Obit: Gates, Charles H. (1855 - 1933)

Contact: Crystal Wendt

Surnames: Gates, Wheaton, Tardiff, Verherkmoes, Longenecker

----Source: Neillsville Press (Neillsville, Clark County, Wis.) 16 Feb. 1933

Gates, Charles H. (7 April 1855 - 13 Feb. 1933)

Charles H. Gates, one of the oldest residents of Clark County, died at the hospital in Marshfield, Feb. 13. He entered the hospital several weeks ago for a surgical operation to remove a cancerous growth near his eye. The immediate cause of his death was pneumonia.

Mr. Gates was born at Minerva, New York, April 7, 1855. The next year he come with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Gates, to Clark County. The family settled at Wedges Creek where they kept a wayside inn until 1861, when they moved to Neillsville. Here Charlie grew to manhood and this has ever since been his home.

In the summer of 1897, soon after the discovery of gold in the Klondike, Mr. Gates joined a party of Neillsville men who left for the goldfields of the northwest. After many thrilling adventures on the rivers and among the placer mines he returned home in the fall of 1900. Among the gold-seekers he was known as "Swiftwater Bill." While reluctant to talk of his adventures he would occasionally fall into a reminiscent mood and would tell of the old days on the trail and in camp in a most entertaining manner.

On Nov. 29, 1929, a lengthy interview with Mr. Gates was published in the Press, in which many interested details of his days in arctic gold fields were given.

Mr. Gates was married on Nov. 26, 1874 to Miss Louisa Wheaton of Alma Center, who survives him. He leaves also two daughters: Vivian, Ms. Marion Tardiff, of Stevens Point, Wis., and Elva, Mrs. J. M [John]. Verberkmoes, of Kooskia, Idaho. A son, Daniel, died July 18, 1898, while in service in the Spanish War; another son, Thornton, died in April, 1931.

He leaves also five grandchildren and one great-grandson.

Funeral services will be held Thursday at 2 p.m. at Schiller's Funeral Home, Rev. G. W. Longenecker officiating.


The following poem was written by Mr. Gates while he and his party from Neillsville were tied up at the White Horse Rapids in Alaska in 1897. He recited in from memory one night in 1907 while on a deer hunting trip northwest of this city with his brother, Edward, and Dr. J. Brooks. Dr. Brooks requested Mr. Gates write him a copy of the poem which is reproduced here:

When the frost was on the pumpkin

And the fodder in the shock

We left old Wisconsin

To travel o'er the rock

With our tons of provisions

We started o'er the trail

But the hearts of many comrades

There soon began to quail.

When the frost was on the pumpkin

And the fodder in the shock

We were packing on towards Klondike

With all that crazy flock.

Some two thousand horses then

Were packing day by day

Worn and weary, heavy laden

O'er the hills they went to stay.

Jack and Sue and Scogings too,

Strated fat and sleek and frisky

Their journey to pursue.

Oh, those days were filled with terror,

And the nights were filled with woe,

But we'd started for the Klondyke

And to Klondyke we must go.

When the frost was on the pumpkin,

It is hard to tell this tale,

How those lovely horses perished

As they labored on that trail.

Like the children of Israel

They did not see the promised land

But fell along the wayside

With their packs in mud and sand.

We were almost to Lake Bennett

When our last poor horse had died,

How my comrades that were with me

And myself stood there and cried.

The frost upon the pumpkin

Had no more its charm for me,

We much pack out goods to Bennett

Or glaciers we would see.

Then when launched upon Lake Bennett

Just before that awful gale

It was bearing down upon us

And our crew began to wail:

Get to shore or we will perish

Like the horses left behind!

And shoreward we were driven

There we landed unresigned.

Hastily our goods were taken

And thrown out into the snow,

And we worried and we wondered

If no further we could go.

But we labored on to Dawson,

Which seemed so unlike heaven,

As I ponder I remember

It was eighteen ninety-seven.

Then again at Windy Arm

We were ship wrecked on the shore,

Everything was soaked with water,

As the waves did o'er us pour.

But the wind was blowing warmer

And the sun was shining too

We dried our goods and calked our boat,

Our journey to pursue.

Now the frost is on the window

Just about two inches thick,

*******rest of the copy is cut off. **************



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