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Reverend Sinclair

BIOGRAPHY

 

John Alexander Sinclair was born in Lanark, Ontario on February 27, 1863. He was well-educated and the British Presbyterian ministry ordained him in Ontario. He left Ontario on April 24, 1898, journeyed to Seeley’s Bay, Ontario, where his wife, Laura and two older children stayed with his in-laws while he worked for the ministry in Alaska, British Columbia and Alaska. He arrived in Skagway on May 20, 1898 to relieve the Rev. Robert M. Dickey, who had been serving in Skagway preparatory to work in British Columbia and Yukon territories. Sinclair stayed until April 1899, helping to consolidate the Presbyterian presence in the community, before moving on to Bennett, British Columbia, where he built a church. From there he traveled to several communities in British Columbia and Yukon Territory, establishing ministries. He left the North in the fall of 1900 when he was transferred to Regina, Saskatchewan. He died there, leaving his widow, Laura, and four children.[1]


Reverend Sinclair was a keen observer of the human condition. He was in Skagway, Alaska during the exciting time when Soapy Smith was killed and wrote several first-hand accounts of those times. He presided over Smith's funeral and provided some of the first written versions of what I call "The Soapy Smith Legend." Judge for yourself. These are the events seen through Rev. Sinclair's eyes.

[1] James Sinclair, Mission, pp. 70-71, 181, 253, 255; John Sinclair Papers.

Photograph of the Rev. John A. Sinclair taking pictures in the bush, ca. 1898. Courtesy British Columbia Archives, J. A. Sinclair Collection, I-67814

THE J. A. SINCLAIR PAPERS, BRITISH COLUMBIA ARCHIVES
Excerps Transcribed by Catherine Holder Spude

[Highlighted sections refer to Sinclair's changing thoughts about who killed Soapy Smith in the days between July 8 and July 11, 1898]

DIARY

Friday, July 8, 1898.

85 degrees, weather clear.

 

    Developed and fixed some prints of 4th July.

    But what a day in the history of Skagway. In the morning a miner named Stewart who with several others has come in from Dawson had 5000.00[2] in gold nuggets taken from him at Soapy Smith’s Parlors. All day it could be seen that the citizens were thoroughly [aroused?]. About 3 pm, a large group of them were assembled on Broadway discussing the situation & were dispersed by Soapy who called them all the insulting names in his capacious vocabulary. Towards evening it was whispered an indign[ation] meeting would be held at Sylvesters & so many turned out that they had to adjourn to the wharf. They had only come to order and heard Stewarts story when shots were heard up at the end where the guards were stationed and Soapy had come down State St. armed with a Winchester to disperse the meeting and show them who he was. He struck Reid one of the guards who fired but his revolvers missed fire. Soapy then shot him in the groin and before falling Reid fired three shots at him, one taking effect in the leg. Murphy another guard wrenched Soapy’s rifle from him & shot him through his heart [3] & Soapy’s followers froze for a moment. Before the friends dispersed, on hearing on all orders the cry to “all citizens get your arms.” Reid was carried to the residential and Soapy’s [the rest of this entry was written on the Tuesday Feb. 1 page] remains to the morgue.

            Judge Sehlbrede was telephoned for from Dyea and swore in a dozen courageous men as deputy marshals, each of whom [illegible] his own posse [illegible]. The ways of egress from the town were at once guarded and every “Soapy man” found was at once run in.


 


[2] Sinclair was incorrect in the amount stolen. It was only $2670.

[3] When Sinclair wrote his diary entry on July 8, he believed Jesse Murphy killed Soapy Smith.

 

 

The Toronto Globe, July 22, 1898, p. 1

 

 


“SOAPY” SMITH’S END.

 

Graphic Story of the Killing of a Desperado.

 


HE TERRORIZED SKAGWAY.

 

The Jesse James of the Yukon Gold Fields.

 

HIS GANG IS BROKEN UP.

 

The Citizens Cheered When They Saw Him Dead.

 


Skagway Will be More Prosperous, Relieved of the Blighting Influence of Robbers and Confidence Men.

 

(Special Despatch [sic] to The Globe.)

 

Skagway, July 8. – A tragedy was enacted here yesterday which will be of interest to all who have heard of the celebrated “Soapy” Smith, and who know anything of the career of a man who for high-handed act of terrorism deserves a place in the crime catalogue with Jessie James. I was not an hour in Skagway[1] until this desperado was pointed out as “Soapy Smith, who terrorized Denver and several other mining camps into submission to his dictatorship, and who now runs Skagway along the same lines.” Nor was I long in finding that his influence not only among the gamblers and confidence men but in the administration of justice in the City Council and even in the church circles was so great that it was wise to speak his name in an undertone.[2] He was head of the bunco men. But at the same time captain of the Skagway Guards who had volunteered for Cuban service, President of the baseball club, solicitor of subscriptions for the payment of night watchmen, marshal in patriotic procession on national holidays, and had even introduced himself to the new commissioner, Judge Sehlbride [sic], as “Captain Smith,” a friend of his predecessor, and one to whom the commissioner could look to muster a force of 40 or 50 men on short notice whenever necessary![3] But his desperate record[4] came to a tragic termination about 9:30 last night.

    The incidents which led to this tragedy commenced yesterday morning, when J. D. Stewart, one of the first part of fortunate Klondikers with his bag of “dust”  was inveigled into “Soapy’s” headquarters by one of his “bunco-steerers,” and robbed of a year’s hard earnings, some twelve or fifteen pounds of gold.[5] He had been met on the street by this confidence man and told that he could out his gold to better advantage at Smith’s than at the bank, as they had an agency for some large assaying company in the east.[6] He was taken into a room in the rear of “Jeff Smith’s parlors,” and while the supposed purchase was negotiated, a pal dressed like another Klondiker, laughingly to simulate a joke, seized the bag and made for the door. When the bag was nearly out of sight Stewart thought it time to follow it, but he was instantly seized by several of “the gang” who were present. They professed to be ignorant of the cause for their victim’s “excitement” and treated him as a drunken man until the “joker” and bag were completely out of sight.

 

 

Warned the Bunco Men.

 

For some time the unfortunate fellow was persuaded to “make no roar about it, so that it wouldn’t get into the papers” and the bag would be returned. But better advisers took the matter up, and soon the whole “city” was in a pitch of excitement. Several prominent and respectable citizens went to “Soapy” as has been usual in such cases, even when such affairs did not occur on his premises, as he always acknowledged himself the head of the “bunco men.” There citizens “advised Soapy in a firm and friendly manner” to hand over the gold before night or there was likely to be trouble. Judge Sehlbride [sic], too, sent for “Soapy” and advised him to use his influence to have the money returned, judging him not to take the part of the thieves. After some parley “Soapy” said, “Well, Judge, if you count me among the thieves you may do so. I am with them and shall stay with them,” and marched out of the office indignant and desperate.[7]

 

Showing Them Who He Was

 

“Soapy” apparently interpreted aright the comparative suspension of business, the numerous knots of men on every street talking in undertones, but with excited and determined looks, and decided that if he and his gang were to hold their own and maintain a chance to grab the Klondike gold likely to go out this way he must terrorize them by “showing them who he was,” as he himself expressed it. About 3 p.m. he walked into a crowd assembled on Broadway and simply by abusive language and threats dispersed them, no one having the courage to say a word in reply. But this only intensified the feeling, which has been quietly growing for some time, now greatly stimulated by the robbery that “‘Soapy’ and his gang must go.” On every side I could hear reference to the likelihood of a “hot time tonight.” But “Soapy” became more and more desperate as he saw that the time had come “to bluff the people or get,” stiffened up his nerve with whiskey and morphine, and about 9:30 seized a Winchester and started for a wharf where an indignation meeting of the citizens was being held. As he passed down State street, swearing that he would teach these curs a lesson,[8] he presented a terrible sight. Remembering the often expressed conviction during the day that the leader of the gang must be dealt with to-night, seeing the excitement of the people, and Soapy’s own sense of his danger as evidenced by his frequent presentation of his gun and warnings to the crowd following him to keep back or he’d shoot, I felt that “Soapy” was making his last terrible bluff. In a few moments I saw the flashes and heard the reports of four or five shots in quick succession. “Soapy” had encountered a guard of five men that had been detailed to hold the approach to the wharf where the indignation meeting was being held and struck Frank Reid over the head with the barrel of his rifle. Reid warded off the blow with his left forearm, in which the stroke made an ugly wound, drew his revolver and aimed at his assailant. But the revolver missed fire. In an instant a bullet from Soapy’s rifle entered Reid’s groin and passed through his body paralyzing his right leg.

 

Reid Brings Down His Man

 

But Reid, standing on one leg, shot “Soapy” three times before he himself fell, once in the leg, once grazed his arm and once in the chest. The last shot penetrated the left side punctured both lungs, passed through the descending aorta near the heart, causing instant death. Both men fell to the ground an almost the same instant, and just as another shot was fired at “Soapy” from his own rifle, which had been wrenched from his grasp [9]. Reid’s wound, though very dangerous, is not considered necessarily fatal. Desperate as he was, “Soapy” found more than a match in the cool and fearless Reid, who was the only man in Skagway that “Soapy” ever expressed any fear of as likely to shoot. For a moment “Soapy’s” gang, which had followed him to the wharf, stood at bay before the remaining him four resolute guards, but seeing their chief cold in instantaneous death, and the impetuous rush of the “indignation” crowd farther down the wharf toward the scene, they fired an aimless shot or two and “took to the woods.” In a few minutes no “‘Soapy’ man” could be found. But neither could Stewart’s gold, and all felt that “the work must be finished.” A weird, but pardonable scene took place when not far from the corpse of “Soapy,” lying where it fell and beside the prostrate and agonizing form of heroic Reid, a group of men threw up their hats in the air and gave three soul-thrilling cheers. So long had this baneful rule insulted Skagway’s best citizens, so indignant were Skagway’s business men over the hurtful reputation that ”the gang” were giving Skagway that all felt that a new era  had dawned on the city. This made the tragedy not a personal altercation but a Waterloo,[10] and it was felt that cheering did not desecrate the dead.

 

Arming Against the Gang

 

But on all sides the cry was heard “Citizens arm yourselves and be ready for the gang,” as no one knew how soon they might return reorganized. Commissioner Sehlbride [sic] was soon on the scene, and, since United States Deputy Marshal Taylor had disappeared with the rest in obedience to that conscience that “makes cowards of us all,” about twenty-five temporary marshals were sworn in. These organized each a posse of armed citizens, patrolled the streets the rest of the night, arrested, up to time of writing some fifteen “‘Soapy’ men,” including ex-Marshal Taylor from hiding in a loft. The men who were directly connected with the Stewart robbery have not yet been found. But they have slim chances of escape, as guards are placed on all wharves and trails leading from the “city.”

    To-day an inquest is being held over Smith’s remains and I have been asked to conduct the funeral service on Monday.

    So one great barrier is removed Skagway’s progress, but by resolute citizens, and perhaps at the cost of the life of her heroic city surveyor, Reid, who in simple self-defense had to take their lives in their hands and establish order that the United States government has lamentably failed to establish in this territory. “Grafters” and “confidence men” had now better give Skagway a wide berth, and travelers may now come and might, almost,[11] if they choose, leave their “dust” on the streets while taking meals  and feel perfectly safe.



 

 

End Notes

By Catherine Holder Spude

August 27, 2009

This published article was compared to the draft manuscript found in the John Alexander Sinclair Papers, British Columbia Archives,  MS-1061; 98002-10, Microfilm Roll #544, Handwritten Manuscript entitled “’Soapy” Smith’s Tragic End,” Dated July 9th ’98.

 



[1] The editor of The Globe consistently changed Sinclair’s spelling of “Skaguay” to “Skagway.”

[2] The editor of The Globe changed the previous two sentences substantially, in such a way that contributed to Harry Suydam’s 1901 and Chris Shea’s 1907 misunderstanding of Smith’s relative importance in Skagway in the spring of 1898. Sinclair’s original version was: “I was not an hour in Skaguay until this desperado was pointed out as one who in early days had ‘terrorized Denver & several other mining camps into submission by his dictates, and who now runs Skagway along the same lines,’ and I was not long in town until I understood that the  wisest way was to mention the name of Soapy in an undertone as influence was felt not only in the gambling houses, but in the city council and had strong suspicions at times that I could see indications of it in church affairs.” By changing “his dictates” to “dictatorship” and “influence in the city council and … see indications … in church affairs” to “influence in the administration of justice … and so great in church affairs that…” The emphasis was changed by the editor of The Globe, although probably not intentionally. The later biographers would read the piece as suggesting that that Sinclair gave Smith more authority than he had. Sinclair used the word “dictate” instead of “order” because he was a versatile writer. Sinclair was alarmed that the overall air of corruption in Skagway, as exemplified by men like Smith, had seemed to affect the Rev. Campbell, who had taken over the running of the Union Church. It was very subtle, and he was only hinting at his concerns here. Somehow, the editor of the Globe had manufactured the ill feelings between the Episcopal and Presbyterian churches over who had control over the board of the Union Church into Smith having influence in church affairs! This, of course, was pure nonsense. The Globe, not understanding any of this, completely misread Sinclair’s statement. Both Suydam and Shea, however, would run with the concept.

 

[3] These last two sentences were not in the manuscript draft in the Sinclair papers and may have been in clippings that were sent as supporting material that Rev. Sinclair told his wife he sent with the draft article. All statements are technically true, and Sinclair did have copies of newspaper articles that verify some of the facts of these statements. All roles were ones Smith had undertaken as part of a self-promotion program that dated after late April, and none other than Smith or one of his comrades had given himself any of those accolades. These articles, by the way, were usually in the form of paid advertisements. That is, Smith advertising for men to join the Alaska Guard, and signing his name “Captain” Smith, or the newspaper making “fun” of “Captain” Smith. You would have to know the local politics to understand the joke, which The Globe – and possibly Rev. Sinclair, as a newcomer -- probably did not understand.

 

[4] The Globe’s editor deleted “of ‘sure thing’ work and revolver bluffing”.

 

[5] The Globe changed this from Sinclair’s $2500 to $5000 worth of gold, and they added that it was a man’s year’s salary.

 

[6] This phrase is not in Sinclair’s copy of the manuscript, so was added by the editor.

 

[7] The last three sentences were not in the manuscript in the Sinclair papers. As this conversation is repeated almost verbatim in Suydam, it is important to understand where Suydam got the words: Sinclair's editor, not Sinclair. It is also likely part of the supporting material that was sent with the manuscript.

 

[8] Sinclair wrote that Smith “passed down State street, swearing that he would ‘teach these damned sons of b----’ a lesson.” The Globe removed the quotation marks and reduced the impact of the curse for the sake of its family audience.

[9] Sinclair wrote this article on the morning of July 9. He still believed Murphy killed Soapy Smith, but he had not yet attended the coroner's inquest, so he did not name Murphy.

 

[10] The Globe omitted Rev. Sinclair’s next phrase “or it’s Gettysburg.”

 

[11] The Globe, apparently, did not feel as strongly as Rev. Sinclair that Skagway was now perfectly safe. It added “and might, almost,” words not in the original manuscript.




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LETTER TO LAURA SINCLAIR, DATED JULY 11, 1898
Transcribed by Catherine Holder Spude


 

                                                                                                Skaguay July 11th, ‘98

 

My Darling wife:

 

    How glad I was to get your two letters yesterday and to hear that you are all well. I also got one from Peter & mother so I had quite a treat. Imagine I got them just before service and ha to carry them about two hours before reading them. How would you like that old woman? Wouldn’t it try your curiosity – eh?

    Well my darling we have been passing through terrific times in Skaguay since last Friday & I hope sincerely that you do not see anything of it until you hear from me lest you should fear for my safety. I am all right and have not been in any danger tha I know of.

    As possibly you have read “Soapy” Smith was shot dead last Friday evening. I think I have mentioned him in some of my other letters as a desperado – a match for Jessie James, who terrorized Denver & several other new mining camps and has been establishing a dictatorship here. He was the ring leader of a gang of thieves, and confidence men & gamblers & even highway robbers which it is thought number nearly 40 in Skaguay.

    But I shall enclose a pencil copy of the events of Friday & Saturday as I sent them to the Globe & I shall also enclose photos to illustrate. I sent the letter to the Globe because of the newspaper value of the affair with the photos of “Jeff Smith’s Parlor”, “Soapy on July 4th marshalling his Skaguay Guards & his float, or decorated wagon which had a place in the 4th of July procession & I asked them to allow me what the letter was worth, and to send you the Daily Globe & me the weekly & the Saturday Globe after this. If may lead to my being asked for more letters.

    But later events have transpired. On Saturday I went in for a while to the inquest held over the body of “Soapy.” [1] I had my camera along, but soon found that orders had been issued that no photos were to be taken of Soapy’s corpse as he had often expressed his desire that his dead body should not be caricatured. His lawyer came to me tho’ and asked me to conduct his funeral service on Monday – i.e. today. I at once consented. He promised to pay me, but I said I did not accept pay for funerals. But when he insisted I told him that I would much prefer some relic such as his small Derringer revolver. This he promised at once that he would secure for me. Won’t it be a curiosity to have? It will be so much sought after that I am afraid that it is almost too good to be true that I am to have it. It may fail yet.

    Then to my surprise he offered to let me – “since I was a minister & not likely to make wrong use of it” – take a picture of the corpse. So I have negatives of the corpse one showing it as life like as possible in coat collar &c. & with eyes open, another showing breast exposed and the surgeons conducting the post mortem examination & searching for the bullet which killed him and third showing the bullet wounds in his side & arm. These are the only negatives taken & would be worth a good deal did I feel free to sell them – but I do not as I gave my word that I would retain for my own use.

    But fancy the position I was placed in when I had to conduct such a service under such circumstances. I wrote every word of  my sermon & read it so as not to make any breaks & so as not to be misrepresented and taking as my text the Proverbs “the way of the transgressor is hard” spoke the plain truth as unhampered as I would have done at Spencerville. And no one is offended so far as I know, although 2 out of the other five ministers here refused to go with me lest the should incur the displeasure of extremists who thought that “Soapy should be buried like a dog.”

    I had a wonderful experience too last evening. About 20 minutes before church time Rev. Mr. Wooden – new Epis. Minister – called and asked me to go with him to the gaol to speak to the 15 men who had been arrested as Soapy’s pals. I went and I wish you could have seen the way in which our visit was received. They were all terribly afraid of being lynched and whenever we came as I saw that they appreciated it. I spoke first, saying in the very first place that we were not intruding ourselves because they not get away nor did we come with pins advice to men whom we considered guilty but to me who were in trouble and to whom we wanted to bring the consolation & comfort of religious in the hour their anxiety. After we had both spoken and led in prayer and imagine my surprise when from all parts of the large room came a most fervid “amen” at the close. How natural for men, at other time reckless, in time of danger to look to God & his hand for comfort.

                                                                                    July 12th, 98

[The next 20 lines are deleted. They deal with personal matters not related to the Smith incident.]

    I intended to share some church news of the Soapy affair to the Westminster [a religious magazine out of Toronto] today but too late now.

    With best love to all and loads of kisses for my old woman & babies.

                                                                                    Jack

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[1] Here Sinclair says that he finally attends the coroner's jury. Newspaper articles make it clear that there are two autopsies and that the jury deliberations take several hours while the jurors debate whether Reid killed Smith, and whether it was in self-defense.

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THE JEFF R. SMITH SERMON
BY REV. JOHN A. SINCLAIR
Published in the Skaguay News, July 15, 1898
Transcribed by Catherine Holder Spude



The principle contained in our text, like many others in Holy Writ, has often been disputed by men who have taken inadequate views of life. As evidences of its failure how often have pen pointed out the wrong-doing the prosperity and ease, contrasted with the upright in his misfortunes? Poor Smith thought he made this proverb truer to the fact of life, I am told, by revising it to read, “The way of the transgressor is hard TO QUIT.” But in his disobedience of the laws of God and men, he found, when too late, that after all, God’s law written in Scripture and expressed in men’s resistance of wrong doing, were real and awful realities. The way that seemed so long to prosper, and so fascinating in its indulgence and profit, was ended by a Will stronger than his own, and in a tragedy sudden and awful.

It is an old maxim, “speak only good of the dead,” and it is fitting for fellow mortals, taught by Christ of our own weaknesses, to be temperate in judgment. To those ready to condemn summarily a poor fallen woman, Jesus said: “Let him that is without sin among you cast the first stone;” but in the very sentence in which He forgave her, He mentioned what was wrong in her past, saying: “Neither do I condemn thee; go and sin no more.”

We lament that in the career of one who has lived among us there is so little that we can look back upon today as unmistakably good or heroic. Deeds were done which may have been charity or which may have been policy. Not knowing the heart, we cannot judge, but can hope for the best. But he has paid the penalty of his mistaken and misguided judgment. He has been laid low in ignominious death by the hand of a fellow citizen in self defense and in heroic protection of the lives of his fellow men. He was ushered into eternity in an instant, while in a mood in which the most daring and skeptical – not fool-hardy – would prefer not to die. His remains lie here today cold and still in solitary death, no worthy mourner near his bier, no tears of sorrow shed by his fellow citizens; no loss – but the opposite – felt by the most patriotic, deserted where he fell by the companions with whom he chose to be numbered, and whom, he fancied, he was protecting and leading. In an awful sense he lies “unwept, unhonored [sic] and unsung.” Regarding the condition of his spirit today, it is not ours to judge. We simply say: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” But in reference to his career as witnessed in this life, has it not been remarkable and awful vindication of the principle which we are all apt to forget at time: “Good understanding getteth favor, but the way of transgressors is hard?”

In the sense of relief which all unmistakably feel after the destruction of an organization which has  long lain like a leaden incubus upon the freedom of our citizenship, paralyzing the temporal, moral and spiritual development of the city, it is hard for us to feel sufficiently that sympathy which we should for a misguided and fallen fellow mortal. But he has paid the awful penalty of his mad career, and when we think of our own frailties, of our own susceptibility to strain a point of truth or righteousness when encouraged by the bravado of false friends, of our own proneness to imitate mildly the fashionable swagger of men who would win a reputation for “wild west” fearsomeness and independence, of our own proneness to go astray when a course of conduct suggested by our own lower natures is winked at by the influential, recognized by the authorized keepers of order, and condoned by the frontier charity of the pure – when we look within, and thus see our own elements of weakness, and look about see the atmosphere in which he lived, we should feel some pity for one in whom these same seeds of evil bore their ghastly fruit. His dead body is a symbol of our own mortality of our own helplessness in High Heaven’s hands, and his fatal career the symbol of our own lesser follies. Therefore as fellow mortals, ourselves prone to err, we have assembled to give decent and Christian burial to these poor remains, leaving judgment to God, and mourning the awful cloud of sorrow and dark memory which has fallen upon his wife and family in the east.

But today our minds must revert rather to the living, than the dead. And here again we see how “the way of transgressors is hard.” Men, who, like their unfortunate leader, foolishly fancied that without secrecy, without shame, without fear, they could prey upon the unsuspecting, could cleverly outplay the uninitiated gambler, could violently fluff the wronged into silence and submission, today find their chief suddenly called before Heaven’s bar of judgment, and they themselves marked by armed citizens before the judgment bar of their fellows, who can scarce restrain a revenge natural after so long an oppression. Oh, friends, when I heard the earnest “amen” from all parts of that jail full of frightened prisoners last night at the close of my prayer with them for God to protect the innocent, to prepare the guilty for just retribution, and to comfort and care for their dear ones at home, I felt as never before how hard was the way of transgressors and how natural it was for the helpless to cry to the Lord in the day of trouble. Men who were two days before disinterested in God, profane, prayerless, secure in their skepticism regarding a Divine hand in human affairs, now realizing the danger of being lynched before morning by men whose rights some of them had outraged, gave a new response to a preacher’s prayer. May it be that the hardness of the transgressors’ way may soften the transgressors’ hearts.

Still another class of men are finding the way of transgressors hard. I have reference to may who followed the world-wide policy of “keeping in with these men for same of business.” The old maxim, “better have a man a friend than an enemy,” has its limitation when applied to conduct. It can never lead us to countenance wrong-doing without numbering us among the transgressors.

It is true that especially, in new and only partially organized towns, the same discrimination between the pure and honorable, and those who are more or less [illegible phrase] so sharply drawn. Many who would not be seen in South or East associating with gamblers, prostitutes or “grafters,” will work with such on the street, cultivate their custom in business, or even tolerate their influence in civic affairs. Amid such circumstances it requires some extra moral courage, and extra firm faith in such moral principles as that of our text, to choose principle at a loss of profit, and purity of mind and body at a loss of popularity and pleasure. This is made even more difficult by the feeling among many that their present residence is only temporary, that they are really exiles from home merely to make a “stake,” and that necessarily many of the maxims and customs of the homeland are suspended here. Looking at things from the point of view of the present merely, the way of the transgressor appears easy and profitable, and the way of the upright hard. Many, for such reasons as these, have long given countenance to the transgressors more or less open during the days of their short-lived prosperity, who have found within the last few hours that, even in Skaguay, God’s Spirit of Truth and Justice, has been quietly preparing to assert itself. When the appointed time came, it did so with such suddenness, such awful precision, such unflinching thoroughness, and such constant vigilance, that in the general crash of an iniquitous organization, many who did not expect it, find themselves asking who next will be put on the rack. In such an excitement it is only to be expected that some innocent ones will be wrongly suspected. They have a right to justice and sympathy, and to belief in their innocence until proven guilty.

But we see men who associated with Smith’s pals in the recent past, no flourishing Winchesters and clamoring for their punishment. This inconsistency is another added to the list of their transgressions, and will breed a contempt which will make their future way hard if they remain in Skaguay. Permit me in this connection to point my hearers to a few lessons and duties which the trace events of the past few days have thrown out that the work of reform will not be complete  when every member of the “Smith gang” has been punished or departed. They were no the only baneful incubus smothering the morals and prosperity in this town of promise the work of your vigilance committee will not be complete until all who are not engaged in fair and honorable business are made to feel that Skagway has no place for them. All “grafters” should get a hint to leave; all whose business is to get the hard earnings of others without giving an adequate and honorable return should be promptly asked to close up; all who want to make gold out of their own and others shame, should be firmly dealt with, and should get no recognition and no condonement [sic] from any who honor the virtue of their own wives, sisters and daughters. This must be the attitude of all who have any faith in that God who inspired heroic Reid with courage, steadied his nerve, and directed his fire so unerringly that the leader of lawbreakers had not one breath to call his followers to violence. By His intervention no life was lost but that one which alone could have put any great obstacle in the way of Skaguay’s liberation.[1]  In sounding this call to duty, I would not be understood as encouraging anything like heartless or persecution.

When Jeff Smith was alive, I refused an introduction to him. But today if he were alive and suffering, I would be at his bedside for the same reason as I conduct these sad obsequies. Let us commit to God’s care brave Reid’s life, so nearly given for others, and in confidence in that Divine hand which has clearly shown itself in the last few days, move on in the just and fearless discharge of duty. God is with the righteous and “with favor will He compass them as with a shield.” Let us look to Him for continued strength and guidance, that while we deal out justice to wrong-doers, we may also them an example [illegible line caught in fold of newspaper] they forget to render to others. Let us “trust in God and keep our powder dry,” as the pious Cromwell said when acting as his nation’s liberator. Let us learn from poor Smith’s mistaken career and awful end, what curse even great and cultivated talents may become to the possessor and to others, if devoted to consecrated ends in life. Let us learn from the unhappy fate of his associates, and from the fears of those who lent countenance to his wrong-doing, that in the future and larger liberation of Skagway, by the influence of Divine truth and Christian homes, all who today countenance what will then be cast aside as unfortunate elements of pioneer life will find the way of transgressors hard.

In any crises we may have to face in the future, when tempted to either dally with wrong and wink at evil, or on the other hand to mete out intolerant or disproportionate retribution to the fallen, let us remember, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” saith the Lord, and that “Good understanding getteth favor, but the transgressors is hard.”

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[1]  Here, on July 11, Sinclair announces to the public that he accepts the jury's conclusion that Frank Reid killed Soapy Smith. 

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