Skagway families

John Cleveland Kirmse

Posted on Feb 10, 2010 in Merchants, Skagway families, Skagway streets | 2 comments


Jack Kirmse, son of Herman Kirmse, born in Skagway in 1906 died on this day, February 10, 1993 in Carlsbad, California, he was 87 years old.
Herman and his first wife Ida Shonknioler moved to Skagway in the gold rush in 1897 and established themselves as jewelers. Ida died of convulsions in 1900 and so Herman married Hazel Cleveland here in Skagway.
Jack and his wife Georgette lived in Skagway for many years. They owned the Moore House on 5th Avenue which had been in the family since 1907 when Ben Moore sold it to Herman. In 1977 Jack sold the house to the National Park Service and it was restored with antique furnishings. The house is open to the public in the summer to view.
Each year the Skagway school awards the “Jack Kirmse Scholarship” to a graduating senior, and in 2003, Arlen McCluskey (see January 20, 2010 blog) was awarded this scholarship which helped him pursue his educational goals.
This coming summer the Kirmse’s shop on the corner of 5th and Broadway will again be open for business by local residents Cara Cosgrove and Bruce Weber who will sell unique Alaskan crafts and jewelery made by local artisans. The totem poles on the south side of the shop and the clock face on the mountainside are popular for tourists to photograph.

In the picture above you can see both the shop sign and the sign painted on the rocks above town advertising Kirmse’s. The clock face on the clock shows the time of 7:20 which some have said is the time of Lincoln’s death, but actually it has another meaning: in the U.S. clockmakers will set the face of the clocks they are showing in the shop to 7:20 to show the symmetry of the clock face. A Swiss jeweler told me that in Europe they set their clocks to 10:10, the difference being that it makes a smile instead of a sad mouth – a “sourir” I think she said.

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Peter Edward Kern

Posted on Feb 8, 2010 in Bars and Hotels, Odd People, Skagway families | 0 comments


On this day February 8, 1937, Peter Kern died in Tarrant County, Texas at the age of 76, being hit by a train while taking his morning walk.
Kern originally came to Skagway from El Paso Texas in 1897 and worked as a jeweler, designing the original logo for the Arctic Brotherhood – the gold pan with nuggets.
He was one of the original members of the Arctic Brotherhood. He was also involved with the Home Cable Company one of the original Tramway companies – there were several.
Born in New Ridgel, Ohio, he married Antoinette Sommer here in Skagway on May 21, 1902. In May of 1908 he built the famous Kern Castle on the hillside overlooking Skagway. Sadly it burned a few years later in 1912.
Peter and his wife and daughter left Skagway in 1910 and moved back to El Paso where he constructed Kern Place a unique and historic neighborhood located about one mile north of the downtown area.

Construction began on Nov. 21, 1914. Earliest construction began on Cincinnati Street, and by 1917 about 40 homes had been built. Though urban today, when Kern Place was built, it was on the edge of the desert and was well removed from the populated areas of El Paso.

The entrance to Kern Place was a lively arch built in 1916 and was designed by Pete Kern.

from: www.kernplace.org/forum and other sources

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William Henry Joy

Posted on Feb 3, 2010 in Children, Skagway families, Tragedy | 0 comments


[Fellow sleuths-happy to report an update to this blog: After some sleuthing and emails from descendants I have made some corrections here, as Mr. Joy was neither a Marshall nor a detective in New York as I had previously reported.]

Happy Birthday to William Joy, born on February 3, 1861 in Montague New York.

In 1899, during the Klondike gold rush, William and his wife Ida May Joy traveled to Skagway with their 4 children. On November 11, 1904 he and his 14 year old son Louis went out goat hunting near Denver Glacier. While trying to traverse a snowy scree covered slope, William handed his 45-90 Winchester rifle to his son Louis. The rifle went off and hit William in the cheek coming out near his ear. He then fell down the slope and hit his head. Although Louis stayed with him for 45 minutes, he eventually ran down the steep slope to the river (1200 feet) to find help. He found a couple of woodcutters who went back up to help, but when they got to the point where Mr. Joy was, they found he had apparently become conscious and then fell an additional 800 feet down the slope. He was not alive when they reached him. The next day, Dr. Brawand, H.D. Clark, Lee Gault, Robert McKay, Fred Buchanan and F.F. Clinton went to retrieve his body and brought it back on a railcar (the track runs near the area). The next day the members of the Chamber of Commerce wrote a resolution to honor Mr. Joy for his work with the Chamber and as an upstanding citizen of Skagway. They also acknowledged the heroic efforts that his son Louis went through to get help. The funeral service on Sunday November 6 was in the Methodist church and done by Rev. Dr. John Parsons. William Joy is buried in the Gold Rush Cemetery.

After the accident, Ida May and the children returned to New York state. In 1914, Mrs. Joy and her family came back to Alaska to settle in Fairbanks. She remarried Henry Berry in 1917 there and she died in 1920 in Fairbanks. Louis was on the Fairbanks School Board for many years. He ran the electric distribution part of the NC Company power plant/Fairbanks Municipal Utility System. In fact Joy Elementary School in Fairbanks is named for him. Lou was a representative in the Alaska Territorial Legislature (a photo of him is available at the State Museum website). He and his wife retired to Arkansas where he died in 1971.

Skagway news articles of November 2,3,4, 1904; information from descendants.

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Arlen Thomas McCluskey

Posted on Jan 20, 2010 in Skagway families | 0 comments


Happy Birthday Arlen!

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Martin Conway

Posted on Jan 19, 2010 in Law men, Mail - Postal, Merchants, Skagway families | 0 comments

Martin Conway was born in 1861 in Ireland but came to Skagway in the goldrush. He stayed for 30 years until his death here on January 18, 1930.

During the time Conway lived in Skagway he was a merchant in 1905-the manager of B.M. Behrends dry goods; then United States Commissioner and Judge from 1908 to 1915; treasurer & Magistrate of Skagway in 1915; and finally the Postmaster from 1916 to 1930. Martin’s wife was Rachel Quinlan born in Saint John, NB Canada and worked for White Pass at Bennett and Carcross. His daughter Elizabeth and sons John (Jack) and Martin Jr. were born in Skagway between 1903-1907. John succeeded Martin as Postmaster of Skagway in 1930 when Martin died.

Martin Conway is buried in the Skagway Pioneer Cemetery. The photo above is of Martin, it was shared by his descendent.

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Christmas Day Murders 1899

Posted on Dec 25, 2009 in Merchants, Murders, RCMP, Skagway families, Tragedy | 0 comments


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.

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