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:
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.Read More
Happy birthday, December 19, 1859 or 1861, to Dr. Hornsby, surgeon for the White Pass Railroad, editor of the Daily Alaskan and member of Skagway City Council. Unfortunately he was also a friend and likely co-conspirator with Soapy. In the coroners report for Ella Wilson, the black woman who was murdered by strangulation in her bed, Hornsby’s report said the death was “unintentional” and the case was forgotten in all the excitement of the day. He also apparently failed to publish an account of the Stewart robbery, no doubt at Soapy’s request. After the death of Soapy, the town “rounded up” various supporters and associates. To quote Hornsby: “I was sent out of Skagway in a most arbitrary manner. The United States Commission said there were no charges against me, but that he had no power to combat the citizens’ committee that had put me on the boat at the point of loaded Winchesters.” In any event, he left and went to Eagle and then back to Chicago where he became superintendent of a hospital, then on to Washington D.C. where all good scoundrels end up. He appears to have died in 1939 at the age of 80.
Seen above are the 10 members and friends of Soapy that were rounded up. I don’t know which one is Dr. Hornsby, but I would guess it is the guy in the center saying to toss your eggs carefully (this doctored photo was used in 2008 for our Egg-Toss).
-Jeff Smith page 574 in “Alias Soapy Smith”;Haigh p.89: The book of Chicagoans by Albert Nelson Marquis onlineRead More
In the spring of 1898 the Spanish conflict aroused the patriotism in “Colonel” Soapy Smith to the point that he decided to recruit a company of soldiers in Skagway such as Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. Such became legal under authorization of the Volunteer Bill of April 23, 1898. The bill as presented by President William McKinley provided for the First Volunteer Cavalry Regiment – The Rough Riders – as a result of the sinking of the battleship Maine in Havana harbor on February 15, 1898 with the loss of 260 of her crew.
President McKinley called for 125,000 volunteers from the seven Western states and territories, a figure that was soon raised to 267,000. Three regiments were to be raised in the West, the first in the four territories, which included Alaska, the second in Wyoming and the third in the Dakotas.
Soapy organzied Company A, 1st Regiment of National Guard of Alaska and elected himself as Captain and John Foley as 1st Lieutenant.
The next time he shows up in history is that on this day, September 13, 1913 he got married in Alaska.
Corvallis Community online pages; Soapy letter to Pres McKinley in Clifford; news accts of deaths in NPS libraryRead More