1997 - 1998
emise of S
Plaque at spot where Soapy Smith died
he centennial (100 years) celebration of the Klondike Gold Rush took
place in Seattle, Washington, Juneau &Skagway, Alaska and Canada between the years 1996 - 1998. The Smith family was
invited to participate as representatives of Soapy Smith in Seattle and Skagway.
Reenactments and official events for the centennial began
August 12, 1996, exactly 100 years after the discovery of gold in the Yukon. Although Soapy had traveled to Alaska in
1896 our participation did not begin until 1997.
Jeff Brady of the Skagway News
Brady walks the gang plank with Yukon gold
eff Smith was involved early on with plans being made in Seattle, Washington and Skagway, Alaska. He loaned
the Washington State Museum in Tacoma, several artifacts for their exhibition display on Soapy Smith and his connection to
the Klondike gold rush. Jeff was also in attendance on the Seattle docks on July 19, 1997 when the Spirit of 98
the arrival of the steamer Portland
and its first boat load of miners and gold from the Klondike, starting the gold
rush stampede. The ship had just completed a full trip reenactment of the voyage from Skagway, Alaska carrying nearly two
tons of gold, the amount thePortland
had in cargo in 1897.
The REAL gold was well guarded
Jeff attempts Seattle's finest
Smith worked the crowds and even tried to "win "some of the gold from one of the security men guarding the two
tons of gold but the North West Mounted Police who had come with the gold from the Klondike quickly put a damper
on his activities.
Smith met sculpture artist Pat McVay who had been commissioned by the city of Seattle to create a series of statues representing
important figures of Seattle at the time of the gold rush. Naturally Soapy had his hand in the underworld of Seattle and was
one of Pat 's creations, "There is a carnival-like arcade at one entrance, and that 's where we put Soapy,"recalled Pat McVay.
n 1996 well known author, Sue Henry (Murder on the
) was writing,
Death Takes Passage,
a fictional murder mystery novel based
around the reenactment of the two tons of gold transported aboard the ship, Spirit of 98 from Skagway, Alaska to Seattle,
Washington in 1997. The original passenger list included Jeff Smith and Sue Henry contacted Jeff for information and permission
to use him as a suspect character in the murder mystery that takes place on the ship. Unfortunately Jeff ’s commitments
with the museum in Tacoma, Washington prevented him from taking the voyage. The book came out in 1998 with Jeff ’s character
Fictional character, Alaska state trooper Alex Jensen is placed in charge of
the ton of real gold being used in the reenactment aboard the ship. In a master-mind attempt to steal the gold, and place
blame elsewhere, there are a series of unexplained robberies, along with the disappearance and probable murder of a ship crew
member. Trooper Alex is placed in the position of unraveling the crime before all hell breaks loose.
Jeff Smith writes,
I play myself in the book, a reenacting passenger who portrays his great grandfather, infamous outlaw Soapy Smith.
I am there to speak on Soapy and then perform some of his old swindles with my tri-pod and keister. In one such episode, a
watch, that was stolen the day prior, falls out of my keister in front of everybody. My character is the intended target of
a set-up, to draw attention away from the real crime. The robbery of the ton of gold.
I spoke with Sue Henry at great length while she was writing the book. She did a wonderful job describing
me. At first my character was to be partially involved with the robbery. I really liked the idea, but she was very concerned
with legal issues, so innocent I am.