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Skagway is derived from the Tlingit word shԍagéi, meaning “beautiful woman” which is the nickname of Kangoo, a mythical woman in the Tlingit tribe that transformed herself into stone at Skagway bay. According to the legend, she causes the strong winds that blow towards haines and the rough seas are referred to by her nickname. The stone into which Kangoo transformed herself into is not identified, but is thought to be the Face Mountain that can be seen from Skagway Bay. The Tlingit people native to Skagway were prosperous in trade with other coastal and interior Alaska Natives. The first to homestead in Skagway was William “Billy” Moore and his son J. Bernard “Ben” Moore. They claimed their land in 1887 at the mouth of the Skagway River because they believed it led to the most direct route to goldfields. Moore led an expedition through a pass over the Coast Mountains, now called White Pass, in search of such goldfields in the same year. The first prospectors arrived on the Queen on July 29, 1897. Moore was overrun by lot jumping prospectors who stole his land and sold it.  The population of the area increased tremendously and many choose to stay behind to supply goods and services to the brave miners who trekked to the Klondike for gold. Skagway was a lawless town from 1897 to 1898. Most notable of the troublemakers in the town was Jefferson Randolph “Soapy” Smith who was known as a sophisticated swindler and con man. He was head of a ring of thieves that would cheat prospectros at cards, dice and the shell game as well as charging prospectors $5 per telegraph even though there was no telegraph service in Skagway until 1901. He also had a spy network, a private militia, and controlled the town newspaper as well as the Deputy U.S. Marshal’s office. He was shot and killed by Frank Reid and Jesse Murphy in the famous Shootout on Juneau Wharf on July 8, 1898. Frank Reid died twelve days later from his wounds from Smith’s return fire and Jesse Murphy is accredited for killing Smith. In May 1898, a railway began construction, with the depot being completed between September and December the same year. Gold-seekers diminished in 1899, leaving Skagway in the beginning of economic collapse. The railroad finished its construction in 1900, but the gold rush was nearly over. Skagway incorporated itself as a city the same year and became the first city in the Alaska territory.

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