Murder in Dyea

On this day, March 24, 1894 there was an infamous murder in Dyea. This murder involved Scum Doo or Scundoo, a native medicine man/witch doctor (known to be a medicine man because he was born with a double crown and had red hair).

“In July, 1894, Skun-doo was arrested for causing the death of an Indian woman, Ches Oqhk, while practicing shamanism. A death had occurred in the village, and the relatives of the deceased employed his services, at a fee of 20 blankets, to determine the cause of death. As a result of his divinations, Skondoo settled on Ches Oqhk, suspected of being a witch, as the cause of death. Under his direction, the deceased’s family bound the woman for 10 days, and she died from lack of food and water.

Because she had died, she was declared to have been a witch, establishing her guilt (The Alaskan 1895). Gleh-Naw, a member of the woman’s family, made a complaint to the white authorities and Skondoo was arrested for murder and taken to Juneau to stand trial (U.S. court Records 1894) As an outcome of the trial, he was found guilty and sentenced to 3 years at San Quentin for manslaughter (The Alaskan 1895)” (Emmons)

Scundoo was sent to San Quentin for some years. He returned home and was photographed in 1907 by W.H. Case, see photo above.

The Tlingit Indians,by George Thornton Emmons, Frederica De Laguna;
Sackett: 1977 pp 77-80

Francis Merrill Sulzman

Father Sulzman came to Skagway in 1931 when Monsignor Gallant established the Saint Pius X Mission Home for Native children who were either orphans or from destitute families, staffed by the Sisters of Saint Ann. The Mission was rebuilt in 1946, and operated until the 1960s.

Sulzman was born on this day, March 16, 1906 in Waterford New York and when he left here he joined the army and served as a chaplain in World War 2. He died in 1966 in Matanuska Alaska.

from the Hugh F. McColl webpage at; and the oblatvs.blogspot

Sophia Frederick Matthews

Sophia was the daughter of J. Frederick born in 1895 in Juneau. She married William Clarence Matthews, a Tlinkit who was a farmhand in Dyea at the turn of the century. Sophia died on this day, February 15, 1921 in Skagway and was buried in the Dyea Cemetery. Why she died at the young age of 26 is not known, but many women at that time died in childbirth or shortly thereafter. What we do know is that Mabel, her 8 year old daughter died in 1920 and Julia, her one year old daughter died a month later in April 1920. Perhaps she died of heartache. All three are buried in Dyea.
Some of the people buried in the Native Dyea Cemetery that was being washed away by the river about 10-15 years ago were relocated to the Slide Cemetery.

from rootsweb posting, Skagway News and Skagway Death record.

George C. Holt

George Holt, a Quaker, was a very early arrival to the Dyea area. He crossed the Chilkoot Pass to Marsh Lake and back about 1874 (variously reported as 1872 to 1878), first white man to do so. He brought out a small quantity of gold, but he’s best remembered for making the return trip through the pass without the knowledge or consent of the Chilkoot Indians who guarded it against outsiders. Holt was lucky to get out alive.
Born in 1850 in Ohio, he died in December 1885 at the Knik River (said to be about 45 years old), murdered by local natives.

The Alaskan 10.2.1897; Pierre Berton; many other books.

Richard Dick

Last year, September 25, 2008 Richard Dick passed away. He lived in Skagway for 60 years and many who live here miss him. An accomplished carver and artist, like many Skagwegians, had worked for White Pass and as a fisherman. Born in Angoon in 1925 he died in Anchorage.

George Washington Carmack

Happy Birthday to George Carmack one of the discoverers of the the gold in Dawson!

Born on September 24, 1860 in Pacheco California he came to Alaska in 1882 on the US Wachusette at Sitka, he was a marine.
George married a native woman who died and then he married her sister, Kate Mason Nadagaat Tlaa Kaachgaawaa who became wealthy with him and moved down south.

Eventually, George left California and his wife and daughter. In 1900, George married Marguerite Saftig L’Aimee in Olympia, Washington. Kate, illiterate and nearly destitute, initiated a protracted legal battle to prove she was George’s wife and eligible for alimony, but eventually dropped the case in favor of trying to reclaim her husband. When this failed, Kate settled in Carcross, where she lived until her death from influenza in 1920.
Their daughter Graphie lived to be 70 and died in Lodi, California in 1963.

A bloody picnic

On this day, August 13, 1905, James Hanson, otherwise known as Kebeth or “White Eagle” Kaagwaantaan, an Aleut from Sitka died in prison at MacNeil Island, Washington.

He was convicted for the murders of a young couple, Bert and Florence Horton as they picnicked at a spot along the bay near Skagway, while on their honeymoon. That was on October 24, 1899.
Kebeth was perhaps a bit unbalanced as he accused the Horton’s of a previous death, and decided to kill them out of retribution. He shot both and slit Florence’s throat.

Bert and Flo were married a few months earlier in Lane Oregon, she was 19 years old and he was 25.
Kebeth made his friends keep quiet about the murders but eventually one of them talked and Kebeth was convicted, but his sentence was commuted due to his mental state.

The Hortons are buried in the Gold Rush Cemetery.

-from the Skagway Death Records and Thornton’s Ethnographic Study, 2004, p 189.

Nantuck Murder and Execution

A notorious case that started with a burglary. As Kitty Smith, grand-neice of the Nantuck Brothers put it:

Some Indians stole some baking-powder from a prospector’s camp. Turned out it was arsenic, perhaps put there deliberately, perhaps just supplies for refining gold. In any case, two Indians died.

At that time, customary Indian law dictated that members of victims’ moiety or clan (Crow of the Klinkit Tribe) take steps to avenge the deaths, if not against the individuals actually responsible, at least against representatives of their moiety or clan. The debt could be paid by money or a death.

When asked for payment, purportedly, the prospectors said no. At this point, as related by the 4 Nantuck brothers (Joe, Jim, Dawson and Frank), they shot two white prospectors on May 10 1898. One of these, William Meehan, died, while the other, Christian Fox survived and went to RCMP who subsequently arrested the four native brothers.

RCMP took the boys to Dawson where an extensive trial took place. Although they confessed, Canadian leaders felt the need to be lenient because of past cases and a change in attitude towards the First Nations people. In the end, Frank and Joe died of consumption (TB) in jail during 1898 and the other two, Dawson and Jim were hung in Dawson on August 4, 1899.

from two books: Life Lived like a Story by Kitty Smith et. al. and Essays on the History of Canadian Law by John McLaren and Hamar Foster.