SKAGUAY (Alaska Historic Information)
Skaguay (Skagway Postoffice) is a creature of the Klondike rush, during which lime il grew from a lent to a city of tents, with 10,000 population.
In those boom days it experienced all the dance hall, gambling hell, murder and other vices known to the '49ers, Cripple Creek and every other great mining camp.
The clink of the wine glass, click of roulette wheel, crack of the assassin's revolver, were lost in the sound of curses from the card table, songs and laughture from the dance and beer halls, and the din of a wide-open mining camp.
Men forgot their fatigue of carrying burdens through snow to the pass, forgot their home, marriage vows and honor, forgot everything, while half-crazed with vile whisky, they hilariously swung the scantily dressed but well painted dance hall girls to the call of the quadrille, or wagered their last cent.
At the very top of this vice was the prince of gamblers, Jefferson R. Smith (Sopy Smith). He had trained in every big city and mining camp in the United States and Mexico; many murders were charged to him, and every other crime as well. He had a half-dozen confederates ex-convicts but, experienced like himself; through them he murdered on the trail, and robbed and gambled in town. He was a good schemer, a good dresser, good shot, good gambler, and a charitable giver. When it became known that his men were murdering and robbing on the trail, they were called in; when the shell game wore out it was replaced with roulette; from one thing to another, he robbed all the people. It is said he was the first man to wire an offer of men to the President for the Spanish-American War; he patriotically galloped through the streets of Skaguay July 4, 1898, just four days before he was shot.
Sopy's last game was won when he robbed a poor miner of a bag of gold that he had just brought over the pass, and refused to return it.
The people selected a vigilance committee, and armed themselves for a fight. As soon as Smith learned of the opposition he attempted to cowe them and met the guard, Frand Reid, at the land end of the dock, as brave as himself. After some words, Sopy knocked Reid down with his gun. Reid's gun refused to discharge, but just at the same instant that Smith shot him in the groin Reid's gun discharged and he shot Smith through the heart. Smith's followers fled to the mountains, but were rounded up, and sent out of the country or to prison for long terms. About two miles up the White Horse Trait is an acre of graves, inclosing the bodies of men dying on the trail or in this camp in 1897-8. The one most conspicuously marked is that of Frank Reid; another (now unmarked, the markers having been taken for souvenirs) is that of Smith.
Many of the signs of a mining camp can be now seen about the city, but it has settled down to a law-abiding village of about a thousand people, with good schools, and modern conveniences.
The White Pass and Yukon Railroad built by Fieney and Hawkins, now building the Copper River road for Guggenheims, goes over the old Brackett pack trail, and although one of the most difficult engineering feats in railroading, and also one of the most expensive, it nevertheless pays for itself every year. It is said that this railroad burned two thousand dead horses that had died in the rush over this trail. The number of human lives has never been estimated; the headboards in the cemetery tell enough.
Every tourist reaching Skaguay should at least go to the summit of White Pass, 2,500 feet high (Chilkoot Pass is 3,600). On this miniature railroad the scenery surpasses that of any railroad in the world, except the new road now building on Copper River, so far as mountain scenery is concerned.