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The San Francisco call. [volume] (San Francisco [Calif.]) 1895-1913, August 27, 1911, Image 6

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IN all the matchless narratives of heroism, suf
fering and gaunt privation undergone by man
at the call of duty, none could be found to shadow
the deeds of those great, lion hearted men, the
.^Canadian mounted police, about whom this tale
Is told—who consecrated their lives to their iron
law. Never to turn back while hope of success
remains! Was ever a grimmer code made by
the sons of men? It sent these with the mail
through the wilderness of the great northwest,
& closed the barriers of return and brought about
tragedy, grim as imaginative genius has ever
touched. It set them singly at grips with hun
ger, cold, disease, madness, death, and found
them invulnerable and invincible in one thing
determination to succeed or perish.', A corre
spondent in the northwest has carefully verified
the route of death followed by these martyrs to
duty and obtained the photographic illustrations
accompanying the story.
FIGHTING for seven days against an alliance of
three invincible enemies— hunger and ex
haustion—four men perished last February in
the dreary wilderness of scrub and snow that
stretches across Albert province between Fort Mac
pherson and Dawson City. The world read about
the lost patrol of the Canadian mounted polices-read
and forgot, as is its way —but the idea for which four
stanch, iron nerved men gave their lives will De per
petuated. It is the idea of "duty and honor, the idea
which permeates the very life of the police of the
great northwest and makes one of their number walk
singly and empty handed straight to the muzzles of a
hundred loaded rifles.
Since the inauguration, In 1875, of the little band
of 700 men who hold in leash the wildness and sav
agery of the whole dominion, that same idea has
ruled them. It is a matter of tradition that they
never quail, that they never turn back, and so it was
that the lost patrol, in easy/ reach of safety, refused to
return to the little post whence they started and
groped about for days, consuming precious provisions
and more precious energy, until - their last resource
was spent and they were left without the means of
subsistence for the return grind.
It was on December 21, 1910, that Inspector Fitz
gerald with three constables Carter, Kinney and
Taylor—plunged into the wilderness on the way to
Dawson City, whence they were to go to Herschel
island, on the arctic coast, to take command there.
Carter, who had formerly resigned from the force,
had been sworn in as a guide, he stating that he was
familiar with the trails. x
To the man of civilization the task at first flush
would seem herculean. One hundred and fifty-six
miles as the bee would fly, but interminable leagues
for men with their dog sledges, who must circle and
detour through oceans of snow and unchanging,
stunted vegetation. Mile after mile of trail, where
had bleached the bones of many a high • hoped pros
pector whose hunt for the gold fields of the Klondike
had resulted in tragedy.
It is not in the nature of the big men of the big
northwest to hesitate, and although Fitzgerald had
not been over the trail since the winter of 1906 and
Carter, the guide, had last traveled it in 1907, the lit
tle band packed their "duff" and, taking charge of
the mail, started away up the Peel river.
South they traveled for days, past the flat country,
through the awesome, high towering canyons, where
the river rushes between dizzying walls of rock, and
only a ribbon of blue canopies the rugged slit in the
earth. So fiercely does the river rush through these
great earth wounds that even in coldest winter; it
seldom freezes, and the formation of treacherous,
sodden snow bridges makes it dangerous to cross..
Indians, traveling by canoe, often leave the river
at Trail creek to avoid a part of the rapids, but never
is this hazardous venture made unless the party is
well stocked with food. • For 90 miles a narrow,
crooked trail skirts the west bank of the river
through country barren of game, uninhabited even by
the hardiest, most tenacious animals of the arctic.
Into this trail, the long ; portage, the detachment of
police veritably plunged. Bacon and flour were abun
dant and no doubt they had no expectation of dif
ficulty o.i . the way. So far as 'can be learned from
Fitzgerald's diary, which was accurately kept until
probably the day before his death, the long portage
was successfully negotiated. - A few miles; south/of
the portage a large tributary joins the Peel river, and
up this lies the road to Dawson City. Countless little
creeks, veins and arteries of the forest form a tan
gled network, to confuse the traveler, and even if the
proper trail is located at the mouth of the Wind ; river
the country traversed is sterile, cruel, shunned even
by nature. The Indians, deeming it abounding in evil
spirits, avoid it as they would a plague. Such; are the
conditions which would have been faced by the pa
trol in the most favored circumstances. •
Until they reached; the Wind -river, on January 10,
the men endured only the ordinary, hardships of forest
life. Then began the search for the Heart Wind di
ivide, the short trail into Dawson City. .There Carter
seemingly became bewildered. Search as they would,
they could not strike the trail.
Men.less stanch would have turned immedi
ately. Men of courage would have deemed it folly to
attempt a blind : search in a mystic maze of snow
decked hills. But Fitzgerald and his three compan
ions were carrying the mail, the British mail. It was
a matter of honor alone the honor of the men
themselves, but that of the great dominion.
The law of the mounted police is tradition, but it is
ironclad, stronger than any tersely worded * regula
tions. Behind lay safety, but ahead lay duty/merci
less, inexorable. So for seven/days^ the men wan
dered about through the hills looking for the lost
trail. Each day the little store of food dwindled and
the cold bit deeper as there was less of proper nour
ishment for their bodies.
There must have been ra struggle: in the minds of
the men, but the diaries do not show it. It seemed
not;to have, entered the; head of Inspector Fitzgerald
that he could return to Fort Macpherson (and find
safety. Yet, as he saw his; men grow weaker and
weaker, saw the dogs which drew the provision
sledges waste, and knew that Carter was becoming
more and more confused, he must have longed to
double on his tracks and pound down into Macpher
son, where there were life and friends and food. But
there/were always i the mail and the; tradition of the
force. There was the precedent of "Big Jack" Collins,
who had faced three score of Indian rifles alone and
unarmed, and of Sergeant Colbrook, who had looked
into the muzzle of "Red Jack's" revolver and died
sooner than withhold the words:, .. -
./. "In the name of the law I arrest you."
It was not in Fitzgerald's makeup to retreat/nor
does his diary, even at the last,'hold/ a word of con
demnation or reproach/for Carter. -
„/ The/men had evidently determined to persist in
their efforts to find the / Heart Wind divide until al
most the last scrap of food was consumed. Not until;
then could they with honor and ; decency turn back to ;
the/ way they had » come. On January 7, with •10
pounds of bacon and eight pounds/of flour to carry
four men through a/three/weeks' battle against
the patrol turned back. To quote from Fitzgerald's
diary: __ / // ..//. '- , --"".."■.',
r ; "Carter seems utterly; bewildered; he-, does not seem
to be able to/recognize one river from another. -Must;
reluctantly return to Peel river." *-
(Peel river is a common « name for Fort Macpher
son, the only post on that river.)
The detachment was in desperate straits and it .was*
imperative to make the / small; quantity of ■ nourishing
food extend over as long a time, as /possible. On the :
first day of the return journey the first of the dogs
was killed and the men made their dinner of the car
cass. The dogs : refused to eat ■- the flesh of. their kind,
and Fitzgerald | thought it -justifiable to feed them from
the scant:■ larder rather than have them weaken from
starvation until they could not drag the, sledges. Un
wisely the men devoured the livers, and that night all
were frightfully ill. To multiply their discomfiture
/the dogs were so emaciated that it became a necessity/
A TRAGEDY of the Wilderness of the Great Northwest. Where Four Mem:
¥—*bers of the Canadian Mounted Police Grimly Did Their Duty as the Unwrit
ten Law of the Force. Commanded, Until Famine and Cold Claimed Their Lives
; ■'/ o .....
to utilize the livers in order to make them last until v
they should. reach Fort Macpherson. ■• * /
The trackless snow made 1 going- heavy.
With the temperature from 35 to 55 below zero the
cold bit cruelly into the poorly nourished bodies, and
the men dragged; painfully on - their way. Illness
weakened them and dragged at their \ heels. like a ;
; nightmare. 1/ A growing; horror : the ;foodless.^merci- •
less forest, must have goaded them to superhuman;
efforts, but T bone-and muscle and sheer nerve can not
do beyond their limit. / • -*' 1 ,
Three; long days that seemed but a.single ■. horrid;;
■ dream the patrol fought their way through /never,^ end
ing stretches :of /scrub oak and monotonous, -
stunted timber, and/they/knew? day arid night/that
death hovered over them, wings spread, ready to
swoop upon them. ,
The mail .... was ; carefully packed on .. one of the /
* sledges., It was being taken back, but not until every :
resource had been tried and failed^; and there was; not;
the vestige of" a possibility that the men could | beat .
through to Dawson City. ; Until ■ almost - their last/
pound of-food was gone they had striven and sought/
for the lost trail. ' /
Judging from the diaries, Carter wandered here
and there, completely lost in the tangle of streams
and the monotony of woods. Hour by hour he be
came' more worried, hopeless, confused, until, as Fitz-*
gerald - put it, he/ seemed dazed, : only partly, conscious.
Taylor suffered most, at least he showed it most. The
diet of dog flesh sickened him and rcaused physical i
pain. / - /. ,
. On January/20, third day of the return tramp,
the last of the/bacon/and flour was eaten, and/the
men, with dog flesh alone to depend upon for sub-/
sistence, realized with awful fullness the terrible cir
cumstances they were facing. The race against death
had: begun in earnest. Almost three j weeks to go un
der the most adverse physical conditions and not a
scrap of proper f00d.;./'/', *. / //.. '.
And still Fitzgerald, in command of the patrol, kept
his diary, neatly, fully, concisely. Scarcely a word,
of the / terrible / conditions under which they were
struggling appears: The; fact ■ that men were ill< from
eating dog liver was -stated/simply,/ coldly, /with not ;a;
. word of .complaint. / // /
Slowly, relentlessly the diet of dog meat sapped
the health and power of: the men. Their faces swelled,
the skin broke into irritating rashes, dried and peeled.
Taylor seemed to be affected the worst. He- could
scarcely trudge through, the snow. He shivered con
tinually and none of the men seemed able to resist
the ; awful cold. Just when they succumbed is not ;
known. . - . . ' '■„■■
Fitzgerald's diary was kept until February 5, the
last ; camp before the one where \ the bodies of Taylor
and Kinney were found. How the death of these two
comrades affected the survivors is a matter of 1 con
jecture, but it ; must have been a sad blow to them.
Taylor, it is presumed, took his own life, goaded to
the action by his untold sufferings. It must have cast
a spirit .'offgloom over Fitzgerald and Carter that did
much to take the heart and hope out of their plucky
On January 27, with the thermometer registering 18
degrees below zero, the men left camp at half past
7 in the morning. Until noon they dragged through
the endless-wastes-, of snow. If must -have seemed ; as*
; though they had /traveled. miles upon• miles.' The go
ing was heavy, and the effort to/ put/one foot:before"
the other required every effort of the men. At noon,
utterly worn out, they res ted; in the snow for/an hour.
A little camp • known as Waugh's tent was /but a
few miles away, and in hope of finding food there : the
Amen did not kill one of the remaining 10 dogs.
: 'All morning long, /through'the/heavy,: almost oblit-/
crated trail, they dreamed; of Waugh's tent and of
/food,that would-in all probability/have been hidden by
the/last party stopping/there. The idea of a good'
/meal, '■> food \ that "would -to them be : luxurious, ; cheered
the men .arid helped them in 'their weary battle. Re- .
freshed in a manner after the rest at noon/they took
the trail and pushed on/for Waugh's tent. /They trav
eled faster -now, yearning and groaning inwardly for
the anticipated refreshment. At 2 o'clock the yel
/lowed canvas of the tent showed between the warped
branches of the scrub trees, and with/a last despairing :
effort the ; men goaded themselves " into haste. At the
tent they searched furiously for food, but none was
found. The cache likewise was empty, and the little;
band mentally staggered under this fresh blow.
The hope which had buoyed t them over 11 miles of
forest waste was suddenly shattered. The ', stomach
revolted at the very thought of another meal such as
they/ had been forcing themselves to endure. There
was nothing left for/the dogs to eat/One of them was
taken a distance from ; the camp/and: killed. ; A portion
of the meat was frozen and 7 buried : where the other
dogs would' find /it, and under these conditions they
seemed not to , recognize the flesh. It was the only,;
way they could be induced -, to eat the meat. The men
ate sparingly, illness which / followed.'in -part '-■ neu
tralizing the benefit; of the nourishment.
/ The/night was spent at Waugh's : tent and/an. early -
start made next day. The men 'suffered terribly from
the cold in their emaciated condition and/the/tempera-.
ture had/sunk to 34 degrees/ below zero; Until 3
o'clock in * the afternoon \ they battled ; their way, then
* camper! * for * the night, having ■■ negotiated ;* 12 miles.
Fitzgerald mentioned in-his diary that Taylor was
extremely' ill. The -old trail was hardly distinguish
able and hope grew fainter and fainter. ■. -. .
Next day a cabin was found : and the , men; had. a;
chance /to/enjoy, a little warmth. One of the 'sleds and;
seven single dog . harnesses were cached, but the pre
cious mail was i not; left. Everything the i men could '
,; dispense with was cast aside/but the mail meant more
to them than life. It meant honor,. its loss meant
failure. . .\\ ,
/ So ; these strong, undaunted men trudged ; on, wal
lowing in snow, sometimes blinded by driving flakes,
always hungry, weary / and suffering with the bitter
cold. On February 5 Fitzgerald made the last entry
in his diary. The next: day Taylor and Kinney died.
Probably the inspector had not the heart; to/further
: chrptficle the sufferings of the little band. , To one
- knowing the i circumstances: and -the. outcome of it * ail •
the simple diary tells a tragic story. Between the
lines are written sufferings indescribable, hopes
blasted, fears that the men could not, dare not, ex
press. Only eight terrible miles were - covered on
Saturday, and on Sunday Fitzgerald wrote in his
notebook: ■: > . .:
"Forty-eight below, Sunday, February 5; fine,
strong south wind. Left camp at quarter past 7.
Nooned one hour and ; camped about eight miles down.
Just before noon I broke through ice and found one
foot frozen and had to make fire. Killed another dog
tonight. : Can only go few miles a day. Everybody
breaking out on the body and skin peeling off. Eight
miles.""" -.'..,-.-..■. ..-■ ""'
In the next camp Corporal Dempster, who left
Dawson City late in December with a party of men,
found the bodies of Kinney and Taylor. A dairy kept!
by Taylor bore entriesl dated February 8 and Febru
ary 9, four days later than Fitzgerald's last entry.
The San Francisco Sunday Call
What the men did in the interim is a mystery. They
What the men did<in«the;interim is a. mystery... xncy
must have wandered bewildered possibly day and
night, not knowing where they were or«which; way
to turn. / • * •
The last pages Taylor's diary, written on- scraps
of paper in which salt had been kept, tell of the awful
sufferings he endured and how it was that he was
driven and hound*4 into taking his own life. Ha
-wrote:."-- , v *■* '.'". "'■
'^-'February 8. Forgive me, little queen.; * *- »,
said/I/wouldn't- live long. ;It hardly: seems , * .* .; *.
I - good God, what / have' I done that I should :be
snuffed out like that? It's-/* * * ; joke. Fifty more
miles on f cursed dog meat? Like hell. * » *
Pink.":'.//." ,-/////■ /,-....;/.."' ■-, ."_ - ...-."'../v, i
"February '9. '/*<" * * your knowledge, take ft,
keep it! "Christ help me for * '*/..* why suffer
when I have the means? * * * Bye."
It will never be known with certainty whether Fitz
gerald /and Carter /bunked with their friends on that
last" night or / not.; v Kinney and Taylor, who were
found dead in the same place, were stretched out with
two sleeping bags/ under them and above them. Kin
ney is supposed have died first, killed by starvation,
suffering and poisoning from the dog liver. His feet
had been terribly frozen, and the skin, livid : and dis
eased, was peeling from his body.
Taylor could stand it no; longer. Agonies must
have suffered ; thai/ last terrible night. Men like him
do not snuff out their own lives impulsively. It must
have been a matter of - pride with him, as it was with
the others, exhaust every ounce of energy before
turning back. But the suffering and the illness proved
too strong for him. Frenzied, he placed the muzzle
Last' Resting Place of the Lost Patrol -
Church and Graveyard at Fort Macpherson
of his • rifle between his eyes as he lay on; the ground.
How long he "struggled against himself can only be
guessed, but. some • time in the darkness, after, per
haps, he had tossed awake for endless, nightmare
hours, he-pulled* the 1 trigger and blew off the top of
his head.
If Fitzgerald and ; Carter were there they could uo\
stop/ to /attempt to bury their comrades/in the frozen
snow. /It was purely a matter of life and death to
them, and' they knew that every rod traveled meant
that -safety was nearer and that every ounce of
strength expended'lessened,their chances/ in the race.
Toward -the last they were obliged to , chew the
tough leather sledge wrappers for food. -The greatest
wonder is that they persisted in their awful/fight-as
long/as they did.
Taylor and Kinney were found 35 miles from Fort
Macpherson; .where they would have found help.
Ten miles farther on the trail Fitzgerald and Car
ter bunked together for the last time. Their feet were
frozen, their bodies worn almost to skeletons, and
they .showed signs of having suffered terribly from
illness. They must have floundered through the snow
all day in * the hope of finding help at ' night, for Fitz
gerald had calculated that they had only a few miles
to -go, and they had averaged almost 10 miles a day.
'"■■-. The wide detours they had been forced to make had
confused him or he may have become so bewildered
toward the last that he was not capable, of reckoning
where he was. / Often : the trail had; been completely
lost, and in their'searching,for it the men must have
been bereft of all sense of distance and direction. It
can riot be told exactly when the last two of the party
, died, but it is certain that even when hope had been
crushed out of them at the /end; of that last awful day,
when the goal of /air their efforts seemed so near at
/ hand, and , when \ thoughts of warmth and • comfort and
plenty must have tantalized them, they fought on and
on with their last-breath of fstrength. /
: Not even a dog was left for food./ They, had chewed
the nauseating wrappers of the sleds and sapped from.
these : what little nourishment had / sustained them..
They had fought their, bitter, fight right through to the
cruel /finish, as is the custom of the mounted police,
and they had not won, but they had done their duty as
they saw it. They were courageous men and true to
their ideals to the • very last/, and they helped to grip
the i power of the - Canadian police on • the great do-;
minion. ;-," /;;.;//: : :-'.////■ ;/: ' /y*/..//--; .f |T
Side by'side they lay; down sleep that last; cold,
relentless* night, and neither went a/ step farther.
"Twenty-five/short; miles were between them and Fort
: Macpherson > when Corporal / Dempster's/ party found
- their frozen bodies.
.. Carter ; had evidently died ;first. Fitzgerald knew It/0
- for ihe '. had v done what was /in .his" power to bury the ;/
body, but the task was too much. It must have been
a - grewsome and weird ; sightthe /lank, starved man
of iron working there/in the tree filtered moonlight,
the ; desolation of /scrub ■ wood \ and ; pallid snow stretch
ing endlessly/ in /all directions. Not even the dismal
howl of a wolf > or the cheerless, hoot of ■• an owl to /
break the stillness or to remind the suffering laborer
that there was life, other; than his own feeble soark.
anywhere in that vast- wn<lerriess. i'-.y".-.
; The inspector may have staggered from his work to
die,; or, perhaps,' utterly exhausted from his efforts, he
lay down to rest and never stood upon his ' feet again..
A little way from his last stanch comrade he was
found, the mail for which he i had fought so persist
ently rolled in a little packet by his sid*.
And so the/ lost patrol « perished, arid l the ! four men -/
who had died/for/an idea were buried in a ;little church
yard in the midst of the barren waste of land which
had made them hard and big and brave. -« /
Other men have done it and other' men of the '
mounted - police will do ■it / that * the/ great empire ; may
be perpetuated, but the lost patrol aroused the sym
pathy and'the/feeling of Canada, and in "vivid contrast
to the plain little graves at Fort Macpherson a mon
ument will be erected, probably at Regina, Saskatch*
wan, the headquarters of the western division of the
force, by the combined action of the leading clubs of.

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