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Alexander "Klondike King" MacDonald

Alexander "Klondike King" MacDonald

Male 1854 - 1909  (54 years)

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  • Name Alexander "Klondike King" MacDonald 
    Born 15 Oct 1854  Ashdale, Antigonish County Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Died 6 Jan 1909  Barlow, Yukon Territories Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID I4606  Dessert Family Tree
    Last Modified 16 Apr 2006 

    Family Margaret Chisholm,   b. Abt 1879 
    Married 9 Feb 1899  London, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
     1. Colin A. MacDonald,   b. Abt 1904, Dawson, Yukon Territories Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 11 Jul 1930, Washington State, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 26 years)
    Family ID F1455  Group Sheet

  • Notes 
    • 16 Mar 2001 - Reference page 36 in the Medlam PDF Files. Medlam refers to him as Angus but in Nova Scotia there was no doubt that he was called Alexander.

      The "Klondike King" was referred to on numerous occasions in Cape Breton during Duncan J. Chisholms younger years as there were many individuals from Cape Breton who had worked in the Yukon at the turn of the Century.

      Pierre Burton in his Book "The Klondike King" made the following statements:

      - His name was Alexander "Big Alex" MacDonald
      - He died on 6 January, 1909, while prospecting outside Dawson City
      - He arrived in the Yukon in 1895 after working several years in Colorado
      - He was made a Knight of St. Gregory by Pope Leo XIII due to his charitable donations including $25,000 to help replace a burned out Catholic Church in Dawson
      - On page 383 Berton described how "Big Alex" went to Paris and thence to Rome where he was granted an audience with the Pope and was made a Knight of St. Gregory. He was then off to London, a huge and ackward figure in his formal clothing, with his immense ham hands fairly bursting from his gloves. Before returning to Dawson in 1899, he married Margaret Chisholm, the twenty year old daughter of the Superintendent of the Thames Water Police. The story circulated that the first pretty girl he met after emerging from Alaska was this Margaret Chisholm
      - "Big Alex" was ruined by the very thing that made him him wealthy - an obsession with buying property. When mining collapsed, the value of his properties went down as well. His widow was able to live on in some comfort as "Big Alex" had been talked into taking out Life Insurance

      In September, 1999, Dr. Roger Chisholm-Batten in London sent DJC an article by a Martin MacDonald re the "Klondike King" which will be repeated below in its entirety.

      "As a nickname "King of the Klondike" has a certain ring to it. As also indeed has "Admiral of the Thames." So when the former married the daughter of the latter at Corpus Christi Church in Brixton just a century ago, the London Press picked up its ears and the Highland Press did likewise.

      Nothing too surprising in that since both gentlemen, however exotic their far-flung bynames were Gaels born and bred. And there was nothing our Victorian ancestors enjoyed more than to bask in the reflected glory of local boy made good in the remotest corner -- or, indeed, the Capital -- of the Empire. Both men fulfilled that criterion, especially "Big Alex" MacDonald as he was more familiarly known. He was reckoned to be the richest man in Dawson City, center of the booming gold rush, with an estimated fortune of 12 million. That was big, big money in global terms at the time. MacDonald was born in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, of Highland emigrant parents, in 1860(1854-DJC). Despite his hard years traveling the American and Canadian mining camps, his native Gaelic was still reckoned to be much more fluent than his English.

      And the "Admiral." He was Colin Chisholm, a native of Strathglass as the name suggests, and although no millionaire he certainly was not on the breadline either. He had risen through the ranks to become Superintendent of the Marine Division of the Metropolitan Police, hence his nautical nickname. His loyalty to his people was every bit as solid as MacDonald's. As Chief of the Gaelic Society of London, he was one of the main leaders in the campaign to have Gaelic used as the language of instruction in Highland Primary Schools. Given that background, he was probably more than happy to see his eldest daughter, Margaret, bethrothed to a fellow Gael, especially one who could look after her in a style to which, in her wildest dreams, she could hardly have expected to become accustomed.

      Seldom if ever in London has a Scottish marriage caused such interest, the Press recorded. The popularity of the bride's father and the romantic history of the bridegroom who, although only resident in the metropolis a few months, has by his stirling Highland grit, patriotism and business capacity, gained the respect of all who made his acquaintance, ensure it. After a crowded reception , at which Margaret cut the cake with the Claymore used by Colin Chisholm(4) at the Battle of Culloden(presumably well cleaned of Hanoverian blood) , "Big Alex" took his queen back to Dawson City where his mining interests clamoured for his attention.

      He was only 20 when he made his first fortune in the silver mines of Mexico, and lost it equally quickly when silver depreciated on the world markets through over production. He moved north through the mining camps of Colorado and Alaska before arriving at the Klondike as prospectors first struck gold in 1896. By the time he had learned a more profitable tactic than doing the hard digging himself. He bought claims cheaply from disillusioned prospectors and leased them to other miners on the basis that they shared the profits of any lucky strike. His richest claim, in Eldorado Creek, which netted him 16,000 in the first month without lifting a spade, he bought for a bag of flour and a side of bacon. At one stage he owned 78 mines, valued by government assesors at worth over 60 million. He was generous with his riches, After a fire he rebuilt the Catholic Church and also built a hospital for Dawson City. But it was not to last. By 1902 the Klondike boom was on the slide and the Klondike King's fortune evaporated with it. When he died in 1909 the one time millionaire was living alone in a small cabin on a non-productive claim."

      01 May 2004 - The September 8, 1898 Casket carried an interesting Article on the "Klondike King" repeating many of the points raised above. The "King" was planning to come out of the Klondike during the coming month of October, 1898. He was going to ship a half a ton or so of gold down the river before he gets ready to start for the "outside" so that he would not run short of pin money.

      01 May 2004 - The December 1, 1898 Casket carried a message from Alexander in London, England, to the effect that he would be in the family pew at Christmas.

      01 May 2004 - The January 5, 1899 Casket carried a story on how Alexander contributed $25,000 to the building of a new Catholic Church in Dawson City to replace one that had burned to the ground. The first Mass was said in this new Church on August 12, 1898 and it was then turned over to the Oblates of Mary. Five to six hundred people would attend Mass every Sunday.

      02 May 2004 - The February 16, 1899 Casket carried an explanation as to why Alexander was not in the family pew on Christmas Eve. Cupid had found a vulnerable spot in the supposed impregnable heart of the rugged gold-hunter. The marriage ceremony was performed by the bride's uncle, the Very Rev. Canon Chisholm of Glasgow (who at present DJC is unable to match with her father's family). It took place exactly one week prior to this issue of the Casket being published.

      02 May 2004 - The March 23, 1899 Casket mentioned that Alexander was interviewed in Boston by a Casket Correspondent and stated that he and his wife could not visit Antigonish at this time as he had to push on the Klondike so he would be there before the ice broke up as machinery purchased in England had to be transported to the Yukon over the ice. Mrs MacDonald's brother accompanied her and they will remain in Boston until May.

      18 Nov 2004 - The September 10, 1903 Casket carried an Article taken from the August 5, 1903 Dawson Daily News on the "Klondike King." He had been a partner in certain mining ventures with an Alexander Calder who died suddenly in 1900. Frank Belcher, Rory McDonald and Duncan McDonald had been appointed Calder's Executors. They sued the "Klondike King" for certain sums alleged to be due on notes. The case went through the Courts in Canada and eventually to London and a decision was awaited at time of writing. Belcher died shortly after the first trial due to a severe head cold. He used to ride from the Creeks on a bicycle when the weather was 50 to 60 below zero.