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Summer 2011 Edition Features


A Triumphant Era for Alaska

Great Country Poised to Welcome All

Skagway Will Right The Wrongs Of Ignorance.

Never before in its history has Alaska been so well and generously advertised. The magic spell cast over the people has now been broken, and the tourists are beginning to flock this way in greater numbers than ever before. Why? Because the people are beginning to find out the truths, and that is all the country requires to make it populous and prosperous. All the tourists who have so far visited us have gone away appreciative of the mildness of the climate, the grandeur of the scenery, and the latent possibilities of Alaska yet untouched by the hand of man. Every person who visits us is an advertisement for the country of the proper sort, because the true conditions are being revealed.
The Alaska-Yukon Pacific Exposition has greatly benefited this country and enlightened the people from all over the world. It has brought to notice many facts that before were absolutely unknown to the general public. It has been pronounced the best Exposition of its kind ever seen in the world. The papers of the East and West vied with each other in exploiting its attractive features, and justly so too. The Saturday Evening Post, not many weeks ago, devoted its entire front page to a scene descriptive of Alaska. The paper reaches the homes of a million and a half people, and such recognition is bound to ultimately bear fruit and bring our great and vastly rich country to the front where it belongs.
Daniel Guggenheim has gone Horace Greeley one better in his advice to young men. He said, “Young man, go north; go to Alaska where the opportunities are boundless, the wealth incalculable, the lands vast and fertile, the climate mild and healthful, and the scenery’s magnificence unexcelled in the world.”
It is impossible for Alaska to retrogress. No enlightened people will long pass up opportunities if they know where to find them. There is too much wealth here to go unnoticed long. The fault in the past has been that the country was misrepresented as a land of only snow and ice, barren waste, hardship and privation. Such ideas were implanted in the young and plastic minds of school children through the medium of the common school geography. Most of the advertising Alaska has received during the past 10 years has been detrimental to the best interests of the country, but let us be thankful the truth is now beginning to dawn upon the large masses.
Skagway is the natural headquarters for the Tourists coming to Alaska. Let us call this portion of the country the “Switzerland of America”, and indeed no less. Some day, not far distant, elaborate preparation will have to be made to accommodate the travel to this portion of the country. Larger and more commodious hotels will have to be built than even at the present time, though the hotels now are commodious, well equipped and in every detail modern and up-to-date. Regular itineraries will be mapped out and guides will be kept busy all the time showing tourists what there is to see, piloting them from one place of interest and beauty to another, until all the numerous side trips are made.
Nearly 6,000 tourists visited Skagway last summer (1909), which was phenomenal as compared with previous years. Without solicitation many of them remained in Skagway for several weeks. Many others would have done so had they known before leaving home that such a thing was possible with any degree of comfort. Some of them did not know that such a thing as hotel accommodations were to be had in Alaska, and were not sure that such a place as Skagway was on the map. Others said they felt when leaving home they were taking a dangerous journey which might endanger their lives. Such ignorance of this country is wrong and inexcusable.
It is the intention of the Skagway Commercial Club to put Skagway on the map beyond question of doubt. We want the tourists here because we have more to offer them for their money than any place on the Pacific Coast during the summer months, and because we can entertain them. We want to help Skagway, and we want to help advertise this vastly rich empire of Alaska in her growth and development, first, last and all the time.
– Skagway Commercial Club brochure, 1910

Historical Features

Love! Murder! Salvation!

The graves of Florence and Bert Horton in Skagway’s Gold Rush Cemetery. SN

The Horton Murders: Tlingit Law vs. American Justice


John Muir called the northern Tlingit his “hospitable and warlike friends.” By the time the great naturalist visited Alaska in the late 19th century, U.S. policy had broken the back of Native America in all corners but here—where Chilkat and Chilkoot tribesmen still assumed control of their domain. From Point Sherman at Berner’s Bay to the Chilkat and Chilkoot Passes, every creek and berry patch of the 2.6 million acre Chilkat kwaan belonged to someone. Strangers were expected to ask permission, spread the wealth, and leave.
Inveterate entrepreneurs, local Natives saw opportunity in the stream of stampeders. In 1888, the federal government struck down Chilkoot ownership of the trail they had used for generations, so the tribe sought compensation in the packing business. The fierce monopolists charged up to a dollar a pound to haul the ton of supplies that Mounties required of each traveler. At least half of the 40,000 adventurers returned home with little but stories, but packers made a killing. Skirmishes with competitors were not uncommon, governed by a Tlingit law of atonement that required unflinching reprisal.
As transformative for Natives was the religion some white men carried in their hearts.
The crush of unwashed humanity in 1898 spurred a battle cry from Evangeline Booth, standard-bearer for the Salvation Army. She stepped onto the Skagway dock in April to a welcoming throng that swelled as she strode up Broadway. At the corner of Sixth Avenue between Soapy Smith’s parlor and the Pack Train Saloon the thirty-three-year-old British pulpiteer delivered a fiery sermon that entranced a sea of sinners comprised of “the well-to-do but now debased—the once poor but now rich—the intelligent, the sharp, and the brutal.” A portable pump organ accompanied the street singers, some of whom fell to their knees when “Home Sweet Home” closed the service.
Among her listeners was the notorious Soapy Smith, who approached Booth for cocoa and consolation. When Booth implored Soapy to abandon his villainy, the con-man replied that surrender to the authorities could only lead to his death. The global evangelist prayed with him. Ten weeks later the infamous criminal was gunned down on the Skagway wharf.
Clad in new Salvation Army uniforms, a hundred local Tlingits attended the revival. Brass music, regalia, and spirited oratory enticed Natives into the movement that Presbyterian minister S. Hall Young called a “confessional fad.” Following Booth’s visit, Chilkoot tribal leaders organized “the first native corps in North America” with regular services until Prohibition closed Skagway’s last saloon in 1919. The Salvation Army shifted its local base to Haines where it remains active today.
A grisly double murder flung Salvationists into the headlines in 1900.
It began with love at first sight.
After a meteoric courtship, Florence and Bert Horton exchanged vows in May 1899 before hundreds of witnesses in Eugene, Oregon. Days later, the favored son departed with his teen bride for Alaska where they hoped to bankroll a bright future. When the couple disembarked from their steamship they encountered the squalid confusion of Skagway at its peak— as many as 20,000 outcasts shoehorned into the confines of an unholy canyon. Construction of the railroad over the White Pass convinced the Hortons to sink their grubstake in a roadhouse near the summit. During the frantic summer months, Florence’s home cooking and charm attracted a hearty clientele of rail workers and those still using the gold rush trails. Sale of the popular eatery in October allowed the couple to relocate to Skagway before the dark, deadening winter.
Inspired by an unusual stretch of nice weather, Bert and Florence packed a canoe with supplies for a well-deserved honeymoon. As they paddled south, the lovebirds marveled at the steep mountains that squeezed the sea into narrow passages, and at Davidson Glacier, a glittering fan whose hundred-foot ice palisades crumpled near tideline. An hour past the glacier, the Hortons set up camp near the mouth of the Sullivan River.
A week of mirroring seas abetted passage for hundreds of canoes to Klukwan, a Chilkat Tlingit village thirty miles distant, to attend a potlatch comprised of extended feasts, speeches and pay-offs. One visitor was Jim Hanson, aka White Eagle, a Sitka man with close clan ties to the Chilkat. As the celebration wore on, dwindling supplies prompted Hanson’s brother and two others to paddle out for replenishment. When the party failed to reappear, Hanson mustered a dozen relatives in a war canoe to comb the coast.
On the third day, the search party camped on south Sullivan Island and scrutinized the shoreline for signs. Kitchtoo (Mark Klanat) soon returned to camp with a canoe fragment that he recognized by the paint job. Placid weather conditions made a canoeing accident unlikely, so a small group set out to investigate the Hortons’ tent on the mainland across a narrow channel.
Bert Horton shooed his wife into the tent. Fear twisted his stomach as the angry Tlingits confronted him on the beach. No, he had not seen the canoe. Kitchtoo thrust the evidence at the white man and demanded that he tell the truth. Eventually, Horton hung his head and admitted seeing the canoe.

The story broke in the March 15, 1900 issue of The Daily Alaskan. Over the next week, the murders dominated the headlines, and again during the trial in June. SN Archives

In Tlingit eyes, Bert’s apprehension proved his guilt. Three relatives were dead. Someone had to pay. The Chilkats withdrew a quarter mile down the shoreline where they made a war party through the night. At dawn, their canoe landed at the Horton’s beach.
White Eagle motioned with his rifle as he stepped out of the war canoe: “Make your hearts strong, brothers, for you are the sons of the eagles!”
As they approached the tent, Bert Horton emerged waving a gun. Kitchtoo shouted, and as Horton turned to him, Hanson shot him in the head. He fell without a sound.
Florence sprinted from the rear of the tent, but crumpled when Kitchtoo hit his mark. As she pled for her life, Hanson drew a large hunting knife and handed it to another man who slit her throat. The Tlingits distributed the victims’ possessions before burying them in shallow graves, then stole away satisfied that a debt was repaid.
The Hortons’ sudden absence stimulated rumors, but in the heyday of the gold rush people came and went without notice. Successful businesspersons commonly steamed south before freeze-up; likely the couple returned to Eugene.
Questions about the Hortons went unanswered until March 1900 when itinerant Salvation Army officers led a revival in Skagway. Moved by a sermon about Christian redemption, Jim Hanson confessed his crime to the preacher’s wife who persuaded him that heaven’s gates opened only with full disclosure. After hearing the confession, the US and city marshals convened a posse and steamed to Sullivan River where White Eagle led them to the graves, pointed his finger, and said, “Dig!”
In June, hundreds of Natives descended on Skagway to witness the spectacle. A grand jury named twelve Tlingit co-conspirators in two weeks of sensational proceedings that captured media attention down the coast. The drama climaxed with a brief trial featuring Hanson’s vivid confession and conversion to Salvationism: “God seems very close to me and I can warm my hands by his fire. …When I am dead and my body goes back to earth and grass, I shall be glad that I knew the white man’s religion and felt his God in my soul.”
One courtroom observer noted the “wonderful stoicism” of the Tlingits as the judge read the sentences. No one breathed. Hanson would hang; all others earned up to fifty years at McNeil Island federal prison in Washington.
At the cusp of a new century, latent white fears of “Indian savagery, drunkenness, and godlessness” resurfaced when the “Honeymoon Murders” hit American newspapers. Custer had fallen a quarter century before; Geronimo fourteen years; Wounded Knee ten. Native Americans were corralled and commodified by Buffalo Bill, Zane Grey, and the BIA. Though horrified by the last Indian uprising, readers in Seattle and San Francisco also mythologized the Tlingits, even sympathized.
The dramatic courtroom conversion caught the attention of Salvation Army representatives who lobbied the White House to pardon White Eagle. Hanson was a premier case of a wild Indian who crossed to Jesus, an example for his people. Days before the execution in Sitka, President William McKinley commuted White Eagle’s sentence to life at McNeil.
Until he died of syphilis in 1905, Hanson converted hundreds of inmates. Published Salvation Army history honors him for a zealous prison crusade.
In the Skagway Gold Rush Cemetery, two grave placards still stand as reminders of White Eagle’s allegiance to Tlingit law.

Daniel Henry of Haines bills himself as a “frontier rhetorician.” He is a founding director/faculty member of the North Words Writers Symposium and currently is working on a book, Dancing at Deer Rock: Native-White Relations in the Chilkat Valley. Read a chapter on his site: .

Munns, Judy. Skagway Museum and Archives
Guerke, Karl and Boettcher, Deb. Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park
Jimmie, Tommy Jr., L’koot culture bearer
Wilson, P.W. General Evangeline Booth of the Salvation Army (Google Books)
“Evangeline Cory Booth.” Encyclopedia of World Biography
Dingman, Frances. “A Wild New Land,” New Frontier 30 July 1997
Little, James R. “Alaska’s Honeymoon Murder.” Alaska Life November, December 1939, and January 1940 issues.
Thornton, Thomas. Ethnographic Overview and Assessment. Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. 2004
Muir, John. Travels in Alaska 1915
Choate, Glenda J. “Florence and Bert Horton.” Skagway Alaska’s Gold Rush Cemetery. 1989.
Sinclair, James M. Mission: Klondike
Itjen, Martin. Story of the Tour on the Skagway Alaska Street Car. 1962
Clifford, Howard. The Skagway Story. 1975.

Daily Alaskan Editorial: ‘A Life For A Life’

The following appeared in the Daily Alaskan on March 19, 1900, the day of the Hortons’ funeral, under the heading of Alaskan publisher Geo, De Succa. It remains a bold statement about race relations as Alaska entered a new century that would see both the attempted extermination of some Native cultures, and then an awakening among whites and Indians that led to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and a resurgence in tolerance, cultural awareness and preservation.

The rector of the Episcopalian church will refer in his sermon this morning to the murder of Mr. and Mrs. Horton by the Indians who are now under arrest. What the reverend gentleman’s text will be, or what the nature of his reference to the case now in subjudice, and, therefore, not properly a subject of popular comment, may depend, and we hope not too much so, upon the inspiration of the occasion. For Mr. Cameron preaches extemporaneously.
The hope is expressed for the simple reason that in the early days of the settlement of America the accepted axiom was that “the only good Indian is a dead Indian,” and this, unfortunately, has become one of those trite sayings that are parrot-like repeated without thought or knowledge and have thus been kept alive.
Certainly it does not apply to the Indians of Alaska. It is true that they made a strong opposition against Sitka shortly after the transfer of Alaska to the American government. But is that anything to discredit them? Suppose England, instead of fighting her rebellions subject of this country over a hundred years ago, had sold her American possessions to some other Ruler by Divine Right, would the memory of the patriots who fought against the English oppression be any the less cherished had they fought against being transferred and being made subjects of some other power?
Turn from this to Alaska under American rule, and every American who came here having at the tip of his tongue the old saying, “There is no good Indian except a dead Indian.” How many a coroner’s verdict would have been rendered in that spirit – if they had thought it worthwhile to hold any – in the early days?
But the old timers of Alaska will tell you that the Indians of the district have always been very docile, and that there never has been any danger from them except from the very reason that led to the killing of Horton and his young wife. Let us look calmly at the facts and the surrounding circumstances; and, while not in any way prejudicing the case that will soon be under trial in a properly constituted court, glean from these facts and circumstances what will tend to lessen any racial prejudice and enable us to view the shocking affair impartially and with cold-blooded justice.
Do not take it for granted that this crime was premeditated, but even if evidence should prove this, there is something to say. Misguided as these Indians were, their action was based upon a similar law to that of the Mosaic, and which is the basis of our modern law – “A Life for a Life.” And it was the knowledge that this was the most observed of all the tenets of the Indian’s belief in which the old timers saw any danger of sanguinary action on the part of the Alaska Indians.
This life for a life doctrine was accepted and followed in its broadest sense by the Alaska Indians. If by the hand of a white man an Indian met his death, retribution was to be taken on the murderer if possible, and failing that upon any other white man. And the Indian to deal the blow was the nearest relative of the deceased. In this their religion, or what we term their superstition, the Indians have been firm and zealous, and possibly among no aborigines of the world is the strict observance of ancient custom, the basis of religious faith, so explicitly followed.
There are reasons for this which are apparent and need not be gone into. The story of Kindeshon’s wife, written by the brilliant Mrs. Willard, wife of the first missionary to Haines mission, contains a graphic description of the war between the Eagles and the Ravens, or the Chilkats and the Chilkoots, which was kept up until the belligerent clans of these two powerful tribes were almost exterminated. This started from the killing of one single Indian and the following out of the religious tenet which we call superstition.
The zeal the Indian shows in his strict observance of these ancient customs, religion, or superstition, is an indice to what he would do were he to embrace a new religion. It would transmute him into the material of which Christian martyrs are made. And it may be that Jim Hanson is one. No sooner has be been made acquainted with the teaching of the Christian religion, and the laws that are based upon it, than he sacrifices his whole future, that of his family and his closest tribal friends, to his conception of the principles of this new religion. And in this great fact there is material for any number of sermons, pathetic or damnatory, orthodox or heterodox.

The YMCA bldg. at 5th & State. SN

The YMCA in Skagway

 In the nineteenth century, the Klondike Gold Rush attracted international attention to Skagway as stampeders, merchants, photographers, entrepreneurs, and con men all sought fortunes here and in the gold fields. Following them were religious men, including members of the Young Men’s Christian Association.
The old YMCA is one of several National Park Service buildings undergoing restoration. The YMCA and adjacent Arctic Meat Co. are located on the SW corner of 5th and State.
The YMCA appeared in Skagway in 1898 and was the first YMCA in Alaska. As its popularity increased, a gymnasium was constructed in 1900. It contained a handball court, photo darkroom and reading room. The YMCA also was the site of the funeral service for Bert and Florence Horton on March 19, 1900.
In 1902, Herman Meyer bought the building and remodeled it as meat locker. A string of businesses operated here after the meat company closed, including Brown Shoe Co., Arctic Telephone, Butter Store, and Alaska Imports. History of the complex is vague following Meyer’s move to Valdez in 1903. It was used by George Rapuzzi as storage for many years.
Among the archeological discoveries were a beaver felt hat found beneath the 1901 YMCA floor and a Smith and Wesson pistol. The pistol is shrouded in mystery because it was found lying on a ledge within the north wall, where maintenance crews were dismantling the interior. Guns like this one were manufactured in Springfield, Mass. during the years of 1878 to 1892. It is a single action, .32 caliber and has a bird’s head grip and spur trigger. It was found hidden in the wall, beside a pulley and a ball of string which is a bit baffling. Several tons of sawdust which had served as insulation for the meat lockers was systematically sifted for artifacts. Other artifacts included window pane fragments, brick, wood, bone, vessel glass, and nails. – KGRNHP

For a copy of this year's 32-page print edition, complete with a list of attractions and information on Skagway-Dyea, Klondike Gold Rush NHP, the Chilkoot Trail and other trails, and the best and most current map of downtown, call 907-983-2354 with a credit card number for a postpaid edition (cost will vary from $2 to US & Canada cities, more to elsewhere). Or just come visit us. The Alaskan is distributed FREE throughout Skagway, SE Alaska and the Yukon Territory and passed out every summer morning to cruise ship passengers.