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Alaska Mafia

Posted by on July 30, 2011

I’m a planner, obviously not a very good executor.  I try to get ahead of blog entries so there’s always new fodder for my phantom fans to poke fun at but I just can’t seem to.  So as I prepared for going to Alaska to see Russia…oh wait, that’s another blog…I just let the blog rot on the vine.  But I’m back and I have to say, there’s joy for a genealogist everywhere.  The following pictures of Gold Rush Cemetery, along with whales, eagles, bears, and salmon, showed up in the about 1,200 photos I took.  Go figure.

So let me tell you the story.  In Skagway, the Klondike gold rush put the town on the map.  It became a key milestone in the journey to get gold and quickly became a town to buy anything and everything.  Jefferson “Soapy” Smith was just another entrepreneur that arrived in 1896.  He got his nickname for a soap scam in which he sold soap bars, some of which had cash wrapped with them.  What the bidders didn’t know, is that only Soapy’s associates got the cash bars.  So this infamous con artist and his Soap Gang always had various scams going, supposedly including a telegraph office that charged $5 for telegraphs years before lines were even laid.

The town had enough.  The “Committee 101″ gathered together to go after Soapy Smith as this photo attests.  Soapy tried to go to one of the vigilantes’ meetings and was stopped by Frank Reid, one of four guards that were to watch out for members of the Soap Gang.  There were words, there were gunshots.

In the shootout, Soapy Smith and Frank Reid exchanged gunfire.  While Frank lay there fatally wounded (he died three days later), Jesse Murphy, an employee of the White Pass railroad and another guard for the meeting, wrested Soapy’s gun away and turned it on him, killing him.  The U.S. was threatening military law, and instead of saying Jesse Murphy killed a disarmed Soapy, they gave credit to Frank Reid.  Many people providing a tour or information today about the cemetery refer to Frank Reid as the town hero and killer of Soapy Smith.

The gravesites for both men are in the Gold Rush Cemetery.  Frank Reid’s:

Soapy Smith’s:

Check out the Alias Soapy Smith website and Soapy Smith’s Soap Box blog for more good stuff.

So why do I care?  Just because I’m a genealogist and I saw a cemetery?  Just because I want to be a respectful Alaska tourist?  No, because Soapy Smith’s family moved to Round Rock, Texas, where I grew up, in 1876.

3 Responses to Alaska Mafia

  1. Patricia

    Interesting, I didn’t know that Soapy’s family moved to Round Rock!

  2. Mary K

    Great story, thank for sharing.

    • GeekyTexan

      Thanks for reading Mary! I’m glad you enjoyed it.