1900 Yukon Nuggets
Frances Muncaster: Pioneer Woman of Squaw Creek
She was an American woman who gave up the life of high society, comfort and privilege to live the tough life of a miner in the wilds of the Yukon and northern British Columbia.
She was small and slim, with a beautiful oval face and engaging gaze. She was as comfortable in fashionable gowns as she was when attired in the rough and ready garb of the out of doors.
Arabelle Frances Patchen was born August tenth, eighteen seventy four (1874) in St. Paul, Minnesota . At age twelve, her family moved to Spokane, Washington. She was only eighteen years old when she married an older prosecuting attorney in Spokane and became “an ornament to Spokane society.”
The marriage only lasted three years, after which she married Thomas Noyes, the son of a Montana mining tycoon. They came north during the Klondike gold rush, ending up in Nome in nineteen hundred (1900).
They had varying success. At one time, Frances was the toast of Monte Carlo, but then the couple was wiped out financially. They tried their luck during the Chisana gold rush of nineteen fourteen (1914), in the south west Yukon, but failed.
Frances remained in Alaska after her husband’s death, managing a cannery store until she met and married Bill Muncaster, a surveyor who was fifteen (15) years her junior. Bill and Frances were made for the north. For their honeymoon, they spent the winter in a tiny log cabin on the shores of the Yukon’s remote Wellesley Lake in temperatures that dipped to fifty (50) below.
For years they continued their quest for gold in the south west Yukon. Then in nineteen twenty seven (1927), while visiting relatives in Seattle, they received word that Paddy Duncan had discovered gold on Squaw Creek, a tiny tributary of the Tatshenshini River.
They mined at Squaw Creek for the next twenty (20) years, making enough to carry them from one mining season to the next. Among her other duties, Frances was the mining recorder for the region, but as the years passed, her energy waned
She died of a heart attack in Haines, Alaska in 1952, after more than a half century of hardship and adventure in one of the most remote regions on the continent.
Frances Muncaster plotted her own course. Hers was a life of rebellion and adventure in which she overcame hardship in the wilderness that she loved.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Michael Gates.