Juneau’s Hidden History

August 29, 2016

I’ve been invited to contribute some of my Alaska history research to Juneau’s Hidden History, a Facebook group run by local historian and explorer Brian Weed. Brian and his co-contributors have been posting some great photos and stories of their adventures and discoveries around town. These include old mines, historic vehicles and machines, Native petroglyphs, hidden waterfalls, glacial ice caves, and much more! If you live in or are interested in the Juneau area, I highly recommend visiting the page and checking out their great photos! They take you well off (and sometimes under) the beaten path to see the things that don’t make it into tourist brochures!

The group page can be viewed (and joined/followed) here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/JuneauHiddenHistory/

And their photo galleries can be seen here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/JuneauHiddenHistory/photos/

Brian Weed has also written a number of articles for the Capital City Weekly, some of which can be found here.


Funter Bay History: Museums, Collections & Science

July 29, 2016

Some of the feedback I get on my Funter Bay History posts involves people wanting to buy or collect old “stuff” (engines, artifacts, etc). In general I believe historic artifacts should be left where they are unless seriously threatened by decay, development, or vandalism. So for example, I’d like to see things like Funter’s big gas engines remain cool lawn ornaments, but the various steam locomotives upside down in creeks and ditches around Southeast Alaska would be better off in museums somewhere.

Artifacts from Funter Bay have made their way into a variety of museums, historic collections, and scientific archives over the years. Here are a few that I’ve come across during my research.

A rock sample from the Willoughby Mine, “Shore Group”, from a private collection:

IF

A rock core sample from Borehole U-18 at Funter Bay, stored at the Alaska Geologic Materials Center.

Three pieces of Funter Bay Clay were exhibited in the Alaska Building at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition as part of James Lathrop’s private mineral collection.

The Alaska State Museum holds a number of mineral and rock core samples from Funter Bay, as well as a fossil ammonite and a stone pestle (native grinding tool) found there.

pestle

The Juneau-Douglas City Museum has a number of items from Funter Bay, including a gGrape soft drink bottle, a soda water bottle, a Pelton wheel part, and a small motor. They also have a number of Funter Bay documents, including  cannery and saltery applications, a canned salmon label I’ve previously mentioned, and various invoices and receipts for things like dynamite, transportation, and jury duty.

In addition, a number of research papers and scientific studies have involved Funter Bay:

In 1903, the Bureau of Fisheries steamer Albatross collected seabottom samples around Alaska, including near Funter Bay. Some data from these samples appears in several articles over the following decade. Many of these appear to have been found in a single dredge sample of mud hauled up from about 300 fathoms in Lynn Canal, just off Funter Bay.

In 1905 and 1908 articles on Polychetous annelids (marine worms), author J. Percy Moore noted many such worms in the seabottom mud near Funter Bay. These included plentiful specimens of Lagisca rarispina (Sars) Malmgren (now known as Harmothoe rarispinia), as well as specimens of Nephthys ciliata, Goniada annulata Moore, Ampharete arctica Malmgren, and Melinna denticulata Moore. The latter species was observed for the first time at the Funter Bay sample location. The distribution of this species is listed as “Funter Bay, Alaska”, and a specimen is held by the Smithsonian Institution.

Another creature first discovered near Funter Bay (collected by the same Albatross expedition) is Koroga megalops Holmes, a type of arthropod commonly known as a “sand flea”. This particular species has later been found all over the world.

Koroga megalops Holmes

A smaller arthropod known as Holophryxus alaskensis Richardson was also found in the Funter Bay samples, named after discoverer Harriet Richardson in 1905.

Also collected by the Albatross were a variety of fish and plankton including Stenobrachius nannochir (Commonly known as a Garnet lanternfish), Lycodapus grossidens Gilbert (Bigtooth eel), Holomesiella Anomala (a type of tiny shrimp),

A 1910 Bureau of Fisheries inventory collected 12 specimens of Pallasina barbata (tubenose poacher) from Funter Bay. These are frequently found in eelgrass and around dock pilings.

In 1921, the USDA’s Microbiological Laboratory collected samples of seawater at Funter Bay, and found Bact. aerogenes present (link, pg 85-109). It was assumed to be widely distributed through the region based on other samples. (While I am not an expert on microbiology, it appears this organism is now known as Enterobacter aerogenes and is a common gastrointestinal bacteria in animals and humans).

Researchers from the University of British Columbia visited Funter Bay in 1957 while conducting  a fisheries study. Several specimens were collected around Funter Bay, including Oligocottus maculosus (Tidepool sculpin), Pholis laeta (Crescent Gunnel), and Anoplarchus purpurescens (High cockscomb). When I was younger we would commonly catch these small fish in tidepools and under rocks.

UBC Fisheries Record

Speciments of Agarum cribrosum Dumortier (a type of seaweed) were collected by the University of British Columbia at Station Island, in the mouth of Funter Bay, in 1980.

There is a type of soil classified as the “Funter Series” or “Funter Peat” under a 1991 soil classification survey. It is described as “very deep, very poorly drained soils that formed in fibrous peat underlain by loamy mineral materials. Funter soils occur in muskegs on floodplains and stream terraces. Slopes range from 0 to 5 percent”. This is found mostly in the meadows around Funter Bay.

Blackeye Goby and Kelp Perch were sampled at Funter Bay in 1998 by biologists at the Auke Bay Laboratory.

A specimen of Enypia venata (variable Girdle Moth) was reported at Funter Bay in a 2012 paper.

 


Funter Bay History: Cannery Shipping and Maintenance

June 30, 2016

I recently received a few Funter Bay images from Michael and Carolyn Nore, collectors of historic Alaska postcards and photos. These show some of the Thlinket Packing Co’s operations between about 1914 and 1920. Most are prior to 1918 (based on the cards used), but some are from the same summer as the photos seen previously in this post.

The first photo is a great shot of the Cannery wharf and main buildings, marked “Front View of Cannery”. The large “Thlinket Packing Co” sign is visible above the warehouse. The mess hall and store is barely visible in the rear right, and the Superintendent’s house with its large porch is seen on the left.

funter bay2 5-18-16 copy

Moving inland, a set of two images show the rear of the cannery buildings. The large chimneys were from the main boiler house.

funter bay6 5-18-16 copy funter bay4 back view of cannery 5-18-16 copy

The previous photo shows a number of handprints marking the foreground building. I am not sure what this building is, as it does not appear on either the 1964 or 1942 property maps.

Another set shows one of the cannery’s steam-powered pile drivers. I am not sure how many of these units the Thlinket Packing co owned, the remains of a smaller one is on the beach at Funter Bay. A large unit nearly identical to the one in these pictures appears in a 1926 photo at the mine wharf (seen on this page).

funter bay8 5-18-16 copy funter bay1 5-18-16 copy

Some scows, rowboats, and a gas boat are seen at the dock and wharf in the next photo. This is a little later than the others, dated May 21 1920:

funter bay11 6-29-16 copy

The photo below shows a gas boat or launch under the pipeline from the cannery’s oil tank, in June 1920.

funter bay9 6-29-16 copy

The next photo is labeled “One of the company tugs with a diver repairing her rudder”. It shows a sailing vessel alongside the cannery’s steam tug Anna Barron and a variety of smaller boats. Men on the sailboat are operating an air compressor and have lowered a ladder and several pipes and ropes over the side. What appears to be a diving suit is draped over the sailboat’s boom.

funter bay3 tug repair by diver 5-18-16 copy

Moving up in vessel sizes, the next photo shows the Pacific Coast Steamship Co’s City of Seattle at the cannery wharf. The appearance of the ship dates this to 1914 or later, as the City of Seattle was completely rebuilt that year and converted from coal to oil fuel. Prior to 1914 the ship had a different superstructure and the foremast was aft of the wheelhouse, as seen here. The re-built ship can also be seen here and a description of the refit is here. Like other commercial steamers, the ship would call at canneries as needed to transport supplies, products, and workers.

funter bay5 steamer city of seattle 5-18-16 copy

Next is a photo of the “Indian Village” located Northeast of the cannery. While postcards tend to call this a village, most accounts state it was not occupied year round. The area was more of a seasonal camp for native employees of the cannery who lived there in the summer.

funter bay7 indian village near cannery 5-18-16 copy

And the last photo shows an interesting gazebo on the hill behind the cannery, with some Tlingit employees relaxing on benches. What appear to be a number of halibut can be seen hanging from the boardwalk below. The date is not given but is probably between 1914-1918.

funter bay10 6-29-16 copy

Thanks again to the Nores for sharing these great images!


Funter Bay History: Locomotive Headlamp

May 26, 2016

While researching Funter Bay history I often find things that are not in their original context. Rural Alaska is a great case study of creative re-use. The cost of new equipment leads many things to be salvaged and repurposed in ways they weren’t intended. A great example is this old kerosene lantern. It had ceased being used for its original purpose, was modified into an electric wall lamp, then was abandoned again.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The lantern is in rather rough shape, but still recognizable as a type used for headlights on small industrial locomotives.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I suspect this lantern originally came from the Danvenport 0-4-0T steam locomotive used at Funter Bay in the early 20th century. The locomotive was abandoned around 1952 after a failed conversion to gas power, and most of the small parts were stripped between the 1950s and 1970s. The headlight may have become a decoration for one of the miner’s cabins, with a little work to allow an electric bulb to be added.

The locomotive from Funter Bay is seen below, compared to a Davenport drawing of a very similar model. The headlight mounting bracket is a U-shaped piece of sheet metal riveted to the boiler just forward of the smoke stack:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Some details are labeled below. Intact locomotive headlights of similar design can be seen here and here.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Keith Muldowney believes this may be from the Star Headlight Co, founded in 1889 and still in existence today as the Star Head Light & Lantern Co. Some of the company’s history can be found here. Star manufactured kerosene lights until about 1941, when they switched to primarily electric lights. Keith sent a great set of drawings for a similar Star headlight design:

headlight

Star Headlight. Courtesy of Keith Muldowney

Other possibilities for the lantern’s original use include on a ship or underground in the mine, although carbide lamps were more common than kerosene for mining. It could have also been used on the surface at the mine or by a fish trap watchman. The locomotive origin is attractive but by no means confirmed! Hopefully I’ll be able to track down more information on this interesting artifact in the future.

 


Monorails to New York

April 22, 2016

After I purchased a monorail train from the Minnesota Zoo, I was contacted by some folks from New York who plan to start a monorail museum. As I had apparently become an “expert” at getting 1970s monorail cars onto trailers, they asked me to help with the loading process once they purchased the remaining cars.

idea

With larger commercial vehicles and powered winches available, the move went a lot faster! We were able to get 4 cars per load on two trailers.

0912150746 0912150800a 0912150843b

We moved out all 11 remaining cars in three loads this way. On the final trip they also picked up some wheel bogies to add to the museum display.

0912151024 0912151130 1017151116

The service barn looks very empty now with no trains parked inside!

1017151156b

Kim Pedersen with the Monorail Society was instrumental in connecting me with the museum people. You can check out Kim’s new book here (it’s great, especially for reading while in a monorail!)

SONY DSC


More Monorail Extras

April 8, 2016

Recently I happened across the estate sale of a former MN Zoo employee. I was able to pick up a number of old zoo shirts ranging from the 1980s to more recently. A few of these have a neat little “Conservation” montage of zoo animals and the monorail:

shirt

There were also quite a few issues of Minnesota Zoo Magazine from the 1980s. A few of them had monorail-related pieces, including a neat shot of the snowplow in action.

magazine1a magazine2a magazine3a

And we even found a monorail ticket from 2008! (Two-sided scan below)

ticket

Some of these will probably end up in my mini-museum in the monorail cab.


Funter Bay History: Special Agent Harold Merrin

February 16, 2016

In the 1930s Funter Bay was home to one Harold Merrin, a “Special Agent” with the “U.S. Division of Investigation”. While the title might suggest an affiliation with the FBI (which held that name prior to 1935), there was also such a division under the General Land Office. This was part of the Department of the Interior, and conducted investigations into all sorts of mineral and property rights for the US Government. Special Agents of the Land Office worked with everything from logging and grazing licenses to oil and gas surveys to mineral claims and property rights.

Harold Woodworth “Hal” Merrin was born in Ohio in 1893, to parents Ernest and Lenna. The family moved to Spokane by 1910. He grew up with a background in mining, as his father worked at various mines and was later director of the American-Scotia Mine in Orient, WA. Harold served as secretary-treasurer of this company while in college.

Merrin1

Harold attended North Central High School in Spokane, but WWI pulled him and many of his classmates away before graduation. Harold joined a trial officer’s training camp in 1918 and briefly served as a Corporal with the American Expeditionary Force in France (source). After returning to the US, Harold enrolled at the State College of Washington and received his Bachelors Degree in Mining Engineering in 1921.

Camp

After graduating, he worked as an assayer with the Santa Rita mining co, then as a land appraiser for the government land office in Portland and Santa Fe. By 1923 he was working as a government mineral examiner in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. One of his jobs included investigating a “Mystery Metal” found in Oregon. In 1926 Harold married Bertha Thompson of Everett, WA.

In 1933 Congress authorized payments in the amounts of $124.35 and $35.90 to Harold Merrin for travel expenses to and from Alaska while under official orders. In 1935 he was reportedly working as a special agent for the U.S. Division of Investigation. In 1936 the Division of Investigations had him stationed at Funter. The WSU Alumni paper reported the birth of Harold and Bertha’s daughter Evelyn that year.

WU Alumni 2

I have not found the exact nature of Harold’s government work at Funter, but property and mineral issues would likely have kept him busy. Several mines were active at Funter, which would fall under Harold’s area of expertise as a mineral surveyor. Other activities could have included homestead claims, fish trap locations, hand logging, and cannery land use. Some of these industries had overlapping property claims and some were known to use mining claims for other purposes. Juggling the competing interests of Alaskan industries with each other and with the federal government was likely a full time job.

Harold’s government work appears to have led him into the private sector after a few years. In 1937 he was superintendent of the Alaska Empire Mine at Hawk Inlet, across the mountain from Funter (source). In 1938 he was back at Funter Bay, after “exposing his family to six months in the civilization of the outside world”.

In 1939 the WSU Alumni update described Harold as having a “Leasing and private practice at Funter”.

Merrin 3

By late 1939 the Merrin family had moved to the Flagstaff Mine in Kasaan Bay, near Ketchikan. They soon moved back to Washington, and Harold passed away in Yakima in 1940 at age 47.

 


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 32 other followers