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Photos of the Gold Rush Cemetery at Skagway, Alaska

Gold Rush Cemetery at Skagway, Alaska

    This large sign at the entrance to the cemetery has an introduction to the cemetery, and brief biographies of Jefferson R. Smith, Frank H. Reid, Unknown Man, Ella Wilson, Hazel Achison, William J. Mulvihill, H. C. Parker, Bert & Florence Horton, and Martin Itjen. These biographies are transcribed below the photo.

This photograph is © 2012-2017 by Murray Lundberg, and is not to be copied without express permission.
Sign in the Gold Rush Cemetery at Skagway, Alaska


Born: 1860     Died: July 8, 1898

    The notorious Jefferson Randolph "Soapy" Smith, king of the frontier con men. was killed in the much publicized shoot out with Frank Reid on July 8, 1898. The Skagway News reported "At 9:30 Friday night the checkered career of "Soapy" Smith was brought to a sudden end by a .38 caliber bullet from a revolver in the unerring right hand of City Surveyor Frank Reid.
    The shooting occurred as Smith attempted to make his way into a large meeting of anti Soapy vigilantes assembled on the Juneau wharf to prevent objectionable characters such as Soapy from entering.
    The bullet fired by Reid instantly killed Soapy Smith and ended the long and successful career of one of Skagway's most talked about characters. The simultaneous shot from Smith's rifle left Frank Reid mortally wounded.


Born: 1843     Died: July 20, 1898

"He gave his life for the honor of Skagway."
    This simple message inscribed on the largest carved granite monument in the cemetery describes the feeling of Skagway toward one of its departed heroes.
    The bullet fired by Soapy's rifle during the July, 8, 1898 shoot-out left Reid mortally wounded. After twelve agonizing days in the hospital, Reid died from the gunshot wound.
    Credited with the shooting of Soapy Smith, he is heralded even today as one of Skagway's heroes.
    Reid was also responsible for laying out the Skagway townsite in early 1898. As City Surveyor he named and organized the streets you see today.


    Several unknown persons are buried in the cemetery, but the story behind this one is the most famous.
    At about 3 p.m. on September 15, 1902 a man walked into the Canadian Bank of Commerce in Skagway. Under his coat he carried several sticks of dynamite and a pistol. When he asked the teller for all her money she fled to the rear of the bank. In an attempt to pull out the pistol and threaten the teller his gun discharged and caused the dynamite to explode. Some stories indicate that the man's head was the only part of his body recovered. We still don't know his name, since there wasn't much left to identify.


Born: 1880     Died: May 28,1898

    "She gave her honor for the life of Skagway."
    As a resident of Skagway's Red Light district, Ella was not given a large funeral after an anonymous strangling. She undoubtedly had many friends, but her standing in the community was probably not high.
    Many of Skagway's ladies of the evening lived in the Red Light district cribs named for their nationalities and trade. Jap Alley, Paradise Alley and French Alley were enclaves of women in virtual slavery. The money only passed through their hands to the men who controlled their lives.
    Eventually prostitution was outlawed from the downtown district and cribs ceased to house the "soiled doves" of Skagway.


Born: 1894     Died: 1898

    Four year old Hazel was the first of many who died during a major epidemic of cerebro-spinal meningitis in 1898. In Skagway, and along the trails, the victims of this slow and painful affliction suffered with their pain and died. Several of the people buried in the cemetery succumbed without ever receiving medical treatment.
    Sanitation was undoubtedly lacking in the early Skagway. Water sources were often polluted by the many horses and improper waste disposal. Close quarters and harsh climate all contributed to the spread of disease.


Born: 1872     Died: 1949

    It is no accident that the closest gravesite to the railroad track belongs to W. J. "Mull" Mulvihill.
    Shortly after the railroad tracks were completed from Skagway to Whitehorse, "Mull" became a dispatcher in Skagway. Before long he was promoted to Chief Dispatcher, and moved into the ornate house at Seventh and Alaska. At the now restored Mulvihill House he had the dispatcher telegraph line connected so he could keep tabs on the trains even while at home.
    In 1942 "Mull" retired from the railroad with 40 years of service. His descendants still take a great interest in the affairs of historic Skagway and its gold rush railroad.


Born: April 17, 1848
Died: March 28, 1900

    While attending a Chamber of Commerce meeting, Henry Clay Parker collapsed from a heart attack. Heart failure was often listed as the cause of death in early Skagway. It may be presumed that many of these people died of other causes. Medical personnel were overworked, and often without sufficient experience to diagnose more complicated ailments.
    Mr. Parker's funeral was one of the most unique ceremonies in Skagway's history. As the first member of Camp #1 Arctic Brotherhood to die in Skagway, Parker's funeral was conducted by the Brotherhood. A special train took the funeral party and guests from the Arctic Brotherhood Hall to the end of town. From there wagons carried the group to the cemetery.


He: Born: 1874     Died: Oct. 24, 1899
She: Born: 1880     Died: Oct. 24, 1899

    In retaliation for the murder of two Indian packers, the Hortons were ambushed and killed by a group of Indians during a honeymoon trip near Haines in the fall of 1898.
    Skagway newspapers reported that following the murders the bodies were buried near the honeymooner's camp. It wasn't until early spring of 1900 that the whereabouts of the couple was discovered. One of the Indians involved in the murders finally confessed to his involvement in the crime after a Salvation Army revival Meeting.


Born: January 24, 1870
Died: December 3, 1942

    Capitalizing on his experiences during the gold rush Martin ltjen founded Alaska's first tourist sightseeing operation using a Ford truck chassis, Martin built unique Skagway street cars. Besides carrying visitors through historic Skagway. the buses were attractions in themselves. One carried a stuffed bear cub on the front which growled and pointed to the left or right as the car turned. Another had a mannequin of Soapy Smith which turned to salute in a military fashion at regular intervals.
    Itjen later restored Soapy Smith's Saloon and opened it up as a museum. He made the museum a major stop on his tour of historic Skagway. Within, Martin installed a life-sized statue of Soapy standing at the bar. When the front door of the saloon opened, the Soapy look-alike raised a schooner of beer and red light bulbs brightened his eyes. Additional space displayed Alaska and Skagway memorabilia.
    Skagway has been and remains an important tourist attraction. Martin Itjen was a pioneer in this important mainstay of Skagway's economy.