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!


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.

 


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.

 


Funter Bay History: A Congressional Visit

November 30, 2015

In the summer of 1905, a party of Congressmen visited Funter Bay on a tour of Southeast Alaska. The group was attending the Lewis and Clark Exposition in Portland, and was invited to visit Alaska courtesy of the Cities of Seattle & Tacoma and the Pacific Coast Steamship Company. A member of the party, Major Alexander McDowell, was photographed with Tlingit basket sellers on the cannery wharf at Funter:

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Winter & Pond photo, Courtesy of Alaska’s Digital Archives

Members of the tour included Joseph G. Cannon, speaker of the House of Representatives, Alexander McDowell, Clerk of the House, Henry Casson, Sergeant-at-Arms, and his wife, Joseph C. Sibley, Congressman from 25th district, PA, William A. Rodenberg, 22nd district of IL, and wife, H.C. Adams, 2nd district, Wisconsin, and wife, C.L. Bartlett, 6th district, GA, and wife, J.A. Hemenway, Senator from Indiana, with children, J.A. McAndrews, 5th District, IL, H.C. Loudenslager, 1st District, NJ, and wife, J.A. Tawney, First district of MN, with wife and daughther, Blaine Harrington, secretary to Congressman Sibley, and L. White Busby, secretary to Speaker Cannon, and his wife. Senator Piles and Congressman Humphrey from the State of Washington also accompanied the party.

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Steamship Cottage City at Skagway in 1905, Case & Draper Photo.

The steamer Cottage City departed Seattle June 5th and brought the Congressmen to Ketchikan, Metlakatla, Juneau, Douglas, Haines, Skagway, Funter, Killisnoo, Sitka, and Wrangell, stopping at Vancouver on the way back. The trip was mainly for pleasure, but the group studied and discussed all sorts of matters, from the representation of Alaska to fishing enforcement and communications. The Washington Post stated that:

“The Congressmen went north with the idea that Alaska’s coast was covered with glaciers and polar bears, but all returned with words of praise, confident of its great future” (“The Tour of the Statesmen in the Far and Golden North”; Washington Post; July 2, 1905)

The article mentions baskets and curios for sale by local Tlingit natives at various ports. I have found a few other references to Tlingit crafts for sale to tourists at Funter (on the cannery wharf), but this is the first time I have identified a photo of such.

McDowell Baskets

As the Post explains:

“Maj McDowell, Clerk of the House of Representatives, created a great deal of fun for the party, and his photograph with the Indian women at Funter Bay was purchased as a souvenir by every member of the party.”

More information on Major Alexander McDowell can be found here.

Various commentators claimed the visit would bring greater representation to Alaska, and in fact a new at-large congressional district for Alaska was created in 1906.


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”.

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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: Mystery Photos

April 9, 2015

These photos were mixed in with some of the 1920s postcards and photographs that I’ve recently been posting. They are not labeled or otherwise identified, and the exact locations are uncertain. As they were included with a large amount of Funter Bay material, it is possible they are from the Funter area. However, the same collection also had some identifiable pictures of Juneau and Taku Inlet.

This photo shows a woman in a white dress and white shoes, standing on steps in front of a building:

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The above photo was possibly taken at one of the Tlingit Native houses on the hill behind the cannery, as seen in the zoomed-in image below (from a photo earlier posted). The windows, doors, and steps seem to match. Some of these houses look like they could be very small duplexes:

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The next mystery photo shows a waterfall. I don’t recognize this as immediately near Funter Bay, but it could be higher on the mountain or somewhere else on Admiralty Island. It could also be somewhere closer to Juneau.

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The last photo shows a group of people, possibly about to light a fire. These may be local Tlingit Natives. The setting suggests the shore just above the high tide line.

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If any readers have ideas or suggestions, please let me know! As usual, you can email me at gabe@saveitforparts.com.