Funter Bay History: Census Takers and Logging Camps

Related to an an earlier post about population and census-taking, the following excerpt comes from the account of one Joseph Hewitt, census-taker for part of Northern Southeast Alaska in 1909-1910. Hewitt’s diary “Forty One Days of Census Taking in Southeast Alaska” describes his travels to “all the towns, camps, ranches and settlements located on Chatham Strait, Icy Strait and all their bays and inlets”. He traveled by gasoline launch chartered by the government and operated by its owner, B.F. Dennison, and Dennison’s 11 year old son Dewey. The census enumeration was performed in winter to ensure transient native populations would be in their home villages. Larger communities with schools were expected to provide a census via the local teacher, with people like Hewitt filling in the details for smaller outlying settlements like Funter Bay.

The full document is available here, both in original written form and typed transcription.

“The next day I enumerated twelve at Funter Bay. This is the site of the “Klinket Cannery”. This is a large establishment and it was their logging camp we found in Kelp Bay. We came into Funter Bay on Friday Jan 7th and had the delectable experience of being bottled up by a storm for six days. In shifting the boat one dark night from one part of the bay to another, a thing we frequently had to do to escape destruction during that siege, we lost one of our anchors overboard. The wind and waves seemed bent on driving us out of that bay. The storm outside was so fierce as to tie up the big steamers. Inside it was playing “puss in the corner” with us, and every time it said scat we had to hike. Had it not been for a small island and an unused steamer that was anchored out I don’t see how we could have escaped being driven on the rocks. On Monday morning we made an attempt to escape but were very glad to come back in and fight it out where the trouble started . Finally on Wednesday morning we got away.”

The description of Kelp Bay earlier in the manuscript reports a logging camp abandoned before the first snow, along with a few hundred new cut piles (pilings for dock and fish trap construction). Kelp Bay is on the NE side of Baranof Island, across from the southern end of Admiralty Island about 65 miles from Funter Bay. Although Hewitt reports the logging camp deserted, he did find around 15 people in the Kelp Bay area. A Tlingit family is listed in the 1910 census as associated with the Kelp Bay logging camp, including James Hanson, employed as a woodcutter, and his wife Mary. The court case between Funter canneryman James Barron and rival Claire Alexander (discussed in this post) also mentions Thlinket Packing Co superintendent Fred Barker towing logs from Kelp Bay to Funter for use at the cannery. The cannery tenders Buster and Anna Barron were used to tow rafts of trap piles.

It may seem strange that the T.P. Co would harvest timber so far from the cannery, but a possible explanation lies in the geography of Kelp Bay. Not only is it protected from storms, the bay offers very steep hillsides along the shore, an ideal place for gravity-assisted hand logging. The best trees could be selected and cut so as to slide into the water below. Around Funter Bay, most of the near-shore land is flat, and would require logs to be hauled by equipment or animals. (Limited near-shore logging did happen at Funter, as discussed here). Kelp Bay continued to be logged and clearcut into the 1990s.



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