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The Yukon River boat Dawson City / Gussie Brown

by Murray Lundberg


Northern Ships and Shipping


The information on the Dawson City that follows is simply a cut-and-paste from my database, compiled from a wide variety of sources, primarily newspapers in this case. This is our most detailed boat biography yet, due to the interest in the expedition by San Francisco Bay-area newspapers.
  • U.S. Registration #157508

  • wooden-hull, twin-screw; 84.5 feet long, with 22.5 foot beam and 6.1 foot hold. Gross tonnage 119, registered as 86 tons.

  • powered by two independent triple expansion engines operating four propellers, two on each shaft. The engines were rated at 300 IHP. The engines were made by the Krogh Manufacturing Company, the boilers by the Risdon Iron Works.

  • constructed for ocean service, and when the Yukon river is reached the keel will be removed.

  • 1898, built in San Francisco for the California-Alaska Mining and Transport Company, at a cost of $30,000.

  • February 21, 1898, an article in a special Klondike Edition of The Examiner (San Francisco) describes the new California-Alaska Mining and Transport Company and their steamer Dawson City - read the article here.

  • March 7, 1898: "C. H. Johnson, who for the past two years has rendered efficient and valuable services as chief engineer of the O. S. L. & H. Electric Ry. Co. of this place, has resigned his present position which will take effect on March 1st. He will accept a position with the California Alaska Mining Transportation Co. as engineer of machinery on the steamer Dawson City, which will sail for St. Michaels about the 15th of May." (Oakland Tribune)

  • March 11, 1898: "MEN OF FAMILY GOING NORTH.
    Six Men Who Represent Eighty-Seven Children Form Part of an Expedition
        Of all the expeditions which will start north to hunt gold in Alaska and the Canadian Northwest Territory, in one particular the new co-operative corporation of the California-Alaska Mining and Transport Co., is likely to have no parallel. Of the fourteen members who will set out in their own steamer, the Dawson City, early in May, six represent families of unusual numerical strength. The discovery was made by Charles E. Naylor, attorney for the company, when the articles had been signed, which bound the men, many of whom had never met before, to join their fortunes. These six gentlemen represent eighty-seven children. Edward A. von Schmidt, the captain and assistant tnanager, is one of twenty children; Joseph A. Leonard, the manager and originator of the scheme is the youngest of nineteen children; D. G. Barnes is one of a family of thirteen; E. H. Cowing represents nine children; Clarence G. Sherwood, son of the millionaire Eugene Sherwood, is one of eleven children; and Victor Mockel of Alameda, is the scion of a family of fifteen.     Every one of the six gentlemen is living in the hope of taking out of the creeks and rivers of the new El Dorado enough gold for himself and the numerous members of his family." (The Examiner)

  • March 23, 1898: the Dawson City was launched at Hunters Point. Read an article from the Alameda Daily Argus of March 21st, an illustrated article from The Examiner of March 24th, and a third article from the Oakland Tribune of March 24th here.

  • March 24, 1898: a sternwheeler tender, the 52-foot Leota, was also being built. She would be knocked down and sent north on the deck of the Alexander McNeil. Read an article from the Alameda Daily Argus here.

  • April 14, 1898: The Leota was launched tonight, christened by 2-year-old Miss Leota Pennock. An article in the Alameda Daily Argus the following day says that she will now be taken to St. Michael on the deck of the Alexander McNeil, but will now be used by the Mackenzie party of 13 men rather than being a tender for the Dawson City.

  • April 19, 1898: The Pacific Commercial Advertiser (Honolulu, Hawaii) published a lengthy article about the connections between Hawaii and the California-Alaska Mining and Transport Company. Read the article here.

  • May 6, 1898: "Steamers Going North. There are two steamers which wil] set sail shortly for Dawson. One of these is the Dawson City, the other is the City of Dawson. The latter vessel, a stern-wheeler, met with an accident while an attempt was being made to launch her. The Dawson City is a new double twin-screw steamer owned by the California- Alaska Mining and Transportation Company, of which Joseph A. Leonard of Alameda is the manager. The members and friends of the co-operative expedition which is to sail on the Dawson City about May 15th, not knowing that there was a stern-wheeler called the City of Dawson, were alarmed when they learned of the accident, fearing mishap had befallen their stanch craft. The Dawson City is receiving her machinery at Folsom-street wharf." (The Examiner)

  • June 1, 1898: the departure of the Dawson City has been delayed 3 times, and it is now hoped that the mechanical problems are close to solution and May 7th is the hoped-for date. Read an article from the Alameda Daily Argus here.

  • June 23, 1898: the Dawson City sailed, with 20 passengers.

  • June 25, 1898, Alameda Daily Argus:
    Yukon River steamer Dawson City ad, 1898

  • August 26, 1898: "The gold hunters who went north from here on the steamer Dawson City have had a hard time of it. Their vessel was not what she was cracked up to be and never fulfilled the expectations of her trial trip. At no time did she develop any speed, and it took thirty-five days to make a voyoge that ought to have been covered in ten or twelve days. A private letter from one of the passengers, dated at Dutch Harbor, says the rudder is too small, and the vessel almost impossible to keep on her course in consequence. When fourteen days out from San Francisco the coal was all burned up, and for seven days everybody aboard was wondering whether or not they would ever see land again.
        After a great deal of maneuvering enough sail was got on the Dawson City to give her steerage way, and finally Kodiak Island was made. All hands and the cook were sent ashore to cut firewood, and after some hard work sufficient was obtained to carry the steamer to Wood Island, where a supply of coal and water was obtained from the North American Trading and Transportation CompanyŐs agent.
        Three days out from Wood Island the Dawson City broke down, and as a storm was coming up, the captain decided to put into Halibut bay on Halibut Island. This spot is leased by the McCollom Fishing and Trading Company, and the fishermen, having heard of the war, at once set the gold hunters down for a band of Spanish pirates. When they attempted to land they were met by an armed force, and Messrs. Rosendorg and Mockel were in such a hurry to get back to the Dawson City that they capsized their boat and were nearly drowned. It was only by displaying Old Glory that the fishermen realized that it was their countrymen they were attacking. Rosendorg and Mockel swam to a rock, and it was only after a great deal of trouble and at some personal risk that Captain Bruce got them off.
        After repairing damages and laying in a stock of halibut the Dawson City sailed for Dutch Harbor, which was finally reached, thirty-five days out from San Francisco. The company on the steamer does not expect to do any mining, but will dredge the many bars in the Yukon River for gold." (The San Francisco Call)

  • August 26, 1898: "From a letter written by George Leonard of the Dawson City dated at 'nowhere,' we quote interesting particulars of the voyage.
        'We had just arrived at St. Paul harbor at the end of my last letter. We did not quite make the harbor on the 8th and had to stop at the Long Island station of the A. C. Company (the prettiest little spot I ever saw for a yacht club), where we got out and cut wood to steam the other twenty miles.
        'Here we coaled and fixed our rudder and started again on the 21st. I saw Fred Pocock, and he doesn't seem much changed. He says he expects to come down in September.
        'To-day (July 4th) we ran into a terrific gale and had to take shelter in a little harbor on Sanak Island, after being out in the gale five hours. We only had our sheet cringle in the fore staysail carried away.
        'After four days at the island we again started on our course. A few Indians and one white man who takes care of a trading-post are the only inhabitants of the island. Fishing there is just a matter of lowering the line over the side. We have been eating fish until I can feel the fins starting. The island js just 142 miles from Dutch Harbor.
        'This is a great pleasure trip to me, though mingled with hard work. The scenery up here is grand at times. The snow looks as if you could almost touch it, and yet it is warm. I am feeling fine.'
        A postscript announced the arrival of the Dawson City at Dutch Harbor, on the 29th instant." (Alameda Daily Argus)

  • October 5, 1898: "News has been received here in a letter from the Yukon that Joseph A. Leonard was seriously hurt on the steamer Dawson City at a point near Nulato. He got his left foot caught under the crank of the engine and it was badly crushed.

  • October 20, 1898: "Joseph A. Leonard, Commodore of the Encinal Club of Alameda, returned on the Roanoke. He is slowly recovering from an accident which came near costing him his life. August 26th he fell and caught his left foot beneath the crankshaft of the California Alaska Dredging Company's Yukon steamer Dawson City, frightfully crushing the member. For days he could get neither surgical nor medical relief, and it was feared death would result from blood poisoning. Leonard says it would but for the attention of Dr. Manion, who happened along and gave him every possible attention. Returning from St. Michael, Leonard was attended by Dr. Humphrey of San Francisco, who thinks his patient will in time fully recover the use of his foot." (The Examiner)

  • October 24, 1898: "Joseph A. Leonard is expected to arrive to-day from Seattle. Mrs. Leonard received a telegram from her husband last week that he would arrive to-day at San Francisco, but has heard nothing further regarding his condition. A report in a newspaper dispatch was to the effect that Mr. Leonard had been taken off the Umatilla at Seattle and cared for in the hospital there. His right foot which was so badly mashed in the machinery of the steamer Dawson City on the Yukon, had not had as careful treatment as could have been desired owing to his remote situation.
        Mrs. Leonard said on Saturday that she feared her husband would have to lose his foot and that they were keeping the truth from her.
        Mr. Leonard will be accompanied down by his physician, Dr. Manion, and Dr. J. G. Humphrey of this city, who came down to care for the injured man on his journey.
        There was a very disquieting rumor here to-day in regard to Mr. Leonard, but [t could not be connected with any authentic source." (Alameda Daily Argus)

  • October 25, 1898: the Alameda Daily Argus published a lengthy interview with Joseph Leonard about his injury and the status of the expedition - read it here.

  • November 1, 1898: an article in the Alameda Daily Argus discusses the "absurd report" that the Dawson City has been wrecked - read it here.

  • June 10, 1899: Captain Douglas G. Barnes of the Dawson City was drowned in the Yukon River when his skiff capsized. See a lengthy article from the Alameda Daily Argus of July 27th here.

  • July 21, 1899: "George Harold Ward of Alameda reports meeting Mr. Leonard at St. Michael. He spoke very hopefully of the future prospects of the steamer Dawson City's outlook, as the prevailing "Cape Nome" excitement needed just such means of transportation from St, Michael to the cape. Harold agrees with Mr. Leonard, as he was at St. Michael seven days and got a good idea of the situation. Mr. Leonard will therefore hurry up to Rampart City and bring back the Dawson City to be used in that connection.
        Even if Cape Nome turns out a "fake," which Harold thinks likely, it will take all the summer to prove it, and in the meantime the Dawson City will be making "all kinds of money" transporting prospectors and their outfits to and from." (Alameda Daily Argus)

  • October 5, 1899: the expedition has given up and disbanded. See a lengthy article from the Alameda Daily Argus here. On the same date, The San Francisco Call added that Mr. Leonard had spent a month on the steamer in July but was unable to do anything as there were not enough men left to handle the machinery. That articles concludes with the statement: "A great deal of money was spent in fitting out the expeditions, and thus far nothing but 'Irish dividends' have been declared."

  • July 11, 1900: "SOLD FOR A SONG.
        Steamer Dawson City Sacrificed to Pay Bills.
        ALAMEDA, July 10 - The steam gold dredger Dawson City, built and fitted out at San Fran˘isco by the California-Alaska Exploration Company, was sold recently on the Yukon for a song to satisfy claims upon her by Captain Dahler, who has for some time been manager of the Exploration Company. The sale price, as in the case of the ill-fated Ei Sueno, was ridiculously small and means that the bright hopes of the company have ended in a fiasco after the expenditure of thousands of dollars. The unfortunate termination of the expedition was due, it is declared, to mismanagement and misplaced confidence of the directors.
        The Dawson City left San Francisco about two years ago to dredge for gold in the bed of the Yukon, and was built at large expense upon novel lines. The steamer was fitted up for both dredging and freight service and was supplied with two triple expansion engines, an unusual feature being her four propellers, two on a shaft, which were expected to produce remarkable speed gualties. The steamer cost the company $30,000, and after lying idle for nearly two years has now been sold for a sum which would an insufficient price to pay for the old iron in her hull. It is a total loss to the members of the company, among whom were Joseph A. Leonard, now in Nome; Attorney Charles E. Naylor and the late Michael Kane.
        Joseph A. Leonard was manager of the gold-seekers' expedition when it left here, but on the Yukon met with a serious accident, having his foot crushed in the machinery, and made the long trip home to be treated by a surgeon. After six months he was able to return and went to Alaska empowered to sell the steamer. Captain Dahler, the new manager, had tied the Dawson City up in a creek near Rampart City all last summer and interposed obstructions to making a sale, although Mr. Leonard had an ofter of $15,000. When the news came that the steam dredger had been sacrificed the directors called a meeting here to see what could be done about it, but they were so far from the scene that they realized that nothing could then be done to annul the sale made by Captain Dahler." (San Francisco Chronicle)

  • August 18, 1900: "The California-Alaska Mining and Transport Company sued Michael Kane's estate for $440 on an alleged agreement made with him before his death." (San Francisco Chronicle) Michael Kane was the initial Treasurer of the company.

  • by May 1903 she had been renamed the Gussie Brown and was based at Nome. The last mention of her in the newspapers was on October 28th that year.

  • October 21, 1903: Charles Bruce, who had been first mate on the Dawson City, went on to become first mate on the steamer South Portland. He was killed when that ship foundered off the coast of Oregon on October 19th.

  • abandoned at Nome.

    The Examiner (San Francisco) - March 24, 1898
    Yukon River steamer Dawson City launched, 1898