Friday, January 8, 2010

Captain John Sutherland

John Sutherland was a veteran salt water sailor who left Chicago in 1897 for Seattle, Washington.  From there he sailed to Alaska in the spring of 1900.  Captain Sutherland was the last man to reach Nome, Alaska, over the ice in 1900.  He left Dawson in March behind 8,000 people who made the trip by dog team.  All were in search of gold.  When he reached Norton Sound, he found the "ice was out" so he walked 360 miles around the Sound through swamps and through mosquitoes" making the very difficult trip in 62 days.

He didn't actually walk, he rode a bicycle.  "I rode my bicycle night and day...well, sometimes it rode me."  he corrected himself  "and many mornings I started out when it was 68 degrees below zero."  Missing for more than 30 days, his family in Chicago and Scotland began to mourn, fearing he was dead.  During the trip he lost 20 pounds, but still weighed 230.

"I came across some Indians on the way.  They were frightened by the bicycle and their medicine man told them that if they did not kill me all the fish in the sea would die.  They started to shoot at me and just missed.  Some soldiers from a nearby fort came to my rescue.  The next day the Indians came to the fort  to make peace with offerings of food and fruit.  They punched me to see if I was real flesh and blood and went away satisfied."

"One of the Indians asked me how much my bicycle was worth.  I told him $200.  He grunted and went away.He came back the next day with the money in gold pieces of $20 and $10.  He insisted that he have the bicycle, but I got away from him."

John Sutherland died in 1940 and is buried in Washington Memorial Park, Seattle.  He was survived by a daughter, Mrs. William Whiteside, Riverton Heights, Washington, and a son, John S. Sutherland of Redding, California.  Captain Sutherland was a member of the Pioneers of Alaska.  Any additional information from the West Coast would be appreciated.

This story about John Sutherland came from Margaret Baikie Johnson.  Her father was William Baikie who was Chief of the Caledonian Society of Chicago established in 1865.  Margaret Johnson, famous in her own right, was Queen of Scottish Day at the World's Fair in 1934.  She also played the pipes, was a medal-winning Highland dancer and lawn bowler.

Margaret Johnson lived and died at the Scottish Home in North Riverside, Illinois.

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