Story last updated at 8/28/2013 - 2:58 pm
Sharing history is a pleasure, but receiving history from my readers is a special treat! Opening my e-mail is always a surprise because I learn so many things (and receive a few corrections).
The unpleasant stuff first: I find that geography seems to cause me problems. Dave Meiners of Juneau reminded me that Washington Bay indents the western shore of Kuiu Island not Admiralty Island. This mistake is in my Washington Bay cannery column.
Memories people share are always welcome! Wayne Alex wrote me about some old-timers, including Roy Allen.
"I shot five deer at Burnett Inlet the fall of 1966 with Roy's old 30-30," Alex said. "He smoked some and canned most of it, and told me not to waste so much time picking off the hair, as the latest study in the Readers Digest said that a person needed lots of fiber."
Roy always had a project going.
"One cold March night in 1963 we had to set a herring net in Madsen Cove, south of Haines," Alex said. "Next thing I know I'm sobering up 'cause of a frigid wind down Chilkat Inlet. I'm on the cannery dock and there is a fence pole-sized log pounding up on the deck planks. Then I was packing rolls of line and bales of gillnet web to his pickup."
Anyone who has been in that Chilkat Inlet wind knows how cold they must have been.
"Another time Hank Brouilette and I helped Roy carry a Chrysler 6-cylinder gas engine into his kitchen, turning it upside down so he could fix it," Alex said. "I'll never forget the look on Roy's wife's face when we discovered that the oil had not been drained from the engine."
In the fall of 1964, Roy moved to Johnson Cove indenting Etolin Island off Clarence Strait and latter to Three Way Pass on the south end of that island.
"There is," Alex said, "a shallow spot outside the entrance that isn't bad, but it's a minefield of rocks from there on in."
Alex spent the winter of 1966-67 with him on his float house and again off and on until 1968 when Alex changed from gillnetting to purse seining and settled in Juneau. "But," he added, "after all these years, and oceans of water under the keel, I can still smell the clams on the half shell sizzling in the skillet in Roy's galley on the float house."
My source for information about Alaska's communication systems, Harvey Gilliland of Petersburg, tells us about ships that laid early communication cables in Alaska. In the earliest times it was the BURNSIDES and DELLWOOD. On July 19, 1943, she struck a pinnacle rock near Alexia Point while laying cable between Dutch Harbor and outlying Aleutian stations. She sank, without loss of life, in Massacre Bay, Attu Island. The cable ship SILVERADO, built in 1918, took the place of the DELLWOOD following her sinking.
During World War II, the Army Signal Corps needed more ships to lay cable. In 1941 it chartered the RESTORER, a British Columbia cable ship usually stationed in Victoria. In 1944 the WILLIAM A GLASSFORD, a wooden-hulled self-propelled barge, was built in Seattle for the Signal Corps. After the war, in 1947, she was transferred to the Navy as the NASHAWENA. Her sister ship, the last one belonging to ACS (Alaska Communications Systems that took over from the Signal Corps), was the self-propelled barge, the BASIL O. LENOIR. Eventually in 1970, she came under the ownership of RCA Alaska Communications. The military was exempted from many regulations, but private enterprise was not, so the engines had to be removed before RCA could operate the vessel as an un-propelled barge.
"Another company in the Puget Sound brought the LENOIR to Southeast a time or two for cable repair, under contract to RC," Harvey said.
There are e-mail queries that I can not answer. Dick Palmer of North Dakota was on a hunting trip with Klawock's Alaska Glacier Adventures. Somewhere on Dall Island he and Trina Whitehead, his guide, went ashore and stumbled upon a white marble, rectangular marker, probably, he told me, a memorial not a grave. There is a carved totemic wolf, and the inscription reads "Kluth Koo-Lans, drowned at age 21 in 1885." Could I tell him anything about the man and the incident? Unfortunately, no. The nearest Native village would have been Howkan. Of course, he and I would appreciate any information.
Karl Gurcke of Skagway with the National Park Service emailed me about fire bricks and his research about companies that made them. He described a fire brick as usually being light tan-colored bricks slightly larger and heavier than common red bricks, although they came in a variety of shapes and sizes. They were used in high heat operations like steam boilers, lime kilns, brick kilns, and smelting operations. "Most any steam boiler should have a few," he wrote.
Often these firebricks have brands embossed (cut) into the brick. With the brand, Gurcke may be able to identify the company that made the brick and possibly when it was manufactured. Gurcke now has a list of some 70 British companies that made firebricks for the American market in the 19th and early 20th centuries. For example, "Snowball" brand bricks were made by the Snowball brothers in Newcastle-on-Tyne in England from 1854-1935.
The canneries and mines my husband Frank and I have visited produced boilers or bricks. Sometimes we find a firebrick without a brand. We wonder if the bricks were salvaged, perhaps to reline a boiler? Or maybe to line a fireplace and/or a chimney, or protect a wall behind a metal stove?
Another query came from Faye Bowers in Marquette, Mich. She asked about her great uncle Pete Raymen who drove a Model T from Michigan to Seattle and put it on a steamship to Alaska. He disembarked at Valdez. He stayed a few days and sold his car on August 20, 1923. In Ketchikan he purchased a piece of land on Pennock Island, across from town, from a Mr. Rimearson although that may not be the correct spelling. Reymen's diary said he purchased four pairs of blue foxes from Mr. Howard. In my files I found that E. C. Howard, formerly of Duluth, Minn., was in the fur business at that time on Patterson and High Islands, at the mouth of Kasaan Bay.
By March 1924, Reymen must have been tired of the rain because he asked Gust Carlson who lived nearby to serve as caretaker of his place and a couple of foxes he would leave behind. He moved back to Michigan with the other foxes and never returned. Faye understands from the diary that he had a license to have a fox farm, presumably raising them in pens because Pennock Island is too big for foxes running loose. Raymen is not mentioned in any of the lists of early blue fox farms. Perhaps this operation was too short lived to be of concern to the officials. How many other fox farms have disappeared from memory?
Sometimes photographs are mention. Trygve Apalset in Norway emailed that he recently had been to Wrangell and went to see the marble quarries at Tokeen, west coast of Prince of Wales Island, where his father had worked in the early 1900s. The father took many photographs and thanks to Trygve, the photos are now in the Alaska Historical Collections for locals and researchers to enjoy.
My writing life is good.
Pat Roppel is the author of numerous books about mining, fishing, and man's use of the land. She lives in Wrangell. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.