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Berg, Hans and Mandis (Jansson)

by Cliff Berg

Hans Anderson Berge (later changed to Berg) was born in 1887 at Nordfjord, Norway. He emigrated to the United States in May 1910, crossing the Atlantic Ocean on the SS Mauretania and lived in North Dakota for awhile and then in the Puget Sound area for a couple years working at his carpentry trade. In 1912- 1913, he went on a small gold rush north of Cordova over Skolei Pass to Chisana. Going up the Chitistone River the trail slants upward at about 45 degrees and this is on the face of a bald mountain with slopes of 60 degrees or more going down nearly a mile into the Chitistone Canyon. The trail is appropriately named “The Goat Trail.” This had to be done in the winter when the rivers were frozen! Very tough going. I don’t know exactly how long Hans was up there but he arrived in the Juneau area in 1915.

Amanda (Mandis) Marie Jansson was born in 1887, near Lindesberg, West of Stockholm, Sweden, and emigrated to the United States in May 1910. She also crossed the Atlantic on the SS Mauretania and it was later learned that this was the next voyage for the ship after Hans Berg came over. Mandis went to Minnesota for a short time, then Des Moines, Iowa, for a while and then came to Juneau to visit her sister Freda, who had married a Swedish fisherman named Oscar Oberg. In 1916, Hans and Mandis were married in Douglas. It was unusual that this sister married a Norwegian carpenter named Berg, but the Berg and Oberg families became very close having dinners, card parties, picnics and occasional trips on Oscar’s boat together.

Hans Berg worked on the construction of the Gastineau Hotel. In 1916-1917, he built a building for the Kensington Mine in Lynn Canal in the winter. He also worked on some of the A-J Mine Mill buildings. He was a carpenter foreman for the Old Chichagof Mine on the west coast of Chichagof Island and lived there for a year in 1922. Later he worked building a pulp mill at Speel River in Port Snettisham.

The Bergs had three children, Clifford born in 1917, Sylvia Marie born in 1919, and Grace Lucille born in 1925.

Clifford graduated from Juneau High School and attended the Adcox Diesel School in Portland, Oregon, in 1936-37. He married Patricia Irma Hussey in 1938, and they have one son, Jan Vernon, who married Mary Eldemar and they have six children and four grandchildren. In 1937, Clifford and his parents formed Berg Construction Company as a partnership. This was incorporated in 1939, and as the company grew, its scope of work increased to include roads, bridges, docks, marine floats, airfields, buildings of all sorts, etc. throughout Southeast Alaska. They have lived and worked in all the cities, all the towns, and most of the villages from Haines and Skagway in the north to Ketchikan and Metlakatla in the south, as well as many isolated areas where towns haven’t been started yet. Hans Berg died in 1967, at age 80, and Mandis Berg died in 1975, at age 87.

Sylvia Berg graduated from Juneau High School and the University of Washington where she became a registered and Surgical Nurse. She married Dempster David Drowley in 1942, and they have three sons, David, Jeff, and Cliff, all of whom are married and have a total of four grandchildren. D.D. was a chemical engineer and worked for the Standard Oil Co. in Richmond, California. While there he helped design a petroleum refinery and later went to Nikiski, Alaska, to construct the plant and then became plant manager for several years. They now live in San Rafael, California.

Grace Berg married the late Dr. Arthur Schaible on Christmas Day in 1958. They had no children. Arthur died in 1980. After graduating from Juneau High School in 1943, Grace graduated from the University of Alaska at Fairbanks with a degree, then on to the George Washington University and received a Masters Degree and then to Yale and received her Law Degree. She was a partner in a Fairbanks law firm for many years and was the State’s first lady Attorney General for two years during the Cowper Administration. She has also been the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation. She lives in Fairbanks when she’s not out viewing polar bears.

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