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Winther, Johan (John)

by Jirdes Winther Baxter

Johan (John) Winther was born January 26, 1879, in Sjorkel, Norway.

I know my father was in Alaska before the 1900ís, and that he did walk the Chilkoot Pass. He made many trips back and forth to Norway, but a lot of his life, up to that time, was not recorded, and we are sorry that more attention was not given to his adventures.

We know that he arrived in America at Ellis Island in 1900. In 1902, he sailed from Seattle to Skagway. Hiking up the White Pass and on to Carcross, he and his partners built a skiff and went on to Whitehorse and down to Lake Laberge. The lake froze over, and to be able to continue their trip, they fashioned a sail for the skiff and slid on down to the Yukon River and Circle City. There he walked to Fairbanks and on to Nome.

He made a trip back to Norway in 1912, and returned to Alaska in 1913. From 1913 to 1915, he worked for Mr. Thane at Eagle River and the Thane Mine. In 1916, he went to Valdez to prospect for gold all through the country, staying there until 1918.

In 1919, my father married Ragnhild Bjerkelie, who had arrived in America from Norway in 1916, at Everett, Washington. June 1st they sailed on the Alemeda for Nome. During the next couple of years, they lived in Golovin Bay where he fished and also spent time in Solomon running a roadhouse for Billy Roe. During his ventures at fishing, my mother would do all the mending of his nets and also hanging the nets. They returned to settle in Nome in 1922, where dad worked for Hammond Co. mining during the winter.

There were three children in the family born in Nomeó John, Gudmund and Jirdes. All were stricken with diptheria during the 1925 epidemic. My mother always said that Johnny had the last of the old serum, and she received the first of the serum that had arrived by dog sled. Dr. Welch was the doctor at that time.

Mother was not well after her bout with diptheria, and we had to leave Nome. In 1927, we left on the Victoria for Seattle. In 1929, we returned to Alaska and made our home in Juneau. My father made his living fishing, and in 1929, he purchased his first boat and called it the Emma, but always referred to it as the Little Emma. He fished until the age of 80, when he sold the Emma.

With all the experiences he had hiking, mining and fishing, the one place that was very dear to his heart was Nome. He thought that was the greatest town. Today there are four generations of his descendants continuing to live in Alaska.

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