Eva Booth’s pump organ in Skagway, Alaska museum
The Salvation Army’s Klondike party arrived on the SS Tees from Vancouver in April 1898, creating a sensation in Skagway, as the officers marched from their ship to Sixth and Broadway, led by Commander Evangeline booth.
They conducted their first open air meeting near Jeff Smith’s Parlors, where they played a small portable pump organ during their lively meeting. Jeff “Soapy” Smith, notorious leader of Skagway’s underworld, observed the service from the edge of the crowd and added gold coins to the collection.
Eight Salvation Army officers, including two women, climbed over the Chilkoot Pass and continued on to Dawson City. Said Ensign McGill, “We had two detachable canoes and our packs and we carried the lot over the pass on our backs. That was the heaviest job I ever had in my life.”
Tlingit Indian packers were hired by the Army team to help carry the required supplies the team would use in Dawson City. Many among the Tlingit community became active in The Salvation Army in the years following the gold rush. On Christmas Day in Dawson City in 1898, the Army served 300 dinners to those in need. By February 1899, The Salvation Army post cared for stranded and sick gold seekers. The Army held regular services in Skagway until the town went dry during Prohibition.
Today, the portable pump organ can be seen in the Skagway Museum, Alaska; it was donated by Commander Evangeline Booth.