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The Blueberry Kid

Blueberry Tommy Johnson

"Another violent chapter in the history of the Koyukuk was written on the lower reaches of the river in the fall of 1912. The "Blueberry Kid" was throught to have murdered 'Fiddler John' (the discoverer of gold on the Hammond River), 'Dutch Marie," a notorious woman from Nolan, both going outside with 'home stakes' from their respective occupations, and Frank Adams, whose death was necessay to the robber and murder of the others," wrote Stuck.

"The last steamboat was gone from Bettles, so the Blueberry kid took the aforementioned as passengers on his launch, the miner and the woman both drunk when they embarked. The Kid alone reached Nulato, took a steamboat to St. Michael and so 'outside," and in Seattle it is said cashed thousands of dollars worth of gold dust at the Mint, and again in San Francisco.

"The Launch was found two years later, swamped in a backwater but still tied to a tree. (Witnesses said) the Blueberry Kid had arrived at Nulato in a collapsible canvas boat he carried in the launch. Two years later, somebody found a little heap of calcined bones at an old campsite near the submerged launch, but I do not think that any effort was made to determine if they were human remains or not, and the Blueberry Kid is still at large."

[Source: p. 131, "Rich Names Along the Koyukuk", Aunt Phil's Trunk, Volume 1, An Alaska Historian's Collection of Treasured Tales

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Suitcase and Wearing Apparel Belonging to "Dutch" Marie Discovered - Word Received in Juneau

A cablegram has been received in Juneau from United States Marshal L.P. Irwin to Detective McGuire of Seattle, of the finding of the boat in which a party of four left Koyokuk in 1912; and have been not been seen since. The boat was found about 200 miles up the river in a slough, called the cutoff by the natives. It was tied up and had not drifted. In the boat was found a suitcase containing woman's apparel and known to have belonged to "Dutch" Marie, one of the three supposed to have been murdered. "Dutch" Marie Schmidt, was known to have had on her person at the time of boarding the Blueberry Kid's boat over $2700, of which $2000 was in dust on this trip. The other member of the party was Frank Adams and had about $2700, while the owner of the boat, Blueberry Kid, was known to be almost broke. Juneau parties acquainted with the Blueberry Kid say he is an Englishman about 50 years of age and weighing about 145 pounds. It is known that he was in the coast towns last winter, having registered at the Hotel Northern in Seattle. Detectives cut his signature from the register of the hotel and identified it with those where he had sold large quantities of dust and found them to be alike. Already there over twenty men searching for the Blueberry Kid in Koyokuk.

July 16, 1914 - The Daily Alaska Dispatch

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Body On Koyokuk That Supposed To Be Adams
Woman's Body Supposed To Be "Dutch MARIE" Was Found Short Time Before That- Officers Busy

A body has been located on the Koyokuk River, supposed to be that of Frank Adams, who, is company with "Dutch Marie" "Fiddler John" and the "Blueberry Kid" left in the latter's boat a year ago, and have not been heard from since, save the Blueberry Kid, the supposition being that the former three were murdered by the kid.

While there is no appropriation for such purposes in Alaska, Marshal Irwin secured permission from the Attorney General to send a physician and have an autopsy of the body of the woman found before that of Adams, supposed to be "Dutch Marie" and also of the man supposed to be Adams.

These murders recall the fact that a number of men have "mysteriously disappeared" in the interior of Alaska. Nearly every year miners and others come across skeletons of human beings, most of whom have not been identified and manner of death can only be conjectured. The common explanation was that they ran out of grub and either starved or were frozen.

The crimes also recall the murders of the Valdez trail near Sbitina where it is known that three men were murdered, and there is a strong belief that the total will be brought up to five which crimes have taken place within the past year and a half.

Officers in tracking the crimes have come across evidence which leads to the belief that other murders will be unearthed.

Frank Adams carried $5000 life insurance policy, and as his friends are convinced that he fell victim of Blueberry Tommy Johnson, who is supposed to have killed three traveling companions, the attempt to find the body was made in order that the insurance might be collected. The company refused to pay the policy, not being satisfied that the missing man was dead.

October 2 1914 - The Daily Alaska Dispatch

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"Dutch" Marie Schmidt, on Koyokuk; Blueberry Kid Suspected
John Homberg, on Koyokuk; Blueberry Kid Suspected
Frank Adams, on Koyokuk; Blueberry Kid Suspected
Mary George, quarter-breed, and her aunt and uncle, Han George and "Stikine Mary" George, murdered near Wrangell;
Mr. Brown and W.S. Slayton, disappeared from Ketchikan; last seen with The Blueberry Kid
Mr. Smith, mining engineer, A.J. Whittington and Crocket of New York; taken from Juneau bound for Lituya Bay by Blueberry kid; never heard from again
Two men started down the Yukon River with Blueberry Kid; never heard from again.
Two men taken up the Maloz Kachet River on the Seal Pup by the Blueberry Kid; and never heard from again.
Mrs. Harp, of Ester Creek, brutally murdered in Fairbanks, no arrests.
Mrs. Roe, roadhouse keeper of olness, brutally murdered on the trail near Fairbanks; suspect by the name of Miller arrested and held for trail
Four murders on the Kantishna River; only one arrest and conviction.
Louis Schoenberg brutally murdered in the Chisana; had $10,000; one arrest; no evidence; no conviction.
Mr. Anderson, shot in back on Valdez trail near Chitina; no arrest.
Mr. Nelson, killed at the same time; shot in head and back; no arrest.
Mr. Smith, murdered on Valdez trail near Taslins roadhouse; shot in back of head and in back; no arrest
Unknown body on the Valdez trails; head smashed in and robbed; never identified; no arrest
Another party reported lost on the Valdez trail.
Captain James Plunkett of Juneau disappears; Edward Krause, no held in the Juneau Federal Jail, suspected; not not found.
John Moe, of Juneau disappears; Krause suspected; no body found
William Christie of Douglas disappears; last seen with Krause; body not found
Japanese cannery foreman disappears with money; last seen with Krause; no body found
Another man disappears; being investigated by federal officers; Krause suspected.
Mr. Knickerbocker of Juneau disappears; Krause suspected
Deputy United States Fish Commissioner Irwin, accompanied by De Costa and Clarke, leave Ketchikan on an inspection trip; never return; bodies not found; evidence they were murdered in Iditarod; no arrest
Smith and Partner, prospectors, murdered on Chandler River; no arrests.


The foregoing are mostly murders for which no convictions have been secured.

There are many more that might be mentioned at Fort Gibbon, Eagle, Valdez, Cordova, Seward, on the Kuskokwin River, among the cannery settlements to the westward, at Nome, in Southeastern Alaska, and in fact in every community in Alaska, but most of these were of the ordinary kind, in which self defense and other motives figured, and for which, in most cases, arrests were made and trails had. then, too, have been found many bodies and more skeletons and "floaters" in the rivers and various parts of Alaska, which have never been identified, and the fate of whom will always remain a mystery of the Northland.

To give a complete list of these would fairly startle the country.

The brutal trail murders and mysterious disappearance of citizens in more recent years have aroused more attention with the establishment of United States officers.

The one complaint that there have been so few arrests is lack of funds.


In the case of the Valdez Trail murders, for instance, a detective was employed by the marshal's office and when he was close to the scent and practically had a suspect whom he had been following cornered, Washington was suddenly seized with on of those economical streaks and cut of the payroll of all "specials," including Joe Warren at Seattle who had been giving the Alaska officers valuable assistance. Time and again the Dispatch has asked that if the government would not allow marshals in Alaska funds to get evidence in such cases that it send in secret service men to the north.

It would save the government a large sum annually, and afford protection for life. Under the present plan officers are merely process servers and can not incur one cent of expense until a body has been found and a warrant issued. In short, the foregoing list is the best argument of need of money to put a stop to a continuance of brutal murders.


The record alone of Tom Johnson known as "The Blueberry Kid" "Cockney" "Tommy" and "Dowdall" seems almost beyond belief, and could never have happened if Alaska Officials were allowed the funds for securing evidence.


In the fall of 1903 the Blueberry Kid was married to Mary George, a fine looking quarter-breed native. The Kid and his Bride and her Uncle and Aunt, Hans-George and his wife, left for Sockeye Island, 15 miles from Petersburg.

The Uncle and Aunt went in their canoe and Johnson, or the "Blueberry Kid" went in his sailing boat, accompanied by his native bride. Before leaving he bought a case of Scotch Whiskey and ten gallons of coal oil.


The Blueberry Kid returned alone to Petersburg.

On his arrival he was met by the night watchman at the cannery that same night. He took the steamer Dulgo for Juneau, but got off at Ketchikan.

In the summer of 1905 Johnson had worked for the Bushman cannery at one of the fish cleaning machines. Carl Carlson now at Chichngoff, was working in the cannery at the same time.


After the disappearance of the George family, Carlson became suspicious and a searching party was organized and the island visited.

The searchers found a large lot of blacken logs, a part of the bride's shawl, some of the clothing of Mrs. Hans George, and other evidence which was not all burned up, and an empty ten gallon coal oil can.

The pieces of clothing were identified by other natives as having belonged to the George Family.


Hans George was a trapper and hunter and furnished the cannery with fresh meat. He had sold $700 worth of furs just before leaving with Johnson.

Johnson had paid the Aunt $200 for her consent for him to marry the niece. He paid $50 down and was to pay the balance in a short time. the Aunt better known as "Stiklno Mary" insisted on having the money. She also had $1,000 in cash and a large gold nugget chain which she always wore about her neck. She was considered one of the best moccasin workers in Alaska.


The theory advanced is that Johnson, having failed to entirely burn the bodies with the aid of coal oil, then cut the tent is strips, wrapped it about the charred bodies and weighted them down and put them in the water. there was the trace of where heavy objects had been dragged from the charred logs to the water, and some charred bones were found.

The Uncle's canoe was found on the beach with a hole knocked in the bottom.


The then United States Marshal at Petersburg reported the facts to the Marshal's office at Juneau.

There was no funds and the department would not spend money, unless a body could be found, and the deputy made a trip to the island at his own expense. However, he did not have funds with which to continue the search and was forced to quit. No reward was offered or other inducement made to secure any additional evidence.


That same fall, Johnson, or the blueberry Kid was at Ketchikan and a man by the name of Brown and W.S. Slayton of Boston, employed Johnson to take them to Sulzer, where a copper strike was reported. They never turned up. They were said to be men of means.

The next spring Johnson took from Juneau a man by the name of Smith and A.J. Whittington and Crockett, of new York, from Juneau to Lituya Bay. they never turned up. smith was a mining engineer. They were supposed to have had money about them.

In the summer of 1907, Johnson went to the interior and made a trip down the Yukon river in a small boat accompanied by a man with money. they picked up another man at Dawson Johnson arrived alone at Port Gibbon. His companions were never heard from.


Johnson then made a trip to Fairbanks. He was an engineer by trade and worked for a time from Frank Cleveland and then George Friend on Dome Creek running a hoist.

In 1909 he bought from George Coleman and Smith at Fairbanks, the motor boat the "Seal Pup" He took two men down the Tanana and Yukon Rivers and up the Molza Kacket River with an outfit for prospecting. They had money. they were never heard from again. friends made a search.


Johnson then went to Ruby when a strike a gold was made there and in the spring of 1912, for Johnson and Jepson, merchants at Ruby, hired Johnson to take them with an outfit to the Koyokuk on his motor boat the Seal Pup. At Bettles, the head of navigation, the water was too shallow and they freighted their good on a scow pulled by horses to Wiseman.

Johnson left his boat at Bettles and assisted in the work. R. Evans, a miner, who had $25,000 in dust bargained with Johnson to take himself and family down the river. Meantime, however, a Northern commercial Co., streamer came along and Evans took that instead.


Shortly thereafter Johnson was hired by John Homberg, frank Adams and "Dutch Marie" Schmidt to take them down the river, Homberg was a friend of "Dutch Marie". He had cleaned up $6,000 from his claim and sold it to Frank DeGarly for $50,000. DeGarly gave Homberg $12,000 down. There was remaining in the hands of the NC. Co., $22,000 to the credit of Homberg in 1913. It is presumed that the remainder in royalties has been paid to his credit since that time.

Dutch Marie took $10,000 with her to the Koyokuk to buy gold dust, since she could get it for $11.00 an ounce and sell it outside for $18.00. she was only able to buy $6,000 at that price.


The party left Wiseman September 8, 1912, and came down to Bettles with Jepson's scow and then entered the Seal Pup, Johnson's boat for the trip down the river. Some distance down the river they met "Kosukuk Chief" an Indian whom Homberg knew. The Indians were having dinner. That was the last seen of the party

Afterwards, the next summer, Indians found the Seal Pup in a slough of the main river, about 100 miles down from Bettles. there was evidence of a large fire and two nuggets and burned buttons, and a few charred bones.

That same summer later the Indians reported finding a body of a white woman 10 miles below the slough. They took it off the bar and hurled it on the hill and reported the fact to the authorities at Fairbanks. Deputy Marshal Donovan was sent up the river that fall with Evans, but the Indians were on the Kobuck River hunting, and they were unable to find the place where the body was buried.

No funds were available to make a further search


Johnson took his small canvas boat on down the Koyokuk.

He arrived at Ruby that fall and spent money lavishly with a French Woman, and the two took the steamer Sarah, September 20th, for St. Michael. On the arrival there he gave the French woman some gold nuggets.

Johnson next boarded the Victoria for Seattle. Johnson had Tommy McSmart sell tickets for raffling a nugget bracelet and a sunburst set with diamonds, and a nugget chain and a locket set with diamonds. A lady passenger of Seattle,a woman, won the locket, and one of the waiters, won the nugget chain. This was later identified as jewelry belonging to Dutch Marie.

Johnson arrived in Seattle October 8th, and registered at the Northern hotel and had room 125.


During the same day at the United States assay office he deposited 315 ounces of gold dust and gave his address as the Koyokuk. He then went to Spritz & O'Neils saloon on first avenue and left a large poke of nuggets valued at $3,500 and cashed more the next day at the first National Bank and the Puget Sound National. He then went to the Victoria Hotel in Seattle and registered as Tom Johnson again. Next to his room was Helen Savage and he gave her a once ounce nugget.


From Seattle Johnson went first to Everett then to San Francisco. Meeting a girl by the name of Cloe Roberts, the two left for San Antonio Texas, and registered at the San Antonio Hotel under the name of John Dowdall.

After staying there some time he went to see his brother near Enclair, Wis., where he bought 112 acres of land for his brother and then built a barn for his brother and remained several months.


All of the foregoing is recorded from the report of a detective who in turn gave it to the Marshal at Fairbanks. Having not found any body, the government dropped the case.


But for the fact that William Christie was a Mason in good standing and the order immediately got busy after he disappeared from Douglas with Edward Krause, it is doubtful if the latter would have been arrested in Seattle as he stepped off the boat. Even at the present time there is no money to search the channels for the bodies of Krause's supposed victims.


The same is true, in a less degree of deputy Pish Commissioner Irwin and his companions, who left in their boat to investigate alleged illegal fishing and who never returned.


Smith and his partner, prospectors were murdered in the Chandler in the fall of 1910. The body of Smith was brought to Fairbanks by Hanson at the cost of $3,000, a dog team being used.

The government kicked on the bill and never allowed any funds to make a search for a body of the partner, or to investigation the murder. The men had a rich galena lode which was afterwards jumped.


Two men were murdered on the Kuskokwim River in 1911, and also a trapper by the name of Carlson. The latter had $5,000 worth of furs, Indians were suspected. there was no investigation or arrests.


In the Iditarod, a Japanese girl having $5,000 was brutally murdered, being choked to death. There was no arrest, although suspicion pointed very strongly in a certain direction.


It may be said, on the other hand that across the bay in Dawson, Canadian territory, the mounted police have apprehended every criminal where a murder has been committed and the entire cost of maintenance each year is less than running any single one of the divisions in Alaska.


The shipping clerk of the American Engine Company, of Detroit is badly confused. He writes G.P Forrest, explaining why a gas engine ordered last December has not reached Juneau, that in his opinion, the shipment reached Seattle too late to catch the steamer and must have routed overland. Anyone seeing a gas engine flying this way will know it is the overdue shipment for the Juneau Iron Works from Detroit.

1916-02-27 - The Daily Alaska Dispatch

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Needed To Trace Down Gang Committing Murders'

Governor Strong Says Detective Should Be Employed- Believe "Blueberry Kid" is Dead

Governor J.P.A. Strong yesterday stated that the United States Government should hire trained detectives and keep them on the job until the perpetrators of the many murders in the interior have been brought to justice.

"The twelve or fifteen murders which have been committed in the Third and Fourth Divisions within the last few years are very good evidence that there is a murderer, or gang of murders at large in that section," said Governor Strong, "and I haven't a doubt in the world that if trained men were put on the job the guilty parties would be found, and that all the crimes would be traced to the same source.

"At the time of the finding of the bodies on the Valdez Trails a couple of years ago the government put two men on the pay roll for over a year without any results. Marshall Brennerman wrote to me at the time they were let go and I wrote to the Attorney General and asked him to retain them for a time longer. He replied that the funds were exhausted and so the men were dropped from the pay roll and nothing had been accomplished.

"The Federal Appropriations does not allow anything for the tracing of murderers, which is a mistake. A good sum should be devoted to this work. Now is the Marshall wants to investigate a crime of this sort he must shoulder the expense himself, and as a result very little of it is done.

"I certainly think the government is at fault in the matter and it should be remedied with all possible dispatch" he ended. According to word received recently from Fairbanks, the people of the interior sections are beginning to believe that the "Blueberry Kid" is dead, and that he was murdered by the same party who murdered the rest of the party on the Koyokuk several years ago.

The "Kid" has been reported from every section of the United States and has been searched for four years but no trace of him has ever been found and those who have given the matter any thought have decided that he met the fate of "Dutch Marie" and the rest of the party.

When the Governor was asked his opinion of the formation of a mounted police force through the Territory, to be patterned after the Northwest Mounted Police, he said he was opposed to the suggestion.

"The expense for a police force big enough for the entire Territory would be prohibitive. We have the Marshals and Deputies scattered over the Territory now, and a large police force in addition would make an enormously increased expense, without any particular advantage," he said.

July 23, 1915 - The Daily Alaska Dispatch

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O. Anderson Of Ruby Was A Witness In Several Incidents Concerning Same

Ruby, April 9, 1916

Ed. C. Russell Juneau, Alaska

In reading your article of "Brutal Murders in Alaska Unpunished: under the date of February 27th, I noticed mistakes you have in regard to the Blueberry Kid or "Blueberry Tommy" as he was known in Iditarod, Ruby and the Koyokuk.

Blueberry Tommy left Fairbanks in the fall of 1909, went to the Iditarod with his launch the "Seal Pup" and done some freighting on the river from Dikeman to Iditarod City, in the summer of 1910 and also was engaged in fishing for the local market.

In the summer of 1911 he also did some fishing and made a couple of trips from Iditarod to Dikeman with some passengers to catch th larger boats. As I was in Dikeman at the time checking freight and also acting as agent for small launches and steamers, I am in a position to know. In the latter part of August the same year I went to Ruby arriving, in September. A couple of weeks later Blueberry Tommy with his boat "Seal Pup" arrived with a few passengers. He then went hunting ducks for a local market and the only picture that anyone has of him was taken when he arrived from one of his hunting trips, with a few others; also showing the ducks and geese in the picture. He stayed around Ruby that winter and in the spring of 1912 James Stepehenson and James Sebres of the Koyokuk arrived in Ruby and bought the launch Reindeer and scow from Dan Gillis & T.J. Devane to be used in the freighting business between Bettles, the head of the steamboat navigation on the Koyokuk and Wiseman. They employed Tommy to go along as engineer in which capacity he acted for them during the summer.

He also took the Seal Pup in tow to Bettles on the trip. He never worked for Johnson & Jepson, as was stated in your article.

In the fall of 1912, about September 10, he was hired by "Fiddler John Holmberg, "Dutch Marie" Schmidt and Frank Adams to take them to the Yukon to catch a steamer for the outside as the last boat of the N.N. Co. had already left Bettles.

They were last seen passing Dan Kennedy's Wood Camp about 120 miles from the mouth of the Koyokuk and about 450 miles from Bettles. The "Seal Pup" was found in a slough about 40 miles below by Indians who reported to the Marshal at Nulato who afterwards had the boat brought down to Nulato where it now lays.

It seems that Tommy after doing away with his victims "If he did" went to Nulato in his canvas boat, which was used as a tender, where it is supposed that he boarded one of the large boats which connected at St. Michaels with the Victoria, as he never came to Ruby in the Fall.

I was employed at Ruby for E,W. Griffen and we furnished the Reindeer with the supplies for the trip to Bettles. I was in the employ of Johnson & Jepsen in August and September 1914 and on the 23rd of August we left Ruby with a stock of goods on the Black Maria, a small steamer for Hughs, Captain Donavon, who was in Ruby at the time, went along with us and on August 26 about 70 miles up the Koyokuk we put him ashore in company with an Indian and not Evans with a poling-boat to investigate the supposed murder. He looked around for about 5 days when he was picked up by the steamer Reliance and taken to Bettles.

He was telling me in Hughes of finding the articles mentioned in your article of February 27, Donavon was investigating for the wife of Adams and not in the employ of the government. On Donavon's clue, the gasoline boat Robert E.Lee, of Ruby, in company with a Deputy Marshal made a trip up as far as Hughes to investigate. there was also no body found on the Koyokuk but was found on the Yukon instead.

It is also untrue of "Dutch Marie" taking $10,000. with her from Ruby to buy gold dust on, as no Koyokuk dust is sold for less than $18.00 per ounce, as the Koyokuk gold in high grade.

Well Ed, pardon me for contradicting you but this might help you if you ever write about the case in the future, as I was in all the above mentioned places and been connected in such a way as to be able to find out. I just came out from Wiseman, over the trail and found out while up there that there is a large amount of royalty money on deposit in the N.C. to F. Jones credit from his ground on Disc Hammond River about 6 miles from Wiseman.

Yours Sincerely Oliver Anderson Ruby, Alaska

May 19, 1916 - The Daily Alaska Dispatch

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George Driebelbes, formerly Chief Deputy Marshal under George Love of the Tanana District, made a brief visit in Juneau while the Alameda was in port, and is on his way outside from the interior.

Mr. Driebelbes, so it is claimed, made a special trip to the interior as a government secret agent to secure additional evidence in the connection with the "Blueberry Kid" affair, in which "Dutch Marie" Frank Adams and another man lost their lives while on the way down the Koyokuk river with the "Blueberry Kid" in his launch. This is one of the famous murder cases in Alaska, and it would appear that the government is still active securing evidence.

September 13, 1916 - The Daily Alaska Dispatch


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