The other day a descendent of T.J. stopped in here to my office and gave me a copy of his ancestor’s diary.
T.J.Jessop had started from Australia in late 1897 and after several adventures wrote this about Skagway:
“I will revert to Skagway it was a very lawless city and was terrorised by a notorious gang of criminals, the chief was known as “Soapy Smith”, He was very amiable and meek in his manner and very like a parson in more ways than one, and very deceiving in every way.
Several Aussies were forcibly robbed by the gang. Members of the gang would turn up by boat from Vancouver and of course they, or some of them, would play “Two Up” and the gang took particular notice of those who had plenty of money, and on arrival at Skagway would introduce them to members of the gang. They would then propose to show them Indian Totem Poles and rain gods (which were mythical) and when a secluded spot was reached would forcibly rob them. The robbed would appeal to the Marshall (he was in charge of the soldiers) no police and he would just laugh at them at being caught as there were hoardings everywhere containing warnings.
In Vancouver and Skagway really there was no excuse at being caught. The gang even went as far as to establish information bureaus (which were bogus), but on entering these places there was always some form of gambling going on and if the entrant did not join in, they cut his gold belt off from around his waist.
I read this after I came back to Australia that a man named Reid was in Soapy’s gambling den when a dispute arose and Reid got the drop on Soapy. There were not many members of the gang present and he was bluffed, and it preyed so heavily on his mind that next day he was seen making for the jetty with a gun in his hand. Reid was an engineer and was supervising repairs or extension to the jetty. He saw Soapy coming and both fired at the same time. Reid was shot through a wrist and Soapy was shot dead. The gang then became disorganised and the townspeople rounded them up and put them in a steamer and sent them down to the “States”. (U.S.A.)”
An interesting take on the Soapy-Reid gun battle!
“Paddy” Slavin was a famous pugilist in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.
Born in 1862 in Maitland, NSW Australia, he was the Heavyweight Champion of Australia at one time hence his nickname the “Sydney Cornstalk”.
Slavin was a rushing, moving, boxer-puncher with skill and an extremely hard punch in either hand. He was much like Jack Dempsey, the heavyweight champion, in his skills, ability to take punishment, and killer-instinct. He came to the Klondike in 1898 and fought in matches until 1902 in Dawson and the Klondike. The New York Times of June 18, 1899 reported that he and his partner (Joe Boyle) had 37 placer claims in the Klondike. It also stated that he had gotten $100,000 in investment money to mine. He was also a “Commissioner for affidavits” in Whitehorse in 1908. Here is a letter he wrote to a friend in 1908:
“…Now old pal I am sending by this mail a couple of papers of our little town, and in the first noted you will see I am still on the track and can make they boys go a bit. I won the two mile walk in the snow here at our winter sports. I can still do my two miles in 18 minutes – not so bad for an old “has been,” though he was one of the smartest of the old bunch. Not a pound of surplus flesh on me. We are going to have a great country here in the Yukon Territory, Canada. The population of the territory is made up of people from all parts of t he world, and there is a very strong percentage of kangaroos and New Zealanders. Dawson City is 350 miles further down the Yukon River and north of this we have good sport-horse racing and cricket, base-ball, curling and skating and hockey matches. I had the privilege of being the first starter in this territory. I started the first horse race in this part of Canada and the farthest north in the world and on that part of the glorious Empire which the sun never sets on in 1898.
My son Frank is quite a good lad with the gloves. He is now 16 years old and I have apprenticed him to the engineering. He has now put in a year. He is a very big boy for his age 5ft 10 in high and weighing 142 lb and can go some but I will not let him go out of the amateur ranks. I have two girls, one 14 years and one 18 months – a native daughter.” Letter published in the New Zealand Truth, Issue 143, 14 March 1908 page 8.
He signed up for WW1 in Canada but because of his age was turned down. He then enlisted in the Western Scottish Battalion and worked first in recruiting, but then fought in Europe, suffering from shell-shock in 1917 after 57 days in the trenches.
Frank Slavin lived in obscurity until his death on October 17, 1929 in Vancouver BC.
New Zealand “paperspast” website; Wikipedia; Nytimes article-8/22/1897; 1901 Dawson Census online
“Over six feet tall with a mighty stutter and matching temper.”
George Herbert Kingswell was born on this day, July 20, in 1867, the last of ten children, in Kew, Invercargill, New Zealand. His father was both a very successful sheep farmer and equally successful business man with interests in fellomongery, local rail, and property development. But George was a wanderer and traveled the world (Australia, Hong Kong, San Francisco, Alaska and South Africa) as a reporter for various newspapers. His life is so extensive that books have been written about him.
As a freelance mining correspondent for the Australian Press he went chasing the gold rush in Klondyke Alaska. Reaching Dyea Alaska in August 1897. To support himself as a journalist he took to trading fur coats. By mid-1898 he was back as editor of the Coolgardie Miner in Western Australia. He died in 1931 in Capetown South Africa. The picture above was taken in 1915 of his family in South Africa.
austenfamily.org; Kingswell, War Correspondent the biography of George Herbert Kingswell, written by his daughter Elma Kingswell; The Dictionary of South African biography.