Worshiped by the Natives and Sacrifices Made to It Until Very Recently.
ONE of the most remarkable trips ever made from San Francisco to Alaska and back has just been finished by Arthur C. Pillsbury, a Palo Alto student.
During his absence Mr. Pillsbury accomplished the astonishing feat of journeying from Seattle to Alaska in a 20-foot gasoline launch. He followed the same route as the big ocean steamers and covered the 700 miles to Alaskan waters in safety. The entire trip was one series of adventures.
At Dlxon's Entrance, after a stretch of fifty miles of open sea voyage In a storm, his small craft was dashed on the rocks and broken in two. But he pot another boat and continued his voyage to Wrangel, from which point he worked out into the country in all directions. He found the only idol on American soil that is worshiped to-day nnd also took a flashlight photograph of a potlatch dance in full blast. As far as known, this is the only photograph of one of these mysterious Indian ceremonies that has ever been taken.
While in the interior of Alaska, Mr. Pillsbury had numbers of adventures, and on several occasions had to beat a hasty retreat for violating some of the Indians' ideas of what ought to be photographed. But he escaped with a sound skin and feels amply repaid for the dangers of the trip, as he accomplished a great deal and secured a number of valuable relics of the old days before the white men came.
In a small room at Palo Alto Mr. Pillsbury has his study. Here he is surrounded by all sorts of Alaskan curios and photographs. Of the latter he has many hundred, but the place of honor is given to the one of the monstrous Idol, which has a remarkable value, because it is the only one in existence. "I went to Alaska for the purpose of studying the country and to get what satisfaction I could out of the trip," said Mr. Pillsbury when speaking of the matter.
"It took me a long time to make up my mind to go, but after I had done so I concluded to go in the best shape possible and to see as much of the unusual as I could. I also determined to take as many photographs of unusual scenes as possible. In this I have been more successful than I expected. But the trip was an exciting one. "Early last spring I left San Francisco, taking on the steamer with me a 20-foot gasoline launch, the Madrone. At Seattle I left the big steamer and continued the Journey to Alaska in the launch. In order to be supplied with gasoline I sent quantities of It ahead and picked it up as I went along. "My launch was a comfortable one, with hardwood cabin and all sorts of conveniences, but it was none too comfortable considering the rigors of the climate. My father was with me, but he didn't enjoy the trip In the least, as he is not used to boats and certain kinds of hardships.
"When we left Seattle the weather was simply beautiful and we went down the river at a lively rate, but in a few hours we were buried in fog and didn't dare go forward or backward. I had never been in that part of the world before, and had not the least Idea of where land was. There was nothing to do but to lie there in momentary danger of being run down by some vessel. This was most trying and wearing to the nerves. All night long the fog lasted, but when morning came the sun burst through and a breeze came up. I then saw that we were not 200 yards from a jagged, rocky reef that would have cut our Journey short right there if we had run into it.
"Clear, weather followed for a week, and by this time we were up behind Vancouver, where the water was smooth and the air warm. I made no attempt to hurry along, but simply let the boat make such time as it could without crowding. When we came to a nice place we stopped until we got tired. I don't think our rate of travel was more than. 100 miles a week. "The sight of such a small craft running along through those lonely waters naturally attracted attention, and we were in considerable danger of being robbed.
When we tied up at night, unless we were near some settlement, we always kept far from shore. Once a band of Indians chased us in their canoes. But of course the launch was able to show a clean pair of heels, greatly to their surprise. A few shots were fired, but fortunately none struck us. "Once we got stuck on a sandbar at the mouth of a creek and didn't get off for two days. Another time we ran sideways on a log and almost upset. My boat sprung a leak one night and, I while we slept, almost filled with water. If we had slept an hour longer It would have sunk.
To repair this took several days. At night, when we were close to shore, we could hear the wild animals barking and howling. They had a scent of us and were close to the water's edge, waiting In the hope that they might reach us. I killed several of these. There are the skins over there. "For most of the journey up behind the islands the weather was simply perfection. There were a few rainy days, but none of them very disagreeable. But just as we needed the fine weather we didn't got it. "This was when we crossed from the
Only Idol in Alaska and the Only One Worshiped in America Today.
[From a Photograph.
The carven image of wood, buried in the depths of a forest at Klukwan, stands nearly seventeen feet high. In times gone by slaves were sacrificed to It at regular Intervals, but .this has been stopped since 1880. The Indians worship the idol in fear and trembling, as the Chinese do their gods. As far as known, Mr. Pillsbury is the only what man who has seen the idol.]
Queen Charlotte Island to Dixons Entrance. The distance is about fifty miles. The water is open sea and unusually rough. On our arrival at this side the weather did not look just right for such a hazardous undertaking', so we waited at a settlement called Tongus several days for it to moderate. "One morning the sun rose on a perfect day, and we at once made a start.
There v, as considerable of a swell on, but that did not cut much of a figure beyond a slight discomfort. In less than an hour we were far from land and rolling along as neatly as could be desired. "Suddenly I noticed a whitecap on the water before us. Then I looked back and saw the surface of the ocean covered with foam. We had been running before the wind and had not noticed that a high wind had sprung up. Land was miles away and could be seen only dimly through a streak of haze.' "Of course I was a little bit frightened when I saw the water boiling around us, but I instantly realized that there was no possibility of turning back.
To beat against the wind and sea for ten miles would be a good deal worse than to run before it for thirty five mites. But it did make me feel awfully squeamish when I realized what a tiny shell we were in out in that ocean of wild water. "So I opened the valves as wide as possible and let her go at her best. How that boat did roll and rock! The waves became larger and larger and the storm increased in fury. "Before we were half way across to Dixons Entrance I felt that we would never reach our destination.
Our little cork of a boat was buried in the trough of the sea one moment and the next riding on the crest of a mountain wave. Then we plunged down and half of the wave came tumbling on top of us. Our little boat was buried in foam and water. But we plowed ahead every moment even though we had to tie ourselves in to keep from being injured by being bumped against the sides of the boat. I knew there was only one hope for us and that was to reach land. If the boat capsized or became disabled we were doomed, as escape after that was impossible. "Our worst trouble came when we ran into a cross sea. Here the waves seemed to jump and dash in all directions at once. Water came down our exhaust pipe and the heavy plate-glass windows in front "were smashed in. It was all our pump could do to keep the boat dry.
I was bruised and bumped and father was nearly exhausted. "When at last land did come in sight I had little idea that we could reach it. The sea was rougher than ever, and it was almost impossible to manage the boat. When we got near enough to see the houses on land I saw that there was no harbor or landing place. Only a bare, sandy beach, with mountain waves tumbling on it in wild confusion.
"There was only one thing to do and that was to try and make our boat hit the beach as square as possible. I kept her head on and was almost congratulating myself that she was running in nicely when a crash came. The next Instant the boat was broken In two and we were struggling: in 'the water. We reached land with difficulty, although forty or fifty people were down to help us.
"Fortunately .our boat went ashore at high tide, and the next morning she was high and dry, but a total wreck. The engine, however, was not Injured In the least. This I got out and put into an old boat I managed to find in town, and we continued our trip to Wrangel. This boat also served for my trips to all the Alaskan points. "While In Wrangel an Interpreter told me of a strange idol In an Indian village called Klukwan.
The tales he told me of it were almost beyond belief, but I determined to go and see for myself. "Klukwan is about fifty miles from Skaguay, and the journey to It Is a most hazardous one. There are no roads, and every ounce of provisions had to be carried in with me. White men don't go there because there are no mines in the section. Part of my journey was by river, and I had to pole a skiff twenty - seven est kind of work, but I was bound to' see that idol and to make a photograph of it. "When I reached Klukwan the Indians received me cordially and the gift, of a few dollars to the head man secured me- the best of treatment.
After a few days I mentioned the idol, but met with a strong denial of its existence. However, the denials were of such a nature as to convince me that the idol was somewhere about, and I commenced a search. "For days I wandered about the Inhospitable forest, eaten by mosquitoes and scratched by all sorts of thorny plants, to say nothing of the soft ooze and wet vegetation that I was compelled to wade through. "But my reward came at last, for I suddenly came upon the hideous idol In an almost Impenetrable glade about two miles from the town. "When I told the people of the tribe that I had found the Idol they were horror stricken. But there were no more denials of Its existence.
When I said that I was going to photograph it they set up a howl. Photograph Gow-sche-ett-tee! All the evils of the inferno would be sure to befall me. My hands would shrivel when I pointed. the camera. Sickness and disaster would camp on my trail. "It was Impossible to get any of the Indians to go with me to make the picture, so I could not convince the tribe that I had photographed the idol. They would not believe me when I said so. The oldest and wisest simply smiled and shook their heads. "After this, though, they told me all about the idol. it seems that the wooden image was carved about 150 years ago and ever since then the tribe has worshiped it and made sacrifices to It.
As late as 1880 human beings were sacrificed to it, and would be today If the white people would allow It. In place of human beings, dogs and other animals are killed in front of the Idol In order to appease its wrath. The Indians worship this idol as the Chinese do their gods-in fear and trembling. Whoever wants a favor has to make a sacrifice and ask Gow-sche-ett-tee I also found that in this town of Klukwan there are a number of slaves. The men were captured as prisoners of war long ago and would have been sacrificed to the huge wooden Idol if such a thing had been permitted by the United States authorities ' This wooden image is about seventeen feet high. The lower part of the legs have rotted off, but the face is in a good state of preservation. It is a most hideous object, and- it is no wonder that the Indians fear it and worship it in trembling terror. It appears to have been painted in bright colors at one time, as bits of pigment are still sticking to It in spots. "It so happened that at the time of my visit to Klukwan the potlatch season was on. I determined to secure a photograph of a dance while it was at its height, but to do this . proved a most difficult matter. The head man . positively refused to permit it and even kept me out of the hall while the dance was in progress.
"But I overcame all difficulties by carrying my camera to the outside of a window. Here I fixed everything and had the flashlight in my hand. When the dance was at its height I quickly raised the sash, exploded the flash powder and withdrew. Then I had to leave town. The Indians were in a rage. Bodily injury would have undoubtedly been done me, but I managed to bribe one of the tribe and made my escape. "I have asked In all parts of Alaska for pictures of potlatches, but have been told they have never been taken, so I believe that mine is the first picture of the kind. A picture of the idol I am sure has never been taken before. In fact, one of the old men of the tribe told me that I was the only white man who had ever seen it."