Who Was Soapy Smith?
November 2, 1860 - July 8, 1898
All of the events depicted in this original play are taken from the Skagway historical record and center on Soapy Smith's reign over the town during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897 and 1898. Jefferson Randolph Smith was born in Georgia in 1860 and ventured west as a young man. He learned his trade as a con man during the silver and gold rushes of Colorado and eventually made it to Skagway in the fall of 1897. Here, he and Colorado cohort "Rev." John Bowers assembled what was reputed to be the largest band of thieves in North America. Skagway was described by Canadian Mountie Sam Steele as "a little better than hell on earth," and Smith's gang reigned supreme for nine months. Smith had a wife and family in St. Louis but he befriended Miss Belle Davenport and her "soiled doves," Alice and Mollie in Seattle before heading North.
While his men did most of the dirty work, Soapy tried to establish himself as a solid citizen of Skagway. He contributed to the building of Skagway's first church and founded an "Adopt a Dog" program. City surveyor Frank Reid and others saw through Smith's good deeds and tried to run the con man and his gang out of town, but Smith was able to rally much of the business community around him. Soapy was riding high on July 4, 1898 as he rode his white horse up Broadway and then stood on the platform with the Governor of Alaska.
Four days later he was a dead man. His gang robbed a Nanaimo, British Columbia stampeder named J.D. Stewart of $2,800 in gold dust. Smith stood by his troops and refused to give the gold back. Reid's vigilante Committee of 101 gathered at the Juneau Co. Wharf as there was no hall in Skagway big enough to contain the mob. Most of Smith's men ran for the hills, but Soapy grabbed his Winchester and headed for the wharf to break up the meeting. You'll witness the events leading up to this historic moment.In 1923, Princess steamships started bringing tourists to Skagway. The local residents decided to put on a show for them to raise money for their local hockey team. The team needed new uniforms so that they could compete in the White Pass Athletic League against their rival team in Whitehorse, Yukon. The show became an instant tradition and has been running ever since.