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Percy De Wolfe goes through the Yukon River ice, 1919

Highlights of History from The Whitehorse Star

Philately & Postal Service in the North

The Weekly Star, Friday, May 16, 1919

Percy De Wolfe goes through the Yukon River ice, 1919

    Dawson News, April 28; Percy De Wolfe, the lower Yukon river mail carrier, of the Dawson-Eagle route, broke through the ice while traveling the river Saturday and had a thrilling experience in which he barely escaped losing his life. Two fine horses, valued at $600, which he was driving, went through the ice at the same time, and were lost in the river.

    The accident occurred near the Halfway house, between Dawson and Fortymile. De Wolfe's home is at the Halfway house. When a mile below the place he was jogging along easily, and started to turn from the track he was following to a winter trail. He had gone but a little way from his old course when there was a crash of the ice, and the horses went through. He was near the bank of the river, and away from the swift water. The sleigh remained on the edge of the unbroken ice, with a single-tree hanging over. De Wolfe attempted to get the head of the horses above the ice, but the first he knew was in the water in the midst of the animals.

    The horses, immediately on going through the ice, began pawing desperately, and were encumbered by their harness. Percy, in his effort to get out, was grazed down the back by the foot of one of the horses, and his overalls torn open near the waist. Had a hoof struck him he would have been forced down, and no doubt would have passed under the animal and then under the ice. Fortunately he came up close to the overhanging singletree. He was plunging up and down in the water, in the grim attempt to save himself. It was almost impossible to get hold of the edge of the ice and crawl out, but he reached for the singletree. Two grasps were made with no avail. The third time was the charm. He got a good grip on the object and gradually lifted himself from the chilly waters.

    By the time Percy had rescued himself the horses had disappeared. Although soaked to the skin from head to foot, he removed the mail to the shore, and left it in a safe position. He then proceeded to his home a mile above the scene of the accident. The sleigh was recovered later.

    De Wolfe got here yesterday with a dog team and the mail. The horses which he lost were uninsured. He states it will be necessary to get another team to carry on his mail business next season.

    De Wolfe has traveled the Yukon between Dawson and Eagle as mail carrier for years, never daunted by cold, bad ice, storm or other adversities. Several times before this he has fallen through the ice, and has lost horses and sleighs, but, despite the great perils he has encountered, he seems to bear a charmed life, and has emerged unscratched each time. Winter after winter he has forged through the most severe of arctic temperatures, and always has made his destination on time.

    The moderate sum he receives as compensation for carrying on this dangerous route is a pittance compared to that received on some other routes where the risks comparatively are nil. His losses in this experience wipes out the profits of months of hard labor.