The Aggee family

The Aggees came to Skagway from Telluride Colorado. Alonzo Aggee and his sons Roy and Harry arrived via the Chilkoot Pass on October 9, 1899 yet Alonzo, his wife Martha or Madie Crouch and their son Alonzo Jr.(Sam), daughters Helen and Ollie all show up on the Skagway census in 1900. They may have been in the process of moving to Dawson when the census took place. Oddly, despite the fact that they were one of the few African-American families in the Yukon, the Skagway census lists them as being white.

Alonzo worked for a time as a deckhand on the steamers going up and down the Yukon River. Then he settled down in Dawson City as a barber, and the rest of the family, including his wife Martha, sons Sam and Harry, and daughter Helen arrived soon after.

Harry and Roy worked as barbers with their father, but in 1901 Roy, the oldest son, died of peritonitis. The family carried on. Sam gained fame as a member of Dawson City’s 1910 championship hockey team. He died in 1925 in Tacoma. Harry died in 1917 in Seattle and Martha in 1930. Alonzo L. Aggee outlived them all and died at the age of 81 in Skagit, Washington on December 21, 1940.

-On the Trail of the Yukon’s Black Pioneers by Kilian; Washington death records; Skagway 1900 census.

Stephen Joseph Rooney

Stephen Rooney was born on this day, December 29, 1864 in Sacramento. His father, John Rooney, had emigrated from Ireland at the age of 21 in 1849. John went from Liverpool to Boston to New Orleans, through the isthmus of Panama to San Francisco and finally to Sacramento. He was following the 49er’s to find gold which he did. The Alabama mine in Eldorado county, owned by Mr. Rooney, yielded as much as $800 per day, and by 1853, he had netted $25,000. John married and had four sons, among them was Stephen born on the homestead on Coloma road, five miles from Sacramento. Stephen entered Sacramento Institute and later was a student at St. Mary’s college in San Francisco (St. Mary’s moved from the city to Oakland in 1889 and now is at Moraga). Interested in agriculture, he raised hops, but at one time he also served as deputy Sheriff of Sacramento county.
So it is no wonder that in 1898, he decided to go to the Klondike to search for gold much as his father had 50 years before. He, his brother and Lee Brown landed at Skagway where they tried to move their load to Lake Bennett. However, from the very outset they had bad luck. A number of valuable pack animals had been lost with the Steamship Corona January 24, 1898 on Lewis Island (480 miles north of Victoria). A quantity of forage and provisions was lost in another vessel which went down. Finally, when his high hopes had begun to sink beneath the weight of his failures he fell ill with spinal meningitis and died in Skagway on March 7, 1898. There is a Skagway record of his body being buried in the Gold Rush cemetery, but it was then disinterred and sent back to California by his brother and was interred in a local cemetery in Sacramento. He left a wife, Mary, and three children ages 9, 7 and 5.

Seen above is the Steamship Corona in 1907 when she foundered again.

Willis, William L., History of Sacramento County, California, Pages 693-696. Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, CA. 1913.

Arthur and Aurel Krause

The brothers Krause were born in 1848 and 1851 in Konopath, Westpreussen, Preussen or what we would call Poland today. They were noted Anthropologists who explored the Chilkat and the Chilkoot Passes 1881. They spent the winter of 1881-82 at Haines, studying the Chilkat for the Geographical Society of Bremen and then wrote “To the Chukchi Peninsula and to the Tlingit Indians: A Scientific Expedition Carried Out by Aurel and Arthur Krause in 1881/1882”. Aurel also wrote “The Tlingit Indians: results of a trip to the Northwest Coast of America and the Bering Straits” published in 1885, translated by Gunther in 1956. Unfortunately this did not have much effect on general knowledge since it was in German. In this 1885 account he describes Lake Arkell (or Kusawa) as an early trade route between coast and interior used by the Chilkats. By 1887 George Dawson said that the use of this route was declining by Tlingit traders because the journey from the coast to the head of the Takhini was so difficult. They began using the Chilkat Trail even though it was longer, yet less dangerous. I looked these up in the Alaska Atlas and was amazed at these routes which were not only longer but crossed several glaciers. No wonder they were more dangerous, there were stories of men falling into crevasses on those routes. It is easy to see on a map why the Chilkoot trail from Dyea became so popular.
The Krause research was not only the earliest but some of the most comprehensive accounts of Northwest coast cultures before they were significantly changed by European contact.
Aurel died in 1908 and Arthur died in 1922 both in Berlin.

The Yukon, London 1898 p.378; Yukon places & names, Coutts; Thornton p 286; Life Lived Like a story, page 369. Under Mount Saint Elias: The History and Culture of the Yakutat Tlingit, by Frederica de Laguna SMITHSONIAN CONTRIBUTIONS TO ANTHROPOLOGY VOLUME 7

Walter Russell Curtin

Walter Russell Curtin was born in 1878 in California and spent a terrible winter onboard the Yukoner where he froze. He wrote about that experience in 1938, more than thirty years after the gold rush.

“I had thirty five cents in my pocket when I set foot in Alaska, but I gave that to a mission church at Dutch Harbour. I did not have so much left when I left the country more than two years later…….

I made exactly nothing, but if I could turn time back, I would do it over again for less than that”
He died in Los Angeles on March 10, 1951.

The Yukoner is seen above going through the infamous 5-finger rapids on the Yukon River.

Yukon voyage;: Unofficial log of the steamer Yukoner, by Walter Russell Curtin (Hardcover – 1938)

Fritz Gansneder’s Gambrinus Brewery

Fritz, or Anton Frederick Gansneder was probably born in Oberellenbach, Bavaria. His father Jacob immigrated from Germany with his 12 kids in the early 1880’s. The importance of this is that the family brought their knowledge of growing grain and producing cheese, sausage and beer to the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area. Following the surge of German immigration America benefited from the traditional methods of brewing good ales. Certainly Skagway benefited from Fred’s contribution: the Beer by the Quart Saloon in 1898. Fred and Frank moved to Portland around 1896 and established businesses there. Fred came to Skagway briefly to run his saloon and then probably went back to Washington. Here’s a tip of the hat and a clank of a mug to Fritz!

Gold Rush Grub: From Turpentine STew to Hoochinoo by Ann Chandonnet page 207; the Mascot Saloon by Spude p. 70 (misspelled as Gausnider).

Clifford James Rogers

Happy Birthday to Clifford J. Rogers born on this day, December 22, 1887 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He came to Skagway in 1900 and started working for White Pass in 1905, and eventually became President of White Pass. He and his brothers stayed in Skagway and all worked for the railroad. He was a naval architect and designed the first container ship.
In November 26, 1955 the new White Pass container ship was named for him. The Clifford J. Rogers set sail for Skagway then with her first load of “containerized freight.” The new ship and containers, coupled with the upgraded and diesel engines on the railroad and trucks on the roads made the Yukon the home of the first integrated container system in the world.
In 1965 the Rogers was sold and replaced with the 6,000 ton Motorvessel Frank H. Brown, one of the world’s most modern freighters.
Clifford’s wife in 1909 was Elizabeth Gertrude Steutiford. In 1949, Clifford James Rogers Jr. married Patricia Colwell in Ellensburg Washington.
Clifford Sr. died in 1978 at the age of 91 in Snohomish, Washington.

Seen above in the first Victoria College class in 1903 (age 16 far left).

Prigmore family

There was an obscure reference in the Skagway Death records to a child “Preigmore” who died in April 1898. After much research and reading of old newspaper articles and censuses I was able to piece together the story of the Prigmore family. First I will quote the San Francisco Call of August 23, 1897. It refers to Duke Prigmore who made more than one trip from Washington to Skagway on the family’s quest for gold.
“Many Outfits Lost: Bad Condition of the White Pass Trail from Skaguay where Gold Seekers are Struggling
SEATTLE, WASH Aug 22. Possibly the best description of the White Pass Trail from Skaguay is given in a letter from Duke Prigmore received in this city yesterday. It was brought down by the steamer Starr. After leaving camp on Saturday, Mr. Prigmore says, ‘The first three miles is a fairly good wagon road, which leads to the Skaguay river, a rather shallow but very swift stream. There the miners have erected an improvised bridge, over which only one horse can be taken at a time. Beyond the bridge for three miles horses and wagons can be used. Devil’s Hill is then reached. The trail is not over two feet wide here, while the climb is at an angle of 45 degrees. At the summit of the hill horses are compelled to make a jump of nearly two feet high only to alight on a slippery rock. Further on the trail is a steep incline, on which logs have been laid forming a kind of ladder.
After crossing the first hill a half mile of fairly good traveling is encountered when the big hill is reached. The path over this hill can scarcely be called a trail as Mr. Prigmore says it is quite narrow and at places is almost impassable for horses. The formation is of a soft and slippery slate rock. The trail winds crookedly around the hill or rather mountain while below it sheers off 500 feet to the river. At this locality many horses and packs have been lost. It is almost impossible for horses to pack any considerable amount of supplies around this bluff. After traveling several miles of this kind of road the big marsh is reached.
Here the packers become frightened as a horse will either flounder and roll in the mud until he gives up from sheer exhaustion, or else loses the pack and breaks a leg. This bog is one and a half miles long, and many of the miners are here camped waiting for the winter freeze so they can get over it.
A party ahead on the marsh told Mr. Prigmore that very few had passed them and they were making but slight progress, which fact leads him to believe that scarcely ten parties have thus far this summer crossed the Summit by way of Skaguay.”

Well, Duke came south and got more horses to pack over the pass and in the winter of 1898 his father, Isaiah Daniel Prigmore, and Duke’s younger brother, Leroy, came along. It must have been on this trip that young Leroy succumbed to pneumonia and died in Skagway on April 2, 1898. Isaiah took his body back to Washington and buried him in Bayview Cemetery in Bellingham. Isaiah and his wife Francis were also buried there in 1926 and 1935. Although I could not find an age for Leroy, or “Roy” as his headstone says, he must have only been about 9. Duke was 22 when he started this adventure, but he too died (of typhoid) in 1903 back in Ellensburg Washington at the age of 28. In all Isaiah and Francis had 8 children, the rest of whom remained in Washington and had families.

Seen above is the lovely Bayview Cemetery in Bellingham, Washington.

Bayview Cemetery online; various news accounts, family rootsweb info; Skagway Death record.

John Allen Hornsby

Happy birthday, December 19, 1859 or 1861, to Dr. Hornsby, surgeon for the White Pass Railroad, editor of the Daily Alaskan and member of Skagway City Council. Unfortunately he was also a friend and likely co-conspirator with Soapy. In the coroners report for Ella Wilson, the black woman who was murdered by strangulation in her bed, Hornsby’s report said the death was “unintentional” and the case was forgotten in all the excitement of the day. He also apparently failed to publish an account of the Stewart robbery, no doubt at Soapy’s request. After the death of Soapy, the town “rounded up” various supporters and associates. To quote Hornsby: “I was sent out of Skagway in a most arbitrary manner. The United States Commission said there were no charges against me, but that he had no power to combat the citizens’ committee that had put me on the boat at the point of loaded Winchesters.” In any event, he left and went to Eagle and then back to Chicago where he became superintendent of a hospital, then on to Washington D.C. where all good scoundrels end up. He appears to have died in 1939 at the age of 80.
Seen above are the 10 members and friends of Soapy that were rounded up. I don’t know which one is Dr. Hornsby, but I would guess it is the guy in the center saying to toss your eggs carefully (this doctored photo was used in 2008 for our Egg-Toss).

-Jeff Smith page 574 in “Alias Soapy Smith”;Haigh p.89: The book of Chicagoans by Albert Nelson Marquis online