Robert Lee Guthrie

Born in 1862 in Texas, Mr. Guthrie came to Skagway in the gold rush. By the spring of 1898, he owned the Board of Trade Saloon.
“A shrewd saloon man could make a mint selling liquor, running gambling tables and offering female entertainment upstairs or in the alley behind his place, all of which Mr. Guthrie did. He quickly reinvested his money in Skagway’s real estate, buying up property as soon as it hit the market. By 1900, Guthrie was building the most expensive home in Alaska, now known as the White House on Eighth Avenue, costing $10,000 to build.. He was on the first three city councils of Skagway”

Guthrie married Abbie Atkins in 1901 in Salado, Texas, the daughter of a Baptist minister and his childhood sweetheart. They returned to Skagway but left in 1908. Lee Guthrie died on this day, September 20, 1934 in Stockton, California.

Skagway News Historical Features;

Dr. Charles W. Cornelius

Born October 11, 1956 in Portland Oregon and died November 1, 1923, Dr. Charles Cornelius is often pictured as the doctor who did the autopsy on Soapy and Frank Reid. He was elected coroner of Multnomah County in Oregon in 1894. He came to Skagway in 1898 just in time for the spinal meningitis epidemic and the Soapy shootout.
He returned to Portland, retired and then built the Cornelius Hotel there.

He is seen at the right in the photo above as Dr. Whiting pokes around.

Portland, Oregon – Its history and builders in connection with the antecedent explorations, discoveries and movements of the Pioneers that selected the site for the Great City of the Pacific, by Joseph Gaston, 1911 p. 439

Sheep Camp

Mr B.L. Tingley took this photo of the muddy road in front of the Grand Pacific Hotel in Sheep Camp. Mr. J.P. Rupp owned this fine establishment. No news on what became of him after the gold rush.

Emory Valentine

Mr. Valentine was born in 1858 in Dowagiac, Michigan. He first opened a jewelery store in 1895 in Juneau. He would have built a jewelry store in Skagway, but he faced competition from Herman Kirmse, a well-known jeweler. In 1897 he built and was co-owner of the Sylvestor-Valentine wharf where Soapy and Frank Reid were shot. He also owned the Princess Saloon in Skagway in 1898. He died on this day, September 14, 1930 at the age of 72 in Juneau and is buried in the Evergreen Cemetery.

Yukon genealogy; Spude book; Evergreen records; Juneau Parks and Recreation website.
Who’s Who in Alaska Politics: A Biographical Dictionary of Alaskan Political Personalities, 1884-1974; Wikipedia.

John Foley

John Foley was a well known card shark (three-card-monte) during those tumultuous days in 1898.

In the spring of 1898 the Spanish conflict aroused the patriotism in “Colonel” Soapy Smith to the point that he decided to recruit a company of soldiers in Skagway such as Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. Such became legal under authorization of the Volunteer Bill of April 23, 1898. The bill as presented by President William McKinley provided for the First Volunteer Cavalry Regiment – The Rough Riders – as a result of the sinking of the battleship Maine in Havana harbor on February 15, 1898 with the loss of 260 of her crew.

President McKinley called for 125,000 volunteers from the seven Western states and territories, a figure that was soon raised to 267,000. Three regiments were to be raised in the West, the first in the four territories, which included Alaska, the second in Wyoming and the third in the Dakotas.
Soapy organzied Company A, 1st Regiment of National Guard of Alaska and elected himself as Captain and John Foley as 1st Lieutenant.

The next time he shows up in history is that on this day, September 13, 1913 he got married in Alaska.

Corvallis Community online pages; Soapy letter to Pres McKinley in Clifford; news accts of deaths in NPS library

Matthew M. Sundeen

The Sundeen family came to Skagway in 1898. Matthew was a master mariner and had a steamship business as well as being a quartz miner. His wife Ida ran the Pearson and Sundeen laundry. Matthew was born in 1866 in Sweden and married Ida Louella Crosier in Oregon in 1892. They had three daughters, Carrie, Lucille Loraine and Etta who was born here in Skagway in 1903. Mrs. Sundeen died in 1914 at the age of 38 in Portland but Matthew stayed in Skagway for many years and died on this day, September 9, 1941 and is buried in the Pioneer Cemetery.

Just prior to his death in 1941, Sundeen wrote an article that appeared in The Fairbanks Daily News. Back in 1898, Sundeen said he was in the hardware store opposite the Juneau Wharf and had been first on the scene when he looked out to see Smith and his gang confront Tanner and the boys. He remembers Reid’s revolver failing to fire three times, as Smith fired four shots into the surveyor. Then he watched Jesse Murphy struggle with Smith, trying to wrestle the Winchester away from him before he killed anyone else. In the process, Smith shot and killed himself. Well, enough people had remembered seeing Reid kill Soapy through the years to put into question one old miner’s 43-year-old memory.

Sundeen claimed no one else but him, Smith, Reid, Tanner, Murphy and Landers were on the wharf approach when the killing occurred. Further he claimed that Tanner, Murphy and Landers all agreed to lie to the officials to let Reid think he’d died a hero. Who knows, the story has a certain amount of credibility. I have tried to find record of what became of Jesse Murphy, but with such a common name, he disappeared after 1898. Certainly White Pass who employed Jesse Murphy had much to gain from the end of all the lawlessness in Skagway.

Here is picture of the schoolkids in 1906 in front of the school, no doubt Carrie, Lucile and maybe even Etta are here.

censuses; familysearch; Fairbanks Daily News.

Harriet arrives in Skagway

Although we have covered Harriet Pullen before, it was on this day, September 8, 1897 that she arrived in Skagway full of hope for a new life. She left behind a bankrupt farm and four children to join her husband here to scratch out a living. Starting a restaurant in a tent and cooking meals, her husband ran a string of horses across White Pass. After earning enough money, she bought a log cabin and then sent for her boys to help her.
Soon after, she and her husband split and sold the packing business. She told people that she was a widow. She purchased a large frame house from Captain Moore and named it the Pullen House. All that is left today is the chimney, which is now more clearly seen since the city has cut down all the trees in the area in the past month. Nasty trees, who needs them?

from Alaska: Saga of a Born Land by Borneman


Another Canadian Pacific Railroad liner, the Princess Kathleen, grounded on Lena Point during a fierce squall and sank northwest of Juneau on this day, September 7, 1952.

Fortunately the over 400 passengers and crew were able to climb ashore with no loss of life. The massive ship now rests on her port side in around 80-140 feet of water. Like the Sophia, limited visibility and strong currents frequent the wreck site. Located relatively close to Juneau, the site is a popular recreational dive destination. Since the sinking, periodic fuel releases and oil sheens have been noted in the vicinity. The vessel sits at an angle on its port side at a depth ranging from 52 feet at the bow to 134 feet at the stern.

Recent inspection of the ship’s integrity showed it to be coming apart since the rivets have mostly disintegrated.

Small amounts of oil will still be released at the site, since dive crews could not scrub the ship clean. The leaks will result in small oil sheens on the surface, as had been observed before the work.

The cost to recover about 110,000 gallons of bunker oil from the ship has surpassed $10 million and likely will cost more than $12 million, U.S. Coast Guard officials said.

Federal funding to pay for the oil removal project will come from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, the emergency fund discussed as a source for cleanup in the Gulf of Mexico associated with BP’s oil rig explosion.

Project coordinators with the U.S. Coast Guard and state officials consider the Juneau project a major success. Removing the oil eliminates the potential for a large environmental disaster, Alaska On-Scene Spill Response Coordinator Scot Tiernan said.

The price tag also is worth it, U.S. Coast Guard Response Chief Cmndr. Kurt Clarke said.

Juneau Empire article from June 13, 2010.

E. Leroy Pelletier

Mr. Pelletier came to Skagway from New York in 1897 to cover the Gold Rush. In addition to being a newspaperman, he was also a journalist. He was a man possessed of a small body, a large head, and nervous energy that was electrifying. As a newspaperman, he covered the Klondike stampede for The New York Times.
His dispatches to the Times, covering the period 1897 to 1900, provide enthralling reading: he narrated tales of precautions against starvation, delays due to selfishness, preventing a corner in supplies, smallpox comes to camp, getting ready for the greenhorns, pistols drawn many times, large loss of life and a murder, no time for legal trials. Sounds like an adventure movie.

Working for Henry Ford, first as a consulting engineer and later when it was obvious he was considerably more adept with words than machines, Pelletier worked as Ford’s private secretary and advertising manager.
He preferred the title “publicity engineer.” That he was. A brilliant intellect matched with a vivid imagination, he could think even faster than he could talk, and his conversation was routinely described as “rapid-fire.”

His September 5, 1938 Detroit obituary follows:
“E. Leroy Pelletier, 72, advertising manager for Henry Ford, died Sunday.
Pelletier was a former newspaperman who covered the Klondike Gold rush. He designed the first four-cylinder air-cooled automobile at the turn of the century and was president of the company which built his automobile the “Duquesne”.
Tales of Klondike veterans told how Pelletier, the energetic New York reporter, organized the “Jackson Money Exchange” and reputedly sold, through the agency, a third of the Klondike region.
Surviving Pelletier are his widow, Gertrude; 2 sons and a daughter; a brother Frank (Pelkey) of Vancouver,BC. Pelletier was a native of Houlton, Maine.”

In the fall of 1897 he founded the Yukon Telephone and Telegraph Company in Dawson w/big Alex McDonald.

photos from 1897-98: online from Tappan Adney; rootsweb; p206 The EMF by Yanik