Life History of Jujiro Wada

1875 (Meiji 8) year of birth

a Haiku monument by Masaoka Shiki at the riverside park next to the former site of Wada`s home in Matsuyama..


Born as the second son of father Gempachi Wada (Samurai in Former Komatsu ward) and mother Setsu, in Saijo, Ehime prefecture Japan.

1879 (Meiji 12) 4 yrs.

Matsuyama Castle, next to Hinode Town, where Jujiro Wada grew up.


Wada’s father died when he was four years old, leaving only his mother to care for him. Since his mother and he were poor, he started working at “Toda Paper Mill” run by one of his mother’s relatives in Hinode Town, Matsuyama City. Hinode town was famous for papermaking at the time .
(These details are attained from a letter sent by Kinbei Toda to Azuma, in which he describes Wada’s life as it was known by his close family. 1929. 7.25, Kinbei Toda Commentary note)

1887 (Meiji 20) 12 yrs.

Mother of Jujiro Wada
Mother Setsu

As Wada grew, his mother was at a loss for his guidance. During the two years, from 12 to 13 years old, Kinbei Toda’s father took care of Wada at his home. However, Wada had behavioral issues, causing difficulties for Kinbei’s father. During this time, Wada was already expressing his interest in going to America.
(1829. 7.25, Kinbei Toda Commentary note)

1891(Meiji 24) 16 yrs

Wada left Matsuyama, Ehime prefecture, to work for a trading company in Kobe.

1892 (Meiji 25) 17 yrs.

In Kobe
around 1891, prior to being smuggled into the US

With big ambitions of being “a Sumitomo”, he smuggled himself into the United States. With the help of his co-workers at a trading company, they managed to stow him away in a large tea box on a freighter headed for San Francisco.

Balaena, the ship on board of which Wada got his first experience with whaling and with the Arctic (New Bedford Whaling Museum)


The young stowaway walked the streets looking for work, but he couldn’t speak English. And things didn’t improve for Wada until he was drugged and kidnapped. After going for a few drinks with a stranger in a San Francisco bar, Wada woke up on a whaling ship headed toward the Arctic Sea. This was the whaling industry’s solution to a worker shortage, and Wada was forced to sign a three-year contract. The total pay would be $80. He worked on board the Whaling support ship “Balaena” for the following three seasons around the Arctic Ocean, gaining  knowledge of the English language and geology from its captain Henry Havelock Norwood. Norwood could speak the Eskimo language, and Wada may have started learning it from him. Cooking was one of Wada’s main responsibilities. On board were also hunters, and gradually Wada was also involved in grouse and deer hunting.
It is reported that the ship brought a few dogs with them. He also became an expert of dog sled manipulation and hunting.


Winter 1892-93 there are 4 ships at Herschel Island: the Narwhal (Capt. Smith), the Balaena (Capt. Norwood), the Grampus (Capt. Vincent) and the Newport, (Capt. Porter). The ships come here about the 15th of October and leave by the end of June. This shows an increasing presence of whalers, since as late as winter 1890-91 there had been only 2 ships during winter (with Capts. Norwood and Tilton), the main reason of their stay being that going north, catching enough whale and then returning could hardly be done in one season. The whaling business was after oil and baleens, a single whale providing some 100 barrels of oil used for lubricant and fuel, and up to 700 baleen (weighing 2000 pounds), which was in heavy demand for corsets, umbrellas, parasols, suspenders, canes, whips, etc. A single whale was worth about $15,000. Later the increased number of whalers, sometimes 30 per seasos, made the whale population thinner, and further the development of plastics from petroleum caused a price drop and whaling in the Arctic was over by 1911.

1893(Meiji 26) 18 yrs.

Archbishop Isaac O. Stringer (wikipedia)

Isaac O. Stringer was a missionary of the Anglican Church, active in the Yukon area from 1892 to 1931. First he rented a room at archdeacon McDonald`s house. McDonald had been active in Yukon area since the 1860s. From 1893 onward Stringer started various travel, including a first trip to the Yukon interior. Isaac O. and his wife Sadie Stringer visited Herschel Island several times from Fort McPherson.

Their diaries covering the years 1893-1901 mention Wada and Capt. Norwood living at Herschel Island when they first visited the island in May 1893. Wada is mentioned as he is out hunting for grouse. Capt. Norwood is very satisfied with Wada and praises him for being clever. It was said that it was here that he learned his dog mushing skills. This year the catch of the Balaena was 52 whales.

In the early years of Arctic whaling, most crew was international, and many were escaping justice in various places. Their influence on the native population was not positive. Also alcohol was in high demand and as there was no law enforcement until 1903, crime such as rape and assault was frequent. After Stringer arrived in the area, things changed for the better and more captains were bringing families, moreover alcohol bans were enforced in many places.

1894 (Meiji 27) 19 yrs.

<Sino-Japan War occurred>

Back in San Francisco after three seasons, Wada discharges himself from Balaena, as Capt. Norwood had told him that Balaena would probably not go back to Herschel Island any more. Capt. Norwood falls ill.

1895 (Meiji 28) 20 yrs.

5 dogs across the coast line

In March Wada is reported hunting and he comes back with 42 saddles of meat.

Last fall Wada has become steward at the Balaena, now under Capt. Murray, again headed for Herschel Island. Just when Anglican missionaries Isaac O. and Sadie Stringer visit Herschel Island from Fort McPherson in April, a box with his properties was found when Wada together with Mr. Thomas from the Narwhal made an excursion to Richard`s Island and the camp of Robertson in Shingle Point. Wada`s route is unknown but he was reported to have come to Shoalwater Bay. The box contained medicines, matches, candles, scissors, scent, twine, soap, and a few small books in which was writing—part in English and part in Japanese. In May Wada (now called Wattie) returned together with Mr. Varnham at Herschel Island. He brought some large fish, 20 saddles of meat and some fur and reports that the Mackenzie river is free from water.

The Balaena makes a return trip from Hershel Island to San Francisco under Capt. Williams, and will return in August. Wada and Murray are not aboard and remain at Herschel Island. In these years it took 18 to 24 days from Herschel Island to San Francisco.

At the occasion of yet another visit by Isaac O. and Sadie Stringer to Herschel Island, they have breakfast in Wada’s tent in August and Wada invites them to his house for other meals as well. As of September Wada is mentioned at Herschel Island and his responsibilities under Capt. Murray still include cooking.


After a stay on Herschel Island at least from April through September, he heads back to California. When Isaac O. and Sadie Stringer travel back to San Francisco, Wada meets them directly after arrival. During Stringers visit to San Francisco he went to the P.S.W.Co. and meets also with carpenter Veitch who`s discussing the building of a cabin at Herschel Island with Capt. Knowles. Later Stringer meets with fur trader Herman Liebes, and they take pictures together.

1896 (Meiji 29) 21 yrs.

Wada in Kobe at his temporary return to Japan


Wada, a devoted son, returned to Japan for three months to visit his mother, bringing home the money he had earned in the Arctic. Unfortunately, this was the last trip back to Japan that he ever made, although he regularly sent letters and money to his mother throughout his life. Wada did not see a future for himself in Japan, but in the land of northern lights, he was completely free from both the yoke of the rigid class system of his nave country and the segretation that existed in San Francisco.
(1896. 7.25, Kinbei Toda Commentary book)

Got back to Alaska, exploring the unbeaten tracks in the North Pole area that even an Eskimo feared of.

Herschel Island (1896)

The Pacific Steam Whaling Company (PSW Co) from San Francisco which employs the Balaena, along with other whaling ships, establishes a whaling station on Herschel Island. Their building on Herschel Island is called “Community House” and doubles as storage room and church. Anglican
missionaries Isaac O. and Sadie Stringer were using the church when they lived on Herschel Island. As of today it is still in excellent condition as one of the oldest surviving buildings in the Yukon area. As the number of American whalers on Herschel Island increased, in 1903 Canada established a detachment (NWMP) in Fort McPherson to render beyond any doubt its sovereignty over the area. From this close location frequent patrols were made to Herschel Island, where a permanent Police Post was housed from 1904. All since the Klondike Gold Rush started in 1896, NWMP increased its presence in border areas and around mining settlements, growing within short time from 20 police to 300. The Police Post on Herschel Island was headed by Inspector Francis Fitzgerald. As Herschel Island was not connected to the postal network until 1904, official government letters giving Fitzgerald judicial authority were often carried in by Wada. In 1911, the Community House was purchased by NWMP.

1897 (Meiji 30) 22 yrs.  

Prospectors ascending the Chilkoot Pass (Dawson City Museum)

August, Klondike Gold Rush

When the Klondike and Nome Stampedes are taking place, Wada is not much involved in gold mining.

One of the young men participating in the Klondike Gold Rush was writer Jack London. His failing to strike significant gold, contributed to the decision to concentrate on writing. Among the novels and stories set in Yukon and Alaska, are Call of the Wild (1903) and White Fang (1906), in which sled dogs feature prominently.

Also intending to participate i n the Klondike gold rush was Capt.  Norwood. He arrived in Skagway in October 1897, together with Zachary Taylor Wood, who was inspector of the NWMP and went on to become captain. Next May he moved on a police station on Lake Banett, and was stationed in various locations in the Yukon area until 1910. In June 1900 a photograph taken at the completion of the railroad to Whitehorse, shows his wife ceremonially driving the last spike. 

Jujiro Wada and Mcilhenny
E.Mc.llhenny (Tabasco Archives)


When 7 ships were trapped in the ice, Wada was aboard the Jeanie which in September found itself entrapped. Wada tells in the Fairbanks Daily News-miner of Oct 26 1909, about this period, that the Bear tried in vain to assist and set clear the whaler Navach that had been trapped 50 miles from Point Barrow since the end of July. September 27th the last crew came ashore,
rescued by the leadership of Brower-who happened to be aboard, leaving the ship drifting unmanned. She turned out of sight by mid October. Wada saved the Newport that had been trapped in the ice, bringing the crew on board of the Jeanie. The crew of the Jeanie were rescued with food sent them by McIlhenny using natives. Then later that winter the ice currents brought the Navarch close to their settlement and 5 miles west from Cape Smyth. Here Wada and the other rescue leaders decided to reach for the ship to make good use of its load of coal- their coal as all these ships were operating under the same company. 40 dog sled teams were formed, using 500 dogs. The ship was reached relatively easy, but the ice movements made the return trip much worse. In March the ship was seen off Point Barrow and in the end the Navach was destroyed by fire.

That winter McIlhenny had rented a whaler`s refuge station near point Barrow from PSW Co., which he now could use to shelter the rescued men. The next year Cape Smythe Whaling and Trading Company of Charles Bower, purchased the station.


Wada left for Point Barrow by dog sledding.

“Fifty Years Below Zero” written by Mr. Brower bearing the subtitle A Lifetime of Adventure in the Far North 

Wada worked at the Cape Smyth Trading post, Point Barrow, with the legendary Charles Brower.  It was said that it was here that he learned the local customs and trade practiecs.

Just a few years earlier Brower had employed Frank Yasuda, a Japanese who had come to the US in 1887, then worked from 1891 to 1893 years on the Bear under captain Healy, before settling in the arctic from 1893. At Point Barrow, Yasuda had mastered hunting and whaling techniques, worked as a cook, and Brower trained him as a trader. He mastered the Eskimo language and married a native woman. As some locations and persons in this period are the same as Wada encountered, it is likely that at some point the two have known each other. From 1903 onward, Yasuda gained interest in prospecting and visits more inland locations such as Brooks Range and Chandalar River. In 1906 he resettles with his native family to Beaver, partly to protect themselves from measles, after epidemics in 1900 and 1902. In 1913 Yasuda leaves Beaver for Fairbanks.

1898 (Meiji 31) 23 yrs.

Nome Gold Rush

1900 (Meiji 33) 25 yrs.

(left) Wada somewhere off the west coast of the US in his 20’s
(right) Daughter Himeko when a child (one of 2 photographs remaining in possession of Wada’s relatives)

Helen Wada Silveira (Himeko), a daughter of Wada, was born and lived in San Francisco. Her nickname Himeko is made up from the three kanji (Japanese-Chinese characters) that mean Japan (hi) America (me) and child (ko.) She is Wada`s only child, and although she very seldom met with her father she spoke a few words Japanese. Wada regularly sends money and takes care of her by paying for her education. Her mother was said to be (probably second generation) from European origin, and she took it upon herself to raise Himeko as a well-mannered girl, which made her a quite stern mother.


Wada at Nome applied for American citizenship in Nome. He was denied. Without citizenship, Wada’s prospecting was all for naught. He wasn’t allowed to stake a claim. Instead he was forced to sell his information to a group of mining registration officers for a meagre fee. “There were laws that limited the number of Japanese immigrants allowed in the country,” (1901.5 Nome News)

1901 (Meiji 34) 26 yrs.


Wada start working for trader E.T. Barnette. The party chartered the small steamer Lavelle Young under Captain Charles Adams in St. Michael. They headed up the Tanana, ……… (continues)

Nov. 11. Wada met at Pacific Steam Whaling. Co.’s office in San Francisco with some boys from the Narwhal and with Mr. Stringer.

1902 (Meiji 35) 27 yrs.

May he arrived in Skagway on a steamer out of Seattle. Then headed for Whitehorse.

(Yukon Sun, January, 1903. )

(left)Town of Skagway
(right)Inlet of Skagway, Alaska, the first landing point for participants of the Klondike gold rush, from here crossing the mountains.

July Work as a cook on the steam ship, Rough Rider from Whitehorse, Fort Yukon, then to Koyokuku area such as Coldfoot, Wild Creek and finally to Nome.

(left)Amber, along the river Koyokuk
(right)Bettles Area along the Koyokuk

1903 (Meiji 36) 28 yrs.

Tanana Stampede

Wada was with Ohio trader E.T. Barnette (known as E.T., who later become the first mayor of Fairbanks). Barnette was a small entrepreneur who had participated in different gold rushes. He was one of the early ones to move to the Klondike after news of the gold strike arrived in San Francisco in July 1897. His choice to travel by ocean steamer to St Michael, and further to the Klondike by river steamer all the way to Dawson -as apposed to the mountain crossing and self-made boats that weer the choice of the poor- is proof that his earlier mining had been rather successful. Difficult weather and fire however delayed the arrival in St Michael, and upon arrival his booked river ship had accepted better paying passengers. Still determined to reach Dawson, he purchased his own ship with a group of fellow passengers, had to fight upcoming winter, and when finally at Circle the frozen river prevented further travel, Barnette purchased a dog sled. To his surprise however, when he reached his destination, all claims were given out already, so he had to accept employment at North American Trading and Transportation Company (N.A.T.&T.). Soon after he left Alaska.

He had made several attempts to come back to Alaska, and this time after he succeeded in raising enough money for setting up his own business, he took his wife with him, and Wada joined them. Together Barnette and Wada were on their way to set up a store around upper Tanana area, at a likely site of railroad crossing as they had first-hand information from the N.A.T.&T. about the railroad to be extended from Valdez to Eagle so to provide a route through US territory.

Felix Pedro an Italian immigrant whose discovery of gold in Tanana (Wikipedia)

Wada was hired as cook. They had $20,000 worth of trading goods, and due to the heavy load river transport was difficult. They were set ashore, at what is now the site of Fairbanks after their boat got stuck in shallow waters and there it was that they founded Fairbanks. The first customers included the native nation of Athabascans, and an Italian named Felice Pedroni, later known as Felix Pedro. The prospectors came to Barnette when they were out of wood, and this gave Barnette some limited business. His hopes were that one day the prospectors would strike gold.

The site wasn`t close to any known gold sites, and the situation looked dire, but nearby Felix Pedro struck gold on June 12, 1902. Barnette took this opportunity to expand his trading goods business and immediately dispatched Wada to Circle to apply for the registration on Dec. 28th. Circle lies on the Yukon river was founded in 1893 after gold discovery in Birch Creek. Providing entertainment and supply to nearby gold miners, Circle grew in short time to the most prominent city in the area, but its population was drained almost completely in the Klondike and Nome gold rushes (1897 and 1899 respectively.) A slightly different account is given by Wada himself in Dawson Daily News, stating that he run his own store in Faibanks, that the miners were in need of candles, that he offered to supply them, and accordingly Barnette approached him to record some claims for him in Circle.

Overview of Dawson City, Yukon Territory in Canada

During the long wait for application Wada went to Dawson, in Yukon, Canada to send a confidential letter to the manager of the N.A.T.&T. in Dawson, which was a proposal for an additional branch in Chena, as Barnette foresaw the town would see a boom. As early as 1899 N.A.T.&T. already opened a department store in Dawson. Dawson was the Canadian city at the center of the Klondike gold rush. It was founded in 1897, and for 2 years only the town held more than 30,000 citizens, most of them leaving after the gold rush.

Another reason for Wada to visit Dawson was his desire to inform Capt. Norwood about their new settlement. Wada drove his dog sled for three weeks, finally arriving in Dawson on the cold day of January 17, 1903, when the thermometer registered minus 69F (minus 56 C). When the incident was reported on a newspaper, soon a crowd of people rushed to Tanana Plain to look for the gold mine, resulting in the notable “Tanana Stampede” outbreak.

Jujiro talking about the discovery of the gold mine in Tanana. By “The Yukon Sun” newspaper

Some sources report that Wada was accused of causing stampede, with fake news about gold. And that accordingly, the miners that were put at risk in the difficult conditions and could not find gold, had an informal trial demanding his death. However this is not confirmed. There was real gold in Tanana, though not at easy depths. Also there indeed was an angry mob, but this was targeted at the shrewd retail practices of Barnette, who sold flour to the stampede at high prices and unfavorable conditions. These details are reported in Dawson Daily News of Sept 28 1907.

Co-founder of Fairbanks

The fledgling settlement of Fairbanks as it appeared in 1903. The buildings shown are likely those of E. T. Barnette’s trading post. (wikipedia)

By 1908, the city founded by Barnette and Wada was the largest and business city in the territory. The name Fairbanks was chosen to honor the influential senator from Indiana, Charles W. Fairbanks, as suggested by Barnette`s friend Judge James Wickersham, who also did much to make the new city prosper. Already the same year he moved the district court from Eagle to Fairbanks, which resulted in a relatively high lawyer population. The Japanese population of Fairbanks was also substantial. ※1

April/May banquets

James Wickersham (wikipedia)

Judge Wickersham came to Fairbanks, where Wada now had opened a restaurant named Tokio, located on 2nd Ave, and at the same time worked as a clerk for Barnette. The setting was makeshift, the food however was plenty and luxurious.※2 Here Wickersham had his meals as he also mentions himself in his diaries, including a well-published (e.g. in the Fairbanks Miner) banquet April 28th that was attended by 7 lawyers and some prospectors including Felix Pedro, whose gold pan served as dinner tray, and who decided to forward his first ounce of gold to Senator Fairbanks. The lawyers returned the favor by organizing a banquet again on May 12th.

Wickersham’s wall (

Wada requested to accompany Wickersham to Mount McKinley. The party included John McLeod, George Jeffery, Mort Stevens, Charlie Webb, Mark and Hannah. During the Wickersham expedition Wada fell ill, and dropped out. The remaining members made it to the 10,000 feet (3,048m) mark, which is now known as the Wickersham Wall. The first to claim to have reached the top of Mt McKinley was Frederick Cook in 1906, but this proved to be false. In 1913 a party lead by Hudson Stuck completed the first successful and proven ascent, but was not until 1963 that an ascent using the route over Wickersham Wall succeeded (David Roberts). In 2015, Obama officially renamed the mountain Denali, a native Alaskan name, but Trump asked to change the name back to Mt. McKinley.


Wada left Chena in June.


At Nome, a month later from June, he was arrested for illegally selling mink furs. He was released on $500 bail, but never returned for his hearing. He left for Seattle.

1904 (Meiji 37) 29 yrs.


Jujiro at Mackenzie River and Firth River

He camped at the mouth of Arkcheeluk River. He goes hunting with Eskimo near the Yukon-Alaska border and hunts seal.

<The Japan-Russo War broke out>

1905 (Meiji 38) 30 yrs.


Cape Beaufort

1906 (Meiji 37) 31 yrs.

Jujiro became a king of Eskimo. (The second from right)

Became a king to control three villages of Eskimo as he was dedicated to the improvement of their indigenous life.


Wada left Nome for Herschel Island

1907 (Meiji 40) 32 yrs.


After gold finds in the Chandalar area, this is the latest place all gold diggers are concentrating on. Wada has one of the richest claims and becomes quite wealthy.  A Dawson newspaper reports that he is “one of the hardiest men in the north” and reminds the reader of the Tanana stampede, that Wada`s reports that time have proven more than true, and that therefore his newly gained wealth is not begrudged by anyone who knows him.  

Wada with fellow runners after a marathon held in Nome, Alaska in 1907

February – March

Wada decided to participate in a 50 mile marathon race held in a brand new arena in Nome, likely motivated by the prize money of $500. Without any special training, Wada surprised everyone by winning the March 9th rage with a time of 7 hours 39 minutes and 10 seconds. He won another 50 mile race on March 30th, and then triumphed yet again in a 35 mile race on Jan 1st. Running against taller and stronger men, his success surprised even himself, as he stood at just 155cm tall. At 32 years of age, Wada’s fame as agreat runner spread all over Alaska.

Winter 1907-08

Jujiro Wada always favors his Alaskan malamutes.

Starting in November Wada moved from Dawson northwards to Herschel Island, with 6 dogs and dog sled, during which he bore witness of a struggle for life between a polar bear and an Eskimo whose rifle failed. An article relating the story appeared September 1908 in the Bad River News. Before reaching Herschel Island, the route brought Wada to Rampart House. This was an old trading post abandoned by Hudson Bay Company, and taken over by independent trader Daniel Cadzow.

The small settlement was located right at the Yukon-Alaska border, was a crossroad of government officials, fur traders, the Gwich`in and missionaries, such as Isaac O. Stringer, who since 1905 had become Bishop of Selkirk and personally oversaw the marriage of Cadzow to Monica Njootli in 1909.

Francis Joseph Fitzgerald, Frst RCMP officer assigned to Herschel Island (1903) Wikipedia

March 1908 he made a 1,600 mile solitary trip back from Herschel Island by dog sled, heading for Dawson. As winter conditions make shipping impossible, Wada acted as a lifeline between the island and the mainland, carrying newspapers to Herschel Island and the mail back from Herschel Island, including the letters of NWMP inspector Francis Fitzgerald who lived on the island between 1903 and 1911. One letter from Herschel Island also shows that Captain Jarvis was still on the island at the time of Wada`s winter stay. During the long trip he hunted many seals, which soaked his clothing in seal oil. During grouse hunting the sun and snow blinded his eyes, and he run out of food, two of his dogs died and were fed to the other dogs. His dogs still at the brink of starvation, he started to feed his shoes and trousers full of seal oil to his dogs. After also sacrificing his socks, he arrived in Rampart House in his underwear and snow-blind. When Wada arrived here, his eyes were dripping wet from snow-blindness, which Cadzow mistook for tears of joy for a safe arrival, and Cadzow started to weep as well.

The Cadzow family is an old Scottish family and tells more about their ancestry and history. Up till present Rampart House is used by Cadzow`s relatives.

1908 (Meiji 41) 33 yrs.

Jujiro Wada on a newspaper in Seattle on June 5, 1908 (Meiji41).

Starting from Dawson no one had ever reached before, explored 5,000 miles (8,000 kilometers) coastline of the Arctic sea by a dog sled, which was reported on a newspaper broadly.

1909 (Meiji 42) 34 yrs.

January 27th

Fairbanks Attended 26 1/2 marathon Demara, the Greek, beat Wada


Wada visited Chandalar where prospecting for quartz is going on. He has been working for Baird, and on arrival back in Fairbanks the Fairbanks Daily News-miner reports April 9th, that his mission was successful, and that he believes Chandalar will become a rich quartz camp. His travel to Fairbanks was reported to be in record-breaking time and through extreme heat, which burned his face and made his lips “swollen to the thickness of a beefsteak.”


The book “Through the Yukon and Alaska” was published by Thomas Arthur Rickard from San Francisco, Mining and Scientific Press. The book mentions the founding of Fairbanks, Wada`s journey to Capt. Norwood in Dawson, which set off the Tanana Stampede, and around 2 pages describe the 32-day journey of Wada by dog sled from Nome to Herschel Island, and the legenday journey back to Nome where he ran out of food. Rickard praised Wada and the type of frontier man and adventurer that he represents, and he continues by declaring that millionaire-backed scientific expeditions seem shallow in comparison and that they rather employ men like Wada, and leave the likes of Peary to deliver a lecture.

Who Discovered the North Pole?  The great Cook and Peary debate.

Wada’s interview was posted The Seattle Daily Times (1909/9/18)
(left)Wikipedia, F.Cook
(right)Wikipedia, Robert Peary

Both Frederick Cook and Robert Peary claimed to have gotten there first.  Together they inspired a bitter and never-ending controversy about who is the real Columbus of the Arctic.

Cook was also accused by Peary of falsely claiming to have reached the top of Mt. McKinley(Denali) in 1906, on which later historians indeed have judged that photographs taken by Cook were at considerable distance from the real peak.

A Fairbanks Daily News-miner article from Oct. 26 1909 covering the controversy of whether the claims put forward by Cook and Peary are true, made inquiries to Wada, as the leading authority on arctic conditions. Wada e.g. is mentioned as the first one to point out the impossibility of Cooks temperature record of -117F, leading to Cook correcting his record. Wada points out in this article that the arctic ice is constantly moving, sometimes at speeds of 9 miles per hour. And that therefore Peary`s claim that he found no trace proofing previous presence of Cook anywhere near the North Pole, should not surprise anyone with knowledge about the ice. He relates an episode from the 1897 fall, the period when he made acquaintance with E. A. McIlhenny and Charles Brower. He recalls that, when going to a whaler entrapped in the arctic ice, and in one day the ice formed mountains on the coast, and travel time between ship and coast had increased dramatically.

The same newspaper article describes Wada as expert and supreme authority on arctic matters, because he has experiences that are similar to Cook and Peary, and his travel experience exceeds that of any Eskimo, and he has been mushing through arctic conditions for more than 26,000 mile.


Left Seattle for Seward by the steamer Yucatan, arriving early December, carrying mail for the miners in Iditarod, which was the location of the last substantial gold rush that Alaska experienced. He also planned to improve the conditions of the route from Seward to Iditarod, and locate sites for building roadhouses along the way.

Jujiro Wada, Seward
4th Avenue, Seward

Being asked by Seward Chamber of Commerce to develop the trail from Seward up to Iditarod mine, researched with thirty dog sled parties. Thanks to that trail, a lot of people’s lives were saved since carrying the blood serum on the dog sled was made possible when diphtheria broke out in Nome in winter 1924-25 where ships would be too late and airplane pilots who could deal with the Alaskan winter conditions were not available. To commemorate the recovery from the diphtheria outbreak, the world longest dog sled race, the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race started in 1973, which stretches 110 miles and follows for around hjalf that distance the trail that Wada imoproved and advetised to the Seward Chamber of Commerce.

A more detailed but slightly different account of events is given in the Seward Weekly Gateway of Dec 4, 1909. It relates how a special meeting of Seward Commercial Club was called at the office of Judge Finnegan, with the purpose of discussing a proposal by Wada. He offered to go to Iditarod and return within fifty days, so as to demonstrate and advertise how favorable the route is, making look any other routes time consuming and hard. As this would bring about a large increase in traffic through Seward, a committee was appointed and favored the proposal. Wada and Alfred Lowell were paid to make the trip. The trail was in heavy use for a few years, but later travel slowed down, favoring a route over Fairbanks. lt was the mail route to Iditarod until 1918 when bushing on the trail became a too large obstacle for mail carrying dog sleds.

1910 (Meiji 43) 35 yrs.

Near Wasila

Wada stays at the Knik Pioneer Roadhouse that Frank Cannon was running near Wasila. He went out and was asked to post letters in Seward. Some small luggage was found left behind, and its contents were money and maps, which lead to suspicion of Wada as a spy. Details are described in the article mentioned hereafter in the caption below 1914.


Seattle to New York

1911 (Meiji 44) 36 yrs.

Jujiro Wada with Sunada
Wada with Sunada family taken in front of their home in Superior, Wyoming


Wada visited Wyoming in January and forged a relationship with the Sunada family*3, who run the Japanese agent in Superior, closed to Coal Mine Company, in Wyoming and introduced Japanese immigrants to jobs. The contact started when a newspaper article on the Tanana Stampede caused Rintaro Sunada to inquire about Wada, sending his mother in Japan a letter.

Wada visited E.A. McIlhenny in Louisiana.

on U.S. , Mexico border

Wada travelled through the eastern states to negotiate investment deals on his explorations in the north with finaciers such as King of Tabasco, E. A. McIlhenny, a former member of Congress. 


Left San Francisco for Seward, and then Kuskokuwim, Alaska (Dawson Daily News / Seattle Daily Times)


Goodnews Bay

1912 (Taisho 1) 37 yrs.

March – July

Iditarod Wada was in the Kuskokwim, looking for a Japanese man, Allen, who had disappeared there.
In July he and a partner made a gold strike on the Tulusak River. Wada took about $12,000 in gold with him when he went Seattle to report findings to his backers.

Wada’s Return to Fairbanks

An article in the Dawson Daily News, July 8, 1912, mentions Wada’s legendary predicament: “Jujiro Wada, the mushing Jap who brought the first news of the Fairbanks strike to Dawson (…) recently blew into Fairbanks again (…) Ten years in a placer camp is a long, long time, more than five or ten times that number of years in an older community, where things move more slowly and the population does not come and go with such kaleidoscopic changes. Thus, the return of Jujiro Wada to Fairbanks might be likened almost to the return of one of the Pilgrim fathers to Plymouth, in point of the changes that have taken place in Fairbanks and the generations (…) that have come and gone since he first visited the section and then mushed overland to Dawson ten years ago, with the news that caused the Fairbanks stampede. ”

By this time Barnette had resettled in California, where he died in 1933. Barnette left Alaska in 1911 after the bank he purchased went bankrupt.

Visit to New Orleans


Return to New Orleans and detour to Denver


Jujiro Wada returned to Seward from San Fransicso by Mariposa on Nov.9th in 1912 (Mcilhenny Archieves)

Seattle, Boards the Mariposa arriving in Seward Nov 9th. He brought with him two sled loads of mining equipment another sled load of miscellaneous suppliers and four Japanese companions who would serve as assistant dog drivers. The Japanese and their 20 dogs then drove to the strike on Bear Creek, a large northeastern headwater tributary to the Tulusak River, where Wada remained until February 1913.

1913 (Taisho 2) 38 yrs.

Frank J. Cotter


Reports his huge financing deals in Seattle (Seattle Post Intelligencer)

1914 (Taisho 3) 39 yrs.

<World War I broke out>

Cordova Daily (Date unkown)

He was accused of being a Japanese spy. An article in the Cordova Daily Times, by geological engineer Ernest Blue, describes the contents of a backpack Wada accidentally left behind in the Knik Pioneer Roadhouse (later Pioneer Hotel, a short distance from Wasilla) of Frank B. Cannon, who was an old-timer of Alaska and had a good name wide around. Cannon served in the Territorial House of Representatives from 1917 to 1918 and also became Postmaster of Wasilla. A book about Judge Wickersham from 1920 mentions Cannon in favorable terms.

To decide whether the contents of Wada`s luggage were important enough to send after him, they opened it and in it there was “a very accurate and detailed map of Alaska with all the gold deposit sights with routes to them,” and a few thousand dollars cash. The find was considered very uncommon for a prospector or explorer, even the more so because Wada was known to have been broke several times, so federal authorities were informed warning that Japan was after Alaska, and used Wada as a spy. World War I had just begun, anti-Japanese sentiment was escalating and Blue’s accusations ruined Wada.

As a rumor that Wada was a spy spread, Wada abruptly disappeared from the public eye.   But he was always on the move.

Wada’s family in Japan lost touch with Jujiro until 1925.

His only daughter Himeko filed a missing person’s report on a newspaper.

Helen Wada SIlverra, a daughter of Wada, is looking for Jujiro.(1914/9/19)

1916 (Taisho 5) 41 yrs.

和田重次郎 Wada's own hand writing
1916.4.26 Wada’s own hand writing to his mother Setsu via Mr. Sunada

The letter says “Dear Sunada, Sorry to say but I am compeled to leave here by others.  Otherwise, they will kill me …..” (1916.4.26)

After writing a hasty letter to a friend stating he feared for his life, Wada returned to the North.

1918 (Taisho 7) 43 yrs.

March. Wada and Ben Smith make a strike in Firth Old Crow region.

Frank J.Cotter, with whom Wada mushed and improved the Iditarod trail, publishes a bundle of his poetry Rhymes of A Roughneck, adopting the pseudonym Pat O`Cotter. Included is the poem The Malamute.h
professing his love for this breed of dog, in which he also commemorates their share in Wada`s explorations.

1919 (Taisho 8) 44 yrs.

with his dog sleds in Herschel Island

Wada visited Herschel Island in winter, and met Stuart Taylor Wood (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) and his family, on the occasion of which Wood took a picture of Wada and his dogs. Wood served with the police all his life and was stationed in Yukon for NWMP, between 1919 and 1924. He walked in the steps of his father Zachary Taylor Wood who served with NWMP from 1885 to 1915, during which he was stationed in Yukon right from the Klondike Gold Rush in 1897 till 1910.

1920 (Taisho 9) 45 yrs.

After this bitter experience, Wada returned to the north. During this time he began to write letters to his mother more frequently. In his letters, he described his time as a prospector and a surveyor in Canada’s North. He made many trips down to Edmonton and Winnipeg from northern locations such as the Mackenze River and Herschel Island.

Fearing that he will be captured if he stayed in the U.S., he starts to primarily live in Canada. During this time, he became a researcher of oil mining for the government of Canada, explored the Arctic area along with the whole watershed area of the river Mackenzie.

1921 (Taisho 10) 46 yrs.

Wada at left

July 30th Fort Smith, Northwest Territories. (Photos coming soon)

Jujiro 46 yrs, 和田重次郎
Jujiro 46 years old

1922 (Taisho 11) 47 yrs.

Spring, May

Edmonton, Canada, to Herschel Island via Mckenzie.


Leaving Herschel Island to Fort Norman, Winnipeg.

A Malamute, a dog breed well-suited to arctic conditions that Wada found very useful for mushing.

In Aklavik, Wada buys a famous huskie by the name of Mervin, spending $1,000. The local Eskimo believe that Wada is an Eskimo as well.

1923 (Taisho 12) 48 yrs.

Once again rumours spread accusing Wada of being a spy, one of the accusation is by Mr. Blue.


Herschel Island to Edmonton, Canada.

Wada at Center at Trading post

at Aklavik, Northwest Territories.

Apri – May Wada left Canada in April 1923.[48] On May 3, 1923, he arrived at Ketchikan aboard the SS Princess Mary. He listed himself as a citizen of Canada, but was not allowed entry into Alaska because he had no passport.[49]

(Source Wikipedia)

1925 (Taisho 14) 50 yrs.

July at Stockton, California.

1927 (Showa 1) 51 yrs.


Jujiro’s hand written letter to his mother. (1927.9.27, Seattle WA)

Seattle, WA

My Dear Mother, I just returned from the mountains……..

1928 (Showa 2) 53 yrs.




Wada send a letter to his mother with his only daughter’s photo, Helen Wada Silveira from Denver.

1929 (Showa 3) 54 yrs.

Kinbei Toda Commentary Note)

1930 (Showa 4) 55 yrs.


Wada’s hand written letter to Mr. Ryozou (Azuma1934.5.7 )

Wada meets with Mr. Ryozou Azuma, a Japanese working in Chicago (as related in Hokubei Houchi Newspaper) and they keep writing letters afterwards.
Azuma (1889 – 1980) first mentioned his encounter with Wada in his book titled “Alaska; The Last Frontier

Mr. Azuma made inquiries to Wada`s direct relative and one-time employer Kimbei Toda. The written answer that Toda sent him, now is rare and a valuable document on Wada, on the period before he left Japan and on the letters his relatives received, (cf. the period 1879-1892 above).

1931 (Showa 5) 56 yrs.

Jujiro Wada the the Arctic Gypsy Hochi Newspaper (1931.7.2)

The nation-wide newspaper Hochi Newspaper publishes a long article about Wada after a delegation of Japanese politicians paid a visit to Alaska and met with McDonald. Wada was presented as “an arctic gypsy” and became known to the general public for his legacy in Alaska and Yukon, especially the Tanana Stampede episode. The 1909 book Through the Yukon and Alaska by T.A. Rickard is mentioned several times.

1932 (Show 6) 57 yrs.

Mckenzie River, Yukon (1931.11)

Seattle in October

1933 (Showa 7) 58 yrs.

Mother Setsu passed away on August 15 in Hinode town, Matsuyama.

1934 (Showa 8 ) 59 yrs.

Jujiro in his late life

Spring: Back to Seattle from Yukon

May.7 at Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco

In Japan, the photo in the Magazine, Sunday Mainichi, was a wife of Wada. However, he mentioned the picture of the lady was a daughter of trading post in his letter to his mother.

Oct. in Seattle

1935 (Showa 9) 60 yrs.

October in Denver, Colorado

1936 (Showa 10) 61 yrs.

Feburary in Wichita, Kansas

December in Seattle, Washington

1937 (Showa 11) 62 yrs.

Jujiro Wada’s Obituary in 1937, San Diego

Passed away on March 5 at San Diego hospital in the U.S., when he carried only 53 cents with him. A short funeral announcement was made in the san Diego Union of March 7.

Just before, in 1936, Wada made a rich strike of gold at unknown location in Rampart. Eager to share the new project with his old partner “Mac” McDonalds, he left his dogs at Fort Yukon and spent over $2,000 in fruitless search for Mac, which brought him all the way to San Fransisco, where he last met with lawyer/Alaska miner Mr. Blue. This meeting is reported in the 1943 article (Sept 10) of The Alaska Weekly where Mr. Blue dismisses any possibility of Wada being a spy of any kind.

※1 Wada actively recruited many Japanese to come to Fairbanks as prospectors and in other trades as well. (Good Time Girls of the Alaska-Yukon Gold Rush by Lael Morgan)

※2 The menu included roast moose, caribou cutlets, grilled grouse, baked white fish, evaporated spuds, canned goods, coffee, liquors and wine. (Old Yukon: Tales, Trails and Trials by James Wickersham)

※3 Mr. Sunada was formerly the Japanese agent at Superior but left some time ago for Alaska where he had mining interests. After he left, a little son was born to Mrs. C.N. Sunada and since his birth she has been a helpless invalid. Her husband was in the interior of Alaska, where he could not be located, but they heard from him recently and he was expected home this fall. In the meantime his wife and three little children have been cared for by their fellow countrymen, The youngest, a boy, is only sixteen months old. Mrs. Steve Sharp is taking care of the little fellow until arrangements can be made for some relatives to take charge of him but death has finally released her from her suffering. Mrs. C.N. Sunada was buried from the Congregational church last Wednesday. Mrs. Sunada was confined in the hospital at Rock Springs for over a month with spinal trouble to which disease she succumbed. . A large number of friends attended the funeral.. (Rock Springs Miner No.43 24, 1914)

A letter which was posted January 1937 from Japan to his Seattle home, was returned and arrived back in Kobe in November of that year. 

error: Content is protected !!
Skip to toolbar