The Story of Jack Dalton


Researched, complied & edited by Rodney G. Dalton from various sources on the World Wide Web. Sources include Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia and Google images search.
All original material is the property of the owner(s) and is not intended for commercial use. Some of the below extracted from the web site



Jack Dalton was born in 1856 and died in 1944. Because of his killing a man in Washington state he used the last name to Millar, although this may be a fictional account. Jack Dalton's life of nearly ninety years spanned an era of almost unparalleled change. In his role as Alaska's premier freighter during the Gold Rush days in the Klondike and Alaska he observed, directly, the replacement of men and horses by machines. In his old age, Dalton saw the encroachment of aircraft on railways and steamships, the earlier prime-movers.


portrait of Jack DaltonAccounts of Jack Dalton's early life are sketchy at best and sometimes misleading. His birth has been variously placed in Oklahoma, Kansas, or the Cherokee Strip in 1855 or 1856. Most probably, he was born in Michigan about June 25th, 1856, the place and date of his birth given on Dalton's California death certificate.


Jack Dalton was the son of Joseph Dalton of Ireland and Hannah Cunningham of County Kerry, Ireland. Joseph arrived in the United States during 1848 and Hannah arrived in 1851. They were married in Henry County, Indiana on Dec. 1, 1855. They then went to Canada shortly afterwards. The Joseph Dalton family removed to Northern Michigan in 1866 and settled in Osage Township, Miami County, Kansas about 1872. Jack then left home after the June 1, 1880 Census of the family. Jack is then found in Burns, Oregon circa 1883. He then went to Alaska in 1885, where he made his presence known in gold mining, exploration and development of Alaskan and Yukon Territories.

Jack had children by two marriages and one child by an earlier liaison with a Native Alaskan Tinglit woman. His business ventures involved travelling in Alaska and the Yukon Territory of Canada, and round trips by steamer between Southern Alaska and Seattle, Washington. He left Alaska for good in 1916 and settled in Yakima, Washington. He is then found in the 1920 and 1930 Census of Yakima, Washington with family members.

Published accounts of Dalton's life indicate that Dalton had only one or two years of formal education. The same accounts often describe him as a self-educated man who enjoyed reading and writing. Moreover, Dalton had many valuable pioneer skills. It is perhaps universally agreed Jack was not a man to cross as he had a hair-triggered temper, and strength that belied his stature. He was a good shot and was usually armed.


Jack Dalton was personable, confidant and of average height. He wore a black wide-brimmed hat, suspenders, holstered Colt revolver under his right arm, calf-high moose skin moccasins and sported a luxurious flowing blond mustache.


History hints at, but can't confirm, that he may have been forced to runaway from his Oklahoma home for shooting a man when he was 15 years old, perhaps in self-defense.



Another story cropped up that he had to leave Oregon Territory to escape prosecution and/or lynching for a shooting escapade. An erroneous tale was told that Dalton had worked on a ranch under the assumed name of Miller. Why he would change his name in Oregon Territory than revert to the name Dalton in Alaska makes no sense. A man could run but he couldn't hide from a U.S. Marshal.


The story goes that he had fled Oregon Territory in 1882 after fatally shooting a man. But the urban legend is riddled with an many holes as was the fictitious victim. For starters, there is no such handgun as a Colt Bulldog with which to do the deed. It was nearly four years before Dalton reached Alaska. The rest of the story has to be discounted as one told by a Burns County, Oregon, blowhard who was seeking glory for himself while discrediting Dalton, who, by then, was heralded as a folk hero.


Another story that Dalton went to San Francisco in 1883 and hired on with a sealing vessel that wintered in the miserable climes and conditions at Herschel Island, off the northern tip of the Yukon District, is also dubious.


This was said about Jack Dalton, " Jack Dalton had a very long and very interesting life. He was described by a woman in Haines as 'a dapper, well-dressed, ladies man'. He is best known for opening up the Dalton Trail out of Haines.


He ran a hotel in Haines in 1896 and later arrested Jack Wade for murder, but also was himself jailed for shooting a shopkeeper McGinnis. He was later acquitted.


He was mentioned in the 1903 AK Boundary Tribunal by Don-a-wak, chief of the Chilkat Indians. In 1886, Jack signed on as roustabout and camp cook with the Schwatka-New York Times expedition to climb Mt. St. Elias. The party began their ascent at tidewater in Icy Bay on July 17, 1886. They traversed rugged terrain for twenty-five to thirty days, crossed fast coastal rivers, and reached an elevation of about 5,700-feet before Schwatka's health failed, which terminated the first recorded attempt on the difficult mountain."


Dalton has come down through history with a reputation for trouble. The fabled stories may have been garbled with the troubles he encountered in Haines Mission for shooting a man and a Juneau vigilante group threatening to lynch him after a court acquitted him of murder.


Dalton began his travels as a late teenager when some scrape caused him to move to Texas and change his name, temporarily, to Jack Miller. Under that name, he worked his way north and west and gained a reputation as a hard working and versatile ranch hand, but also as a formidable fighter. In about 1882, Jack moved to Burns, Oregon where he ran a small logging company. Trouble began when Dalton fired his cook. The cook returned to camp and at first opportunity pulled a concealed pistol on Jack who grabbed the cook's arm deflecting the shot. The two men struggled; Jack pulled his own pistol, and in the ensuing fight, the cook was shot fatally. The cook had numerous friends in the area, and Jack thought it prudent to leave the country for San Francisco, where he shipped northward on a sealing ship bound for Herschel Island and other points along the Siberian and Alaska coastlines. Trouble followed Jack, as the entire crew was arrested for illegally hunting fur seals and jailed in Sitka.


Dalton gained his freedom in the mid 1880s and immediately began to augment his earlier reputation as a man of great ability, but dangerous. At that time Dalton, about thirty years old, was an expert at anything related to horses, a skilled hunter, excellent rough cook, and adept with small boats of any type. He made a reputation as a negotiator with the southeast Indians. Dalton quickly learned "the Chinook Jargon," the trade language used along the north Pacific coast and he used it effectively. Although lacking in formal education Jack wrote well. His virile good looks made him attractive to the opposite sex. A Haines pioneer who first met Jack in 1906 described him, whom she had known as a frequent guest at her girlhood home, as a "dapper, well-dressed, ladies man."


In the late 1880s and early 1890s, Dalton participated in several noteworthy expeditions. In 1886, Jack signed on as roustabout and camp cook with the Schwatka-New York Times expedition to climb Mt. St. Elias. The party began their ascent at tidewater in Icy Bay on July 17, 1886. They traversed rugged terrain for twenty-five to thirty days, crossed fast coastal rivers, and reached an elevation of about 5,700-feet before Schwatka's health failed, which terminated the first recorded attempt on the difficult mountain. At the conclusion of the trip, Dalton elected to stay in the Yakutat vicinity prospecting for coal, possibly for Sitka businessman Edward DeGroff. In one later evaluation, pioneering ethnologist Fredricka DeLaguna believed that Dalton was the premier explorer of the coastal region near Disenchantment Bay. In 1888, Dalton discovered a coal deposit not far from Bancas Point.

In 1890, Dalton joined the "Frank Leslie Newspaper Expedition" which was formed to explore the largely unknown land between the Alaska Coast and the Yukon. The expedition was led by E.Hazard Wells, and included E. J. Glave, A. B. Schanz, F. B. Price, and Dalton. Jack used both negotiating and practical skills for the expedition. Access to the interior over the so-called "Grease Trails" had always been controlled by the Chilkat band. In his earlier years the Chilkat chief, Kohklux, adamantly opposed the whites and had been in the party that burned the post at Fort Selkirk in 1852. By the late 1880s, Kohklux realized that the military power and sheer numbers of invading settlers could not be opposed. At odds with some of the Chilkat leadership, Kohklux proposed that the Chilkats open the trails and act as packers. With agreement on access and payment of considerable fees, the Leslie expedition began to make the ascent of Chilkat Pass. Each Chilkat packer carried about 100 pounds, ascending the Chilkat to its headwaters, snowshoeing across a glacier at the head, and then descending downstream to Kusawa Lake. Except for one Chilkat Indian, who remained as guide, the rest of the Chilkats returned to the coast.


The remaining expedition divided near Kusawa Lake. Most of the expedition continued to the Yukon on a raft. Dalton and Glave, however, went westward on foot until they encountered Lake Klukshu, south of Dezadeash. They then followed the Tatshenshini, the main tributary of the Alsek, to the settlement at Neskataheen, the principal trading center on the Alsek. At Neskateheen the local Indians were Athabascan; usually called the Stick Indians. Glave and Dalton left the village and walked sixty miles downstream to a fish camp where they bought a dugout canoe and hired Shank, a local guide. Later Glave wrote, "Dalton and an Indian called Shank are the two best men I ever saw handle a paddle." Today the one-hundred mile stretch of the Alsek River from the fish camp to the mouth at tidewater is considered a major white water challenge. Dalton and Glave were the first white men to boat the lower Alsek. Detailed accounts of the expedition in popular articles greatly increased interest in Alaska. Israel C. Russell, who headed the National Geographic Expedition in 1890-91, recognized Dalton's local prominence, naming the large glacier into Disenchantment Bay as Dalton Glacier.


In the spring of 1891, Dalton and Glave returned to the Haines area determined to try a new way of freighting. They brought four sturdy pack horses, each of about 900 pounds. The party arrived at Pyramid Harbor near modern Haines in May 1891 and found pasture near Klukwan. The consensus of other freighters, Indians, and miners was that horses would fail. Glave and Dalton, each leading two horses with 250-pound packs, followed the traditional trail to Neskataheen, where the Stick people had never seen a horse and doubted their practicality. At first, the Sticks showed no interest in helping Dalton and Glave. But after watching Glave and Dalton handle the horses, a leading Stick elder proposed that they use the horses to haul their trade goods and equipment northward toward the Yukon. Dalton and Glave agreed to haul the goods, and the Sticks were soon converted when they saw how easily and quickly the horses moved loads.


Dalton spent most of 1892 and part of 1893 in finding and improving a trail to the Yukon that could be used by his packhorses. Starting from Pyramid Harbor, Dalton's trail crossed the coastal mountains at the head of the Klehini and continued northward near Dezedeash Lake and within a short distance of Neskataheen. Dalton Post was established some eighteen miles south of Dezadeash and Champagne near Neskataheen. A post called Dalton Cache was established near the Canadian border near where the trail divided. One branch followed the Nordenskjold drainage to the Yukon then along the Yukon past Five-Finger and Rink Rapids to Fort Selkirk. Another branch went from Champagne to Aishihik Lake to Selkirk. Dalton found that the tough little pack horses could winter over near Dalton Post and Champagne.


The Dalton Trail was completed and in operation when the Klondike was struck in 1897. It remained in constant use until the Yukon and White Pass Railway was completed in 1900 and had some use for the next decade.


Long before the White men reached the interior, the ancestors of the contemporary Champagne Indians occupied an important position for trade with coastal Indians. At the interior end of the Chilkat Pass, they had a summer settlement (named Neskatahin in the Tlingit language) near the Alsek and Tatshenshini drainage where Pacific salmon could be caught. Neskatahin provided a center for contact and trade among different communities. In 1892, one of the first whites to visit wrote:


“Neska-ta-heen is an important rendezvous. During the winter natives of the interior roam over all the land an small parties, hunting and trapping, but return here with their spoils of black and brown bear,black, cross, gray, white and red fox, wolverine, land otter, mink, lynx, beaver, etc. and exchange them for blankets, guns, powder and tobacco, which the Chilkat Indians bring to them from the coast. The latter have always enjoyed a monopoly of this trade and natives of the interior have been prevented by them from going to the coast.”


Like the inland Tlingit at the head of the Taku River and the Tagish at the head of the Chilkat Pass, these people came important in the trade network. Each spring, families from Kluane Lake, Aishihik Lake and Hutshi came to Neskatahin to trade with Chilkats who had made a two week journey from the coast. In summer and fall, people from Neskatahin would go further inland to get trade goods to bring back for trade with Chilkats the following spring.


Sometime in the middle of the nineteenth century, a party of Indians from the upper White River came down and attacked a large camp of people while they were fishing at Neskatahin. This happened after a trade dispute. Only two small groups survived: they are the ancestors of the contemporary Champagne Indians.


A man who was the chief of Champagne people for some years, Mr. Johnny Fraser, says he remembers seeing the first white men cross the Chilkat pass in the early 1890’s when Jack Dalton came with pack horses and established Dalton Post. dalton and his party were the first white traders to cross the interior from the coast and older people still talk about the stir caused by the strange looking animals - horses - they - brought.


Eight years later, in 1902, a trading post was built at the present sight of Champagne. Most families maintained cabins at two or three locations but Champagne became a winter headquarters and a spring and fall trading center. When the Alaska Highway was pushed through in 1942, it passed through Champagne at Mile 947. Families from Hutshi began to move to Champagne about that time.


Dalton Post was a trading post built in 1895 by Jack Dalton close to the First Nation village of Neska-ta-heen. The North-West Mounted Police also had quarters there. Thompson describes the interior of the trading post in April, 1898 "-the shelves being piled high with calicoes, and ginghams, shoes, hats, tin pans, plates, and cups, while from the roof-beams depended kettles, pails, steel traps, guns and snowshoes." During the summer of 1898, Dalton Post was robbed of several thousand dollars, while Jack Dalton was away on a guiding trip. Members of Soapy Smith's gang, from Skagway, were blamed for the incident.

In its early days, the trail, sometimes with as many as 250 pack horses in a train, was not universally popular. Storekeeper Don McGinnis tried to stop Dalton by appealing to the Chilkat Indians to deny access. Matters came to a head on March 6, 1893 when Dalton went to McGinnis' store. In a fight, probably over the possession of Dalton's pistol, McGinnis was shot and died the next day on the way to the hospital at Juneau, where Dalton was jailed. On June 18, 1893, a jury held that the shooting was accidental and acquitted Dalton. Deputy Marshall Sylvester commended the jury, but a large group of Juneau citizens were dissatisfied and denounced both Sylvester and the verdict. Dalton paid little attention to a written notice from the group to leave Alaska or face the consequences.



Above photo shows Jack Dalton (4th from left) and his Dalton Post


Another story told about Jack Dalton is this: "Strapping snowshoes to horses’ hooves was a tactic employed by Jack Dalton when he was investigating the feasibility of bringing the first horses out of Haines, Alaska into the Yukon in May, 1891.Suspecting they might have a lot of soft snow to cross on the 4,750-foot Chilkat Pass,


Dalton and his trail companion, Edward James Glaves, constructed sets of four snow-shoes for each horse before starting the gradual climb to the summit.“The horse's hoof was placed in a pad in the center of the shoe, and a series of loops drawn up and laced round the fetlock kept it in place,” explained Glaves in a written account. “When first experimenting with these, a horse would snort and tremble uponlifting his feet. Then he would make the most vigourous efforts to shake them off. Standing on his hind legs, he would savagely paw the air, then quickly tumble onto his forelegs and kick frantically. We gave them daily instruction in this novel accomplishment till each horse was an expert."


Above: A rare photo of Jack Dalton, taken in March, 1898 at Dalton Post. Below: Part of the Dalton Trail, 1898. The trail passed over all kinds of terrain, from "good hard road covered with reindeer moss" to mosquito infested swamps. The overall opinion was that Jack Dalton showed good judgment in laying a trail that was easy on horses and cattle.


Jack Dalton, conspicuous among the other independent traders and commercial venturers for daring and initiative, cast his lot with the Lynn Canal entry route into the interior in 1893-94 when he established Dalton Post in Yukon Territory and commenced work on his Chilkat Pass Trail to the coast.


Dalton, was a formidable, determined man. A conflict between the two traders—had one occurred—would have matched characters of comparable strength, while a combination might have sparked some lively enterprises. Each, however, found backers elsewhere for their schemes—Healy in Chicago and Dalton in Juneau from John Maloney and others. The two tough individuals must have had some meetings, but no records exist showing any commercial or personal dealings.


Aside from trade interests the men had a shared experience as deputy marshals at Chilkat. Healy resigned the post in 1891 and Dalton was the officer in 1892-93. While Dalton was deputy he got into serious trouble. A brawl with a cannery storekeeper, who had been inciting Indians against Dalton's scheme of establishing an interior trading post, ended with Dalton's shooting the storekeeper. Dalton was acquitted of murder in Juneau, but angry citizens ordered him out of town and the prosecutor complained that defense attorney John Maloney had bribed jurors. Dalton recovered from this near-disaster to play major roles in many other important events in Alaska, including the gold rush and railroad



Visitors to the Yukon and Alaska are always interested in the history of the areas through which they travel. One of these is the route traversed by the Haines Highway, which follows to some extent “The Dalton Trail” of gold rush days - 159 miles from tidewater at Haines, Alaska, to Haines Junction. Mile 1016 on the Alaska Highway in Yukon Territory.

From the Archives of the Alaska Historical Library and Museum at Juneau, the Northwest Mounted Police, and photo albums and documents of Henry Dow Banks of Springfield, Mass. on a journey over the Dalton Trail in 1898, a brief history of Jack Dalton and his famous trail has emerged.

In 1898 the trail used early in the spring and late fall commenced from Haines Mission, and all freighting at that time could be done with wagons or carts to within three miles of the foot of Chilkat Summit.

The road passed through the Indian village of Klukwan and up the Chilkat river about three miles to its junction with the Klahena river and continues to Dalton Post. Both rivers had to be crossed and re-crossed about forty times and as the wagons travelled only when the rivers were breaking up in the spring and just before they started to freeze up in the fall, nearly every crossing made was dangerous to man and beast.

In the spring the edges of the rivers were solid masses of ice, and in the centre a swift running stream, necessitated the wagons dropping several feet or more from the ice to the river bottom, and constant quicksands were also prevalent.

The poor condition of the trail induced Mr. Dalton to cut out and build a good trail for pack horses, from Pyramid Harbour to the top of the first summit a distance of about 60 miles. It was a trail which could be used from the time snow melted until very late in the fall.

About ten miles from Pyramid Harbour, the trail cut off to the south and entered a range of mountains, keeping away from the Chilkat river until opposite Klukwan at the mouth of the Salmon river. The crossing there was deep but not swift accept on very warm days when the water rose rapidly. Two men were drowned there in 1898.

The climb to Chilkat Summit, (not to be confused with the Chilkoot), was about 1700 feet of steep zig-zag trail, and was the only steep climb on the entire route. In general the road was free from rocks over firm sand, and easy on horses and cattle. All swamps or boggy places (and there were numerous) were corduroyed with small logs, and a good many substantial bridges built.

The laying out of the trail showed very good judgment. there were few steep grades and wherever possible a gradual incline was followed even at the expense of circling instead of climbing over a hill.

A toll of $2 per head was levied on all cattlemen going through, although having to pay the toll, gave Jack Dalton great credit for his trail job.

Dalton employed an American surveyor and his staff during the month of July, 1898, to make a survey of the trail and map out the route. He also applied for a charter under the Oregon laws, which then applied to Alaska Territory.

Boulder Creek is where he and other Americans claimed the international boundary to be, and it was where they ended the survey of the road. This creek is between eight and ten miles below the Dalton Trail Post. (A road to Dalton Post leaves the present Haines Highway about Mile 106. Nothing is left there now except a number of log cabins and a grave-yard.)

There were a large number of people in and around Shorty Creek Mining District (a few miles west of Dezedeash Camp, Mile 125 on present Haines Highway), but no policy near that point to intercept liquor being brought through British Columbia into the Yukon Territory. Police detachment was therefore placed at Dalton House, at the Crossing of the Alsek river, and a barrack was erected there in August 1898.

On Oct. 4th, 1898, a census of the inhabitants in and around Dalton House revealed a population of three white men and over one hundred Stick Indians. There are several lakes in the vicinity of Dalton House such as Klukshu, Dezedeash and the Kathleen lakes. Several families of Stick Indians were camped around these lakes.

The trail from the first summit led on over a good hard road covered with reindeer moss to Rainy Hollow, about eleven miles from the Summit. At this place there is a slope of over one hundred acres covered with a grass similar to Wild Timothy.

At Glacier Camp, twenty miles further on there were 26 glaciers in full view. The next stop was Bear Camp, 25 miles from Glacier.

The trail was fairly good, crossing over a large area called “Mosquito Flats,” so named because of the ferocity of the insects infesting that sections. Bear Creek today is a small shallow stream emptying into the Alsek River used by the coast salmon coming up to spawn in the lakes. The trail crossed this creek to a point two miles further on, the first crossing of the Alsek river.

It continued through timber up a rather steep hill to where the British Columbia line (60th parallel) separates the Yukon Territory; thence on over a good trail to the second crossing of the Alsek, where Dalton House was situated, fifteen miles from Bear Camp.

Leaving Dalton House, the trail continued along a very steep hill for one mile from the detachment, then over a very good road to Klukshu Lake, a distance of twenty miles. Here another trail branched off to the left in the direction of Shorty Creek. (This trail is now followed by the Haines Highway along the west side of Dezedeash Lake.)

The next camp was Pennock’s Post about thirty miles distant, then Camp Storey, eighteen miles. Pennock’s Post, Champagne Landing and Camp Storey were points where Lieut. Adair’s party built cabins for prospecting purposes.

The old trail continued to Hutshi Lake, head of the Nordenskiold Lake. (The Alaska Highway crosses the old trail near the settlement of Champagne, Milepost 974). It then followed the Nordenskiold river to near Five Finger rapids and Rink Rapids of the Yukon River, a point 235 miles from Dawson City.

The total length of the original Dalton Trail from Haines to the Yukon River was approximately 305 miles. The trail was used by a number of cattle drives. The cattle were shipped from Seattle, Washington or Vancouver, B.C. by ocean steamer, approximately 1000 miles, then driven over the Dalton trail to the Yukon river, and taken by scows down to Dawson City.

It was also patronized by pack trains, and by individuals on horse back. Dalton kept a number of horses at each end of the trail. An old Dawson newspaper stated that: “The Barringtons of Stikine river fame had a small steamer called the “Willie Irving”, which operated from Dawson upstream to Rink Rapids, connecting there with transportation over the Dalton to Pyramid Harbour on Lynn Canal, 17 days Dawson to Seattle.”


Dalton charged $150.00 for the trip from Rink to Haines including horse and maintenance, but the majority of the travellers elected to use the route to Skagway, Alaska.

After completion of the White Pass railroad from Skagway to Whitehorse in 1900, the Dalton Trail gradually faded away. The area it traversed became again an untraveled wilderness, except for some continuing mining operations, until the construction of the Haines Highway by the U.S. Army in 1943, at an estimated cost of $10,000,000.00.

Jack did have a circle of friends in Juneau. Probably the most influential, and a business associate for decades, was attorney John F. Maloney. The two men, often with other partners, established several businesses, usually with Dalton as operator and Maloney as part owner supplying management, legal, and accounting services. In order to keep expanding, Dalton typically would find someone that he trusted as manager, give him necessary start up supplies, then leave the manager to operate the business.


Dalton and Maloney were notably successful in the Haines area. In 1894, Dalton, with Maloney's backing acquired land from the widow of George Dickinson, the first trader in the area. Dalton built a warehouse, a store, and later the Hotel Haines on the Dickinson tract. Dalton continued his freighting business leaving hotel management to Jack Lindsay and later Charley Hackett.


In the summer of 1894 Dalton and Joe Kinnon, on speculation, assembled mining equipment and supplies to sell in the thriving Forty-Mile placer camp in Alaska. The men found a buyer long before reaching the Forty-Mile; the entire outfit was sold at the Pelly River. Kinnon elected to return to Haines; Dalton decided to visit interior placer camps in Alaska and return via the lower Yukon. He visited Forty-Mile and Circle then continued down the Yukon to St. Michael where he expected to gain passage to Seattle on the Revenue Cutter Bear. The vessel's legendary Captain, Michael Healy, recognized Jack from his illegal fur seal operation back in the mid-1880 and refused him passage. By January 1895, however, Jack was in Seattle where he acquired fourteen more horses for his freighting business.


Operations on the Dalton Trail were formalized when Dalton and Maloney signed articles of partnership under the name of J. Dalton and Company on March 9, 1895. They also set up the Dalton Trail Company (active from 1895-1903), at Pyramid Harbor, the Dalton Trading and Transportation Company, and, in 1898, the Dalton Pony Express Company. The first recorded herd of cattle was driven over the trail in 1896, when the Willis Thorpe party drove 40 steers, each with a pack load, to Carmacks from there they were rafted to Dawson. With the discovery of the Klondike, the trail became very busy in 1897. In June 1897, Dalton delivered forty oxen, two milk cows, and sixty white-face Herefords, of which forty head belonged to the North American Trading and Transportation Company, and the rest belonged to Dalton. On the trip north, only one animal died; the rest were delivered in good shape to Fort Selkirk on the Yukon. In the same year Dalton advertised pack horse and saddle horse service from the coast to Fort Selkirk in ten days; the trip from Selkirk to Dawson by steamboat added one more day to the trip to the gold fields.


Dalton had the part of the trail in United States Territory surveyed in June 1898 from Pyramid Harbor to the approximate Canadian boundary which was marked by a post as the Dalton Trail International Boundary Line. The surveyors noted some bridges and trail improvements, but otherwise the trail followed the stream beds. Dalton received U.S. government approval for charging a toll with the stipulation that the Chilkat people need not pay. Canadian historian Robert Coutts summarized Dalton's venture: "The only man to control a major transportation route into the Yukon and Klondike, Dalton ran pack trains and delivered livestock to the miners, he allowed others to use his trail on payment of a toll and backed his authority with his reputation and a gun. One group that refused to pay was accompanied for the whole journey by Dalton who kept them well away from his route . . . They lost most of their stock. No one else tried to travel without paying." The year 1898, when thousands of head of cattle were delivered to Yukon destinations, was the peak year of the trail. The use of the trail as a major transportation route was doomed with the completion of the White Pass railway to the summit in February 1899 and to Dawson in 1900. The trail, however, continued to be used for several years, especially for livestock. The last recorded use of the trail was in 1906 when Dalton, E.B. Hanley and six cowboys drove 200 head of cattle to Ft. Selkirk.


Dalton had an inventive streak; he made improvements to the sleds used for commercial freighting, working with the Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company. By 1897, the improved sleds were widely advertised along the Pacific Coast, as in the Weekly Examiner in Dawson: "The Studebaker Jack Dalton bobsled built to stand the rough hard usage over the almost impassable Alaska trails.


Perhaps because he was so tough, Jack was continually challenged. As the Klondike traffic increased, a notorious tough proposed to build a bar near a Dalton business. He told Jack that his proposed drinking establishment was legal and there was nothing that Dalton could do about it. Jack beat the man so badly with his fists that the tough decided to take his business plan elsewhere. In the winter of 1896, Jack and one 'Stick Indian' packer snowshoed to Dawson Post, caching supplies for the return trip along the way. The caches were necessary as men on foot could not carry enough food and supplies to survive. Some of Dalton's enemies among the Chilkats followed the men and removed all the caches. Dalton had anticipated this and had made a secret cache. He still had to make a fifty-mile snowshoe run to find the cache, but on his return to the Haines area, Dalton casually remarked that he was a bit hungry because he could not find his caches. He accused no one and did not reveal the location of the secret cache for years. One Chilkat chief known as Cutewait or 'Indian Jim' shot Dalton but only nicked a finger.


In 1898, Jack commenced an important surveying job for Bratnober and Onderdonk related to the London Exploration Company, then active in Juneau. Bratnober's aim was a railway into the interior. Dalton found a good route that followed the present Haines Cutoff and Alaska Highway, which may have been superior to routes adopted latter. However, Bratnober could not find sufficient ore to justify the project and the venture died.


In 1898, prospectors Mix Silva, Edward Findley and Perry Wiley, grubstaked for Dalton, discovered placer gold on Porcupine Creek north of Haines near the Dalton trail. Subsequently, the Porcupine mining district was organized on October 22, 1898. On November 5, 1898, Dalton and his three prospectors located the Discovery Claim; additional claims were located by Dalton and his business partners E. B. Hanley and John Maloney. The district was stampeded in 1899 and prospectors found gold in the nearby creeks and gold or copper in areas as much as sixty miles distant, including the Rainy Hollow district in Canada. The first-years gold production was reportedly worth $50,000, of which about $40,000 came from Dalton's Discovery Claim.


The deposits in the district were rich but fairly deep and needed complex infrastructure. Miles of ditches and flumes were built to supply water to hydraulic lifts, sometimes called gravel elevators, where miners recovered the gold. Commercial support to the new district was conveniently supplied by the Porcupine Trading Company which was organized by Dalton, Hanley, and Maloney on August 1, 1899. The company brought in mining equipment and extended liberal credit to other miners. In 1900, Dalton and party shipped in 300 tons of equipment and supplies. The mines operated profitably until about 1905 when a major flood washed out a considerable amount of the mining infrastructure. Recognizing that they had probably extracted most of easily won gold, Dalton, Hanley, and Maloney sold their interests, profitably, in 1907.


The discovery of rich copper deposits in the Wrangell Mountains in 1900 led to a major move for Dalton and his operations. In 1901 Michael J. Heney, the legendary rail builder of the north, undertook a reconnaissance survey for a railway from the south Alaska coast to the interior. He found a rough but usable route up the Copper River, beginning near modern Cordova. Heney, however, knew of nothing rich enough to justify the construction of a railroad which would need three major river crossings and butts against two advancing glaciers.


In 1905, Heney was at the London office of Close Brothers, a major financial house. The financiers had quite good information about the richness of the Wrangell copper deposits and promised to finance the road if it was feasible to build. Heney thought of his earlier survey and immediately wired his New York office to engage Dalton and Sam Murchison to reexamine the Copper River route. The route was particularly controversial as engineers for rival routes starting from Valdez and Katalla had stated that the Copper River route was impossible. Furthermore, Stephen Birch of the newly constituted Alaska Syndicate had already begun construction from Katalla.


In September 1905, Dalton, Murchison, and surveyor J. R. McPherson undertook a new evaluation of the Copper River route and pronounced it feasible. The men returned to Valdez in late October of 1905 and sent their conclusions to Heney via a coded telegram. Heney met Dalton and Murchison in Juneau and filed a right-of-way application with the General Land Office. The Copper River route had no competition and was approved. Heney and Murchison went to Seattle to purchase supplies and equipment for the railroad. Dalton, McPherson, chainmen, and several of Dalton's Chilkat natives from Haines immediately began the detailed survery. Secretly they bought an abandoned cannery in Cordova for the south terminus of the railway line. Construction on the line began in the winter of 1905-06. It soon was apparent that Close Brothers could not finance the line but the Katalla-based route initially favored by Birch and the Alaska Syndicate proved impossible, and the Syndicate bought Heney's group out and proceeded to construct the line which was completed to the mines in 1911.


Dalton and Cordova prospered in the construction years of the C. R. & NW Railway. Steel, gravel and other construction material had to be delivered timely to the 3,000 men working on the roadway and bridges. In 1907, after the sale of the Porcupine gold claims, Dalton moved his operations to Cordova and set up sawmills, trading and transportation companies that largely duplicated those that he had operated out of Pyramid Harbor and Haines.


Dalton's later ties to the Copper River project are clouded by controversy. He staked three lode claims which, in part, underlay the Cordova terminus of the railway and docking facilities. In 1911, a court held that Dalton's claims were valid, but granted right-of-way to the Copper River and Northwestern Railway


Dalton's later work also extended westerly into the Cook Inlet area. The U.S. Navy had searched the west coast for steaming coal with little success. In the summer of 1913, Dr. Holmes, chief of the U.S. Bureau of Mines and George Evans, a mining engineer consultant to the Navy went to the abandoned Watson Mine near Chickaloon at the east limit of the Matanuska coal field, Cook Inlet region. Dalton provided guide service and transported Holmes, Evans, their helpers, equipment and sampling gear to the site where Holmes and Evans concluded that a sufficient amount of coal could be mined from the Watson workings for the naval testĄ900 tons. Dalton took Holmes back to the coast and signed a cost-plus contract to deliver the large sample to a site near Knik, Alaska, where the coal could be loaded in boats.


The haul distance from Chickaloon to the coast was only about seventy-five miles but there were no roads to follow. Dalton went to Seattle to hire workers, buy supplies and equipment, and charter a steamboat since there were none available in wintertime on Cook Inlet and Dalton had concluded that the sample should be sledded out in the winter. He purchased 500 tons of bob sleds, harness, forage, tents and other supplies. Dalton hired nine men in Seattle and about twenty-five more as the expedition passed through Ketchikan, Juneau, and Cordova on the voyage north. The party offloaded at Knik, where he hired every available man and horse, on November 17, 1913. Sample bags were no small part of the off-loaded freight. Each sample bag, 800 in total, would be loaded with somewhat more than a ton of coal (nominally 1.125 tons).


Dalton commenced work immediately. To expedite road construction, Dalton took a small party with supplies to Chickaloon and began to work back toward Knik. A hired teamster and most of the crew and supplies began to work easterly from Knik. By the end of December, 1913, the last batch of forage and supplies had been cached along the route. January of 1914 was devoted to sampling the coal and road construction. By February 21st, 1914, Dalton's horse-drawn No. 5 Bob Sleds delivered 100 tons of coal every three days to the coast, and all 900 tons of coal were at tidewater by March 4. The crews had constructed about forty-three miles of road and numerous bridges.


Beside physical difficulties, Dalton's task was made difficult by bureaucratic interference. An auditor appointed by the Navy, a Mr. Swift, would not approve expenditures for wages and for supplies at Knik. Swift was appalled at Dalton's expenditures and operation. Dalton dispensed with Swift, who wasn't overly quick with his fists, and paid wages and bought supplies out of his pocket. Knik businessmen interceded on Dalton's behalf with the Bureau of Mines and Navy. At the final analysis, Dalton completed the job for $63,000, a job that the Navy had estimated would cost more than $80,000.


Chickaloon coal passed all steaming tests on the battleship U.S.S. Maryland. Coaling facilities were built and a narrow gauge railroad was constructed at Chickaloon. Some 8,000 tons were mined, but the coal was badly faulted and folded and proved too expensive for the operation. Most of Dalton's trail work, however, was not wasted. The coal twenty-miles to the west at Eska and Wishbone Hill proved satisfactory in quality and existed in mineable quantities. A spur rail line from the Alaska Railroad to the mines at Eska and Jonesville on Dalton's route operated successfully until 1970 supplying coal to Anchorage, the railway, and to Anchorage military bases.


When the Chickaloon contract was completed, Jack returned to his work as chief freighter for the Alaska Engineering Commission, then beginning work on the construction of the Alaska Railroad.


Dalton also maintained his operations at Cordova until about 1915 when the Alaska Syndicate, forerunner of Kennecott Copper Corporation purchased all his Cordova interests included his fine home on Three Tree Point, which became the Kennecott manager's home. Dalton was out of Cordova by December 1916 as partner E. B. Hanley's wife Elizabeth wrote to attorney John Malony in Juneau: "Dalton sold out at Cordova and is now a Capitalist. Jack feels pretty big."


Dalton, earlier described as a ladies man, married twice. The first marriage, during the Porcupine boom at Haines, ended in divorce, after the birth of Jack Jr. and Margaret to the couple. In 1911, Jack married Anna Krippeahne in Cordova, and Anna bore two children, James in 1913 and Josephine in 1916 about the time the Daltons left Alaska for the Seattle area. At least three of the children from the two marriages were notably successful. Jack Jr., from the first marriage, was a long-time General Motors executive. Josephine married U. S. Grant, a descendant of the Civil War general and president of the United States and became a well-known citizen of San Francisco, where Anna died in 1929.


Dalton's second son, James W. Dalton, followed his father's career and earned his own Alaska fame. Jim returned to Alaska in the 1930s and earned an engineering degree from the University of Alaska in 1937. During World War II, young Dalton first worked for the Army Corps of Engineers in Fairbanks. James served with the Naval Construction Battalion (SeaBees) at Dutch Harbor and other locations in the Pacific theater of war. After the war (1946-1953), Dalton worked with the quasi-government Arctic Contractors on exploration of oil reserves held in trust for the U.S. Navy, then called Naval Petroleum Reserve No. 4, on Alaska's North Slope.


James Dalton married Kathleen (Mike) Fitzpatrick in 1950 in Barrow. The Dalton's had two children, George and Elizabeth (Libby). James Dalton had a fatal heart attack on May 8 1957 in Fairbanks. The North Slope haul road from the Yukon River to Pt. Barrow was named the Dalton Highway in Jame's honor. James Dalton's widow continues to live in Fairbanks, where she is a well-known civic figure.


Jack Dalton himself lived a long life. His adventures continued after he left Alaska, as he prospected for diamonds in British Guiana in the early 1920s. In 1929, Jack's long time physician and friend Dr. F. B. Whiting wrote, paraphrased, that Jack although about 75, looked 55, and if attacked, the attackers would think that he was 25. Jack Dalton died in San Francisco on December 16, 1944 at the age of eighty-nine. In 1942, the U.S. Army reopened the Haines Cutoff part of the 'Dalton Trail' and completed it as part of Alaska-Canada (Alcan) Highway system, originally built as part of the U.S. Lend Lease Program.


Cattle Drives to the Yukon


You think of the great cattle drives of the pioneer west, you think of the famous Chisholm Trail in the United States, or the big cattle ranches of Alberta. For a brief time, the Yukon had its own cattle drives as challenging as anything experienced in the Wild West. The first cattle drive in the Yukon took place over the Dalton Trail, in 1896, before the Klondike gold rush. Willis Thorp, a merchant from Juneau, took a herd of forty cattle over the trail, headed for Forty Mile, the trading centre for the Forty-mile and Sixty-mile mining areas. They took the cattle through two hundred and fifty miles of wild country to the Yukon River, and continued along the west side to a point below the Rink Rapids where they were loaded onto rafts to be floated downriver. at the mouth of the Klondike River they came upon the scene of frenzied activity at the newly discovered gold field, so it is not known how much of the herd ever made it to Forty Mile.


It was a big treat for the miners, used to living on a monotonous diet of bacon, beans and biscuits, to have fresh beef. Some of this beef made its way into Alaska, where it was reported that: “The first beefsteak that ever reached Circle City sold for $48 per pound a few weeks ago. The steaks consisted of a ten-pound piece of beef slaughtered at Forty-Mile Creek, packed and shipped two hundred and fifty miles to Circle City by Thomas O’Brien. When O’Brien reached camp, the miners turned out in a body to see the steak. It was placed on exhibition and attracted as much attention as an eight-legged calf…”A price of $48 for beef got the attention of the ranchers on the prairies, where beef was selling for three cents a pound. Prairie ranchers started having dreams that would make Midas blush.


For the next few years, cattle from as far away as Oregon, Manitoba and Saskatchewan were transported to the Seattle or Vancouver by train, loaded onto boats and shipped north to Haines and Skagway on the Alaskan coast, then overland to where they could be loaded, dead or alive, onto rafts for the journey down the Yukon to Dawson City.


The distances traveled were greater than those over the Chisholm Trail, through unfamiliar terrain. The risk was high for the cattlemen. They could get lost; or they could starve, and a skinny cow didn’t bring much profit in Dawson City. Along the trail, the livestock was victim to predators and disease, swamps and ever-present mosquitoes. The weather could be hostile, and the seasons worked against them. Woe to the cattleman who started his herd over the trail too late in the season!


On the Dalton Trail, before reaching Canada, the cattle drivers had to pay a toll to Jack Dalton’s men: $2.50 per cow, 50 cents for goats, sheep and swine. There were plenty of herders who paid the toll. During the summers of ’97 and 98, thousands of cattle, horses and sheep came in over the famed Trail.


Each herder came north with dreams of making a big profit in Dawson City, but it was hit and miss. Three herds driven over the Dalton trail late in the summer of 1898 found that out. When they arrived at the Yukon, the cattle were slaughtered and rafted down stream.. Both the slaughtering and he raft building were time consuming and labour intensive. With winter closing in, it was a race against time.


One herd was butchered and shipped when the weather was too warm: most of the meat spoiled on the voyage downriver. The next herd, belonging to Pat Burns of Calgary, and headed by cattleman Bill Henry, arrived at the Yukon shortly after. The nine men set about constructing corrals, building rafts seventy two feet by thirty feet, and slaughtering 180 steers, each weighing sixteen hundred pounds. As the cool October weather enveloped the herders, the carcasses froze to prevent spoilage. In a race against time, they steered their ungainly rafts downriver and arrived safely before freeze-up.


The North West Mounted Police purchased 75,000 pounds of the meat at seventy five cents a pound, while the remainder sold at a dollar a pound, yielding a small fortune for the summer’s labour. Another herd, traveling a few days behind Bill Henry weren’t so fortunate; the river froze before they could bring them downstream.


Even the waste left behind proved to be a valuable commodity. At Yukon Crossing, three mushers passing along the trail saw an opportunity, and spent the winter serving up the offal from the butchered animals to passing teams for dog feed, and made a dollar a pound for their effort.


Other herds were driven over the White Pass and floated downriver, but they had to brave the treacherous waters of the various rapids along the way and the tempestuous waters of Lake LeBerge. One herd was brought up over the Telegraph trail, a route championed as the “All-Canadian” route, and arrived at Teslin Lake with two hundred head, worn out and thin from the rigours of the trail.


They slaughtered and butchered the meat on the shore of the Lake, and by mid October, set their rafts out onto the calm waters for Dawson City. The calm did not hold, and the rafts were dashed upon the rocky shore and the meat was lost.


The completion of the White Pass Railway put a swift end to the era of cattle drives into the Yukon. A few years later, in 1906, the newspapers heralded Jack Dalton’s final cattle drive over his trail, two hundred head of animals that passed through Dawson City on their way to Fairbanks Alaska.



1855 - Jack Dalton was born in the Cherokee Strip, probably in the present state of Kansas.

1874 - He worked as a logger at Burns, Oregon.

1882 -Spent some time as a cowboy on the Hadley Ranch in Baker, Oregon. Left to avoid prosecution for “shooting scrapes”.

1883 - Went to San Francisco and shipped out as a seaman on a sealing vessel which wintered at Herschel Island, at the mouth of the Mackenzie River.

1885 - He was hired at Sitka by Fredrick Schwatka to accompany the New York Times expedition to Mt. St. Elias.

In the 1890s, John "Jack" Dalton became convinced that there was an easier way through the coastal mountains than the Chilkoot Pass. His idea was to follow another Chilkat trade route which began at Chilkat Inlet near Haines. Dalton bargained with the Chilkats to use their trail. The following year he used this route to take pack horses up to the Yukon River headwaters. Dalton bridged swamps and streams to make the trail passable for pack trains. Cattle were driven over the trail, too. They provided meat for miners at Fortymile and other mining camps in Interior Alaska. Dalton charged a toll of two dollars a head for cows, and two dollars and fifty cents for horses.

1891 - Was engaged for a private exploration of the Chilkat Pass by E.J. Glace, a writer for Century Magazine.

1892 - It is believed that he operated a small trading vessel in the Juneau area.

1893 - Was tried and acquitted for the shooting of Jack McGinnis, a cannery worker.

1894 - Leased a parcel of land and a warehouse at Haines Mission for the purpose of conducting a trading business with the Indians.

1896 - Established a trading route from Pyramid Harbour to the Yukon River near Rink Rapids, which included Pleasant Camp and Dalton Post.

1897 - Was hired by Goodall, Perkins & Co. to drive their cattle to the interior.

1898 - Guided parties over his Dalton trail.

1899 - Mining activity commenced at Porcupine Creek and continued until a flood in 1906 destroyed the flumes.

1903 - He built the Lindsay Hotel at Porcupine. Gold output on Porcupine Creek reached about $150,000 per year.

1905 - Made a financial settlement with Guggenheim interests in the Cordova Bay region for the construction of a copper ore loading terminal on his land. The amount paid was rumored to be upwards of $10,000.

1919 - Sold his Haines Hotel property to Steve Sheldon.

1921 - Went to the diamond diggings in British Guyana to investigate the interest of a group of Yakima, Washington business men.

1922 - Took up residence in Yakima, Washington.

1944 - Jack Dalton reached the end of the trail in San Francisco at the age of 89.

In 1899, Dalton received official permission from the U.S. Government to charge a toll for the use of his trail:


During the winter of 1913-1914, an Alaskan freighter named Jack Dalton used the frozen Matanuska River to haul the first test coal from the Chickaloon coal deposits.


Dalton's cattle


Dalton’s cattle near Montague. Jack Dalton established a trail from the Pacific Coast to the interior, which followed a Coastal Tlingit trade route. It was the only gold rush trail suitable for transporting livestock.


Daltons Cache Trading Post


The Dalton Cache is a pre-Klondike Gold Rush outpost built around 1895 by Jack Dalton for storing trading goods before transport over Chilkat Pass into the Yukon Territory. When the Klondike Gold Rush hit in 1897-98, the cache became a stopping place for miners streaming toward Dawson. Though partially restored, it is not open to the public today.


Jack Dalton and Ed Hanley’s Porcupine Trading Company operated a general store and a stage line. The town also had four saloons and a mining recorder’s office. A post office opened in 1901.


A small part of the gold rush did come to Haines up the Porcupine creek. A small claim yielding about $1.5 million was discovered and exploited by a guy named Jack Dalton. Dalton, in fact, seemed to be into everything; store, bar, gold mine, toll roads. You name it, it had something to do with Dalton.


The Porcupine:


The Porcupine district was developed as an incident to the Klondike stampede and was reached by the Dalton Trail. It was 32 miles from Pyramid Harbor, Chilkat Inlet, where the Dalton Trail commenced to the gold field on Porcupine Creek discovered by S.W. Mix and his partners in October 1898. Some 50 miners staked claims, but winter forced a delay until spring when about 1,000 stampeders headed for the Porcupine. Reaching the new mining region was relatively easy, particularly as the Jack Dalton Transportation Company was available to freight in goods. Dalton charged four cents a pound on freight from the coast to the diggings.


Dalton laid out the townsite of Porcupine and built a store. Other entrepreneurs established businesses, and the town's population over the 1899-1903 era was about 200. Things slowed down in 1903, and both the recorder and U.S. Commissioner offices were abolished. The easily mined gold had been taken by 1903—an estimated $460,000, and further development awaited investment in hydraulic mining. A flood in 1905 destroyed a large flume and closed mining for a couple of years until construction of a Haines-Pleasant Camp road and other improvements encouraged further investment. Mining continued until 1918 when another flood closed mines for several years. Revivals in the late 1920s and '30s were short-lived. Production from 1930-60 has been very modest, but the revival of steady small-scale production in the 1970s gave production of 3,500 ounces up to 1988.


Jack Dalton's will (Source: DGS Member Mike Dalton):


Filed in the Superior Court of the State of Washington, in and for Yakima County, was closed on October 22, 1945.


John (Jack) Dalton of Yakima, Washington died on December 16, 1944, at San Francisco, California. He was last at the home of his daughter Josephine Dalton Grant.


A funeral for Jack was conducted in San Francisco. His remains were then transported to Calvary Cemetery in Seattle, Washington to be buried with his second wife Anna K. Krippuehne: “to be buried as my daughter Josephine Dalton Grant, shall direct.”


Jack’s Last Will and Testament was made and notarized in Seaside, Oregon; the signature date was January 19, 1943.


The Will of John Dalton was admitted to probate in Yakima, Washington by his appointed executor Robert J. Willis, on January 23, 1945, per Letters Testamentary.


Public notices were published in the Yakima Daily Republic Newspaper. Estate expenses included services by appointed executor Robert J. Willis and that of an attorney hired to perform legal services.


Property and estate of decedent appraised at $11, 670.00 on February 6, 1945. Expressed in 2009 US Dollars this amount would be: 11.81 inflation factor x 11,670 or $137,822.70.


The appointed executor (Robert J. Willis) charged himself $1,567.80 and credited himself with $834.37 for expenses incurred. He filed his report on April 19, 1945.


The remainder of property, real and personal included:


106 shares of Surety Finance Company Shares dated: May 21, 1929 and Feb. 14, 1945.

One 1930 REO Sedan (REO = Ransom Eli Olds, later renamed Oldsmobile).


Seven old coins, being personal keepsakes of the deceased, with appraised numismatic value of 3 cents to 3 dollars each.


A title search was made for any Alaskan mining and other properties, with none discovered.

Named heirs at law:


Josephine Dalton Grant, a daughter from his second marriage to Anna K. Krippuehne, now residing in San Francisco, California: the principal beneficiary of the estate.


John E. Dalton, a son from his first marriage to Estella Richey, now residing at 681 West 21st. St., San Pedro, California: “the sum of One Dollar and no more.”


Margaret Dalton Barker, a daughter from his first marriage to Estella Richey, now residing at 2035 Kearny St., San Diego, California: “the sum of One Dollar and no more.”


James William Dalton, a son from his second marriage to Anna K. Krippuehne, “the sum of One Dollar and no more.” The address of James was given as:


United States Naval Reserve (U.S.N.R.), P. O. Box # 3578, Public Works, N.O.B. 151, Post Office, San Francisco, California.


Lt. Ulysses Simpson Grant V, the named son in law of his daughter Josephine Dalton Grant,“the sum of One Dollar and no more.”