yukoner magazinestory

Mollie, oh Mollie
© By Sam Holloway


More dangerous than a raging tiger, more deadly than a desert rattler, more unstoppable than a charging bear—is a man of certain temperament.

Combine this temperament with a person who naturally hates women, usually because of a sour mother/son relationship, and we have a recipe for unfulfilled tragedy. Along comes the bravest creature on earth—woman_spectacularly ill-equipped to handle danger—and the tragedy is played out, as it has been for thousands of years.

Mollie WalshMollie Walsh joined the Klondike Gold Rush in the fall of 1897. She came north in the company of a Presbyterian preacher who later said she was employed by an Irish linen manufacturer. An oldtimer from the American West said she had been a dance hall queen in Butte, Montana.

As smitten with the red-haired Mollie as any other man in Skagway, Reverend Dickey built the first church there. Mollie helped with fund raising and with the carpenter work itself. She became the darling of the town, singing hymns in the church and becoming a star member of the "Muffet and Crumpet Society."

When the Reverend decided to build a church at Bennett, on the other side of the famous mountain passes, Mollie moved too, setting up a restaurant at Log Cabin. A huge farewell party was held at Skagway to see her off. In his diary, the Reverend Dickey said, "Mollie never looked so lovely... There were tears on men's cheeks... Mollie sobbed openly and unashamed."

One of her first customers at Log Cabin was Jack Newman, packer, mule skinner, and all-around square shooter. Mollie helped him revive a frozen hand by rubbing his fingers—and Jack was smitten forever.

Packer Jack NewmanAt the same time, though, Mollie was seeing a gambler who vowed to make Jack leave the country. Packer Jack heard about the gambler's boast and went down to Skagway for a duel. On Skagway's main street they went for their guns; Jack came out the winner after shooting his opponent in the leg. (He had promised Mollie he wouldn't kill the man.)

Then Mollie, known as the "Angel of the Klondike Trail," got mixed up with another fellow by the name of Mike Bartlett, a pack train driver. Mike was loud, boisterous and said to be as mean as Packer Jack was gentle.

Jack came to Mollie's tent and confronted her, wanting her to make a choice. She did—she married Mike Bartlett and moved to Dawson City.

The couple left the Klondike with enough money to make a home in Seattle, Washington. Two and a half years later, in 1902, Mike Bartlett shot her dead on the street outside her home. She and Mike had separated and all she wanted was for him to leave her alone. Bartlett was acquitted of the murder charge by reason of insanity, the court calling it a "crime of passion," as they often did in those times. Later he committed suicide, leaving their son Leo an orphan.

Meanwhile, Packer Jack Newman had married but he never got over his love for the Irish maiden of his youth. In 1930, he had a statue made of Mollie and sent it to Skagway. He didn't come for the ceremony but instead sent this telegram, which reads in part:

"...Her spirit fingers still reach across the years and play on the slackened strings of my old heart, and my heart still sings,—MOLLIE!—my heart still sings but in such sad undertone that none but God and I can hear."

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