photo courtesy of Judith Bacon.
Two mornings ago I was walking to the gym at 5:30 am. It was dark and I was looking at the stars….suddenly a bear charged me . It was a terrifying experience, I screamed, stumbled and fell, then got up and screamed some more. I focused on the 3-inch yellow claws but it was dark enough that I could not see its face, but I did see another bear behind it. I believe it was a Grizzly sow with cub and she had been eating garbage that was put out the night before. I unfortunately walked within a few feet of them and startled them which is why she charged me. She then turned and walked away.
It was a perfectly predictable behavior on the part of the bear. I hold no anger against her but only sadness that eventually she and the cub will be shot as many others have been each fall. At this time of year they are trying to fatten up before winter and garbage is an easy food source. The tragedy is that if this little community would invest in bear proof garbage cans for everyone, the problem would be greatly remedied. I have had many people tell me that they are glad I am alive and that I am brave. I only acted as anyone would, but I am grateful for the attention that this event has brought to our need for community action. I believe that our community has many good hearted people who would agree that the one time expense of buying the downtown households bear proof trash cans would be worth the cost and effort.
I have been correcting my database of people in Skagway during the Gold Rush by looking at the actual 1900 census which is now online at Family Search, the genealogy database maintained by the Mormons. I have found quite a few misspellings and in so doing have found some (now) famous names.
So, both Peter Jackson (born January 1865 in Delaware) and George Lucas (born November 1846 in England) were here in 1900. Peter Jackson worked as a clerk and George Lucas worked as a miner – or at least that is what he said he was when asked by the census taker. So, unless they used a time machine which looked like a Delorean we can only imagine that they led quiet lives here in Skagway.
The other day a descendent of T.J. stopped in here to my office and gave me a copy of his ancestor’s diary.
T.J.Jessop had started from Australia in late 1897 and after several adventures wrote this about Skagway:
“I will revert to Skagway it was a very lawless city and was terrorised by a notorious gang of criminals, the chief was known as “Soapy Smith”, He was very amiable and meek in his manner and very like a parson in more ways than one, and very deceiving in every way.
Several Aussies were forcibly robbed by the gang. Members of the gang would turn up by boat from Vancouver and of course they, or some of them, would play “Two Up” and the gang took particular notice of those who had plenty of money, and on arrival at Skagway would introduce them to members of the gang. They would then propose to show them Indian Totem Poles and rain gods (which were mythical) and when a secluded spot was reached would forcibly rob them. The robbed would appeal to the Marshall (he was in charge of the soldiers) no police and he would just laugh at them at being caught as there were hoardings everywhere containing warnings.
In Vancouver and Skagway really there was no excuse at being caught. The gang even went as far as to establish information bureaus (which were bogus), but on entering these places there was always some form of gambling going on and if the entrant did not join in, they cut his gold belt off from around his waist.
I read this after I came back to Australia that a man named Reid was in Soapy’s gambling den when a dispute arose and Reid got the drop on Soapy. There were not many members of the gang present and he was bluffed, and it preyed so heavily on his mind that next day he was seen making for the jetty with a gun in his hand. Reid was an engineer and was supervising repairs or extension to the jetty. He saw Soapy coming and both fired at the same time. Reid was shot through a wrist and Soapy was shot dead. The gang then became disorganised and the townspeople rounded them up and put them in a steamer and sent them down to the “States”. (U.S.A.)”
An interesting take on the Soapy-Reid gun battle!
Frank Burney was born on April 9, 1874 in Wisconsin. In 1896 he was working as a farmer in Fresno, California. There were other Burney’s in the area so presumably he went there with family. Farming must not have been too interesting, so in May of 1897 he came north. And here is where he disappears for a couple of years.
He showed up on the Upper Bonanza with his new wife, Blanche Pattie Martin also from Wisconsin, in 1901. He was working a claim on the Upper Bonanza with partner E.J. Hill until 1904 when Hill died and Frank took his body back to Fresno.
Now, this may be a stretch, but there was a U.S. Marshall appointed in Skagway in July, 1898 by the name of Barney, no other information. He is significant because he was one of the three Marshals that arrested the Soapy gang during July 1898. In March of 1899, Charles Eckerman, the bartender at the Board of Trade Saloon (seen above in 1898), tried to shoot Barney (Eckerman was shot and killed 6 months later). It was about this time that Burney went to Dawson, so I am jumping to the concussion that Barney and Burney are one in the same.
In any event, Blanche and Frank left the Yukon and moved to California, living in Berkeley, Long Beach, Fresno and Los Angeles. Blanche died in 1956, Frank in 1957 and their daughter, born to them late in life, Virginia, died in 1941 at the age of 26.
Yukon archives; familysearch censuses; California death and census records: Seattle Post Intelligence of Sept 22, 1899.
My friend Teri Williams dropped this short story by today, and I thought I would share it with all of you:
“During the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition, held in Seattle in 1909, Mr. Herman Kirmse was awarded four first place gold medals and two second bronze medals for his dislay of gold nugget jewelry, baskets, ivory, and other Alaska made handicraft. A branch store was opened in Ketchikan.
“In October of 1912, he, his wife, Hazel Cleveland Kirmse, daughter Gladys, and the two sons Jack and Dan were spending several months in Ketchikan before going to Seattle for the winter. Late Monday afternoon October 12, 1912, he went down to the Heckman wharf to greet friends on the Steamer Humbolt, which was just docking. While he was standing on a stringer on the wharf, one foot on a piling head which was cut so it beveled outward and shaking hands with a friend on board he apparently lost his balance and fell between the steamer and the wharf, his head striking the guard rail of the Humbolt. Death, which was instantaneous, came as a shock to all southeastern Alaska.
“To quote from the Juneau Empire, “Mr. Kirmse was a strong man in the community, a liberal advocate of all things which contribute to the growth of the community, popular with his fellowmen, honored by everyone.”
“To Southeastern Alaskans the history of our late esteemed friend is interesting and the results obtained through, and by, his aid will always keep his name alive.
“After her husband’s tragic death, Mrs. Kirmse sold the Ketchikan business and carried on alone, with the original Skagway Store. But, as soon as he could see over the counters she had the devoted and able help of their elder son, Jack.
“Since 1962, when his mother passed on, Jack Kirmse has continued with ever increasing success to operate the family business in the fine tradition of his parents.
“Herman Kirmse made the original NFS collection of Northwest Coast Native Art much of which is still in the hands of the current private owner.”
Seen above is the Steamer Humboldt.
A researcher just emailed to me this wonderful photo of two Moore family members on the Railroad dock. Note the lettering on the back of the seat that says “Moore’s park” and the dogs pulling the little wagon. I remember seeing other photos of this wagon, but this is the first time I’ve seen this photo. I think that the boy is James Bernard Moore Jr. known as “Benny”. He worked for Columbia Motion Pictures in L.A. and died there in 1960. He was born in 1891 which would have made him about 7 in 1898 which would match the photo. I would assume his dad is driving the wagon, also named James Bernard Moore.