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Lagergren, Andrew & Molly (Vidlund)

by Earl Lagergren

Andrew Peter Lagergren and his wife Molly Victoria (Vidlund), and their two sons, Milton and Earl, moved to Juneau in 1914.

Andrew was born in Negaunee, Michigan, in 1879 of parents who had immigrated from Sweden. Andy joined the gold rush to Alaska in 1906, and journeyed to Valdez and went over the Valdez Trail to Fairbanks where he prospected on Esther Creek. In 1907, he came to Treadwell and worked on the construction of the Treadwell Mine buildings, bunkhouses, mess hall buildings, etc. as construction foreman. He later transferred to the pattern shop of the foundry and learned the pattern-maker trade. His cousin, Otto J. Wicklander, was a molder at the foundry and he and Andy joined their talents and secured a contract with Alaska-Gastineau Mining Co. which was starting at Thane, to furnish their needs in cast iron machine parts and replacements. They moved to Juneau and built their foundry on lower Front St. Otto and Andy had almost identical houses built, Otto’s was on Gold Belt Avenue and Andy’s was on 3rd east of Gold St.

The foundry business prospered while the Thane Mine was building up and running. However, the mine had to shut down in 1921 due to low-grade ore. The Alaska-Juneau Mine took over the Thane property and dismantled it, using the steel beams and sheet metal for its own needs.

While working in Treadwell in 1909, Andy journeyed back to Michigan where he married Molly Victoria Vidlund and then brought her to Treadwell. Their two sons, Milton and Earl were born in Treadwell, but since the family moved to Juneau in 1914, both boys went all through grade school and high school in Juneau.

After graduating from high school, Milton attended the Colorado School of Mines on a scholarship and graduated in 1933. He first worked in Chicago, but from 1936-40, he was the City Engineer of Juneau, designing the Harris Boat Basin. In 1940, he left Juneau for a position as Chief Engineer of a mine at Livengood, Alaska. When WWII broke out, he was called into the service as he was an officer in the reserves. After the war, he was an engineer for Kennecott Copper Company out of Salt Lake City.

After graduating from high school, Earl worked on many local projects, namely various jobs in the sawmill, truck driving jobs hauling rock and gravel to fill in the city streets, and the building of the Juneau-Douglas Bridge, plus carpentry jobs on the 20th Century Theater and residential homes. During this time he also finished building an 18-foot fast runabout boat which he had started in high school. The money earned from his various jobs was used to finance a college education.

Earl graduated from the U. of Washington in Mechanical Engineering in 1940, and joined the Marine Engineering Dept. of the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard at Bremerton where he worked for 33 years. During his career in the shipyard, he worked on many projects including refrigeration replacement of old CO2 plants with freon on battleships, modernizing main control systems, distilling plants and main circulating water cooling systems on battleships. Earl was in charge of the main propulsion machinery design installation on the Sacramento, the largest ship ever built on the West Coast.

Andy Lagergren and his cousin, Otto Wickland, were involved in community affairs during the prosperous years of the Enterprise Foundry. They belonged to the Odd Fellows, the Rebekahs, the Masons and the Shriners. They sold the foundry equipment to the AK Railroad and Otto and his family moved to Anchorage, where he set up and operated the foundry. The Juneau Cold Storage bought the property where the foundry had been and built a new cold storage plant there. Andy Lagergren worked on the carpenter crew at the A-J Gold Mining Co. for five years and then set up his own carpenter and cabinet shop and operated there for many years until his death in 1956. Molly preceded him in death in 1955.

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