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: Helen Antonova, Mining Engineer

May 28, 2015

One of the first women to graduate with a degree in Mine Engineering, Helen Anatolievna Antonova arrived at Funter Bay in the fall of 1929. Born in Russia in 1904, Antonova traveled through China and Japan with her mother before moving to the United States. Her early life was spent in Siberian mining towns, and despite early work in theater, she always dreamed of becoming a mining engineer. She enrolled in the University of Washington’s College of Mines, the only woman to do so at the time (though not the first in the US).

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University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, Tyee 1928, pg 57. Courtesy UW Digital Archives.

As a female student in a traditionally male field, Antonova encountered much skepticism from officials and unfriendliness from classmates. She would later experience mistrust from coworkers (and their wives). Despite being told by the dean that no one would hire a woman for mine work, she led a successful career as a mine engineer, working throughout the US. On several occasions she was offered roles in theater and in Hollywood, but preferred surveying and assay work over acting.

After finishing her thesis and graduating in 1928, Antonova found a job with a mining company in Funter Bay. She recalled that the owner initially assumed her to be male, writing that he was surprised an engineer would have a woman’s name. Helen described Funter Bay as a small mining town, but noted that nothing could be purchased there. Despite its small size and remote location, Funter was home to a fellow female UW alumni. May Sophia Otteson (Tubbs) was a graduate of the class of 1916 and daughter of Charles and Mary Otteson, who ran another mine close to the one which employed Helen.

Conditions at Funter were spartan, a house was provided for Helen and her mother but was poorly insulated and had almost no supplies. The mine owner’s wife suggested they bring their own wood-burning stove with them. Groceries and goods were brought out on the weekly steamer from Juneau. Some medical care was available from a nurse living at the nearby cannery. Running water and electricity came from a waterfall, and stopped working during the winter. Helen took these conditions in stride, sometimes standing in icy water while surveying. The mine was reportedly very happy with Antonova’s work, and begged her to return after she moved back to Washington state.

Helen eventually married a Russian miner from Juneau (She mentioned that many Russian miners worked in Alaska, some sneaking over from Siberia illegally in rowboats). Her new husband became jealous of Helen’s superior position and income, and demanded they move back to Washington so he could pursue a degree of his own. She divorced him after his attitude and anger grew worse.

After moving back to the Lower 48, Helen held various jobs at mining and refining companies. She later married Nicholas All from New York (Her last name is sometimes listed as Antonovall). Helen Antonova All was interviewd in 1978 by author Joan Dufault, whose book Vintage: The Bold Survivors! contains more details of her life and experiences.


Funter Bay History: A 1906 Visit

April 23, 2015

An article in the January, 1906 issue of Recreation magazine describes a visit to Funter Bay. Mining Engineer Waverley Keeling penned the piece, entitled “From the Delaware to Alaska” from a bunkhouse in Funter Bay. He describes it as a business stop at “a quartz mine”, but mentions that his party would also “shoot some of the thousands of ducks and a few deer, dig clams at low tide, and catch halibut at any tide”.

mallards

From Keeling, Waverley; “From the Delaware to Alaska”; Recreation, vol 24, No 1, January 1906.

The photo from Funter Bay accompanying the text appears to show Coot Cove. The photographer was on the Western shore looking towards the area which would later be home to the cannery’s scow slipways.

Keeling describes his lodgings as a boarding house “near the shore of a beautiful little harbor called Funter Bay, and just back of us are the peaks of Snow Mountains some 4,000 feet high” (The mountain was not yet named for Robert Barron). He wrote from the combined kitchen and dining table, by the light of a large swinging lamp and tallow candle stuck in a beer bottle, sitting on “the hardest spruce-board stool that man ever constructed”. The group of six had purchased mining properties around Lake Atlin, BC, and had stopped in Funter as a side trip on the way North. They sailed to Funter on the “big Columbia River sailboat of that famous southeast Alaskan, Windy Bill”.

While Keeling notes the beauty and abundant wildlife of Funter Bay, he also comments on the downsides; “there is no particular season of the year when it doesn’t rain. The thermometer at Funter Bay since we came has been up to 40, and the rain which descended that day was as unmistakably an outpouring of ‘settled cloudiness’ as anything I have ever seen or felt in Pennsylvania”.


Funter Bay History: Cannery Workers in the 1920s

February 26, 2015

My last post displayed some 1920s-era postcards (RPPCs) from Funter Bay, showing buildings and boats of the Thlinket Packing Company’s salmon cannery. Other postcards from the same set show some of the workers and people associated with the cannery in the same time period. It is not clear if these are commercial mass-produced postcards or personal images printed on postcard stock.

Here we see a group of men unloading items from the hold of a ship. The items are likely knocked-down cases for canned salmon. These would be assembled, filled with cans, and then shipped out again. An example of assembled cases can be seen here. In the background are Tlingit native houses and a scow or barge.

Unloading Ship

The next two photos are not labeled as Funter Bay, but were found alongside Funter Bay photos in the same collection. The firewood behind the seated man looks very similar to the wood stacked next to the boardwalk seen in a previous post. Also visible in the background is a wooden frame for clotheslines with hanging laundry, and some fencing or netting, similar to the garden fencing and clotheslines seen before. I suspect this fellow was one of the Tlingit Natives who worked at the cannery during the summers.

Lumberman

The next photo is labeled (in reverse) “Native Cannery Hands”. The photo seems to be printed in the correct orientation based on the product held by the small boy, reading “Sw… Pr…” (perhaps candy?). In a previous post I linked to a report indicating native children as young as 8 sometimes worked 9-hour days for 10 cents an hour.

Native Cannery Hands

There is a lot going on in the above photo. The man on the right is making some sort of gesture or counting 3. The younger people are all looking at the camera and many are smiling, while the older woman stares away with a stern expression. This phenomenon is noted in “The Tlingit Encounter with Photography” where author Sharon Gmelch points out that Tlingit women photographed at Funter Bay tended to look away from the camera unsmiling. One explanation is that smiling for a picture was considered disrespectful by elders. (As another side note, the 1907 photo of the Tlingit women apparently found its way onto a commemorative porcelain plate made in Germany in 1910, which is now at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum).

Another notable feature of these 1920s photos is the popularity of hats or headgear. The children display a variety of hats, including what looks like a naval hat on the smallest boy (marked with a steering wheel at the front). The men unloading the ship mostly have caps, while someone in the hold and someone in the foreground seem to have fedoras (perhaps the bosses?). Earlier photos of Funter Bay workers also show a wide variety of hats, especially among the men. I am not sure if hats were universally popular among all Alaskans/Americans at the time, or if this were a local cultural habit.

A man rowing a boat near the cannery may have been another cannery employee. He appears to have several cut logs in the boat, perhaps for firewood.

rowboat

Another portrait shows a man of possible Oriental heritage, standing on the wharf at the cannery (Mt. Robert Barron is barely visible behind him). He appears to be the only hat-less person in this post!

man

Several people are shown on the cannery wharf with fish in the photos below. These may be some Ballard (Seattle) High School students who visited Funter Bay in 1919, as the images were in the same batch and are colorized similarly to some photos of that group (to be detailed in a later post).

These two have caught salmon, likely with rod and reel:

salmon

And here we see a large halibut (probably in the 150-200lb range). The men are standing on nets, but halibut are usually caught with rod or ground tackle (longlines).

halibut

If any readers happen to recognize any of the people shown here, I would love to hear about it!


Funter Bay History: Weather

May 8, 2014

Many people from outside Alaska inquire about the cold and snow, which usually leads into a discussion of Southeast Alaska’s climate (the rainy season, and the lots-of-rain season). The temperature rarely falls below 0°F in the winter, due to warm ocean currents which reach Southeast Alaska from the Pacific Ocean. In general the climate is similar to Seattle (although wetter and about 10° cooler on average). Between 1980 and 1996 there were on average 214 days a year with precipitation. Rainfall averages about 60″ per year (compared to 37″ for Seattle and 45″ for Vancouver BC). However, it’s not as wet as other parts of Alaska like Whittier (156″), Yakutat (155″) or Ketchikan (141″).

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N002Graphic from http://pubs.usgs.gov/ha/ha730/ch_n/N-AKtext1.html

Average air temperatures are in the 60s in summer and 30s in the winter, with extreme highs in the 80s and extreme lows in the negative single digits.

The water temperature at Funter varies between about 37°F in the winter and 50°F in the summer. Warm enough for summer swimming, especially near the shore. Dark rocks and gravel warm up in the sun at low tide, then help to warm the shallows as the tide comes in.

weather5

When it does snow, the accumulation can initially be deep (15″ in a 24hr period and 34″ total depth are some of the records). The snow does not tend to last long, instead melting into slush or getting rained on, so total buildup does not get as impressive as other parts of Alaska such as Prince William Sound and Southcentral Alaska.

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Wind is the major hazard of winter weather. While many sites on the shore are protected from the worst wind by their location and nearby trees, the center of the bay can experience powerful gusts coming in from Lynn Canal and Icy Strait, as well as North wind out of the pass behind the bay. Weather Data from Point Retreat lighthouse shows several storms with 50-60mph winds in Lynn Canal in recent years.

Winds coming in from the channel can sometimes whip up large williwaws or small waterspouts in the bay:
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Unsuspecting boats have been driven ashore on occasion after anchoring in the middle of the bay (a location shown as a good anchorage on some charts). The public docks are usually better options for secure moorage if a storm is forecast.

Weather data from 1961-1996 for Funter Bay, with various summary tables and calculations, can be found here.

Another collection of weather data for Funter Bay (from 1980 to 1996) is available here.

Weather reporting from Funter Bay was part of the National Weather Service’s Cooperative Observers program. This provided vital information for pilots, fishermen, and other travelers, as well as supporting weather forecasting on a wider regional scale. Funter residents Jim and Blanche Doyle operated the Funter station and called in regular weather observations or “obs” to the local NWS office. An index from 1980 showing some of these stations (including Funter Bay) is below:

weather 1980

In 1985 the Doyles moved across the bay, the weather station was placed on the inactive list in June, then relocated and reactivated in August (per NOAA / National Cooperative Observer Newsletter).

A newspaper column on Alaska weather noted that Funter Bay had the statewide high of 60°F on November 25, 1987 (vs 45° at Juneau and a statewide low of -39° at Umiat that same day).

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Also of importance to residents and travelers are the tides, which can change the water level 20 vertical feet in a 6-hour period. Tides are a predictable phenomenon based on the gravitation pull of the sun and moon, so tide tables are calculated and published well in advance. However, currents and geography can cause some local variations. For this reason, the government has established tide gauges at various places around Alaska in different years, including at Funter Bay. These would show the offset in minimum and maximum tidal fluctuations. Government documents refer to self-registering tide gauges installed at Funter Bay in 1894, in 1903, 1923, and 1960. NOAA’s tide data and upcoming tide tables for Funter Bay can be found here.

tide


Funter Bay History: Murder & Mayhem

March 25, 2014

Alaska’s history is filled with shady characters, dastardly deeds, and unsolved mysteries. Almost every town, mining camp, or cannery has its tales of murder, larceny, or swindles of one sort or another. In past installments of Funter Bay History, I’ve mentioned some of the criminal activities which went on in the area, including bootlegging, fish piracy, and other shenanigans. This post covers some more serious crimes, as well as various lesser incidents and shady dealings. Some of these are snippets from newspaper articles which are long on sensationalism and short on fact, multiple sources have been consulted when possible. Unfortunately there is not always follow-up information or detail readily available, so the outcome of some of these cases is not clear.

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A murder on August 18th of 1894 reportedly involved two local prospectors. Archie Shelp and George Cleveland were accused of illegally selling whiskey to Natives, resulting in a drunken killing (or perhaps two killings, sources differ). The defendants claimed they were in or near Funter Bay during the supposed events, not at Chilkoot (Haines) where the murder took place. An 1895 article described how “two Indians bit the dust” during a drinking bout with two Swedes, which may or may not refer to the same case. Gus Lundgren, who had been camping at Funter,  testified that the two had been there on August 16th-17th of 1894. The defense claimed that they could not have sailed to Chilkoot in less than three days (from my own sailing experience, I would say it could be done in one long day with favorable winds). The prosecutor pointed out that there was no evidence Shelp and Cleveland were prospecting “with pan and shovel” as they claimed, and instead were “prospecting for the aboriginal native” with keg and tin cup. The two were convicted of illicit alcohol sales, and appealed.

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An underground fight between miners at Funter Bay was reported in the Alaska Mining Record on June 10, 1896. William Williamson (Brother of Sandy Williamson) was supposedly attacked by Billy George, aka “Indian Charley”, and had a piece bitten out of his lip. The young Williamson had no experience in drilling and refused to strike double-handed. George, who had a “record as a biter” was upset with this and attacked him. After a 20-minute fight which left hair plastered on the walls of the shaft, the attacker fled. Billy George then gathered up his family and possessions and left in a canoe. (Excerpt in Barry Roderick’s A Preliminary History of Admiralty Island).

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A “bloody battle”, and the first killing of an on-duty law enforcement officer in Alaska occurred near Funter Bay in 1897. That January, a “notorious young desperado” named William Thomas “Slim” Birch had been locked in the city jail, convicted of “mayhem”. The charge stemmed from a bar brawl in which Birch had bitten off part of Henry Osborne’s nose and ear. Birch was said to possess a “temper that runs wild” when under the influence of alcohol, frequently landing him in trouble. Despite his temper, “Slim” was a popular fellow in Juneau. He and his brothers had made some money early in the gold rush, partly through mining and perhaps partly through smuggling. They owned the Douglas City Hotel and Cafe, which featured a lively saloon, and had the support of many local miners. The night before Slim was to be shipped South to prison, a group of masked men staged a jailbreak, locking the jailer in his own cell. The group then fled in a sloop to Admiralty Island.

Released a Prisoner

Within weeks an informant reported Birch and co hiding out in a cabin on Bear Creek, 3 miles from the Juneau side of Admiralty Island (About 1-1.5 miles from Funter Bay). A posse consisting of two deputy US Marshals, the jailer, a jail guard, and an “Indian Policeman” set out in pursuit. After a tugboat trip from Juneau, followed by a long and grueling hike through snow and ice, the party reached the cabin. Accounts vary as to what happened next. One story was that Slim snuck out of the cabin and ambushed the deputies from high ground. Others say the fugitives fired through the door as the lawmen knocked on it. Other accounts say the officers found Birch and his accomplices sleeping and fired first.

“He is a desperate man and the deputies knew it, so they began shooting into the cabin, taking great chances on getting their man alive. Birch opened his cabin door and began to shoot with two revolvers” (from San Francisco Call)

While the truth of who fired first was not clear, all accounts show that the posse had the worst of the ensuing shootout. Jail Guard Bayes was hit and ran back towards the beach despite bleeding profusely from both legs. Deputy Marshal William C. Watts attempted to take cover behind a fallen tree but found the rotten wood a poor shield.  Deputy Hale exchanged shots with Slim Birch, then came under fire from the cabin. Struck in the chest as he tried to reach Watts, Hale staggered and fell into a small stream. He managed to pull himself out and make it out of range.  Jailer Lindquist hid behind a tree as it was riddled with bullets, and was hit in the eye by flying bark. The Native policeman, Sam Johnson, was the only one of the posse to remain uninjured. Johnson reportedly saw Birch and three or four other men inside the cabin, firing from “loopholes” between the logs. Watts was reportedly hit several more times during the gunfight. The other lawmen retreated, leaving the injured Watts behind. Hale’s wounds were said to be serious, but he eventually recovered.

After fleeing back to Juneau, the officers gathered a new posse of 20 men, along with a detachment of US Marines. A search party from “the neighboring cannery settlement” also hiked in to the cabin (The Funter cannery did not yet exist, but several others were in the area). Watt’s body was found “frozen stiff in the snow, where his cowardly companions had left him”. Several days searching resulted in nothing but frostbite for the posse members, and additional men came in from Sitka to join the manhunt. An investigation of the cabin found the floor “liberally scattered” with 38-90 and 45-70 rifle shells, and several firing loopholes cut into the logs to fortify the position. Also revealed were 50lbs of hidden gunpowder, thought to be part of a bank robbery scheme. Hiram Schell, one of Birch’s accomplices, had previously been in jail for gold robbery, the tale of which is a ridiculous adventure of its own and also involves a stop at Funter Bay.

The search ended when two cannery employees named Cheney and Olson discovered the heavily-armed Birch and Schell sleeping in dense underbrush. They reportedly had pistols in hand, requiring a stealthy approach to avoid waking them. The two cannery men crept up to a ledge above the fugitives, then leapt down and were able to manacle them after a brief struggle. The captors received a $500 reward for their efforts. The slain Deputy Watts had been a popular and well-known officer in Alaska, and tempers were high on all sides. The prisoners were taken to the Sitka jail for their own safety, as there was fear of encountering a lynch mob in Juneau.

At their trial for murder, Birch and Schell claimed self defense, and the contradictory statements from the lawmen confused jurors. Birch’s brothers and local miners  raised enough money to bring in “prominent” defense attorneys from Seattle. The defendants claimed that the deputies had not announced themselves before shooting, and they were thus responding to an unprovoked attack from unknown assailants. There was debate over the cause of Watt’s death, be it from his wounds, freezing, or both. Birch even claimed that he had been kidnapped from the jail and had not meant to escape in the first place! Eventually the pair were found not guilty of murdering Deputy Marshal Watts, an “outrageous” verdict which horrified the governor of Alaska. None of the other offenders were ever found, although a belt marked “W.H. Phillips” was recovered from the cabin.

Slim did end up serving 3 years at San Quentin for the original mayhem charge. He moved to Prescott, Arizona in 1902 and opened a saloon with his brothers Sidney “Kid” and Robert “Bob” Birch. Slim continued to get into bar brawls, including a 1908 affair in which all three brothers broke up a card shark scheme with flying fists. They also ran afoul of the law with gambling fines and prohibition violations. “Slim” died in 1952.

birch2Selected Sources:

-“Bloody Battle in Alaska; Between Desperadoes and a Marshal’s Posse” The Record-Union (Sacramento), 4 Feb 1897.

-“Capture of Slim Birch” San Francisco Call, 4 February 1897

-Fletcher, Amy. “Whitman shines light on a dark chapter of Alaska history”. Juneau Empire, 27 Oct 2013. (link)

-Hunt, William. “Distant Justice: Policing the Alaskan Frontier”. OK: U of OK Press, 1987.

-Roderick, Barry. “A Preliminary History of Admiralty Island” Douglas, AK, 1982.

-“To Plead for an Alaska Outlaw” San Francisco Call, 28 Feb 1897

-Wilbanks, William. “Forgotten Heroes: Police Officers Killed in Alaska, 1850-1997”. Turner Publishing Co, 1999. (link)

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An article in the Juneau Record-Miner from July 11, 1907 had the headline “LOOKS LIKE MURDER”. A man named Herman Smith had disappeared under suspicious circumstances, with “strong indications that foul murder has been done somewhere between Douglas and Funter Bay”. Smith’s boat the “O.K.” ran out of gas at Cordwood Creek on the way to pick up fish, so he borrowed a small boat from Harry Scott at a Funter Bay fishing station. After getting fuel he left Douglas to return to the O.K., but then vanished. The article stated that “An Indian woman claims to have seen him murdered in the vicinity of Cordwood creek”. Reportedly missing were $130 cash and a month’s worth of provisions.

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A fugitive from Sitka by the name of Ah-kee was pursued and overtaken at Funter Bay in July of 1909, and brought to court by Deputy Marshal Shoup (Shoup is also mentioned in a previous post).

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In November of 1912, a miner named Martin Damourette was arrested and charged with larceny, accused by his mining partner L.C. Wilson. The two had stored equipment at their Funter Bay claim, and Damourette supposedly stole it while Wilson was absent. The court dismissed the criminal case almost immediately. Wilson filed a civil suit, but Damourette “ducked out of town” for Seattle the same night.

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Another disappearance occurred at or near Funter Bay in 1915. Robert McGregor was reported missing by crew of the Santa Rita the morning after arriving at Funter Bay. He was a carpenter from Gypsum who had worked at various mines and camps around Alaska. Cannery officials supposed that he wandered off in the dark and became lost, but a search of the area found nothing.

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Illicit booze continued to be an issue in the area, especially since it could sometimes be mail-ordered!
mail order beer

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In October of 1917, two men named Thorensen and Okerberg were indited for furnishing liquor to Natives at Funter Bay.

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In 1922 the body of Oscar “Terrible Swede” Lindberg was found burned to death on the beach at Bear Creek, across the island from Funter Bay. The case is filed under “Murders” in the Bayers notes.

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Funter Bay History: Fishermen Part III

March 18, 2014

In this edition of Funter Bay History we return to the topic of commercial salmon fishing. A local fisherman very generously provided some photos and information about Funter Bay in the 1960s, which make up the bulk of this post (Previous posts on this topic are in Part 1 and Part 2).

1

Seen above is the Funter Bay cannery and public dock circa 1958-1960. The trollers Merry Fortune and Mira are tied up, along with the fish scow. The scow was owned by Art Berthold, of the packer Fern II. Art would visit the bay regularly to pick up fish, with local residents Gunner and Lassie Ohman operating the scow. Harold Hargrave owned the Merry Fortune and lived in a house just to the right of this photo. There were three fishing boats named the Mira in Southeast Alaska around this time, this may be the one from Juneau owned by Arnold Henrickson (per the Merchant Vessel Registry)

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A closer view of the cannery dock and scow, with one of the cannery bunkhouses in the background. The red structure with curved roof on the near end of the scow appears to be a former fish trap watchman’s shack, these were frequently repurposed and some can still be found in use around Funter Bay.

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Fishermen (L-R) Walt Mackey, Ken Lameroux, and Jack Kolby, having an afternoon drink at the dock (of “milk, no doubt” according to the source!). Walt’s boat the Elliott is behind them. Ken fished the Lillian L, and Jack fished the Ruby.

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The fish trap at Lizard Head (the contentious Claire Alexander fish trap mentioned in this post). This photo is from around 1958, the trap was removed when Alaska became a state in 1959. The structure on top is the watchman’s shack, the trap itself is made up of the low floating logs.

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Above is “Dirty Foot Al”, so called because he didn’t wear shoes. Al built his own boat on the beach and heated with wood, you can see blocks of firewood and his axe on deck (oil heat using the same diesel as the engine was more common).

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The troller Lee was fished by Ted Childress, seen above, and his wife (who owned the boat). It was reportedly a “Columbia River model”

A 1955 newspaper article (mentioned in the Bayers notes) described the ferry Teddy abandoned at Funter Bay after experiencing engine trouble. The owner reportedly went on to fish the “Lee”, but their name is not given.

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Jack Kolby (or Koby?) fished the Ruby, seen above at Elfin Cove. Jack was reportedly of Swiss background, and loved to tell stories.

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the Rosalind was owned by a man named Ben, seen above.

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Here we see Walt Mackey delivering a loaf of bread to “Crackerbox” Mac. Mac got his nickname from a previous boat, which apparently was not very pretty. Mac’s boat seen above was equipped with a Model A Ford engine.

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Above is Walt Mackey again, having “a bit of some unknown substance”.

Funter Bay had two state floats, both of which were used by local fishermen. The season generally ran from May 1 to late fall. Many of the boats would start early, and quit early, coming back in by 2 or 3pm. Then the crews would sit around with their “milk” telling stories or comparing  how much money they’d made for the day. They would also visit with local residents in the bay. Sometimes they would set herring nets overnight to catch bait.

In addition to the people shown above, other fishermen at Funter during this time period included Charlie Tubbs, Norton Sorrell of the Grey Mist (later bought by Charlie), Ned Albright of the Ommney, and Ted Samples of the Diver. Ted and his wife trolled, and the Diver had a compressor and “hard hat” rig for underwater work. Ted installed and repaired fish traps when he wasn’t fishing. A man named John had a small double-ender with a noisy 2-cylinder motor. Others who frequented the float, but didn’t always fish at Funter were Al “Scram” Schraman of the Aurora, Santiago Cesar, Mac of the Helen M, and Ike Puustinin of the Julia D.

One story of float hijinks involves a fishermen who somehow became a little drunk one night. The fellow kept a pee can just outside his wheelhouse door for late night calls of nature (these are fairly common on boats, both for convenience and safety, as you don’t want to stand at the rail drunk with only one hand free) Someone filled the can almost full of alkaseltzer tablets, and when the still-drunk fellow used it, there was a lot of unexpected foaming! The poor victim must have thought he had some terrible problem “down there”!