March 29, 2011

The 1898 murder of P. C. Bean in Skagway, Alaska.

(Click image to enlarge)

Marlene McCluskey over at the Skagway Historical Society blog has done it again. On March 17, 2011 she wrote about the murder of  P. C. Bean. The blame was placed on the gamblers and Soapy Smith and was one of the proverbial "last straws" that drove the Skagway vigilantes to post their infamous 101 handbills.

I was contacted yesterday by an author and historical researcher that had been reading the diaries of Frank Purdy that are held at the University of Fairbanks. One entry in those diaries mentioned the fact that the Purdy party had heard a shot on the evening of March 7, 1898 up near White Pass. The next morning they found the body of P.C. Bean who had been murdered. Now the clue here was that they said he was from California. After some serious sleuthing I discovered that P.C. Bean was actually Philander Cyrus Bean, born March 12, 1840 in Caratunk, Somerset County, Maine. His family there was quite old (coming from Scotland in the 1600's) but he had gone to California and had mined for gold in Sierra County. He had a wife and three children there in 1880. In 1888 he was involved in a mine accident which resulted in a California Court case that I found online also.

This solves who P.C. Bean was, but then the murder case is still unsolved.

from: 1880 census; Familysearch; The Pacific Reporter, 1888 Vol 16, p.522 online; Michael Gibson author of "Echo of a Family Secret" (the story of another unsolved murder available at but is currently working on the biography of Frank Purdy, a goldrusher who passed through Skagway.

The information published in Alias Soapy Smith: The Life and Death of a Scoundrel is based on contemporary articles in the Seattle Daily Times and The Oregonian which stated Beans' name was Peter Clancy, a 25-year-old miner from Williams, California. Marlene's findings state Peter Clancy Bean was actually Philander Cyrus Bean, a 58-year-old miner from Maine.  That a pretty big mistake in newspaper reporting.

Marlene, I trust your research but is there something concrete in what you found that clearly shows both Beans are one and the same? I need this for corrections and additional information for the second edition of Alias Soapy Smith, in which, by the way, you will be fully acknowledged.

Peter Clancy Bean: page 467.

Jeff Smith


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