The Fact of the Matter Is. . .
From the Files of Gustavus Historical Archives & Antiquities (GHAA)
Q - What is known about the Ibach couple that settled at Dundas Bay? Was there a family connection to Joe and Muz Ibach of Lemesurier Island fame?
A - Ah, yes, the infamous Horace and Winifred Ibach! They may have settled in a remote corner of our world, but they did not conduct their lives quietly nor did they live in peace. Obviously, the attention they collected never came close to the way Joe and Muz were so graciously remembered. In fact, the contrast was so great that GHAA has never found any document—not even an obituary that dared in writing to connect the two families.
Yet, of course, they were connected. Two Ibach families in the early days of Alaska living almost on top of each other would have to be more than a coincidence—right? Well, perhaps after all it would take “family” to disavow each other so completely that to this day no evidence of any friendly co-mingling can be found.
Indeed it is reported (handed down by word of mouth) that Joe disowned his brother’s son altogether!
There were 10 siblings in Joe Ibach’s New York family; Joe was number nine and brother Albert was eighth in line. To this brother Albert and wife Carolyn, an only son was born—Horace H. Ibach (1903). Albert died in 1923 and Horace, whose mother was likely already deceased, married Winifred Chappel two years later (1925).
At that time, Uncle Joe and Aunt Shirley (Muz) were already established fox farmers in Alaska with a few gold tales besides. It is believed that Horace and wife followed suit soon after and were known to be living at Elfin Cove as fishermen and Dundas Bay (where they owned an abandoned cannery that he was dismantling for salvage) by at least the 1930’s until 1945. Looking at the time tables, Uncle Joe and Horace’s paths would have had to overlap when Joe himself was in Dundas Bay working as a watchman for fish poachers. But what transpired between the two Ibach families before and after some of Horace and Winifred’s escapades we may never know.
Here is the story of their final shenanigans in Dundas Bay. In March of 1945, bond was set at $5,000 when Mr. and Mrs. Horace Ibach were arrested and held in the Federal Jail on charges of assault with a dangerous weapon, kidnapping, and willful destruction of Cecil W. Hubbard’s 30’ trolling boat (they burned it).
Ernie Swanson, store owner from Elfin Cove and ten other locals were called as witnesses. There were lies and drama in the courtroom and Winifred, who took the position that she had been forced to submit to the attentions of Mr. Hubbard (their hostage), was admonished repeatedly to confine her answers strictly to the actions that occurred. Newspaper accounts reported that this was “the most discussed trial during the present term of the U.S. District Court”.
The Ibachs were convicted by jury on all charges with the possibility of up to 30 years in prison. They were sentenced to 3 years on each charge, with all penitentiary sentences ordered to run concurrently. The sentence was then suspended by the court. Parole conditions for the pair were: complete restitution for the destroyed boat ($2,350), that they immediately leave Elfin Cove and Dundas Bay and never return, and that they “report once a month to a United States Marshal, and otherwise conduct themselves as good citizens”. When asked what he would do next, Horace said he didn’t know because “the whole thing was very unexpected”.
“Unexpected” and apparently too much for Joe and Muz. It is well known that the door to their Lemesurier home (and Reid Inlet cabin) was always thrown wide open—to everyone from the rich and famous to their Strawberry Point neighbors and every one in between. But for reasons we can only guess, the door was barred early on to Horace and Winifred, and in the end the courts agreed—slamming the door with a mandate in the form of a court order. Get out and stay out.
Kind of sad when you think about it, but unfortunately true.