Christmas Day Murders 1899


On this day, December 25, 1899 one of the most famous triple homicides in Yukon history occurred. Although it happened in the Yukon, it involved a young man,26 years old, Frederick Clayson who came to Skagway with his widowed mother and brothers and sisters. They started a general store here which continued until at least 1915. One sister, Ester was married to Dr. Pohl of Skagway.
The murder occurred at Minto and was done by perhaps two men who laid in wait for travelers. George O’Brien shot and beat to death Clayson, Olsen and Lynne Relf. His crimes went undiscovered for some weeks despite the Clayson family pushing the NWMP to investigate. One especially brilliant Mountie did a crime scene search once the bodies were discovered. The bodies had been pushed into the river but floated downstream. The NWMP interviewed many people and eventually discovered the murderer who had stolen a dog that belonged to one of the men they killed. The dog was a large yellow dog which the Mounties then used to lead them to the scene of the crime. This investigation led to George O’Brien’s subsequent execution in Dawson and became the source of the saying “They always get their man” when referring to the Mounties. The second murderer was never caught, but it was thought he died soon after anyway.

Fred Clayson had been returning from Dawson on a bicycle – an astonishing feat in itself! His family later moved to Oregon and one of his sisters became a famous physician there.
The picture above is of Fred’s mother, Annie Quinton Clayson and is from the OHSU website from the Ester Pohl Lovejoy collection.

Martin G. Itjen


Martin Itjen died on this day December 3, 1942 in Skagway. Born in 1870 in Germany, Martin was a showman who promoted Skagway in many ways. He arrived in Skagway in 1898 as a stampeder. He later worked as a White Pass laborer, he owned a transfer business, was an entertainer, owned the Bay View House hotel, and was even an undertaker.

In 1935, as a great publicity stunt, Martin took his “street car” to Hollywood to promote Skagway tourism. He called on big screen starlet, Mae West, to “come up and visit him sometime.” His image of standing in front of his bus with Mae West is the most famous image.

He is buried in the gold rush cemetery next to a large gold-painted boulder which is chained down.

A fellow bloggist has lots more info on Martin’s family:
http://wiekingderviking.blogspot.com/

Bob Oscar Siegrud Selmer Jr.


I met Oscar when we first moved here in April 1998. I was walking down the street and he hailed me from his truck and asked if I needed a ride. I told him no, I was happy walking. I always regretted that, I should have ridden with him then and gotten to know him better than I did. Oscar was born on this day, November 25 1918 in Skagway. He spent most of his life here in Skagway working for White Pass, marrying and having children. After his first wife, Alice died he often visited her grave at the Pioneer Cemetery. Every Memorial Day for many years, Oscar would clean up around her grave, and those of other family members and old friends.

A few years later, Oscar met Judy Camp, a veterinarian whom he had befriended while hiking the trails and picking up trash. He took her with him when he decided to re-measure the width of the valley and tell the new editor his findings. Oscar and Judy also loved singing together and they were married in 1979.
After his White Pass years, Oscar never really retired. He served on the city council a time or two, and ran the senior citizens program for 11 years. He was proud of being “Mr. February” in the “Seniors on the Last Frontier 1988 Calendar,” and even prouder of his senior gold pass to Skagway School activities. He was a lifetime member of the Eagles and Elks, and a member of the Juneau Igloo of the Pioneers of Alaska. As Skagway’s longest living resident, he was called on in 1997 to unveil the Centennial Statue, along with members of the valley’s oldest family, the Dennis’s.
Late in life, with his health in decline, Oscar still liked to spend time on the benches downtown or riding around in his cart greeting friends and visitors. He entertained various writers and even joked with one last summer that he might not be home later because he bounced around town “faster than a fart on a skillet.”
If you caught up with him in a restaurant, he usually had an old photo in his pocket and a story to tell over many half cups of coffee. If he got your interest, he might bring along a prop for the next time he saw you.
He died in 2000 and is truly missed by me and many others.

from personal reminiscences and a 2000 “Skagway News” obit.

“Highball Hogan” Hillery


On October 6, 1961, Albert Roy Hillery died in Juneau. He was a White Pass brakeman and conductor for many years. His descendents still live in Skagway.

In the photo above:
Part of a ten-man Rotary Fleet crew in 1946, waiting at Glacier Station for the southbound train to go by.

Standing, Mickey Mulvihill, Occie Selmer, J.L.McVey, Tad Hillary.

Seated, Howard Ballinger, Charlie Rapuzzi, Cy Richter, Howard Johnson.

Richard Dick


Last year, September 25, 2008 Richard Dick passed away. He lived in Skagway for 60 years and many who live here miss him. An accomplished carver and artist, like many Skagwegians, had worked for White Pass and as a fisherman. Born in Angoon in 1925 he died in Anchorage.

Garland Hurst Sturgill


On Sept 14, 1943 Mr. Sturgill died in Skagway, although his final resting place is not known. He was born in Cattlesburg Kentucky just after the Civil War. He and his wife Miriam or Missouri lived in Skagway for about 30 years. He ran a woodmill on the ocean south of town by bringing a waterway down the mountain from upper Dewey Lake for hydro power. There was remnants of the mill until recently near the creek. There is also remnants of a small rail line still seen on the south side of Dewey Lake. Each summer, hundreds of tourists walk to this point to get out of town. It is a lovely walk through the trees, and at this time of year, the leaves of the cottonwoods are beginning to turn gold.
Sturgill had a number of run-ins with the law over the years. They lived on 7th in town. No information on what became of Mrs. Sturgill.

Father Andrew Harley Baker


On August 15, 1913 Harley Andrew Baker was born in Skagway. He was named after his uncle Harley Baker who died in Skagway in 1898 from meningitis at 3 1/2 years old and is buried in the Gold Rush Cemetery.

Harley Andrew became the first Alaska born Catholic Priest. He died in Juneau in 1965 but is buried in the Skagway Pioneer Cemetery. The Baker family stayed in Skagway until the 1930 census. Harley’s father, Elihu worked for White Pass as a brakeman.

From a website called bakercemetery.com; a letter from Francis Baker, the first Harley’s mother; census reports.