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 Kathleen Eloise “Klondike Kate” Rockwell

Kathleen Eloise “Klondike Kate” Rockwell

Birth
Junction City, Geary County, Kansas, USA
Death 21 Feb 1957 (aged 76)
Sweet Home, Linn County, Oregon, USA
Burial Cremated, Ashes scattered, Specifically: Ashes scattered over the Central Oregon desert in July of 1958.
Memorial ID 1660 · View Source
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Folk Figure. Best known as "Klondike Kate", gained her fame as a dancer and vaudeville star during the Klondike Gold Rush, where she met Alexander Pantages who later became a very successful vaudeville/motion picture mogul. She gained notoriety for her flirtatious dancing and ability to keep hard-working miners happy if not inebriated. She died in obscurity after some minor success training Hollywood starlets in the 1940s. Rockwell was born in Kansas and lived in North Dakota for a while but grew up in Spokane, Washington. Her stepfather had stature in the community and the family lived in a large mansion. But economic failure created tension in the family, and this lack of home stability echoed throughout Rockwell's sometimes stormy life. She was known as an independent spirit, or "tomboy" as a youngster, often impersonating boys and playing with them rather than with members of her own gender. She seemed a happy child, although felt all too intensely the lack of social mobility for women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Her parents sent the rebellious teenager to boarding school, but Rockwell was expelled. She had little interest for education and spent more time thinking of ways to flout the rules. In the 1890s, after divorcing the stepfather, Rockwell's mother moved with her to New York. The younger Rockwell here had an unsuccessful attempt at show-biz. She left for greener pastures and arrived in Alaska in 1899. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police held a tight leash on prospective miners and various hangers-on trying to get to the Yukon and find fortunes in gold. Refused entry by a Mountie, she is reputed to have donned a boy's outfit and jumped on a boat headed for the Yukon. First working as a tap-dancer in Whitehorse, Rockwell found her stride in Dawson City as a member of the Savoy Theatrical Company. Her act was very popular with the miners, and she was dubbed "Klondike Kate" as a result. It was in Dawson that she met Alexander Pantages, at that time a struggling waiter and bartender who eventually rose to become theatre owner. The intense love affair between Pantages and Rockwell became the stuff of legend in the Yukon, although streaks of jealousy insured that they found more stability in their professional lives than in their personal ones. They were not above swindling unsuspecting miners, and this dubious quality eventually infected their own relationship. She later accused him of reneging on a promise to marry her as well as attempting to cheat her of her money. In 1902, the Klondike Gold Rush was already dying out and Rockwell headed south, first to British Columbia where she set up a store-front movie theater and eventually to eastern Oregon, where she seems to have played the part of a recluse and social outcast. She never achieved any of the fame she briefly held in Alaska, although she made full use of the memories. "Sourdough" reunions in the 1930s provided a measure of uptick in her fame, as did training young Hollywood starlets in the 1940s. Near the end of her life she married a miner named John Matson, who remained in Alaska as she stayed in Oregon. They were together for 13 years. Her last years were spent mostly as a visible emblem of the bygone Gold Rush. Rockwell died in 1957. Ernie Pyle has a chapter about Klondike Kate (who he calls Kate Rothrock) in his book Home Country.

Bio courtesy of: Wikipedia


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 1 Jan 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 1660
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Kathleen Eloise “Klondike Kate” Rockwell (4 Oct 1880–21 Feb 1957), Find A Grave Memorial no. 1660, ; Maintained by Find A Grave Cremated, Ashes scattered, who reports a Ashes scattered over the Central Oregon desert in July of 1958..