25 April 2013

North, to Alaska - or, things I found in the garage

Back in the early 1970's my father bought a huge old derelict house in Macquarie Street. It had been empty for years, but there was still a lot of stuff left by its previous owners, the Stump family. Of course, it has all been hoarded in the back of our garage.

There are some interesting documents for me to go through one day (so far I've found quite a lot of legalese dealing with a stolen cow), some very nice family photographs (as if I need photographs of somebody else's family!) - and these two gems.

This has, neatly handwritten on the back, the inscription: "S.H. Yeomans in Indian Attire. 10.00 prize money rec. for Decorations".  It is dated July 4 1908. Skagway celebrates Independence Day. Unfortunately I can't read the
placard leaning against the wall behind the gentlemen on the left, other than the words AND IS AGAINST.
I'll probably never know what they WERE AGAINST. 
What the stylish young lady drives around Skagway . . . Mr Yeomans' Curio Store, Skagway, Alaska.
The handwritten inscription on the back of the photograph says "S.H. Yeomans Clerk of Year 1907"
 and the year 1907 has been written in ink below the caption at the bottom of the photograph.
About 1889 Mr Stanton H. Yeomans closed his barber shop in Whitesville, Allegany County, N.Y. and headed for the Big Smoke – New York City. He stayed there for a few years, becoming “one of the greatest checker players of the country,” but in July 1897 the steamship Portland arrived in Seattle with, as the Seattle Post-Intelligencer announced excitedly, “more that a ton of solid gold on board”. For once the hyperbole turned out to be understatement – two tons of gold were unloaded from the Portland. At any rate, this sparked the famous Klondike gold rush, and Mr Stanton Yeomans wasn't going to be left out.

He headed north to Alaska to seek his fortune and staked a claim, but had to continue working, under pretty primitive conditions, at his day-job for a bit longer. This was obviously not his favourite occupation for he soon sold his barber business, bought some horses and began packing stores over five miles of mountain, probably on the infamous “Dead Horse Trail” over White Pass. He lasted for one winter, and claimed that the struggle to keep his animals alive turned his hair grey.

Mr S.H. Yeomans in Indian Attire.
We are not told what the Indians thought about it all
Eventually he was able to work his Spruce Creek goldmine, but seems to have realised pretty quickly there are easier ways to make money on a goldfield. He went into business in Skagway, the “gateway to the goldfields”, a thoroughly up-to-date settlement “with churches, schools, electric lights, water system, etc.” and a population of 1,300. He was soon running “three stores and . . . making big money”. In 1904 he visited his old friends in Whitesville, showing off his “watch chain made of thirty-five gold nuggets which is worth about $40” and “some other fine specimens of gold”.

It's lucky for me he made this visit as The Whitesville News published an account of it on Thursday, March 10, 1904 and that's what I'm quoting here.

The successful Mr Yeomans returned to Skagway, and we've got the photos to prove it.

That's not a dog in the foreground.
According to the decorative banner  it is an "Alaskan wolf trained and tamed by S.H. Yeomans, dealer in Indian Curios"

I'd guess Mr Yeomans used them to promote his business interests – but South Hobart is a long, long way from Skagway. How did they get here?
Had the Stumps a family connection with Mr S.H. Yeomans? Or were these just popular mass-produced photographs people bought to decorate their homes? I've no idea. But I think I'll keep them, anyway.

Some of Mr Yeomans' window display


6 October, 2017

A few weeks ago I received an email from Peter Bennison whose wife Julie is descended from the Stump family.

Henry Stump owned several properties in South Hobart. In 1873 he married Mary Rawlinson  and they had nine children. Of these, Fergus became Julie's grandfather. Maud's daughter married my great-uncle (who was the youngest of a big family, and the same age as my father). Elsie and Rosetta (Etta) also married, and moved to New Zealand and Melbourne respectively. Alfred became a farmer at Granton; Garnet eventually moved to Wollongong. Fanny and Maria lived out their days in the old house decaying quietly in Macquarie St. And Ella, the eldest in the family, married Mr Stanton Yeomans of Skagway, Alaska. That's her in the dog-cart above.

Julie and Peter were on a cruise, calling in to Skagway, and an internet search for Julie's great-uncle turned up my blog entry. We have now met up over coffee. The photos that turned out to be of Julie's grandparents and aunts have been returned to their rightful family. These photos will soon be on their way to the US National Parks Service Museum in Skagway, Alaska where Mr Yeomans once lived with Miss Ella Stump (as was) from Hobart, Tasmania.