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!
The first Postmaster (then called Postmistress) was appointed in 1897 in Dyea by President McKinley. That, curiously was a 51 year old woman who came up to Alaska from Boise, Idaho. Clara and her brothers Daniel and Arthur Allen Richards were from a large family. The 8 kids were all born in Middleburg, Ohio to their farmer father and mother, but they had moved to Idaho sometime in the late 1800’s. When the three siblings got to Dyea, Arthur Allen was appointed Deputy Marshal and Daniel was involved in some business.
The real story here was the scandal involving the Dyea post office. While Clara no doubt was working as hard as she could, the post office was a 14X20 cabin that by all accounts was deplorable. On most days the line stretched far and away with 300-400 men hoping to send and receive mail. Clara’s rule was that no man could ask for mail for any more that 2 people. So if a guy came down to get mail for his 8 companions, it would take him all day to get mail. The amount of mail going North from Seattle was stupendous: 8 steamers full per month docked in Dyea. One steamer alone carried 4000 pieces of mail.
Some men wrote to the Postmaster General in Washington that her volunteers were charging 10 cents a letter to patrons. Clara was accused of slackness and inefficiency as well as graft. It was charged that Clara knew about this, but she countered that it was impossible to do the job without additional funds and assistance from government officials in Washington. So the line stretched for hundreds of feet every day. Seen above is the Dyea post office, but I could not find a photo of Clara.
Clara Richards never married and died on December 28, 1928 at the age of 81 in Boise. She is buried in the Morris Hill Cemetery.
Jackson Family website; familysearch; a Marcuse letter of July 6, 1901 called the “Weekly Philatelic Era”; Klondike Saga: The Chronicle of a Minnesota Gold Mining Company By Carl Ludwig Lokke
Happy Mothers Day to Rachael Quinlan born in 1870 in St. Johns New Brunswick and came to Skagway with her brother Jerry Quinlan. She met Martin Conway here, married and had Elizabeth (Bess) in 1903, John (Jack) in 1905 and Martin Jr. in 1907. I believe Martin Jr. died in Seattle while going to high school there. Bess also went to Seattle for high school. Jack married Gertrude McGrath in 1930 and was Skagway Postmaster from 1930-33. He then went to Sitka where he was Mayor and banker for the 1st National Bank at Sitka. His descendent Quinlan sent me this lovely photo of Rachael and John and Bess sitting in front of their house in Skagway about 1907 or 1908. I previously blogged on Martin Conway where I have posted a new portrait of him. many thanks to Quinlan Steiner for these previously unseen photos of longtime Skagway residents.
We know of John Clum by his title, Postmaster of Skagway, but he had quite a life of adventure both before and after living here. He was a friend of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday in Tombstone, Arizona where Clum married Belle Atwood in 1881. His daughter Caro was also born there on Christmas Eve, 1883.
From Tombstone, he arrived in Skagway on March 26, 1898 and immediately set up the Post Office with himself as Postmaster and Postal Inspector. As mentioned before (March 17, 2010), he did away with the mail service from Dyea to Skagway, McGreely’s Express.
Belle passed away in 1912 in Alaska and John died in Los Angeles in 1932, on this day, May 2 at the age of 81.
Gary Ledoux has written two books on John Clum and his life.
“The men who made the west are fast going and no one that I know of did more to make the West than John P. Clum.” Harry Carr, Reporter – Los Angeles Times, May 1932
Yesterwest.com – an entire website dedicated to the history of John Clum and his influence in Tombstone, Arizona by Gary Ledoux; Pennington p 334; familysearch; postalmuseum.si.edu/gold/clum.html; Alaska marriage records.
William Steele was the postmaster in Dyea and had quite alot to deal with in 1898. Not least of which was Mrs. Sarah Rowley who attempted to shoot him because she thought he had stolen their goods.
Although she was arrested for the attempted murder of postmaster Steele in Dyea on June 12, 1898, she was later released on insanity. She and her husband, H. Campbell Rowley worked as packers on the Chilkoot Trail. They had lost their outfit when the SS Corona went down, and then their replacement outfit was also lost.
No wonder she went crazy!
When I worked at the Skagway Post Office in 1998 I encountered a number of irate and irrational people at the window who also thought I was hiding their mail. I remember one man who could not believe that his package, sent from Florida the day before, was not in Skagway since it had been sent priority! Another local man would scream at us if his Wall Street Journal was not in his box at 8 am, despite the fact that mail arrives by small airplane, and in huge bags, and weather permitting. So we would upend all the mail, look for his paper and make a special delivery to his box to avoid the commotion. Well all those postal workers that I worked with are retired now and the screaming man – well he died shortly thereafter of hypertension as I recall…..
New York Times 6/17/1898; Skagway Museum Record
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.