Thomas Christmas Riggs Jr.


Happy Birthday to Thomas Riggs, third governor of Alaska. Riggs was born on this day, October 17, in 1873 in Ilchester, Maryland. He attended good schools and graduated from Princeton in civil engineering in 1894. The Riggs family moved to Washington state and was involved in the lumber business. Thomas came to Skagway in 1897, joined the Arctic Brotherhood, was a U.S. Surveyor, and owned the Dyea Lumber Company. Hmmm, no conflict of interest there.

He then unseccessfully prospected for gold in Dawson and Nome before heading south to Idaho. He found politics more rewarding presumably and was appointed to the U.S. Boundary Commission in 1903 and soon become the United States Engineer-in-Charge. During this effort, his team surveyed the United States-Canada boundary from the Pacific to Arctic Oceans, placed boundary markers, and cleared wooded areas to provide a clear line of sight between markers. (What became of the lumber I wonder?)

After that, President Wilson appointed him to the Alaska Railroad Commission during which time he oversaw the building the Alaska Railroad. President Wilson then appointed him the third Governor of Alaska in 1918.
During his governorship he saw the 1918 flu epidemic arrive in Alaska and made efforts to stop it, but to no avail. The flu wiped out entire villages and left hundreds of native orphans.
When Harding was elected President, Riggs left the governorship and Governor Bone was appointed. Riggs then left Alaska and moved to New York and finally Washington D.C. where he died in 1945 at the age of 72.

Wikipedia; NPS records; WW1 Registration; 1909 Arctic Brotherhood membership book.  Below is a picture of him in Dyea (picture from an ebay posting)

Riggs in Dyea

Robert Purves McLennan

Robert McLennan was a lumber businessman. He came to the area in 1899 and had lumber companies at both Atlin and Bennett. Although many stampeders built their own boats at Lake Bennett to float to Dawson, after the first few months, the nearby forests had been cut and it opened the opportunity for boat builders and lumber companies to operate.
McLennan was born in Pictou, Nova Scotia in 1861, and he died on this day July 27, 1927 in Vancouver.

The picture above is of a steam powered lumber mill. Another lumber company, owned by Albert Kerry packed a steam engine over the Chilkoot Pass to set up at Lake Bennett. Kerry and his brothers later used the engine to build their own boat and go to Dawson.
These steam engines were very dangerous and had a nasty habit of exploding at the worst moment. Reed’s g-grand uncle, John McCluskey was killed by one in 1868 in Owaneco, Illinois. This was after he had survived 4 years of the Civil War.

from the Dictionary of Canadian Biography online; personal genealogy story

Garland Hurst Sturgill


On Sept 14, 1943 Mr. Sturgill died in Skagway, although his final resting place is not known. He was born in Cattlesburg Kentucky just after the Civil War. He and his wife Miriam or Missouri lived in Skagway for about 30 years. He ran a woodmill on the ocean south of town by bringing a waterway down the mountain from upper Dewey Lake for hydro power. There was remnants of the mill until recently near the creek. There is also remnants of a small rail line still seen on the south side of Dewey Lake. Each summer, hundreds of tourists walk to this point to get out of town. It is a lovely walk through the trees, and at this time of year, the leaves of the cottonwoods are beginning to turn gold.
Sturgill had a number of run-ins with the law over the years. They lived on 7th in town. No information on what became of Mrs. Sturgill.