The Fact of the Matter Is. . .
From the Files of Gustavus Historical Archives & Antiquities (GHAA)
Q. Part II of the question; Did Harry or Jake Hall leave a will? Is anything known about their beginnings?
A. Last month we took a look back at their Utah family and how it came to be that there were just the two of them that arrived at Strawberry Point. We reported that Harry died in 1937 without a will and that Jake obtained his entire estate after buying out the shares of the only surviving descendants—3 nieces and a nephew. Overall, it was clear that both “old bachelors”—Harry’s 18 years in Gustavus and Jakes 24, fit the Strawberry Flats like a pair of old comfortable gloves. They forged close friendships (not counting the near deadly feud between Harry and Lester Rink) and their Gustavus homestead served as the local dance club for one and all. Even Rink was welcome so long as he checked his gun at the door.
Well, there is more to the story! First, Gustavus History cannot confirm the rumors of Harry and Jake’s run from the law—yet. Or whether there were a few dead bodies left in their wake. We have determined that the two of them were full fledged brothers and not half-siblings as previously reported, and that these two blood brothers stuck together in a code of silence as you will soon see.
Jacob Edwin Hall died in Seattle, Washington just 6 years after Harry’s death. Just like Harry, he left no will. Mrs. Bert (Jennie) Parker petitioned the court “as one of his closest friends” to be named the Administrator of his estate. Three court appointed appraisers valued Jake’s 147 acres, structures, and personal property at $2,000. With $550 cash in First State Bank of Juneau and a few Savings Bonds, Jake’s estate appraised at a value of $2,569.55. Jennie Parker declared to the court that Jake was not married and had no children or surviving heirs—except for 3 children of his deceased sister. All of the proper postings for the estate were completed. The three descendants each received (after expenses and Jennie’s commission) $12.71 in cash plus ownership in one third of the Gustavus homestead property.
Mrs. Parker struck a deal with the 3 Utah relatives and sold the Hall homestead to her parents, James and Nora Chase and brother Marvin for $750.00. (The Chases’ did not purchase the property for “back taxes owed” as has been persistently reported. There were no outstanding taxes, no inheritance tax due, and the remainder of Jake’s 1942 income taxes was satisfied out of expenses.) The new occupants settled into their new home and life went on at Strawberry Point as usual. Or almost.
Fast forward 3 years to 1946 and a shocking flurry of inquiries to the Juneau courts from a Utah attorney. He wanted verification of death, certified copies of Jake’s real property, names and addresses of the heirs that inherited, and the identity of the people who purchased the property. And why was the property sold for a little over a third of its appraised value? He requested confidentiality until he could get to the bottom of it all.
WELL! WELL! WELL! It turns out that our “bachelor” Jake Hall had gotten married on March 25, 1897 to Martha Ellen Grames and there was a son! Edwin Earl Hall was born on August 7, 1902 and was 17 when Jake and Harry took off for Alaska, and 41 (with 3 children of his own) at the time of his father’s death.
So, what happened that caused Harry and Jake to leave their Mormon roots in Utah, cut all ties, and never look back? Why no mention of a marriage (let alone a living son!) to even their closest friends at Strawberry Point? How did Edwin find his father? How did he hear that Jake had died? Why didn’t Edwin’s cousins inform the courts that they were not the “rightful heirs”?
Jake’s remains were cremated in Seattle and “express” mailed per Jennie’s instructions. Burial of his ashes cost the estate $5. Today, both Jake and Harry share the same silent soil of the Evergreen cemetery in Juneau that may well contain the complexities of their mysteries forever.