Tales of a Time Traveler
Born in Stevensville, Maryland in 1870, Ciaran “Tin Cup” Kelly is the son of Irish immigrants, Dougal Kelly and Caragh (O’Keefe) Kelly. Tin Cup’s parents immigrated to the United States in early 1863. The family settled in Stevensville, Maryland and his father enlisted in the 1st Regiment Eastern Shore Maryland Volunteer Infantry and fought at the Battle of Gettysburg. After being mustered out at the end of the war in 1865, Dougal took a job as a steamboat worker with the Old Bay Line. Young Tin Cup (TC) spent many a day playing on the decks of the steamboats with Rory, his younger brother by four years. His father quickly rose up the ranks to captain his own steamboat carrying passengers to Baltimore, Washington D.C. and back. Caragh painted seascapes and tended to the house and the boys. At their home on the bay, TC learned the craft of boat building and seamanship from his father who had learned both as a young man growing up on the Irish coast.
One of TC’s childhood friends there in Stevensville was a young African-American boy named Samuel Johnson. They did everything together until Samuel’s family decided to move further north to Nova Scotia to escape lingering racism. Through letters, TC and Samuel would remain in contact.
A New Home out West
In 1883 the family decided to go west to the New Mexico Territory. Dougal’s brother Finn had joined the U.S. Calvary following the Civil War and settled in the territory’s Black Range mining silver. When Caragh’s longtime consumption grew steadily worse, the clean, mountain air of New Mexico beckoned. The desert vistas and mountains that Finn described in his letters got TC excited about this new land.
When they arrived, TC eagerly explored the canyons and mountains near their new home in the gold and silver mining boom town of Pinos Altos. He became friends with some of the local Chiricahua Apache youth and they taught him much about his new desert home. TC helped his father on frequent prospecting trips and got his first taste of placer mining. He also became interested in cow punching and in 1885 he got a job with the Lyons and Campbell Ranch and Cattle Company. It would eventually become the second largest cattle ranch in American history. TC learned the ropes there, tending to the remudas, working as a chuck wagon cook’s assistant and eventually moving up the ranks to point rider.
In 1886, TC started driving cattle on the newly created Magdalena Stock Driveway. He also worked a couple cattle drives on the Goodnight-Loving Trail. On one particular drive in ’87, TC was out tending to the cattle one night and saw a strange light in the sky. It had a disc shape and surely was some kind of flying craft. The cattle got spooked so TC had to calm them down and round them back up. When he looked to the sky again, it was gone.
In 1888, TC’S father, after three years of working in a silver mine in Kingston, New Mexico Territory and prospecting on his own in his spare time, gave up the tireless life of a miner to become a lawman. A much needed role in Pinos Altos since at the time it was, “One of the Liveliest Camps in the Territory,” as the Silver City Enterprise put it. Keeping the peace in Pinos Altos and organizing the occasional posse to track down train robbers such as the Butch Cassidy Gang kept Dougal busy.
Meanwhile, having almost fully recovered from her lung ailments, TC’S mother Caragh became an accomplished artist depicting the landscapes and native people of the Territory with style and grace. She also became good friends with prominent Silver City citizen Elizabeth Warren who had also recently settled in New Mexico. Caragh worked with Elizabeth to help and support the many people affected by the big Silver City flood of 1895.
North to Canada
In 1890, at age 20 and hankering to see more of the world, TC finally took Samuel Johnson up on a longstanding invitation and set off to visit his childhood friend in Nova Scotia. With mules, horse and wagon, TC crossed the United States, working on farms and ranches as he went. He arrived in Halifax late in the summer of 1890. TC and Samuel picked up right where they left off so many years before, exchanging stories with TC relating his adventures on the range and in the mountains of New Mexico Territory and Samuel telling tales of playing hockey and sailing his homemade boat to Bermuda. Craving adventure, the young men did a bit of wandering through Newfoundland and Labrador and spent a harsh winter fur trapping near the Inuit island of Qikirtajuaq on Hudson Bay. Upon their return to Nova Scotia, both Samuel and TC went to work on the Plant Line steamers which carried passengers from Halifax and from Boston.
West to Alberta
In 1892, both young men were growing restless and longed for something new. TC talked Samuel into going west to work cattle. He’d heard that the Canadian Range needed cow punchers and he was highly skilled and knew he could turn Samuel into a fine cowhand as well. The two made their way west, stopping for a week in Montreal to carouse with city girls. Samuel became smitten with a young French girl and somehow convinced her to accompany him and TC on their journey west. As a suffragette, Marie Lavoie was tiring of the slow progress being made to secure women equal rights so she agreed to tag along. TC decided that he’d never had such camp dinners as the ones prepared by Marie.
The three arrived in Calgary in the spring of 1893. Samuel’s father Isaiah had met a notable cattleman, John Ware, on a trip to Winnipeg in the 1880s. Fulfilling a promise to Samuel’s father, the three tracked down Ware on the north fork of Sheep Creek not far from the Quorn. Remembering Isaiah Johnson’s generosity and friendship, and needing help with his small outfit, he hired the three on immediately.
TC taught Samuel cattle work while Marie became the ranch cook and an aspiring chef. The arrangement suited each of them for two years until Marie, the word of her culinary prowess having spread far and wide, was offered the head chef’s job at a top Vancouver hotel. Samuel and Marie married in Calgary before the three friends continued their journey west across the breadth of Canada to a new home in British Columbia in 1895.
Feeling a bit like a third wheel and not wanting to work in the city, TC took a job with the Union Steamship Company and worked on the steamer Cutch operating between Vancouver and Nanaimo. TC felt good getting back on the water; it reminded him of growing up on Maryland’s eastern shore. It was also good to have steady work with so many people in the 1890s suffering financially. It was a difficult time. Samuel and Marie were doing well with Samuel having taken a job as a salesman at Woodward’s on Harris Street there in Vancouver but the economic downturn was endangering both of their jobs. They began plans to move south back to Samuel’s native country of the United States.
And now we meet Tin Cup Kelly and talk to him about his life during and after the great Klondike Gold Rush.
Reporter: So Tin Cup, if I can call you that, when did you first hear about gold in the Klondike?
TC: We knew there was gold in the Yukon pretty early on. Heck there’d been strikes in Sitka in ‘70 something and Juneau in ’80 so there was attention to the north and some enterprising fellas were heading that way even before 1896. I first heard the names Skookum Jim and George Carmack at a saloon in Victoria. I met William Moore there and he talked about meeting those men on a mail run to Fortymile from Juneau and how the men and another, were finding some gold on Rabbit Creek.
Reporter: When did the gold first call to you?
TC: Heck gold first called to me in Pinos Altos when my pa moved us there in 1883. He and my Uncle Finn were prospectors and found a fair amount of silver and some gold there in the Black Range so it got me a bit riled up. I ‘spect it’s one reason I went north, to sort of finish what pa started and stake a claim for the family.
Reporter: When did you go north?
TC: I resisted until I couldn’t and that was July of ’97. I had just helped my friends move from Vancouver to Seattle when those treasure ships came steaming into docks there. Ain’t never seen such a spectacle in my life. The steamers booked up quick and didn’t know anyone there so I made my way back to Vancouver and booked passage in exchange for work on my recent employer’s steamer, the Coquitlam. It was an old Glasgow ship they’d outfitted with crude passenger berths for taking folks to the mouth of the Yukon. We sailed out of Vancouver harbor in the early days of August. What a trip and what a menagerie of people on that steamer. I felt sorry for the fellas wearing bowlers and leather shoes. They were from cities like New York and Chicago and didn’t have a lick of woodsman knowhow. I figured most would never make it, let alone survive a winter. But heck I knew it wasn’t gonna be easy for any of us.
Reporter: Did you take the Chilkoot or the White Pass on that first trip?
TC: It was a crapshoot. I’d heard about the mistreatment of the horses on the White Pass and didn’t want any part of that so I figured the Chilkoot wouldn’t be too bad. I was wrong. I made friends with two Irishmen on the steamer who reminded me a bit of my pa. We helped take care of some of the horses there at Sheep Camp. I, knowing horses, was appalled by the way folks were greatly mishandling those fine animals. Gold fever is a helluva thing let me tell you. Skagway and the Yukon feels a might more peaceful now here in 2022. I ‘spect it’s bit what it felt like when it was just the Tlingit people living there.
Reporter: So speaking of you being in 2022, I guess we should explain that but first, tell us how you did once you arrived in Dawson City.
TC: I struck some gold. Used my boat building skills there at Lake Bennett for my party and made some money helping others build seaworthy vessels. Too many didn’t know beans about boats and floundered the minute they launched or died in the rapids cause their ships weren’t much better than a bunch of logs strapped together. I and my two Irish friends survived the rapids and made it to Dawson before the cold. I staked a claim at Fortymile not too far from two interesting fellas. Jack London was one. He liked to write things down a lot. Never expected he’d write books about his time there in the Yukon. Enjoyed his dog books but ain’t read “Burning Daylight” yet. It just came out a few years before that fateful day in 1912. The other fella was Harry Karstens, the Fortymile Kid. He didn’t find much gold but went on to become a heckuva mail musher. He and I are still friends. So anyway there at Fortymile I had a couple of good pans and ended up with $7,000 dollars in gold. About 10 years of wages for the average person there in 1897. That enabled me to return to Seattle and make sure Samuel and Marie were well and weren’t lacking for anything.
Reporter: But you went back…
TC: Yep, I sure did. Couldn’t help myself. Figured if I found gold once, well I’d surely find it again. Tried to talk Samuel in tagging along but he wasn’t leaving Marie’s side and I couldn’t blame him. I sailed out of Seattle that time on the steamship Portland. It had been the ship they say brought a ton of gold south in ’97. I chose the White Pass this time and expertly guided a team of five horses to the shores of Lake Bennet. The year before in Dawson City I had met a couple of Trʼondëk men on my first trip there so decided to look them up at Moosehide and see if they wanted to help stake a claim. They guided me to Gold Bottom where the fishing was also good. Long story short, we ended up with $30,000 between us with that claim and I was a happy man.
Reporter: We’ll have you back to talk about life in Alaska after your time in the Yukon and your trip to Europe in 1908 but we’ve got to hear the story of how you ended up here in 2022.
TC: Certainly but I’ll warn you that it ain’t gonna make any more sense no matter how many times I tell it. So it was 1912 and I was living back up in Dawson City. My ma and pa and brother had wrote me, insisting that I come visit them and celebrate New Mexico Statehood. President Taft had signed the proclamation on January 6 but the celebration lasted all year. I went down and we whooped it up. I spent a few months visiting old friends and exploring some of my favorite parts of that desert land. I talked my brother Rory into accompanying me north to help stake a claim in the Klondike.
We spent some time in the Rockies and then a week in northern California and Oregon, prospecting and trapping. While we were panning for gold on Sharp’s Creek in the Cascades one morning, Rory and I heard a rustling in the brush up yonder from where we were hunkered down. We looked up and swear to goodness saw an apeman standing about 15 feet tall staring at us from up the creek. We dropped our pans and lit out for cover. The sasquatch traipsed off into the woods. Quite a sight!
Rory and I got to Seattle and stopped in to visit Samuel and Marie at the restaurant that they’d opened a few years before. There on Pier 57, their French-style seafood had become extremely popular with the stampeders. ‘Cept fer my ma’s cooking back in Stevensville, ain’t had a better fish dinner in my life. We boarded the City of Seattle steamer on September 5th, 1912 bound for Alaska with a light manifest of about 25 folks. As we made our way up the inside passage and we were passing Tenakee Inlet, things got a might strange. It was evening and there was a storm brewing. It came in like gangbusters, lightning and thunder and rocking the steamer to and fro. Some of the passengers screamed, some got sick but we were all startled by the storm’s ferocity. I noticed that the lights along the shore seemed different but didn’t worry about it and went to sleep for the night. The next morning we came into Skagway and everyone one of us on that ship knew something was off. There were odd looking boats, strange automobiles and people were dressed real funny. Our steamer floating in to port caused an uproar. Many people flocked to us. As we made our way down the gang plank the people were holding these thin metal boxes and sort of pointing them at us. Least that’s what they looked like at the time. Didn’t know about cellfins then. Some kind folks took us in and helped us come to grips with the fact that we had somehow time traveled to 2022. Still hard to believe it. We all decided to go out and see if we could find some way back to 1912. I headed back here to my beloved Yukon and lately been traveling around with some folks who want me to talk about my time while visiting different places up yonder here. They tell me to invite people to visit the Yukon but heck that’s just natural. I’ve been telling people how magical it is up here since things calmed down after the gold rush. So that’s some of my story. You’ll have to watch these flickers that these folks are assembling to hear more of my recollections and learn more about the Yukon of old.
Reporter: Thank you TC. We’ll visit with you again soon but in the meantime we’ll follow your travels on YouTube.
TC: “You” what? Well much obliged and good talking with you.
Tin Cup’s Time Traveling companions:
Born in Prince Edward Island in 1867, Thereon was the son of the mayor and lived his life in spoiled luxury. When he was 16 he did something horrible by accident that he refuses to talk about. Whatever it was, it broke his father's heart and he disowned him. From that day on he has been trying to fix the rift between them. He came to Dawson to try to find gold to get back in his father's good graces.
Born in Seattle in 1887, she grew up on the bad side of town with an alcoholic father and a seamstress mother. When gold was discovered in Alaska her father went up to win their fortune. While away, Frankie's mother was arrested to cover her husband's debts. Frankie decides to find her father to in order to save her mother.
Born in Labrador in 1872, he had heard stories about Dawson being the Paris of the North and he decided to come and make a future for himself. Being a hopeless romantic, and not liking the idea of meeting his soulmate in the gold fields, he became a Northwest Mounted Police to be able to keep the streets safe and find the man of his dreams.
Born in Manitoba in 1865, Madame Vee came to Skagway as a showgirl working at the Mascot Saloon but she soon moved up in the ranks to become a Madame. Having lost her sister to a marriage in the past, she is very kind and motherly to both the men and women who come to work for her but she refuses to acknowledge her sister, and the feeling is mutual.
Born in Newfoundland in 1885, she was the daughter of struggling textile business owners who raised her to be as pure as the driven snow. Her parents in desperation send her alone to the Klondike in search of a wealthy husband who can return with her and save their business. Having no luck finding a viable suitor in Dawson City she heads south to Skagway and takes a job with Madame Vee.
Born in Manitoba in 1864, she came up to Skagway with her sister Vee but refused to take part in the dance girl or lady of the night lifestyle her sister chose. Instead she was obsessed with finding a husband and becoming an upstanding member of society. After a falling out with Vee over this plan the sisters parted ways and refused to acknowledge that the other was related to them.
Born in 1890, Thorn, of the Raven clan, and the son of a local Tlingit elder in Skagway, was very wary of the miners and the travelers who came into his homeland during the Gold Rush. When a hunter mistook his father for a bear and killed him accidentally, Thorn grew more bitter toward the ways of the white man. He and his new wife, Sara Joseph, a Hän First Nations member from Dawson City, are returning after getting married in Seattle.
Born in 1892, Sara is Hän and grew up in Moosehide outside Dawson City. She remembers the stampeders and all the ills that the Gold Rush brought when she was just a child but Sara also recalls some of the kinder white people who helped her family. She has fond memories of family friends, Father Judge, Harriet Pullen and Nellie Mines. Sara is working on softening Thorn’s bitterness toward “outsiders.”
Festus P. Magillacuddy
Born in California in 1867, his father, Franklin Magillacuddy was part of the gold rush of '49. Though Frank struck it rich, he soon squandered his money on bad inventions and gambling. When gold was discovered up north Festus traveled there in an attempt to regain his family's lost wealth. But, unfortunately when he got there it was all but staked out. Not wanting to leave empty handed, Festus becomes an inventor always trying to create new time-saving and electrical devices.
Born in Victoria in 1860, Wilson was an early pioneer in Dawson City. From newspapers to trains, Wilson was a leader in the community. He is fascinated by transportation and is constantly looking for ways to improve his steam and rail lines.
Born in Chicago in 1876, Sally was a young woman who wanted to make a name for herself. She got herself a job with the Chicago Press and as a new reporter she was sent to Dawson to write an article on the stampeders.
Barbara and Douglas Albright
Douglas was born in 1866 and Barbara in 1867 in Vancouver, Canada. Barbara Crane and Douglas Albright were school sweethearts. Douglass was a minister and when gold was discovered he convinced Barbara to come with him to spread the word of God.
Colin “Shifty” Sweeney
Born in 1875, in Hoboken, New Jersey, Colin’s mother ran away with the curious and his father raised him as part of his Irish gang. When the news of gold came, his dad sent him to go live with his cousin’s friend, notorious conman Soapy Smith. Shifty as he came to be called learned how to swindle and steal duping many out of their gold stocks!
Born in Seattle in 1872 his father left him with their family business, a bait and tackle shop and pet store. Not wanting to run something so embarrassing and smelly, Samuel turned the place into a hardware store.... and saloon. His very good friend, Tin Cup Kelly was a regular at the store named. During his time at carpentry school he met and fell in love with the love of his life, Lilith. When gold broke out, Tin Cup asked him to come along but Lilith was pregnant and Bart didn't want to leave his family. Later Bart went to Skagway, to help his brother run a cigar shop.