Who was Klondike Kate?

In my first Rothrock site, I had the life story of Klondike Kate or Kate Rothrock as mentioned on page 438-439 of Henry Shirley Rothrocks book, Rothrock Genealogy 1684-1978 the First Edition. It includes a copy of a News article of Klondike Kate by Ernie Pyle. In the 2nd Edition copyright 1984 Henry explains the error that Kate was Kate Rockwell (no relation to the Rothrocks) and omitted the story.

This intrigued me to look up Klondike Kate, only to find that there were in fact two women called Klondike Kate who had met each other.

The Kate mentioned most was the colorful dancehall girl of the book "Klondike Kate; the life and legend of Kitty Rockwell, the Queen of the Yukon" by Ellis Lucia 1962. Kathleen Eloisa Rockwell born in Kansas in 1876 became a chorus girl. After traveling from New York to work in Spokane she read of the Gold Rush and went North. She arrived in the Gold Rush town of Dawson after living in both Skagway and Whitehorse, and became famous for her flame dance. She fell in love with Alexander Pantages and together they planned to buy a string of theatres. Pantages took her money and married a young violinest while Kate was travelling. Kate returned in 1905 and sued him for $25,000 for breach of promise. Kate moved to Oregon and opened a restaurant. At 37 she married Floyd Warner and moved with him to a shack on a creek where they fought until he left her. A miner named Johnny Matson was said to have met her in the turn of the century and loved her for 30 years eventually marrying her after a 2 year correspondence in 1933. Johnny continued mining and Kate moved to Bend seeing each other once a year until he died in 1946. Kate at 71 years old married long time friend Bill Van Duren. They moved to Jefferson and then Sweet Home where Kate died in 1957 at 80.

The other Klondike Kate was Katherine Ryan who was the Kate in the book by Ann Brennan called "The Real Klondike Kate". Kate Ryan at age 28 made her way alone to the Klondike in 1898. Kate used her nursing skills to tend the sick, washed cloths and ran a restaurant along the way. Reaching Whitehorse she put a sign on her tent "Kate's Cafe' open for business" which she ran for 2 years before finding a cabin. She became famous for her generousity and being a woman alone in the Yukon and was nicknamed Klondike Kate. In 1900 she was hired as a "constable special" which was assisting the Mounted Police with female prisoners and later was a guard at the Whitehorse Jail. Kate was nearly 6 feet tall and capable at the job. There she met a prisoner that would haunt her the rest of her life. Kitty Rockwell was a singer, dancer, and a thief serving one month hard labour in 1902 for prostitution. Afterwards Kitty Rockwell returned to dancing and started calling herself Klondike Kate. As she became famous she financed her lover Alex Pantages in the theatre and sued him after he left her for an 18 year old violinist. All of this confused Kate Ryans friends and family as the rumors mounted about Klondike Kate's prostitution and adultry. Kate Ryan was raising her nephews and working as a gold inspector for the Northern Mounted Police and her close friends knew the truth about her. In 1919 after the death of one of her nephews she moved to Stewart, British Columbia. She died in Vancouver in 1932.


Kate Ryan and Kate Rockwell

Neither lady was Kate Rothrock as describled in Ernie Pyle's Yukon article. He obviously was describing Kate Rockwell.

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