Major Frederick Russell Burnham

Happy Birthday to Major Burnham, another of those famous explorers who came to Skagway in the gold rush but left soon after. He came here with his son Roderick, then 12. Almost immediately upon arriving, he received a telegram from Lord Roberts: “…appoints you on his personal staff as Chief of Scouts. If you accept, come at once the quickest way possible.” So off he went to South Africa. (Lord Roberts is himself famous for keeping his troops safe in India and earned the phrase to show that you’re ok “Bob’s your uncle”). Burnham was born on this day, May 11, 1861 in Tivoli Minnesota and died in 1947 in Santa Barbara, California.

Anyway, Major Burnham led a very long and exciting life, read his biography on Wikipedia.

Murders at Tagish

Tagish is a community about 80 miles from here on the road to Atlin. On this day, May 10, 1898 there were two murders committed. The victims, Christian Fox and William Meehan, gold rushers, were shot by four Native boys, known as the Nantuck Brothers. The case became quite famous at the time. All four Natives were rounded up and imprisoned in Dawson, Frank and Joe died of tuberculosis in the jail. Dawson and Jim Nantuck were found guilty and hung on August 4, 1899.

“Essays in the History of Canadian Law” by David Flaherty for photo of the Nantuck brothers; “Life Lived like a story” and Essay in the “History of Canadian Law” online.

John Williams

John Williams was probably not his real name, since he was born in 1870 in Russia and came to Skagway shortly after the Gold Rush. He managed the St James Hotel for decades.
The St James Hotel is famous for a meeting which occurred between Michael J. Heney and the scouts sent from British investors to determine if the building of the railroad was possible. Despite the story that they came to agreement based on Heney’s influence, there had actually been years of scouting, measuring and evaluations on the project by the British. In the book “The White Pass” Minter spends chapters – at least 1/4 of the very large book describing those years of efforts.
No, the investors saw in Heney someone who had the determination and on-hands experience to carry the project of building the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad to completion.
Back to John Williams, he lived in Skagway until he died on this day, May 9, 1938 and is buried in the Pioneer Cemetery. Pictured above is the St James Hotel that sits adjacent to and just behind the Skagway Hardware Store on 4th Avenue.

Harry G. Ask

Harry was born in Washington the youngest son to Charles and Joanna Ask who were from Norway and had lived in Minnesota and Washington. Charles and Joanna came to Skagway in the gold rush about 1898 and stayed for many years running a mercantile and grocery store: “Ask and sons General Merchandise”. The store was still running in the 1930’s.
Harry was born on this day, May 8, 1894 and was only 4 when he came to Skagway with his family.
I have seen his name on one of the little plaques under the Mountain Ash trees that were planted along Broadway several years ago. How those little trees survive is a mystery to me, but then how people survived here for decades is as much a mystery. I believe that the family all moved back to Washington in the 1930’s.
The photo above is from Broadway looking south at the harbor. The trees on the right are the commemorative trees, Harry Ask’s is one of these.

Robert McCahon Dickey

Rev. Dickey was born in 1880 in Armagh Ireland. He was a Presbyterian minister who arrived in Skagway on October 9, 1897 from Winnipeg. Reverend Dickey established a church and hospital in Skagway, but had then turned it over to the American Episcopal Church, as the town was in US territory. Dickey preached the first Presbyterian service in Skagway on October 10, 1897 at Burkhart Hall.

Dickey quickly helped build a Union Church — involving the Episcopalian, Baptist, Native Christian Church, Methodist, and Presbyterian communities. He maintained friendly relations with the Catholics and Jews of the community, as well. He is also recognized for seeking trained nurses and other medical personnel for the local hospital. He set up a church at Lake Bennett where he caught typhoid. He persuaded Lady Aberdeen (Ishbel Maria Hamilton-Gordon, Marchioness of Aberdeen and Temair, 15 March 1857 –18 April 1939 pictured above) to send some of her newly created Victorian Order of Nurses to Klondike in July 1898. He is quite famous in the area and stayed in the Yukon until his death, on this day, May 6, 1950 when he died at age 70 in Teslin perhaps.

Cohens book GR Gateway;Yukon geneo; Sinclair; Mills

Leonidas John Hamlin Wooden

The Reverend Doctor Wooden came to Skagway in 1898 and succeeded the infamous Rev. Campbell at the Episcopal Church. Dr. Wooden staffed the Bishop Rowe hospital.
He was also a member of the Arctic Brotherhood in 1900 but around that time he had moved to the Yukon. In the summer of 1904 there was a diptheria epidemic in Circle, Alaska and Dr. Wooden was appointed by Commissioner Nichols to be the Health officer there with full power to “quarantine and protect the public health by all reasonable ways and means”. He and his wife Frances had 6 kids, three who died young. They were all probably here, but there is no record of them.
Leonidas Wooden was born in Indiana in 1856 and died on this day, May 5, 1945 at the age of 89 in Montgomery Kansas.
The picture above is of the little church in Carcross which still has services on Sunday.

Klondike Mission, by Sinclair; 1901 Yukon census; Congressional Reports for the 59th Senate, 1905-1906; Familysearch

William E. Britt

Mr. Britt was a druggist born in 1873 in Norway. Like many Scandinavians (my grandparents included) he came to Chicago. From there he came to Skagway in 1898 to seek his fortune. He stayed for many years and was a member of the Arctic Brotherhood and Skagway City Council. He was also very involved in gardening. He ran a drug store in a building which is still standing, but forgotten, on 5th Avenue. It is known as the Board of Trade Saloon, but it was acquired by the city and used for many years as the city hall and as the library. It sits next to the old Mabel G’s, between there and the “Wandering Wardrobe” little crib building.
Mr. Britt eventually moved to Juneau and died there on this day, May 4, 1932 and is buried in the Evergreen Masonic Cemetery.

The picture above is of that building when it was used as city hall.
censuses; Skagway News; AB book

Caspar Jack Kossuth

Happy Birthday to “Cassie” Kossuth, born on this day, May 2, 1892 in Seattle to Caspar Kossuth and Stella Barnum. Caspar senior died in Seattle between 1892 and 1897 because the widow Kossuth, her mother and her son little Cassie arrived in Skagway in July 1897. Stella set up a little hotel with her mother and soon found help from a gentleman friend, George Buchanan (not the same George Buchanan as the Detroit philanthropist of an earlier blog).
George apparently did not like the boarders at Stella’s hotel, and so did as some jealous men do, he shot her and then shot himself. We do not know if Cassie was witness to this, hopefully not, but by 1900 he had been adopted by another Skagway family the McArthur’s. Now in the 1900 census William and Annie McArthur show both Cassie and a Kenneth McArthur both born in 1892 in Seattle and arriving in 1897. Perhaps they are the same boy, in any event, Cassie grew up and married in 1930 to Margaret in Seattle. He passed away in 1966 in Seattle at the age of 74.
Now those of you who wonder if the spirits of Stella and George still inhabit the hotel building which now sits behind the Red Onion Saloon on 2nd Avenue, the answer is maybe. The current owner told me that his aunt always said she felt a presence in that building, but nothing more. If you happen by on the night of September 20, the night of the murder-suicide listen for a couple of shots!

Victoria Daily Colonist 9.26.97; Klondike Fever