James Mark Rowan

February 1 is a momentous day in Skagway History. On the night before, January 31, 1898 U.S. Marshal James Mark Rowan was called away from his wife’s bed where she was having a baby. The Marshal went to the People’s Bar on 6th Street (then Holly Street), (where Sgt Preston’s is now), and as he entered the bar Harry Lamont, Marshal Rowan and Andy McGrath were shot by Ed Fay, the bartender. Apparently McGrath died instantly but Rowan staggered across Broadway and died. Ed Fay, although arrested was later acquitted in Sitka.
Mrs. Bernie Rowan and son, also James Mark Rowan lived in Alaska for awhile before moving to Seattle where both passed away, she in 1943 and he in 1975. It was said that James Mark Rowan was the first white baby born in Skagway (see last blog for a possible competitor to that title).
Marshal Rowan was buried in the Gold Rush Cemetery and this summer, on the 4th of July, his great grand-daughter along with the U.S. Marshal’s Service plan to re-dedicate his grave with a new marker. Plans are afoot to have the family in the parade and honor the heroes of Skagway’s both past and present.



One Reply to “James Mark Rowan”

  1. I do hope the new planned marker for Rowan will be one of a “period” design to keep the integrity of the historic cemetery. It’s what I did for my g-grandfather’s grave (Soapy Smith).

    In the research for my book, Alias Soapy Smith: The Life and Death of a Scoundrel, I found that McGrath located Deputy U.S. Marshal Rowan in a “lunchroom” not with his wife.

    That Ed Fay’s name was actually John Fay.

    Soapy Smith definitely knew Jake Rice, owner of the People’s Theater, but there is no provenance that he knew Fay or that Fay was a member of the Soap Gang as some historians have assumed. Soapy did save Fay from being lynched by a mob of angry citizens, but gave Fay over to the lawful authorities and had no hand in the resulting trial in Juneau afterward. Soapy protected Fay as a method to reverse the popular mentality towards vigilantism in the camp. My book shows how Soapy prospered under the legal court system and hence called for “law and order” (as long as it did not interfere with his criminal operations). Although histories of Soapy Smith have used the Rowan shooting and the resulting protection of Fay as an example of Soapy’s corruptness, what he did was what any officer of the law would have been required to do, strange as it may seem.

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