JOHNSON, LULU MAE (Eads), dance-hall performer and hotel proprietor; b. c. 1877 in the United States, possibly in Alabama; d. 25 Oct. 1918 at sea in Lynn Canal, Alaska.
Lulu Mae Johnson came to the Yukon in 1899 with a troupe of other performers. Touted as one of the great beauties of the Klondike, she worked as a performer in the various dance halls of Dawson until December 1904 when she agreed to marry her boss Murray S. Eads. Eads had arrived in Dawson at the beginning of the great Klondike gold-rush and soon established himself as a saloon and dance-hall keeper. When Murray Eads met Lulu Mae, he was running the Flora Dora dance hall and together the couple continued its operation for another decade, later changing its name to the Royal Alexandra in an attempt to gain respectability.
By Murray Eads’s own acknowledgement, prostitution was occasionally carried on in the Flora Dora, although he claimed that he dismissed the principals involved whenever such a situation occurred. In fact, the opposite was more or less the rule. In 1907, for example, Zachary Taylor Wood of the local North-West Mounted Police noted that nearly 20 women had rooms over the Flora Dora and that these women were generally known to be prostitutes. The mounted police kept a careful watch on such businesses in Dawson and that year they charged Lulu Mae Eads with allowing “women of loose, idle or suspicious character” on her premises “for the purpose of drinking and keeping company with men.” Only she was arrested, perhaps because her name was on both the dance-hall licence and the liquor licence, or perhaps because her husband was out of town. In any case she was clearly in charge of the Flora Dora at the time, an arrangement that probably left Murray Eads free to pursue other ventures and protected some of his assets.
In 1918 Lulu Mae and Murray Eads booked themselves their first trip south in 20 years, Lulu Mae packing $5,000 worth of jewellery for the voyage. Unfortunately, they took passage from Skagway, Alaska, to Seattle on the Canadian Pacific steamer the Princess Sophia. The Sophia left port on 23 October and during a storm the next morning went aground on Vanderbilt Reef in Lynn Canal. On the 25th, while the rescue fleet was mobilizing, the Sophia sank, taking all 353 passengers and crew with it. Eerily, Lulu Mae and her husband, apparently nervous of sea travel, had drawn up their last will and testament only days before taking passage on the ill-fated voyage.
NA, RG 31, C1, 1901, Dawson City, Yukon; RG 85, 658, file 3417. Yukon Arch. (Whitehorse), GOV 1313 (acc. 82.86, Can., Dept. of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, National Hist. Sites Div., V. A. B. Faulkner, “The Palace Grande Theatre, Dawson, Y.T.”); GOV 1684 (Yukon government records, YRG 1 (central registry files), ser.1, vol.74), file 78 (mfm. in NA, RG 91); GOV 1686 (YRG 1, ser.1, vo1.76), file 8, no.578. K. [S.] Coates and [W. R.] Morrison, The sinking of the “Princess Sophia”: taking the north down with her (Toronto, 1990).