Funter Bay History: Screaming Jack Lee

August 30, 2017

One of Funter Bay’s resident fishermen in the 1930s and ’40s was a fellow nicknamed “Screaming Jack” Lee. Apparently this colorful nickname was earned by frequent anger and a habit of yelling at whatever chore he was performing. Even “Jack” was a nickname, at the time a common informal version of the more formal “John” (something I find a bit odd). As mentioned in a previous post, Screaming Jack became so notorious that he even got a brief mention in National Geographic.

“Jack” was the oldest son of a South Dakota farming family, born March 7 1883* as Irven Lee.  His siblings were William (b. 1885). Stella (1887), Gertrude (1889), Howard (1891), Albin (1894), and Ella (1898). Jack’s father Thomas Lee was born in Michigan in 1852 and homesteaded a farm near Claremont, SD. His mother Mary Ann (Ruddy) Lee, also from Michigan, was born in 1859.  Both parents were the children of Irish immigrants.

(*The birth date of 1883 is one of several which appears in government records, ranging from 1880-1885).

Between 1900 and 1910, young Irven Lee changed his name to the more American-sounding John Irwin Lee, and left the family farm for Seattle.

He entered the army in his 20s and re-enlisted several times. In 1910 Lee served at Fort Worden near Port Townsend, WA. He re-enlisted in 1912 at Seattle’s Fort Lawton, giving his occupation as “Engineer”. He served in the Coast Artillery on defensive gun positions in the Puget Sound area. He received an Honorable Discharge on February 9, 1915, but was back in the army by August of 1917, this time in the new Aviation Section. He rose to the rank of Corporal with the 133d Aero Squad, a supply squadron training at Kelly Field in Texas.

Lee was promoted to Sergeant in October of 1917, but his military career seems to have run into trouble soon afterward. He appears to have been busted down to Private and transferred to the new 327th Aero Squadron, also at Kelly Field. Less than a week later he was sent to the Springfield Arsenal in Massachusetts for a training class. A note from November of 1917 mentions a Private John I. Lee from Camp Kelly being sent to the Marlin-Rockwell Gun Corp in Connecticut for a 4-week instruction course.

John I Lee

From January 22 of 1918 until discharge, Lee is listed as “AS” (Air Service) with no details as to unit or location. He rose back as far as Private 1st class by November of 1918, then left the army with an Honorable Discharge in January of 1919.

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In 1920, Lee was working as a mechanic in the Vallejo, CA Naval Yard (Mare Island on San Francisco Bay). His name and birth year are not fully or correctly recorded in the 1920 census, but other information (parents and birth day/month) does match. I could find no identifiable match for 1930 or 1940 census records. If he were fishing during those decades he could have easily been missed by census takers.

According to some of his acquaintances, “Jack” Lee began fishing in the Funter Bay area in 1932.  He reportedly hand trolled for salmon, likely using a small open boat that could easily be beached for the night.

hand troller

As with many hand trollers of the time, Lee seemed to have something of a nomadic lifestyle with no fixed home or base of operations. Local residents reported that he camped in a variety of locations, including a cabin in Hawk Inlet and a cabin South of Funter Bay at what later became Gunner Ohman’s fish camp. He apparently also built the “Jack Lee Trail”, perhaps from one of his camps to somewhere he could pick up mail and supplies.

Lee’s next brush with military service came in 1942, during registration for the “Old Man’s Draft”. Listing his age as 62 with an earlier birth year may have been an honest mistake, or an attempt to make himself less desirable for government service. Lee was living in Funter Bay at the time and gave his occupation as “Fisherman”. He registered with Harold Hargrave, Funter’s postmaster and draft registrar for the White population of the area. Hargrave is also listed as the “Person who will always know your address”.

John Lee Draft Card

His registration card (two-sided) gives the following details:

John Irwin Lee
Place of Residence: Funter Alaska
Mailing Address: Funter Alaska
Age: 62
Date of Birth: March 7, 1880
Place of Birth: Brown County, So. Dakota
Person who will always know your address: H.F. Hargrave, Funter Alaska (The postmaster and draft registrar)
Employer’s Name: Fisherman
Place of Employment: Funter Alaska
Race: White
Height: 5’7″
Weight: 150
Eyes: Blue
Hair: Gray
Complexion: Ruddy
Other characteristics: None

I am not sure when the “Screaming Jack” nickname came about, but neighbors reported that he could often be heard yelling at his tools or his firewood from across the bay. According to the 1947 National Geographic article, he was “Always mad”.

Jack Lee passed away in February of 1950 at Funter Bay. He was found by Gunner Ohman, who stated for the death certificate:

“I found Mr. Jack Irwin Lee dead in bed in his cabin at Funter Bay on Feb. 20, 1950 apparently died on Feb. 19 from causes unknown to me”.

“Other conditions” of the deceased are given as “Probably Tuberculosis & Senility”. His occupation is given as Fisherman and Fur Trapper, and he is listed as a WWI Veteran. He was buried in Juneau on Feb 28, 1950.

Sources:

Database: Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans’ Bonus Records, World War I Service Statement Cards. ONLINE 2009, Washington State Archives, Office of the Secretary of State. http://www.digitalarchives.wa.gov/Record/View/103CB75A9AE0089E7B451453B4DB8D63

https://books.google.com/books?id=NvZYAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA144&dq=%22aero+squadron%22+%22in+the+World+War%22&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwihuYb0_dHJAhVDQCYKHcDdDXAQ6AEIHDAA#v=snippet&q=327&f=false

US Census records, various years. National Archives.

WWII “Old Man’s Draft” Registration Cards, Selective Service Registration Cards, World War II: Fourth Registration Fold3 / National Archives.

Jack Irwin Lee, “Standard Certificate of Death”, Territory of Alaska, recorded March 6, 1950.

 

 


Funter Bay History: Captain George Whitney Photos

August 24, 2017

Captain George H. Whitney was an agent of the government’s Steamboat Inspection Service between 1898 and 1928. His career saw him traveling to many Alaskan ports for safety inspections on steam powered merchant vessels. The agency was later merged with the Bureau of Navigation and then superseded by the US Coast Guard.

A photo album in the Alaska State Library & Archives has a few of Captain Whitney’s photos from Funter Bay in 1907. He seems to have been traveling on the steam liner Georgia, possibly to inspect vessels of the Thlinket Packing Co.

View from a steamship (possibly the Georgia) approaching the Funter Bay wharf. Courtesy of Alaska State Library, Captain George H Whitney Photo Collection, PCA 300-82

In the photo above we see the Thlinket Packing Co’s steamer Anna Barron at the wharf. The smokestack from a steam engine is also seen sitting on the wharf, possibly a steam donkey or pile driver engine.

Three friends on the steamship Georgia near Funter Bay. Courtesy of Alaska State Library, Captain George H Whitney Photo Collection, PCA 300-83

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Funter Bay cannery residence. Courtesy of Alaska State Library, Captain George H Whitney Photo Collection, PCA 300-92

The above photo is likely the cannery superintendent’s house, which had a large covered porch.

 


Funter Bay History: Letterhead Evolution

June 26, 2017

In the days before email, every successful business needed a snappy letterhead. Even short-lived businesses which existed only on paper would create fanciful letterhead logos and designs to adorn their correspondence. For the companies that stood the test of time, letterheads would evolve and change as styles moved in and out of fashion. Usually they became fancier and more ornate. The Thlinket Packing Co was no exception, updating and improving their corporate logo several times over the years.

The earliest letterhead for the company was from 1902, when the cannery at Funter Bay was built. This is the first and only reference I’ve seen to “Elizabeth Point”, apparently named after founder James Barron’s wife Elizabeth.

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Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Manuscript Collection MS 43

By 1905 the corporate letterhead featured a photo of the cannery by an unknown photographer (I have not yet located an original).

letterhead 1905

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Manuscript Collection MS 43

In 1906 there seem to have been a few minor changes. A letter sent in January shows a slightly updated version of the 1905 letterhead, adding a new canned salmon product. It also added a house flag (indicating which company owned a vessel), with the “B” perhaps standing for Barron. A message sent later in 1906 from Funter Bay apparently re-used the 1905 letterhead.

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Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Manuscript Collection MS 43

By 1912 the Thlinket Packing Co’s letterhead was quite ornate, featuring a new font and new photos from the 1907 visit of photographers Case & Draper:

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Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Manuscript Collection MS 43

 

Thanks to Alaska historian and collector Robert DeArmond, we have a very nice cross section of these letterheads to see! Among other documents, DeArmond collected a huge file of corporate letterheads from companies located or operating in Alaska. This material is not yet online, but can be viewed in person at the Alaska State Library & Archives under Manuscript Collection MS 43.


Funter Bay History: Annexation and Air Service

April 13, 2017

As with many small rural communities in Alaska, Funter Bay both benefits and suffers from the whims of government agencies. I recently became aware of some potential changes at the federal and local level that could soon affect residents and visitors.

Funter Bay lies in a curious administrative zone, the “Unorganized Borough”. Where most US states are fully divided into Counties, Alaska calls the equivalent division a Borough and is not fully subdivided. There are only 19 Boroughs in Alaska, holding most of the population. The rest is the Unorganized Borough, home to about 13% of the State’s residents. Wikipedia explains more here.

Legally, this means that small communities like Funter Bay do not have any county or city-level services, ordinances, or infrastructure. There is no sheriff, no road crew, no fire department, no ambulance, no schools, no zoning, no tax assessor. The state and Federal governments fill some of these roles on a minor scale. State surveyors can plat land, State Troopers enforce state laws, and the Coast Guard or Forest Service can respond to fires and rescues. It is worth noting that Alaska has no State-level personal income tax, the state’s services being theoretically funded by oil revenue. Alaskans pay Federal taxes and any municipal taxes that happen to be applicable.

Larger towns and cities occasionally expand their associated Boroughs in an effort to acquire more tax base, buildable land, hydropower sites, industries, and other resources. In some cases there have been competing claims and lawsuits by different cities over who gets choice parts of the unorganized borough.

Funter Bay has long been in the sights of planners at the City and Borough of Juneau, the closest major city. City planners proposed annexation of Funter Bay every few years with various seriousness, including 1994, 2006, and again in 2017. In the past, residents have successfully fought off these attempts, arguing that the city would collect taxes on their rural properties without providing any services in return.

 

The first Annexation attempt I remember was around 1994. Juneau was hungry for the nearby Greens Creek mine and its potential property tax. Haines and Skagway were also making noises about acquiring Greens Creek, and Funter Bay was close enough to be a natural inclusion in the boundary extension. The mine’s administration decided annexation was inevitable and not worth fighting, so they petitioned Juneau as preferable to Haines & Skagway. Funter Bay fought the process, and the mine was amazed and slightly chagrined that this turned out to be successful.

1994 CBJ Boundary certificate, after Greens Creek mine annexed

I can recall my parents discussing details with city administrators, one of whom mentioned that a “benefit” would be inclusion in the Juneau School district. My folks said something to the effect of “great, when will the school bus be here in the morning?” (Funter Bay has no roads and is at least an hour from Juneau by boat). Similar questions were raised about how we could call the fire department (cell phones were not yet available), and what utilities the city could provide to a remote island.

The 1994 Greens Creek annexation also upset the town of Angoon, farther South on Admiralty Island. Residents there felt that Juneau got the benefits of taxes and jobs, while Angoon got the chemical runoff from the mine into their traditional fishing grounds. (Article here).

Another major annexation study came in 2006. Several residents, including my sister Megan Emerson, wrote to the newspaper to express their opinions on the subject: http://juneauempire.com/stories/011006/let_20060110008.shtml

A number of other residents’ comments to the Study Commission can be found here. The full study file is below:

2007 CBJ Annexation Study Commission Final Report

One of the arguments repeated by Juneau planners was that outlying communities such as Funter Bay are “socially and economically dependent” on Juneau and should thus be part of the City and Borough of Juneau. My dad pointed out that Juneau is “socially and economically dependent” on Seattle, and by such logic Juneau should be part of King County Washington.

Whether, or when, Funter Bay becomes attached to a major municipality remains to be seen.

The second major issue that has recently popped up is the proposed defunding of Essential Air Service. This program was established in the 1970s to subsidize air travel to rural parts of the United States which would otherwise not be profitable. Currently 61 communities in Alaska use the program, with the state getting about $21 million out of $175 million nationally. Wikipedia has more details here and the US DOT has details here. Historical reports are here. An article about the possible end of federal funding is here.

Bush plane flights to Funter Bay are currently subsidized at $13,312/year under the EAS (contracted by Ward Air) per the DOT’s 2017 report. This not only helps travelers get cheaper “seat fare” on regularly scheduled planes, but ensures weekly delivery of mail to the community. Other benefits include mail-order groceries, medicine, hardware, parts, fuel, and anything else needed for off-grid life. Regular weekly air service was a hugely important part of life at Funter Bay, allowing residents such as my family to get fresh food all winter and keep in touch with the outside world. The weekly plane was a vital way to get back and forth to town when the weather prevented boat trips. Seat Fare on an mail flight might be under $100, while loss of the federal subsidy would require travelers to charter a plane at full price ($500 and up depending on plane size).

As a Federally-supported program, for which rural Alaskans do pay taxes towards, EAS is something that Funter Bay residents have fought to retain and improve in the past. There have been years where less reliable air carriers were contracted, or when funding and scheduling has fluctuated, but the program has remained a mainstay of rural life for this and many other Alaskan communities.


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!


Research Sources for Alaska History

June 22, 2016

Updated 6/22/17

Here are some of the resources I use in my Alaska and Funter Bay history research. Specific source documents can also be found in the links embedded in my posts and write-ups.

Alaska’s Digital Archives – Excellent collection of digital photos and documents from Alaska history.

Alaska DNR Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys – Mine and mineral publications for the state.

Alaska Land Records – Modern and historic land surveys and plat maps.

Alaska Resource Library – Archives of historic Alaska documents and government publications.

Alaska State Library DASH – Full text of several historic Alaska newspapers.

Bob DeArmond Alaska History Project – Searchable archive of Rober DeArmond’s articles in Juneau papers, including reprints of historic news snippets and details of Southeast Alaska historic topics.

British Columbia Archives – Documents and media from Western Canada and Alaska.

Coast Survey Historic Maps and Charts – Historic nautical charts and other maps.

David Rumsey Map Collection – Historic maps and atlases.

Google Books – Also contains old government reports and publications.

Juneau-Douglas City Museum Collections – Many photos of the Juneau area and Southeast Alaska.

Juneau Nature – A website which has many historic Southeast Alaska photos, including early aerial photo surveys.

Library & Archives Canada – Includes many photos of Alaska and Western Canada not found elsewhere.

National Archives – Digital copies of many Federal government publications.

National Archives Alaska Records Project – records from the AK division being digitized in Seattle. Evolving collection that is in progress as of 2016.

National Geologic Map Database – Can be helpful for locating mines and related infrastructure.

National Museum of Forest Service History – logging and recreation related photos in Alaska and elsewhere.

NOAA Hydrographic Surveys – The original surveys from which nautical charts were based, containing additional notes and information.

NOAA Photo Library – Collection of fisheries, wildlife, scientific, and other photos.

Northern British Columbia Archives – Photos and documents pertaining to Alaska and Northern BC

Northwest Digital Archives – Indexes & finding aids to historic photos and documents of the Pacific Northwest (in various libraries and collections)

Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection – Older topographic maps of Alaska, and other material.

University of Alabama Map Collection – Older geologic and topographic maps of specific regions.

University of Washington Digital Collections – Another great collection of Pacific Northwest photos, magazines, and documents.

US Fish & Wildlife Service Digital Library – Many modern and historic photos of wildlife, fisheries, boats, and scientific research.

USGS Historic Topo Maps – Collection of old versions of topographic maps. Goes back generally to the 1940s or 1950s in AK.

USGS Photographic Library – High Resolution copies of photos from USGS publications

USGS Publications Warehouse – Contains many old documents and reports on mines and mineral prospecting.

Washington State University Digital Collections – Fewer photos that UW’s archives, but more newspaper and print articles.

Yukon Archives – Includes some Alaska photos and Alaska Highway construction photos.

This post/list may be updated as I come across more sources. Feel free to contact me if you know of something I’ve forgotten or overlooked!


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.

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

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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:

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

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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.