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

John Laurence Fetter

Not a good day to be at the top of the Chilkoot Pass. Mr. Fetter died there on this day, March 22, 1898 and was buried in Dyea. He was born in Oregon and was only 36 when he died. His brother Vernor died two weeks later in the big avalanche of April 4, 1898. He too is buried in the little Dyea cemetery.

St. Patrick’s Day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Of the over 5000 people that I have birth location information for that lived in Skagway at the beginning of the 20th Century, over 150 of them were born in Ireland. There was a significant Irish community here with the Mc’s the O’Briens, O’Connors, Farrels, Ryans and Finnegans. Like other communities, among the harworking Irish were White Pass employees, stage performers, prostitutes, longshoremen, blacksmiths, firemen, waiters, sailors and even a Skagway Mayor.

The famous “McGreely’s Express” stamp issued privately in 1898 in Dyea was actually started by a fellow named McGreely. Seymore C. Marcuse came to Dyea in January of 1898 and met McGreely who was doing private mail runs from Dyea to Skagway. The two of them established the mail service and produced 2000 stamps, of which 1000 were used. The other 1000 stamps were divided between the two men. The beautiful stamp was actually created in San Francisco by an unknown artist. When the new postmaser Clum came to Skagway on April 1, 1898, the McGreely’s Express shut down. Both McGreely and Marcuse went to Dawson, but Marcuse returned to San Francisco by 1901 where he wrote a letter explaining the history of the stamp. Today these stamps occasionally come on the market and fetch up to $175 each.

Irish born “Whiskey Finnegan” built boats at Bennett and has a place on the Chilkoot Trail named for him.

“Chris Shea, the son of an Irish immigrant, came to Skagway in 1898, worked as a laborer for the railroad, started signing on as bartenders for the Mascot, the Pantheon, and then the Pack Train. In late 1904, he finally had enough money to partner up with two other men and buy the Pack Train. He organized baseball games, courted the labor unions, organized the men in the saloons, and formed a labor party. In 1907, his political party overthrew the businessmen who had been running Skagway since the gold rush days. For the next three years, he instituted Progressive Era reforms for city government, including equalizing the tax structure, purchasing the power and water company for the city, and overseeing the settling of a lawsuit between the original claimant to Skagway – Capt. William Moore – and the townspeople who staked out the lots in the heart of the town.”

Pennington; Chris Shea info from Skagway News story; Proof of McGreely’s Express Legitimacy by Steve Sims online at

Deadly Hotel Fire in Dyea

On this day in 1898 there was a fire in Dyea. The Every One’s Home Hotel and the adjoining saloon and dance hall there burned at night. Although 20 people were sleeping there, 4 people did not make it out as reported by the New York Times on March 10, 1898. The dead were identified as Bert Meeker of Portland, a man named Russell and two unidentified men. It was also reported that a woman’s body was recovered, but Mrs. Bert Meeker escaped as reported by the Dyea Press on March 12, 1898 and was staying at Murray’s.

New York Times March 10, 1898; Dyea Press March 12, 1898.

George T. Ulmer

George established the first printing plant in Skagway in 1898. He then moved to Dyea and published the “Dyea Trail” on January 12, 1898 for a few months. It was a weekly paper until his death on this day, March 1, 1899 in Juneau. He is buried in the Evergreen Cemetery there. Ho-hum.

Evergreen Records; obituary of brother Charles in Olympic, WA.

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.

Tom Williams

Although little is known of Tom William, one thing is sure, he died on this day, February 12, in 1887 in Dyea.
The circumstances of his death are extremely important to history. Tom was a mail carrier who, while crossing the Chilkoot Summit nearly froze to death on the mountain. “Indian Bob” helped carry him down to the Healy trading post in Dyea where Tom told a fantastic story of gold being discovered and that a fellow traveler Leslie had poisoned and shot his partners – perhaps to keep the location a secret.
Pierre Berton said that Tom had nuggets of gold on him, but died before he could give the exact location-but that it was near 40-Mile River in British Columbia, seen above. After that, stories persisted of gold in the Yukon and eventually sparked the gold rush of 1897-98.
Who knows, perhaps there is still a place in the north where gold nuggets lie on the sides of a stream. I’m thinking I might do a little more camping this summer…..

from: The Yukon p.379; Pierre Berton; and p. 183 of Alaska: Its History and Resources, Gold Fields, Routes and Scenery 1895.

Ella Clark Card

The little Card family was photographed by Winter and Pond, Klondike photographers. There are several different shots of them in Dyea preparing to climb the Chilkoot Pass. Ella Clark Card is holding her son who dies shortly thereafter at Lindemann and is buried there with a little white picket fence around his grave, he was 7 months old. Buried next to him is the baby daughter of Mrs. J.D. McKay who also died in 1897 there at Lindemann. I wonder if the two baby ghosts enjoy each other’s company? If you camp at Lindemann and hear babies crying, don’t be surprised…

Ella and Fred pushed on and she ran the hotel Cecil in Dawson by 1903. Ella died on this day, February 11, in 1927 possibly in Fairbanks.

John Battist Bassett is the packer actually pulling the cart and in front of him is Joe LaPorte.

AK Searchlight June 5, 1897; Wickersham; Two Years in the Klondike.

Charles Henson Meadows “Arizona Charlie”

“Arizona Charlie” had a dance hall in Dyea in the goldrush. He also had a saloon at Stone House and then a Grand Opera House in Dawson. He was born in Visalia California in 1860. Charlie was tall, dashing, and flamboyant. He wore a flowing moustache and long hair, in the manner of the Wild West showman he was. He had a dozen careers and a thousand schemes. Occasionally, one paid off. He prospered during the Klondike gold rush. Charlie’s Grand Opera House, now called the Palace Grand Theater, is a landmark in downtown Dawson City. He was a legendary sharpshooter in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.
He apparently bled to death on this date, December 9, 1932 in Yuma Arizona while operating on his own vericose veins w/pocket knife.

lots more on Charlie at; Frank Norris 1986 article

John Jerome Healy

On this day, September 15, 1908, John Healy died down south in either San Francisco or Seattle. Healy was born in County Cork, Ireland in 1840, emigrated to the U.S. in 1853 during the great famine. He married in New York in 1863.

He was once boss of a whiskey fort on the Montana-Canadian border w/ partner Dickson(the fort was burned by Indians). He was also sheriff of Cocteau County, Fort Benton Montana in 1880 (see census for kids and wife Mary).
He died a rich man according to Pierre Berton, having come to Dyea and establishing a trading post there with Wilson in 1886. The Healy and Wilson Trading Post lasted for many years in Dyea as there were stampeders before the big gold rush in 1897/98. In 1886 he had 16 stores in Alaska. He also served as U.S. Marshal in Dyea.
The town of Healy, a village on the Alaska railroad, a river flowing into the Tanana River, a rock on Admiralty Island and a locality near Yukon Kuskokwin Delta are all named for him.

He is buried in Seattle.

from: Healy; Greer; Hunt;Encyclopedia of Frontier Biography, Dan Thrapp; A descendent says there is a biography of him written by Edwin Tappen Adney. It is currently lodged in the Naval college in New Hampshire.