02 April 2014

#13-52ancestors: In Search of Alaska's Gold

#13-52 Ancestors
William Tecumseh Vanderpool (1865-1936)

In Search of Alaska’s Gold

Alaskan dog sled

“A starved dog team and abandoned sled found on the trail along the upper Kuskokwin River today gave the only clue to the disappearance of W. T. Vanderpool, 70, former U.S. Commissioner at McGrath,” according to a 25 May 1936 story in Anchorage Daily Times. It had a Fairbanks dateline. The article continued:

“Deputy Marshal B. Berry at McGrath reported to Judge Harry Pratt that a month's searching led to the discovery of the dog team by Mr. Vanderpool's friend on Nixon Fork in the Kuskokwim. Two dogs were dead and the others barely alive with no trace of the whereabouts of Vanderpool. Governor Troy authorized Berry to conduct the search at the expense of the Territory.

“Vanderpool had been prospecting and trapping in the Nixon-Fork Region and was presumably returning to his family when he disappeared. The dogs were found about 15 miles from McGrath.“ A newspaper item on 13 June 1936 noted that the search for W. T. Vanderpool had been abandoned.

So came to the end of a colorful life of man born at the end of the Civil War who was named for a Union general — William Tecumseh Sherman.
William Tecumseh Vanderpool was born in Caldwell County, Missouri in 1865 [1]and went to Montana with his parents as young man in the late 1880s. [2] Later he tried his hand as a cowboy and stock raiser in Washington; then as a miner and fur trapper in Alaska. He took part in its famous Gold Rush, along with such renowned personalities as Jack London (author of Son of the Wolf, Call of the Wild. White Fang, and the Sea-Wolf), Wyatt Earp (gambler, gunfighter, lawman) and his wife, Josie, who went to Nome and opened the Dexter Saloon there, and Robert W. Service, called the “bard of the Yukon.” Although Service didn’t arrive in the Yukon until 10 years after the Gold Rush, he wrote many poems about it and that era in “The Spell of the Yukon and Other Verses,” which included the celebrated poem, “The Shooting of Dan McGrew.”

Chilkoot Pass Yukon Territory

Thanks to records of the North West Royal Mounted Police,[3] we know William T. Vanderpool entered the Yukon Territory from Seattle, Washington on 23 August 1898 at the Chilkoot Pass.  The Mounties set up a post along the Canadian-American border at the summit of the Chilkoot Pass. Here, it confiscated guns and maintained written records of every individual who arrived at the summit.

The Yukon Gold Rush had begun soon when some successful prospectors from there arrived by ships in two West Coast ports, bearing news of the discovery. The Klondike stampede, as it came to be known, formed the height of the Klondike gold rush from the summer of 1897 until the summer of 1898. It began on July 15, 1897 in San Francisco and two days later in Seattle, when the ships Excelsior and Portland arrived in San Francisco and Seattle, respectively, with large amounts of gold on them. The press reported that a total of $1,139,000 (equivalent to about $33 million today) had been brought in by these two ships, although this proved to be an underestimate. The migration of prospectors caught so much attention that it was joined by outfitters, longshoremen, politicians, writers and photographers.

SS Portland arrives in Seattle in 1897 with "a ton of gold"
When the SS Portland docked in Seattle, the banner headline of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on July 17, 1897 read GOLD! GOLD! GOLD! Subheads announced: "Sixty-Eight Rich Men on the Steamer Portland" and "STACKS OF YELLOW METAL!" By noon that day eager fortune seekers had booked the last berth on the SS Portland for the return trip to Alaska. Once there, they headed by riverboat up the Yukon to a mining camp near the gold strike.

Routes to the Yukon Gold Rush
The most common means of reaching the Yukon during the Gold Rush was to journey by ship to small port towns in Alaska, such as Skagway and Dyea, and then travel east along passes through the coastal mountains to Lake Bennett. From there, gold seekers could take a boat down the Yukon River until they reached Dawson, a town that had rapidly grown to serve as the prospectors' base of operations. The climate and geography of the region, along with shortages of supplies caused by the huge influx of travelers, made this a difficult, exhausting, and potentially dangerous journey. The Yukon Gold Rush came to an end in 1899, when the discovery of gold in Nome, Alaska, drew attention away from the area around the Klondike River. Only a few thousand of the people who came found gold, and still fewer found enough to become rich. Evidently William T. Vanderpool did not strike it rich.

There are many unanswered questions about William Tecumseh Vanderpool’s life, especially about his wives. He married at least once in Washington state and had one son and perhaps a daughter by his first wife. They separated or divorced and she died in 1905 in Washington. William was in Alaska by 1898, but enumerated in both Alaska and Washington in the 1900 censuses.[4] Evidently he married a second time in Alaska but divorced her about 1914 in Fairbanks. That wife’s name is unknown. In 1910 he is enumerated in Alaska. [5] 

About 1915 he married Sophie Fredericks under a legal shadow but all the details about this matter have not been uncovered. A newspaper item dated 10 December 1915 in a Fairbanks, Alaska newspaper under “Iditarod News” reveals:

“W. T. Vanderpool of Dikeman was bound over to grand jury by Commissioner Greaghhty of Iditarod on a statutory charge. The case has created a great deal of comment. Vanderpool was granted a divorce from his white wife at one time in Fairbanks by Judge Bonnell last year (and he was then supposed to marry the native) but did not, hence the arrest.”
That muddies the family history somewhat, since he married his first (known) wife in Washington in 1894.[6] They probably divorced and then she died in 1905. His third marriage was to Sophie Fredericks. They had 10 children. Between 1915 and 1935 William was an Alaska Commissioner in McGrath, Mount McKinley Recording District. He and his family lived near McGrath, which is located 221 miles northwest of Anchorage and 269 miles southwest of Fairbanks in Interior Alaska

William Tecumseh VANDERPOOL, born 29 June 1865 in Caldwell County, Missouri, married Mary Elizabeth "Lizzie" VINCENT 14 February 1894 in Jefferson County, Washington.  Mary Elizabeth "Lizzie" VINCENT (daughter of Alexander VINCENT and Celia [—?—] was born in July 1875 in Washington. She died on 19 March 1905 in Jefferson County, Washington, according to one unverified reference. William Tecumseh VANDERPOOL and Mary Elizabeth "Lizzie" VINCENT were the parents of Grover W. VANDERPOOL who was born on 24 April 1896 in Port Townsend, Jefferson County, Washington. He registered for the World War I draft 5 June 1917 in Spokane, Spokane County, Washington [7]  and served in the Army from 13 December 1917 until 8 May 1919. He died 9 October 1958 in Seattle, King County, Washington. [8]

William Tecumseh VANDERPOOL and Sophie FREDERICKS were married about 1915 in Alaska Territory. They appear together in the 1920 and 1930 censuses.[9]

Sophie Fredericks Vanderpool (date unknown)

Sophie FREDERICKS, described as being only 4’10” by a granddaughter, [10] was born on 23 December 1896 in Anvik, Yukon area, Alaska Territory.  She was a mixed-blood Alaskan native. Her mother was Athabaskan and her father was Russian. Anvik was a Kaiyuhkhotana village located at the junction of the Anvik and Yukon rivers. As a young woman, she married William T. Vanderpool, who was then a constable and nearly 30 years older. They moved from Anvik to Dikeman and then eventually to McGrath, Alaska in 1919 where the family homesteaded. They had 10 children. She cooked on the riverboats between McGrath and Bethel for 20 years and was renowned for her good cooking and warm hospitality. At the time of her death, Sophie had 53 grandchildren, 68 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren. She died in March 1983 in McGrath, Alaska.

William Tecumseh VANDERPOOL and Sophie FREDERICKS had the following children, all born in Alaska Territory:

i. Woodrow Wilson VANDERPOOL was born 4 September 1913, died 2 February 1977 in Alaska.
ii. Robert I. VANDERPOOL was born 30 October 1915 and died 28 September 2010 in Alaska.
iii. Avis VANDERPOOL was born about 1919.
iv. Rose VANDERPOOL was born April 1920, died 26 August 2012 in Alaska.
v. Alice Marian VANDERPOOL was born 29 June 1924.
vi. Nora VANDERPOOL was born 10 September 1925.
vii. Joseph Jefferson VANDERPOOL was born 17 September 1928.
viii. Sophie VANDERPOOL, born 30 November 1929.
ix. Lewis A. VANDERPOOL Sr. was born on 19 January 1934, died 30 September 1999 in Alaska.
x. Roy VANDERPOOL was born about 1935.

  1. Aden Vanderpool, 1870 U.S. census, Davis Township, Caldwell County, Missouri, population schedule, dwelling/family No. 55/55; National Archives Microfilm publication M593_763. p. 87. William Vanderpool is shown as a 5-year-old boy, born in Missouri, with his parents, Aden and Carolina and his siblings: Chauncy, Margaret, Sophrina, Amanda and Lucinda.
  2. Aden Vanderpool, 1880 U.S. census, Davis Township, Caldwell County, Missouri, population schedule, dwelling/family No. 59/70, Enumeration District [ED] 188; National Archives Microfilm publication T9_677. p. 385A. William Vanderpool is shown as a 14-year-old boy with his parents, Aden Vanderpool and Caroline, and his siblings: Amanda E., Lucinda D., Samuel and Dora A. His birthplace is given as Missouri. His father was born in Missouri and his mother in Illinois — all the other children were born in Missouri.
  3. NWMP at Chilkoot, Volume 3, listing people who entered the Yukon. Gold Rush database. http://yukongenealogy.com/content/database_vol07.htm
  4. William Vanderpool, 1900 U.S. census, Jack Wade, Northern Supervisor's District, Alaska Territory, population schedule, Enumeration District [ED] 14; National Archives T623_1830, p. 10B. 1221. William Vanderpool is listed as head of household and as married, married 5 years (but no wife or other family members with him). His birthplace is given as Illinois [incorrect] and his father's as New York [incorrect] and his mother's as Illinois. His other address is recorded as Gilmar, Washington and date of arriving in Alaska was September 1898. [There are two localities in Washington to which “Gilmar” could refer — one is Gilmer in Klickitat County in south central part of the state on the Columbia River and the other is Gilman, located in King County in western part of the state on Puget Sound. The latter is probably the location referred to.] William Vanderpool also appears in the 1900 census in Washington (T623_1743, Enumeration District [ED] 52, p. 222, dwelling/family No. 166/166 in Port Townsend, Jefferson County. He and his wife, Lizzie, a daughter Inez, 6, and a son Grover W., 4, are listed in the household of John Vincent. William is listed as brother-in-law to John Vincent, and his occupation is given as “mining.” This enumeration visit took place 2 June 1900 and the Alaska 1900 census visit took place in December 1899, which explains his appearance in two different places for these enumerations.
  5. William T. Vanderpool, 1910 U.S. census, Fairbanks, Division 2, Alaska Territory, population schedule, Enumeration District [ED] 19, dwelling/family No. 17/17. National Archives T624_1749. T624_1749, p. 1B. William is listed as married (but no wife or family are with him). Birthplace Kentucky [incorrect], father's birthplace North Carolina [incorrect] and mother's birth place North Carolina [incorrect].
  6. Washington State Digital Archives. Washington State Marriage Records. Jefferson County Auditor, Marriage Records, 1872-2013. M-9400006. Will Vanderpool and Lizzie Vincent. Recording date: 11 Feb. 1894.http://www.digitalarchives.wa.gov/
  7. Ancestry.com. U.S. World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc. 2005. United States, Registration State: Washington. Registration County: Spokane. Roll: 1992105, Draft Board 2. Grover William Vanderpool gives his date of birth as 24 April 1896 in Washington state.
  8. Ancestry.com. U.S. Headstone Applications for Military Veterans, 1926-1963 [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc. 2012. Original records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, Record Group 92, National Archives, Washington, DC. Date of death: 9 October 1958. Cemetery: Riverton Crest Cemetery, Seattle [King County], Washington. Washington State Digital Records. (http://www.digitalarchives.wa.gov/) database: Washington State Death Records. Image No. 809. Grover W. Vanderpool. Date of death: 9 October 1958. Father’s name: Grover Vanderpool; mother’s name: Mary Vincent. Place of death: Seattle, King County, Washington.
  9. William Vanderpool, 1920 U.S. census, Mount McKinley, 4th Judicial District, Alaska Territory, population schedule, Enumeration District [ED] 3; National Archives Microfilm publication T625_2031. p. 3A. (no dwelling/family numbers).Wm T. Vanderpool, 54, born ca 1866 Kentucky [incorrect] with Sophie, 23, Woodrow, 6, Robert, 4 and Avis 2. William T. Vanderpoel [sic], 1930 U.S. census, Mount McKinley, Fourth Judicial District, Alaska Territory, population schedule, Enumeration District [ED] 4-11, National Archives T626_2628, p. 4B, dwelling/family No. 12/12. Enumeration visit was 19 October 1929.
  10. Rose High Bear: Turtle Island Storytellers. http://www.wisdomoftheelders.org/prog2/transcript02_tis.htm

1 comment:

  1. Interesting read. Robert "Bob" Vanderpool was my grandfather.