Ernest Williams

The “Skagway Kid” on October 19, 1901, fell off of a scow while working at the docks in Whitehorse, possibly during a seizure. His body was recovered in May 1902 and buried in Whitehorse.

Explorenorth; Juneau genweb; Report of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police 1902.

Frank Patrick Slavin

“Paddy” Slavin was a famous pugilist in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.
Born in 1862 in Maitland, NSW Australia, he was the Heavyweight Champion of Australia at one time hence his nickname the “Sydney Cornstalk”.
Slavin was a rushing, moving, boxer-puncher with skill and an extremely hard punch in either hand. He was much like Jack Dempsey, the heavyweight champion, in his skills, ability to take punishment, and killer-instinct. He came to the Klondike in 1898 and fought in matches until 1902 in Dawson and the Klondike. The New York Times of June 18, 1899 reported that he and his partner (Joe Boyle) had 37 placer claims in the Klondike. It also stated that he had gotten $100,000 in investment money to mine. He was also a “Commissioner for affidavits” in Whitehorse in 1908. Here is a letter he wrote to a friend in 1908:
“…Now old pal I am sending by this mail a couple of papers of our little town, and in the first noted you will see I am still on the track and can make they boys go a bit. I won the two mile walk in the snow here at our winter sports. I can still do my two miles in 18 minutes – not so bad for an old “has been,” though he was one of the smartest of the old bunch. Not a pound of surplus flesh on me. We are going to have a great country here in the Yukon Territory, Canada. The population of the territory is made up of people from all parts of t he world, and there is a very strong percentage of kangaroos and New Zealanders. Dawson City is 350 miles further down the Yukon River and north of this we have good sport-horse racing and cricket, base-ball, curling and skating and hockey matches. I had the privilege of being the first starter in this territory. I started the first horse race in this part of Canada and the farthest north in the world and on that part of the glorious Empire which the sun never sets on in 1898.
My son Frank is quite a good lad with the gloves. He is now 16 years old and I have apprenticed him to the engineering. He has now put in a year. He is a very big boy for his age 5ft 10 in high and weighing 142 lb and can go some but I will not let him go out of the amateur ranks. I have two girls, one 14 years and one 18 months – a native daughter.” Letter published in the New Zealand Truth, Issue 143, 14 March 1908 page 8.
He signed up for WW1 in Canada but because of his age was turned down. He then enlisted in the Western Scottish Battalion and worked first in recruiting, but then fought in Europe, suffering from shell-shock in 1917 after 57 days in the trenches.

Frank Slavin lived in obscurity until his death on October 17, 1929 in Vancouver BC.

New Zealand “paperspast” website; Wikipedia; Nytimes article-8/22/1897; 1901 Dawson Census online

Thomas Christmas Riggs Jr.

Happy Birthday to Thomas Riggs, third governor of Alaska. Riggs was born on this day, October 17, in 1873 in Ilchester, Maryland. He attended good schools and graduated from Princeton in civil engineering in 1894. The Riggs family moved to Washington state and was involved in the lumber business. Thomas came to Skagway in 1897, joined the Arctic Brotherhood, was a U.S. Surveyor, and owned the Dyea Lumber Company. Hmmm, no conflict of interest there.

He then unseccessfully prospected for gold in Dawson and Nome before heading south to Idaho. He found politics more rewarding presumably and was appointed to the U.S. Boundary Commission in 1903 and soon become the United States Engineer-in-Charge. During this effort, his team surveyed the United States-Canada boundary from the Pacific to Arctic Oceans, placed boundary markers, and cleared wooded areas to provide a clear line of sight between markers. (What became of the lumber I wonder?)

After that, President Wilson appointed him to the Alaska Railroad Commission during which time he oversaw the building the Alaska Railroad. President Wilson then appointed him the third Governor of Alaska in 1918.
During his governorship he saw the 1918 flu epidemic arrive in Alaska and made efforts to stop it, but to no avail. The flu wiped out entire villages and left hundreds of native orphans.
When Harding was elected President, Riggs left the governorship and Governor Bone was appointed. Riggs then left Alaska and moved to New York and finally Washington D.C. where he died in 1945 at the age of 72.

Wikipedia; NPS records; WW1 Registration; 1909 Arctic Brotherhood membership book.  Below is a picture of him in Dyea (picture from an ebay posting)

Riggs in Dyea

Mary Wheeler Bagg Clemenger

Mary Wheeler Bagg was born in October 1857 in Ohio. She and her husband came to Skagway in 1898 from St. Paul Minnesota. Mary was a music teacher.
Her husband Matthew B. Clemenger owned the Arctic Brotherhood Hall, was the President of the Home Power Company, managed the Dewey Hotel and was an assistant Postmaster in 1900.
Their names in the online 1900 census are incorrectly transcribed as Clemens.
She died on this day, October 15, 1902 of heart failure at the age of 45 and was buried in the gold Rush Cemetery. Oddly her headstone says she was 40. Perhaps her husband did not know how old she really was.

1900 census;1902 directory; Skagway Death record

Edwin Tappan Adney

Tappan Adney was born in 1868 in Athens, Ohio. He came to Skagway in 1897 as a correspondent, photographer and did sketches for Harpers Weekly. He used a 5X7 long-lens Premo camera.
He was one of the first photojournalists to pass safely through British Columbia. As a writer for Harper’s Weekly, he was sent with his camera to the Yukon from 1897 to 1898. His classic illustrated book concerns his experiences in the Yukon, of which numerous editions have been printed. He returned to Alaska to briefly report on the Nome Gold Rush in 1900.

He retired first to Montreal, then to New Brunswick, the place where his wife was born.
His famous book, the “Klondike Stampede” was published in 1899, by Harpers. It was dedicated to “The Noble Hardy Pioneers of the Yukon, this little account of some trouble they have caused”.

He died on October 10, 1950 in Woodstock, New Brunswick at the age of 82.

Klondike Stampede online; Wikipedia, Yukon-news.

Stanley and Annie McLellan

I was going through some old files today and happened onto a note from the sister of Stanley Alexander McLelland and his wife Annie Lettice Sterling McLellan.
This 1988 note was from Hazel M. Swan of Nelson, B.C. who was looking for information on the deaths of her brother and his new wife (they had married in 1909 in Atlin, B.C.)
I did a little research and found that they died in an avalanche in 1911, and by coincidence on October 5.
“The small Ben-My-Chree mine [on Lake Atlin] employed crews of between 10 and 60 men. Stanley and Anne McLellan lived in a small stone house high in the mountains and close to the mine, which was 5,000 feet above lake level. On October 5, 1911, tragedy struck. From 500 feet above them, from the crest of a hanging glacier 500 feet, an avalanche roared down and buried the Ben-My-Chree mine. The McLellans, who were peeling potatoes in their house, were killed instantly. The couple were then buried at Atlin.”
The mine was closed for good, but the Partridges opened a small hotel there which was very popular in the 20’s and 30’s. Today the only way to get there is by boat or floatplane.

Skagway city records;

Auto Accident 1955

On this day, October 4, 1955 there was an auto accident on mile 34 of the Haines Highway. The two men killed were Lee Edward Donnelly age 55 and Paddy Duncan, age 90. They were both fishermen and Paddy had once been a Tlingit Policeman which is odd considering that in Klukwan he once murdered a man while drunk.
“December 4, 1936 Paddy Duncan, Indian of Champagne Landing, is charged with the murder of Harton Kane in October 1936, is sentenced to hang March 23, 1937.” This from “Strange Things Done” by Coates.
Paddy was sent to the penitentiary but then parolled. He came back to Haines in 1949. He was a passenger with Donnelly when the vehicle he was riding in left the highway and turned over.

Here is a photo of the Klukwan band from the early 1900’s.

Coates; Cheechako news article October 1936.

Engine 61

There are very few photos of Engine 61, so I have been told, so here is one of Theresa Weise about 1920 posing on the front of it. The engine was purchased new and built in 1900 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works. It was a 2-8-0 wheel configuration and weighed 17,600 lbf.
Here is a description from a railfan’s site: “This single Consolidation had the same power dimensions as the converted #56 (Locobase 10678), but was a road engine. Like most of the WP & Y locomotives, 61 had an outside frame (to make room for the Stephenson link motion inside) and it stayed in service an equivalent amount of time before retirement in the early 1940s.”
Sadly it was used as riprap along the Skagway River in 1949.
I believe it was John Bush, who worked in Skagway as the head of the train works here, who had it retrieved and moved to Skagway Shops in 1990. He was involved in trading abandoned narrow gauge trucks (railroad car wheels) to other narrow gauge train companies. He was also responsible for trading these trucks to a town in the midwest for Engine 69, which eventually made its way to Skagway. When White Pass traded for this engine, it had been sitting in the town center of some little town in Nebraska (?) for many decades and the town was quite attached to it, so it was moved out of there under cover of darkness and hidden in Washington State for a couple of years until it was brought up to Skagway.
Anyway, the fate of little engine 61 is not as lucky, it was sold to Mid-West Locomotive & Machine Works in 2007. Narrow gauge engines and parts are getting difficult to find these days.

photo courtesy of John Weise. Wikipedia for engine info;