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:
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More