The Fact of the Matter Is. . .
From the Files of Gustavus Historical Archives & Antiquities
Q Did Harry or Jake Hall leave a will? Is anything known about their beginnings?
A Two very interesting questions. Harry and Jake have long remained a mystery after all their colorful years at Strawberry Point. Yet we know more today from a distance than the homesteaders ever knew.
To do their story justice, we will cover Harry first and brother Jake second in two parts. Why? Because there is a lot to be said that is previously unreported, and next month we will throw the history door wide open with a bit of intrigue, mystery, and skeletons popping out of the closet. Also, a few old stories that have been around for ages just might get tossed out in the process.
Harry was the youngest son of Lucian and Sarah Hall who were originally from Iowa. They moved to Springville, Utah where Lucian and Sarah’s five children were born. Harry and Jake’s brothers Mark and Archie died at a young age. Father Lucien died when Harry was just 1 year old. Mother Sarah died when Harry was 10 and Jake was 16. Their oldest sibling, a sister Sarah, had 4 children and died in 1903 at age 26 leaving Jake and Harry with only each other.
Harry was 35 when he and Jake came to Alaska in about 1919. What little was known of their story has been previously chronicled in Jim Mackovjak’s book Hope and Hard Work and on the GHAA website. Harry took ill at Strawberry Point and was transported to Juneau where he died “intestate” (with no will) at age 53 in 1937. He had just been planning his next prospecting trip with Fred Matson, and Gustavus mourned the passing of a great friend and neighbor. Never married, he and Jake were fondly called “the two old bachelors” and now only one would remain.
As Harry lay in his hospital bed recognizing death’s door, he had a heartfelt request for Juneau Attorney N.C. Banfield. Brother Jake had a job in Comet, Alaska, and Harry wanted Banfield to immediately secure an airplane to bring Jake home. This airplane trip with Marine Airways cost Harry $50.00, but arrived in time and brought the two brothers together for one last visit.
After Harry died, Jake was appointed administrator of Harry’s Gustavus estate. He petitioned the court to name Ruth and Fred Matson and Bert Parker as “qualified appraisers” to determine the value of Harry’s assets. The results were as follows: A patented tract of 136 acres of land with buildings and structures—$600.00. Household furnishings $30.00. Miscellaneous tools $5.00. Tractor $37.50. Mower $50.00. Hay rake $20.00. Disc $5.00. Plow $10.00. Wagon $7.50. Cash in First National Bank of Juneau checking $731.06, and savings $2,134.70.
Add it all up and the total amount came to $3,630.76. After fees and expenses there was over $2,900.00 to divide between Jake (1/2 of the estate) and 1/8th each to the four surviving children of their deceased sister Sarah. For whatever reason, the Hall brothers had no contact with their Utah family after leaving for Alaska. It was reported that Jake had considerable difficulty in locating his nieces and nephews even though they remained in relative proximity to their ancestral home.
Once found, Jake offered to buy his nieces and nephew’s shares (they agreed) and after paying $14.28 inheritance tax, obtained full ownership rights to Harry’s patented acres and asset goods.
As a matter of interest how times have changed, Harry’s final estate expenses consisted of a casket $120.00, funeral coach $25, grave lot $5, and “professional services” at the funeral home $25. Harry was laid to rest in his newly laundered underwear and his one good shirt and suit pressed and cleaned—all for the grand total of $2.
Harry Ray Hall. Born October 11,1884 in Springville, Utah. Lived 18 years at Strawberry Point. Died April 30, 1937 in Juneau, Alaska.
And then there was Jake. Stay tuned.