1945 Yukon Nuggets
The Dalton Trail
The trail was known to the Chilkat Indians for centuries, and it was jealously guarded. So much so, that few gold-seekers used this route to the Klondike. That is until Jack Dalton came along.
The Chilkat called it the Grease Trail because they used to carry fish oil or grease, along with other trading goods, to the interior. In 1869, a senior officer with the US Geological survey in Alaska, convinced the Chilkat chief, at what we now know as Haines, to draw a map of the route. In 1882, Dr. Alfred Krause of the Bremen Geographical Institute, was the first white man to enter the interior over the "grease trail" as far as the Tatshenshini River.
Not much happened until 1890 when Jack Dalton arrived. He was part of a four-man expedition sponsored by the owner of the Frank Leslie Illustrated Newspaper out of New York. The paper's owner, W.J. Arkell, paid for the expedition to cash in on the reports of gold being found in the Yukon district. The four-man party made it to Kusawa Lake which they promptly renamed Lake Arkell. Here, the party split in two with Jack Dalton and E.J. Glave returning down the Alsek River to the coast. Dalton returned the following year and began building trading posts and gradually upgraded the trail, which he renamed Dalton Trail.
By 1896, Jack Dalton had his operation well organized. He built a home and a trading post at Pyramid Harbour, a post at what is now Pleasant Camp, and a main trading post at Dalton House, where he wintered his many horses. Dalton was thoroughly in charge of the Dalton Trail. In 1898, he brought in a herd of nearly 250 Oregon horses and started the Dalton Pony Express, the fastest service for mail and passengers between Pyramid Harbour and Fort Selkirk. A railway was proposed along the route, but the backers of the White Pass Railroad won the race to build the rails.
Still, the Dalton Trail was the only route to the Klondike suitable for driving cattle - or reindeer. Both these livestock were delivered to Dawson over Dalton's trail - for a fee paid to the trail's owner, Jack Dalton. This pioneering business-man stayed in the country until the late 1920s, when he retired and moved to Oregon. Jack Dalton died in San Francisco in 1945.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin.