Stephen Joseph Rooney

Stephen Rooney was born on this day, December 29, 1864 in Sacramento. His father, John Rooney, had emigrated from Ireland at the age of 21 in 1849. John went from Liverpool to Boston to New Orleans, through the isthmus of Panama to San Francisco and finally to Sacramento. He was following the 49er’s to find gold which he did. The Alabama mine in Eldorado county, owned by Mr. Rooney, yielded as much as $800 per day, and by 1853, he had netted $25,000. John married and had four sons, among them was Stephen born on the homestead on Coloma road, five miles from Sacramento. Stephen entered Sacramento Institute and later was a student at St. Mary’s college in San Francisco (St. Mary’s moved from the city to Oakland in 1889 and now is at Moraga). Interested in agriculture, he raised hops, but at one time he also served as deputy Sheriff of Sacramento county.
So it is no wonder that in 1898, he decided to go to the Klondike to search for gold much as his father had 50 years before. He, his brother and Lee Brown landed at Skagway where they tried to move their load to Lake Bennett. However, from the very outset they had bad luck. A number of valuable pack animals had been lost with the Steamship Corona January 24, 1898 on Lewis Island (480 miles north of Victoria). A quantity of forage and provisions was lost in another vessel which went down. Finally, when his high hopes had begun to sink beneath the weight of his failures he fell ill with spinal meningitis and died in Skagway on March 7, 1898. There is a Skagway record of his body being buried in the Gold Rush cemetery, but it was then disinterred and sent back to California by his brother and was interred in a local cemetery in Sacramento. He left a wife, Mary, and three children ages 9, 7 and 5.

Seen above is the Steamship Corona in 1907 when she foundered again.

Willis, William L., History of Sacramento County, California, Pages 693-696. Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, CA. 1913.

William Henry Chase

William Chase was a “self-taught” doctor who was here in Skagway during the meningitis epidemic. I’m sure the doctors here could use all the help they could get. “Dr.” Chase then went to Cordova where he was elected 14 terms to Mayor.
He was a prodigious author: “the Sourdough Pot”, Burton Pub. Kansas City 1923; “Reminiscences of Captain Billie Moore” in 1947 and “Pioneers of Alaska” in 1951. He was a delegate in 1932 to the Republican caucus. He died sometime after that.
The image above is probably not his, but who knows?

Pennington page 330.

White Pass Hospital tent

During this time in 1898 there were many deaths due to meningitis. Here is a Barley photograph of the interior of the White Pass Hospital tent. The beds are made of sticks and the supplies look rather bare. Dr Fenton Whiting, Dr. Isaac Moore, Dr. John Hornsby were all WP physicians at that time.

James G. Hornbaker

Mr. Hornbaker was born in 1875 on his family’s farm in Bonaparte, Iowa. The farm must have been a dangerous place since at least two of his brothers died young – in their teens/20’s before he left.
James was another young man who came to Alaska to seek his fortune; he worked in Skagway as the manager for the Foard & Stokes Company store.
He died on this day, February 24, 1898 of meningitis but his body was shipped back to Iowa. The cemetery there also has this amazing gravestone of another Hornbaker who died in the first World War.

His name was misspelled or mis-transcribed on the Skagway Death Record as Hamlaken.

The Foard and Stokes store was owned by Martin Foard and J.J. Stokes who ran it in Astoria since 1882 and apparently wanted to expand to Skagway.
Foard’s beautiful Victorian house built in 1892, in Astoria is on the walking tour there and is still owned by a descendant.

Ancestry posting under Skaguay; Skagway death record as Hamlaken.

William Cornell Ostrander

William Ostrander was born in 1868 in Orange, New York. His family moved to Portland Oregon in the 1890’s. By 1895 he was living with his parents in Portland, but he decided to travel to the north in search of his fortune. Unfortunately he succumbed to meningitis on this day, February 23, 1898 in Skagway. He was a member of the Woodmen of the World in Portland and so, his body was shipped back to Portland, that being the main reason that men signed up to these organizations back then.
Ostrander may have been an artist as there was a painting by William Ostrander that was auctioned off in 2006.

Portland Death Records; Skagway Death Records; familysearch.

Infant Mortality

On September 20, 1900, three babies died, Elias Rudd, Constant Schemich, and one of Kitty Smith’s babies. The only cause of death listed on the Skagway Death Records was for Constant and that was for brain fever. They were buried in the Gold Rush Cemetery. The influenza which spread over the world in 1918 reached Alaska in force in 1919 and 1920.
Then in 1935 on September 20 Leonard A. Sweeney, another newborn, died and is buried in the Pioneer Cemetery. In those days folks had a curious penchant for photographing dead people in their coffins.

Skagway Death Record

Dr. Charles W. Cornelius

Born October 11, 1956 in Portland Oregon and died November 1, 1923, Dr. Charles Cornelius is often pictured as the doctor who did the autopsy on Soapy and Frank Reid. He was elected coroner of Multnomah County in Oregon in 1894. He came to Skagway in 1898 just in time for the spinal meningitis epidemic and the Soapy shootout.
He returned to Portland, retired and then built the Cornelius Hotel there.

He is seen at the right in the photo above as Dr. Whiting pokes around.

Portland, Oregon – Its history and builders in connection with the antecedent explorations, discoveries and movements of the Pioneers that selected the site for the Great City of the Pacific, by Joseph Gaston, 1911 p. 439

Ester Clayson Pohl

Hettie, or Ester was born in 1869 in Seabeck, Washington in a logging camp. The physician who delivered Esther Clayson’s youngest sister was a woman and inspired Clayson to enter the University of Oregon’s Medical School in 1894. Her father was an English seaman who had jumped ship in 1864 and brought his family to join him three years later. His attempts to support his family as a lumber merchant, hotel manager, newspaper editor, and farmer were not entirely successful. After such unsteady beginnings, young Esther Clayson decided that she had no desire to be the helpmate of an Oregon farmer or pioneer hotel keeper. For a while, she could not decide between a career in theater or medicine. While theater seemed unreal to her, medicine was “drama in its highest form.” After graduating in 1898 from Medical School she married a fellow doctor, Emil Pohl. They joined the rest of the Clayson clan in Skagway soon after. As they arrived there was a meningitis outbreak.

Hettie and her husband, Emil set up the Union Skagway Hospital to treat the many sick men. The Pohls were indeed heroes of the town in that year.

The Clayson family had a large general store called Clayson’s. After the murder of her brother, Frederick Clayson on December 25, 1899 in the Yukon, the family eventually moved down to Washington. The doctors Pohl stayed in Alaska for a few years, but Dr. Emil Pohl himself died in 1911 in Alaska from either spinal meningitis or an encephalitis epidemic. After Emil’s death Ester married George Lovejoy in 1912 and relocated to Portland Oregon.
In 1907 Dr. Pohl was the first woman to direct a city department of health, the Portland Board of Health, in Oregon.
In 1919 she was co-founder and first director of the Medical Women’s International Association.
In her lifetime, Dr. Esther Clayson Pohl Lovejoy transformed the Portland Board of Health in Oregon by regulating the milk supply, providing funds for school nurses, and gaining Portland a national reputation for its high standards of sanitation. She also helped to establish the Medical Women’s International Association and the American Women’s Hospitals which, under her leadership, grew from an emergency committee for war-relief into an international service organization operating in thirty countries.
From 1911 to 1920, Esther Pohl Lovejoy continued her support of women’s suffrage, the League of Nations, and Prohibition, even running for a seat in Congress. She was an outspoken campaigner, publicizing the plight of poor farmers in the Northwest and calling local bankers “bandits” who charged ruinous interest rates in order to profit from the farmers’ misfortunes.
Dr. Ester Clayson Pohl Lovejoy passed away on this day, August 17 1967 in New York at the age of 98.
Her life is a shining beacon and an inspiration.

National Institute of Health: Changing the face of Medicine – Celebrating America’s Women Physicians – online; Murder in the Yukon; Klondike Mission, Sinclair; The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science by Marilyn Bailey Ogilvie, Joy Dorothy Harvey.

Duncan B. McFadden

Mr. McFaddeen was born in Cape Breton, Whycocomagh, Inverness, Nova Scotia in 1850. He moved to El Cajon California by 1880. According to the El Cajon historical website, in 1882 Duncan McFadden and his wife built a house and blacksmith shop on the main road across from the Knox hotel. He died on this day, June 7, 1898 in Skagway from meningitis and is buried in the Gold Rush Cemetery.

Francis Mims

Although we know very little about Francis Mims, we do know that he was probably born in Oregon about 1893 and definitely died in Skagway on this day, April 29, 1898 at the age of 5 from meningitis. Francis’ remains were shipped home to Oregon.

The Mims family did not stay until the 1900 census in Skagway. There are family records online that point to the Matlock family in Pendleton where Nellie Mims was living with her father and her kids: Hazel born 1896 in Oregon, Lulu born 1899 in Alaska, Pauline born 1894 in Oregon and Wesley born 1897 in Oregon. Oregon records show that Nellie divorced her husband Edwin in 1901. If that entire family came to Skagway in 1898, they were lucky to have only lost one child. The photo above is of Pendleton Oregon in 1905.

Edwin was convicted on November 4, 1899 of manslaughter and was sentenced to 5 years in prison and $1000 fine. He had been involved in a barfight with a bouncer when Mims pulled out a gun and shot J. Henry Miller.
On April 10, 1901 Governor T.T. Geer of Oregon granted him a full pardon. Presumably that is why Nellie divorced him. Edwin died in 1925 in Tonopah, Nevada.;
Citizen Call of Phillipsburg Montana of April 10, 1901 – online.