Search Library Catalog

Cuthbert, William & Alma (Hillis)

by Della Cuthbert Evans

William Bronson Cuthbert was born in 1907, in Barron, Wisconsin, to James Caldwell and Estella (Meigs) Cuthbert. Alma Marie was born in 1909, in Cedaredge, Colorado, in 1909 to Matt Roy and May (Buffington) Hillis.

In 1935, during the Depression, the adventurous Cuthbert family piled their belongings into a truck and left Colorado. After living in Oregon, Bill learned about possible opportunities for work in Juneau, Alaska. With prospects of finding steady employment, Bill departed for Juneau in late spring of 1938, and in August of that same year, Billís wife Alma and children Mae, Jim, Mary and toddler Robert arrived on the Alaska Steamship Northland.

Bill went to work for the Alaska-Juneau Mining Company. Within a year, a home was purchased, located at the end of the Juneau-Douglas bus line turnaround on St. Annís Avenue in Douglas. The children settled into school and related activities while parents became active in organizations and civic duties.

After the permanent closure of the AJ Mines, Bill worked for a period of time as a cement finisher for a contractor doing construction work on the Juneau piers for the U.S. Navy Department. During the war with Japan, Bill was an air raid warden for his neighborhood, patrolling the streets to ensure all home windows were darkened at night, so not a glimmer of light showed from the outside. When the sirens sounded an alert, Alma used wool blankets and/or tar paper to cover the windows.

For several years, Bill served on the Douglas City Council and was later appointed City Clerk. Throughout his residency in Douglas he was also a volunteer fireman. Bill was an active member in the Douglas Masonic Lodge and Alma belonged to the Eastern Star. For a number of summers, Alma worked in the salmon cannery in Douglas and later was employed in the shrimp packing plant. At various times during their teen years, the older children worked in the salmon cannery also.

In the mid-1940ís, Bill decided to try his luck fishing during the summer months. He and Clancy Henkins, another Douglasite, were in partnership with first the Evelyn and later the Bertha. These two small boats were primarily used for salmon trolling. In the winter months, Bill and Clancy would take their boat to Admiralty Island for trapping. Most winters, Bill was employed as a carpenter in Bill Boehlís Boat Shop in Douglas. It was in this same boat shop that he helped build his own boat which was launched in 1947, and christened the Mist. The boat was utilized for trolling salmon in the Pelican and Elfin Cove areas. In the late 1940ís, the Mist was geared for halibut and later rigged for shrimp trawling in Southeast Alaska. In the 1950ís, it was geared for fishing crab in the Kodiak area.

In 1951, Bill ran the Mist to Kodiak where he helped pioneer the king crab industry with his long-time friend Hiram McAllister who had the boat Sue. They both fished for Wakefield Fisheries. Hiram and his wife Sue, had also lived in Douglas for many years and moved to Kodiak. Alma and youngest daughter, Della, moved from Douglas to Kodiak in 1953. Jim soon joined his father in the crab fishing industry with his boat Yukon, a converted halibut schooner.

The king crab fishing was year round, except during molting, with no quotas or seasons. The Mist was sold in Kodiak and Bill acquired a power scow in 1962 called Selief, which was converted to king crab fishing. During the 1964 Alaska earthquake and tidal wave, the Selief was in the Kodiak boat harbor with engines under repair and unable to start. Bill, on the boat, rode the tidal waves and each wave action was pushing the boat further inland through a section of downtown. He was finally able to tie a line around a telephone pole, down behind the old schoolhouse, five blocks from the shoreline. Jimís boat the Yukon, with no one on board, landed on its side not very far behind his fatherís boat. After the downtown area was cleared of demolished houses, stores and debris, each boat was slowly returned to the water using oak skids, one roller at a time.

Mae Estella was born in 1930, in Colorado, and was seven years old on arriving in Juneau. She attended the Douglas schools and graduated as valedictorian of her 1948 class and attended the U. of Alaska in Fairbanks. In 1949, Mae and Phil Spaulding were married in Juneau and both returned to the U. of Alaska. In 1961, the Spaulding family eventually settled in Bellingham, Washington, where Mae resumed her academic studies. In 1968, the family moved to Calgary, Alberta, where Mae and Phil were eventually divorced. Mae continued her education, receiving a B.Ed Degree in 1970. She was employed as an elementary teacher and later appointed to a school administration position, retiring from the school system in 1995. Mae and long-time companion, Alex Jarvie, live in Calgary. Three of the Spaulding children live in Calgary and one in California.

James David was born in 1932, in Colorado, and was five years old upon arriving in Juneau. He attended Douglas schools and enjoyed all sports that were available in school. In his sophomore year, he was described as ďfive feet of dynamiteĒ on the basketball court. During the summers, Jim would be on the boat fishing with his father. After graduating from Douglas High School in 1950, he joined the Navy. Upon completion of his four years of military service, Jim fished with his Dad until 1958, when he purchased his own boat the Yukon. Later, Jim had a specially designed boat built which he named SeaMac and fished the Kodiak area. Jim and his wife, Molly Ann Wise, made their home in Kodiak from 1961-1990. They raised four children all of whom were born in and graduated from Kodiak. Jim and Molly are retired andliving on Vashon Island in Washington. Two of their children live in Alaska, one in Washington, and one in Oregon.

Mary Lou was born in 1934, in Colorado, and was four years old on arriving in Juneau. Mary attended Douglas schools and was busy with school activities. She was a member of a girl scout troop as well as being active in the Rainbow Girls organization. Mary graduated in 1952, and then worked for Bureau of Indian Affairs in Juneau for three years. She joined her parents in Kodiak and worked on the Naval Station before leaving in 1956, for Seattle, Washington, where she worked for Snoqualmie National Forest. Mary and her husband, Gail Parke, are retired and live in Post Falls, Idaho. Three of their children live in Washington and one in Alabama.

Robert Bruce was born in 1937, in Oregon, and died in 1942. Robert was accidentally drowned at age 5 on the Treadwell Beach in Douglas.

Della Margaret was born in 1940, at St. Annís Hospital in Juneau. She attended Douglas schools through ninth grade in which there were seven students. In 1953, Della moved to Kodiak where she went to high school for two years and graduated in 1958, from North Kitsap High School in Poulsbo, Washington. She moved back to Kodiak with her husband, Glen Evans, in 1962 and lived there until 1992. Glen purchased the Selief and fished crab, halibut and tendered salmon. Three of their four children were born in Kodiak and graduated from Kodiak High School. Their seven grandchildren were born in Kodiak. Della and Glen live on Camano Island in Washington. Two of their children live in Washington, one in Oregon and one in Alaska.

Bill and Alma retired from fishing in 1966, lived in Ballard, Washington, and Bill was employed as a carpenter in Marco Shipyards. They eventually moved to Marysville, Washington, where Bill died quietly in his sleep at the age of 82 in 1989. Alma Cuthbert died Sept. 18, 2000 in Standwood, Washington.

Back row: Alma, Bill, Mae. Front row: Mary, Della, Jim, 1949.

General Information +
Exhibits and Collections +
Education +
Public Programs +
Juneau History Research -
Museum Calendar
Friends of JDCM