As Cupid flits about flinging arrows into unsuspecting lovers this week, I thought it would be fun to take a look back in Alaska’s history and see what love-struck couples did when their stars crossed and they wanted to marry.
Well, it turns out that miners during the Klondike Gold Rush sometimes had to improvise when it came to matters of the heart. With no judges or preachers in the camps, they had to think up unique ways to perform nuptials. And so it was for two lovers on the Koyukuk trail.
Aggie Dalton and Frank McGillis wanted to marry, and in lieu of an official marriage contract, they created a substitute document – along with one “French Joe.” An account of the ceremony, which took place at a night camp with a group of stampeders en route to a Koyukuk River gold camp, was reported in the society columns of the Yukon Press on March 17, 1899:
Unique contract of marriage
“On the evening of November 10, 1898, a romantic union took place between Frank McGillis and Aggie Dalton, near the mouth of Dall River. Splicing was done by ‘French Joe’ (J. Durrant), and the form of the contract was as follows:
“Ten miles from the Yukon on the banks of this lake,
For a partner to Koyukuk, McGillis I take;
We have no preacher, and we have no ring,
It makes no difference, it’s all the same thing.”
– Aggie Dalton
“I swear by my gee-pole, under this tree,
A devoted husband to Aggie I always will be;
I’ll love and protect her, this maiden so frail,
From those sourdough bums, on the Koyukuk trail.”
– Frank McGillis
“For two dollars apiece, in cheechaco money,
I unite this couple in matrimony;
He be a rancher, she be a teacher,
I do the job up, just as well as a preacher.”
– French Joe
Happy Valentines Day to all my Alaska history fans!
This story appears in Aunt Phil’s Trunk, Volume Two.