Ho, The Klondike: Portsmouth New Hampshire’s Failed Quest for Gold in 1898

Photograph of the schooner, Concord, that left for the Klondike in 1897.

Photograph of the schooner, Concord, that left for the Klondike in 1897.

Between the years 1896 and 1899 an estimated 100,000 prospectors headed to Alaska following a gold discovery there. Some Portsmouth New Hampshire men were part of that stampede of prospectors hoping to return home wealthy. Only an estimated 4,000 of all the prospectors struck gold, so most were disappointed.

A group of adventurous men from Portsmouth formed the Portsmouth Yukon Mining Company, each paying $200 to become a member.  The group was divided into two parts–one would travel by ship to the west coast of the United States, while a second would travel by train.  Reportedly when the two met in San Francisco, they would continue up to the gold fields together.  But it appears from the newspaper reports that much went awry.

It took the schooner, Concord, much longer than expected to reach their destination.  Supplies on board had become dangerously low, so when they did arrive the men discouraged.  Reaching their destination, long overdue in San Francisco, they discovered that the “overland group” who were supposed to meet them, had already left for the gold fields.  It appears that then the majority of the schooner adventurers voted to sell the schooner, “Concord,” and this schooner was purchased and sailed to Hawaii.

Below is a newspaper account, in chronological order which explains most of the details of the venture, and its disappointments.  I am also providing information about the fate of the schooner, Concord.  Reportedly this schooner was the first one sailed into Honolulu harbor after the annexation of Hawaii in 1898, and in 1910 was used to once more search for gold, this time pirate treasure near the Hawaiian islands (see articles below).

On 3 December 1897, on page 9, the Oregonian (Portland OR) reported: “Thirty-two men have paid in $200 each to a treasurer elected by themselves and the old schooner Concord, built in Gloucester [Massachusetts] 20 years ago for the Greenland halibut fishery trade has been brought to carry them to Alaska. The old hooker will be fitted with new rigging and sails, and when she is ready for sea, about 20 of the party will take passage on her around the Horn. The others will go overland and meet her at San Francisco. From present indications, the Concord should be ready to clear from Portsmouth, N.H. next week. She will be commanded by Captain H.S. Hubley of Newcastle. The Concord will carry 70 tons of coal, 30 tons being soft coal for the use of the steam launch which will be taken on at San Francisco. She will be have besides 15 tons of water, 25 tons of provisions, and about 12 tons of miscellaneous freight, which will include the personal effects of the party. The manager of the party is G.R. Bates. There will be three seamen in each watch, with plenty more to call on in case of an emergency. Six dories, each 16 feet long, and of extra width, will be taken along, and Charles Grant, who is well known as a Gloucester fishing skipper, will provide a seine and a 30-fathom dragnet to keep the party well supplied with fresh fish. The steam launch is not building. She will be 40 feet over all, beamy, and capable of carrying seven tons of freight besides the passengers. The mate, McLeod has seen service in North Pacific waters, having for more than 20 years sailed as master of a steamer plying between San Francisco and St. Michaels.

Captain and crew of the schooner "Concord." Sailed from Portsmouth NH for the Klondike gold fields December 11, 1897.

Captain and crew of the schooner “Concord.” Sailed from Portsmouth NH for the Klondike gold fields December 11, 1897.

The Portsmouth Herald of 11 December 1902 succinctly tells more of the story of this ill-fated journey. “Today the Anniversary Of the Concord’s Departure From Port. Four years ago today the trim and staunch schooner Concord, with a party of hardy Portsmouth young men aboard, set sail from this port, bound for the Klondike. This small band of prospectors, numbering just twenty-one souls, left Newton’s wharf at the noon hour on a trip of eighteen thousand miles into an unknown country.”

“After a tempestuous voyage of many weeks, the little craft safely rounded the Horn and sailed into San Francisco harbor, where the expedition was broken up. Most of the members returned home, but a few kept on to the gold regions, where they remained for some months with more or less success in searching for gold nuggets.”

Close up photograph of the forty-niners, colorized and enhanced by the blog editor.

“The little party which made the trip in the Concord was made up as follows: E.H. McLeod of Boston, captain; J.S. Hubley, Portsmouth, first mate; Albert Alberts, Portsmouth, second mate; Robert H. Dexter, Gloucester, cook; G.F. Strong, Gloucester, assistant cook; J.B. Hart, Milton, president; B.I. Brown, Portsmouth, treasurer; Dr. Albert A. Sargent, Kittery, physician; George R. Bates, Portsmouth; John Remick, Kittery; J.B. Card, Portsmouth; Edward Nelson, Brookline; John A. Williams, Portsmouth; William Duncan, Portsmouth; Stanley Lutts, Malden; James Scott, Malden; Charles S. Butters, Woburn; Walter J. Lewis, Milton; George H. Scott, West Newton, Mass.; John E. Mathes, South Boston.”

Quite a number of the aboved named are now in Portsmouth and it is said that Captain McLeod is at present trying to make up another party for a mining venture. The Concord was sold in San Francisco and the money divided among the members of the expedition.”

On 5 April 1898 (page 8) the Boston Journal (Boston MA) described the departure of the “overland party.” Party of 15 Leaves the Union Station Wednesay Morning. Fifteen members of the Portsmouth Yukon Mining Company leave the Union Station at 11:30 Wednesday morning to join other members at Seattle, where they will embark on the schooner Concord for the gold fields. The party, which leaves Boston Wednesday, is made up as follows: H.M. Seaward of Kittery Point, Me., and George A. Banghan, corresponding secretaries; Daniel O. Seaward, C.C. Sawyer, Ezra Kimball, Leon S. Patch of Kittery Point, Me., J.E. Remick of Methuen; M.P. Boyne, Somerville; Henry A. Stone of Hudson, George P. Burleigh of Dover; J.L. Schurman of Portsmouth; Austin A. Bagley of Malden; George A. Hasley of Somerville, C.F. Marden of Somerville.

On 15 April 1898 the San Francisco Call newspaper reported schooners due in to port from various places, and “the schooner Concord 125 days from Portsmouth, N.H.” was among those listed.

On 27 April 1898 the Portsmouth Herald (Portsmouth NH) page 4 reports: “Mrs. Geo. P. Burleigh of Dover has received a letter from her husband, written at Seattle, April 22, in which he states that the schooner Concord, which left Portsmouth last December, had not reached that port, but was expected. Mr. Burleigh and party will make the remainder of the trip from Seattle to the gold fields on the schooner.”

On 9 June 1898 the Portsmouth Herald (Portsmmouth NH) page 4 reports: “Albert Hayes of Kittery received a letter yesterday from his grandson in Seattle, who made the trip there on the schooner Concord. The young man stated that the trip occupied 164 days and that for two weeks they were without sugar and at last the food dwindled down to salt junk, bread and poor molasses. The overland party skipped on ahead with the launch and supplies leaving the voyagers stranded in Seattle.”

On 11 June 1898 the Portsmouth Herald (Portsmouth NH) page 1 reports: “Klondiker Returns. Alexander Hubley says He Has Had Enough of Gold Seeking. When train No. 11 pulled into this depot from Boston this morning a bronzed and hardy looking traveler alighted from the cars whom a Herald reporter at once recognized as Alexander Hubley, one of the Klondike party who sailed from this port December 11 of last year in the little schooner Concord. After an eventful voyage of 164 days the party landed in Seattle only to find that the party who went overland and were to join them in that city had left them in the lurch and had gone on ahead. Most of the men being without money, and the provisions and stores being exhausted, a number of the crew decided to return home. Hubley was one of the first to start and he left last Sunday morning with just money enough to land him in this city. In conversation with the Herald reporter Hubley said the party was all broken up and was greatly discouraged over the way they were treated by the overland party. He expressed himself as being perfectly satisfied to remain in Portsmouth the rest of his days.”


On 13 August 1898, Evening Bulletin (Honolulu, Hawaii) reported: “There arrived in port Friday afternoon the very trim little American schooner Concord, 98 tons, which made the trip from Seattle, Wash., in 23 days and from Cape Flattery in 19 days to this port, laden with a cargo of 150 tons of barley, bran and oats. Special interest is centered in this little schooner from the fact that she is owned by three Island boys, E. Hughes, G.J. Harris and J. Burke. Their intention is to run her between ports on these islands as a freight carrier and as such, she should prove a success, stoutly built and as swift as she is. On May 11th, E. Hughes, formerly of the Mutual Telephone Company was sent to Victoria on the C.A. S.S. Aorangi with instructions to purchase a schooner for work between the islands. He wandered down to Seattle and arrived there just in time to purcahse the schooner Concord. It seemed that she had been purchased by a crowd of Klondikers in Portsmouth, N.H., the home port of the Concord. The schooner sailed for St. Michaels but there was a big row among the gold hunters and she put in at Seattle where it was decided to sell her. The price paid was between $2000 and $2500. Mr. Harrist took command and he with Mr. Hughes came to Honolulu on her. The Concord is built of oak and was used for several years as a fishing smack on the banks of Newfoundland. She also fished for halibut up in the vicinity of Greenland and best the record from that place in Portsmouth. It has been decided that G.J. Harris will be the permanent master of the vessel. She will finish discharging at Brewer’s wharf in about three days and will then start out to do work between the Islands. Just where she will go has not yet been decided on.”

fast schooner concordOn 9 September 1901 the Hawaiian Star (Honolulu Hawaii) page 1 reported: “Saved by Hungry Pig. Swine Repeats Feat of Rome’s Historical Geese. A pack of geese saved Rome from destruction centuries ago and a hungry pig saved the island schooner Concord from destruction by fire two nights ago. Some of the sailors aboard the schooner went back to the vessel at an early hour Sunday morning, more or less under the influence of liquor. Instead of taking the usual ship’s lantern they used one of the side lights to go below into the forecastle. In some manner the lamp was upset and the oil, spilling out, ignited a pile of clothes and rubbish. The men fell asleep as soon as they got into their bunks and, in consequence, the fire burned within a few feet of them without either of the soldiers knowing the danger. Andrew Kaanaana, boatman No. 100, was at the boat landing but as some sheds intervened between the landing and the Waikiki side of Brewer’s wharf where the Concord was lying he did not at first notice the smoke which began to pour out of the forecastle. Suddenly however, his attention was directed to the vessel by a loud crash. He hurried to the schooner thinking that something unusual had happened and discovered the cause on the poop deck. A hungry pig had wandered about the vessel and found one of the poi barrels from which he proceeded to eat his fill. In his eagerness, the animal upset the barrel which went rolling and crashing along the deck. The same noise attracted the attention of the night watchman and both the watchman and Andrew reached the Concord within a few minutes of each other. The watchman happened to gaze forward and there discovered the smoke cming out of the forecastle. He raised the alarm of fire and running below woke the sleeping men. The crowd then succeeded in extinguishing the flames with the aid of a fire bucket brigade. The damage was slight. The vessel will get away this afternoon for Hawaii ports.”

On 4 November 1902, the Hawaiian Gazette (Honolulu Hawaii), page 8 reported: “The schooner Concord which left Honolulu with a full cargo of general merchandise and a deck load of lumber for island ports was found to be badly leaking when she got out to sea, and hand to put back to port. The schooner Kauikeaouli was taken from the Row and the Concord’s cargo transferred to her yesterday. The Concord will be repaired.”

29 June 1907, the Hawaiian Star (Honolulu Hawaii) page 2 reports: “U.S. Judge Dole gave an interesting decision yesterday in a libel brought by Tsunekichi Matsuno against the schooner Concord. The opinion says, in part: ‘The libel in this case complains that on the 27th day of AUgust, A.D. 1905, at about 2 o’clock in the morning, while the libelant was engaged in fishing in his own boat, anchored off the harbor of Honolulu, he was run into by the libellee, whereby libellant’s boat was overturned and injured all of his loose property in the boat lost and he himself thrown into the water where he remained some time until he was recused, by which he was made ill so that he was unable to attend his business for about a month, which collision occurred through the negligence of the libelee; and claims for the loss and injury to his property and his own loss of time and medical expenses, the sum of $363.30. James Lyle and K.S. Sorenson intervened as owners of the schooner Concord and answered the libel admitting the collision and disclaiming all negligence, and claiming that the collision occurred through the negligence of the libellant in being without a riding light at the time of the accident; that he made no effort to avoid the collision which he saw was imminent; that he was anchored in the course of vessels approaching the port of Honolulu from the winward and that he was trespassing upon American waters in being at the place and engaged in fishing; and therefore from all these grounds is not entitled to damages. The court gave judgement as follows for the Japanese: Articles, implements and gear lost, $84.10; illness and sickness $100; medical attendance $3.50; permanent depreciation of boat, $60; repairs to boat $25; earnings lost $60; total, $333,60. A decree may be entered for $333,60 with interest from November 7, 1905, the date of filing the libel, estimated at $43.93 and costs.”

13 January 1908, The Hawaiian Star (Honolulu, Hawaii), page 1 states: “Bloodshed Follows A Dispute Over Some of Schooner Concord’s Cargo. There was bloodshed on the wharf at Kaunakakai, Island of Molokai, on Wednesday last while the little island schooner Concord was loading firewood for Honolulu. “Firewood” Smith, largely interested financially in the Concord, had an interview with a Japanese who has been supplying firewood for the Concord to bring to Honolulu. The Japanese claimed that Smith owed him $150 for value received on wood and Smith is said to have disputed the claim in its entirety alleging that the Japanese had overestimated the measurement. There were several Japanese on the wharf at the time, and it is claimed, while they started to leave, the Japanese with whom Smith had been disputing drew a knife and stabbed “Firewood” deeply in the left calf. He slashed at the leg again twice, before “Firewood” turned to reckon with his assailant. As Smith turned he received the knife at his neck, witnesses declaring that from the nature of the stroke the Japanese intended to cut SMith’s throat and that he made a remark to the effect he could cut Smith’s head off. Smith’s starched collar caught the knife-blade which went through the neck wear and his shirt was also much slashed as the Japanese made repeated attempts to get the knife at Smith’s throat. “Firewood” Smith hopped a step or two backward and then, watching his chance, caught the Japanese a swift uppercut on the tip of the jaw with his fist. The Japanese made another move with his knife, but with less enthusiasm and Smith landed again with his first and again, every time delivering a blow on the other’s face. The Japanese tottered at the third stroke and Smith rushed in and threw him into the water whence his friends fished him. Smith is not seriously injured. Hereafter he will never be without a well-starched collar. The schooner Concord is now in port having arrived last Friday evening. She sails again for Kaunakakai tomorrow.”

14 June 1908, San Diego Union (San Diego, CA) page 5, reports: “Captain T.S. Harris of the “Hawaii” came to Honolulu in 1888 as a foremast sailor on the bark W.B. Godfrey, and in 1898 commanded the schooner Concord, which was the first vessel to enter Honolulu after the annexation flag-raising of 1898.”

3 June 1909, the Evening Bulletin (Honolulu Hawaii) reports: “20,000 Cocoanuts just arrived on schooner Concord, from Fanning Island. Miller Salvage Co. P.O. Box 527.”

30 April 1910, the San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco CA), page 10 reports: “HONOLULU, April 20.–The little schooner Concord returned two days ago from an unsuccessful quest for buried treasure. The treasure she sought was bullion and coin believed to have been hidden by Bully Hayes, the very real character who so long exercised such power as half pirate, half trade in the South seas, that the reality of his career has already been overlodaded and almost buried under the wealth of myth that has grown up concerning him. The Concord expedition was proposed by Eben Low, a hard-headed and successful cattleman of Hawaii and was financed and carried out by him and Captain Frederick C. Miller, a successful shipowner of Honolulu. Lew says that some time ago an old sailor whom he has known for years and of whose good faith he had no question, told him that Bully Hayes had made his hiding place and rendezvous at Christmas Island, the uninhabited coral islet which came into such prominence a few months ago by the wreck on its reefs of the British steamship Aeon, carrying supplies for the American Navy to Pago Pago. This sailor gave him the landmarks and the bearings by which the hiding place of Hayes’ ill-gotten gains could be located. Low proposed an expedition there to Captain Miller, as the latter owned the Concord and other vessels suitable for such an enterprise. The possibility of money to be made out of the salvage of the wreck of the Aeon combined with the lure of Bully Hayes’ hidden gold appealed to the two men and between them they financed the expedition. Low accompanied it. He says that he had no difficulty from the landmarks and bearings given him by an old sailor, in finding the cave which had been described and which contained abundant evidence that it had been used as a rendezvous and hiding place. There was no treasure, however.

17 May 1912, the Hawaii Star (Honolulu Hawaii), page 8 reports: “The schooner Concord, Luka and Sailor Boy, all belonging to Captain Miller, were released this morning by the Federal judge on the filing of bonds. The respondent in the various admiralty cases was given a week in which to file his answer to the bills of complaint.”

1 March 1914, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco California) page 3, in an article about Palmyra Atoll, Eben P. Low describes how 2 years before he visited Palmyra in the schooner Concord.

oil tanker sinks in crashThe San Bernadino County Sun (San Bernadino California) 4 Nov 1934 page 2 reports: “Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Nov 3.–The oil tanker Caloria, from the United States, entering port at Laceiba Friday, collided with the Honduran schooner Concord, sinking the latter, says reports reaching here today. The Concord’s cargo was lost. There were no casualties.”  [Editor’s note: I cannot be certain that this schooner Concord was the same as the one in Hawaii, but it possibly could be. After 1914 I cannot find more references to it in Hawaii].


Frank H. Nowell Photographs – photographs of the Yukon, by Frank H. Nowell of Portsmouth NH, located at the University of Washington

The Klondike Gold Rush  – National Park Service

Litchfield New Hampshire Gold Prospector, Adventurer, and Father of Alaska: Leroy Napoleon “Jack” McQuesten (1836-1900)

New Boston Historical Society – “The Gold Rush: New Boston Men Go to California and the Klondike,” an article about how some New Boston, NH men went to the gold fields.

Student Lesson Plan: Pushes and Pulls – to teach students about the gold rush.

 There’s Gold Out There – a great Pinterest Board of photographs with descriptions of the gold rush days.

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2 Responses to Ho, The Klondike: Portsmouth New Hampshire’s Failed Quest for Gold in 1898

  1. Mom says:

    Makes me wish I at least had some 49ers in my tree

  2. Pingback: New Hampshire Feast of December 1852 | Cow Hampshire

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