Newlywed Nell Parker stands in front of “The Boat House” in the Ptarmigan Creek area of Johns Hopkins Inlet, Glacier Bay, Alaska. “The Boat House” was so named because it was brought to the Leroy gold claim in the summer of 1938 pre-constructed from its former use.
“The Boat House” served as the first “cook shack” and laundry facilities for the comings and goings of those working the claim site as well as the “hitch-hikers” and “sight-seers” seizing every opportunity to get to the activities taking place in Glacier Bay.
In this photo, Nell Parker was in service as “chief cook and bottle washer”. Note the large rocks in every direction and under the building. Drying laundry hangs on makeshift lines, a coal stove heats water and meals.
“Clearings” were hard to come by and every attempt to create a level foundation for structures, or even work and living areas around Ptarmigan Creek only produced another layer of jumbled stones to deal with. In spite of the uneven rocky conditions and subsequent difficulties, a great deal of excitement and expectations surrounded the camp, and everyone was plain thrilled to be a part of the “goings on”.
At times the weather was reported to be so uncomfortably hot that Mrs. Glen (Nell) Parker in this photo, and later Mrs. Leslie (Bonnie) Parker were photographed in their bathing suits dipping in the frigid, glacial waters of Glacier Bay just to “cool off”!
Stemming back in time to the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush when Abraham Lincoln Parker came from Oregon to become part of the stampede, gold was a woven theme in and around most conversations and stories spoken in the Parker household—both among Abraham & Edith Parker’s children, and later their grandchildren.
Gold was a dream come true. Gold was a treasure that could alter lives. Gold was everywhere, and at the same time nowhere to be found. Songs were written and sung at family gatherings about gold. Gold fever festered just under the surface ready to explode at the slightest hint of discovery. It would certainly follow that at least a couple of Abraham Parker's sons would not escape the life long vocation of prospecting for Gold!
GHAA has documentation describing nearly every inch of the greater Gustavus area (including Excursion Inlet) being systematically scouted over the early years by brothers Leslie and Charles Parker for any and all minerals. In addition, Leslie and father Abraham planned and executed a number of extensive prospecting trips to Porcupine (near Haines, Alaska), locations on the outer coast, Lisianski Strait, and areas of Glacier Bay, Alaska through the mid and late 1930’s.
In late June of 1938, a two boat fleet consisting of the “L & G” and the “Edith A” arrived at Johns Hopkins Inlet with newlyweds Glen and Nell Parker (married June 10, 1938) on the “L & G”. They were assisting Abraham (age 72) and Leslie Parker (age 34) transporting and depositing a load of supplies before sailing off for a private, continued honeymoon tour of Glacier Bay.
Abraham and Leslie Parker on the “Edith A” were returning to process samples from the Ptarmigan Creek claims they staked in 1937 with a 2-stamp mill and supplies for an extended stay. Doing a “little prospecting” shortly after unloading the boat, Leslie ”nearly stumbled over” a rich vein of gold, and on July 2, 1938 staked the Leroy gold claim.
At the time of the location of the Leroy claim in Glacier Bay, Alaska, brother Charles Parker was involved in a partnership with 3 friends working and operating their silver claims in Excursion Inlet, Alaska. Until the day Charles died in his old age outside of Fairbanks, Alaska, he wrote letters to brothers Glen and Leslie Parker pleading with them to come and help him (disabled with arthritis) check out his latest, highly secretive "locations" that were likely candidates for gold.
Bert and Jennie Parker (married about 14 years with 2 children) were living in Verne Henry’s original homestead cabin and busy farming and running cannery trips, etc. They were reportedly little interested in prospecting for gold or gold mines until the Leroy claim was staked and became “believers” overnight. Bert and Jennie soon found themselves joining other members of the family fervently prospecting in Glacier Bay. After discovering a gold nugget lying on the ground, Jennie declared themselves struck with “gold fever” and became the next wave of prospectors staking claims of their own. (In the 1950’s Bert Parker became owner of the Leroy claim—a story that will be told in detail with documentation on the pages of Gustavus History as it is scanned and archived.)
Glen Parker, although an occasional lone prospector himself, was primarily an inventor and fabricator of all things he could imagine. In spite of the fact that he had just married an adventuresome, beautiful bride, it did not suit his fiercely independent spirit to be “tied down” to anything for long. According to Glen and Nell Parker’s daughter Marguerite, Glen “never wanted the responsibility of a gold mine” and wanted no part of a formal operation that would hold him hostage to a specific time and place. But, it came as no surprise, with Glen’s generous spirit, that as soon as the Leroy claim was staked, both Glen and Nell were ready and wanting to pitch in and help in every way they could. And they did. (Even they did not entirely escape the gold fever madness, and before it was all over, staked a few claims of their own.)
In later years, when the Leroy mine was in commercial operation producing results, Glen was reimbursed for what Abraham and Leslie calculated to be his fair share for the labor he and Nell had provided.
GHAA Note: GHAA will post all the gold claims complete with signatures, dates, witnesses, and locations as well as all other supporting documentation (journal entries, letters, photos, etc.) referred to in this story on the pages of Gustavus History as they are scanned and archived.