Different towns had different ways to keep order. In the Klondike the Canadian mounted police enforced Canadian laws and made sure that justice was served. Throughout the territory of Alaska a system of district courts tried to maintain order. But local problems frequently called for local solutions. The stories about Soapy Smith and other bad guys fill the history books with colorful stories. Let's look at a few documents that illustrate crime found in gold towns.
Many miners carried a small handbook that provided information about the law. One example that is found in the Miners Guide is the form used to file a lien. A lien is a legal claim on another's property as a security until the person pays you a just debt.
Look at the Material Man's Lien.
Examine the document to find out when and where the lien was sworn. What is being claimed in this document? How much is the total debt? What do you think should happen next?
Many towns were very good at keeping ledgers (a record book) that showed the criminal charges and fines over a period of time. These ledgers provide us with a glimpse into the daily life of the criminal activities of the towns. Look at the ledger kept by Alfonzo Rawson, Nome 1899.
Read through the pages and try to answer these questions: What was the most common charge? What was the fine? What was the most unusual charge? How many people were from outside of the United States? What other kinds of information could you tell by reading a ledger like this carefully?
Challenge: Does the name Alfonzo Rawson of Nome mean anything to you? Check back in the Nome Charter.