Kathleen Rockwell


Kathleen Eloise Rockwell (1873 – February 21, 1957), best known as "Klondike Kate", and later known as Kate Rockwell Warner Matson Van Duren, 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. 

Born Rockwell was born in Kansas and lived in North Dakota for a while but grew up in Spokane, Washington. She was a tomboy and a free spirit who would grow to resent the down trodden social acceptance of women and rebelled.  She was expelled from boarding school and when she could she headed straight to the Gold Rush, arriving in 1899, rumored to be dressed as a boy to by pass RCMP

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 stole the name "Klondike Kate" for a stage name. The original Klondike Kate was a woman named Katherine Ryan (August 20 1869 - February 20, 1932) who lived the adventures that Kathleen Rockwell borrowed for her own use.  It was in Dawson that she met Alexander Pantages, at that time a struggling waiter and bartender who eventually rose to become a theatre owner.

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 Oregon, where she homesteaded 320 acres of dry land. After performing for years on stage even into her 40s, Kate Rockwell headed to Brothers, Oregon with $3,500 in cash and $3,000 worth of jewelry, and trunks filled with dresses, gowns and hats. She was one of a growing number of women who worked to "prove up" her parcel of land by living on the claim for the required five years. This was shortly after women had earned the right to vote in Oregon. She was known to have worked the land, and to work in her garden in vaudeville gowns and dance slippers.


She never achieved any of the fame she had briefly held in the Yukon, 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. 
Rockwell died on February 21, 1957 in Sweet Home, Oregon. Her ashes were later scattered in Central Oregon
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