Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Yukon Gold (Part 4): Charley Rose comes home

This fourth and final installment of "Yukon Gold" begins after the death on Nov. 22, 1900, of Starling W. Riggins ("Starling W. Riggins' bad luck"), who in company with Charles W. Rose and John E. Bentley left Chariton on Feb 1, 1898, to seek his fortune during the Klondike gold rush ("The Klondike, gold fever, foolhardiness and disaster"). John Bentley had died weeks after the trek began, of meningitis on March 23, 1898 ("John Bentley's homecoming") at Sheep Camp, Alaska, near the base of the Chilkoot Pass. Starling's death occurred near Dawson City, Yukon Territory.

Charley now was the last man standing. He seemed to realize that the Klondike offered him few opportunities to get rich, but couldn't shake gold fever. With the exception of a visit home during 1901, he would remain in the North until 1904 when the Klondike finally chewed him up and spat him out. At least he survived.


Charley gave some idea of how those years went in a letter to his sister, Jessie, datelined Dawson, Sept. 28, 1899:

"I spent the winter (of 1898-99) on the creeks, working for wages a part of the time, and prospecting a claim I had located for the remaining portion of the winter. In fact, continuing to prospect that claim and other ground up to the first of July. Since that time I have been working for wages most of the time, which gives me sufficient means to carry me through the coming winter. I am compelled to confess that I have not met with the success that I had hoped for. The conditions of things now and those existing since my arrival here are such that a man single handed without means to invest in property stands the slimest imaginable chance of getting hold of anything of value."

He then goes on to describe with some feeling the life of a propector, writing that it "is one of considerable fascination, varied, and interspersed with doubts, fears and hopes to be realized. Every shovelful of earth is closely inspected; every change in the formation and deposits of gravel, and the different strata of the earth are closely scrutinized; frequent pannings are necessary, and upon the results depend the hope of success, or the discouragement of failure.

"I have experienced all these feelings and know what they are. I have washed pans of gravel, and when done would discover 10, 20, 30 and occasionally as many as 100 tiny specks of shining yellow metal, hardly visible to the naked eye. These small particles of gold are called colors, and when so small it requires anywhere from 100 to 500 to make a cent.

"A man who has tried once, twice, or three times and failed, presents an appearance of absolute dejection, while one who has tried it many times and finally strikes it fairly rich, goes around with a smile on his face, stepping so lightly you would think he was treading on air, and being in every way a changed man. The latter class are but few in number, while the former can be counted by the hundreds, so you see I can derive some conslation from the fact that misery loves company, and I am not alone."


Charley worked from shortly after the date of that letter until the following July for Starl Riggins and his partner, Mr. Lucas; worked his own claims during the summer; then returned to work again for Riggins & Lucas in the fall. He was thus employed when Starl died of pneumonia during November of 1900. The Riggins/Lucas operation paid him $1 an hour for a 10-hour day.

It appears that he continued to work for Lucas after Starl's death, then devoted the summer to prospecting again. But instead of remaining in the Klondike over the winter, he decided to return home for a visit during October of 1901.

The Chariton Patriot of Oct. 10, 1901, reported that "C.W. Rose, who started for the Klondike region three years ago and who has passed through varied experiences there, arrived home yesterday evening accompanied by his wife, who went to Lincoln, Nebraska, to meet him. There was quite a crowd of his friends at the depot to welcome him. He is looking well, though not as fleshy as when he went away. The Patriot, together with his many friends, bids him a royal welcome home."


Charley returned to the Klondike in January of 1902 --- travel to the Klondike now, by water and rail, was considerably easier.

Through hard work and determination, he raised enough money as the months passed to lease a share of a claim that produced gold. But it was that productive claim that nearly killed him.

A report of his near-fatal accident during the fall of 1903, first published in the Dawson daily on Oct. 18, was republished as follows in The Chariton Herald of Nov. 26:

"Charles W. Rose, who with a broken leg climbed the ladder to the top of the shaft on No. 255 below Lower Dominion, is slowly recovering in a cabin on that claim.

"In falling down the shaft, Rose broke both bones in his left leg below the knee. He is being nursed by the Bachelor Club of Lower Dominion. On account of the nature of the accident, Rose may be confined to his room for several months.

"The story of the accident shows that Rose possesses an iron will. The hole is 35 feet deep, but has five feet of cribbing at the top. A ladder runs from the bottom of the cribbing to the base of the shaft. Rose climbed on top of the cribbing and endeavored to reach the ladder. He was descending to put a syphon at the bottom of the hole for the purpose of getting rid of three feet of water, which was in the workings. He slipped from the edge of the cribbing and dropped down the shaft like a stone, with the result that both bones in the left leg were broken. The presence of the water probably saved him from more serous injuries.

"Rose was in a desperate plight. No one had seen him fall. It was useless to shout for assistance. But he had grit and refused to die like a rat in a trap. He is a heavy man, weighing more than 200 pounds. He stands six feet in height, however, and is muscular. When he got on his right foot, he steadied himself for a moemnt and then with the use of one leg and both hands, began his long climb to the surface.

"He literally pulled himself up. Despite his weight, he made fair progress, but when he reached the end of the ladder with five feet of cribbing still between him and safety, the outlook was dark. He shouted for help, but none came. He grew faint. Fearing that he would become unconscious from the terrible pain he was suffering, Rose seized a piece of rope which by pure chance was dangling at the top of the ladder, and tied himself to the rungs. The rope probably saved his life. Al Deceteau and J.D. Lowery were nearby and heard his shouts and then rushed to the miner's assistance and succeeded in getting him out of the shaft and with the help of others, took him to his cabin. Dr. Lambert set the breaks and since then Rose has been slowly recovering."


It took Charley roughly nine months to recover sufficiently from his fall to begin the trip home to Chariton.

For weeks, he wrote later, he "laid in the shack, suffered and froze." Although the leg had been set, it had not been set properly; and although he could hobble around, he could not travel any distance, more or less trapped on his Lower Dominion Creek claim where he was aided by friends and fellow miners.

There was another setback during February, 1904, when he left the cabin for a few hours. The cabin caught fire. Although his neighbors noticed the blaze and extinguished it, then repaired the building, all of his clothing other than what he was wearing went up in smoke.

After a few months, Charley was able to sort out his affairs on Lower Dominion and travel to Dawson, where he was hospitalized. Further repairs were made to his leg and complications dealt with, but he remained in the hospital for many more weeks. Finally, as midsummer 1904 arrived, he was recovered sufficiently to begin the trip home. According to later reports, his "life hung in the balance" at times during his stay in the Dawson hospital.


Charley returned home to Chariton on Aug. 10, 1904, six and a half years after those three young men had pulled away from C.B.&Q. depot on Feb. 1, 1898, two now dead and one handicapped for life.

"C.W. Rose, who has been in the Klondike region for the past seven years," The Patriot reported in its edition of Aug. 11, "arrived home last night accompanied by his wife, who had gone to the home of their son Bert in Missoula, Mont., to meet him. Mr. Rose stood the trip fairly well but is feeling quite indisposed and his general health is very much broken."

To add insult to injury, someone stole Charley's pants while he was asleep in a berth on the last leg of the trip home.  According to The Patriot, the pants pockets contained "a number of gold nuggets and some old coins .. which Mr. Rose valued very highly." Jennie received permission to go to the baggage car and retrieve another pair of trousers from their trunk.

Some years later, on Jan. 26, 1911, and at the request of Henry Gittinger, Charley summed up his years in the Klondie this way for a brief Leader article: "The going was all right. Changing scenery and excitement --- and hope. These are great incentives. I suppose had I not met with the accident I could have brought away some money although my claim did not prove to be a bonanza. I leased it and it had to be divided into too many parts. Were I a writer, I think I could get up a pretty good book of my experiences and travels during the several years of my absence. I had written a series of letters home and I often get them out and read them over. This refreshes my memories and the pleasant experiences take precedent over all others. There is always something we like to call up that is in the past. Life, thus, is but a story re-read."


It took months, for Charley to recover sufficiently to work --- and he always walked with a limp. Once recovered, he took whatever job came to hand. 

Charley seems to have been a man who did everything he set out to do well, and thoroughly, but had little interest in doing the same thing for very long. Before setting out for the Klondike, he had worked as a confectioner, operated a grocery store, worked as a freight agent, operated another grocery, then operated a restaurant. Through all of this, he seems to have earned a good living for his family.

There seems to have been a steady flow of money home to Jennie during his years in the Klondike; her life appears to have been a comfortable although somewhat lonely one,

By November, 1911, according to newspaper reports, Charley was in charge of "the construction work of the Iowa Telephone Co. in extending their lines through southern Iowa."

During 1912, he was hired as deputy Lucas County auditor, a position he held until 1916, when he was elected auditor in his own right.

By that time, however, age 63, his health was failing. On Friday, Nov. 16, 1917, Charley accompanied the Lucas County supervisors to Albia for a meeting with Monroe County supervisors regarding road projects. As they were waiting for the train back to Chariton at the C.B.&Q. Depot that afternoon, Charley sat down on a railing, then pitched forward dead onto the walkway. Largely attended funeral services were held early the next week at First Baptist Church.


Charley, whose given name was Charles Wesley Rose, was born March 29, 1854, in Franklin County, Ohio, and came to the Freedom neighborhood southwest of Chariton during 1859 with his parents, Stephen Gilbert and Rosalinda Jane (Ogden) Rose. He was one of 13 children.

On May 23, 1875, he married Jennie Proctor in Chariton and they became the parents of a son, Cyril Albert, born March 23, 1876.

Jennie continued to live in the family home after Charley's death and as her health began to fail, son Bert and his wife, the former Catherine Swett, moved back to Chariton from their home in Idaho to care for her. On Nov. 29, 1933, however, Bert died of a heart attack at age 57. His mother lived another few months, then died at nearly 77 years of age on April 15, 1934.

Charley, Jennie and Bert are buried in a row in the northwest corner of the Chariton Cemetery. There are no clues there, however, to the stories buried with them.

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