Bridge Builders

This Barley photo shows the bridge builders enjoying lunch near the bridge and tunnel. Records show that John “Nels” Hansen, Carl Arthur Larson and James McDonald were bridge foremen then. Daniel McDougall, James Cavanaugh Sturgill (brother of Garland Sturgill) and George Brown were other bridge carpenters. They built the 19A bridge well, it survives to this day, but is not the bridge that the train crosses over now, that is a newer bridge.


This little news article appeared in the October 7, 1897 Victoria Daily Colonist. There is very little written about the Chinese gold Rushers. I wonder how their fortune affected the lives of them and their families back in China!

Captain John Roberts

John Roberts was born in 1853 in England. He was the captain of the wooden Steamship Farallon which made trips in 1898 to Skagway. The ship ran aground in January 1910 on Black Reef on Lower Cook Inlet.
The ad above appeared on this day, March 12, 1898 in the Victoria Daily Colonist.

True ghost story

Several years ago while researching my husband’s family I found this story of his many times great grandfather, John Champness Austin. Austin was born on March 27, 1690 in Pembury, Kent England and died in 1759 in Lunnenburg, Halifax County Virginia. How he came to live in Virginia is the story below related by Reed’s great great grand uncle, John Overton Austin (1819-1910):

“I write things that I remember, that my Grandfather and Uncle Wat [Walter] Austin told me, when I was a boy. What I write, I remember well, being 10 or 12 years old. My Great Grandfather was banished from England, to the Colonies, in America for killing a man. The circumstances were about this. The people of England were divided, in their opinion, about witches, hobgoblins, and other scary things that appeared after dark. Some believed there was such things others did not. Grandfather, made fun of those who believed such nonsence [sic].

“One man said he would bet $100.00 dollars that no man could cross a certain old bridge, built on a milldam, that was said to be haunted; that no man could cross that bridge, after dark that he would be scared back, by scary things.

“Now said he, ‘I will bet 100 dollars with any one, who will undertake it.’ Our Great Grandfather was then a young man, and was not afraid of anything. So he took their bet and the money was put up. When the day came there was a crowd on each side of the bridge, to see him cross. He was not allowed to have any weapons but a finger stone in each hand.

“When he got about midway the bridge he saw a white object rise up before him. He stopped near the hobgoblin. He spoke in a loud voice, ‘Who comes there 3 times.’ Not a word was said. The thing stood still. It looked like a man wrapped in a white sheet. It stood in his way. He stepped a few steps nearer, and stopped. Now said he, ‘Man or spirit, or whoever you are, get out of my way. I am going to cross this bridge.’ But the thing stood still. He threw a rock. They heard the rock strike the ghost, and Mr. Ghost fell dead, and young Austin walked by him across the bridge, and won the money.

“The next morning, they found the ghost to be a dead man, wrapped in a white sheet. It caused great excitement. A search was made, and they found, that a gang of men had a den in the old dam making counterfeit money. The discovery of this den, of counterfeiters, pleased the English people so much, that fearing that some of his enemies might seek his life, they put him on a ship and sent him to America, to the English Colonies for safety. ”

Seen above is Pembury England where it all began.

Joseph Dewitt Matlock

Born on this day, March 8, 1839 in Benton County Tennessee, Joseph grew up in a large farming family in Tennessee and Missouri. The family crossed the country in an ox-driven covered wagon in 1853 on the Oregon Trail and they settled in Pendleton, Oregon. His brothers all had ranches and became involved in politics.
He joined the gold rush in January, 1898, going first to Skagway, after which he engaged in business at Lake Bennett, British Columbia, for two years. He sold out there with the intention of moving his stock to Dawson and proceeded down the Yukon river, taking his goods with him on flatboats. While en route he lost about two thousand dollars through the sinking of a boat in a storm, for, although he succeeded in raising the boat, the stock was almost worthless. In Dawson he again embarked in general merchandising but after eighteen months closed out his store there and returned to Eugene, making the trip down the Yukon river to St. Michael and thence to Nome.
His brother William stayed in Skagway a little longer establishing the Idaho Saloon, the Midway Saloon, and was president of the Skagway Brewing Co. Saloon but he also left for the Yukon in 1899 and later returned to Pendleton, Oregon.
Joseph died in 1921 in Lane County, Oregon at the age of 82 surrounded by his 12 children. William also died there in 1914.

Seen above is the corner of 3rd and Broadway, the building on the corner, across the street from the Golden North and next to the Sweet Tooth Cafe is the building which once housed the Idaho Saloon.

Gaston, Joseph. “The Centennial History of Oregon, 1811-1912.” Vol. 4. Chicago, Clarke Publishing Co., 1912. p. 355; Oregon death index.

Skagway Fire!

Apparently last night at 11 pm a fire broke out in the 600 wing of the Westmark hotel – the building next to Diamonds International. As I write this, there is still smoke coming from the ruins. The volunteer fire department has been up all night fighting it and has successfully stopped it from going further.
Jeff Brady has some great pictures of 20 foot flames shooting out the roof and he said that this Friday’s paper will have the whole story. The offices of the Skagway Jewelry Company, Avis and M&M tour sales are completely gutted. Water from the sprinklers in the Diamonds International Store is flooding out the doors. The store will need extensive repairs to reopen in May. Photo by Reed McCluskey.

John Beagle Lincoln

John was born June 10, 1873 in Montgomery, Illinois. He came to Skagway from Seattle with wife Annie Ellen Douglas and son Herl. John ran a grocery store and a travel business. The 1900 census also shows a James B. Lincoln (born June 1871) married to Annie L. with son Fred who was born on this day, March 6, 1895 in Washington. The first family returned to Washington sometime after 1900 where they all lived out their lives. Herl served in WWI and died in 1918 at age 22 of influenza.
Now I would say that John is actually James, the two Annies are the same and Herl is Fred, but no, they are actually different because Herl died in 1918 but Fred died May 1969.

Now of course I was wondering if they were related to President Abraham Lincoln who was also from Illinois, although born in Kentucky. And the answer is yes, but you have to go back to the 1600’s in Hingham England to find a common grandfather. So they were maybe 6th or 7th cousins.
John and his wife Annie Ellen are seen above in November 1901. The family website says that indeed John and family were in Alaska, but even they have questions about the various relations.

family website; familysearch; 1900 census; Washington death records.

The Hoff & Gem Saloon

Happy Birthday to John Cassius Hoff born on this day, March 5, 1875 on the family farm in Dallas County, Iowa. He was one of 8 children and in 1897 he and his older brother, Oscar or “Shorty” decided to come up to Alaska for the gold rush. They apparently traveled with Jack London for 6 months and they operated a freight and transportation company bringing fresh fruit, eggs and other staples up to the gold country from the coast, rather than mining. He returned in 1898 to Des Moines, IA with $2,000 in gold and some great stories. His older brother, “Shorty” remained in Skagway long enough to start the “Hoff & Gem Saloon” and then left for Canada in 1898. John returned to Iowa, ran the family farm and died there in 1960.

I don’t know if the Hoff & Gem ever produced tokens (they were a lot easier than measuring gold dust for drinks) but here is one example of a Skagway token, for the Idaho Saloon.

John Scott Hoff family information on
Smith p. 461 of “Alias Soapy Smith”