Heroes

Ben W. Olcott

Posted on Feb 8, 2014 in Animals, Dogs, Goldrushers, Heroes | 0 comments

431px-Ben_W_Olcott

Arthur O’Leary’s traveling companion, Ben Olcott has quite a story of his own, which I will summarize here.

Also born in Keithsburg, Illinois, Ben left earlier on his adventures west and in 1891 at the age of 19 moved to Salem, Oregon. He seemed to find Oregon his new home base from which he forayed to parts north to search for adventure and gold. After his 1898 trip with Arthur, he returned to Illinois to bank briefly and then headed back to Alaska in 1904. His journey ended notably when he drove a dog sled team to Nome, a trip of over 1,000 miles up theYukon and Tanna Rivers in the height of winter. Settling in Fairbanks, Olcott found work as a gold dust teller, and later a bank branch manager. He managed to make a sizeable profit from gold prospecting, allowing him to move back to Oregon.

Olcott became involved in Oregon politics because of his brother-in-law Oswald West and so found himself succeeding Governor Withycombe in 1919 who abruptly died of a heart attack only two months after being elected. Olcott served as governor until 1923 until he was defeated by the Ku Klux Klan candidate, Walter Pierce. Olcott went back to banking, first to Long Beach, California and then back to Portland. He died in Portland on July 21, 1952, and was interred in Mount Crest Abbey Mausoleum in Salem, Marion County, Oregon. He may have been pictured in the photos of Arthur O’Leary below, but here are his portrait and gravestone.

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Arthur Allen Richards

Posted on Feb 11, 2013 in Alaska, Dyea, Goldrushers, Heroes, Law men, Skagway families | 0 comments

 

Arthur was the eighth child born to the Richards family in 1859 in Ohio. His older sister, Clara ran the post office in Dyea, a story which I wrote about earlier here. Apparently her two brothers were also here, Arthur and Daniel.

Arthur was appointed  by the U.S. Commissioner to be U.S. Marshal for the Dyea District. In a letter he wrote:

“I have been over the trail to the headwaters of the Yukon several times, to arrest men for getting into rows – generally for using guns…The wonder to me is not so much that men die but that any can survive the hardships. So much packing in mud and wading waist deep in ice-cold water, right from the glaciers above. A good many give up their outfits here for what they can get, and return home. ”

One descendent said that family lore has it that Arthur was responsible for laying the first telephone line from Dyea to the top of the Chilcoot Pass. That would have been during the 1897-98 time as there were several tramways built at that time also. They had better communication then than now, even cell phones don’t always work on the trail today.

He also said ” It is a pleasant trip up here from San Francisco except that accommodations are limited, and while the excitement keeps up the ships will be overcrowded. The steamer I came on, the Mexico, sank on her return trip in 200 fathoms of water and everything lost but the passengers.” this would have been in August 1897 because I found the following article:

The Alaska Searchlight of August 14, 1897 reported on the wreck of the Steamer Mexico: “near the end of Dixon Entrance. The steamer was southbound when it ran upon some hidden rocks at 4 o’clock on the morning of the 6 th . The rocks stove a big hole in the bottom of the boat, but luckily there was not freight on board and the bulkhead compartments of the boat kept it afloat for about two hours, when it finally sank in 100 fathoms of water. The shock caused confusion on board and passengers were thrown from their berths. In a few minutes, however the officers quieted down the passengers while the crew quickly launched the boats and every passenger was transferred from the sinking ship. The hand baggage belonging to passengers was taken from the ship and it is reported that the mail was taken off, although it is not definitely known. There were one hundred persons on board….”

1900 census; Daily Alaskan 3/13/1900 (in 2001 Skagway News); Skagway Museum record; CA death rec; Photo and letter courtesy of Diane Richards Design. Information and updates courtesy of Glenn McKinney – many thanks!

 

 

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Brooks – Alaskan Scientist, Explorer and Historian

Posted on Feb 1, 2013 in Alaska, Explorers and naturalists, Heroes | 0 comments

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alfred Hulse Brooks was born on July 18, 1871 in Ann Arbor, Michigan and graduated from  Harvard in 1894.  He loved geology and exploring and so, in the gold rush, came to Alaska. He photographed many communities including Skagway – all of the photos are at the Yale Library Collection (which is odd considering he went to rival University, Harvard).

In 1898, the federal government announced a systematic topographic and geologic survey of Alaska that would include renewed exploration of the Brooks Range. Brooks, as new head of the Alaskan branch of the  USGS, called the project “far more important than any previously done,” due in large part because it “furnished the first clue to the geography and geology of the part of Alaska north of the Yukon Basin.” Between 1899 and 1911, six major reconnaissance expeditions traversed the mountain range, mapping its topography and geology and defining the patterns of economic geology so important to prospectors and miners.   He is credited with discovering that the biggest mountain range in Arctic Alaska was separate from the Rocky Mts. The range was named for him – The Brooks Range.

He served as chief geologist for Alaska for the United States Geological Survey until his death in 1924.  Every year from 1904 to 1916 and from 1919 to 1923, Brooks wrote summaries of Alaska’s mineral industries. The missed years, during World War 1 were those that he spent in France as chief geologist for the American Expeditionary Force in France.  He died  on November 22, 1924 and is buried in Washington D.C. at the Oak Hill Cemetery. I love the inscription on his grave:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wikipedia; findagrave; Hunt, “NPS Golden Places,”  page 56.

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Lt. Commander Jacob William Britt

Posted on Jan 30, 2013 in Heroes, Military, Skagway families | 1 comment

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.

 

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New Photos of Governor Wilford Bacon Hoggatt!

Posted on Jan 16, 2013 in Alaska, Heroes | 0 comments

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!

 

 

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“Packer Jack” Newman’s two loves

Posted on Jan 8, 2013 in Goldrushers, Heroes, Heroines, Love Stories, Murders, Women | 0 comments

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!

 

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