The Fact of the Matter Is . . .
From the Files of Gustavus Historical Archives & Antiquities (GHAA)
First, Gustavus History wants to thank Carolyn and Jim for bringing back the Fairweather Reporter! Local newspapers are important historical records documenting events, people, places, and times. It will be a tremendous asset for future Gustavians interested in research or seeking to understand our unique and colorful past.
So, what has GHAA been up to since we last visited?
Well, in the fewest words possible…besides receiving certification from the Alaska State Historical Library in archival rescue techniques, we have been literally and figuratively “all over the map”. What follows will be a mix of examples, news, reports, and upcoming events.
We have almost completed on site scanning and the archiving of hundreds of documents and photos of Joe & Muz Ibach’s pioneering life on Lemesurier Island. What a privilege it has been to preserve the record of those wonderful neighbors that lived just across the water (from the early 1920’s) and whose lives intertwined with the Gustavus settlers and our gold miners in Glacier Bay!
We have traveled to Washington and conducted an interview with Terry Gallagher, elderly son of Capt. Don Gallagher of Strawberry Point’s early mailboat—The Forrester. Terry was frequently aboard the Forrester as a young man and had a wealth of stories to tell. He was emotionally overcome that somebody from Southeast Alaska cared enough about the Gallagher legacy to record their adventures for antiquity. It was Terry that physically carried and transported a very ill Muz on her final trip to Juneau. And it was the Gallaghers who purchased the Ibach’s Lemesurier home—allowing Joe to remain in a small cabin on the property following her death. One year later Terry was first to respond to the call arriving at the scene that revealed Joe’s final hours.
GHAA continues to be contacted by descendants representing almost all of the early Gustavus homesteaders and many of the 1957 plane crash victim’s families—and to host them when they visit Gustavus to see for themselves. Upon request, we regularly provide research and copies of documents and photos to individuals and agencies all over the world. In one instance, we were able to provide documents that answered over half a century of questions to a family who lost a young mother in Bartlett Cove (1958) when she walked out the door and was never seen again.
We are currently on a short break from the daunting task of uploading at least a thousand more documents and photos on the Gustavus history website to begin the huge task of labeling and documenting artifacts for a future museum. In addition to countless Parker family thing-a-ma-jigs, we have received large numbers of wonderful artifacts donated to GHAA from community members interested in preserving history for everyone to enjoy. These items represent a broad spectrum of our first settlers and we are thankful you have taken such good care of them through the years!
A BIT OF NEWS! The old Les Parker homestead, just west of the fire hall, has been donated to GHAA—a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization. The land will be used for a private community cemetery (already in first stages) that will include an informative memorial site for our early homesteaders when completed. It is also home of the future Gustavus History Museum. More information will be available soon. In the meantime, cemetery plot information or other inquiries can be directed to Lee or Linda Parker at 907-697-2242 or LindaParker@GustavusHistory.Org.
Two upcoming events: In 2014 Gustavus will mark its centennial celebration since our honeymooning couples landed on the shores of Salmon River in 1914! Events are being planned which will include a community project quilt (depicting our 100-year journey) that will hang in a prominent position in the future museum. Second, and by popular demand, GHAA is formulating preliminary plans for a sequel to the 2008 Chronicles of Strawberry Point. More than likely it will have to do with wild tales of early Gustavus that have never yet been told. Yes, there are more! And they ARE wild! Stay tuned….
On a heavier note….this last February, GHAA (and the entire community) lost a kind and gentle soul that graced the flats of Gustavus for over 40 years with love and acceptance for everyone. Rita Wilson was a highly valued founding board member of Gustavus History and we will miss her! It was her passion in life to have a cemetery so that Gustavus could honor and bury her dead—a place where neighbors and families alike could gather to remember. She and son, Steve (Brooks Range plane crash victim 2007), are now buried there together—the first to lead the way. Dear Rita, we are so sorry that it had to be. And…. we will always remember.
And now a reminder to everyone—yesterday is history already. It can only be retrieved by written word, contemporaneous photography, recorded sound or fading memories. Sign, date and identify all important family or creative documents—including everyone (and you) in a photo. In this evolving age of passwords, electronic files and delete buttons it is predicted that few loved ones will have the rich heritage of keepsakes that past generations have enjoyed. Remember to leave a legacy that can be held close—both in the heart and in the hand.