William Britt came to Skagway from Norway in the gold rush and worked as a druggist and was a member of the Arctic Brotherhood and City Council by 1905. He met and married Sophia and they had a son, Jacob William Britt born here in Skagway in 1905 or 1906.
Jacob lived in Alaska until about 1930 and then joined the Navy. He married and moved to San Diego by 1940. By 1942 Lt. Commander Britt was in the South Pacific in command of the Asheville (PG-21)
(The Asheville was built in Charleston N.C. and launched on July 4, 1918. It underwent several overhauls and was known as PG-21.)
On the morning of 1 March 1942, Vice Admiral William A. Glassford, Commander, Southwest Pacific Force (formerly the U.S. Asiatic Fleet) ordered American naval vessels to retire to Australian waters. During World War 2, Lt. Jacob W. Britt was in command of the Asheville (PG-21) when he was ordered to leave Tjilatjap, Java, on 1 March 1942, bound for Fremantle. At 0615 on 2 March, Tulsa sighted a ship, and identified her as Asheville—probably the last time the latter was in sight of friendly forces. During the forenoon watch on 3 March, Asheville radioed “being attacked,” some 300 miles south of Java. The minesweeper Whippoorwill (AM-35), heard the initial distress call and turned toward the reported position some 90 miles away. When a second report specified that the ship was being attacked by a surface vessel, however, Whippoorwill‘s captain, Lt. Comdr. Charles R. Ferriter, reasoning correctly that “any surface vessel that could successfully attack the Asheville would be too much” for his own command, ordered the minesweeper to resume her voyage to Australia.
Asheville, presumed lost, was stricken from the Navy list on 8 May 1942. Not until after World War II, however, did the story of her last battle emerge, when a survivor of heavy cruiser Houston (CA-30), told of meeting, in prison camp, Fireman 1st Class Fred L. Brown, 18 years old, had been in the gunboat’s fireroom when a Japanese surface force (Vice Admiral Kondo Nobutake) had overtaken the ship on 3 March 1942. Destroyers Arashi (Commander Watanabe Yasumasa) and Nowaki (Commander Koga Magatarou) overwhelmed Asheville, scoring hits on her forecastle and bridge; many men topside were dead by the time Brown arrived topside to abandon ship. All 160 men were lost.
A sailor on board one of the enemy destroyers threw out a line, which Brown grasped and was hauled on board. Sadly, Asheville‘s only known survivor perished in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp on 18 March 1945.
Lt. Commander Britt born in Skagway Alaska was killed in action in the South Pacific on March 3, 1942.
http://toto.lib.unca.edu/findingaids/mss/ashe_walter/default_ashe.html; 1910 census for Skagway; family search. The Asheville is seen above.
Anne Cripps, granddaughter of former Alaskan Governor Wilford Bacon Hoggatt has graciously sent us these three new family photos all taken in 1905 at the Jualin Mine. Hoggatt was part owner in this mine. In one, he is standing in front of his cabin. In another it looks as though he’s wearing his Navy uniform; the man with him is someone named Alfred Nadeau. In the third photo, he is in the center, but no identification for the other two gentlemen.
Many thanks for these great family photos, previously unseen by the public!
While most of us have heard the story of Mollie Walsh and her great admirer Pack jack Newman, I only just read the curious story of the second monument in Seattle. Mollie met Packer Jack in Skagway where he was smitten with her. He once shot a fellow in the legs right on Broadway so that he could not go up and visit Mollie at Log Cabin where she sold pies. Mollie later married Mike Bartlett who murdered her in Seattle in 1902. In 1930 – 28 years after Mollie’s death Newman decided to honor the memory of his “Angel of the White Pass.” He commissioned a bronze sculpture of Mollie to be placed in Skagway.
And here the statue stands today, by a children’s playground that has become known as Mollie Walsh Park.
The inscription, written by the man who lost Mollie to the man who killed her, reads:
ALONE WITHOUT HELP / THIS COURAGEOUS GIRL / RAN A GRUB TENT / DURING THE GOLD RUSH / OF 1897-1898. / SHE FED AND LODGED / THE WILDEST / GOLD CRAZED MEN. / GENERATIONS / SHALL SURELY KNOW / THIS INSPIRING SPIRIT. / MURDERED OCT. 27, / 1902.
Jack Newman was unable to attend the dedication ceremony in Skagway, but sent a message.
“I’m an old man and no longer suited to the scene, for Mollie is still young and will remain forever young, her spirit lingers still reach across the years and play on the slackened strings of my old heart and my heart still sings – MOLLIE! – my heart still sings, but in such sad undertone that none but God and I can hear . . .”
However, his wife, Hannah let her husband know that she was less than thrilled with his tribute to his lost love.
To appease his wife, he quickly placed a dinner-plate-size bronze profile of Hannah on the exterior of the Washington Athletic Club, at Sixth Avenue and Union Street. The inscription:
MRS. HANNAH NEWMAN / WITH COURAGE AND FAITH IN THE / DEVELOPMENT OF OUR CITY OWNED / THIS GROUND FROM PIONEER DAYS / UNTIL THE ERECTION OF THIS BUILDING / 1930
Jack Newman died soon after Mollie’s statue was unveiled in Skagway – on May 4, 1931 of appendicitis. Although Newman had requested that he be buried in Skagway, beside Mollie’s monument, Mrs. Newman had him buried in Seattle. I could not find a photo of Hannah’s bronze on the WAC building on the corner of 6th and Union. If someone would like to photograph it, I will post it, but in the mean time here is a great picture of young Packer Jack. Cute guy!
The Seattle Post Intelligencer sent a man on the “Portland” three days after the historic arrival in Seattle. Samuel P. Weston’s idea was to bring cages filled with carrier pigeons to Skagway and send them south to deliver his reports. Apparently they were all lost on their way south, poor things, they couldn’t make the 1500 mile trip. Seen above is the Portland.
Eccentric Seattle by J. Kingston Pierce, p. 120Read More
This is a picture of the first shipment of gold from Nome to Seattle in 1899.Read More