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A Heroine of the North
Memoirs of Charlotte Selina Bompas (1830-1917)
Wife of the First Bishop of Selkirk (Yukon)

With Extracts from Her Journal and Letters

Compiled by S.A. Archer

London: SPCK, 1929.

Chapter X. Moosehide

To L. C. W.

May 29, 1900.

IF pen and ink could fly as swiftly as thoughts, you would have had many a folio from me during our long winter months. But I am cumbered a little with the weight of years (I was seventy on my last birthday), a little more by infirmities which have beset me of late, among others a rather protracted attack of bronchitis, from which I have as yet only partially recovered. Yet, indeed, do not think I am melancholy myself or would make you so. I hope that mine is a green old age, and I do enjoy a joke as much as ever. I spent most of the winter at Forty Mile in a small house on the mainland (Mr. Hawksley and family being in the large Mission House on the Island). He is in charge of the Indians and also the white population of Forty Mile. I only stayed part of the winter at Forty Mile, being fairly broken down by the cares of housekeeping. The Indian women make so much now by working for the white men that they do not care to go to service, and I found it impossible to get any girl to help me on any terms! Our elder girls have been leaving us one by one, and the Bishop wishes to give up the charge of Indian children, which has been a pretty heavy charge for the last twenty-five years. So at Forty Mile, for six months, I had to be my own cook and housekeeper, etc., besides taking care of our two little Mission boys (who lost no possible opportunity for getting into mischief), and helping Mr. Hawksley look after the sick Indians, of whom we had a sadly large number. So (as I said before) I broke down and kicked my traces and determined to come off to Moosehide, where the husband was, who hoped I was faring comfortably at Forty Mile.

... A kind friend appeared in a Mr. Ohneck, a young American of German descent, and he offered to take me to Moosehide, where he thought I ought to be, and then he busied himself to find four dogs, which I hired at a dollar a day, and a nice easy sleigh, and a splendid fur robe to wrap round me! So, having heard of all this only last Sunday evening, on Monday morning we started off with thermometer at 40° below zero (it had been 74°!), the Indians mustering on the bank to shake hands; also the Hawksleys helping to pack me up and kindly taking charge of my two boys, for the time. It was a venture, of course, and I had to face the possibility of having to turn back from jolting on the ice hummocks and rough trail, etc., but indeed, so far from this, the air and change of scene seemed to revive me, and my good friend took such care of me, stopping now and again to tuck my robe and blanket in a little tighter, etc., and the four dogs ran along so merrily and their bells rang so cheerily on the frosty air, and by two o'clock we reached the first "road-house," sixteen miles from Forty Mile, where some hot tea and bread and butter was awaiting us and a good warm by the stove fire, where I was glad to rub and thaw out one of my heels, which, in spite of all wraps, had nearly frozen.

We reached the second "road-house" that evening and found a crowd of miners on their way to Nome, a rough-looking set of men, but all pleasant and civil. I think we met about fifty that day and a few women (one from Cape Kotzebue). I had a nice supper of salmon and blackberry jam, etc., and then a good night, and by soon after eight o'clock the next morning we were off once more, Mr. O. having given our dogs their breakfast of dried dog-salmon. The dear things were quite impatient to be off. Mr. O. runs behind the sleigh and only guides them by shouting and talking to them, which they seem quite to understand, turning to the right at the word "Gee" and to the left for "Chaw."

On we went, the day wore on, I was getting tired and cold, but the thought of husband and home kept me up. The Mission House came in sight, we stopped before it, and I ran up the bank to find the door locked and the house tenantless. The Bishop had started that morning to walk to Forty Mile!

William had been urging me to come here for some time past, and when at last some Indians told him I was sick, he became worried and anxious and at last determined to judge for himself the state of things with me. He was in no condition to travel, having only just recovered from a fourth attack of his old enemy, brought on, I suppose, by the cold.

To L. C. W.

July 13, 1900.

I think my last letter was written at Moosehide, where I spent the latter part of the winter. I came down to Forty Mile just a month since primarily to try change of air to shake off the remains of bronchitis which still clings to me.

My second object in coming was to pack up house and furniture and personal effects for a great move to White Horse, or Caribou, at the southern part of the diocese, where the Bishop is bent on starting two new missions.

We shall have to take to tent life while our cabin is building. We hope to have Mr. and Mrs. Bowen back some time to start the other Mission. I rather like the idea of the other end of the diocese. The worst of it is that we have to disperse our Mission children! We have had little folks around us for so many years now, and I do get so terribly fond of them, however bad they are, that I miss them sadly and seem to have lost an object in life.

We have had a scare this week in hearing that smallpox is in Dawson; the Bishop is busy vaccinating all the Moosehide Indians under their strong protest and remonstrances.

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