BobCat History

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Skaguay News, December 31, 1897, p. 2.
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Daily Alaska, August 3, 1898, p. 2.


The New Council Unable to Proceed With Public Business

Skaguay held its first election on Saturday, Dec. 4, when seven “councilmen” were elected to look after all matters appertaining to the welfare of the town. It will be the duty of the councilmen to originate measures for the material and moral welfare of the town: to arrange for police and fire protection; look after the sanitary condition of the town, and in in shot, to discharge every duty falling upon the shoulders of a city council of any incorporated city or town. In discharging their onerous duties the seven wise men of Skaguay will have as their staff and comforter the moral and financial support of the citizens, and it is safe to say their edits and ordinances though lacking the legality which law is supposed to give them will be strictly enforced and observed .

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Daily Alaska, August 3, 1898, p 2. 


Newspaper stories are some of the best sources of historical information one can find. While not always accurate, they are fresh and only as biased as the reporter.  The use of first-hand newspaper reports, in addition to other sources of information, such as letters, diary entries, deed records, probate records and other court records. As more and more historical newspapers become digitized, historians and genealogists are finding newspapers to be wonderful sources of data on the past.

Both the Skaguay News and the Daily Alaskan are chock full of the history of Skagway, Alaska. Here are some samples. The story of Skagway's early city elections demonstrate how the process of local government operated in the early twentieth century.

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Skaguay News, December 31, 1897, p. 8.

Pursuant to previous notice, an election was held in the city last Monday at which seven members were chosen to serve on the board of city council for the ensuing year. There were fifteen candidates from which to select seven councilmen. A good total of 903 votes were polled, the relative strength of the candidates being as follows:

    The first seven of the above named candidates are those who will preside over the destinies of our city until their successors are chosen, which will be on the first Monday of December, 1899.
     The election was by no means an exciting one. All those whose names appear above are good men. There was a great deal of apathy manifested by the majority of the candidates, and such expressions as “if you are a friend of mine do not vote for me” frequently heard on and several days previous to election day. Others got out worked, not for the glory that is attached to the office, but for the reason that, being nominated, they did not propose to suffer defeat if it could be avoided.
    The seven men chosen are all alive to the matter of building up Skaguay and advancing her interests. There is not a ‘chump’ in the body, and the residents of our city may repose on their virtuous or otherwise, couches at night with the full assurance that the trust reposed in the “city dads” will not be betrayed.
     Everybody known and likes John Stanley. He is a blacksmith by trade and a good one. Young, active and energetic, he never wearies in well-doing. As president of the preceding council, he made a record for general worth of which any man might well feel proud. He is a worker, a rustler and honest, conscientious man.
    John Laumeister is the good looking man of the new board, the same as was of the old. John is a butcher by trade, and it may be that his experience with a meat saw has made him so that he is not afraid of a buzz saw. John Laumeister will do what he believes to be right, even if the heavens fall. His past record is without blot or stain and his future records will be equally bright.
    Anyone that don’t know Frank Clancy was born only yesterday. Frank has a heart inside his vest bigger than a Cincinnati ham. He has had much to do with men and business. All his interests are in Skaguay and under his care and guardianship our interests are safe. Frank Clancy has never been known to give anybody “the worst of it.” He is a friend to all, and especially to the poor and needy.
    John Hislop, the “top notcher” when the votes were counted is a man whom to know is to honor and respect. He is first assistant engineer of the Yukon & White Pass Railway and Navigation Co., and is a man who does business straight up to the handle. No mistake was made in Mr. Hislop’s election. He will be president of Skaguay’s council.
    F. T. Keelar is one of the best known men in the city. He is a merchant, broker, auctioneer and money lender. He is a thorough business man, fully awake and alive to the need and interest of Skaguay, and through him we may confidently expect much needed municipal legislation. He is an orator of no mean attainments, and will shine as a member of the municipal Sanhedrin.
    Who is Lee Guthrie? “Well, I wonder!” he is one of the pioneer businessmen of Skaguay. He owns some of the best property in the city, and is always ready to help along every worthy cause. He is one of the most charitably, liberal and at the same time one of the most solid and conservative of all Skaguay’s business men. Guthrie is a philosopher, and his clear and shrewd business instincts will be a great assistance in dictating the policy and in presiding of the destinies of our city.
    Chas. O’Brien is another landmark in Skaguay. He was here among the first and has been here ever since. As a packer and forwarder, he has no superior in Alaska. True, honest and faithful, he has never yet betrayed a trust reposed in him. Broadminded and liberal, yet with an eye to economy, he will make a first-class councilman. Charley O’Brien is one of Skaguay’s solid citizens, and his election was no mistake.
    Now that a new board of city council men has been chose, it behooves every resident of the city to stand by and hold up the hands of the members in every cause that is for the advancement of the public interest. Without the aid of the citizens, our city fathers can do practically nothing with the required aid and assistance many good things can be brought about the interests of the city materially advance. It is the duty of every man who has at heart the welfare of the city to assist the council in every way possible. If we would thrive and prosper, we must all pull together.

     A special meeting of the council was called for this morning at ten o’clock but the only member notified were [Charles] Sperry, [I. D.] Spencer, [W. F.] Lokowitz, [J. Henry] Foster and[Frank E.] Burns, all of these gentlemen were present with the exception of Mr. Spenser.
    The object was to have a majority present and all to resign so that a new election might be had and a governing body chosen by the people, several of the present members having been appointed by the council to fill vacancies. When the subject was discussed president Sperry declined to resign, but he showed no disposition to object to the resignation of the other three members and Lokowitz, Foster and Burns immediately handed them in.
    There is still a quorum in the council, the remaining members being Sperry, [Frank] Clancy, [Allan] Hornsby and Spencer. Mr.Spencer, who is the last member appointed by the council, was in favor of postponing the matter until the present excitement was over and therefore did not attend. 

Skagway City Elections

as Reported by the Newspapers 1897-1900

    A citizens mass meeting is hereby called to meet in Myer’s hall at 8:30 o’clock Tuesday July 26th, 1898 for the purpose of nomination candidates to fill the vacancies in the City Council, caused by the resignation of F. E. Burns, W. F. Lokowitz, and J. H. Foster. Also to make arrangements for holding and election to fill said vacancies.

    There was not such enthusiasm shown by the newly elected members of the council last night as the general public had a right to expect. One member was absent who sent in no excuse for his failure to attend. But there was a majority, composed of Messrs. [John] Sperry, [J. C.] Price, [J. A.] Dick and [Thomas] Whitten, and the council proceeded as far with public business as they could. Mr. Sperry was elected chairman, and the first thing to do, in the minds of every body present, was to get the records and papers of the last council, so as to continue upon the lines adopted for that body at a public meeting.
    Mr. Price pointed out that the board could take no action until it had the code of declarations and the minutes of the last council, and if Mr. Sperry of the old council did not show up with them, some step should be taken to obtain and preserve all such public records. These records and documents belong to the citizens and the new council must have them in order to continue the work where the old council left off.
    The chairman said he had no idea that there would be any hesitancy in giving up these records, and the other members of the council discussed the situation. The night watchman volunteered to search for Mr. Charles Sperry, the late president of the council, and the discussion was put an end to by Mr. Sperry’s appearance.
    Mr. Sperry walked up to the table and deposited thereon a paper box containing a number of documents. He said there all the papers that could be found, and from his explanation it seemed that they were principally bills to be met. The code of declarations was not there; the minutes of the boards were not there. Why they were not there, he could not say. “Your guests,” he said, “broke into the cupboard containing our papers and scattered them on the floor. I picked up what I could.” He fully discussed the payment to the night watchman of his monthly salary and the records in a general way and then took his leave.
     He said that the water franchise was about to be granted on a consideration of six months’ free water for the city, but that Mr. Lewis, the attorney for the company, had raised it to twelve months. As to the railroad, Broadway had been given to the company temporarily, but the franchise given to the city had not been accepted by the railroad company. What had become of the book containing the minutes of the council he could not say or as to the code of declarations of the council.
    Mr. Sperry then left the room.
    Mr. Price said it was impossible to go on until the council had these records or made new regulations, and he therefore suggested a committee of three to further examine Mr. Sperry and, if possible, trace up the missing records. The motion was carried and the chairman named Messrs. Price, Whitten and Dick as the committee.

    Citizens will read with regret that the new council has been delayed in getting to work by the fact that the records of the last council cannot be found. What object there could be in removing these records, it is difficult to imagine. Unless they are found today the council will have to draw up a new constitution and by-laws, and this means a good deal of work and an expenditure of valuable time. There is the one subject that the citizens desire the council to take under consideration at once, and its importance justifies the impatience of every property owner. This is the subject of fire protection.

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Skaguay News, July 15, 1898, page 3.
Skaguay News, December 10, 1897, p. 1.


To Act as Councilmen for the Next 12 Monts. -- Good Natured Rivalry Prevailed.

John Stanley………………...…..….654
John Laumeister………………...…..611
Frank Clancy…………………….....577
John Hislop……………………..…..665
F. T. Keelar………………….….......453
Lee Guthrie………………………....602
Chas. O’Brien …………………..…..493
 [Also rans]
W. F. Matlock…………………..…..316
A. L. Remick…………………...….224
E. O. Sylvester……………….....…237
L. S. Kellar……………………..….103
Will Clayson……………………......211
E. I. Niskern……………………......142
Ben Moore……………………..…...102

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Skaguay News, December 9, 1898, p. 2.

Skaguay’s New Council

A town council of seven has since been elected by the people, whose duty it will be to regulate the town so far as the moral support of the citizens will en­able it to do.

   At a special meeting of the city council, held at ten o’clock Monday evening, Members J. H. Foster, Frank E. Burns, and W. F. Lokowitz, tendered their resignations, each of which was accepted. All the members were present except Hornsby and 

Spence[r]. After the resignations were accepted, there was one lone member, Chairman Sperry, left to make, second, put before the house and vote on a motion to adjourn.
    And there you are.
    Captain Sperry deserves well of his fellow citizens. Too high praise cannot be accorded to his coolness and executive ability He is a born leader and has had experience in similar troublous [sic] times.

    Skaguay's first municipal election created not a little excitement, notwithstanding the fact that it was simply a voluntary act on the part of the citizens. The friends of the different candidates did some lively hustling in order to roll up a good vote for their favorites.
     The voting began promptly at 1 o'clock on Saturday afternoon and continued until 8 o'clock in the evening, the total number of votes recorded being 605. Good nature prevailed everywhere, the rivalry between the opposing fractions being marked only by the very best feeling. Somebody sprung an "independent citizens'" ticket in opposition to the regular municipal ticket, the only difference in the tickets, however, being the addition of the names of W. F. Saportas and J. Henry Foster, the remaining names on the ticket having been selected from the regular ticket.
    A feature of the election was the voting of the ladies, who, to the number of twenty, cast their votes just like men, but probably with not so much noise, which may be considered as something remarkable, in view of the well-known propensiby of the gentle sex to talk.
    Counting the ballots was not completed until nearly 2 o'clock in the morning, when the judges announced the following result, the seven men receiving the highest number of votes being declared elected:

    H. E. Battin, 441
    H. R. Littlefield, 375.
    F. H. Clayson, 366.
    J. Allen Hornsby, 361.
    Frank E. Burns, 325.
    H. Foster, 261.
    Chas. Sperry, 254.
    F. E. Clark, 220.
    J. H. Lilly, 230.
    J. H. McCourt, 179.
    John Kalem, 178.
    T. M. Word [Ward], 169.

    The judges of the election, E. W. Morris, H. R. Hoefler and B. F. Nudd, discharged their duies in an acceptable manner, as did also the clerks, Frank H. Brackett and W. H. McRoberts.

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Daily Alaska, July 23, 1898, p. 4.

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Daily Alaskan, July 11, 1898, page 3.

In Order to Clear the Way for a New Election