WHEN COAL WAS KING: Sourdough’s Museum Relics

Last week’s column recounted the adventures of Captain Dick Craine and his traveling shows of Eskimos and Alaskan village life, which toured American expositions and European cities in the first decade of the 1900s. Craine later adapted his Yukon experiences into Hiawatha pageants with a troupe of Canadian Ojibwa natives, first in Petoskey, Michigan and then on the road at Chautauqua summer festivals. During these performances, Craine would recite William Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1855 epic poem, “The Song of Hiawatha.” About 1919 or 1920, he moved to the Green River Gorge and purchased property from Pacific Coast Coal Co., who’s nearby mining town of Franklin was closing down. There, Craine and his wife Bessie (Wilson) built Ye Olde Green River Lodge which competed for visiting tourists with Charles Brown’s Falls View Inn; John Rudges’ Green River Gorge Resort; and Frances Stearns’ Vagabond Inn.

Within the lodge, Captain Dick displayed his collection of curios and artifacts as seen in this July 24, 1921 photo by the Scenic Photo Publishing Co., which comes courtesy of JoAnne Matsumura. During the busy summer months, Craine adopted the persona of Felix the Yukon Sourdough, who told stories while peddling trinkets, bear skins, and other relics from his museum. He hired two young boys, Alfred and Ernie Moore, who were paid a dollar a day to sell parking tickets to those driving newly popularized automobiles from cities to burgeoning resorts in the country. Ernie Moore was the grandson of John Hale, one of several hundred African-Americans recruited in the Midwest who traveled by train to Franklin to break a miner’s strike in May 1891. Moore lived in Franklin and later wrote a book, “The Coal Miner Who Came West” about life in the coal mining town of Franklin. Research for this column comes courtesy of JoAnne Matsumura, an Issaquah historian and Dr. Richard Feldman who plans to write an article detailing Craine’s life. Next week, the story of Ye Olde Green River Lodge and Captain Dick Craine’s continued entrepreneurship.