Klondike Kate was born Kathleen Eloisa Rockwell on October 4, 1876, at Junction City, Kansas.
Nicknamed Kitty, she grew up in Spokane, Washington, with her mother and stepfather, Judge Frank Bettis. Kate lived a luxurious childhood, with a governess and household servants. Her love of music and dance became evident at a very young age, as she would dance, spin and leap to the music she heard.
She was also kind and generous. Once, a fire left many families homeless, so Kate invited everyone to "come stay with them for a while." Over one hundred persons stayed for more than two weeks, to her parents' consternation! Nevertheless, she was an adventurous child. Her parents felt that a private school would teach her refinements, and she was sent to a convent. She bounced from convent to convent. The Sisters at one academy restricted her desire to dance, but one day she danced the Highland Fling behind a Sister who was leaving the study room.
Another Sister came through another doorway and ordered Kate to "Bath number three." This meant she would be locked in the bathroom for the rests of the day. Kate was furious! She knew this was the day the nuns took baths, so she drained all the hot water and dumped towels into the drain! Consequently, she was sent home.
Kate came to the Yukon with a friend, who returned to the lower 48 after a rough trip. Kate was undaunted and made it to Whitehorse Rapids, where a Mountie turned her away saying the trip is too dangerous for ladies. The rule was that women and children had to walk the five miles to the foot of the rapids. Kate was not discouraged. She dressed as a man and went back to the landing. A scow was drifting away from the bank, and the Mountie had his back turned. Kate ran to the water's edge and leaped to the scow's deck. She had outwitted him! After the ride through the rapids she wished she had walked the five miles!
Kate received a letter in Whitehorse, an offer of soubrette in a large theatrical company, in Victoria, which was organizing to go to Dawson City in the spring. She decided this was a better idea, and returned to Victoria. Kate was the best of entertainers. It was this talent, combined with her qualities of charm, kindness and sincerity, that won her the title "Queen of the Klondike." She would grubstake miners down on their luck, until they were on their feet again.
She passed away on February 21, 1957, at her home in Redmond, Oregon.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin