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Harry L. Devin's Journal, Part 2
Klondike adventures and a
Miner's Court at Lake Bennett

Harry Lincoln Devin
      Ed. note: This is another sidebar to our story on Harry Lincoln Devin, one of Sedro's most famous early pioneers. His descendant, Heather Glassburner, preserved one of his journals that he wrote circa 1940, towards the end of his life. Unfortunately many more journals and data he kept as the unofficial weatherman and historian of Sedro-Woolley were left behind in the Devin house on 4th street after his wife, Lenore, died, and the family moved away. We hope that a reader will sometime write to us and tell us that one of more of the journals have been found someplace.
      In his journal and interviews, Harry noted that he prospected early on in the Klondike gold rush, working claims on Sulphur and Gold Run creeks in 1897. While in Alaska the first time, Harry was caught in a blizzard and he got frostbite in his right hand. A frontier doctor wanted to amputate two of his fingers and part of his right hand. But Harry refused and took matters in his own hands, as it were. He trimmed most of the flesh off the right side of his palm and the outside of his little finger. He was highly indignant when he returned to Washington as the Spanish-American broke out and was refused by an Army doctor when he tried to enlist, after the doctor looked at his healed but unsightly hand.
      According to the Skagit County Times, Harry returned to the Klondike a second time, in the winter of 1899-1900. A December 25, 1925, Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times article reprinted a December 1899 letter that Harry wrote home to the newspaper from Sulphur Creek, near Dawson. He wrote that he just arrived with mining machinery and on the way in, he met Albert Mosier, who was coming out. Mosier decided to turn around and stay for the winter with him for winter. This excerpt from Harry's diary dates from that 1899-1900 time.

Divorce in the Klondike
(Dawson Map 1897-1900)
Dawson Map 1897-1900. Click on map to see a larger version that shows the river and streams that were home to thousands over three years in the country's last major gold rush

      When going down Lake Bennett, on my way to Dawson, we pulled in to the bight [curve in the shoreline], at the foot of the lake on the west side, for the night as it was sheltered from the west wind that was raising waves a couple of feet high. There was deep water up to the narrow, gravelly beach. There was a rowboat with a man and woman, in their early twenties, with a lot of stuff in it, about a hundred yards ahead of us. When they got within fifty or sixty feet of the beach, the boat ran on a rock, just showing between the waves, and then was upset.
      The man immediately struck out and swam ashore without attempting to save the woman. There were five or six small boats pulled up on the beach and four or five fires where the dozen or so people ahead of us were cooking supper. One of the men jumped in and brought the woman ashore, where his wife took her into their tent and gave her dry clothes. The woman was very angry and told her husband, who had left her to drown, to go away, that she never wanted to see him again, so he went further down the beach and built a fire.
      We all helped to salvage their stuff and spread it out to dry. I built a fire close to the fire pit of the man and his wife who had taken in the woman. We were on the upper edge of the beach and there was some dry driftwood and we all started to get supper. The rescuer and the two women started to eat supper around their fire, when the discarded husband came up. Pushing a revolver against his wife's back, he told her to come to his fire or he would kill her. The rescuer struck the gun down and the bullet went into the gravel. He grappled with the man and I jumped and gave him my fist at the butt of his ear, which dazed him and took the fight out of him and he was hustled back to his fire.
      After supper, we all got together to decide what was best to be done and decided to hold a "miners court," electing the oldest man, a gray-haired old Montana miner, as judge. No witnesses were needed as we had all seen the whole incident. The two were brought before the judge and he asked the woman if she wanted to live anymore with the man? She said quite angrily, "No!" When he left her to drown without any effort to save her, she was through with him and never wanted to see him again. She said that the man and his wife who had befriended her had offered to take her down to Dawson with them.

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      The judge asked, well, men, what do you think? I said that I thought that when her husband abandoned her, without an effort to save her, he forfeited all rights he might have had, and if she did not wish to live with him, she ought to not have to do so. All the rest agreed with me when asked by the judge and he said to the woman, "You are divorced. We'll divide what stuff you have between you and you can go down the river with your friends in the morning. Your husband will wait here one hour before he follows you."
      The husband was quite angry and cursed us and said, "just wait until I get to a Northwest Police post and we will see what your damned miners court amounts to." The judge asked, "you ain't going to take the decision of the court, eh?" The husband replied, "not by a damned sight."
      So the judge said, "Men, get a rock that weighs as nigh as you can guess the same as the woman does, tie it around [his] neck and push [him] off the point of rocks yonder into deep water. If he swims out, he gets the woman. If he don't, he won't bother anybody again." He decided to accept the decision of the court.
      I saw the woman the next summer on Second street in Dawson and asked her how she was getting on? She said, fine, she was getting a hundred dollars a month and room and board, working in a restaurant. I asked her if her ex-husband had bothered her any? She said, no, he had better not, as she had friends who would take care of him if he did.
      While in Alaska we frequently saw brilliant displays of the Aurora Borealis, especially one night in the winter of 1899-1900, when bright bands of light reached from the ground almost to the zenith, more than halfway around the horizon. Sometimes the bands of light ran horizontally. One night, that same winter, Larry La Plant, Albert G. Mosier and myself were crossing the Dome ridge, when we came to see parallel bands of light from the Aurora, running horizontally across the ridge.

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Story posted on May 14, 2004, last updated Feb. 1, 2005, moved to this domain Nov. 3, 2011
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This article originally appeared in Issue 20 of our Subscribers-paid Journal online magazine

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