Summer 2010 Edition Features


The Legend of Skaguay


Winds Continue to Blow with Fury.

Many moons ago it was, before the paleface had ever set foot upon the shores of our country. Our fathers hunted and fished and gathered berries, and everywhere was peace and abundance.
Strongest and most daring of the hunters was the young brave, Chute. And Chute loved a maiden of the tribe whose name was Skagua. But one day, Chute, returning from the hunt, weary and empty-handed, spoke harshly to the lovely Skagua, who awaited him at the edge of the forest. Without answer she turned her face from him. For stronger than her love for the dark-eyed hunter was the pride of a chief’s daughter; and she moved silently away from the village, northward through the forest. Anxious and sorrowful, Chute called upon her to stay, with all his strength and swiftness he sought to overtake her in the forest. Her moccasins seemed scarcely to touch the earth, but she glided easily ahead of him until she reached the cliffs that mark the beginning of the long trail to the northward. There she laid her hand upon the rock, and it opened at her touch and received her out of Chute’s sight.
Long and sadly he called her name there by the silent rock. All over the mountainside he searched, in every bush and behind every stone, stopping often to call her name and to listen breathless for an answer. Next morning and every morning after, Chute came with food and drink; and day after day he watched and called beside the rock, until the green mountains turned to the colors of the sunset, and the leaves grew brown and fell from the branches, and the white snow-crown on the mountain had every day crept a little lower toward the valley. Then Chute knew that Skagua would return no more, and he went back to his hunting and fishing, but alone now, silent and sorrowful.
One day, as Chute sat fishing by the bank of a stream, a stranger appeared before him. A woman she seemed, but taller and fairer than any maiden of the tribe, and her eyes were so shining, and her face so calm and wise that Chute trembled, he knew not why.
“Chute,” she said, “I am Dugek, the Woman of Mystery. It is I who control the destinies of the mountains and the warm winds that sweep across their face. Let no stranger enter my realm and I will watch over you and your people. Let not Skagua be disturbed in her slumbers by the footfall of the paleface.”
Chute listened and gave heed to the words of Dugek, the Woman of Mystery, and for many moons his people kept the trail through the mountains a secret from the paleface, lest Dugek should send the warm Chinook wind to sweep down from the mountains and destroy them.
And to this day when the warm winds bring down the snows, the Indians say, “Dugek is angry.” And to this day, for the sake of the chief’s lovely daughter, the valley is called Skaguay.

– From “SKAGUAY, The Home of the North Wind”, a booklet written by Floris Clark for the Skagway Library, circa 1921-22. She notes that the basis of the legend was taken from J.J. Underwood’s book, Alaska, an Empire in the Making. It reads more like a white man’s legend, but it makes for a good love story and fits our theme this year.

Historical Features


Jeannette and Tad as a young couple, seated front right, on an outing with the YMCA Camera Club at Lower Dewey Lake. Case & Draper photo, courtesy of Hillery Family

Tad Hillery's Journal for Jeannette de Gruyter

Boy Misses Home Cooking, Pines for Letters from Jean

 The following contains excerpts from a journal written by Albert Roy “Tad” Hillery, then 17, during the late summer and fall of 1900 when he left a job at the Daily Alaskan to go to Dawson City, where he worked at his brother Bob’s fruit stand and a pool hall. He later took a job on a Yukon River steamboat. The journal was given to him by schoolmate Jeannette Ralston de Gruyter, whom he had met in early July. The first page has “TAD” written in block letters, and the journal starts with a note from Jeannette. Tad then picks up the entries as if writing to his new friend, whom he called Jean or Sis. In the diary, the boy struggles with homesickness, hunger, his feelings for Jean, and being good.

Skagway, Alaska - July 19, 1900
“Jeannette to Tad”
Our last night to be spent together in Skagway.
Dear Tad;
As I am sitting here in your presence, perhaps for the last time, I know you think a great deal of me now, but I shall never forget you Tad, and will not only remember but love you with all my heart. Oh, just in time, will you pause and think. Be a good boy. Goodbye.
Lovingly, Jean

Bennett, BC - July 19, 1900
For Jeannette de. Gruyter
Skaguay, Ak
Left Skaguay at 8:30am July 19th.
As we passed over the summit, I could see Skag-town, and I think I could see you sitting in the public school of Skagway studying. Well, arrived at Bennett at noon. Went down to the steamer Australian. She don’t sail until 3 this afternoon. Well, it is 4 o’ clock and we are going down Bennett Lake a’flying. I was tired and wanted some sleep. So Kirk and I went to bed. I am writing this in bed now. If I have turned over once, I have turned over 50 times trying to find the soft side of this two by four that I am laying on. I said to Kirk, “I wish I was up on twelfth street right now, on that lounge with a half a dozen of them cushions under me.” Well, I can’t sleep. So Kirk and I went back in the ladies parlor and had some fun with Miss Berrey. Just then, the supper bell rang, but Kirk or I don’t want anything to eat, for the meals are only a dollar fifty. Oh, it was something awful to sit and hear them knives and forks rattle when people were eating. Jeannette, it was something awful, awful, awful. Kirk and I was walking around, rubbing our stomachs, I says to Kirk, “I cannot stand it any longer.” So one of the ladies that was eating had some packages, so Kirk and I shut the door and we went for them packages. These are the things we got: Plums; apples, nuts, crackers, and oranges. We put all the nut shells and orange peelings back in the bags. Well, we arrived at Caribou (Carcross) at 1:00. Me old college chum took us up to his house for supper. We went down to the train and met Rosie Brown. He is newsboy on the train. The mounted police yanked me up and I was sent down to the doctors office to see if I had the small pox. So was Kirk sent to the doctors office.... Well, we are off for White Horse. Roscow is newsboy on the train. So Kirk and I had all the fruit we wanted. Got to White Horse at 12pm. The Ora is blowing its whistle for us to come aboard. Went uptown, saw Hugh’s father dealing in one of the gambling houses. Went back and waited for the boat to start before I went to bed. I did not have to wait long before we were going down the Yukon River a’flying…. Passed Little Salmon, the name of the town, going 15 miles an hour. Met the steamer Nora. The dinner bell is ringing but I don’t feel like eating. Kirk came in and called me. I told him that I did not want anything. He said that was strange. I told him if I told someone else that I did not want anything, they would think its strange too. I was thinking of your mother then. Kirk said. “Tad, they have chicken and everything nice today.” My appetite returned in a minute. Bill of Fare (soup) scrapings off of dishwater (meat) I used an axe to cut. Pie was full of flies. I wish I was back on twelfth street eating some of your meals, Jean. We’ll get to Five Finger Rapids at 10:00 tonight. A little homesick tonight, Jean. Kirk and I had a little game of blackjack for nuts, won all his nuts.

The Austrailian steams into Bennett. Univ. of British Columbia

July 21
Arrived at Dawson at 5:00. Fast time from Skag-town. Thursday 8:30 to Dawson, Friday 5:00 P.M. The first thing they did was to take a rubber at me to see if I had the small pox. If I did they would have sent me on down the river to Dog Island. My brother Bob was surprised when he saw me, he did not expect to see me until the Florence S. arrived. Bob works at the Aurora Fruit Stand. At 1:00 we went home, got there before Hannah did. Bob had not told her I was coming. I got behind the door, she was mad about something when she came in, but when she looked behind the door and saw me, she forgot all about being mad. Had supper, and then went downtown. Met Kirk, and then took in the town. Went through all of the gambling houses. Saw Pop Corn, he is called Corn Cob here.
July 25
Went to the play called Hazel.... When I was in Skag-town, when it was played there, I did not feel bad. But last night, I felt so far away from mother and friends, it broke me up (homesick). You could see them old miners take off their hats and wipe the tears out of their eyes. And you could see them fast women with tears in their eyes. Went home at 11:30pm to bed. Sad dreams of one little girl in Skag-town called Jean. This is the longest time I have ever been away from mother.
July 27
Got up at 10:00 A.M., went down to the post office, got a letter, and it was from you, Jean. Oh Jean, you don’t know how I felt when I got that letter from you. Jean, I feel homesick today. Tended the store this afternoon. Had supper, and then went down to the grocery store after a dozen eggs, then went to bed at 9pm. Happy dreams of home and my old college chums.
July 28
Last night when I went downtown for some groceries, the Salvation Army was singing Oh where is my wandering boy. Tonight I tell you I felt bad. Today I picked up a marked testament that my mother had put in my truck, and she had wrote a few lines in it telling me to be good. I tell you, it made me feel bad. Mother always made me put a Bible in us boys trunks when we leave home. I know all the Mounted Police and their names, I keep on the good side of them.
July 31
Got up at 10 AM, cooked some eggs. I had to put some rotten ones in so as to help fill up. They were not so bad, only the feathers had just began to grow. Oh we have fine meals. My hip hurts me like the dickens today, have been tending store all day.... The Steamer Sybil started for Whitehorse, she got 17 miles and broke down, had to come back. I sent a letter out on the Sybil, suppose it is still on her. I went to the show tonight, went home at 11:30, went to bed, happy dreams of home. I am downhearted today. I feel as if no one cares for me anymore. I have not received a letter from home yet, and it makes me downhearted. Jean, you can’t imagine how I feel. Lonesome, downhearted, I feel as if I don’t care where I go.

Steamer Ora on the Yukon. EA Hegg Collection, Wash. State Historical Society

Aug. 4
Mr. and Mrs. Highley arrived last night on the Steamer Ora. I went to bed at 9 o’clock this morning. Got up and went downtown..... I was glad to meet them. Mrs H. told me all about you and the rest of the folks of Skaguay.
Aug. 5
A little while ago a fellow came in and wanted a milk shake. When I got it about half made, he said, ”that’s a hell of a way to make a milk shake, with condensed milk. He went on like that. When I got it made. I picked it up and told the fellow to mush on’, and I drank it myself. The Boss was standing right there and saw me. I don’t know what he thought, and I don’t give a …….
Aug. 7
Kirk and I started for Cheechako Hill about 16 miles from Dawson. Left Dawson at 6 o’clock in the evening. It was a hard walk. I was wet up to my knees and cold and hungry. When we were out from Dawson, for about 12 miles it was 12 o’clock midnight then. I sat down on the porch of a roadhouse. A fellow asked me what was the matter and I told him we were two exhausted stampeders for a square meal. He said, ”Tad come in and I think I can get something for you.” I tell you I was hungry. We had hot coffee, biscuits like my mother used to make, and ham and eggs. I asked him how he knew my name. He said he saw me cutting up down in the store at Dawson. He said I said so many funny things that he asked a fellow what was my name and the fellow said I don’t think if he had any other name but Tad. Well any way when I got through eating I felt better, and we started on. Kirk would not eat anything, I ate like a pig, I guess.
Aug 15
Waited until the P. O. opened before going to bed. The Steamer Columbian arrived, she brought no mail. Went home, went to bed. Homesick dreams of Home sweet Home. And sad dreams of one little girl. On the banks of the Skaguay River far away.
Aug 21
I have been in here one month today. And never a word from home have I received yet. I got off work tonight so as to go to the show. I went, but the elect. lights gave out and so it was dark, so
there was no show. I got hit in the head with a beer bottle by a drunk yesterday morning. Tonight some fresh fellow tried to cheat a fellow in playing pool. The fellow saw that he was trying to cheat him, so he picked up a pool ball and threw it at the fellow, it hit him in the eye. Talk about blood.
Aug. 26
Well today is Sunday and of course the pool room is closed. Got the door locked so no one can go in. I have two Red Coats locked up in the Pool room. They were drunk. If they catch any of these Mounted Police drunk they will put him in the jail for a week or so. And so they wanted to go some where, where they would not be caught. And so I locked them up in the back room.
Aug. 27
Well today it snowed and it was cold as the dickens. It has been so long since I took a shave that I have got a beard. Well the steam that comes from my nose, froze in my beard, and when I began to make some bread I did not have to put water or milk in the flour because the ice in my beard began to thaw out, and the water ran down into the flour, so had to make bread like your mother used to make. (In the margin: I am George Washington, never told a lie.)

The SS Bailey crew. Yukon Archives

Sept. 1
Well, today my brother Sherman left on the Nora, for White Horse. It made me homesick when I saw the Nora go around the bend out of sight. It made me homesick for Skaguay.
Sept. 5
I received your papers that you sent me. I will thank you for them after I come home. Today I got five big letters from home. God only knows where they have been since my mother sent them to me. The Post Master says he don’t know where they have been. Any way they look as if they had seen better days.
Sept. 7
Well to day I worked until noon. The steamer Bailey arrived with Mr. and Mrs. Settlemier aboard. She gave me a letter from my mother. This afternoon I received three letters. Two letters from you, one from your mother. And a box of Cake like my sister Jean used to make.
Well this evening, Smear wanted me to go to the show with him. While we were standing on the corner talking, the Barns Bros. came along. I said “Barns, I want to go to White Horse.” They said “Why don’t you go then Tad”? I said, ”I don’t want to pay any fare when I go. And I want to work my way up to White Horse.” They said, “Come down to the boat with us and we will ask the Steward. So the Steward said,” Did you ever wait on a table”? Of course I said yes. He said, “Then you can stay aboard tonight or come down in the morning.” I said that I would come down in the morning then. He thinks that I am going to stay with the boat until the river freezes up. But he will get fooled when I get to White Horse.
Sept. 8
Well I went down to the boat. Was around there for awhile, went up town, told Bob and Hanna Goodbye. Then went over and told Mrs Highley. It almost killed her when I told her Goodbye. The boat started at 10 A.M.... Well it is 10 P.M. now and we are flying along.
Sept. 10
Well I have this diary book written just half through. I had more fun then a picnic today. There is a French Count aboard and his son; They came from France just on a visit. And you know the kid can’t speak English very well. And every word he hears us waiters say he says it too. He is about 12 years old. Today I was rushing along with a cup of hot coffee, and this kid ran into me. He spilled the coffee all over me, burnt like the dickens. I tell you I was mad. I had to pray to him of course, and he picked up the words that I said and he began saying them. He would go up to ladies or anybody and say the very same words that I said.
Sept 12
Arrived at White Horse at 9 o’clock. Did my work then went up town. Met Eric Barr, and Mr. Case. I was in the White Horse saloon talking to a fellow, and the steward came in and said “Frank, the boat is going to sail at 3 o’clock in the morning, and I want you to help us to get stores aboard.” It made me mad to go right to work. The other waiters were mad too. We busted a case of eggs, four bottles of ketchup, and everything was smashed. I was up all night.
Sept 14
Will be in Dawson tomorrow afternoon if nothing happens. We have got 35 passengers sleeping on tables, deck and every place that you can imagine. The nights are so dark that they have to tie the boat up at night. Tonight when we were tied up, the steamer J.P. Light came along and the captain of that boat and the captain of this boat are a little mad at each other. So our captain let the fires go very near out so that there was no smoke coming out of the stack. He ran up a flag of distress. And of course the captain of the J.P. Light thought that our steamer was broke down, and so ran over to where we were to try and help us out. And so we had the laugh on them.
Sept 15-16
Arrived at Dawson at 2 p.m. Met Zella Clegg, Frank Hall and Albert Hauxhurst. The first thing that I did was to go up to the Post Office. Got a letter from Kirk and one from you Sis. And it was such a downhearted letter. Tonight I went up to Mrs. HIghleys with Frank Hall. Raised the dickens.... Zella Clegg is awful down hearted and homesick for Skaguay.... Went up town had a talk with Frank. All about you and the boys of Skaguay.
Sept 19-20
Went through Five Finger Rapids, stopped at a woodpile. While loading wood the steamer Canadian came in sight. She was right behind us. Now for a race..... I wish that you could see the flumes coming out the Canadian and the Bailey’s stack.... She is passing us. She is ahead now. And whenever we begin to gain, she would throw her wheel around in the front of us, and the waves from her wheel were so large that they would throw us back. ... The Canadian is still ahead but is just going in to a wood yard. So we got ahead of her. We had to stop at a woodpile also. Took on ten cords. All hands and the cook helped load. Just got loaded when the Canadian came in sight. Everybody thought she would not catch up. But to our surprise we found the boat was stuck hard and fast on a sandbar. Before you could say Jack Robs we were off and going. But she is gaining. She caught up to us we tried to run her ashore. We just about got her on a sandbar. Before the Captain of the Canadian caught on what we were up to. And then he began to run us ashore. All the time the other boat was running us ashore. We were tearing her to pieces. But at last she run us high and dry upon the shore. It knocked every dish off of the table and knocked down the stove when we hit the bank. It took us about half an hour to get off of shore.
Tad would make three more trips back and forth between Whitehorse and Dawson. On these final trips, they raced every boat in sight.
Oct. 4
We are ahead of the Columbian. Stopped at a Mounted Police Station, and so she passed us. We kept right behind her. She stopped at a wood pile, and so we passed her. We got to Dawson first.
Went up home and had supper, after supper went and saw Mrs. Highley and Zella Clegg. Went to the show. But any way I went home early.
Oct. 6
Got up at eight A.M. Met Mr. Pollock and he gave me a Sunday Daily Alaskan. Telling that you were going to leave for below to go to school. Down hearted, down hearted, down hearted all day. I don’t think that I ever felt so bad in all my life as I did on Oct. 6, 1900. At dinner today the Steward was sitting at the head table. He saw me sitting there with my elbows on the table, and my head resting in my hands. He says to me, “What’s the matter, Tad, you are so still today.” I say nothing, and he gets up and comes over where I was, and says, “Now Tad, what’s the matter?” I saw that I had to give him (an) answer. So I says, “Billie, I got a letter from Skaguay saying that my mother is not expected to live.” I guess that is the biggest one I ever told in my life.
Oct. 8 (final voyage out)
I have been on the Bailey, just one month today. Stopped at a wood pile, while there the engine broke down. So laid there three hours. I see the steamer Ora ahead of us. The river is one mass of ice this morning. The ice is coming out of the Pelly River.
Oct. 10
Well about two o’clock this morning we came around a sharp bend in the river, and to our surprise the steamer Sybil was just ahead of us. Now for a race. We caught up with her, but we were on the side that a sandbar is on. We smashed into her, broke her yard. Then she began to run us toward this sandbar. So had to stop and let her go ahead. And when we did get to a wide place in the river and started to pass her, when we struck a sand bar and stuck there about fifteen minutes. And so she got away ahead of us. but we caught up with her at Big Salmon and passed her. Both of the boats were just about out of wood and when we got ahead. We took all of the wood that was along the river. We have not seen her since noon. She must have had to stop. and the crew saw wood so as to run her.... We are going through Lake LeBarge now and the wind is blowing and it is rough. The boat is rocking as if it was out in the ocean. It is awful dark tonight.
Oct. 11
Well we arrived at White Horse at 2 A.M. I did not get up. The cook did and when he came aboard this morning, He was drunk. So had a late breakfast. Well its our last trip, so we had to check up all of the blankets, dishes, etc... Tomorrow the boat goes down to Lake LeBarge. To tie up for the winter. The captain wants me to go down with him. But I don’t want to, they will be gone about five days... I am just about dead I am so sleepie, but the night watchman was tired and wanted to sleep. So I am watching the boat. While he sleeps. We beat the Sybil in here, two and a half hours. The steamers Sybil, Columbian, Flora, Yukoner, Ora, and Bailey are all at White Horse today. All of the crew are going with the boat except the Chief Steward and I. Well I am sleepie So will wake the watchman. Good night. Tad

This is the last diary entry. The next day, he started down for Skagway on the railroad, arriving on the 13th. There he was surprised to find Jeannette still there, and was able to attend her going-away party, according to the Daily Alaskan. He gave her the diary, and inside was a note folded like a heart in the back pocket.

Outside it said:
When you are down hearted and lonesome open this heart and see what It says. You may open this sheet now if you wish. - Schoolmate T.
And inside was this:
Since we met that evening Wed. 7.1900 something has told me to try and be a better boy. But I don’t know.
Now when you are downhearted, like I am now.
Think of them that are going down every day, and
Then think of them that you have brought up, from such a low life.
Let our hinges never grow rusty in working.
Your Schoolmate, T. H.

Tad weds Jean in December 1906, and with his oldest daughter Helen while working as a conductor on the WP&YR. Hillery Family Collection

Tad returned to Skagway on Oct. 13, just in time to attend a farewell party the next day for Jeannette before she left for finishing school Outside. He went back to work for the Alaskan, but then left for a time to start a newspaper in Orca, Wash. He eventually returned home and took a job on the railroad. He and Jeannette reconnected, became engaged, and were married in Skagway on December 10, 1906. Their union produced four children, Helen, Jean, Virginia, and Bea. Four generations of descendants still live in Skagway. The complete journal will be published by Lynn Canal Publishing at a later date.



Above, one of two known images of James M. Rowan, and his gravemarker in Gold Rush Cemetery. It was replaced with a new marker honoring his service during a ceremony on July 4, 2010. See coverage in July 9, 2010 edition. Rowan Collection

Marshal James M. and Beryl Rowan

A Hero, Not to be Forgotten!


Skagway has been the plot setting for many a novel, Call of the Wild and White Fang by Jack London, to mention two. Little did a kid, whose father died when she was eleven, imagine the history and legacy of her great grandfather during the Gold Rush of Alaska. Nor could she envision the reunion of immediate and distant family members who would celebrate his service to mankind.
Marshal James Mark Rowan journeyed west of his hometown of Rogersville, Tennessee. One of his stops along the way was Mt. Vernon, Washington, where he served as a city marshal and married his future wife, Beryl Grove.
In August of 1897, James and Beryl Rowan moved to Alaska where they were one of the first people, just after Frank Reid, to buy a plot of property in Skagway. James Rowan also helped build the Brackett Wagon Road from Skagway to White Pass City. It seemed obvious that he wanted to be a long-time resident, not one just passing through.
Less than six months after settling in Skagway, and working primarily in Dyea, Marshal Rowan was asked to work in Skagway while Marshal McInness was escorting prisoners to Sitka. Skagway was a boomtown, complete with dance halls, gambling, brothels and all the degradation that accompanies dishonorable behaviors. It was not uncommon for bartenders to short change customers and have an argument ensue.
On January 31, 1898, Marshal Rowan and his wife experienced the greatest joy and the worst sorrow one could imagine: the birth of his son, and Marshal Rowan dying in the line of duty. Two hours after giving birth to their son, Beryl needed medical attention. Marshal Rowan sought Dr. Moore, but was intercepted by Andy McGrath who had been short changed and beaten by Jake Rice, the owner of the People’s Theatre, a known brothel. When McGrath and Rowan entered the People’s Theatre, Ed Fay, who was behind the bar and was prepared for McGrath’s return. What he was not prepared for was that McGrath would return with the law!
Upon entering the Theatre, Fay encountered an angry McGrath. Fay either did not recognize or didn’t care that Marshal Rowan had accompanied McGrath. Fay reacted to McGrath, thinking he was armed. Fay shot the “unarmed” McGrath and then fatally shot Marshal Rowan.
The story of what happened to Beryl and young James Mark Rowan has been somewhat fractured. They left Skagway and moved to Seattle, Washington. With the help of the internet and the persistence of Marshal Rowan’s great granddaughter, the story continues to evolve and reveal the strength of a widow, alone, in the Northwest Territory.
Since January 1794, the U.S. Marshals Office has recognized individuals who have given their lives in service of our nation. There are currently over 200 Federal Marshals, Deputy Marshals, Special Deputy Marshals and Marshals, including Marshal Rowan, who have been recognized for their service. The name of Marshal James M. Rowan was added to the Roll Call of Honor, in 1998.

On July 4, 2010, the U.S. Marshals Office will re-commemorate the service of Marshal Rowan in Skagway, Alaska. Descendents of Marshal Rowan, including his great grandson, James Mark Rowan III, will be in attendance. A new grave marker, in his honor, will be placed in the Gold Rush Cemetery at that time. Renee Rowan is the great-granddaughter of James M. and Beryl Rowan. She lives in Fountain Valley, California. She received assistance for this article from Catherine Spude and William Wilbanks.

Special thanks to Bea Lingle, Lorene Gordon and Dorothy Brady of the Hillery Family, the Rowan Family, and the National Park Service for access to historic photographs in this year’s Alaskan.