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Jensen, Gudmund & Johanna (Wilde)

by Dr. Henry Wilde

Elenore Johanna Wilde was born in 1884, at Leipzig, in the then Kingdom of Saxony (part of the German Empire). Her father was builder Ernst Moritz Wilde and her mother was Ida (Berger) Wilde. Ernst was the son of Lutheran pastor Eduard Moritz Wilde from Knobelsdorf in Saxony. Johanna had three brothers: Paul, Rudolf, and Friedrich.

Johanna was educated at the girls school in Herrnhut near Leipzig and came to Juneau, Alaska, in 1910, at the invitation of her Aunt Maria “Mary” Bergmann. She first worked at the Circle City Hotel and helped open the new Bergmann Hotel in 1914. She married Gudmund Jensen, Juneau miner and prospector, in 1914, the year of the opening of the Bergmann Hotel. Her wedding dinner was the first such served there.

Soon after their marriage, the young couple moved to a log cabin in Yankee Basin, high above Berners Bay where Gudmund was attempting to develop a mine. They lived there until shortly before the birth of their first child, Birdie Elenore Jensen, in 1917. They then settled permanently into the home that Gudmund had built himself on Hermit Street, Seatter Tract (later Irwin Addition). He, as well as the Jay P and Dean Williams families, was the first on what was later known as “pill and lawyers hill.”

Johanna now became a regular Juneau housewife, growing her raspberries and some vegetables around her house, purchasing her groceries at the B. M. Behrends general store. Her telephone number was Red 139 and it was mostly busy. Connections were then established by ringing the operator and giving her the number. Often the operator would tell you where you could find your party if he or she wasn’t at home. Johanna later managed to bring home some extra cash by catering parties, including those at the Governor’s Mansion after the arrival of Ernest Gruening.

Her daughter, Birdie, became a popular Juneau maiden. She graduated from J-High in 1936, the same class as Dean Williams, Tom Stewart and Clifford Berg. She was elected queen for the opening of the first Juneau-Douglas Bridge. Birdie married Bud Foster who had come to Juneau before WW II and worked as an announcer for KINY. He later became a prominent war correspondent in the Pacific, returned to Juneau and later moved to the San Francisco Bay area to become a famous radio sports announcer. The couple had two children: Ernest and Dianna. Birdie died in Vancouver, Washington, in 1997 and Bud had died previously in Oakland, California.

In 1946, the Jensens (with the help of Gov. Ernest Gruening) imported her nephew Henry Wilde, then 17 years, to come to Juneau from Sweden where he had been staying with another aunt after his rescue the previous year by the British Army and Swedish Red Cross from Bergen Belsen concentration camp in Germany.

After Gudmund’s death in 1953, Johanna continued living on Hermit Street till arthritis of her legs made it difficult to climb the hill. She moved to an apartment near the Channel Bowl and later to the Pioneers Home in Sitka where she died, aged 83, in 1968. She is buried at Evergreen Cemetery next to Gudmund in the Pioneers section.

Gudmund Jensen was one of the last Juneau gold rush miners and prospectors when he died suddenly in 1953, at the age of 79. He came from Napa County in California, where his Norwegian immigrant parents, Martinus and Berta Jensen, operated a prune orchard. He and his three brothers: Martin, Oscar and Ben, came to Juneau in 1894, and started to trap for the fur trade and for Charlie Goldstein’s shop. They acquired land along Gold Creek but Ben developed tuberculosis and Gudmund took him back to California after selling the property. After Ben’s death two years later, Gudmund returned to Juneau and acquired property in the Seatter Tract where he built his home.

When the gold fever started, he went over the Dyea Trail to Dawson in the Yukon and mined there for one year, then moving to Nome where he built houses for miners. After returning to Juneau about 1900, he became a life long prospector in this region. He owned claims in the Berners Bay area and Windham Bay and dug deep tunnels with his own hands while promoting his claims among mining investors in Seattle and San Francisco.

He married Johanna Elenore Wilde in 1914. As was told in her story above, they lived two to three years in the mountains, miles from the coast and other people, working his claim at Yankee Basin. There they were visited by wolves, lots of brown bear and grew a marvelous garden yielding vegetables, potatoes, raspberries and strawberries. She baked her own bread and heating came from a homemade wood stove. Much had to be packed from Bridget Cove on their backs over some 10 miles of crude trail to their log cabin. Gud dug a tunnel some 900 feet deep but the gold was not enough to make hard rock mining profitable.

They moved back into Juneau where Gud worked in the mill at the A-J Mine and became partners with attorney Robertson (founder of Robertson, Monagle, Eastaugh, and Annis law firm) and prospected in Windham Bay and in the old Jualin Mine region near Berners Bay. In Windham Bay, his claim was located high in the mountain above the Bay. He had a cabin on the beach near the wanigan of Stan Price, who later moved to Seymour Canal and became the famous father of brown bears.

Gud always owned a boat which rarely left the small boat harbor due to structural and mechanical problems. The Barbara II was his last vessel which finally sank right in the harbor. These boats were a constant source of irritation to his wife who viewed them as a drain on their limited financial resources. Gud had many close friends in Juneau. He held many jobs between ventures into the mountains among which was working at the A-J Mine, for the Coast Guard and even as a Deputy Marshall. He never struck it rich but was a highly respected and colorful member of the Juneau mining community. Gud died suddenly of myocardial infarction at his home on Hermit Street in 1953. He was buried at Evergreen Cemetery in the Pioneers Plot.

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