March 18, 2010

More on Tom Word, Skagway, Alaska 1898.

On March 17, 2010 I posted a story on Tom Word, an important name in the drama played out in 1898 Skagway, Alaska. The story would not have been written without Fred Wood, Tom's great-grandson. When he saw the post he e-mailed me the following.

Hi Jeff, very good blog, I enjoyed it. Some things you might want to consider about Tom is that he later became Multnomah County Sheriff in Portland Oregon for two different terms, 1904-1906 and 1913-1915. He was backed by church groups and the newspapers as he pledged be hard on the gamblers. Newspaper accounts tell of how he was "openly opposed by those operating opium dens, gambling palaces and roadhouses." Another relative that the Chinese were not fond of. But he openly stated that he would not just go after the Chinese gambling establishments but all such places. Opponents accused him of having a relationship with a 'working girl'. She acknowledged having the affair but she was unable to identify Tom even when he was standing near her. She later recanted her acknowledgment. He became a US Special Agent in 1918. He later refused an appointment to become the Warden of the Oregon State Prison as he did not want to leave Portland, I believe that his wife was sick at the time and he didn't want to move to Salem. I also seem to remember from the article (which I can't find) they wanted him to clean up the graft at the prison.

As I reread this I realize that this is probably way too much info on a small bit player and that the blog is about Soapy. But I will let you decide what, if any, you can use.

Small-bit player? Below is my response.

Hi, Fred.

Tom Word is no "small-bit" player in the Soapy Smith drama. This is great stuff my friend! Perfect for this blog! What you have added is the human element in Tom's story not previously known to the rest of the world. By telling us what you know, you have clearly shown that Tom was not a member of Soapy's gang when he approached the vigilante's about knowing John Fay's hiding place and that he would disclose it if his safe arrest and trial could be guaranteed. We know that Soapy was hiding Fay in order to save his neck from being stretched by the vigilantes. It seems likely that Soapy approached Tom, a man he felt he could trust, with a plan to get Fay safely to a legitimate court for a legitimate trial. I am willing to bet that Tom Word was a respected and well-liked member of the Skagway community.

Your information will probably (hopefully) help answer other peoples questions and curiosities. This is the kind of information I xerox and store in my "Tom Word" file. Because of this information you might even locate family members you never knew you had.

For all that I thank you. May we continue to find new bits and pieces to the many puzzles.

Jeff Smith


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Thank you for leaving your comment and/or question on my blog. I always read, and will answer all questions left here. Please know that they are greatly appreciated. -Jeff Smith