August 22, 2009

He had lost the church fund...

(Click image to enlarge)
Soapy Smith's match safe, side one
from the Jeff Smith collection

The following story comes from Judge Wickersham's "Old Yukon" Tales — Trails — Trials, 1938 by the Hon. James Wickersham, the District Judge in Alaska from 1900 to 1908. I consider it fiction as there is no other known source of this having actually occurred. I guess the judge heard so many stories being told in court that he figured he could tell some too. Enjoy it none-the-less.

A Presbyterian missionary came to Dyea in the fall of '97 en route to Dawson to establish a church there. He was accompanied by a lay brother, who carried the church fund. The latter was both inquisitive and social, and readily talked with strangers about the trails, the scenery, or matters of current interest.

(Click image to enlarge)
Soapy Smith's match safe, side two
from the Jeff Smith collection

One day on the trail he fell behind his shepherd and met a well-dressed and aggreeable gentleman who was giving three roughly-garbed men, carrying heavy-looking miners' packs, information about the trail to the summit. Being natrually interested the guardian of the church fund stopped and joined in the conversation. It appeared that the very agreeable gentleman had been eating English walnuts, for some shells were on the ground at his feet. A short piece of board also happened to be nearby. Picking up the board and three half shells, the agreeable gentleman sat down on a boulder and laughingly explained to the simple-minded miners a childhood game called "where is the pea?" Before the inquisitive lay brother solved that simple problem he had lost the church fund he was carrying to Dawson.

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