FAKERS—And Others

E. WARD SMITH March 1 1919

FAKERS—And Others

E. WARD SMITH March 1 1919

FAKERS—And Others


First Cit1j Clerk, Treaxnrer, Assessor and Tax Co/icc for of Dan'so~ City

THE out crook Yukon and was professional full of fakers, gambler from to the the out-andotherwise honest miner who faked the amount of work that the law provided must be done on each claim. They cropped up everywhere.

Foremost among those I remember was Hatfield the Rain-maker. The opening up of the creeks has changed the conditions governing water supply. In the early days there was always an abundant supply of water throughout the summer for sluicing purposes but, as the trail of the prospector spread up the creeks, the banks were bared of trees and the hillsides were •opened to the spring suns. As a result the ice and snow thawed out quickly and went away in raging "freshets. It followed that the supply of water for the summer work became more scarce all the time. Finally it became a more or less common thing for ’yvork to be suspended at certain times during the summer. The warm weather was of short duration at best and as a result these enforced delays were little short of disastrous.

The solution was brought back by Comptroller Lithgow on his return from a holiday trip in California. He got the Yukon council together and told them about it. “There’s a wonder worker in California, a man who makes rain,” he said. “I heard about him everywhere I went. He’s been up and down California and everywhere he goes the rain follows. No place is too dry for him. Let’s get him up here.”

The council was made up of hard-headed fellows and they didn’t warm up at once to the suggestion that Hatfield, the magician, should be imported to the Yukon.

“What’s his method?” asked one. “Does he take a stick like Moses and give the rocks a rap or two? Or has he got a pull with the weather-man?”

“It is easy to scoff,” said Lithgow. “I’m telling you that this man gets the results. There’s no hankypanky about it either. He doesn’t depend on incantations or spells. He’s a scientist and uses chemicals. It’s a business proposition from start to finish.”

The upshot was that the council gave in. The situation was serious—the drought was especially bad at the time—and there was nothing to lose in any case. Money was the cheapest thing in the Yukon: and it

would be a novelty as well. So 'they sent for Hatfield.

I saw him when he stepped off the boat—a raw-boned fellow with a nose like a hawk and long blonde hair, dressed in a longtailed coat and with a wide slouch hat on his head. Certainly he looked the part.

It did not take him long to fix up a bargain with the authorities. He was a grand talker with an easy flow of words that had something of a seductive quality about them. He was to get his expenses in any case, rain or no rain— three thousand dollars in all. If he produced a fall of so many inches on the mountain side, he was to get an additional $10,000. The council was to pay half and the miners agreed to make up the other half among themselves. Hatfield couldn’t lose no matter what happened. He had made a good bargain.

T^HE next step was to look over the ground and he finally selected the Big Dome as the scene of operations. The Dome was the outstanding peak around Dawson, thrusting its rounded summit, like the poll of a bald-headed man, a good three thousand feet into the air. Practically all the gold-bearing creeks of the Klondyke had their source on the Big Dome.

Hatfield erected a tripod of poles about forty feet high on the crest of the Big Dome and on the top he placed a box about two feet square. Into this box he had poured a queer combination of chemicals. It was then draped in a black cloth. There was a great deal of mystery about it all—guards set around the place to keep interlopers off and the supplies smuggled up under cover of dark. Hatfield, as I take it, was a bit of an artist. He had the whole population agog with the fuss and feathers in which.he clothed his act.

Under the tripod he pitched his tent—more precautions—and then, like the seven wise virgins, proceeded to watch and wait, He had visitors continuously, doubting souls who went up to scoff and remained to watch askance. There was something about Hatfield, with his solemn mien and his unfathomable eyes, that made scoffers uncomfortable.

This went on for a week or so and then one day clouds blew up over the Big Dome and rain begain to fall. Down in Dawson men looked at one another and said: “The son of a

gun’s turned the trick after all.” The rain grew into a decently heavy downpour and all intent to treat the matter with levity vanished. For a time there was a fairly general belief that Hatfield had actually been responsible for the downpour.

Then the rain-clouds passed over and the sun came out. It had only been a shower. Even in the driest times an occasional shower is to be expected. Men on the streets grinned, and said, “Luck isn’t with Hatfield after all.” It wasn’t. After that there was a long dry spell with not a drop of moisture from Heaven to help the man up on the Big Dome earn his ten thousand. Finally he

gave up and decampedafter collecting his expense money.

How to Find Gold.

'T' HEN there were the gold finders who drifted in. One weekend I ran up to a claim on Dominion Creek in which I was interested. I was standing in front of the cabin when a stranger came up and accosted me. It was dusk at the time and I was not able to see him closely but at first glance it looked like Hatfield. The stranger was tall and blonde with a drooping moustache of the kind that has become known as the Cousin Egbert. He bore so close a resemblance to the vanished Rain-Maker that the thought ran through my mind that the latter had come back.

The stranger had a queer contrivance in his hand, which resembled a druggist’s weighing machine. He carried it very carefully.

“This here machine,” he informed me in a nasal drawl, “shows where gold can be found by digging.” “My good man,”I said, “if that’s the case you are in a fair way to become the King of the Klondyke. What have you struck with it?”

He seemed a little put out at this question, but rallied promptly.

“I hold it—like this—in front of me,” he said. “Then I walk ahead and when I step over gold—the machine tells me.”


“That’s my secret,” said the man. “Here’s where you come in. You pay me twenty dollars down. Then I go over your claims. If I show you where the gold is, you pay me $180.00 more. That’s fair enough.” “And what,” I insinuated, “if you don’t find the gold for me?”

“Then there’s no harm done,” said the other. “If there is gold around I find it. If this machine doesn’t register anything on the claim, hustle out and sell that claim mighty damn quick. It’s no good.”

“Well,” I said, “I’m a good guesser—about as good as your machine, I think. I don’t know of any easier way of saving twenty dollars than by saying ‘Good evening to you, stranger.’ ”

He went on down the creek and put his proposition up to everyone he met. Plenty of them fell for it. He never located any gold for them, as far as I was able to learn, although Dominion was a rich gold-bearing creek. One miner, who was noted for his practical jokes, played a trick on the Gold-Finder that more than compensated the victims for the loss of their money. This man, whose name was Shorty Square, put several thousand dollars’ worth of gold dust into a sack and buried it just beneath the surface on his claim Then he lured the Gold-Finder.

“I’ll sort a lead you over the ground,” he said. “I’ve a notion there’s a streák of gold running in this direction.”

He led the faker, machine in hand, until the latter stood directly over the buried sack. Then he held up his hand for the other to stop.

“How about that?” he demanded. “Seems like a likely spot.”

“Nothing here,” said the faker. “There aint any signs of gold around.”

“Come off that, you swindle!” roared the miner “Step off while I show you up!”

He kicked the earth aside and dragged out the sack of gold, which he opened before the eyes of the crestfallen Gold-Finder. “Now, pass back my twenty bucks, see,” ordered the miner.

He got his money and the stranger rapidly shook the dust of Dominion from his feet.

Candles Made of Water

TNHE most laughable fraud perpetrated was in the A middle of winter, in one of the earlier years of the boom. I have forgotten the name of the ingenious fellow who was responsible for it, so I shall christen him Light-—a name with some significance as will develop later. Light had made up his mind that there were other ways of making a pile than by digging gold. He decided to get the gold from those who had already dug it.

One of the scarcest articles on the market in the dead of winter was candles. It was necessary to light up at three in the afternoon and keep it up until nine in the morning; and candles were the main factors in illumination. They were used a great deal up on the creeks, where the miners would stick them in holders in the mine walls. Toward the end of the winter season the price of candles would be running the fresh egg a close price for first place.

This man Light devised an mgen.ous plan for making money out of candles. He mixed milk with water and ran the substance into candle moulds which he promptly shoved outside to freeze. With the temperature down to 50 or 60 below a few minutes sufficed to turn the mixture into very presentable looking candles.

He made them in huge quantities and packed them away in boxes.

Then he sallied out and booked orders all around town at an average price of $25.00 a box. How many orders he received I do not know but, on a count later, it was estimated that he disposed of at least one hundred boxes. These he filled at once, delivering the boxes in person and collecting on the spot. As the purchasers were merchants and hotel men, for the most part, the boxes were put into stock and the wily Mr. Light was well out of town before the hoax was discovered.

ke Representation on Claims t',HERE was a great deal of faking done with regard to representation on the claims. The law provided that a man had to do two hundred dollars’ worth of work on a claim each year in order to get a renewal. The rate of payment allowed for drilling was two dollars a foot. Many miners had claims located here and there which they were not actively working, but which they desired to retain, and frequently they would hire someone to go out and do the necessary amount of work to renew the title for another year. This led to a great deal of crooked work one way and another.

One morning I boarded the stage for Dominion Creek and, piling in right behind me, was a miner I knew quite well. I shall call him Sam for short. He was carrying an unusual looking tool—a long steel, half-inch rod, flattened at one end like a drill. I looked it over curiously.

“What are you going to do with that, Sam?” I asked.

He gave me a slowt wink. “Going up to do some representing up on Dominion,” he said.

“But what do you need that rod for?”

“Never mind that rod,” he said. “It’ll be useful right enough. You sec, I got into old Alex. Macdonald for about $3,500, and I offered to pay him off by doing the work on some of his claims up on Dominion. He has a dozen or more ”

“You’ve got a busy season ahead of you then if you expect to do it all yourself.”

He winked again. “It aint going to take so long," he said.

Instead of staying at the road-house that night, Sam struck off up the creek. Apparently he was anxious to get on the job without any delay.

Next morning, my own errand being done, I got on the stage for the return trip. At the last moment, Sam came puffing up, a bag over his back and the steel rod under his arm.

“What! Going back so soon?” I asked.

“Yes. Got to get back,” said Sam, shortly. He was not in a communicative mood at all.

OEVERAL years after I ran into Sam and he ^ voluntarily referred to the trip. As far as I can recall his words, I have jotted them down.

“Remember that day we went up to Dominion together, me with a two-inch steel rod, so long? Ha, ha! I wanta tell you all about it. The best thing I ever pulled off, that. You see I owed the old King a pile of money, more than I could ever pay off, and I agi’eed to work it off instead. These here fellows that run the mining business, they aint as sharp as they think they are. They had a set price for everything—two dollars a foot for drilling, see, but no word as to how big a hole the drill’s got to make. So I takes a

half-inch drill and I goes up to the Creek. All that night, seeing as it was good moonlight, I put in on one of the King’s claims, hammering that rod down into thé ground. As soon as I got it down two feet I pulled it up again—two dollars’ worth of work, see? By morning I had the whole debt worked off—$3,500 a night is pretty good pay even for the Yukon. I got permission first to do all the representing on one claim, and of course I picked out a good one—one I knew was a quagmire. It was dead easy running that drill in and out.

“When I got in to Dawson I went over to the renewal clerk and made out a declaration of the feet I drilled and the King gets his renewals on all the claims. He would’ve been madder’n hops if he’d known what I did, because he was out that much work.”

I felt it my duty to protest. “Sam,” I said, “that representing wouldn’t have stood the test if they had found you out.”

“What of it?” he retorted. “How much good was any of the representing? Everybody swore out false statements. You know that as well as I do. Why, say, the renewal clerk knew it too. I’ll bet he used to say to himself every time anyone came in, ‘Here comes another clanged liar.’ Why, man, the Government expected us to lie about our claims.”

To prove bis case he proceeded to tell all about the tricks of the trade. One of the stories he retailed is worth repeating, before passing on. There was one miner who wanted to get a renewal on a quartz claim that he held and he was distinctly adverse to the idea of doing the necessary amount of work. So here was the plan he evolved. Tunnelling was allowed in at the rate of $20.00 a foot. This fellow built a tunnel out from his quartz vein by putting in a scantling or two and piling rocks up all around it. This he made ten feet long and, when finished, it looked like a ricketty arbor made of stones. It was a two-hour job. Then he went into Dawson, swore out his papers and got his renewal. The first windstorm that came along did not leave one stone standing on another.

I may add that the Government finally took cog-

nizance of such tricks and specified more closely the kind of work that had to be put in.

T DON’T know that Asa Hayden belongs in this chapter as he was not a faker in any sense of the word, but he certainly succeeded in “putting something over” on the people of Grand Forks. So perhaps the story can be told here.

Asa Thursa Hayden was a doctor, although he never practised medicine in the Yukon. He was a tall, lanky American—a melancholy sort of fellow who plodded around and never indulged in conversation except on one subject. He was regarded by some as a mystery and by others as being a little “off.” I saw him once or twice in Dawson, and remembered him particularly because of his unusual appearance.

The one subject that Hayden was ready to discuss was the depth at which gold was to be located. Bed rock, in which gold is found, was generally down from eighteen to thirty feet below the surface. Hayden had a theory that there would be a second bed rock somewhere below, and that if it could be reached it would be found simply rotting with gold. He used to enlarge on this theory with the earnestness of a man with but one idea, his eyes popping with excitement, his hands quivering as though with a nervous anxiety to handle the gold that lay so far below.

Well, Hayden finally decided to try it out and he selected Grand Forks, which is located where the Eldorado enters Bonanza Creek. He got a piece of ground up the valley above the town where the first bed rock had been shorn of its gold. Whether he was the original owner or not I cannot say. Anyway h«* started to dig.

As might be expected he went at it alone and in his usual strange, secretive way. He rigged up a primitive windlass and bucket to bring the earth to the surface. It did not take him long to get down twenty feet or so, but after that the progress made was slower because the ground had to be thawed out first. It was made slower still because, after filling the bucket, he would have to climb the ladder and haul the bucket up to the surface. Then down again he would go, fill another bucket full, climb up and dump it and so on over and over again.

He kept this up for days, then, weeks, then months—silent, patient, untiring. At first the other miners paid little attention to him but, as the dump around the mouth of the shaft grew and grew they began to take , . notice.

“For God’s sake, Asa,” they used to say, “how much farther you going to go? You’ll bump into China sure if you keep on much longer.”

He paid no attention to them but kept on at his feverish work, climbing up and down his ladder as though driven by some almost supernatural force. He kept it up for two years and a half!


Asa Makes a Strike

OW far down he had driven his shaft by that time no one knew; but it must have been a wonderfully long way! The end came too suddenly and strangely for any computation to be made on that score.

One winter day, when the thermometer was hovering around sixty below on the surface of earth, Asa made hi» strike. He climbed up the ladder faster than any human being ever before mude such an ascent, with something licking at his heels that froze his tongue with terror to the roof of his mouth. Some people saw him suddenly emerge from the mouth of the shaft like a jack-in-the-box. After him came—no, not some strange animal from underground—but a rushing, bubbling flood of ice cold water! It flowed out so fast that everyone, including Hayden himself, beat a hurried retreat. He had, very apparently, tapped some reservoir far down in the bowels of the earth.

Shades of Noah! The water poured out of that hob in ever increasing volume. It flowed down over the town until the streets were like the streets of Venice And remember, it. was about sixty below zero and when the water became stationary anywhere it froze solid’ The most charitable thing snid about Asa Hayden that night was the opinion voiced by one resident of Grand Forks, who found a foot of ice on the floor of bis one-storey home. “That blank idjit,” he declaimed, ought to be put inside a belt filled with dynamite and then chucked down to the bottom of his blank-blank hole !”

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A message was sent at once to Dawson City for assistance and an engineer came out by dog train to the scene of the catastrophe. The water was still rising—rising fast—and he decided that the only hope lay in blocking the mouth of the shaft. Sprouting oil-wells, can be stopped by forcing bags of linseed into the pipe. The linseed expands and stops the flow. Unfortunately there was no linseed in Dawson, so the engineer and his assistants took the next best course. They took bushels of good beans and bag after bag of oats and chucked them into the hole. All to no avail. The water floated the bags out as fast as they were thrown in.

By this time the whole town was under water and it was even running over the window-sills. In many places it was frozen solid.

“If we don’t get this hole plugged soon,” said the engineer, “the whole town will be one solid block.of ice.” Then, suddenly, the water started to subside. No more came out of the hole and such of it as had not frozen up proceeded to drain away.

The explanation was simple enough after all. In previous winters a spring high up on the mountain-side had always overflowed and formed a miniature glacier. It was found later that this spring had ceased to flow. Apparently Hayden had struck the subterranean reservoir which supplied the spring, and had allowed it all to gush out.

The episode cost the Government $60,000 altogether. Hayden left the Yukon. His popularity in Grand Forks, such as he had enjoyed, had gone.