Marlene pulls up the day’s history blog on her computer at the Skagway Visitor Center. AC

History in the making

McCluskey develops a following with Skagway blog


Many people from all walks of life have called Skagway home or used it as a jumping off point for adventures into the untamed frontier wilderness. The Skagway Historical Society’s folklore blog provides detailed information on the names and faces that have who helped shape and define the community.
Marlene McCluskey has been compiling information for the blog on a daily basis since 2009. A detailed database allows visitors with family ties to the Klondike Gold Rush days to find answers to historical mysteries when passing though town.
From her office at the Skagway Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, McCluskey demonstrated how she goes about compiling her information to keep the blog timely and up to date.
McCluskey explained that every day she cross-references her Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to find the name of a person who may have lived or died on that date. By utilizing information she has compiled from a storehouse of books and letters, she has been bringing to life the finer details of persons who have been part of Skagway’s history. Sometimes the information is limited and other times it is expansive.
On this day last year, McCluskey’s blog focused on a man by the name of Michael Brarmon.
The entry is accompanied by a photo of the Gold Rush Cemetery and reads, “Murdered in the Klondyke Saloon on this day, April 8, 1898 and buried two days later in the Gold Rush Cemetery. Apparently there was no investigation at the time, things were getting pretty bad in Skagway. Mr. Brarmon was about 22 years old and hailed from San Francisco.”
McCluskey said she obtained the information from the Skagway Death Record.
Other entries are far more detailed, made possible when more information is available about a person’s life.
Every year McCluskey gets numerous site visits from tourists asking about the details of a family member’s life. Her database often finds information at the push of a button, much to the delight of people seeking even the smallest of details about a mystery left unanswered for a century.
Numerous old photographs round out the daily blogs and bring the stories to life. Those interested in Skagway history are able to peruse the blog on a daily basis and are provided with a comprehensive historical analysis in one easy to browse location.
In her April 1 entry, McCluskey describes a secondhand story she heard from the great-grandson of a man named Louis Pollak, born in 1883.
The entry reads, “Louie came to the Yukon in the gold rush but did not do so well, so after the rush he returned to Chicago. Not satisfied with the city, he set out for the West again. He built a cabin at Nunn Creek and was attacked and eaten by wolverines.”
The blog can be found at:

Above, Doug Hulk shared his memories of his tour with George Rapuzzi, with Deb Boettcher, Museum Technician and Tom Cummins, Exhibit Designer. KGRNHP

Klondike Gold Rush NHP planning restoration for Jeff. Smith’s Parlor Museum
 Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park recently hosted a two-day meeting to plan restoration and exhibits for the Jeff “Soapy” Smith Parlor Museum.
This on-site visit to Skagway last month was important for the architects, engineers and designers to become familiar with the scope of the project and benefit from park staff expertise. This building was the headquarters of Skagway’s most infamous con man during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897. Following Soapy’s death, it was used as the Hook & Ladder Truck and Hose shed and located on 6th Ave.
In 1935, Skagway resident and tourism promoter,Martin Itjen reopened it as Jeff. Smiths Parlor Museum, and it became a highlight of Itjen’s gold rush tours until his death in 1942.
George Rapuzzi, Itjen’s long time friend and a collector of gold rush memorabilia, took over the museum and moved the building to its current location. The community will be invited to a workshop this spring to share their personal memories from going on a tour with either Martin Itjen or George Rapuzzi.
Photographs are especially helpful since they show details that help maintain authentic treatment of the historic objects, their placement in the museum and the building itself.
If you have information to share about this building, please contact Park Historian, Karl Gurcke, at (907) 983-9214. – KGRNHP