Dora Ouellet

Dora Ouellet (or Oullette or Owlette) was born during the Gold Rush, on this day, January 5, 1898 faraway in Pringle in Muskoka and Parry Sound, Ontario.
In the 1930s, Alaska Natives in the Yukon-Kuskokwim region near Bethel had the highest rate of Tuberculosis deaths and illness in the entire world. For 20 years, TB scourged the population throughout rural Alaska. By the mid-1940s, it was estimated that 10 percent of the Alaska Native population had active TB. The epidemic lasted into the early 1960s. One in 30 Natives resided in a sanitarium.
In 1945 the U.S. Health Service opened a tuberculosis sanitarium in the army hospital across the river in Skagway. Nurses came from Sisters of St. Ann in Victoria, B.C. It held as many as 90 patients before closing in 1947.
Poor Dora may have been one of the patients here because she died on July 19, 1946. A total of 56 people died in Skagway between 1945 and 1947, though not all by tuberculosis. Most of the deceased were sent back home, but a few were buried here in the Pioneer Cemetery.

Seen above is Vanilla dressed in her very best. She claims to be an Ouellet.

Skagway Death Record; Ontario 1901 and 1911 censuses.

George Johnson

George Johnson was born about 1875 probably in Alaska. He was a packer to the railroad camps along the White Pass line in 1898-1899. He was described as being half Native.
On January 2, 1899 May Burke witnessed the shooting of George by Jesse Rounds, a prostitute at White Pass City because George was harassing her.
(This location, along the White Pass route about half way to the top of the pass, is now owned by the National Park Service, but there have been no plans to do anything with the area.)
Six months later, May Burke was arrested at the Summit for “disturbing the peace”. Apparently these railroad camps were lively places.
George died on this day, January 4, 1899 and is buried in the Gold Rush Cemetery.

A wild Discouraging Mess, page 70; Skagway coroners inquest

John Allen Hornsby

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 online

First ship to Skagway?

MJ Kirchoff, noted Alaska history author and “Alaska Historian of the year” for 2008 and 1993 has written this excellent review on the subject of the first ship to land in Skagway during the Gold Rush:
“I recently found an August 2, 1897, letter written from Camp Skagway for sale on the internet, and from that posting I made the following discovery. I assumed the letter must have been written by one of the early arrivals from the steamer Queen, as many websites and print sources cite the Queen as being the first vessel to land at Skagway Bay during the Klondike Gold Rush, on July 29th, 1897. As it turns out, the Queen didn’t land on the 29th, nor was she the first. The Queen landed at Skagway Bay on July 26th, and she was preceded in by the steamship Al-Ki.

One of the Queen’s passengers, a Rev. Alfred Kummer, said in an interview on his return to Puget Sound that the Queen landed 200 passengers at Skagway, “who, with the small party left by the Al-Ki, comprised the gold seekers at the place.” (San Francisco Call, Aug 4, 1897). The Al-Ki arriving first is also mentioned by a Queen passenger named Lancelot Pelly, who wrote from Dyea on July 29: “Her [the Al-Ki’s] passengers were not all off the rocks when we arrived.” (San Francisco Call, August 12, 1897)

When I mentioned the Al-Ki coming in first to historian Karl Gurcke of the Klondike National Historical Park, he asked a good question. How did I know that the Al-Ki landed her passengers at Skagway, rather than at Dyea? Well, I don’t, at least not yet, but there is an interesting reference in the July 24, 1897, issue of the Juneau Searchlight that helps shed light on that: “The steamer Al-Ki, Capt. James Patterson, arrived here from Puget Sound ports yesterday noon with a full cargo of merchandise and live stock and the following passengers: . . . For Dyea-H.R. Raymond, Miss Annie Hughes, and twenty-eight second-class. For Skagua Bay-Dr. J. Brown, Fred Banner, C.J. Rowine, Miss K.M. Smith, D.W. Ward, P. Schoock, A.K. Taber, E.M. Ward, T.J. Harris, Robt. Evans, T.B. Carey and seven second-class.” It seems probable that if the Al-Ki had passengers booked for Skagway, she would have landed them at Skagway, particularly when Skagway was an easier port to get into than Dyea.

There’s one more twist to this story.

Even though the Al-Ki beat the Queen into Skagway, she still wasn’t the first steamship to land stampeders there. That honor would probably have to go to one of the small steamers operating from Juneau. When William Moore announced on July 14, 1897, that the trail over White Pass was going to open, Juneauites immediately took notice. On July 17, 1897, the Juneau Searchlight reported: “Several men are busy at work this afternoon loading a scow with lumber and feed for Skaguay. The horses which will arrive on the Topeka will be put on this scow and the steamer Rustler will take it in tow as soon after the arrival of the Topeka, as the passengers can get ready to leave.” Soon thereafter, on July 19, the Rustler did go to Skagway, and by July 24 the Juneau Searchlight reported that there was quite a little crowd at Skagway. George Rice and his wife had arrived with 9 head of horses to be used in a pack train, and there were at least 22 other stampeders on the beach, including a Mrs. Ed Lord, who was proclaimed to be “the first woman ever over the White Pass.”

To summarize then, on July 26, when the Queen arrived at Skagway Bay, Skagway and the White Pass trail was not the wilderness sometimes portrayed. Rice’s horses were already packing, several dozen stampeders from Juneau and Puget Sound were already on the beach (delivered by the Rustler and the Al-Ki), and Moore had close to 20 men employed building his sawmill, planking his wharf, and blasting rocks out along the trail. Skagway was a busy place!

Respectfully submitted, MJ Kirchhoff”

We’re hoping that any other history sleuths out there have some more clues to offer!
Seen above is a scan of the Steamer AL-KI. probably at Skagway.

Sylvestor Scovel

Of the many schemes to get rich, Sylvester Scovel’s was unique.
Scovel was a reporter for the New York World, but he also brought two tons of blasting powder to Skagway in Sept 1897 for White Pass Trail construction. He arrived in Skagway with his wife, Frances Cabanne and went over the Chilkoot Pass with their provisions. When he and Frances reached Lake Bennett, they had intended to float up to Dawson, but when he heard that only three mail deliveries would make it to Dawson that winter, Scovel came up with an idea. Why not organize a regular dog team mail delivery service from Skagway to Dawson and thus deliver the “New York World” to miners who would happily pay for news? He told Frances that they would certainly get rich.
Skeptics pointed out that the 600 miles of snow covered trails, frozen lakes and sub-zero conditions would take 25-30 days.
Still, Scovel told his wife that it would be like an extended honeymoon with nothing to do but “hunt, fish, prospect for gold and write correspondence…”
He left Frances in a tent at Lake Bennett while he hiked back to Skagway and took a boat down to Seattle to wire his employers for support in this venture. The World took three days to respond and then turned him down flatly and ordered him back to New York immediately. He wrote to Frances to return to Skagway and take the first boat down to Seattle as he was returning to New York. He also wrote to William Saportas, an acquaintance and fellow reporter in Skagway (also friend of Soapy) to please go find the “madame” in Lake Bennett and take her down south. Meanwhile poor Frances had not heard from her husband yet and so related in a letter to her mother that Bennett was “awful, awful without him and in this hole – it is death.”
Sylvester’s relatives in Chicago were amazed and told him he should not have left Frances. His Aunt Belle even boxed his ears! To make matters worse, the World was not happy and accused him of “gross extravagance” having wasted too much money. Oddly, the only reason he was not fired was because Hearst was courting him to come work for the New York Journal. Scovel went on to be the World’s “man in Havana”, but died there in 1905 following an operation to his liver.
In the end the only one who came out ahead was William Saportas. He married the lovely widow Frances in 1917 and they presumably lived happily ever after.

Seen above are Scovel and his wife Frances in Skagway promoting his newspaper!

The Year that defined American Journalism: 1897 and the clash of paradigms by W. Joseph Campbell; Edmond Hazard Wells, Magnificence and Misery, page 32.

NY Times Sept 6, 1897

Open House tonight!

AB is hosting an open house tonight, December 2, 2011. Reed and Arlen set up a fantastic lego train display with completely original buildings that were conceived in the minds of Arlen and Reed. One building you will recognize as the Old Faithful Hotel and the rest resemble little Swiss chalets. But you only have one hour to view these – from 6-7 pm. We will also have punch and cookies.
Is that me above slogging supplies to AB?

Peniel Ladies

This picture apparently hangs in the Peniel housing in Skagway. It is a photo of Victorine Yorba Tooley on the left seated and Mabel Ulery (Mrs. Holmes Cox) on the right, seated.
Behind them standing is probably John Jefferson Paulsell (born 1864). He was a college teacher who taught private grade school. He had been a criminal lawyer in Stockton, and in Skagway nursed men during the meningitis outbreak. He was a missionary who helped Ulery form the Peniel Mission in 1898. He would be 35 in 1899, but Mabel Ulery said of him: “His appearance was that of an older man, because of his gray hair, which was due to the terrible grief and shock he had suffered in his past life…”
The woman standing could be Miss Kline, Miss Josie Barnett, Gusta Carnahan who was Victorine’s sister or Roberta Yorba, Victorine’s daughter.