Story of "Teddy" Edward Cullinane in the Klondike Goldrush
When I was a young boy, my mother and father used to tell me the story of Great Uncle Ted and his adventures in the Klondike Goldrush in the
I always found the story (albeit sketchy and perhaps embellished with family folklore) to be an inspirational tale. Especially as it had a
tangible side, in that I knew that on "coming of age", I stood to inherit a tiny piece of that legend - a small golden tie pin that Ted had
given to his sister (my Great Grandmother - Julia Cullinane) on one of his Christmas visits back to England.
The pin (pictured right) is of a horse-shoe with a miners winch cradle and bucket, it is stamped "Dawson 14k" on the reverse.
(The only other tangible pieces of the legend were a few photos, and a couple of rocks containing small gold nuggets, which my grandmother
used as door stops for many years! My sister inherited these, and has maintained their traditional employ!)
What follows is the story of Teddy's Klondike adventure (at least as far as I have managed to piece together so far). His successes, his
experiences and his ultimate fate, some of which must always remain folklore, as you will discover as you read on...
Edward "Teddy" Cullinane was born in 1873 into a large Bristolian family. His father, Timothy, an Irish immigrant, was a foreman in the
Great Western Cotton Factory at Barton Hill, where his mother Eliza (a Bristol girl) also worked as a cotton warper.
Perhaps it was the living conditions in Barton Hill in those days, the drudgery of factory labour in the local cotton or iron works;
perhaps the Irish disposition to migration, or simply a young man’s yearning for adventure; whatever it was, something drove Teddy to leave home
in 1898 aged 25, and travel half way around the world to seek his fortune, prospecting for gold in the Klondike gold rush.
The following links will take you to the individuals mentioned in this article.
The route that Teddy took to get to Dawson City is not currently known, though it is thought to have been via the Chilcoot Pass as described in the film
above. Amongst his photo's of the period is the commercially produced shot on the right of a tramway tower encased in ice, which suggests he had some
connection to that route. Either way as the short film and article above describes, the fact he arrived at Dawson at all, is in itself an impressive feat!
Teddy, like many other Cheechako's (as newly arrived stampeders were known), would probably have found that much of the land on the
creeks and rivers around Dawson City was already subject to claims. So one would have to assume that he had to work as layman on someone else's claim
at first, until he could secure a share in a claim for himself.
Through partnerships with fellow prospectors, Teddy did manage to get himself a share in various
grants (issued by the Yukon Gold Commissioners office), on the famous Bonanza and Eldorado creeks near Dawson City.
We know he was partnered in claim number 13 on Eldorado Creek with EM White, William Dunham, William Sheets and James Higgins.
This was around the time that a photographer, Asahel Curtis was documenting Klondike life through photography. Is it possible that the man in the centre of this
photograph (held by the University of Washington) is our Teddy?
It seems the "13 Eldorado" claim began producing significant yields by 1902 as this Dawson Sun article
“Big Dumps are the Fashion” (December 17th 1902) suggests. In the photograph to the left, it is believed that the man standing
third from the left is Teddy.
The following year must have been a very successful season for Teddy. By the end of the summer of 1903 he sold a group of 15 claims on French Hill
for what must have been a significant sum, and returned to England to visit his family.
One of the most intriguing items that still exists from his time in the Klondike is a copy of the Yukon Sun from September 23rd 1903.
In it is an article which reports his leaving for England. The intrigue is provided by an anonymous censor (possibly his mother Eliza) who has
removed certain sections of the article. The sentences remaining above and below the tears certainly beg some interesting questions!
The Dawson Sun article
“Eldorado News” (September 24th 1903) also made mention of the boys of 13 Eldorado leaving to spend their winter (and presumably a portion of their gains!)
on the "outside" as it was known to the Klondikers.
Teddy returned to the Yukon following his European visit. It seems he linked up again with James Higgins (who had remained on Eldorado over
the winter with his wife), and also James’ brother George. In October 1904 the Yukon World newspaper caught up with the three of them on
their return from staking new claims on Bunty Creek under the headline
“Famous White Channel Again Located” (October 18th 1904).
Teddy and James also remained active in their usual stomping ground, this time taking a half share of claim number 34 Above Bonanza Creek
“Mining Transfers” (January 21st 1905).
1905-1909: Teddy and James expand their ownership of the Bonanza Creek claim to include:
Hill Claim; Left Limit of 33 and 34 Above; on Bonanza Creek.
Hill Claim; Left Limit, upper 120 feet of No.34 Above; on Bonanza Creek.
Eventually these were consolidated under a single mineral claim known as “Gloster” (certificate number 11749) – which covered the placer claims
31, 32, 33 and 34 Above on Bonanza Creek.
In addition Teddy owned the “Avondale” mineral claim - (certificate number 7705) which expired in 1907. (The name "Avondale" perhaps being a reference to the name of the road where Teddy grew up in Bristol - Avonvale Road, where his mother still lived).
1906: March - Teddy returns from another trip back to England, sailing from Liverpool on the "Carmania" he is
recorded (number 7 on the passenger list) arriving in New York City on March 5th 1906, in transit to
November - Teddy applies for a claim for placer mining on Irish Gulch (a tributary of Eldorado Creek); No.8 Left Limit. (See his signed application
form on the right).
1907: Teddy purchases Irish Gulch - Creek Claim No.6, from Thomas Charlton on 28th April 1907. The claim must have been unprofitable by the
time it was allowed to lapse on 6th August 1912, when it was relocated by Mrs Charlton.
Fall of 1909: James Higgins retires from the Klondike to settle down in Seattle (his address now being 2612 First Avenue North, Seattle). It appears
Teddy and James retained a shared ownership of some of the claims, and were also partnered in some Seattle real estate. It is thought that
James later moved on to Alaska.
Fall of 1911: Teddy verbally agrees a “lay” with William Bachmann, who would work the Bonanza claim on Teddy’s (and James’) behalf for the
next two years. The agreement was that Bachmann would take a 75% share of any gold extracted, the other 25% to Teddy and James. Unless the
amount of gold extracted was below a particular amount, in which case the split was 80%/20%.
Presumably, getting someone else to work these claims meant that Teddy could continue to do more prospecting.
Teddy returned to England to visit his family at Christmas 1911.
Sometime around 1912, (perhaps on his journey back to the Klondike), Teddy had a tooth extracted while in Vancouver. It seems that
the dentist splintered his jaw in some way which caused him significant nerve pain. He underwent a further two operations without relief
but apparently still suffered from severe headache pain at times. It is thought that Teddy left a suitcase at a Skagway hotel (possibly the
famous Pullen House Hotel), so he was probably taking the White Pass route back to Dawson on this occasion rather than the old Chilcoot Trail.
Over the following years the Bonanza claims being worked by Bachmann gradually yielded less and less gold
(valuation in table below based on rate of C$16.13 per oz):
By 1913 the falling yields must have forced Teddy to prospect further afield for new discoveries.
Early in 1913 we know he made a placer mining application at a place called Irish Gulch. While another claim on Britannia Creek (Creek Claim 11; Above Discovery);
expired on 3rd August 1913.
Teddy's final prospecting trip in the summer of 1913, sees him travelling way up the Yukon River to the country beyond Teslin Lake. It is here
that his Klondike adventure will end... and the mystery begins...
Teddy’s Klondike adventure ended somewhere in the forests, around 20 miles or so south of Teslin Lake. The last person to see him alive
(12th July 1913), was his prospecting partner Reginald Naish. It seems that Teddy and Naish were returning down the Moose Horn River from a
prospecting trip to a reported gold strike at Silver Creek south of Teslin. Some 5 miles south of Goose Lake, an accident with the raft had
deprived them of food and also of
their axes and tools which were so vital to survival in such a remote location. They should have gone on together to Cole’s Camp, but a log
jam meant they could go no further by river without constructing another raft downstream. However, with no tools to do this, and Teddy by this
point apparently having fallen ill, Naish decided to make camp for him and set out on foot to search for help.
Twenty days later, a group of prospectors including William H Forbes travelled past Teddy’s camp on the river-bank. On going ashore they found
a small raft, a robe, tent, cooking utensils but no provisions. There was no sign of Teddy.
Five miles downstream they came across Naish, “half-demented, caused by exposure and hunger”, having become hopelessly lost.
Click here to read a
letter from Naish (July 14th 1914) to Teddy’s family
describing the circumstances of Teddy’s disappearance, and of his own "miraculous" survival. Naish's map of the approximate location is shown
to the right.
The Dawson Daily News reported the story under the headline “Traced A Lost Klondiker” (May 22nd 1914) after interviewing Forbes' on his return to Dawson.
According to Forbes he later heard that some Indians had found Teddy’s dogs running free some distance from the campsite, but they to had failed to
find any trace of Teddy. (This perhaps being the origin of the "family story" that suggested he had been eaten by his huskies!).
Click here to read Forbes statement given in December 1914 regarding his
account of events.
Back in Bristol, after his apparent death, Teddy's brother-in-law Cecil Arscott, spent a great deal of time writing many letters to the
authorities in both Yukon and British Columbia on behalf of Teddy’s mother Eliza.
The aim was to get a search party to attempt to retrieve Teddy’s body, partly to console Eliza with the prospect of a proper burial,
but also to establish official proof of death. Eliza had been left penniless by Teddy’s death since his incoming also supported her, and it
would be very difficult to get his insurance policy to pay out without this proof.
The family put up a $250 reward for anyone who was able to find Teddy’s body. A well known local priest Father Revet added a further $500
to this. Apparently a search was made by local Indians, though this did not result in anything of interest.
The Yukon authorities in Dawson, especially, the commissioner George Black who had known Teddy personally, was very helpful to the family
in their attempts to officially resolve and prove his death.
However, because Teddy was thought to have been in British Columbia territory when lost, (Teslin lakes straddles the Yukon/ British Columbia border) it
seems the British Columbian authorities in Atlin were officially responsible for investigating the disappearance. Unfortunately they appear
not to have been at all proactive, and it required a great number of letters from Cecil in order to get them to assist in any way.
By 1914 the Bonanza claims had become unprofitable for Bachmann to run, the yield was only $400, well down on previous years.
Bachmann and his co-laymen ceased working on the property from the fall of 1914.
By October 1917 Teddy’s hill claims in 33 and 34 above Bonanza were sold by the public administrator, although the value of the sale is not known.
It is also not clear whether the funds were then paid on to Teddy’s mother who was still writing to the Canadian authorities in January 1919
asking for final details of Teddy’s estate. The file of letters held by the Yukon Archives ends here, so either everything was settled –
hence no more letters... or Teddy’s mother became too frail to continue the fight. She died in 1923.
So here ends the tale of Teddy Cullinane’s 15 year adventure in the Klondike. Although ultimately the story ends in his tragic and untimely
death, I have immense admiration for the man, (as I do for all those brave Klondikers of the period).
Admiration for the courage to follow a dream; to stride out in to the unknown and face unfamiliar dangers... and then through wit, graft,
determination (and I’m sure with a good measure of fun!) to have played a part, and even turned a profit in the great Yukon gold-rush adventure.
I’m proud to count him among my ancestors.
And if ever I am in need of inspiration or strength to face my own challenges, all I need do is look up at his picture on my study wall,
resplendent in his furs...
Teddy's story is told, with grateful thanks to the Yukon Archives in Whitehorse, Yukon; for providing copies of the large amount of correspondence
that has informed much of what I know about Teddy’s time in the Klondike. Also with thanks to Google for the excellent digital images of old
newspapers of the time, and to Youtube and Wikipedia (and the originators of the content linked to on those sites).
All photographs displayed on this webpage are part of Teddy Cullinane's private collection and are the property of the author.