If you take a walk through Skagway today, you'll find a little park called Mollie Walsh Park. In the park you will find the bust of a woman with an inscription that reads:
|"Alone and with help this courageous girl ran a grub tent near Log Cabin during the Gold Rush of 1897-1898. She fed and lodged the wildest gold-crazed men. Generations shall surely know this inspiring spirit. Murdered October 27, 1902."|
Imagine being a stampeder. You have spent hours suffering up White Pass Trail. Finally you reach the top. You look around and there is a little "grub tent" with a little bright-eyed Irish woman standing in the doorway. She offers home-cooked food and perhaps a bed for the night. She seems like an angel in all this cold and snow. That woman was Mollie Walsh. One man put it this way:
|"She operated a very primitive eating place with only a small sheet-iron stove and a narrow lunch counter in front of it. The eats weren't anything special, but the girl's hearty enthusiasm, quick wit, and a dusting of freckles made her a favorite with all who stopped there."|
Born in 1872 Mollie led a quiet life in her Irish American neighborhood. She worked as a middle-class stenographer. In 1890 she ran off to Butte, Montana with one of her friends. When news of the Gold Rush reached her, she headed off to the Klondike. She stayed in Skagway working in a restaurant and attending a nearby church.
A story that gives an example of Mollie's character relates that one day when she heard a close friend, who had become a prostitute, was dying she risked a scandal and went to her bedside. Her friend died and the pastor of Mollie's church, Reverend Dickey, as a favor to Mollie, risked an even bigger scandal and held the prostitute's funeral in his church. Reverend Dicky gave such a moving speech urging the dead girl's friends to quit the profession that a sea captain who came to the funeral offered free passage to Seattle for any prostitutes that wanted to leave. Mollie raised money so the girls could have a fresh start somewhere else. Many left on the SS Shamrock that very night.
Finally disgusted with the filth and corruption around her, Mollie bought her restaurant supplies, and left Skagway to open her "grub tent". She operated her "grub tent" for a little over a year acquiring many suitors in the process including a famous packer named "Packer Jack" Newman. In June of 1898 she moved to Dawson and in December she married Mike Bartlett.
The next year Mollie spent in Seattle enjoying being carefree, while her husband went to Nome. In 1900 she gave birth to a son while traveling with her husband to Dawson. Her husband's business started failing and soon Mike began to gamble and drink. Their marriage in shambles, Mollie, with her 13 month-old son in tow, left her husband accompanied by a man named John F. Lynch, taking a lot of Mike's money with her.
Mike chased her all over the country even to Mexico. He finally caught up with her in 1902 in Seattle, Threatening to kill himself if she didn't come back, Mollie gave in and they lived in Seattle for the next few years. Mike began drinking even more. Mollie tried to get the police to arrest him complaining that he "abused her in all ways and threatened to do away with her". She later withdrew her complaint. A week later Mike chased her down a Seattle alley and shot her in the back.
Mike was convicted of murder because of insanity and sentenced to an asylum. He later hung himself.
Mollie would have disappeared from history completely if "Packer Jack" had not still been in love with her. He commissioned the bust of her to be put in a park named after her.
© Copyright 1997 Elizabeth Beckett and Sarah Teel
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