June 29, 2011

George Brakett wagon road

(Click image to enlarge)

I have made reference before that it is believed that Soapy Smith had owned an interest in George Brackett's wagon road. Soapy's brother Bascomb also made comment about his part ownership in the improved section of the White Pass trail. The White Pass trail was so treacherous and impenetrable that George Brackett had the grand idea and clearing the road so that wagons could pass, and then charge a small toll. There was no doubt that he had the right idea, but miners who did not see the road previously did not think they should be paying anyone to use it (see newspaper article below). I believe Soapy saw a chance to make some money of his own in the road, in the form of a protection racket. There is a story that some men attempted to take over George's toll booth. This was perhaps part of Soapy's plan. Once the road was out of George's hands Soapy would come to his rescue. Naturally, Soapy could not keep "protecting" him from men who wished to take his business away from him, unless of course, Soapy might be given a percentage of ownership in the road, then Soapy would be obligated to protect the toll booth. This was not the first time Soapy dealt in protection rackets and part ownerships. Ownership of the road came into play when the railroad right of way was being formed.  

The Brackett wagon road people have had hundreds of men at work all winter building a road for summer use. They have spent something like $125,000 in the project. The road, for the most part, runs along the side of the hill, while the trail which has been used and is now going to pieces on account of the long-continued thaw, runs up the river bed on the ice. In some places the wagon road, improved by the company at large expense, is used by those going in now. An attempt was made a week ago to collect a toll of 1 cent per pound on goods taken over this portion of the road. This attempt was resisted by those using the trail and the gate which the company put up was torn down. This was repeated several times, always with the same result.

In order to prevent bloodshed twelve men, sworn in as special deputy marshals, will leave tomorrow for a point on the new wagon road where serious trouble will probably be had within the next few days. The trouble will be between the miners and packers on the trail and the proprietors of the new wagon road over the collection of toll.

Now that the bottom is falling out of both trails, that at Dyea being in the same shape as this, the wagon road people expect a large use of their road. In order to reap the benefit of their expenditure they propose to collect a toll at all hazards.

There is considerable opposition to the paying of the toll, and many threats are heard that the miners will organize and make a determined resistance. The road people know this, and are preparing for a long and bitter fight.

The Seattle Daily Times, March 17, 1898

Brackett Wagon Road: page 519.

Jeff Smith


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