“Packer Jack” Newman’s two loves

While most of us have heard the story of Mollie Walsh and her great admirer Pack jack Newman, I only just read the curious story of the second monument in Seattle. Mollie met Packer Jack in Skagway where he was smitten with her. He once shot a fellow in the legs right on Broadway so that he could not go up and visit Mollie at Log Cabin where she sold pies. Mollie later married Mike Bartlett who murdered her in Seattle in 1902.  In 1930 – 28 years after Mollie’s death Newman decided to honor the memory of his “Angel of the White Pass.” He commissioned a bronze sculpture of Mollie to be placed in Skagway.

And here the statue stands today, by a children’s playground that has become known as Mollie Walsh Park.

The inscription, written by the man who lost Mollie to the man who killed her, reads:

ALONE WITHOUT HELP / THIS COURAGEOUS GIRL / RAN A GRUB TENT / DURING THE GOLD RUSH / OF 1897-1898. / SHE FED AND LODGED / THE WILDEST / GOLD CRAZED MEN. / GENERATIONS / SHALL SURELY KNOW / THIS INSPIRING SPIRIT. / MURDERED OCT. 27, / 1902.

Jack Newman was unable to attend the dedication ceremony in Skagway, but sent a message.

“I’m an old man and no longer suited to the scene, for Mollie is still young and will remain forever young, her spirit lingers still reach across the years and play on the slackened strings of my old heart and my heart still sings – MOLLIE! – my heart still sings, but in such sad undertone that none but God and I can hear . . .”

However, his wife, Hannah let her husband know that she was less than thrilled with his tribute to his lost love.

To appease his wife, he quickly placed a dinner-plate-size bronze profile of Hannah on the exterior of the Washington Athletic Club, at Sixth Avenue and Union Street. The inscription:

MRS. HANNAH NEWMAN / WITH COURAGE AND FAITH IN THE / DEVELOPMENT OF OUR CITY OWNED / THIS GROUND FROM PIONEER DAYS / UNTIL THE ERECTION OF THIS BUILDING / 1930

Jack Newman died soon after Mollie’s statue was unveiled in Skagway – on May 4, 1931 of appendicitis. Although Newman had requested that he be buried in Skagway, beside Mollie’s monument, Mrs. Newman had him buried in Seattle. I could not find a photo of Hannah’s bronze on the WAC building on the corner of 6th and Union. If someone would like to photograph it, I will post it, but in the mean time here is a great picture of young Packer Jack. Cute guy!

Here is the pic of the bronze, care of Lindsey Haight

IMAG1965

 

Frank Alfred Novak

Frank Novak was born on April 5, 1865 in Webster County, Iowa. He ran a mercantile store in Walford Ohio. He suffered some “financial reverses” (actually a gambling addiction) and put the business in debt. So, in frustration he took out a $30,000 life and accident insurance policy on himself. Then, on February 2, 1897 lured his friend Edward Murray to the store, crushed his skull, robbed him and then burned the store over him to cover the crime. He fled the scene, I found some evidence that Novak’s wife, Mary had claimed that he died in the fire, thus claiming the life insurance. But insurance companies are not so easily fooled. He was pursued for six months across the continent and to Alaska by Detective C.C. Perrin of Chicago or Denver. In total they traveled 26,000 miles back and forth across the continent. Finally in Washington, Perrin discovered that Novak had taken the steamer Al-Ki at Port Townsend on February 23 to Juneau. Perrin took the steamer Mexico on May 24 to Skagway. Both men had to secure provisions to cross the Chilkoot Pass.

Detective Perrin spent many days on the Chilkoot Pass looking for Novak. He then briefly saw him as his boat passed Novak’s boat on Lake Bennet. He followed Novak to Dawson where he got a warrant from the Canadians to arrest him and take him back to Ohio for trial. Novak was claiming that his name was J.A. Smith. But when Captain Constantine compared the dental records (possibly dentures) of Novak with his dentists records from Ohio, the Mounties decided that they had their man!

On the way back through St Michael, Novak told Perrin that back in Iowa, he kept a bottle of whiskey impregnated with morphine in the store and found Murray drinking it. Later during the fire he tried to rescue him but was unable to (perhaps because he had first bashed in his skull). Such a story! Perrin was not swayed and succeeded in bringing the murderer back to Iowa for trial.

In November 1897 he was brought back, tried, and convicted of second degree murder and put in the Anamosa prison in Ohio. A second trial by the Supreme Court upheld the lower court decision. By 1903 he was involved in photography and was on the prison band being a model prisoner and his friends petitioned the Governor for clemency. Not sure if that happened as he was serving a life sentence. He died in Chicago on July 12, 1930 but was brought back home to be buried in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a few miles from the scene of the crime in Walford.

The Carroll Herald, April 1, 1903. The Baltimore Underwriter October 1897. Two Years in the Klondike and the Alaskan Gold Fields by Haskell.

Nantuck Murders


I recently got a new book called “Sailor on Snowshoes – Tracking Jack London’s Northern Trail” by Dick North. Mr. North has spent decades gathering every detail of London’s trip to Dyea and Dawson, but one incident jumped out at me that I had never heard before.
On page 81, he states that when the Nantucks spoke of “previous wrongs, it is very possible that it was the murder of the two maternal uncles of Johnny Johns they had in mind. ” Johnny Johns was the nephew of Skookum Jim Mason and Tagish Charlie. In 1982 Johnny Johns insisted that “very early in the gold rush era transgressions of the law occurred that were never reported because there were simply no law enforcement officers around. He cited the fate of his mother’s two brothers in 1896. When several white men who had set up camp on the beach at the outlet of Lake Lindeman caught an Atlin native stealing their liquor supply, they promptly shot the thief, killing him instantly. Seeing the only witnesses were two natives (who happened to be John’s mother’s brothers), they killed them as well. Word of the murders leaked out to the village people when the Native girlfriend of one of the whites told John’s mother about it.”
So, I looked through “Life Lived as a Story” by Julie Cruikshank and found the genealogy chart for Angela Sidney’s family. Johnny Johns’ mother was La.oos Tiaa, kaax’anshi or Maria Johns, married to Tagish John. Maria had two brothers who were named Tl’uku and Kult’us but there is no information on them.
Since the 1896 murder was not investigated and the murderers’ names were not recorded it would seem that in this case, they got away with murder. Then, two years later, on May 10, 1898 the Nantuck brothers take retribution for past occurrences, which presumably had to do with the white powder incident – or maybe something else.
North says that Johnny Johns’ family may have instead been referring to the 1896 murders.
An interesting thought might be that the two miners who murdered the brothers could possibly be the same two miners that the Nantucks shot in 1898.
The Nantuck brothers’ testimony seems confused, as written up in “Essays in the History of Canadian Law: British Columbia and the Yukon” by John McLaren and Hamar Foster which is viewable online. It was generally accepted that the Canadian government was trying to understand the issues involved in cases involving First Nations people and that they were beginning to rethink the previous frontier justice actions.
This week the remains of Dawson and Jim Nantuck were re-interred after they were identified in Dawson after accidentally being dug up during a construction project last summer. The Dawson cemetery is seen above.

Francis Mawson Rattenbury


I love this story.
Francis M. Rattenbury was born in 1867 in Leeds, England. Rattenbury emigrated to Canada in 1892, first working as agent for Bradford investors in Vancouver. His experience in commercial and civic design, structural systems, architectural historical vocabulary and office practice furthered his career quickly. Aided by his prize-winning ability as draftsman, Rattenbury quickly supplanted the earlier generation of immigrant architects in the province. He won the 1893 competition for the new Provincial Legislature in Victoria a building which is beautiful and which is open for tours today. Despite cost overruns, the building opened in 1898 to considerable praise. He also designed the famous Empress Hotel in Victoria which overlooks the bay.

Rattenbury’s demonstrated competence at architectural display won him patronage from the leading institutions as well as government. I read once that he designed the White Pass administration building in Skagway that today houses the National Park’s administration. Rattenbury also was a promoter of the Bennett Lake & Klondyke Navigation Company.

Unfortunately for one so talented in architecture and business, he failed miserably in his personal life. Rattenbury married Florence Eleanor Nunn on June 18, 1898 and had a son Francis Burgoyne Rattenbury that same year. Rattenbury and Florence did not get along and fought often when he was at home, but he stayed away on projects in the Yukon during the gold rush. Eventually he divorced in 1925 and married Alma, who at the time of their marriage was 26 to his 56 years of age.

Hastened by scandal attaching to his divorce and remarriage, Rattenbury returned to Britain in 1929. He was murdered by his 18 year old chauffeur, George Stoner, Alma’s lover, on this day, March 28, 1935. (Stoner crept up behind Rattenbury and struck him on the head three times with a mallet.)
Stoner was found guilty of murder and sentenced to hang. Mrs. Alma Rattenbury, although chastised for being an adultress, was found not guilty of any crime and released. Despite her freedom, Alma was distraught. Four days later she waded into the Avon River and resolutely stabbed herself six times before delivering a fatal wound. Ouch, how Shakesperian!
Stoner’s death sentence, because of public pressure, was commuted to life imprisonment. After serving seven years he was released in 1942 to join the army. He took part in the Normandy Invasion on June 6, 1944.

The Right Way On, Olive p 165; Alaska State Archives; www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com

Peter Clancy Bean

I was contacted yesterday by an author and historical researcher that had been reading the diaries of Frank Purdy that are held at the University of Fairbanks. One entry in those diaries mentioned the fact that the Purdy party had heard a shot on the evening of March 7, 1898 up near White Pass. The next morning they found the body of P.C. Bean who had been murdered. Now the clue here was that they said he was from California and he was actually Peter Clancy Bean.

The murder case is still unsolved.

from: 1880 census in California; Michael Gibson author of “Echo of a Family Secret” (the story of another unsolved murder available at lulu.com)but is currently working on the biography of Frank Purdy, a goldrusher who passed through Skagway.

Marshal Alfred James Daly


Marshal Daly was the Special Marshal appointed to Skagway after Marshal Rowan was murdered in February 1898. Daly was here in April, May and June 1898 and prosecuted Soapy Smith in an assault case in June.

Daly achieved some notoriety in 1897 when U.S. Deputy Marshal William C. Watts was shot and killed on Admiralty Island on September 1, 1897 whiled serving a warrant, (he was the first lawman killed in the line of duty in Alaska).
Hiram Schell and William “Slim” Birch, the murderers, wounded three other lawmen. They escaped but were apprehended soon after with the help of the U.S. Marines and a bunch of outraged volunteers.
The Assistant District Attorney who prosecuted the case was our Alfred J. Daly. Despite his good efforts in that case, the jury found the men not guilty saying the Marshals had not adequately identified themselves before the attempted arrest. Governor John Brady was horrified and compared the decision to let them go to the outrageous things happening in Skagway with the Soapy Smith gang. Perhaps that is why he sent Daly to Skagway.

Alfred James Daly, died on this day, August 6, 1912 in Tanana Alaska, he was 39 years old. His remains were taken to Nome for interment. Pictured above is Tanana around the turn of the century.

Alaska Library; Skagway Museum Record; News account list NPS library; The Daily Alaska Dispatch, 1912-08-29; Sitka Daily Alaskan various dates in 1897; Forgotten Heroes of Alaska by Wilbanks.

Famous Murder-Suicide



On September 20, 1897 George Buchanan, an Englishman who was foreman of the Skagway Bay Improvement Company murdered Stella Kossuth and then shot himself.
The Victoria Daily Colonist of Sept 26, 1897 reported that he had been helping Stella, her mother and her little boy start a hotel in Skagway. He then became jealous of men coming to stay at the hotel and shot her.
Stella had come to Skagway from Seattle where her husband, Caspar Kossuth, a Swiss man had died. She was 28, her son, Caspar “Cassie” Kossuth was only 5 years old when he saw his mother killed. Another family in Skagway, with a son the same age adopted him and he moved to Seattle eventually where he died in 1966.
The hotel where this murder suicide happened is still standing in Skagway, in the middle of the block of 2nd between Broadway and State. A former owner claimed she could feel a “presence” in the building, but no known ghosts to date.