November 9, 2017

Victoria Daily Colonist, Sept. 23, 1897: Soapy Smith and others in Skagway, Alaska

Skagway Bay
Row boats unloading two steamships
anchored in deeper water.
Note the Indian canoe on the far left.
circa July-September 1897
(Click image to enlarge)

Skagway, Alaska, two months after its founding.
Victoria Daily Colonist, September 23, 1897

The Snows of Winter
Victoria Daily Colonist
September 23, 1897
(Click image to enlarge)


Have Set In in the North and Soon Will Drive the Discouraged Ones Home.

Preparations for the Siege Advancing at Skagway and On Lake Lindeman.


Steamer “Queen” Returns With Latest News From the Trails and From Alaska.


     ”Wait till the snow commences to fly, and then you’ll see the crowds pouring this way. Just now they are holding down Skagway, talking considerably about what they’re going to do it all the time knowing themselves they can’t do it. The whole situation in a nutshell is this: the men that have the sand and the savvy to go across the mountains are by this time on the river or at the Lakes; and any rate they are on the other end of the trail. Those that make up the population of Skagway now wouldn’t be any good to themselves as miners if they did get in. They’re about ready to admit it to themselves, but they don’t like the prospect of hearing what their friends will say when they do the right-about and come home. And so now they’re waiting at Skagway—for the first snow. That will put the Kibosh on the Klondike dream for the great majority.”
     This is how Peter Anderson, an old Yukoner, who came down by the Queen yesterday, explains the state of affairs at the gateway to the pass. He was commenting upon the comparatively few returning pilgrims on board, and this brief review of the situation was explanatory.
     “There are a whole lot of sensible miners,” he continued, “who feel just as I do about the Yukon country. It’s a good part of the world to stay away from. I went there 11 years ago, and I know pretty near every part of the district. Talk about fortunes in Stewart River, why it’s been prospected clear up, and all it ever returned in the past has been grub stake. You’ll get all sorts of stories of course about every creek in the Yukon Valley, but mark my words the Stewart will prove a no-good stream in the end.”
     “Say, did it ever strike you as peculiar that none of the old-time miners of the North had a hand in the Klondike money-making? Do you know how that was? Why, the prospectors were all out in the hills when the fines were made by accident and a hog luck. A chap went up Bonanza to try and find a shortcut over the hills and naturally try the dirt he ran across. He got $3 rim takings and investigated. It kept getting better—and there you are.
     “Which proves that it’s better to be born lucky than industrious, for the news got to the settlement when only the inactive members of the population were at home. The men who put in the hard work of years looking for the gold are looking for it yet for the most part. The fortune simply came to the people that weren’t stirring themselves, and of course they gathered it in. On the whole, it’s as I said, a no-good country. Hundreds will starve to death this winter, and what fortunes that country has in the way of placer gold have pretty much all been landed already.
     “Claim? Well, yes, I have half interests in two or three that look fairly well, and may turn out something decent. I’m going back in the spring to work them for all there is in them.”

Skagway Bay beach
Unloading horses and mules onto shore
circa July-September 1897
 (Click image to enlarge)

     Had the Queen not arrived yesterday there would have been many anxious hearts to-day in this city, in San Francisco and along the Sound, for she was several days behind her scheduled arrival date, and she usually is reliable as the railroad. Captain Carroll and his first officer were nevertheless a trifle surprised when told that their friends were becoming uneasy.
     “There was no vocation for any alarm,” said the Captain, “and nothing in particular occurred to hold us back. It was just the fog that detained us a little.”
     “Speaking about the gold that is piled like cordwood at Dawson,” said the first officer—although no one had even broached the alluring subject—“I was talking a few days ago with a man who is putting in all his time on the Yukon at one thing or another, and was one of the very first to get into Dawson. I asked him if these stories were true of the immense amount of treasure at the Klondyke town. He replied that if there was any gold piled up like cordwood, he hadn’t found the woodpile. To show you what kind of the place it is, he told me he had plenty of difficulty in raising a few thousand dollars on some of the best claims in the place—and then they charged him five per-cent, a month for the use of the money.”
     “And did you hear about the Chinese cooks at Juneau?”
     This time it was the steward who was speaking and the item of information was strictly in his own particular line.
     “No? Well, I’ll tell you. You see, a cook named Sing Lee, who had been working in Juneau for $30 a month and glad to get it, heard somewhere that they were paying $15 a day to cooks in Skagway. That’s my graft, says he to himself, and he throws up his job on the spot and takes his ticket for Skagway. “Then every other pig-tailed chap in the place that can boil an egg or fry a slice of bacon, gets it in his head that Sing Lee had gone to Skagway to get $15 a day. That settles it. The whole crowd packed off to Skagway, and when they get there they find that the ‘no Chinese need apply’ goes there in everything, and they’re lucky to get out of the camp.
     “In the meantime, the first of the winter crowd from Skagway gets into Juneau, and for want of something better to fill in time with, these white men get the Chinamen’s billets.
     “Labor of all kinds will surfeit the market at Juneau this winter, for a good share of the Klondykers that are stuck at Skagway will put in time until spring at ‘the city.’ Every hotel and the place was full up when the Queen sailed, and the rush had not yet fairly commenced.”

Piles of supplies on the beach
after being unloaded on the shore
Skagway, Alaska
note the woman (center)

circa July-September 1897
(Click image to enlarge)

     Burton E. Bennett, the prosecuting attorney for the state of Alaska, and Marshall James M. Shoup, came down by the Queen, the latter with the object of removing his wife and family, now in Seattle, to their new home under the Arctic stars. Mr. Bennett, who was here on private business, is a notable man in connection with the Northern affairs, and is doing no small part in the preservation of law and good order during these days of excitement. He is, by the way, the only Democratic appointees still retaining office in the territory, and he was the first representative of United States justice to secure a conviction for murder in an Alaskan court.
     This was in the case of Three–Fingered Charlie, which is up for re–trial at the term of court opening in Sitka during early November. It is a celebrated case, and the facts are briefly these. A white whiskey smuggler had come down from Checan with considerable money and added to his funds the profits from several transactions with the tribe to which Charlie belongs. When he was ready to go away, Charlie and another Indian known as Takke begged a trip to Juneau, and en route thither the white man was killed, Three-Fingered Charlie shooting him from behind and Takke finishing the murderer with a hatchet. On the subsequent apprehension of the two Indians, Takke confessed the old terrible transaction and was sentenced to ten years at San Quentin, which he is now serving. Three-Fingered Charlie was also convicted but applied for a new trial, and this, upon some technicality, has been granted.
     There are six other murder cases on the docket for this approaching session of court, the best known of these being those in which Schell and Slim Birch will be put on trial for their lives. The latter, strange as it may seem, has been very much lionized of late among the miners, and Kid Birch, his brother, succeeded in raising $4,000 for the defense fund on the Klondyke alone. this fund now amounts to $7,000 or more, and this best of counsel available, including Col. James Hamilton of Seattle, has been retained.
     Mr. Bennett says that aside from the Klondyke, the mining fields that are most interesting Alaska at the present time are situated on the southern side of Prince William Sound, and consist chiefly of copper containing about $5 in gold to the ton. The ore body is said to be quite extensive, and a number of miners are working in that direction. Others are steadily developing Cook Inlet; while still others are investigating the character and extent of the recently discovered minerals on Copper river. Mining is the sole industry of Alaska at present worth taking into account, for the salmon fishing this year has been a flat and conspicuous failure.

Skagway, Alaska
Tent city
camp fire smoke hangs over the land
circa July-September 1897
 (Click image to enlarge)

     Ex-Congressman Taylor, of Indiana, is one representative American who has every confidence in the permanent mineral resources of the far north, and yet also has no desire for the Klondyke at present. He is a heavy shareholder in the Jualin Mining Co., And has just returned from a visit to the company’s property near Juneau. He expresses himself as well satisfied with this—as well as another piece of property of which he has just become the owner.
     “Soapy” Smith and Jack Jolly are two fellow-passengers with Hon. Mr. Taylor, but less representative citizens. Smith is an old-time Denver sport and the proprietor of numerous “games” in Colorado until the simultaneous coming in of governor Waite and going out of licensed gambling. Since then he has been something of a rolling stone, although not without acquiring considerable loss, of the long green variety. Recently he has been illustrating how it is possible for a man to make a fortune without going to the Klondyke, his “sure-thing” games at Skagway having made for him $20,000. Hearing while in Juneau 10 days ago that Prosecuting Attorney Bennett had declared all the games at Skagway under the ban, Smith promptly closed out his business interests and came south for the winter. [It should be noted here that Soapy did not flee Skagway because of the ban. He received notice that his wife Mary was very ill and Soapy headed to St. Louis to be with her. This was verified by Soapy, Bat Masterson, and others.]
     James S. Esbey–Smith, still another passenger by the Queen, is the examiner of the state department who has been busy during the past month in visiting the marshals, United States attorneys, judges and various commissioners of Alaska.
     Fred. G. White, formerly manager of the district telegraph office in this city, and now a member of the produce firm of White and Blackett of Skagway, came by the just arrived steamer from that city of a day. He has a little to add of the progress of Victoria’s Klondyke brigade, and came home for the winter simply because it is much preferable to spending the cold months at the foot of the mountains.
     James Sallee, who during two terms represented King county in the legislature of the state of Washington, is home again, the difficulties of the path to the Yukon having proved too heavy for him. This is his second unsuccessful attempt to reach the upper Yukon, he having started out with the same objective two years ago—with equally unsatisfactory results.
     John M. Smith, the United States Commissioner at Skagway, realizes perfectly now what a “land office business” amounts to. He has harvested over $10,000 in recording and transfer fees since the overland rush to the placer grounds commenced, and there are other sources of revenue to be taken into account.


Skagway cabins
circa September-October 1897
 (Click image to enlarge)

     A very fair idea of the condition of things at Skagway is given by Herman Kohlund, a returned Seattleite, who is author of the prediction that not more than one-tenth of those who started out on Skagway or Dyea will ever see the great river of the north. No one has yet got in by the White Pass with an outfit, he says, who did not start provided with horses and equipped in every way for hard work. And no one who has not already started down the river will get into Dawson this year, for there was four feet of snow on the mountains on the 11th of this month and a storm raging, while ice had already formed on the lakes and rivers.
     Preparations for winter were well advanced at Skagway when he took passage by the Queen, over a hundred shacks and log cabins have been run up in a single week. Prices had fallen to bedrock—both for labor and all classes of necessaries.
     Horses, for example, which one month ago were in strong demand at from $100 to $200 each, are now freely offered for a $5 banknote. Those who cannot sell the horses will probably slaughter them and smoke the flesh for winter use, the expectation being that even this class of diet will be acceptable before the frigid term is over. Prices at Skagway as a general thing rule much the same as in Victoria now, which—as no stock can be bought there as cheaply as in Victoria—means that the merchants of the little city of tents are content with small profits.

Pack Train Saloon tent
Broadway or Trail
circa July-September 1897
 (Click image to enlarge)

     F. M. Lysons, [See: They Feared an Ill Omen. His name appears as arriving in Skagway aboard the Utopia having left Seattle on August 14, 1897. He lasted one month.] another returned Seattleite, estimates that there were 80 in all in the Queen’s contingent of discouraged gold seekers, he himself being one of the number. He had got as far as Lake Lindeman, going in by the Chilcoot trail and coming out by Skagway—and finding the former route much the preferable of the two. At the lake he received the information that not more than one hundred had got through with her outfits over the White Pass, while 300 or more people had settled themselves in camp at the lake for the winter. A few more were counting upon portaging to Lake Bennett, and hoping to get through from there this fall before the waterways solidified.
     J. J. Carscadden, of Portland, the erstwhile jovial proprietor of the Pioneer and Klondyke restaurants at Skagway will reach his home to-morrow, well satisfied with his experience of Skagway and equally well satisfied to bid it good-bye now that all the money to be made there has been made—for this year at all events. When he opened his canvas walled provision palace there was only one other restaurant in the camp and any kind of a meal sold for $1.50—bread being more 25 cents a loaf and hard to get at that. Now there are thirty-five restaurants and the day of the 15 cent dinner is at hand.

Horse and cart for local work
Skagway, Alaska
circa July-September 1897
(Click image to enlarge)

"People who believe in giving justice to whom justice is due, will now please admit that Col. Jefferson R. Smith has established the undisputed right to be called one of Denver’s most reliable citizens. And that’s what he is."
The Mercury, 1894
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 312.


1857: The Atlantic Monthly began publishing. Its first issue featured the first installment of The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table by Oliver Wendell Holmes.
1865: Soldiers from Fort Owen, Montana Territory ship 12,000 pounds of cabbage to mine workers.
1871: The White Mountain Indian Reservation is established in Arizona Territory.
1872: A fire destroys about 800 buildings in Boston, Massachusetts.
1875: Indian inspector Watson makes the recommendation that all Sioux be forced onto reservations by January 31, 1876.
1881: Bill “Russian Bill” Lintenburn and Sandy King, arrested for dealing in stolen cattle, are grabbed by masked vigilantes from a Shakespeare, Montana hotel where a makeshift court was in session. The men were hung in the lobby of the hotel and left hanging for the townspeople to see.
1882: “Marshal Bat Masterson received a severe bat on the head from a cane in the hands of a drunken man yesterday whom he was in the act of arresting.” Trinidad Daily Democrat
1886: Soapy Smith (Denver) receives a letter from John Morgan, proprietor of the Board of Trade clubroom in Leadville, Colorado, about a stolen gaffed faro dealing box. He wanted Soapy to keep his eyes out for it, in Denver’s pawn shops, but not to let anyone know that it was gaffed as he feared losing his reputation and that of his gaming house.
1889: J. M. Kallin of Montgomery, Alabama is ejected from a Burlington train at Barr station for having a counterfeit ticket he had purchased from one of Soapy Smith’s fake ticket brokers on Seventeenth Street, Denver, Colorado.
1890: Joe “Gambler Joe” Simmons, proprietor of the Tivoli Club is reported to have wounded W. M. Shuck of Lyons, Colorado with a glancing shot from his .45 Colt. The reason is unknown.
1898: Trials begin for Soap Gang members, Bowers, Jackson, Triplett, Foster, Wilder and Taylor for the robbery of John D. Stewart. The robbery is a direct cause of Soapy Smith's death.
1906: U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt left for Panama to see the progress on the new canal. It was the first foreign trip by a U.S. president.

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