The Order of the Midnight Sun

In 1901, the most secret society in Skagway was the Order of the Midnight Sun which sought to overthrow the Yukon government and make it part of Alaska. It was made up of members of the Arctic Brotherhood another secret society, but one which furthered the interests of its members through brotherhood. Although no lists of Order members is known, the leader was Fred J. Clark, seen above. He was a painter and managed the Burkhard Hotel. Born in February 1871 in Missouri, he died on August 7, 1905 at Soda Springs, near Yakima, Washington and was buried in the Tahoma cemetery. He died at the age of 34 from consumption or tuberculosis.

from Call in the Pinkerton’s by David Ricardo Williams, 1998. 

Royal Arch Gunnison

Royal Arch Gunnison was born on June 24, 1873 in Binghampton, New York. That evening his father, Christopher B. Gunnison, attended a meeting of his Masonic chapter, Binghamton No. 139, and returning home, found that he was the father of a boy whom he promptly named “Royal Arch” which is a Masonic term, I guess. Royal became a lawyer and was appointed by Teddy Roosevelt to be a district judge in Skagway Alaska in 1904 before going into private practice in Juneau five years later. He drove the last spike of the Valdez-Yukon Railway. He was a member of the Arctic Brotherhood and a 33° member of the Scottish Rite Masons in Seattle in 1916. He was also a member of the Knights Templar and, yes, a Royal Arch Mason. A DeMolay Chapter in Juneau was named for him in 1932.

In Juneau, in 1910, Royal had a son who he also named Royal Arch Gunnison. Royal Jr. became famous in World War 2 as a Mutual Network war-caster in Manilla. He had stayed on the air until U.S. Army engineers blew up the transmitting station and equipment a jump ahead of the Japanese. As a result, 34-year-old Gunnison and his wife spent 17 months in Japanese concentration camps outside Manila and Shanghai. Gunnison and his wife Marjorie were later repatriated from China with 1,438 other internees.

Royal Arch Gunnison Jr. made the rounds to be interviewed in the press and on the radio. His story appeared in Life Magazine and in Billboard, where he outlined what entertainment was like in prison camps. He wrote a book on his experiences called “So Sorry, No Peace” published in October 1944. Though he survived the ordeals of a war prisoner, he didn’t survive an accident that took his life. Gunnison headed back to Asia in June 1946. Three months later, he died in a plane crash in Hong Kong.

Judge Royal Arch Gunnison Sr. died in Juneau of apoplexy at the age of 45, on this day, June 18, 1918 and is buried in the Evergreen Cemetery. He is seen above at the height of his career.

findagrave; justamason; ancestry.

Allen Melville Carpenter

Dr. Carpenter was an honorary member at the very first organizing of the Arctic Brotherhood in Skagway. He was born in 1871 and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 1891 with a doctorate in chemistry. He must have been a very good friend of one of the original members, but there is no evidence that he was actually here. The eminent Dr. Carpenter died on this day, November 18, 1943 in New York.
Seen above are some of the brethren in Seattle in 1908. Note their snappy hoods!

The Right Way On, Oliver p 322; journal A.M.A. 1943 online

William J. Blackwell

William J. Blackwell was born in 1843 in New Jersey. He married Adelaide M. Blood in 1883 in California and owned bottling and brewing companies in Seattle and Slocan, British Columbia before he came to Skagway in 1898. Here he started the B&B Bottling company with Mr. S.E. Beazley. He moved on probably to Nome where he was a member of the Eagles until 1915. He was also a member of the Arctic Brotherhood from 1898 to 1902 in Skagway. One account says he died in Alaska on this day, October 5, 1922. Washington state census records show him in a Sedro Wooley mental institution in 1930 and that he died there in May 1930. Not sure which is correct, but nevertheless he did have a business here on 5th Avenue until 1907. He manufactured and bottled soda water, sarsaparilla, ginger ale, champagne cider, sarsaparilla and iron, as well as all kinds of mineral waters with syrup.

Washington state records; business directories; 1900 census; Daily Alaskan 1900.

AB Hall renovation

Locals will remember the winter that Jeff Mull took down the facade of the front of AB Hall and then replaced the back board and then cleaned and replaced the driftwood front. This photo was taken of the temporary structure and plastic sheeting which helped to keep him out of the weather during the work. The wood was coated with Cabot’s bleaching oil and so when the project was completed it all looked lighter than before.

Frank M. Woodruff

Mr. Woodruff was born in 1853 in Wisconsin and came to Skagway in 1898 from Seattle. He was an early member of the Arctic Brotherhood and in fact donated the land where the AB Hall now sits. Woodruff was involved in several businesses, the Northern Commercial Company – a company that operated retail stores in Alaska from 1901 to 1992, the Bowen and Woodruff Crockery, and he was the Secretary and Treasurer of the Alaska General Electric Company.
The Northern Commercial Company stores throughout Alaska often served as the village courthouse and post office as well. Much trade in the stores was bartered, as few people had cash. The stores accepted such items as gold, fish and furs in exchange for merchandise. The stores were often the nucleus of small communities and communities often grew because of the stores. The company also owned several steamer boats that transported goods on the rivers. Seen above are some that belonged to the Northern Commercial Company in winter.

Frank and his family moved on to other parts of Alaska and he died on this day, May 19, 1920 in Alaska.

1900 census;1902directory;family chron; Skagway Museum Record; Fairbanks News list

William Brooks Close

William Brooks Close was born on this day, May 6, 1853 in Naples, Italy and was brought up on his father’s yacht.
He was educated at Wellington College and Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1878 he started the Close Brothers Group with his brothers James and John. They were involved in the financing of the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad in the 1880’s. The Close Brothers Financial Group is still in existence in London.
Close came to Skagway in 1899 to see the railroad and became an honorary member of the Arctic Brotherhood but he never lived here. He was related by marriage to Samuel Graves.
William Close died in 1923 on the Isle of Wight.

Close Brothers website history; the White Pass by Minter; Freemasonry website.

AB Mountain

At this time of year when the snow is melting off the mountains, you can clearly see the A of the AB Mountain. The B is not as visible as it once was, but you can still see it. Today of course it is overcast and you can’t see anything. This photo was probably taken around 1915 – in the spring.

Today I also updated the blog from April 29, 2010 on Edwin L. Mims.

Harding’s little speech

July 11, 1923 President Warren Harding addressed a small group of folks in Skagway:

“We may wonder what is the greatest end of life. Men make their plans and try to adhere to them. Skagway, a port situated in a mountain pass, was developed and made notable in a rush of men seeking to acquire something of material value.
There is a motive which is inherent in us, but the longer I live and the more I see of communities and human beings, the more firmly is my belief established that the sweetest thing in the world is the friendship of a few dependable friends. This is the happiness that makes a life of contentment.
Apparently you have much of that here, as much as may be found anywhere in the country, and you also live in an atmosphere that tends to cultivate ambition and lofty aspirations. I only hope that the worthy ones came to full realization.”

Shown above with his wife a few steps north of AB Hall before this speech. He passed away a few days later in San Francisco. This was perhaps the last speech he ever gave.

From the Evening Independent July 12, 1923.