Judge Justin Woodward Harding

Justin Woodward Harding was born on December 19, 1888 and died on August 15 1972. He was a Major in World War One. He was appointed U.S. Attorney in 1921 for the First District in the Alaska Territory and later in 1927 as U.S. District Judge. And it is here that he became an Alaskan Hero. Here is the story that started on December 7, 1929 (that other infamous day in history):

“Irene Jones was a young girl, born of mixed Tlingit and white heritage. She lived in the City of Ketchikan, Alaska. In 1929 at the age of twelve, she tried to attend her local public school. She had all of the qualifications of children, who are entitled to admission and are admitted to the public school under Alaskan law. Irene was in fact a very bright and engaging student. She started attending classes at the Ketchikan school [seen above] on September 3, 1929, and was a delight to her new teacher. However, two days later she arrived at the doors of the school, to find Superintendent Anthony E. Karnes waiting for her with his arms folded and a serious expression on his face. She was sent home by Karnes on the grounds that she was of Indian descent and that she and “all of her kind should go to the Indian school”. Her parents, William Paul and Nettie Jones, made numerous pleas to the Ketchikan School Board, but to no avail. On September 10, 1929 they filed a suit on Irene’s behalf for her to be admitted to the local public school.

In 1905 Congress established a territorial school system in Alaska to provide education for “white children and children of mixed blood who lead a civilized life”. Based on this law, the legislature of Alaska established a system of free schooling for children within its jurisdiction and did not make a distinction in regard to race or color. The 1905 congressional act also mandated that education of the Eskimos and Indians in Alaska remain under the direction and control of the U.S. government, Secretary of Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs. The City of Ketchikan established a school system where white and mixed blood students attended schools together. However on December 7, 1928 the Ketchikan School Board adopted a resolution that modified this system. This rule said that the Ketchikan School Board would accept only those students in its locality “who are not acceptable to the United States Bureau of Education”. This meant that the School Board would no longer accept any child of Indian or Eskimo descent, including those of mixed blood.
Irene Jones’ attorney argued that the School Board violated rights provided Irene under the 14th Amendment. He presented evidence which showed that Mr. A. E. Karnes, the Superintendent of Ketchikan School District, led the effort to pass the December 7, 1928 School Board resolution to prevent children of native descent from attending Ketchikan schools. Mr. Karnes was also reported to have said to Irene: “We will get rid of all the other Native children too.” Irene’s attorney also gave other examples which showed that a school district could not override the laws of a state legislature or Congress. As a result, federal district judge, Justin W. Harding, ruled that the Ketchikan School Board had discriminated against Irene Jones and its December 7th resolution was not valid. In his final decision on November 29, 1929, Judge Harding ordered that Irene be admitted to the public school and that the School Board pay her attorney’s fees.”

And as for Karnes? Well, in 1939 he was promoted to Alaska’s Commissioner of Education, according to “A History of the Nome, Alaska Public Schools:1899 to 1958 From the Gold Rush To Statehood”, a thesis by John Poling. Karnes later retired to California and died in 1970 in Lake Elsinore.

from the court case, National Archives in Philadelphia online: Irene Jones v. R. V. Ellis et al.

New Zealanders

There were about 50 New Zealanders, or Kiwis, who arrived in 1898. George Fetherling in “The Gold Crusades: A social History of Gold Rushes, 1849-1929” on page 141 states there was a group of Maoris at Sheep Camp in 1898. Looking over the list of names, and not knowing what Maori names are like, I see a W. Ratri, J. Bungale, C. Chleablein, and a Tom Tipppili as well as quite a few English sounding names and Mc’s. I once emailed some professors in New Zealand to see if they could tell, but they said that it was of course possible that the Maori’s had taken English sounding names, so they could not tell which ones were Maori. Anyway, it is an amusing thought that tatooed Maoris were slogging up the trail with everyone else.

Fetherling; NWMP records of people crossing the pass and at Lake Bennett in 1898.

John Holland

Several decades ago, the city clerk of Skagway went to the Gold Rush Cemetery and wrote down the names on the headboards that were still visible. Some were names of folks not recorded in the death records or on any other list or census. John Holland is one of those. We only know that he was born in December of 1849 and died on April 18, 1899 in Skagway and is buried in plot number 75. My notation for this is just “Lorene’s list” for the lists that Lorene Gordon gave me when I started this project.

So who was John Holland? Perhaps he fled the lower 48 to avoid being confused with this John Holland who invented the submarine, seen above in his fantastic creation in 1898.

“Lorene’s list”

Ezra Meeker

Another great character, Ezra Meeker was born in a log cabin on the family farm in Huntsville, Ohio in 1830. He married Eliza and moved to Puyallup Washington by covered wagon in 1852. They had a hops farm in 1891 but then in 1892 a plague of hop lice struck the Pacific Coast, devastating crops. Meeker’s crop sold for a fraction of the expected price. He later wrote, “All my accumulations were swept away, and I quit the business — or rather, the business quit me.”

In 1896 Meeker traveled to Alaska, opening a store in Dawson and filing a mining claim. Despite four trips to the Klondike, he never found gold, however, in 1898 at the age of 68, he formed a company with George Cline and John F. Hartman to dry vegetables for soups, Mrs. Meeker helped dry the vegetables for the Klondike Venture. In the spring, Ezra went north with his son Fred over the Chilkoot Pass with 15 tons of dried vegetables and chickens. On one stretch of 2000 feet they paid $40 a ton for freighting. They went down the Yukon in a flatboat where Ezra fell in the White Horse Rapids. They sold potatoes, onions, chickens, sugar and condensed milk. Later they sold fresh vegetables that were brought up individually wrapped.

In 1901 Ezra Meeker left the Yukon and came home to stay, arriving two weeks before his golden wedding anniversary, but without the gold. He made four trips to the Klondike and had saved possibly $19,000, which he lost in the final mining enterprise. A deep freeze came a month earlier than usual and prevented his thawing the ground, and cut off water for sluicing. A later report stated that the mine he lost proved profitable.

Meeker worked for many years to preserve the famous Oregon Trail (it became part of the National Trails System in 2004). In October 1924, he flew over a portion of the trail in a single-engine, high wing Army Fokker T-2. By ox, Meeker made two miles per hour crossing the Trail in 1852 with his family. His plane flew the route at 100 miles per hour.

Ezra said he never spent even one day sick in bed during his entire 58-year marriage. He died on this day, December 3, 1928 in Seattle (of senility) and is buried in the city he founded, Puyallup, Washington. He is seen above shortly before his death, in 1928 with his Model-A Ford with covered wagon.

historylink.org; Klondike Stampeders Reg p252; Yukon site; Washington state records;

Thomas Childs Woodbury

Colonel Thomas Woodbury of the 3rd Infantry A,B, and C Companies was born on this day December 2, 1850 in Henderson, Kentucky. Woodbury joined the military in 1899 in Cebu, Phillipine Islands during the conflict. He commanded battalions and won medals for bravery there and in the Spanish American War. His father and grandfather were both Generals in the military.
The Third Infantry came to Skagway in July of 1904 replacing the 8th Infantry.
Col. Woodbury then went to Fort Seward in Haines in November 1904. See the soldiers on parade on the grounds of the fort above.
In 1906 they went back to Washington State.

The specific history of the military in Skagway and Dyea is interesting if not confusing. Here is the list of military units and their dates of arrival:
-9th Cavalry arrives 1897
-14th Infantry arrives 16 Dec 1897 and Feb 1898
-company L of the 24th (the African American unit) arrived May 15, 1899 from Ft. Douglas, Utah, they came up on the steamer Humboldt.
-106th Coast Artillery (32nd Company arrives March to May 1902) arrives 1902
-3rd Infantry arrives July – Oct 1904
-8th Infantry arrives July 1904 (they go to Haines in November 1904)
-There were also a couple of earlier military expeditions, as early as 1865.

Skagway Museum Record; “Duty Station Northwest” by Woodman; “Biographical Register of the Officers…” by G.W.Cullum; familysearch

Albert Sam Chisel

Albert Chisel or Schisel was born on this day, December first, 1886 in Manitowac, Wisconsin. In the 1920’s he and his brother ran a little store in Haines.
Unfortunately, Albert was murdered by Bert Taylor on the 4th of July, 1927 over a dog dispute. He is buried in Haines.

from Ken Coates “Strange Things Done”