I have received enquiries about Thomas Marshall Word Jr. or Tom Word from a woman who purchased historic photos of the Word family at an estate many years ago. She contacted me because she intends to put them up for sale on Ebay, which is great, so that everyone who is interested can have a chance to acquire them. It was several years ago that I was doing some research on him, but apparently I never wrote up the story. I quote here from Jeff Smith on his Soapy Website:
“For a few years now I have been exchanging interesting e-mails with Fred Wood, a great-grandson of Skagway’s Thomas Marshall Word. If Fred and I are correct Word is the man who acted as the go-between for Soapy and the vigilante’s after John Fay shot and killed Deputy U.S. Marshal Rowan and Andy McGrath. Word was involved in the hunt for the gang after Soapy had been killed and came real close to becoming famous as the man who captured the three top gangsters, Bowers, Foster, and Wilder. Hours later he was one of the guards protecting those same three bunco steerers locked away on the third floor of the Burkhard Hotel. Tom Word twice aided in keeping a blood thirsty vigilante mob from orchestrating a wholesale slaughter and that’s something his g-grandson can be proud of.”
Jeff has an excellent write up of the information that he has gathered here:
Anyway, for those of you who are interested, below and above here are a couple of photos of the photos.
Arthur was the eighth child born to the Richards family in 1859 in Ohio. His older sister, Clara ran the post office in Dyea, a story which I wrote about earlier here. Apparently her two brothers were also here, Arthur and Daniel.
Arthur was appointed by the U.S. Commissioner to be U.S. Marshal for the Dyea District. In a letter he wrote:
“I have been over the trail to the headwaters of the Yukon several times, to arrest men for getting into rows – generally for using guns…The wonder to me is not so much that men die but that any can survive the hardships. So much packing in mud and wading waist deep in ice-cold water, right from the glaciers above. A good many give up their outfits here for what they can get, and return home. ”
One descendent said that family lore has it that Arthur was responsible for laying the first telephone line from Dyea to the top of the Chilcoot Pass. That would have been during the 1897-98 time as there were several tramways built at that time also. They had better communication then than now, even cell phones don’t always work on the trail today.
He also said ” It is a pleasant trip up here from San Francisco except that accommodations are limited, and while the excitement keeps up the ships will be overcrowded. The steamer I came on, the Mexico, sank on her return trip in 200 fathoms of water and everything lost but the passengers.” this would have been in August 1897 because I found the following article:
The Alaska Searchlight of August 14, 1897 reported on the wreck of the Steamer Mexico: “near the end of Dixon Entrance. The steamer was southbound when it ran upon some hidden rocks at 4 o’clock on the morning of the 6 th . The rocks stove a big hole in the bottom of the boat, but luckily there was not freight on board and the bulkhead compartments of the boat kept it afloat for about two hours, when it finally sank in 100 fathoms of water. The shock caused confusion on board and passengers were thrown from their berths. In a few minutes, however the officers quieted down the passengers while the crew quickly launched the boats and every passenger was transferred from the sinking ship. The hand baggage belonging to passengers was taken from the ship and it is reported that the mail was taken off, although it is not definitely known. There were one hundred persons on board….”
1900 census; Daily Alaskan 3/13/1900 (in 2001 Skagway News); Skagway Museum record; CA death rec; Photo and letter courtesy of Diane Richards Design. Information and updates courtesy of Glenn McKinney – many thanks!
Frank Burney was born on April 9, 1874 in Wisconsin. In 1896 he was working as a farmer in Fresno, California. There were other Burney’s in the area so presumably he went there with family. Farming must not have been too interesting, so in May of 1897 he came north. And here is where he disappears for a couple of years.
He showed up on the Upper Bonanza with his new wife, Blanche Pattie Martin also from Wisconsin, in 1901. He was working a claim on the Upper Bonanza with partner E.J. Hill until 1904 when Hill died and Frank took his body back to Fresno.
Now, this may be a stretch, but there was a U.S. Marshall appointed in Skagway in July, 1898 by the name of Barney, no other information. He is significant because he was one of the three Marshals that arrested the Soapy gang during July 1898. In March of 1899, Charles Eckerman, the bartender at the Board of Trade Saloon (seen above in 1898), tried to shoot Barney (Eckerman was shot and killed 6 months later). It was about this time that Burney went to Dawson, so I am jumping to the concussion that Barney and Burney are one in the same.
In any event, Blanche and Frank left the Yukon and moved to California, living in Berkeley, Long Beach, Fresno and Los Angeles. Blanche died in 1956, Frank in 1957 and their daughter, born to them late in life, Virginia, died in 1941 at the age of 26.
Yukon archives; familysearch censuses; California death and census records: Seattle Post Intelligence of Sept 22, 1899.
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.
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.
Frederick McBain Young was born in October 1863 or 1868 in Montreal. He graduated with a B.A. from Queen’s University and made his way to Nanaimo where he married in 1893. In 1895 he was made a Barrister in Nanaimo. During the gold rush he came north and was in Skagway briefly. He was a friend of John Douglas Stewart who was famously robbed by three of Soapy’s gang members in 1898. Stewart was also from Nanaimo. Young was the first judge of the county court of Atlin, B.C. in 1905. He served 28 years as judge in Prince Rupert county court from 1907. He retired and returned to Vancouver in January 1933, and died in Vancouver on May 31, 1937. Seen above is the Atlin courthouse built in 1900 which Judge Young used.
Born on this day, April 17, 1869 in Pleasant City, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Daniel Alexander Sutherland came to Circle City Alaska during the gold rush. He moved to Nome in 1900 and staked some gold claims. He came to Juneau and Skagway about 1909 and succeeded Marshal Shoup as the town Marshal here. He later went on to run for Congress and served in the U.S. House of Representatives representing the territory of Alaska in the 1920’s. He was very popular and it was there that he earned his nickname for being so contentious.
He was most famous in Alaska for promoting air transportation to reach isolated communities in the winter.
He died on March 24, 1955 in Abington Pennsylvania at the age of 86.
usmarshals.com; Fairbanks news list, NPS; Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
This is a story never written before although it happened almost a hundred years ago. My grandfather, Miguel Vargas when he was young, around 1915, worked as a policeman. One night neighbors called the police and reported that they could hear screams from a woman next door that sounded like she was being beaten. My grandfather went there and looked in the window to see the woman being dragged around the room by her hair, but there was no one else there with her. He, being a religious man went to the neighbors and told them to call a priest. He had other stories of the old country but this is the only one that I remember now.
On June 6, 1900 the U.S. Congress passed the Alaska Penal Code which provided for a tax to be collected on certain trades and businesses in Alaska. This tax was to fund local governments in the territory. Mr. Wynn-Johnson represented the Moore Wharf (seen above) which of course preceded the law. He decided to ignore the new law which required a license for the wharf. He was then arrested in 1902 by Marshal Shoup. Wynn-Johnson refused to post bail and instead sued the Marshal and the U.S. Government saying that his incarceration was unconstitutional based on the fact that the license and taxes were also unconstitutional. His reasoning was that the U.S. Government did not impose such taxes anywhere else and that Alaska was singled out. Further that such tax and license laws in Alaska were in place already. Section 8 article 1 of the U.S.Constitution reads:
“The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and pay for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises, shall be uniform throughout the United States.”
In 1904 the U.S. Supreme court ruled that the law was legal and that 1/2 of the money collected from licenses and taxes would go to local schools. The remainder would go into the U.S. Treasury.
Presumably Wynn-Johnson did alright because he then sold his house and moved to the Alkali Ranch in British Columbia.
The lawyer that represented him, George C. Heard, died not long after, on June 6, 1906 in Skagway. Below is the link to the legel language of the law, if anyone cares to interpret it better than I have, please be my guest!
Stephen Rooney was born on this day, December 29, 1864 in Sacramento. His father, John Rooney, had emigrated from Ireland at the age of 21 in 1849. John went from Liverpool to Boston to New Orleans, through the isthmus of Panama to San Francisco and finally to Sacramento. He was following the 49er’s to find gold which he did. The Alabama mine in Eldorado county, owned by Mr. Rooney, yielded as much as $800 per day, and by 1853, he had netted $25,000. John married and had four sons, among them was Stephen born on the homestead on Coloma road, five miles from Sacramento. Stephen entered Sacramento Institute and later was a student at St. Mary’s college in San Francisco (St. Mary’s moved from the city to Oakland in 1889 and now is at Moraga). Interested in agriculture, he raised hops, but at one time he also served as deputy Sheriff of Sacramento county.
So it is no wonder that in 1898, he decided to go to the Klondike to search for gold much as his father had 50 years before. He, his brother and Lee Brown landed at Skagway where they tried to move their load to Lake Bennett. However, from the very outset they had bad luck. A number of valuable pack animals had been lost with the Steamship Corona January 24, 1898 on Lewis Island (480 miles north of Victoria). A quantity of forage and provisions was lost in another vessel which went down. Finally, when his high hopes had begun to sink beneath the weight of his failures he fell ill with spinal meningitis and died in Skagway on March 7, 1898. There is a Skagway record of his body being buried in the Gold Rush cemetery, but it was then disinterred and sent back to California by his brother and was interred in a local cemetery in Sacramento. He left a wife, Mary, and three children ages 9, 7 and 5.
Seen above is the Steamship Corona in 1907 when she foundered again.
Willis, William L., History of Sacramento County, California, Pages 693-696. Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, CA. 1913.