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.

 

 

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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: A 1919 Honeymoon Trip

July 20, 2017

One fascinating source of historic Alaska photos are the vacation albums created by past visitors. The Alaska State Library & Archives has several such albums donated by collectors and families of the original photographers. These provide a great cross section of historic Alaskan tourism, as well as a glimpse into the interests of the tourists (some photographed glaciers while others focused on wildlife and still others on industry).

An album from July of 1919 follows the journey of some newlyweds from Seattle to Southeast Alaska. Unfortunately the names of the couple is not known. They sailed on the steamship Admiral Evans, which made stops at the canneries in Funter Bay and nearby Hawk Inlet.

1919 Album 1

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Alaska Travel Photograph Album,1919, PCA 425-09

It’s not clear if the following photo of salmon on a cannery floor was taken at Funter or Hawk Inlet. Both canneries would have looked similar inside.

1919 Album 2

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Alaska Travel Photograph Album,1919, PCA 425-09

 

1919 Album 3

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Alaska Travel Photograph Album,1919, PCA 425-09

The next photo of the USS Marblehead is quite interesting. I mentioned the Marblehead’s anti-piracy visit and showed a postcard photo from a different angle in this post.

1919 Album 4

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Alaska Travel Photograph Album,1919, PCA 425-09

A newspaper article from Juneau mentioned the Marblehead that same month:

Marblehead article

Getting back to the photo album, a wider view shows the cannery with native worker village on the right, and a denuded small island in the foreground (probably Gauge Is.)

1919 Album 5

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Alaska Travel Photograph Album,1919, PCA 425-09

A pair of photos show the young couple taking turns posing in the woods at Funter Bay:

1919 Album 6

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Alaska Travel Photograph Album,1919, PCA 425-09

 

1919 Album 7

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Alaska Travel Photograph Album,1919, PCA 425-09

And finally, a shipboard photo as the steamer left Funter Bay:

1919 Album 8

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Alaska Travel Photograph Album,1919, PCA 425-09

If anyone happens to recognize these people, I would love to hear about it!


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: 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).

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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.

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!


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.

 


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.

Merrin1

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.

Camp

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.

WU Alumni 2

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”.

Merrin 3

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.