Historical Features

from the 2001 SKAGUAY ALASKAN Visitor Guide

The Skagway Camera Club on an outing at Burro Creek, circa 1900. Yukon Archives, Kodiak Historical Society
The Stupendous Task of Enumerating Dyea Completed.
The work of taking the United States census has begun in Skagway. A. A. Richards is the enumerator. He has just completed taking the census of Dyea, but is not at liberty to give out any of the information gathered. He will return to Skagway in a few days and take the census of the Indians with the assistance of an interpreter.
The work allotted to Mr. Richards will be finished in 30 days. So far he has take the census of 700 people and has found only one white person who cannot read or write. This is considered a valuable point indicative of the general education of the emigrant class of this district. – DAILY ALASKAN, March 13, 1900

Skagway Enters 20th Century with 3,117 ... Leaves with 862

Editor’s note: From March 7 to May 9, 1900, special agent A.A. Richards, compiled a hand-written census of Dyea and Skagway for the U.S. government, in what was part of the Southern District of Alaska. Richards counted 261 people in Dyea and arrived at an official count of 3,117 in Skagway. His task included counting people on ships, up the railroad line, in hospitals, at army camps, and at outlying settlements like Smuggler’s Cove, and the then-segregated “Indian Town” on the east waterfront. We’ve come a long way since then with race relations. Although Skagway is still not as diverse as other Alaskan towns, some of our most prominent citizens are Tlingit. The 1900 census was the subject of a dissertation 10 years ago by archaeologist/historian Catherine Spude, formerly of Skagway. Here is a short summary.

The “residents” of Skagway proper in 1900 included 2,384 people, plus the 120 soldiers of Company L, who were not enumerated (census-takers were instructed to count military personnel in the place of their families, not where they were stationed).
There were 108 Tlingit people, all living east of the railroad tracks or near the wharfs. None lived with the “white” folks on the west side of the railroad tracks, although a few white men lived with Indian women on the east side.
Besides the 120 black soldiers of Company L, there were two other individuals labeled “negro.” There were fourteen Japanese and four people of mixed race. No Chinese lived in Skagway proper, but 41 male Chinese worked on board the steamships (in June 1901, a Chinese man was hired as a cook in a restaurant, and within three days, the city council had met and had succeeded in convincing the owner of the restaurant to fire his cook. Chinese worked for lower wages, and were viewed as a threat by most working-class people of the time). Everyone else was listed as “white.” Seven of these people might be considered Hispanic today: four were born in Mexico, one in New Mexico of Mexican parents, one in Chile, and one in Spain. Here’s a breakdown by sex:

• 61% of the population was adult male (over 15 years old);
• 59% of the adult males were single;
• 25% of people in Skagway came from Seattle;
• 50% of people in Skagway came from Washington state;
• The modal age for adult men was 32;
• The single most-listed occupation for adult males was “miner” (22% of all men);

• 23% of the population was adult female (over 15 years old);
• 16% were dependent children (girls=172 and boys=188);
• The modal age of women was 26;
• 68% of the women were married;
• 76% of all women were listed as occupied “at home”;
• Only 6% of the married women worked outside the home.

• There were 699 households in Skagway in 1900.
• 209 (30%) consisted of a man, a woman, and one or more children, with an average household size of 4.13 people.
• 51% of households were male-only, and 60% of those were men living alone. The average size of the male-only households was 2.1 men.
• There were 42 women living in 26 female-only households.
• 8.5% of Skagway’s 1900 population lived in 64 multi-family dwellings, mostly lodging houses and hotels. The average size of this multi-family household was 6.7 people.

From the PhD dissertation: Catherine Holder Blee, “Sorting Functionally-Mixed Artifact Assemblages with Multiple Regression: A Comparative Study in Historical Archeology,” University of Colorado, Boulder, 1991. Some of it also appears in an article she wrote for “Alaska History” in the fall, 1991 issue. Under my married name of Catherine Holder Spude, it’s entitled “Bachelor Miners and Barber’s Wifes: The Common People of Skagway in 1900.” (Vol. 6, No. 2, pp. 17-30).

A Tlingit family goes hunting on a trail near Skagway, circa 1900. Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. Mrs. Blanchard tends to her sweet peas. Yukon Archives, Bennett/Tefler Collection.

Other interesting facts from the 1900 census
• Besides your name, the federal census form for Alaska recorded where you lived, the date you located in Alaska, your “home” before Alaska, race, sex, age, birth month and year, place of birth of you and your parents, citizenship, profession at “home” as well as in Alaska, months employed, whether you could read or write, and whether you owned a farm or home. Most counting was done in people’s homes.
• Passengers and crew on the following steamers or barges were counted: Humboldt, Clutch, Rosalie, Tees, Farallon, City of Seattle, Dinigo, Danube, Alert, Capilano, Ruth, Alki, City of Topeka, Pioneer, and Shirley.
• Ten people in the U.S. Army hospital were counted, as well as four in the Railroad Hospital, and four in Bishop Rowe Hospital.
• For some reason, the Pacific Hotel (20 people) and the Board of Trade Saloon (24 people) needed their own census page, as did the 16 members of the Simon Theatrical Company from England and Ireland, who were staying at the Mondamin Hotel.
• The White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad accounted for 19 people in the commissary, 24 people in the machine shops, 22 in the head office, and 99 section men up the line.
• Sixteen people lived at Smuggler’s Cove and 50 in “Tent Town” near Moore’s Wharf.
• The federal jail in the alley behind Fifth Ave. was occupied by 15, four members of deputy marshal Tanner’s family from Tacoma, and the rest Tlingits from Chilkat, Taku and Sitka.
• Occupations listed included accountant, actors, apprentice, assayer, auctioneer, auditor, baker, banker, barber, bartender, beadworker, blacksmith, blanket weaving, boating, bookkeeper, brakeman, brewer, bricklayer, bridge builder, broker, candy maker, car builders and inspector, carpenter, cashier, clerk, comedian, cook, customs collector, dairyman, cancer, dentist, deputy marshal, draughtsman, dressmaker, druggist, drummer, editor, electrician, civil engineer, locomotive engineer, engraver, expressman, faro dealer, fireman, fisherman, freighter, furrier, gambler, gardener, grocer, gunsmith, hotel keeper, house keeper, hunter, jeweler, junk dealer, laborer, laundress, lawyer, lecturer, lumberman, machinist, mariner, mason, mechanic, merchant, miner, missionary, moccasin maker, musician, news agent, night watchman, nurse, optician, packer, painter, paper hanger, photographer, physician, pianist, pile driver, plasterer, porter, preacher, printer, prospector, publisher, real estate, recorder, reporter, restaurant, sailor, salesman, saloon keeper, sawmill owner, seaman, servant, shoemaker, sign painter, silversmith, singer, stage manager, stenographer, stock dealer, superintendent, surveyor, tailor, teacher, teamster, telephone operator, theater manager, ticket agent, tinner, trader, upholsterer, waiter, watchmaker, and wood dealer.
– Compiled from 1900 census records at Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park.

Tlingit Lance Twitchell, a representative of Skagway's first family, and the late Oscar Selmer, Skagway's oldest resident from a pioneer family, unveiled the Skagway Centennial Statue at Centennial Park in 1997. Members of the fourth and fifth grade classes stand around the Skagway Centennial Time Capsule, which they unveiled at the park in 1999.

Skagway News photos by Jeff Brady and Dimitra Lavrakas

2000 Census Figures for Skagway and Alaska

Skagway Total population: 862
White 796
Black/African American 0
Indian/Alaska Native 26
Asian 5
Hawaiian/Pacific Isl. 2
Other Race 7
Mixed Race 26
Hispanic/Latino 0*
*18 of mixed were of Hispanic origin.

Alaska Total population: 626,932
White 69.3%
Black/African American 3.5%
Indian/Alaska Native 15.6%
Asian 4%
Hawaiian/Pacific Isl. .5%
Other Race 1.6%
Mixed Race 5.4%
Hispanic/Latino 4.1%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau


Eloise Short and Kathryn Baker (right) stand by grand uncle Frank H. Reid’s monument during a visit to the Gold Rush Cemetery in 1990. Photo by Jeff Brady

Town Hero Shrouded in Mystery

Some amateur and professional historians and collectors in Skagway have been puzzled recently by a mystery surrounding 1898 town hero Frank H. Reid.
Not over whether he fired the bullet that killed Soapy Smith, and not over the circumstances surrounding his acquittal on a murder charge in Oregon before coming to Skagway.
But over something probably more dear to his heart: His name.
An Oris Weaver of Oregon, who searches out mysterious middle names, wrote last winter to several in Skagway about the H. in between Frank and Reid. Phone calls and e-mails crisscrossed oceans in search of the answer, as many dug into their historic files and shoe boxes.
Reid’s grave marker certainly contained no clue, nor anything written about the “man who gave his life for the honor of Skagway.”
Ever curious, the local Stroller White Club chairman sought the source closest to Mr. Reid, his grand-niece who visited Skagway as recently as the 100th anniversary of the Soapy versus Reid shoot-out in ‘98.
Kathryn H. Baker of Albany, Oregon, the granddaughter of Frank’s brother, Dick, replied that probably no one will ever know what the “H” stood for, “if anything.”
She wrote that the two brothers, Frank and Dick, were given no middle names at birth.
“I do know that Dick, my grandfather, renamed himself Dickerson V.S. Reid after he was grown; he said he wanted a name that people would remember. So, most likely, Frank gave himself a middle initial,” she wrote.
Whether “Hitman” or “Hero,” Frank H. Reid apparently died with this secret too. – WJB

If you would like to read the entire 32-page SKAGUAY ALASKAN, please send $2.00 to The Skagway News, Box 498, Skagway, AK 99840 and we'll gladly mail one to you. Or you can pick one up for free on your way to Skagway. Copies are distributed on the Alaska ferries and water taxis, at the Juneau airport, at all Yukon visitor centers on the Alaska and Klondike Highways, and at RV parks in the Whitehorse-Tagish-Carcross Yukon area. It is also available at numerous locations in Skagway, or from our popular Days of '98 Newsies who greet the cruise ships every mornng in the summer.

• 2000 SKAGUAY ALASKAN Historical Features