St. Patrick’s Day

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

Francis Merrill Sulzman

Father Sulzman came to Skagway in 1931 when Monsignor Gallant established the Saint Pius X Mission Home for Native children who were either orphans or from destitute families, staffed by the Sisters of Saint Ann. The Mission was rebuilt in 1946, and operated until the 1960s.

Sulzman was born on this day, March 16, 1906 in Waterford New York and when he left here he joined the army and served as a chaplain in World War 2. He died in 1966 in Matanuska Alaska.

from the Hugh F. McColl webpage at; and the oblatvs.blogspot

Charles E. Namby Wynn-Johnson

Charles was born in March 1871 in Richmond England to R. Byron Johnson, an ambitious and energetic lawyer and promoter of British Columbia. R. Byron wrote “The Klondyke Gold Fields – how to get to them” in 1897 as part of his business’ promotion of the West. His business was the British Columbia Development Association.

Charles was trained as a civil engineer and worked for White Pass reporting to the financiers in England on the status of the plans for building the railroad. He stayed in Skagway for a couple of years as the Moore’s Wharf general manager and even working as the U.S. Marshal here. His is one of the few houses still standing in Skagway. It is boarded up, next to the Peniel Mission and across from what was the Pullen Hotel. He moved south to British Columbia and built a ranch he called the Alkali Ranch for his family where he lived until his death there in 1944.

In the photo above, you can see the Wynn-Johnson two story house behind the Moore House in the foreground. Both buildings are still standing, but only the Moore House is restored and open to the public by the National Park. The Wynn-Johnson house is privately owned.

Frederick Trump

Well Happy Birthday to Frederick “Fritz” Trump (Drumpf) the grandfather of Donald. Born in Kallstadt Germany on this day, March 14, 1869, he came to Skagway and then built the New Arctic Restaurant and Hotel at Lake Bennett in 1900. He sold the restaurant and returned to Germany where he married and then returned to Queens, New York.
He died too young, in 1918, of the Spanish flu in New York. The money he made at Lake Bennett helped to build the Trump enterprises.


Ernest Friedrich Schmalenbeck

Born on this day, March 13, 1849 in Evangelisch, Wengern Westfalen Preussen (Germany), Ernest caught the gold fever in 1898 and made it to Skagway. In an accident, he lost an eye here and so called it kaput and returned to Germany. His grand-daughter came to Skagway last July and told me this story, one of many stories of gold rushers who returned home with empty pockets but a lifetime of reminiscences to tell his grandchildren. So Happy Birthday Ernie! Here for your entertainment is the Schmalenbeck family crest.

William Wray

On this day, March 12, 1898 William Wray died of gunshot wounds he received on March 9, from his former roommate and intimate friend, Thompson Doucan. Doucan was a barber at the O.K. Barber Shop at the foot of Paradise Alley. While at the “O.W. Johnson Saloon” on the Pacific Coast dock, Doucan shot Wray and then turned the gun on himself and committed suicide.

The Skagway news described Mr. Wray as a 36-year old merchant and boat builder who was inoffensive and well liked. The paper said that Doucan however, possessed a “morose disposition and was considered materially ‘off’ by those who knew him intimately”.
Sounds like a lot of intimacy going around.

Edgar Richard Peoples Jr.

Ed and Estella Peoples moved to Skagway in 1898 from Illwaco, Washington. Ed was a furniture maker and undertaker. On this sad day, March 11, 1901 their two year old son died of tuberculosis in Skagway. Little Edgar was cremated and his remains taken to Portland, Oregon.
The People’s Mortuary was found on the southwest corner of 8th and Broadway from about 1898 to 1901.
Mr. Peoples was the Mayor of Skagway and on city council in 1900-01. After the death of little Edgar, he resigned and moved to Eagle with his wife Estella and Frank Woodruff. They then moved to Rampart, and then on to Fairbanks by 1926. Edgar and Estella both died in Seattle in the 1930’s.

Skagway Death Records; Washington death records; Oregon death records.


Esau Simmons

Private Simmons came to Skagway with company L of the 24th Army Infantry. This all Black unit arrived May 15, 1899 from Ft. Douglas, Utah.
Esau was born in 1879 in Dugan County North Carolina but his family had moved to Indiana by the 1880 census.
Simmons died on this day, March 10, 1901 in Skagway at the age of only 22. He was shipped on the S.S. Humboldt to Seattle. The Skagway Death Record does not say how he died.

Edward Toreson Hestness

Mr. Hestness was a White Pass section foreman in the 1920 census for Skagway. He was born on this day, March 9, 1879 in Norway. He died in 1924, at the age of 45, in a WP&YR train accident and is buried in the Skagway Pioneer Cemetery. He left behind 5 children and his wife Gertrude. His son Harold hated White Pass for failing to compensate the family and so he went to the University of Washington Law School and became an attorney. The photo above is of another train wreck, taken by J.D. True, but you get the picture.

from: 1910, 1920 and 1929 census and book “After the Gold Rush” by Robert Dahl, son of Dr. Peter Dahl who lived in Skagway at the time.

Ross Starner

Mr. Starner was the owner of the Colorado Pack Train bar. He was from Ornby, Colorado born there in 1865. He was a member of the Knights of Pithias when he accidently shot himself on March 6, 1898. Now there is a grave designated with his name in the Gold Rush cemetery, but there is also the possibility that he was shipped away.
In those days, it was very important to people to have their bodies brought home for burial instead of being buried in some God-forsaken place like Skagway. So, the answer was to join a fraternal organization such as the Eagles, Masons, Knights of Pithias or the International Woodmen of the World. As a member, the organization promised to have your remains shipped home.
The Victoria Daily Colonist reported that the shooting happened on the Dyea trail as a result of the discharge of his own revolver, and that Deputy Marshall Rankin also had a bullet in his leg from a similar accidental discharge. Seems like guys then could have benefited from a gun safety program.

Skagway Death Record; Victoria Daily Colonist March 16, 1898.