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Troy, John Weir

by Ann Krekelberg

When I moved to Juneau 30 years ago, I had just graduated from the University of Hawaii. Alaska was an unknown but when I got here there were jobs and land in abundance. I bought land at Lena Cove and then got a job to pay for it. I was lured into the fishing profession a few years later and was sidetracked for a few summers before I got serious enough to build a house.

I met John Arch Farleigh, great grandson of John Weir Troy, while walking on the docks of Pelican, Alaska in 1973. He helped me and my partner fix the broken bow pole on our 27-foot power troller, Wooden Shoe after we had been bounced around in Cross Sound. Although we met infrequently, by the next year he bought out my partner’s share of the Wooden Shoe and we started having many adventures with it.

Our next boat, a hand troller the Billy J had a typically tiny wheelhouse with an on-deck galley, an oil stove for heating and cooking and just about enough room for two people to sit at a small table. A sonar had also been squeezed in next to the wheel. It was a real fishing boat though, with a hold and a horse-shoe stern with room for both of us to pull a side at the same time. The price of coho was about $1.50 per pound and kings were about $2.50 so we did okay. Fishermen are lucky if they get that price today, 25 years later. Eventually, we got married and had two boys and bought a real nice big boat, anybody’s dream, the Sundowner, a 56-foot Skookum, rigged to be a power troller.

John worked for the Alaska legislature during the winters of the hand trolling phase. He didn’t exactly follow his great grandfather’s footsteps in the political calling but he was smart and had his spirit of adventure. He fished the Sundowner from Kayak Island out west of Yakutat down to the Farallon Islands out of San Francisco.

John’s great grandfather, John Weir Troy, was the first of two Alaska governors appointed by Franklin Roosevelt. He was born on a farm at Dungeness, Washington Territory on October 31, 1868, the son of Smith and Laura Weir Troy, descendants of pioneer American families which settled in Maryland and Pennsylvania in the early seventeenth century. He worked on his uncle’s paper, the Port Townsend Argus as a reporter. In 1889, when Washington was admitted as a state in the Union, Troy became first deputy auditor of Clallam County, then served as deputy county clerk. In 1892, he was designated county auditor of Clallam County and remained in that post until 1897. During all these years he was interested in newspaper work, owning and publishing the Weekly Democratic Leader of Port Angeles.

In 1897, his adventurous spirit led him and his wife Minerva Lewis, an accomplished oil painter from Port Angeles, Washington, to Alaska as a newspaper correspondent for a Seattle newspaper to cover the gold rush. He arrived in Skagway and in addition to his newspaper duties, became manager of “Brooks the Packer,” a pack train service operating out of Skagway and over the White Pass. Troy was a soft touch and grubstaked many miners. He knew the infamous Soapy Smith who Minerva, at least, thought was just a cheap tin horn and of not much consequence.

The work and responsibilities in Skagway were hard and he was attacked by a form of paralysis, probably polio, which had become epidemic in the frontier town. He returned to Port Angeles where his father-in-law, a physician, treated him with exercises. He recovered but always had to use a cane afterwards. Returning to Skagway, he became editor and publisher of the Skagway Daily Alaskan (1897-1907), then publisher and editor of the Alaska-Yukon Magazine (1911-1912). There his daughter, Helen, was born in 1899, most likely on someone’s kitchen table. This is possibly one of the reasons Minerva didn’t like Skagway life. Their second daughter, Dorothy Minerva, was born in Seattle in 1901. They were divorced some time after 1910, and Troy married Ethel Crocker Forgy who eventually returned to California.

After several years as a successful Skagway publisher, Troy sold his paper and moved back to Washington State where he remained until 1913, when Major J.F.A. Strong invited him to come to Juneau as editor of his paper, the Daily Alaska Empire. Later in the same year, Strong was appointed Governor of Alaska and sold the paper to Troy.

The “Organic Act of 1912” is the Congressional act that provided Alaska with its own legislature but unlike the legislatures of all previous American territories, it denied Alaska jurisdiction over its fish, fur, and game resources, among other limitations. Troy, with his Empire, was one of the major critics of the act’s limitations and pressed for what he called a “full territorial form of government.” By 1915, the Empire had become the leading newspaper in Alaska and had helped define party lines along this issue.

In 1919, while continuing as publisher of the Empire, John Troy was appointed Collector of Customs for Alaska and in 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt bestowed upon him the highest honor for service in public life by appointing him Governor of the Territory. One of his more visible accomplishments in Alaska’s capital of Juneau was to put in the first bridge across Gastineau Channel to Douglas Island.

In 1935, he became convinced that Alaska needed to have a plan, if only to enable receipt of federal funding. He established the Alaska Planning Council. Alaska businessmen were suspicious of any plan that took power away from themselves and, therefore, the Council was not authorized operating funds and could incur no expenses. So it failed, at first, but the thought was there and in 1937 was funded.

After four successful years as chief executive, Troy was reappointed by FDR and served until 1939, when he resigned because of poor health. He died in Juneau on May 2, 1942, and is buried in the Evergreen Cemetery in the Elks Lodge section.

His daughter, Helen, was his hostess at the Governor’s House. Dorothy Minerva had gone to New York City for kindergarten school training. She never taught but got married instead to a man with whom she had attended Juneau High School. They lived in Juneau and she became a very competent newspaper reporter working on her father’s newspaper, the Juneau Empire. The man she married was Harry Morgan. She married him twice, in fact, and her only child, Joan, was their daughter. The second time around didn’t work either and Dorothy eventually married George Arch Lingo (Archie) from Fairbanks. He was appointed as Registrar of the Land Office and they moved to Anchorage. Their daughter, Joan, remembers living for two years with her mother in the Governor’s House before she married Lingo. The Governor appointed him a Regent of the University of Alaska in 1935, the first regent who had actually graduated from University of Alaska (Fairbanks). Joan went to high school in Anchorage and remembers visiting frequently with Sydney Laurence who lived in the same apartment building. She met and married Jack Burton Farleigh (deceased in 1997).

My first husband, John Arch, was their first son, Michael was the second. Both John and Mike grew up in Anchorage where they attended school and developed their passion for downhill skiing. This was temporarily cut short, however, when their parents divorced after 12 years and Joan married Tom Moore, who was Commissioner of the Department of Labor under Governor Hickel and the family moved to Juneau. John Arch finished high school there and began work as a deckhand on the Torget, a power troller, and that’s when I met him in Pelican.

Most people start their building projects in the springtime in Alaska but since we fished, I had to get as much done as I could starting in September. John and I moved into the framed-in shell in January 1976, got the floor furnace started and installed the windows in that order.

Running water had to wait until spring. John worked for the legislature while I worked on the house. He left early every morning and drove to the Augustus Brown swimming pool to shower and shave before work.

We were partners with the Wooden Shoe and Billy J but became married partners in 1981, and had our first son John Clayton on May 21, 1982 and had Alexander Troy on January 21, 1984. The Sundowner was exactly what we needed, a beautiful family boat. It was absolutely deluxe. Now it’s history recedes with that of our marriage. John and Alex got to fish a few more years with their father before the boat was sold. John is attending college at University of Alaska, Anchorage and Alex is finishing high school in Juneau. They both have a spirit of adventure and have been happy and loyal to both their families. Their Alaskan adventure is just beginning.

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