Frank Novak was born on April 5, 1865 in Webster County, Iowa. He ran a mercantile store in Walford Ohio. He suffered some “financial reverses” (actually a gambling addiction) and put the business in debt. So, in frustration he took out a $30,000 life and accident insurance policy on himself. Then, on February 2, 1897 lured his friend Edward Murray to the store, crushed his skull, robbed him and then burned the store over him to cover the crime. He fled the scene, I found some evidence that Novak’s wife, Mary had claimed that he died in the fire, thus claiming the life insurance. But insurance companies are not so easily fooled. He was pursued for six months across the continent and to Alaska by Detective C.C. Perrin of Chicago or Denver. In total they traveled 26,000 miles back and forth across the continent. Finally in Washington, Perrin discovered that Novak had taken the steamer Al-Ki at Port Townsend on February 23 to Juneau. Perrin took the steamer Mexico on May 24 to Skagway. Both men had to secure provisions to cross the Chilkoot Pass.
Detective Perrin spent many days on the Chilkoot Pass looking for Novak. He then briefly saw him as his boat passed Novak’s boat on Lake Bennet. He followed Novak to Dawson where he got a warrant from the Canadians to arrest him and take him back to Ohio for trial. Novak was claiming that his name was J.A. Smith. But when Captain Constantine compared the dental records (possibly dentures) of Novak with his dentists records from Ohio, the Mounties decided that they had their man!
On the way back through St Michael, Novak told Perrin that back in Iowa, he kept a bottle of whiskey impregnated with morphine in the store and found Murray drinking it. Later during the fire he tried to rescue him but was unable to (perhaps because he had first bashed in his skull). Such a story! Perrin was not swayed and succeeded in bringing the murderer back to Iowa for trial.
In November 1897 he was brought back, tried, and convicted of second degree murder and put in the Anamosa prison in Ohio. A second trial by the Supreme Court upheld the lower court decision. By 1903 he was involved in photography and was on the prison band being a model prisoner and his friends petitioned the Governor for clemency. Not sure if that happened as he was serving a life sentence. He died in Chicago on July 12, 1930 but was brought back home to be buried in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a few miles from the scene of the crime in Walford.
The Carroll Herald, April 1, 1903. The Baltimore Underwriter October 1897. Two Years in the Klondike and the Alaskan Gold Fields by Haskell.
Tagish Charley or Charlie was born about 1865 in Tagish. He was a noted packer as seen above in this Hegg photo. His native name was Yeil Saagi Yelidoogu Xoonk’I Eesh. His wife was Nadagaat. Tagish Charlie, who later became known as Dawson Charlie, was Skookum Jim’s nephew. Patsy Henderson was Charlie’s brother. He guided early parties, but was not involved in the discovery of gold (that was Kaa Goox). Tagish Charley was a member of the beaver clan.
He drowned in Carcross on November 15, 1905 and is buried there.
Canadianmysteries.ca; Pierre Berton.
Erastus Brainerd was an American journalist and art museum curator. During the Yukon Gold Rush, he was the publicist who “sold the idea that Seattle was the Gateway to Alaska and the only such portal”. He was born on February 25, 1855 in Middletown, Connecticut and attended Phillips Exeter Academy and Harvard University, from which he graduated at the age of 19. He served as curator of engravings at the Boston Museum of Arts, then traveled to Europe, where he promoted a tour for “lecturing showman” W. Irving Bishop. He was a social success in Europe, and became a Knight of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, a Knight of the Red Cross of Rome, a Knight Templar, and a Freemason.
In July 1890, after recovering from three severe bouts of influenza, he headed west to become editor of the Seattle Press and the Press-Times, a role he held until September 1893. He left to focus on the office of State Land Commissioner, to which he had been appointed March 15, 1893. He joined the Rainier Club and organized a local Harvard Club. In 1897, as secretary and executive officer of the newly founded Bureau of Information of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, he became the most prominent figure in the publicity campaign that established Seattle’s preeminence as a mercantile and outfitting center for the miners headed to the Yukon. He also convinced the federal government to open an assay office in Seattle. He briefly and unsuccessfully attempted to make a living as a “mining consultant” before becoming editor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He may never have come to Skagway, but he certainly influenced the thousands that did. And so, we dub him a Skagway hero.
Brainerd died on December 25, 1922 in Tacoma, Washington.
Wikipedia; Library of Congress; National Park Service.
P.C.H. Primrose was born on October 23, 1864 in Nova Scotia. He applied to the newly formed NWMP in 1885 and was commissioned then.
In 1898, at the outbreak of the Klondike Gold Rush, Primrose was assigned to the Yukon, where he was stationed at the H Division in Tagish. He became superintendent of that division in October 1899, then was transferred to become superintendent of the B Division one month later. In 1901, he was posted to Dawson, where he assumed responsibility for 43 Mounted Policemen and 4 other men at the Whitehorse station. During his time in the Yukon, the main role of the police was guarding people awaiting trials and prisoners serving sentences.
Primrose supervised the 1900 Yukon census, reporting to the Commissioner that the territory’s population was 16,463. On May 13, 1900, he fined 31 “members of the sporting fraternity” $55 each, boosting the territorial treasury. Other activities included more community-oriented tasks, such as firefighting when permitted. He returned to Regina in 1914 and worked in many different capacities including being the 5th Lt. Governor of Alberta. He married and had 4 children and died in Edmonton on March 17, 1937.
He is seen above as a young North West Mounted Officer.
Royal Arch Gunnison was born on June 24, 1873 in Binghampton, New York. That evening his father, Christopher B. Gunnison, attended a meeting of his Masonic chapter, Binghamton No. 139, and returning home, found that he was the father of a boy whom he promptly named “Royal Arch” which is a Masonic term, I guess. Royal became a lawyer and was appointed by Teddy Roosevelt to be a district judge in Skagway Alaska in 1904 before going into private practice in Juneau five years later. He drove the last spike of the Valdez-Yukon Railway. He was a member of the Arctic Brotherhood and a 33° member of the Scottish Rite Masons in Seattle in 1916. He was also a member of the Knights Templar and, yes, a Royal Arch Mason. A DeMolay Chapter in Juneau was named for him in 1932.
In Juneau, in 1910, Royal had a son who he also named Royal Arch Gunnison. Royal Jr. became famous in World War 2 as a Mutual Network war-caster in Manilla. He had stayed on the air until U.S. Army engineers blew up the transmitting station and equipment a jump ahead of the Japanese. As a result, 34-year-old Gunnison and his wife spent 17 months in Japanese concentration camps outside Manila and Shanghai. Gunnison and his wife Marjorie were later repatriated from China with 1,438 other internees.
Royal Arch Gunnison Jr. made the rounds to be interviewed in the press and on the radio. His story appeared in Life Magazine and in Billboard, where he outlined what entertainment was like in prison camps. He wrote a book on his experiences called “So Sorry, No Peace” published in October 1944. Though he survived the ordeals of a war prisoner, he didn’t survive an accident that took his life. Gunnison headed back to Asia in June 1946. Three months later, he died in a plane crash in Hong Kong.
Judge Royal Arch Gunnison Sr. died in Juneau of apoplexy at the age of 45, on this day, June 18, 1918 and is buried in the Evergreen Cemetery. He is seen above at the height of his career.
findagrave; justamason; ancestry.
This Case and Draper photo is from 1904 in Skagway. You can see AB Mountain behind.
Hjalmer Melachton Berge was born on November 22, 1896 in Ohio, one of 10 children born to Norwegian immigrants Olaf and Thilda. Somehow H.M. managed to attend college and graduate from medical school. He came to Skagway in 1923 and worked for White Pass as a surgeon. He later went back to Snohomish where he married Jeannette and had a child. In 1928 he was appointed the Snohomish County Health Officer but on April 10, 1933 he died of tuberculosis in the Laurel Sanatorium in Seattle. An occupational hazard for doctors I suppose back then. Washington records.
Mr. W. Thibaudeau was a French Canadian engineer who came to Skagway in 1898 and helped Frank Reid to plat out the town of Skagway. He later went to Dawson where he was appointed the Territorial Engineer. I was amazed to see the map of the Dawson area roads, it looks like an ant hill of trails. Thibaudeau also did this map and signed it in December 1901.
This ad is from the Los Angeles Herald of February 1898. I wonder how many gold rushers wore one on the trail!
Fred Fonzo was born in 1859 in Denmark. He married Mary Boyd in the San Francisco Bay area and had two children, Fred Jr. in 1892 in Berkeley and Myrtle. He ran the Acheson Hotel and also worked as a constable in Berkeley.
In 1894 his wife died and so he headed north to Alaska. He apparently never bothered to write to the family to let them know where he was. They assumed that he had died, but he appeared in Skagway about 1909 where he worked as the U.S. Jailer and Marshal. On June 16, 1911, while trying to evict Miss Mary Bernhofer from the New Home Hotel, her niece, Lena Bernhofer, aged 16, shot Marshal Fonzo. The bullet pierced his arm and lodged in his chest but did not kill him. However, news of the bullet reached the Oakland Tribune on June 22, 1911 and the family discovered his whereabouts (having mourned him for 17 years).
Meanwhile Mary Bernhofer refused to leave the hotel and said she would burn it down and kill herself if evicted. Mary Bernhofer was the hotel proprietor of the “New Home Restaurant & Lodging house” since 1897. In 1915 she appeared in Juneau as a housekeeper at The Bergman Hotel, but her employer died the next year and so Mary Bernhofer became the manager for many years. This hotel, on 3rd downtown, now a hostel, is still running today, seen above.
Fred Fonzo died on this day, June 4, 1927 in Seattle at the age of 68.