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Thurston County, Washington Stories

Mrs. Hattie Wills

San Francisco Call, Volume 78, Number 49, 19 July 1895

Alaska's Boom ls Over.

TACOMA, Wash., July 18. It is evident the reaction after the boom has begun in Alaska. Some months ago Mrs. Hattie E. Wills, an energetic widow of this city, went to Circle City, in the Yukon district, to start a restaurant. Today a letter was received from her in which she says the camp and the whole country is overcrowded. Provisions are high," work and money scarce, all the good claims are taken and many are destitute. She is coming back as soon as possible.

San Francisco Call, 16 November 1895

Large newspaper article (4.5 Mb PDF file)

San Francisco Call, Volume 82, Number 55, 25 July 1897

A Tacoma woman has struck it on the Klondyke. Mrs. John T. Wills, wife of a locksmith, went to Circle City two years ago and opened a restaurant. When the Klondyke reports first reached Circle City she went up and staked out a claim, but she has had some trouble to hold it, although she is confident of succeeding in the end. The claim is worth a quarter of a million.

from america.library4history.org

Mrs. J. P. Wills, of Tacoma, is described as a women of iron will, whose husband is a gun or locksmith and virtually a cripple from rheumatism. His illness made it impossible for him to undergo the dangers of the journey and penetrate to the frozen North, but his wife said she would go for him, and go she did.

She settled at one of the mining camps and for two years made so little money that she was practically disheartened. Then the Klondike mines were discovered and Mrs. Wills was among the first to join a party of cattle men and hurry to the new region. She began her career in Alaska as a washerwoman ; then she went to work as a cook for the Alaska Commercial Company, at Dawson City, and received fifteen dollars a day for her services.

Her Experience a Romance.

When she joined the throng heading for Klondike she asserted her determination to abandon the work she had been doing and take a claim. She did so, and in a few weeks struck it so rich that instead of being a poor washerwoman she was worth a quarter of a million dollars.

While doing washing Mrs. Wills introduced the first "boiled shirt" into the Yukon gold camp and paid $2.50 for the box of starch with which she starched it. Her first assistant in the laundry was a squaw, to whom Mrs. Wills paid four dollars a day and board. Her little log cabin cost her thirty-five dollars a month and her supply of wood for the winter cost $225. A twenty-five-cent washboard cost her six times that amount, and, while she made a small fortune washing and baking bread, Mrs. Wills complains that the trading company got most of it. Mrs. Wills parts her hair on the side like a man and is stout and jolly. She is fifty years of age and is industrious and a good business woman.

Death of Mrs Hattie Wills

Date: May 23, 1901
Location: Olympia, Washington
Paper: Morning Olympian

Story courtesy of Mike Cochran, 2012

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