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J. G. Price Testimony

J. G. Price was an attorney who came to Skagway from Juneau during the very earliest stages of the rush in July 1897. He was hired by a citizen's committee to fight the Bernard Moore claim to 160 acres of what was the business district of Skagway. He testified third during the lawsuit. While he represented his clients, most of the businessmen in Skagway, his co-council C.A. Bryant served as his questioner.


J. G. PRICE TESTIMONY, APRIL 4-5, 1898.
PRICE ET AL. VS. BERNARD MOORE.

 

 

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J. G. Price being duly sworn testified as follows:-

 

Q. Give your name age and residence, profession or trade?

A. My name is John G. Price, 28 yrs. old the 4th. of this month, residence Skaguay, Alaska, am a Lawyer by profession.

Q. How long have you resided at Skaguay, Mr. Price?

A. Since about the 28, of August, 1897.

Q. I wish you would take the map Mr. Price, which is known as the Garside map and which has attached thereto the of C. W. Garside, and tell what you know about the improvements which are marked thereon, pretending to be the improvements of the applicant in this ease, giving their condition, value, and all that you know about the sane?

A. Commencing with the Ben Moore enclosure, there was a log house there with a 2 story frame addition that was not quite completed the latter part of August. Ben was living in the log part of the house, but was not occupying the front part. I couldn’t state the value of the original log part, but I would think about $300 would be a fair estimate on the frame part when completed. His 5 acre tract was not enclosed at that time and I do not think of any other improvements in the present described enclosure at that time, as I used to go back of his house and across one branch twice a day for water and if there had been any other improvements there I would have seen them. There was a fence at that time running along west of his house. The spot marked wharf bunk house was there and was occupied as a general cook house for men working down about the mill site and up in the timber. What was known as the Co'. cook house and the value of it I should judge would be about $400. Just east of there was a building about 12 x 16 ft, one story, a very small and in-complete assortment of merchandise in it. It was at that time and has ever since been known as the Co's. store. The building is a rough building with a half sash window in front, locked with a pad lock on the outside and from the time I went there

 

 

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to about 60 days ago when the present man now in charge, Mr. Shaw, took possession of it, I would say it was closed against the Public fully 2-3 of the time during the business hours. From my first residence in Skaguay until the present time I have been in the immediate vicinity of this place and have observed it daily. The value of the store I would judge at about $125. Next east of that and what is designated as log ware house is a large square log house which had no roof, floor nor door in when I went there and no places for windows and it has been completed within the last few weeks by the city council at a cost of about $250. The whole value of the building including what the citizens have put on and what  a teamster, who is working for the Co. claimed to have put on, would be about $400. Adjoining that building on the east is a knock down house 12 x 16 one story, with a story and a half 12 x 17 addition that has been added recently by myself. The cost of the knock down house was $65. and was occupied when I went there by a man whom I afterwards learned to be Holmes. In the rear of these last three described houses is a small log stable and black­smith shop attached, worth some $25 to $50. What was known as the saw mill bunk house was not there when I went there and is not now although it was there in the intervening time. It was built by a man named Reg Hill, then occupied by he and his men and Mr. Billinghurst had his headquarters there when he was up last. I would not be able to state the value of that building, it is now getting close to the sawmill and although I don’t know by whose orders it was moved, beside the City Council, I know they had nothing to do with it. What is known and marked here as hotel, is known as Capt. Moore's block. It covers the front end of lot 6, block 1, and on which his dwelling stands. I am not able to estimate the value of this building, it is a good building. It was not built or started when I arrived in Skaguay. In the rear of that building and what is here designa­ted as office, is Capt. Moore's residence, it was not quite

 

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completed when I arrived, and to the best of my knowledge was not occupied, neither was the enclosure that is marked “fence, destroyed”, there at that time. Neither was there a fence any other place designated here that I ever saw excepting that mentioned being west of Ben Moore's house and forming part of his enclosure. Back of Capt. Moore's house South-west and North-west and west of wharf bunk house there was no clearing done at that time, whether there was about the blacksmith shop or stable I am unable to say. The skid road was not built, and they were just placing their machinery in position at the sawmill. There was a trail running through the claim at that time, this consisted merely of trees being cleared out of the way. The only part of the dock that was built was a rude platform about the end of where the present dock is. Back of this and to the north of what I have just been describing was a dense growth of timber and underbrush, so much so that a man could not walk through it in some places.

Q. Now about this mill site, do you know who has claimed this pro­perty all along.

A. Going from Juneau to Skaguay I became acquainted with Marshal McInnis, and he knew that I had been a practicing attorney and in the early part of September he introduced me to a man by the name of Reg Hill, and although I told Mr. Hill that I was not inten­ding to practice, he wanted to advise with me in reference to his mill site as to the extent of a mill site, saying that he wanted to take up ten acres and wanted to know if he could do it. He also complained that there was squatters going on the ten acre tract and wanted to know what means to get them off. The result of it was I drew up for him a notice as required by the statute of forcible entry and detention, and at his request, under the name of Alaskan and Northwestern Territories Trading Company, Reg Hill, Manager. Mr. Hill said he did not care how many people settled on there provided they would recognize his right to the land and I advised him to simply get a statement in the form of a lease from them

 

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for a small consideration and that Would make the natter alright. He shoved me several that had done that But one man did not do it. One man by the name of

A. H. Bond, refused to sign Mr. Hill's statement and I served him with one of these notices that I have spoken of and he got off. One of the features of the conversation with Mr. Hill with reference to his company was that it was an alien corporation, that he thought that they had recorded or filed their articles of incorporation in one of the United States, but as to that he didn’t know and was waiting to find out. Mr. Hill told me that he was a citizen of the Dominion of Canada. He said that in response when I asked him why   he did not take this mill site In his own name. In a subsequent conversation he informed me that he had let the matter drop as Ben Moore was going to make fight for the whole townsite and he thought they would be able to arrange with him. At that time saw a great deal of Mr. Hill and was also around the mill a great deal. I did not see Ben Moore and don’t think he had a thing in the world to do with it. At the time Just before Judge Delaney brought an injunction action against several people going on to that millsite, I heard Mr. Hill in public swearing and say that the property was his.

Q. Tell what do you know about this dock and wharf that Ben Moore claims and calls one of his improvements.

A. The dock is known as the English dock. In the latter part of Sept. I had occasion to bring an action against a man by the name of Grant Driver. Attachment and garnishment was issued and served on Mr. Hill and he told the officer in my presence that Mr. Driver was working for the other department on the wharf and the proper person to serve the papers on was Mr. Billinghurst, but we found out that Mr. Billinghurst had just gone below to Puget Sound and the papers were served on a man named Warden, who answered and said that the Co. was indebted to this man and Mr. Warden answered in an official capa­city, don’t remember what it was, and paid the money into court. I am unable to state for what Co. think it was the Skaguay Bay Association, am not positive, I remember at the time on inquiry by

 

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the officer and myself as to who were the parties in interest down there Ben Moore's name was never mentioned.

Q. Now have you told all the material facts pertaining to the Co's. store, the log house, and the building that has been referred to as your office In this case, If not proceed.

A. Those 3 buildings are on lot 8 block 2, Skaguay. It was located by a man named Holmes as a lot. Holmes assigned two thirds of an interest to Dr. R. B. Runnalls, who also had an interest in the log building. His only interest in that, I am not positive to except what he told me. .Holmes had sold another interest, the extent of it I am unable to say, whether it was the remaining third or more, to a man by the name of Richards or Richardson, who had charge of the knock down house when I first became identified with the lot. I purchased from Richardson, gave him $100. for his interest, and when I went to take possession Runnalls barred my way getting in, and showed me an assignment from Holmes and compromised with me for $50.   Since that time Geo. Rice, Marshal Rowan and Mr. Bigelow have all presented bills for work on the log structure, for work in getting out the logs. The aggregate account amounts to more than $l00. and more than the structure was worth at that time. When I first bought the lot there was no door on the log house, I took possession of it and hung a door and put a padlock on it. Some time after one of the Co.'s teamsters put another padlock on the door and claimed the whole lot himself, said that he put the rafters and sheeting on and that the Co. never paid him for it and he proposed to hold the building and threatened to shoot the first man that attempted to open the door. Some time after that I brought an action against Wm. Moore, a man by the name of Shaw, who is now in possession of the store building, and the Co. In their answer the attorney asked that all be stricken out as to all defendants except the Co. and the pleadings were signed by Reg Hill. The case was brought in John U. Smith's commissioner’s Court and by agreement between Mr. Long, their atty, and myself

 

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  it was certified to the District Court. I claimed to be the owner of lot 8, block 2, and all the improvements on it, and got it from the original locator. I have had two or three spats with Capt. Moore about it and he always claimed the lot as his. Ben has never said anything to me about it and has never claimed it. The City council obtained the consent of Capt. Moore and myself to complete and occupy the building agreeing to turn it over to the man that won at the end of our controversy.

Q. Do you know whether or not, that the citizens of Skaguay, general­ly have assisted Ben Moore in holding the 5 acre tract, which he has now fenced in?

A. I know the best class of citizens have and so does Ben Moore know it. One night when they were overrunning his place the marshal come into a public meeting being held and said they were going on to the Ben Moore tract and wanted to know what the people thought of it and what to do. I was chairman of the meeting and suggested adjourning at once, which they did. We went in a body down to Ben Moore’s place and they were all over his lot, they got wind of it and got off. It has always been the sense of the people that the Moore's be protected in their present possessions until this thing is settled.

Q. Do you know about the population and the value of improvements in the town of Skaguay?

A. My best judgment is there is about 6000 or 7000 people per­manent residents, perhaps between 2000 and 3000 floating. It is pretty hard to estimate the value of improvements for a new town, they have been of an unusually substantial nature. Including all the improvements it will not run much short of mil­lion dollars, matter of judgment only.

Q. What is the general reputation in the town of Skaguay, as to the ownership of the larger part of these improvements which are claimed by Ben Moore?

A. The general opinion is that the English Co. or Cos. have got   

 

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  a cinch on everything, that Ben is fully in their power and control that he has lost his identity in the premises and that he is just as sorry of it as any body, and that he is being used for the simple purpose of obtaining title to this land and at the end they will throw him down if they get it.

Q. Do you know whether or not it is practical to build a wharf so as to enter the trail up Skaguay valley to White Pass without crossing this land claimed by Bernard Moore?

A. From Skaguay Harbor, it is not. From Skaguay Bay, No.

Q. That about these tide lands that Moore is claiming?

A. I been over the ground marked on Protestants Exhibit "B* as Moore's line, also the line marked ordinary high tide and ay best judgment is, from observation since last August, that the ordinary high tide comes above the latter line.

Q. Where did most of the logs come from which have been used and sawed up by the Mill that has been testified about in this case?

A. From what is known as the Geo. Buchanan claim.

Q. I hand you now the two letters which were presented to Mr. Valentine and ask you if these have ever been in your possession and if so how you came by them?

A. They have been in my possession for some time. I am one of the attorneys for the administrator, Charles B. Sperry for the estate of Geo. Buchanan, and these letters were given to me with other account books and papers as part of the effects of Geo. Buchanan.

Q. Do you know the handwriting of Bernard Moore, commonly known as Ben Moore?

A. I have seen it quite often signed to different papers and think I would know it anywhere.

Q. I now hand you a letter dated Juneau, August 5, 1897, and ask you if you know the signature at the bottom of the letter.

A. My best judgment is that it is the signature of Ben Moore, and I will add that I came in possession of this letter in the same manner as the two I have just described.

 

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  One of these letters was in an envelope addressed Mr. Geo. Buchanan and with the stamp of the Alaskan and Northwestern Territories Trading company on two sides of it.

Q. We now offer these letters by Mr. Winn J. mark for identification and to be later offered in evidence.

 

  Objection by counsel for claimant.

 

  The letters were then placed in the Custody of the Board pending further identification by other witnesses.

 

  Hearing was then adjourned until 9 o'clock A.M. April 4, 1898.

 

  Hearing continued April 4, 1898, at 9 o'clock A. M. Present: The Surveyor General, Register and Receiver, and the parties in interest. Examination of witness J. G. Price, contin­ued as follows:-

Q. In reference to lot No. 8, in block No. 2, of Skaguay, the one which has been referred to as having your office upon, I now hand you this paper and ask you if it has any connection with this lot?

A. Yes, I know what it is.

Q. Do you know whose signatures are attached to it?

A. I know the signatures of J. U. Smith and Mrs. H. E. Grunday, witnesses. I am not acquainted with the signature of H. F. Holmes.

Q. How did you come by the possession of this paper?

A. It was given to me by U. S. commissioner John U. Smith, who is acting recorder and town recorder at Skaguay. This was spread upon his records of location notices for the town of Skaguay.

Q. Paper offered in evidence by Mr. Winn.

 

  No. objections by counsel for claimant.

  Received and marked protestant's "Exhibit D".

 

Q. You have read over the affidavit of Ben Moore which the appli­cant filed in this case upon offering final proof of this claim in controversy and also his testimony upon cross examination at that time, and know that statement that he makes in each

 

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  or both of them about the daily output of this mill, claimed to be upon the premises before mentioned, and also as to the amount of business that he has transacted upon the same in carrying on trade and manufacture, state what you know about these two features of the case, if anything? The saw mill hasn’t turned a wheel since about the first of last November or Just at the beginning of the last term of the District court. The second part of the question, is one of those peculiar questions to answer, where a man is satisfied of a proposition still can't swear positively to it except in giving circumstances. I am acquainted with all the property Ben Moore claims to represent and control and meet Ben Moore almost daily. The store in question, in my best judgment, by daily observation, is conducting no outside business whatever. The mill is closed down leaving only the dock in operation, and as these properties are handled by a company represented as the Alaskan and North Western Territories Trading Co., and as Ben never has any connection that be observed with them, and makes oath that he is not an officer, agent, servant or employe [sic], of them, I am prepared to say that he does not con­duct a $6,500. per month business. I wish to add this to my direct examination, that is, in speaking of the business relations I have had with lot 8, block 2, I have conducted them personally myself, my partner A. H. Bryant, was equally inter­ested, and Mr. S. L. Lovell was interested but I have since bought his part.

 

  Counsel, J. R. Winn, for the protestants states at this time, in presence of the counsel for the applicant and before the Board, that the three letters that have been referred to in the testimony of this witness, will before the termination of the evidence of the protestant be offered in evidence.

 

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Q. Is it not a fact that the lots laid out here in this townsite are changing hands from time to time?

A. Yes sir and at large prices.

Q. Are you the attorney for the city council?

A. Yes.

Q. Under what charter is your city incorporated?

A. It is not incorporated at all. The council act as direct representatives of the people, being elected as common coun­cil, and don't pretend to have any legal powers behind then.

Q. Who are the board of council now?

A. Harry Batten is President. Fred Clayson, secretary, Charles B. Sperry, J. H. Foster, and Dr. Littlefield.

Q. They pass or promulgate ordinances do they not?

A. They have in a few instances given their consent as the rep­resentatives of the people to different institutions to use the streets.

Q. They have passed ordinances granting to parties franchises to certain lands in this controversy which you call streets, I suppose?

A. Not a franchise and nothing further than their consent.

Q. Witness is shown a copy of the Skaguay News of March 11,1898, and his attention called to what purports to be an ordinance on page 4, and is asked by counsel if the ordinance thus designated as Ordinance No. 3, is one of the acts of the City council?

A. It is.

 

The paper is offered in evidence with the understanding that the testimony is confined to the ordinance.

No objections by Mr. Winn.

Received in evidence and marked in red ink and designated as claimant’s "Exhibit B” in Testimony.

 

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Q. Do the provisions of this ordinance extend to or cover any of the lands embraced in the applicant's claim?

A. It is the consent of the people through their council, to pass over the streets that are on this claim as well as off of it.

Q.  Are you a citizen of the United States?

A.  Yes sir.

 

[signed, J. G. Price]

 

 

I hereby certify that the foregoing testimony was read by me and corrected in the presence of the witness, and that it was then subscribed to by him at my office in Sitka, Alaska, this 5th day of April, 1898.

 

[signed John W. Dudley]

 

 

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