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Guerin, Eckley Coxe & Amy (Kinnicutt) Fromholz

by Amy Lou Guerin Barney

My father, Eckley Coxe Guerin, was born August 11, 1882, in Eckley, Oregon, and died June 21, 1933, in Juneau. He was the youngest of nine boys and one girl, in a Curry County pioneer ranching family. The brothers attended Hill’s Military Academy and Reed College in Portland, and several of them, including my father, became engineers and surveyors.

My uncle, Waterman Citerly Guerin, came to Alaska with the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey at the turn of the century to survey the Alaska Canadian border. His brother, Charles Vincent Guerin, and later my father joined him on one of the most challenging surveys of the 20th Century: the 141st Meridian from the Arctic Ocean to Mount Saint Elias. That survey began in 1906, and was completed in 1913.

My father first came north in 1905, and worked two years in the mines at Dawson. In 1909, he joined his brothers on the border survey.

Waterman and Charles eventually left Alaska for good, but my father loved it here. In 1912, he barely made it out of the arctic before the ice halted all traffic, in order to return to Oregon and marry my mother, Amy Harriet Kinnicutt. He was then posted to survey the east coast US-Canadian border. He repeatedly requested to be assigned to Alaska permanently.

It was in Washington, D.C. that my pregnant mother marched in a suffragette parade. She said Dad was so disgusted he left her and went back to the hotel. Dad was a wonderful man, but definitely a man of his time.

My sister Renee was born in 1914, so with their baby my parents came north to make their home. They sailed on the steamer City of Seattle in 1915. Mother’s welcome to Alaska was the boat going aground and all the passengers put off into lifeboats. She told about my Dad hollering to get her trunks up from the hold, and a crewman sailing her big picture hat down to her as she sat in the skiff clutching my sister. I was born in Juneau in 1918, and my brother Eckley in 1920.

Dad led survey crews throughout Alaska. In 1923, he was in charge of the survey on the Arctic Slope which established a 20 million acre petroleum reserve. He also surveyed homesteads, mining claims and laid out the original townsite of Anchorage.

When George Parks was appointed governor, Dad became head of the U.S. Land Office for the Territory of Alaska.

Sometimes Dad would take all of us with him. In 1925, we spent the summer in camp up the Stikine River where he was surveying the Canadian border. During the summers we lived in tents, villages, and on boats throughout Southeast Alaska. When I think back now, we were so lucky to experience the flavor of unmapped places and different cultures.

Juneau was very social in those days, and my parents regularly gave parties and went out to formal dances. On Sunday nights couples would dress up and go to dinner at the Bergman Hotel. Dad was a 33rd degree Mason and Mother was Worthy Matron of the Eastern Star. My mother was a teetotaler, but during prohibition she made wine in our huge bathroom for Dad and served it at dinner parties. The first home I remember was moved to make room for the new high school on Fifth Street. We then bought a house on Distin that overlooked Juneau from three sides. That property is now the Fosbee Apartments. My brother and I used to play and trade with the kids in the Native Village. I got my best dog for a wool sweater and knickers.

Dad loved to hunt and fish, but taught us not to kill heedlessly. In especially hard winters, he and a friend would row across to Douglas Island and put feed out for the starving deer. I thought that was strange because in the Fall they went out to hunt them.

Dad was a boy scout leader and a friend to just about everybody. His funeral service in 1933, was so large they had to move it from the Masonic meeting hall to the ball room. The Empire called him “the best known and best liked man in Alaska.” After his death, Guerin Lake on Admiralty Island was named to honor him.

My mother, Amy Kinnicutt, was born in Myrtle Point, Oregon, December 11, 1892, and died in Juneau, January 4, 1984. She was one of six girls and two boys belonging to a somewhat privileged family. She was sent to finishing school, The Annie Wright Seminary, as were all of the girls, but Mother only talked about riding her horses all over Coos County. She entered races at county fairs but was banned when she and her horses beat the boys every year.

When she arrived in Juneau, Mother had trunks of flowing tea gowns, picture hats, and shoes with tiny French heels that she managed around the cracks in the plank sidewalks. My friend Elizabeth Madsen Thompson, recalled Mother as being somewhat of a ladylike apparition when she “floated” downtown holding a toddler in each hand. Mother said she later cut up her trousseau to make clothes for us kids. Mother was a very adaptable woman; as comfortable beautifully dressed pouring tea as she was in jodhpurs and hiking boots out at our Eagle River cabin.

After Dad’s death at 50 from a heart attack, Mother discovered that due to circumstances she had to earn a living. My sister had married by then and had a daughter, Gail Morrison, but my brother Eckley and I were still in school. Mother had never worked outside of the home, but went about trying to get a job. She found that most of her acquaintances were somewhat embarrassed by her situation and did not take seriously the fact that Mrs. Guerin really needed a job. Mother always credited the George brothers with the family’s survival. When she asked them for work they did not hesitate, but put her in charge of the clothing and yard goods in their store. They also took Eckley on as a delivery boy. Mother enjoyed dealing with the public and turned into a popular sales lady. Years later after she was again widowed, she worked at Stevens’ and the Nugget Shop.

My mother loved books and wrote poetry. Carol Beery Davis encouraged her to write and her poems were published in literary magazines and poetry collections.

In 1935, Mother married Bill Fromholz, who is profiled elsewhere.

Much of our family history is contained in a photographic book my daughter, Renee Guerin “Penny” Blood and I collaborated on and published in 1997, Amy Lou’s Alaska.

Eckley Coxe Guerin, 1925.

Amy Kinnicutt Guerin, 1926.

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