul was not doubted, it was such immortality of maleficence alone that could be expected.
In every village of this region there was a large underground chamber called the "Kazhime", which, besides serving certain purposes in the village social economy, was the house of heathen rites and superstitious ceremonies. Here the wrath of departed souls was deprecated; here the medicine men fell into their trances; hence their spirits took supernatural flights while yet their bodies lay bound in the darkness; hither the new-born children and the bodies of the dead were brought for magic charms of initiation and dimission; nor were there wanting, on certain occasions, frenzied cuttings and gashings, and orgies of promiscuous lasciviousness. Whatever passed within these cave-like chambers was kept profoundly secret. Yet the people were not idolaters; I have never heard of images being worshipped; I do not think they had any notion of worship, as other races entertain it, at all. The teaching that there is one supreme God whose name is Love, whose nature is Love, Who designs good for his children in this life and has prepared abodes of bliss for them in the life to come; Who so loved the world that He sent His Only Begotten Son into the world to be an example of such living as is well pleasing to Him and an atonement for such living as is displeasing to Him--this teaching may indeed aptly be described as light shining in darkness.
Little by little the deeply-intrenched influence of the medicine man was overcome. Tenacious of life as a turtle, the old animistic superstition still writhes and wriggles, although decapitated and dismembered, but its power is broken and its days are numbered.
With the many ameliorations of the missionary's lot which the process of time has brought in Alaska, with weekly steamboats in the summer and monthly mails in the winter, with a general diffusion of Christianity and of smatterings of English, it is difficult to realize the complete isolation of these early workers, their complete immersion in the native environment. The severities of the climate they learned gradually to protect themselves against, after much preliminary suffering; the incredible swarms of venomous insects of summer being as great an affliction as the extreme cold of winter. Their resourcefulness developed as unanticipated exigencies of their situation threw them back more and more upon it; they learned themselves painfully to supply simple necessaries which aforetime in their lives had come without effort, and to do without what themselves were unable to supply. In some respects they had to learn from the natives as much as the natives had to learn from them.
In 1893 a woman physician, Dr. Mary Glenton, was sent out to Anvik and effected a great improvement in the native health; always there was a trained nurse maintained, but sometimes a teacher failed and Mr. Chapman had to spend in the schoolroom the long winter hours that he would rather have spent travelling amongst scattered bands of Indians in his wide neighbourhood.
In the same year Deaconess Sabine began her long connection with this mission, and in 1902 Mrs. F. B. Evans began hers, two devoted workers who have earned honoured names on the Yukon.
The scene of the establishment of our second Alaskan mission is very different. Instead of the thick-set scrub forest of the sub-arctic interior, with its dense undergrowth, we are transported to the naked shore of the coast, more than a degree of latitude within the arctic regions; instead of the great river, we have the ocean; instead of a fish-eating people we have a seal-and-whale-and-walrus-eating people; instead of Indians, Eskimos.
The immediate occasion of the occupation of the northwestern coast of Alaska by mission stations, was a letter written by Lt. Commander Stockton, U. S. A., who had spent the season of 1889 in a cruise in these arctic waters in command of the Thetis. This cruise of the Thetis is memorable in many ways. The whole coast of Alaska was traversed, not only from Dixon entrance around into Bering Sea and up to Point Barrow, but from Point Barrow eastward to Herschel Island, this last a remarkably bold venture for a revenue cutter. Commander Stockton was much moved by the desperate condition in which he found the Eskimos, and upon his return he wrote to Dr. Sheldon Jackson, the General Agent for Education in Alaska, pleading that something should promptly be done to save them from destruction, and to the Board of Missions of the Episcopal Church, of which he was a member; afterwards appearing in person before the Board on the same errand.
From the point of view of modern, coldblooded, scientific philanthropy, though of course not from any Christian point of view, it is possible to contend that the little, remote, heathen peoples of the world were better left entirely to themselves, if such continual isolation were any way practicable. But it is not, and those who plead for it know perfectly well that it is not. The trader, the beach-comber and the squaw-man have always been hard upon the heels of the explorer. No sooner had Vitus Bering discovered the Aleutian Islands than the Kamschatkan "Promyshleniks" began their devastating intercourse with the natives which ended in the destruction of the greater part of them and would probably have depopulated the islands but for the vigorous efforts of the great missionary Veniaminoff, whose impassioned intervention on behalf of the Aleuts recalls the memory of the heroic Las Casas and the ceaseless battle which he waged for the Indian of South America three centuries before.
Fourteen years after Cook discovered the Sandwich Islands, Vancouver found them the resort of "a banditti of renegadoes that had quitted different trading vessels in consequence of disputes with their respective commanders," and had "forgotten the rules which humanity, justice and common honesty prescribe"--Portuguese, Genoese, Chinese, English and Americans. The same commander, a magnanimous and kindly spirit, grows so indignant over "the very unjustifiable conduct of the traders" on the shores of the Alexander archipelago that nowadays the local newspapers would certainly denounce such a writer as "slandering the white men of Alaska."
The remotest and last-discovered people of the earth, the Copper Eskimos, about whom the newspapers grew so sensational a few years ago, have already suffered an invasion of the same sort, and when I was at Herschel Island in 1918 I saw a degenerate Russian Jew serving a sentence at the Northwest Mounted Police Post--not because he had outraged these simple, sturdy folk, but because he had impudently violated the Canadian customs laws in doing so.
But one need not go out of these western waters for overwhelming testimony to the havoc wrought by white men. When John Muir made the cruise of the Corwin in 1881 he found that the inhabitants of St. Matthew's Island, to the number of several hundreds, had "died of starvation caused by abundance of rum which rendered them careless about the laying up of ordinary supplies of food for the winter", and on St. Lawrence Island nearly a thousand people had died, we know from other sources, of the same cause. "The scene was indescribably ghastly and desolate. The shrunken bodies with rotting furs on them, or white, bleaching skeletons, picked bare by the crows, were lying where they had been cast out by surviving relatives while they had yet strength to carry them."
Shall the primitive peoples of the earth know nothing of the white man save of the "banditti of renegadoes" which quickly infest newly-discovered shores? Shall such reckless and unprincipled wastrels work their will unhindered? Shall drunkenness and lust and fraud and trickery and violence be the only teaching received from the white man's "civilization"? I am content to rest the cause of missions upon the inevasible answer to that question--for anyone who is read ever so little in the history of exploration knows that word of newly-found tribes brings a flock of predatory bipeds just as surely as the scent of new carrion brings a flock of vultures.
Whaling began north of Bering's Straits well before the middle of the last century, I think, very shortly after the publication of Beechey's narrative in 1831, in which he mentions the whales of these waters; and just as the fur of the sea-otter was the object of desire that brought about the ruin of the Aleutian islanders, so whalebone was the curse of the Arctic Eskimos. Collinson in the Enterprise, returning from the Franklin search in 1854, finds whaling in full swing, and writes that "rum and brandy were the articles most coveted by the natives in exchange for their furs and walrus-teeth."
The first cruise of a revenue cutter above Bering's Straits took place in 1880 and it may be gathered that the early cruises of revenue cutters did not bring much protection to the natives. There are stories still to pick up along the west coast of liquor carried by such craft and of eager profitable trading by both officers and men. At any rate, for thirty or forty years the whalers with crews of the sweepings of San Francisco had unchecked, almost unnoticed, scope to work their will along the coast. Point Hope was one of their chief resorts, for trading, for securing native hands to replace deserters or eke out their scanty companies, and often, beyond question, for procuring native women to serve the uses of officers and men; this last sometimes by liquor and cajolery, sometimes by simple kidnapping. Beechey was the first white man to land at Point Hope and to come in contact with its natives. The underground habitations were however deserted save for a few old men and women and children--the men gone on their hunting excursions; "some were blind, others decrepit, and, dressed in greasy, worn-out clothes, they looked perfectly wretched." He describes "the heaps of filth and ruined habitations, filled with stinking water." I have never seen an Eskimo village in the summer time, but I know how abominable an Indian village can become when the melting snow brings the ordure and garbage of winter to life. If, as I suspect, though the narrative is not clear, Beechey landed on the north side of the point, he would pass through the abandoned part of the village, which has been so long abandoned that I could find no knowledge of the time when it was occupied. It is now a quarry for Eskimo antiquities as well as a sort of coal mine, for I have often seen men digging around it and removing the upper layers of soil, saturated with immemorial blubber and seal-oil, for fuel.
It was not until 1890 that the first missionary establishments were set up on this coast, at Cape Prince of Wales, at Point Hope and at Point Barrow simultaneously, at the joint charges of the Bureau of Education and the Congregational, the Episcopal and the Presbyterian Churches respectively. The chief praise for the work lies with that remarkable man Dr. Sheldon Jackson, whose appointment to the educational superintendency of Alaska was so wise and fit as to seem accidental to our system.
Immediately upon receipt of Commander Stockton's letter, Dr. Jackson began negotiations with the several missionary societies of Protestant bodies to secure the simultaneous establishment of missions to the Eskimos at the three points mentioned along the western arctic coast. Since the letter dealt especially with Point Hope, the work at this place was urged upon our Board of Missions and accepted by it. The Congregationalists accepted Cape Prince of Wales, the most westerly point of the continent, and the Presbyterians Point Barrow, the northern extreme of Alaska, and appeals were made for volunteers to man these stations, setting forth all the difficulties and privations that would be involved in order to discourage those who had not the necessary hardihood.
No less than twenty-four persons responded to the call, amongst them John B. Driggs, M.D. of Maryland, who was selected for Point Hope and appointed by the Board under a contract similar to that entered into with regard to Anvik.
The year 1890 is a memorable date in the history of the arctic Eskimos, for in that summer these missions at the three most populous places on the coast were simultaneously established. A schooner sailed from San Francisco with materials for the three schoolhouses, the revenue cutter Bear took up the men selected to have charge of them, and the crew of the ship helped in the hasty setting up of the first buildings.
The situation at Point Hope was distressing and dangerous. A savage drunken old autocrat, Ah-ten-ow'rah, with half a dozen wives, had managed to make himself lord of the place, and ruled by terrorizing the people, forbidding any trade unless it passed through his hands, and enforcing his authority by killing any who defied it. When his tyranny had become insupportable the principal Eskimo men decided to put him to death and drew lots to determine his executioner. The man on whom the lot fell shot at him through the seal-gut window of his igloo, knowing just where the old man was wont to lie, and as soon as the shot was fired one of his wives, who was in the plot, plunged a knife into him. Every visit of a whaling ship was followed by drunkenness and riot; the women were carried off to serve the lusts of the sailors, and, as Commodore Stockton says, "although under the flag of the United States there was nothing but chaos and paganism."
In the midst of this inflamed and licentious population, without any knowledge of the Eskimo tongue, with no arctic experience, Dr. Driggs was set down; a shack was hastily erected, his supplies were dumped on the beach, and the ship sailed away leaving him to his task. For eighteen years, with only three visits to his home in Baltimore, most of the time without any colleague or assistant, he devoted himself to it. He began with the school, and he secured his first pupil by giving little cakes or candies to those who would come; he applied himself to the native language; he seized careful, favourable opportunities of ministering to the sick. That his life was often in danger there is no question; nothing but the quiet, unobtrusive character of his work, the patience and tact which he employed, the watchful waiting policy which he adopted, saved him from attack.
Three years after the establishment of these missions Mr. Harrison Thornton, who went with Mr. Lopp to the charge of the station at Cape Prince of Wales, was murdered by drunken natives--called to the door at night and shot with a whale-gun--and Mr. Lopp also was shot at.
So far as I know the Russian priest Juvenali, who was murdered on the Kenai peninsula in 1796, for seeking to suppress polygamy, and Harrison Thornton of Virginia, Congregationalist missionary at Cape Prince of Wales, murdered by drunken Eskimos in 1893, are the only men whose blood has been directly shed for the Christian faith in Alaska. These early ventures on the arctic coast were undeniably perilous to an extent that a visitor nowadays finds it hard to realize, a difficulty which is the result of the change which they have wrought.
It would be wrong to think of the Eskimos as naturally bloodthirsty and violent; there were never gentler or more peaceable people; but crazed by liquor and remembrance of old wrongs and oppressions, the recollection of a long series of outrages tamely endured by an overawed and bewildered people, fired their passions to the readiest vengeance at hand. Mrs. Thornton, writing just before the dreadful affair at Cape Prince of Wales occurred, says they never feared the natives when sober, but that, when drunk, "a vague recollection of the Gilly affair in 1877 when thirteen natives were killed by white men, might cause the death of some of us"--an apprehension justified only too sadly and soon.
Dr. Driggs wrote very little about himself. One of the most vivid pictures of the life of the missionary at Point Hope is from the pen of the Rev. E. N. Edson, who went up to take charge for a year while Dr. Driggs came out on his first furlough. Writing in 1895 he says, "'It is not good for man to be alone,' and these words have more meaning than they bear on their face. The effects of the isolation of this field on the mind, and, by reflex action, upon the body, are terrible. To do one's own housework, cook one's own meals, wash dishes, sweep, cut firewood for living rooms and school, teach a school of forty or more natives without a common language; to be on a restricted allowance of drinking water, to obtain which meagre supply a journey in summer of one and a half miles and in winter of sixteen miles, must be made; and coupled with all this for ten months in the year to face the rigours of an arctic winter--this is a severe test for any man. A whole year without a sight of dear ones, or even a letter, is a hard trial." Dr. Driggs had endured it for four consecutive years.
Mr. Edson does not mention, except in his general reference to the rigours of the arctic climate, what seems to the present writer the greatest affliction of the place, the frightful wind storms that sweep over the unprotected sandspit for days at a time during which it is not possible to leave the dwelling without suffering and even danger. The effect of these blizzards, charged with driven snow, and even with sand, lasting sometimes for a week continuously, is exceedingly depressing to the mind, as well as painful to the body.
Dr. Driggs had been seventeen years at Point Hope when Elnar Mikkelson, the arctic explorer, returning from his attempt to penetrate the region north of Alaska, writes thus of him: "His work had brought its own reward; he is beloved in the village, and the young men and young women look upon him as a father, wiser and better than their own, who does all he can to make the people for whom he has sacrificed his life a useful and self-dependent race."
In 1903 Bishop Rowe ordained Dr. Driggs to the diaconate that his usefulness might be increased by the authorization to baptize and marry.
Several times during those eighteen years the annual supply ship bringing provisions was wrecked, and the missionary reduced in the main to the native subsistence of seal meat and whale meat. The isolation and solitude of his life at last told on Dr. Driggs's mind. He began to grow eccentric and absent, and it was thought wise that he return to the United States. But Dr. Driggs was wedded to the arctic and to the Eskimos; long absence had made him strange to civilization; the very causes which rendered necessary his removal from this solitary life seemed also to render it impossible. He withdrew from charge of the mission when it was made plain to him that the Bishop and the Board of Missions deemed it best, but withdrew only a little way up the coast, and there, a few years later, died.
His place was taken and his work carried on by the Rev. A. R. Hoare, who for ten years had charge of the mission; who built new church, new residence, new schoolhouse, and--for most of the time without colleague or assistant--was priest and teacher, physician and nurse. For two years, ending in the summer of 1919, the Rev. W. A. Thomas was in charge, and for the latter of those years his sister, Miss Virginia Thomas, was with him as teacher and housekeeper. Then Mr. Hoare returned, and as this book is making ready for the press comes the dreadful news that on 27th April, 1920, Mr. Hoare was shot and killed by a demented young white man whom he had taken up as an assistant. We have no more than the bare news mentioned, nor can have for some time. Mr. Hoare has ended a devoted, self-sacrificing life by a violent death at his post of duty, and if he may not be classed with Harrison Thornton as a martyr, his name will stand with Miss Farthing of Nenana as faithful to death.
It is not right that one man should ever be left to conduct the manifold activities of this place. In addition to the duties of the place itself there are distant communities of Eskimos who have been evangelized and baptized by clergy of the Church and who look to us for all the ministrations they can receive. As far as Icy Cape and Wainwright to the north, as far as the mid-length of the Kobuk River to the south, it is necessary for the priest at Point Hope to travel.
Point Hope is now a peaceful, quiet, highly-respectable place, with a people really trying to lead Christian lives. The church is thronged at all services; there are an hundred communicants; the children are all at school; the affairs of the village are handled with conscientious effort at the enforcement of clean living, by an elected council. The present writer spent Christmas, 1917, and six weeks following at Point Hope and was impressed by the gentleness and devotion of these people, their industry, and their eagerness to learn. The docility and interest of the school children were remarkable, and their intelligence, he thought, quite equal to that of the average white children of a country school. Day after day they fought their way for more than a mile against raging blizzards in order to attend school, and they were always present long before the appointed time. Point Hope should have a physician and a nurse and a small hospital. This whole coast is sadly lacking in medical care.
Our third establishment in Alaska was again on the Yukon River and introduces the third of the trio of missionaries whose long faithful service may be said to have laid the foundations of our native work. While a student at the Philadelphia Divinity School, Jules Prevost had been strongly drawn to missionary work in Algeria, and for two years studied Arabic with that end in view. One day, however, he heard William Duncan of Metlakahtla speak, at that time seeking funds for the removal of his Indians from British Columbia to Alaska, and was much impressed and roused. When he had finished his theological course in 1890 Mr. Prevost was sent by the Indian Rights Association of Philadelphia on a visit to the southeastern coast of Alaska, to investigate conditions amongst the natives, in connection with this Metlakahtla trouble, and came back from that visit determined to devote himself to the natives of Alaska. Accordingly he entered himself at the medical school of the University of Pennsylvania, the better to fit himself for the work, and took a year's lectures, intending to graduate in medicine before carrying out his purpose, but was persuaded to offer himself in 1891 in answer to an urgent appeal set forth by the Board of Missions for a priest to relieve the English clergyman at Nuclacayette.
The Yukon River flows for six or seven hundred miles of navigable course through Canadian territory, and then for fifteen or sixteen hundred miles through Alaska. About midway of its Alaskan course it receives its largest southern tributary, the Tanana, and the neighbourhood of this important confluence had always been a chief gathering place for natives, the name, Nu'cha-la-way'a (the land between the rivers) corrupted to "Nu'cla-cay'ette" by the white men, and thus figuring in all the early narratives of exploration, being given to the locality. A trading post known as Fort Adams had been maintained for a number of years a few miles below the junction of the rivers, and Archdeacon McDonald had visited the natives of the parts from Fort Yukon, three hundred and fifty miles above. To the ground thus broken the Rev. Mr. Canham and his wife had been sent by Bishop Bompas in 1888, and it was to the insistence of that Bishop that the American Church should assume the care of its own people within its own territory that the sending out of Mr. Prevost was due. A contract for school teaching was entered into with the Bureau of Education, so that our first three establishments in Alaska were joint enterprises of the Church and the Government.
Nu'clacay'ette, or Tanana, as this settlement moved back to the actual confluence is now known, is one of the most important centres in the interior of Alaska. Several other tributaries are confluent with the Yukon in its vicinity, and the upper waters of the Koyukuk, the largest northern tributary of the Yukon, are reached by a winter trail of one hundred and twenty miles, although the mouth of the river is two hundred and twenty miles below. These two large rivers--the Koyukuk and the Tanana--have a considerable Indian population which was first reached and converted from this centre.
Mr. Canham had begun translating the Prayer Book into the native tongue of these parts, which is also the tongue of the Koyukuk and the greater part of the Tanana, though not of the upper or lower Yukon; the baptismal and marriage offices were done and much of Morning Prayer, and there had been already three hundred baptisms. For a year Mr. Canham and his wife remained with Mr. Prevost and together the two priests prosecuted this work and made extensive journeys. Then Bishop Bompas recalled his clergyman and in 1892 Mr. Prevost was left alone. His knowledge of medicine stood him in good stead, and an operation upon a man's eye, which he was enabled to perform so successfully that the sight was restored, brought him great prestige.
In the winter of 1892-3 Mr. Prevost made a remarkable journey up the Tanana far beyond the site where Fairbanks was built ten years later, then across by the Goodpaster river to the upper Fortymile, and down that stream to its mouth at the town of Fortymile, where Bishop Bompas was at that time resident. The Fortymile camp was then the important gold camp of the north. Returning by the same general way, the Ketchumstock country was passed through and a visit made to the neighbourhood now known as the Tanana Crossing, where seventeen years later, St. Timothy's mission was established. Altogether, on this journey Mr. Prevost visited thirty-two Indian villages, large and small, and counted six hundred and eighty-nine natives inhabiting them.
In those days there was a mail once a year, and unless a man went down to St. Michael to meet the single ocean steamboat that visited the place, he could not answer a letter until a year after it was received.
After three years' service Mr. Prevost went out to be married, and returning he brought back the missionary stern-wheel steamboat Northern Light, that he might be able to bring up the supplies from St. Michael. She plied the Yukon for nine seasons. But much more important than the river steamboat was Mrs. Prevost, whose sweet, gentle character, unfailing sunniness of disposition, and general domestic resourcefulness were of the greatest assistance to her husband's work. Mrs. Prevost will always be remembered with affection by the natives of the middle Yukon.
There was now left on the Yukon only one post in American territory served by a Canadian clergyman, Fort Yukon, where the Rev. Mr. Hawkesley, with permission of Bishop Bompas, continued to reside.
But in 1894 things began to happen on the Yukon. In that year gold was discovered in the creeks tributary to Birch Creek, or rather was rediscovered, for twenty years previously Archdeacon McDonald had scooped it up with a spoon at one of his camping places. The Yukon country was then a fur country only. The first gold prospector, Arthur Harper, had not yet reached it, and no one took much notice of the archdeacon's discovery. The Hudson Bay Company was in possession of the land. Harper heard of it and remembered it, however, and a good deal later, when the Fortymile store provided a base of supplies, he "grubstaked" prospectors to go in search of it, and they found it.
Circle City was immediately started on the Yukon at the nearest point to the new diggings, not on the arctic circle by some fifty miles--though its founders thought it was--and grew rapidly to be the largest white man's town in the north, and, as it was claimed, the largest "log-cabin-city" in the world. This was the first discovery of placer gold within the interior of Alaska and it brought a great influx of men. Within two years Circle City had a population of three thousand, and prospecting for gold received a great impetus all over the interior. *******
We have therefore, by this time, three missions established in Alaska: two on the Yukon to Indians and one on the arctic coast to the Eskimos; Christ Church at Anvik, Saint James's at Fort Adams (near what is now the town of Tanana) and Saint Thomas's at Point Hope; and there was a clergyman of the Canadian Church, maintained by the English Church Missionary Society at Fort Yukon. Such was the situation when a Bishop was elected and consecrated for Alaska.