Herman Kirmse

My friend Teri Williams dropped this short story by today, and I thought I would share it with all of you:

“During the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition, held in Seattle in 1909, Mr. Herman Kirmse was awarded four first place gold medals and two second bronze medals for his dislay of gold nugget jewelry, baskets, ivory, and other Alaska made handicraft. A branch store was opened in Ketchikan.

“In October of 1912, he, his wife, Hazel Cleveland Kirmse, daughter Gladys, and the two sons Jack and Dan were spending several months in Ketchikan before going to Seattle for the winter. Late Monday afternoon October 12, 1912, he went down to the Heckman wharf to greet friends on the Steamer Humbolt, which was just docking. While he was standing on a stringer on the wharf, one foot on a piling head which was cut so it beveled outward and shaking hands with a friend on board he apparently lost his balance and fell between the steamer and the wharf, his head striking the guard rail of the Humbolt. Death, which was instantaneous, came as a shock to all southeastern Alaska.

“To quote from the Juneau Empire, “Mr. Kirmse was a strong man in the community, a liberal advocate of all things which contribute to the growth of the community, popular with his fellowmen, honored by everyone.”

“To Southeastern Alaskans the history of our late esteemed friend is interesting and the results obtained through, and by, his aid will always keep his name alive.

“After her husband’s tragic death, Mrs. Kirmse sold the Ketchikan business and carried on alone, with the original Skagway Store. But, as soon as he could see over the counters she had the devoted and able help of their elder son, Jack.

“Since 1962, when his mother passed on, Jack Kirmse has continued with ever increasing success to operate the family business in the fine tradition of his parents.

“Herman Kirmse made the original NFS collection of Northwest Coast Native Art much of which is still in the hands of the current private owner.”

Seen above is the Steamer Humboldt.

A story of two orphan Jenji’s

Jenjiro Ikuta was the adopted son of the Keeler family here in Skagway in 1900. Frank Truman Keeler was a wealthy man in Skagway – a moneylender, optician, jeweler and landlord of brothels on 7th Avenue. Jenjiro was born on this day, November 14, 1881 or 1883 in Japan but said that he came to Skagway from Oakland, California in the gold rush. He may have come to Skagway with family who died, but who knows.
Anyway, he learned jewelery from Frank Keeler and started his own store, Totem Jewelery which was here until about 1920. He married Lena Estella Worth from Michigan and they had three kids, Carol a son born 1918, Edna a daughter born 1910, and Truman a son born 1915. In 1920 Jenjiro and his son Truman decided to go back to Japan while Lena took Carol and Edna to Oregon. (Both Truman and Carol married and their descendents have posted most of this information on genforum and rootsweb). Lena remarried and later died in Kennewick, Washington. Perhaps Jenjiro stayed in Japan, as no one seems to know and their are no records of him back in the states.

When I was down south we went to a funeral service for my father in law, Bill McCluskey, who went to Japan right after the war ended. The story was told that when he was on a train he found a child curled up in a pile of rags. He asked where the parents were and was told by the train personnel that he was an orphan. So Bill “adopted” him for a year and fed and paid for him to go to school. At the end of his service time in Japan, he collected money for little “Jenji” to continue in school. He never was able to reconnect with him. I wonder how many times he wished he could have found out what happened to little Jenji!

Peter Edward Kern

On this day February 8, 1937, Peter Kern died in Tarrant County, Texas at the age of 76, being hit by a train while taking his morning walk.
Kern originally came to Skagway from El Paso Texas in 1897 and worked as a jeweler, designing the original logo for the Arctic Brotherhood – the gold pan with nuggets.
He was one of the original members of the Arctic Brotherhood. He was also involved with the Home Cable Company one of the original Tramway companies – there were several.
Born in New Ridgel, Ohio, he married Antoinette Sommer here in Skagway on May 21, 1902. In May of 1908 he built the famous Kern Castle on the hillside overlooking Skagway. Sadly it burned a few years later in 1912.
Peter and his wife and daughter left Skagway in 1910 and moved back to El Paso where he constructed Kern Place a unique and historic neighborhood located about one mile north of the downtown area.

Construction began on Nov. 21, 1914. Earliest construction began on Cincinnati Street, and by 1917 about 40 homes had been built. Though urban today, when Kern Place was built, it was on the edge of the desert and was well removed from the populated areas of El Paso.

The entrance to Kern Place was a lively arch built in 1916 and was designed by Pete Kern.

from: www.kernplace.org/forum and other sources