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Wittanen, Clarence and Etolin (Campen)

by interview with Fred Wittanen

Fred Campen, a Dane, born in Austria, met Maria Stender of Germany in San Francisco, California, where they were married. After their first child, Harold, was born they moved to Wrangell, Alaska Territory, via Oregon, where he and his brother ran a shake mill. Etolin, named for Etolin Island near Wrangell, was born in Wrangell in 1907, followed by Hansina.

The Campens moved to Juneau where Fred worked for the Federal Government as U.S. Marshall and later
as maintenance man in the Federal Building (now the Capitol) for a few years. Later, they homesteaded on Auke Lake. Their son, Harold, went to work for the Standard Oil Company at age 17, later moving to California where he worked his way up to be a CEO in the company. Fred Campen died in 1955, and Maria in 1959.

Matt Wittanen and his wife Mary had come from Finland, via Michigan, to work in the mines. They settled in Douglas. They had one son, Clarence, and four daughters, Elvira (Spain), Thelma (Meade), Molly (Lynch) and Mary. Matt contracted consumption from mine dust and was unable to work for many years before dying at an early age.

Young Clarence had to quit school and go to work to help support the family. He worked at the mine and on the ferry that ran between Juneau and Douglas. When Clarence worked in the coal-fired boiler room of the ferry he would come up on deck to help tie up. The sweat on his brow from the heat of the boiler room would freeze on his face in the cold winter air. Winters were fierce in Douglasí early years. The strong winds in Douglas would blow sand from Sandy Beach into any cracks in the houses. The beds and all the clothing would become covered with sand.

Etolin Campen taught school in Kodiak, Haines and at Minfield School. While there, she married Clarence Wittanen in 1935. Her parents gave them three and a half acres and the house on Auke Lake as a wedding present. It is still in the family.

When Etolin left Minfield School to give birth to Frederick, in 1937, her sister Hansina finished the school year for her. Later, Hansina married Lymann Ellsworth. She died a few years later in 1939, and left no children.

Clarence and Etolin moved to Douglas where Etolin taught in the Douglas Schools. At that time, Douglas teachers were required to live in Douglas. They spent their summers at their home on Auke Lake. Clarence worked for the Federal Fish and Wildlife and later ran the Ranger 10 for the Forest Service. After federal retirement, he worked on the first Alaska ferries for a few years. Later, Etolin taught in the Juneau schools and was teaching at Auke Bay when she retired in 1972. Clarence and Etolin moved to Bellingham in 1972. He expired in April of 1991, and Etolin in May of 1992. Their ashes were scattered on Auke Lake.

Clarence was the proud owner of the first electric home in Auke Bay. He had a 32 volt bank of batteries which were charged with a Delco generator. The batteries gave them electricity for lights and appliances for several hours at a time. Lymann Ellsworth installed the same set-up in his home, but their father-in-law,Fred Campen, kept the old fashioned kerosene lamps.

Clarence and Etolin had two children, Frederick and Claire. Fred has two children, Pamela (Moss) and Jeff Wittanen. Pam has a daughter, Brooke and Jeff has two daughters, Ashley and Kaylee. Claire (Simms) lives in Bellingham and has one son, Michel Deman.

Picture taken at Dobbins cabin, across from Auke Lake on Glacier Hwy. (L to R): Jennie Stender, Mrs. Seaton, Marie Campen, Alma Dobbins, Etolin Wittanen, Nadine Jekill. Children: Clair Wittanen, unknown, Mary Lou Jekill.

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