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.