Skagway, Alaska is surely one of the most charming gold rush boom towns in the world.
In 1897, a gold rush to the far reaches of the Klondike kicked off, and legions of determined adventurers would find themselves destined to pass through this remote corner of the world, on their way further north to the gold fields.
In its day, Skagway’s streets have witnessed all of the riveting drama, crimes, struggles and joys of those who once passed through. Today, it still attracts many visitors, who come to see the well-preserved historic gold-rush era buildings.
My name is Marlene and I do research on the Gold Rush in Skagway and the Yukon.
Continue through to find tales of ghosts that inhabit buildings; famous people who passed through; murders only recently uncovered; missing persons; shipwrecks; avalanches; merchants; lovers; orphans and lost souls.
These are their stories.
If you have a story you can contribute, especially letters from the stampeders of the Klondike Gold Rush, or even material from other periods of Skagway’s history, don’t hesitate to contact me at email@example.com
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Hi, I’m looking for a famous photo of undelivered mail stuck in Alaska, going into the Yukon. It shows a short shed, with one massive skid of mail, 3/4 of it rotted and wet with mud. Do you know where I could get a copy of that? In trying to explain Dominion Day crowds in Dawson, people don’t get the concept of no counter on which to sort mail, no mailboxes, miners moved form one creek to another, so mail would have to chase them, or perhaps didn’t. Thanks.
Hi Joyce, sorry, don’t know, but good luck in your efforts!
I am a writer who is also fascinated by the history of Skagway. While on a cruise ship, I attended a lecture on the early history of Skagway and asked the lecturer if he knew anything about Jewish pioneers in Skagway. He did not and was not aware of any Jewish history in town. I believe there was a Jewish pioneer population in Dawson, but do you know anything about Jewish pioneers in Skagway? Thank you.
I am looking for clues on my great grandfather, Albert Martin Nicholas, who went to the Yukon looking for gold. He never returned, his family lived in Liverpool, England. Are there any documents or lists of casualties from that time?
According to family lore and a few pieces of evidence, my gr-grandmother, Margaret/Maggie Elizabeth (Best, Lindstrom, Boone, Dillon) moved to Skagway sometime around 1900 with her husband, Willis D. Boone, their two young sons, Willis Valentine & Arthur D. Boone as well as her youngest daughter, Rose. She worked as a “laundress” at the Golden North Hotel. There are many photos of the rooms at the Golden North in family records taken ca 1912. Not long after 1904, Willis applied for Civil War Veteran’s disability and shipped out to a veteran’s hospital in Malibu, Los Angeles County, California where he died in 1922. In the interim, Maggie became involved with George Dillon likely after the death of his wife. George died in 1922. When she returned to the Bellingham area in Washington State, she was known as Grandma Dillon. The name on her grave is Margaret Dillon. I’ve seen no public evidence of her name in relation to Dillon. The question arises, among many, as to whether she was widowed by Boone or by Dillon. Her son, Arthur, was responsible for her final arrangements but was not clear on her history – and obviously, she had a history! From Skagway, both of her sons enlisted and fought in Europe in WWI. Valentine was severely disabled from a mustard gas attack and spent the rest of his life in veteran’s facilities in Washington State. Arthur returned, married and worked at his mother’s chicken farm outside of Ferndale, WA. Known for his erratic behavior he likely suffered PTSD. After graduating from Bellingham Normal School, my grandmother went to Skagway and worked at the Golden North with her mother and youngest sister. This is where her father, John Lindstrom, a miner, introduced her to her husband-to-be, John Engstrom, a fisherman/whaler out of Wrangell. Engstrom’s youngest brother, Adolph Engstrom owned a store there. John Lindstrom had sailed to Skagway from Seattle in 1897 seeking his fortune. He would eventually end up going after gold in the sands of Nome and from there went south to the northern California gold fields and on to mines in Nevada. His & Maggie’s children were farmed out as child labor in private homes and, in the case of their youngest son, to the mills, while they both sought their fortunes in the gold fields.
The Black Cross Rock names come from a peculiarly worded White Pass document that Carl Mulvihill has a copy of. It is peculiar, because it affirmatively says that “Maurice Dunn” and “A. Janeaux” were killed. But, then the docoument only says that their bodies are “supposed to be” under the rock. It seems that the “supposing” should be the other way around. If the bodies were only “supposed” to exist, then the names would have to be “supposed.” A contemporary newspaper article does say say that “Two men, whose names have not been learned, were killed while blasting on the Skagway railroad.” 9 Daily Capital Journal (Salem, Oregon), No. 210 (Aug. 19, 1898), page 3, Col. 4 (Alaska Steamer Arrives ¶ 2), at, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn99063955/1898-08-19/ed-1/seq-3/ (Nov. 16, 2017). If – and I say IF – the Dunn name is correct, the most likely Maurice Dunn was b. 1861 in Michigan, and fl. 1896 in El Monte, California. Between 1890 and 1896, he had been a saloonkeeper, farmer, and laborer. Never married and disappeared from any record after 1896. Just the type of person who would have been a White Pass construction worker. El Monte is about 20 miles from Santa Monica, so he could have taken a coastal steamer all the way from there to Skagway. There is no known likely “Janeaux,” including variation spellings.
Robert – good sleuthing, I have often wondered about the history of these two men – I only just saw your post, sorry it took so long to approve, thanks, Marlene
Hi, I purchased 2 photos of what I believe they are of the mast of the S.S. Princess Sophia mast sticking out of the water with Vandirbilt Reef behind.
Tourists or would be rescuers are mugging for camera.
Clothing being worn is warm weather and looks like it may have been the spring 1919.The rigging still shows block and tackle but running light has been removed ,man can be seen standing on bracket.Rigging was used to lift the safe and retrieve bodies.
Can anyone tell me if these photos have ever been published ?
Does anyone Not think it is the Princess Sophia ?
Hi Dan, Happy to post any pics you might want to share, the tragedy of the Princess Sophia is a remarkable story, I just flew over Eldridge Rock last week and wondered what it would have been like to be stranded there on that dark and stormy night! Thanks for sharing. Cheers, Marlene
That is most likely the Sophia but it is not after she sank. Only the top of the mast was visible after sinking. You can see more photos at “Alaska’s Digital Archives”
Dear Marlene, since I discovered Jack London’s books at the age of eight, the world he described there has fascinated me. In 1999 I visited Skagway, Haines, Dawson and some other places in the Yukon Territory. My trip was an experience! By chance I discovered your “Skagway Stories” today. I’m amazed how many Germans were infected by the gold rush. Thank you for your work. Kind regards from Germany.
My Great Grandmother Hannah Murphy Barry Newman was married to John Packer Jack Newman & the Plaque of her Face is on the Washington Athletic Club! in Seattle, Washington!
My grandfather, Victor Leroy Sparks, was known as Skagway’s Sourdough artist. I have pictures of manty of his paintings and other items. I am interested in collecting more Pictures and stories about him. Sheila
I am writing an article for our county’s genealogical newsletter on the Cleveland family in Alaska. One of the children was Hazel Cleveland. I was interested in the article about Herman D. Kirmse, her husband. I was wondering where you got your info as the sources I have found state that Hazel and Herman were married January 1, 1902 (Daily Morning Alaskan – Skagway, AK, 1 Jan 1902, p1) and that Herman D. Kimse died November 18, 1912 and his first wife died the fall of 1899 (The Alaskan Daily Empire – Juneau, AK – 20 November 1912, p1. I realize newspapers can sometimes get the details wrong. Can you tell me what your sources are for the Skagway Story: Herman Kimse that appeared 18 July 2012 on your blog. Thanks. Love reading these stories. They make history come alive.