Daniel was a barber and a reporter who was sent to the Klondike to report on all the activity here. Unfortunately he only made it as far as the Chilkoot Pass because on December 13, 1898 he died there of exposure. The winter of 1898-1899 was the most severe winter for decades. Today in Skagway it is a balmy 27 degrees F. with no wind and a light dusting of snow.
One of the most common ways of death in Skagway was not murder or disease, but curiously, drowning. Skagway is a port town and ships come and go all the time. These days, the docks are wooden and concrete, but around the turn of the century they were just wood. As any local resident knows, wood becomes slippery and so you generally walk in the street or walk with ice-creepers if you take the boardwalks.
Poor Hector, born in Wood Island, PEI, was only 41 when he began his trip south. The Edmonton Daily of December 17, 1907 reported:
“Halifax, Dec 13, Hector McDonald, of Prince Edward Island, master builder for the Guggenheims at Bonanza Creek, Yukon, was drowned recently at Skagway on the eve of his departure for San Francisco, when attempting to make his way across the dock to the steamer Princess Royal, which was about to sail, he tripped over a guard rail, fell backwards into the bay and was drowned. A boat was lowered and the steamer’s searchlight turned on, but no trace of MacDonald could be found.”
Although the Skagway Death Record says he died on October 30, 1907, the Dawson Daily News pinpointed his death on Friday November 5, 1907. Since by December they still had not found the body, it must of sunk to the bottom of Lynn Canal. His is not the only body to disappear in the frigid waters. In any case, in the winter, be careful when walking on the docks and don’t lean over if you hear a peculiar cry coming from the water below.
On this date in 1897 there was a glacial outburst of the lateral moraine of the glacier near Sheep Camp on the Chilkoot Trail. This caused a tremendous flood which carried 7 people away. Among those drowned were Aaron M. Choynski and his friend Flynn. Aaron was the brother of Joe Choynski, a nationally known prizefighter. Also killed were Mr and Mrs Crockett who ran a restaurant at Sheep Camp and three unknown persons.
In June 2002 there was another glacial outburst of the West Creek Glacier which caused damage in Dyea. A jökulhlaup is a glacial outburst flood, something that happens when a moving glacier forms a dam. Because ice makes a poor dam, being lighter and softer than rock, the water behind the dam eventually breaks through.
On this day, September 1, 1897, William C. Watts, a Deputy U.S. Marshal was shot on Admiralty Island while serving a warrant there. He had come to Alaska in 1893 and was frequently in Dyea. He was the first lawman killed in Alaska, the second was Marshal Rowan who was shot here in Skagway in 1898.
Watts was shot by “Slim” Birch who was taken on the Corona by a US Marshal in December 1897 to San Quentin. Birch was acquitted of murder but sentenced to three years for the crime of mayhem instead.
William C. Watts was added to the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington D.C. He was also added to the Wall of Honor at the U.S. Marshal’s Service headquarters building in Alexandria, VA in 1998. The Trooper Museum at the Fifth Street Mall in downtown Anchorage also displays a memorial to fallen officers.
from Forgotten Heroes of Alaska by William Wilbanks; and the AK Tribunal report by Moore p 423; NY times of December 18, 1897 online.
Mr. N.B. Wilbur died on August 31, 1897. It was perhaps this instance: “an old man who had his goods as far as the summit of the pass went back to Skagway to get horse feed and died of heart disease. His wife was along, but she has turned back. This is the saddest thing that has occurred.” -from George Young’s letter Sept 19, 1897
On August 29, 1898 Arthur Hallum tragically died in a railroad accident on the White Pass. He was only 39 years old, but the age of his death was strangely similar to that of his famous grandfather, Sir Arthur Henry Hallum who died in 1833.
Sir Arthur was a poet and author friend of Alfred Lord Tennyson who wrote a monumental tribute to his friend, “In Memorium” in 1850.
from: Mission Klondike by Sinclair
On August 27, 1897 it has been written that a Frenchman, unknown name, was tied to a stake, shot and hung as an example to thieves. Although this story cannot be corroborated, it was said that some lynchings did occur on the trail.
In 1897 there were several U.S. Marshals in both Dyea and Skagway, so if this lynching did occur, it was not in town. Despite Skagway’s reputation for lawlessness, this period was mostly in the spring of 1898 when Soapy’s gang gained control.
Story of Lynching found on p165 of Fetherling: The Gold Crusades
On August 23, 1907 the infant son of Emil and Lillian Hain Korach died and was buried in the Skagway Gold Rush cemetery. He must have been a twin because his brother, Edward, moved to Los Angeles and died in 1967 at the age of 60 according to the California death index.
A website called drygoodsandwetgoods.com talks about their family. Emil was born in Hungary and ran the Bloom and Korach store in Skagway around 1905. The website says that they moved to Akron Ohio where they passed away. A rootsweb posting also said they were Jewish, but oddly, the headboard in Skagway has a cross on it. Perhaps some well-meaning Skagwegian decided to Christianize the Korach baby in a subsequent remaking of the headboard.