Shadows and doubts in the tale(s) of Frank Reid


October 26, 2022

Photo by Theodore Peiser (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

Jefferson “Soapy” Smith stands at the bar in a Skagway, Alaska, saloon in this undated 1898 photo. Both he and Frank H. Reid, who had earlier been a notorious resident of Cascadia and Sweet Home, died that July 8 following a gun battle on the Juneau Wharf. Reid was remembered locally for killing Sweet Home storekeeper James Simons during a confrontation near 22nd Ave. and Long St..


The order came from the darkness as a lone figure traveled down a moonlit Sweet Home street.

Instead of stopping, the figure turned. Shots from his gun rang out in the silence. More came from the town’s lawman, who had set up a roadblock to catch a thief. A running gunfight ensued, the sounds of which awakened the sleeping town.

Thus starts Scenario No. 1.

Meanwhile, miles away – and reflecting events from an earlier era – a tombstone in a cemetery near Skagway, Alaska, reads: “Frank F. Reid, Died July 20, 1898. He gave his life for the honor of Skagway.”

And how did F...

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