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.

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

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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).

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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:

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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-CastaƱeda 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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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!)

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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:

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

 


Monorail Phenology

January 13, 2016

While cleaning out my monorail cars I came across a few interesting documents. Several notebooks marked “Phenology” describe local wildlife seen along the monorail track. Phenology is defined as “the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, especially in relation to climate and plant and animal life”. An article from 1979 explains these notebooks:

“The operator/tour guides keep their eyes open and when a phenlolgical event is spotted, they record this observation, its date and location in a phenology logbook kept by the stationmaster. This data is summarized each day on a report board in the station for all the MZG’s public to see.” (from MZG Newsletter, Minnesota State Zoological Board, 1979)

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For those interested in reading these notebooks, I’ve scanned and uploaded PDFs here. There are a few torn and missing pages, so these are not 100% complete. There is also some water damage and fading from sitting in the train for a few years, some pages are hard to make out.

Phenology – Train 2 (Covers the period of 8/15/2001 to 8/30/2013)

Phenology – Train 3 (Covers approximately 7/4/2008 to 6/19/2012)

Also found in the monorail were several info sheets on various zoo animals seen along the route. These are probably cheat-sheets for the operator / guide staff to describe what passengers would see along the way.

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I’ve also made a PDF of those sheets for archival purposes, available below.

Animal Info Sheets from Driver’s Cab