Mining the Miners. The Ruthless Pursuit of Gold, Part 4

Lovely Skagway

The Klondike Gold Rush created many opportunities for entrepreneurs to start up new and thriving businesses. In all reality, these were the men who really benefited from the gold rush. More money was made by those who established hotels, restaurants and other services than by most of the prospectors!

Even transporting the goods required for each miner provided opportunities for business. The local Tlingits (the native people of the area) offered their services as transporters, charging a set amount for each pound that they packed up the passes. Others built crude tramways to pull loads up the final slope to the summit of the passes.

These legitimate services were welcomed by the stampeders. Unfortunately, there were other, not-so-legitimate services, available as well. The gold rush also drew many dishonest businessmen to the area. One of these was named Jefferson Randolph Smith, nicknamed Soapy (He was far for clean, believe me!). He hired a bunch of hoodlums who would be waiting at the docks as ships filled with prospective miners arrived in Skagway (look how nice these people are!). They would be posing as clergymen, newspaper reporters and freight company representatives, and once they had sized up their victim (usually the one with the extra large wallet), they would either direct him to one of Soapy's questionable businesses or mark him for a later robbery.

Soapy's businesses ranged from fixed games of chance (No way to win these ones!), to sending telegrams to nowhere for $5 (The recipients are still waiting for their wire!), to freight companies that hauled nothing (why transport goods when Soapy can use them?), to army enlistment tents where a victim's clothes and goods would mysteriously disappear during a "physical". The victims marked for robbery were lured into a yard behind Soapy's Parlor by the prospect of admiring a beautiful caged eagle (Quite too costly to my taste!).

One day however, Soapy's luck ran out. He had just swindled a miner out of $2,800 in gold. The indignant miner fired up the citizens of Skagway and a vigilante committee was established, headed by Frank Reid, a civil engineer. Frank stood up to Soapy, and though his endeavors resulted in him being fatally wounded, he shot Soapy in the heart.

No wonder the Canadians described Skagway as "little better than a hell on earth - about the roughest place in the world." None of these swindlers were ever allowed in Canada, however, where the Northwest Mounted Police kept crime under strict control.

I admire the honest entrepreneurs who established businesses designed to assist the stampeders. However the con artists remind me of the "one" who misleads people by the millions: "And no wonder! Satan does it all the time, dressing up as a beautiful angel of light. So it shouldn't surprise us when his servants masquerade as servants of God. But they're not getting by with anything. They'll pay for it in the end." (2 Cor 11:14-15 The Message)

We are warned to Eph 6:18b to: "be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." (NIV) If we are not ready for the adversary, if we do not see through his tactics, we will be gullible, easy prey. 1 Peter 5:8-9 tells us to: "Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up." (The Message)

The world we live in is not friendly and if we are caught off guard, the consequences could be eternally detrimental! Remember: "Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!" (Gal 1:8 NIV); and "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Eph 6:12 NIV)

There are many spiritual "Soapys" out there. Be prepared to stand up to them, or you may be robbed of all of your spiritual goods. Use God's Word and depend on God's Spirit to discern spiritual hoaxes.

P. S. Would you have liked to visit Skagway in the early 1900s? One thing is for sure, you would not have been bored!

P. S.S. Would you like to see a dazzling bald eagle? I just happened to have one in my back yard. Come on over!

Rob Chaffart

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