First Alaska Lawman killed

On this day, September 1, 1897, William C. Watts, a Deputy U.S. Marshal was shot on Admiralty Island while serving a warrant there. He had come to Alaska in 1893 and was frequently in Dyea. He was the first lawman killed in Alaska, the second was Marshal Rowan who was shot here in Skagway in 1898.
Watts was shot by “Slim” Birch who was taken on the Corona by a US Marshal in December 1897 to San Quentin. Birch was acquitted of murder but sentenced to three years for the crime of mayhem instead.
William C. Watts was added to the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington D.C. He was also added to the Wall of Honor at the U.S. Marshal’s Service headquarters building in Alexandria, VA in 1998. The Trooper Museum at the Fifth Street Mall in downtown Anchorage also displays a memorial to fallen officers.

from Forgotten Heroes of Alaska by William Wilbanks; and the AK Tribunal report by Moore p 423; NY times of December 18, 1897 online.



One Reply to “First Alaska Lawman killed”

  1. Actually William C. Watts was shot by Slim Birch on the 24 of January 1897 at a cabin hide-out up Bear Creek on Admiralty Island. Two other deputy marshals were wounded as well. A massive manhunt was launched and Birch, along with accomplice Hiram Schell were finally captured. – Mark Whitman, Juneau, Alaska

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