Story last updated at 11/28/2012 - 3:16 pm
The interesting comments in response to my Capital City Weekly column keep coming in. I would like to share some of the things I have learned.
I have a communication about an error Lincoln Rock Lighthouse. Harvey Gilliland of Petersburg reminds me with, "just a gentle correction," that Lincoln Rock is on the east coast of Etolin Island, not the west. That would put it in Zimovia Strait!
Harvey also clarifies there were other ways than magnetic compasses and charts for navigation to keep early ships off Lincoln Rock before electronics. Lead soundings were taken. This was done by measured, hand lead-lines dropped to the bottom of the sea in shallower stretches. Around 1900 or before, hand crank sounding machines were developed for deeper water. Then motor-driven machines were used. Another non-electronic devise used long ago (and even today he says) is a "log". A rotator (a "fish with helical fins) is towed on a line from the vessels stern. As the rotor turns when the vessel travels, it operates a register in the wheelhouse that records distances the ship has run. On charts, distances between points can be calculated. Thanks, Harvey!
So many people have e-mailed me about Charles Vincent Baronovich, whom I wrote a series of columns about, that I keep learning more about this pioneer of Southeast Alaska. Laurence Bahovec, of Wrangell, wrote that his half-sister is Nora R. Case, daughter of Laurence Case. The latter was the son of Emma, daughter of Baronovich. Emma was married to Tom Case, who had a small store with ice cream, candy and fruit that was located where today's Zaks Cafe's parking lot is in Wrangell. Mr. Bahovec attended Sheldon Jackson School in Sitka at the same time that Irma, granddaughter of Baronovich, attended. Mr. Bahovec fished on the seine boat "Aurora Marie" with Vincent Baronovich, a grandson.
Kathy Poole, who splits her time between Petersburg and Port Townsend, wrote about Joe MacKechnie whose grandparents were early Petersburg settlers. Joe is a Northwest artist and had a show at the Clausen Museum last June. Joe's father, also named Joe, was second engineer on the tender "Quadra." In September 1939, the crew went to brail the Point Colpoys trap on northeast point of Prince of Wales Island. To their surprise, an enormous king salmon was brought aboard. It was estimated to be between 120-126 pounds. This salmon was said to be the largest ever taken in Alaska. It was 53.5 inches long, with a girth 38.5 inches just ahead of the dorsal fine. It had a 17- inch tail spread.
McKechnie was given the fish to take home to his mother for their winter's supply of canned salmon. Thanks to quick thinking back at the Petersburg cannery, this trophy king salmon was mounted, dressing out at 104 pounds, and is on display at the local museum!
J. L. Mackechie is the father and grandfather of the Joes. I have looked through his USFS diaries at the Anchorage branch of the National Archives. The diaries cover the years he was in Petersburg as the ranger in the 1920s. He was involved with projects such as the Swan Lake trail at Thomas Bay, surveys at Papke Landing, work at Read Island fox farm, surveys at Fall Creek near Petersburg as well as checking on logging operations.
Larry Roberts, who documents fox farms, added information about operators of the Abbess Island fox farm. On Sept. 5, 1922, Robert Scott received the initial permit to grow foxes for their furs at Abbess Island. Both Henry Stickel and the Demmert Brothers (of Klawock) were named on a new permit in 1924. William S. Bleam and Robert Scott applied and were issued a permit August 17, 1925 but relinquished it April 2, 1929. Robert and Louis Scott (father and son) were issued a permit 15 days later, and it was relinquished in April 1937, thus ending the use of Abbess Island for a fox farm. This gives us a hint at how changeable ownership was on many of the fox farms. Fox farming was a 24/7, 365 day job to keep the foxes fed and healthy. Many who went into the business must not have realized that someone had to be there at a remote location all the time when they leapt into the industry.
What a surprise when a query came from Germany! Marc Rothballer found my Excursion Inlet columns on the Web about the German prisoners of war during the Second World War. His great-grandfather was a POW at Excursion Inlet. On Aug. 28, 1944, his great-grandfather was taken prisoner in Durville, France, first taken to Great Britain, from where he embarked to the United States. Narrations from Marc's grandmother tell how her father arrived in New York, was transported to a POW camp in Nebraska, and from there to Excursion Inlet. His great-grandfather was released Aug. 26, 1946 and returned to Germany. Marc attached a photograph of a group of the POWs that he thinks was taken at Excursion Inlet. Note the POW written on the fronts of the men's pants. The tall man in the center is Marc's relative.
A few photos taken at the POW camp are at the Alaska State Library Historical Collections and can be found online by entering "Vilda." Type in Army Signal Corps Excursion Inlet
If anyone has missed the columns I've referenced, please check: capitalcityweekly.com. Click on archives and enter my name.
Keep the responses coming. It makes writing columns so rewarding.
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.