Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Of the over 5000 people that I have birth location information for that lived in Skagway at the beginning of the 20th Century, over 150 of them were born in Ireland. There was a significant Irish community here with the Mc’s the O’Briens, O’Connors, Farrels, Ryans and Finnegans. Like other communities, among the harworking Irish were White Pass employees, stage performers, prostitutes, longshoremen, blacksmiths, firemen, waiters, sailors and even a Skagway Mayor.
The famous “McGreely’s Express” stamp issued privately in 1898 in Dyea was actually started by a fellow named McGreely. Seymore C. Marcuse came to Dyea in January of 1898 and met McGreely who was doing private mail runs from Dyea to Skagway. The two of them established the mail service and produced 2000 stamps, of which 1000 were used. The other 1000 stamps were divided between the two men. The beautiful stamp was actually created in San Francisco by an unknown artist. When the new postmaser Clum came to Skagway on April 1, 1898, the McGreely’s Express shut down. Both McGreely and Marcuse went to Dawson, but Marcuse returned to San Francisco by 1901 where he wrote a letter explaining the history of the stamp. Today these stamps occasionally come on the market and fetch up to $175 each.
Irish born “Whiskey Finnegan” built boats at Bennett and has a place on the Chilkoot Trail named for him.
“Chris Shea, the son of an Irish immigrant, came to Skagway in 1898, worked as a laborer for the railroad, started signing on as bartenders for the Mascot, the Pantheon, and then the Pack Train. In late 1904, he finally had enough money to partner up with two other men and buy the Pack Train. He organized baseball games, courted the labor unions, organized the men in the saloons, and formed a labor party. In 1907, his political party overthrew the businessmen who had been running Skagway since the gold rush days. For the next three years, he instituted Progressive Era reforms for city government, including equalizing the tax structure, purchasing the power and water company for the city, and overseeing the settling of a lawsuit between the original claimant to Skagway – Capt. William Moore – and the townspeople who staked out the lots in the heart of the town.”
Pennington; Chris Shea info from Skagway News story; Proof of McGreely’s Express Legitimacy by Steve Sims online at esveld.nl