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Juneau-Douglas City Museum


by interview with Georganne Snow Ranta by Dee Williams nad Research by Dee W. and Marie Darlin

George Snow was born James Fink, of German parents, in Boston in 1847. When he was 16 years old the Civil War was in progress. He ran away and joined the Navy. He was stationed aboard the Wabash. When the officers learned that he was underage, they sent him home. He became active in the theater and took the name George Snow as his theatrical name. He had a brother named Joseph Adolph Fink. He, too, changed his name to Snow and followed acting in the theater.

While in Sonora, California, George met and married Anna Edes Rablen on May 31, 1881. She was born in 1861, in Cornwall, England, and came to Sonora with her family in 1867. In 1882, their son, Montgomery Adolph, was born and two years later, Crystal Brilliant, was born on May 30, 1884. While later living and performing in Port Townsend, Washington, and Victoria, British Columbia, from 1884 to 1886, the family was invited to Juneau, Alaska Territory to run the Opera House. The family arrived in Juneau on April 24, 1887, on the ship Olympian.

George and his brother Joe made two trips into the Yukon Territory before he took his whole family over the Chilkoot Pass to the Yukon in 1894. During this time (1894-1898) they lived at Fortymile, Circle City, and in cabins along Bonanza Creek and across from Dawson. He founded the Yukon Order of Pioneers at Fortymile on December 1, 1894.

In 1888, they moved to Seattle because of George’s health. In 1900, they returned to Juneau. They lived in Skagway during 1909-1910, where George was employed as the City Jailer. In 1910, he and Anna again returned to Seattle for health reasons. He died in Seattle August 25, 1925. During her years in Seattle, Anna was active in many fraternal and civic organizations and in 1919 organized the Ladies of the Golden North. In 1923, she wrote and published the song, “Alaska and the U.S.A.” She died in Juneau on November 13, 1943.

George’s brother Joseph A. Snow died in Juneau on October 29, 1930.

Montgomery “Monty” Adolph Snow arrived in Juneau with his parents in 1887. He was the first white boy to cross the Chilkoot Pass with his family in 1894. At the age of 16, he moved to Seattle with his family and returned with them to Juneau in 1900. He then worked for the Daily Alaskan while living in Skagway in 1909, and for the Daily Alaska Empire while in Juneau from 1913-1917. During this time, he married Mabel Alice McDill, on July 28, 1913. Their son, Joseph Montgomery, was born June 13, 1914. Daughter, Georganne, was born in 1917, in Yakima, Washington, where Monty worked for the Yakima Herald. She was followed by Rachel (who died of diphtheria in 1923), and son, Lyman, who was born in 1921. Monty then worked for the Seattle Times from 1928 to 1933. In October, 1933, Monty came back to Alaska where he knew he would be welcomed with open arms. His wife, Mabel, was to follow in the spring when Georganne graduated from high school, but died in December of 1933. Monty went back to Seattle for the funeral, and Lyman returned to Juneau with his father and in 1938, graduated from Juneau High School where he was known for his fine singing voice. Son, Joe, was already in Alaska working with the CCC in Sitka and for the A.J. Mine in Juneau.

Georganne stayed with an aunt in Seattle until her 1934 graduation, then joined the family in Juneau. She worked for the Alaska Legislature for three months, saved her money and bought her ticket back to Seattle. Her aunt, Crystal, found her a job in the office of U.S. Marshall Mahoney and coaxed her back to Juneau where she stayed for two years. A shy, city girl, Georganne had trouble adjusting to the loss of her mother, to a new set of friends and a small town. She moved back to Seattle, as her father also soon did, and they shared an apartment until Monty married Helen Baker in 1937. He continued to work for the Bremerton newspaper and later the Seattle P.I. until his death on August 14, 1957.

Georganne and a girl friend shared an apartment and searched for jobs which were hard to find in the Depression era. She later related that she missed more than one meal because jobs were so scarce. She married and had one child. After a divorce, she married Gordon Ranta, and had three more children, William (Bill), Nancy, and Robert. She raised her family in Portland, Oregon, where she still lives.

Joe Snow went to Bremerton in 1937, to do defense work. There, he and his wife Gertrude (Jorgenson) Snow, lost their little daughter, Sharon. They had another child, Mike. After their divorce, Gertrude and Mike returned to Juneau where she married Ken Millard. After World War II Naval service in the Pacific, Joe married Saxon Heath of Ketchikan and they moved back to Juneau. They later divorced. Joe worked as an administrator for the U.S. Veterans Administration, retiring with 33 years of service. He was an avid baseball player and fan. He died in Juneau, on April 2, 1998.

Lyman put himself through college. From ROTC he went into the service and became an officer and spent time in the Army Transport Service. He went on to work for Pan American Airways on the East Coast, becoming a junior executive. When he retired, about the time that Pan American went out of business, he was director of training for Pan Am. He married and raised his children, Walter, Kathy, and Lynn in New York. He retired to Arizona, then moved to Seattle after the death of his wife, and died there in 1997.

Crystal Brilliant Snow (Jenne) graduated from Juneau High School as the sole member of her class in 1905. She moved to California where she attended Berkeley College and taught school in several small California towns before returning to Alaska and teaching in Douglas in 1907 -1908. She was talented in music and gave concerts in the Alaska and Yukon Territories when not in the classroom. She taught in Skagway, Sitka, Juneau and the Mendenhall Flats School in the valley. In 1916, she married Dr. Charles Jenne. Daughter, Corrine Bertha, was born in 1918, followed by son, Charles Jacob “Bud” in1919, and daughter, Phyllis Mae in 1921.

In 1923, Crystal performed her mother’s composition, “Alaska and the U.S.A.,” for President Harding, during his visit to Juneau. She was very active in the community and from 1938 to 1942, owned and operated the Forget-Me-Not Flower Shop. Her husband, Charles, died in Juneau on September 9, 1938. She was the first woman to run for representative in the Alaska Legislature, losing several times until 1940, when she won the office. She was re-elected several times to the Alaska House of Representatives, until she was nominated for the Territorial Senate in 1944, withdrawing to become the Juneau Postmistress. In 1956, she resigned as Postmistress and ran for the Senate again, but was defeated. She died in 1973 at the Sitka Pioneer’s Home.

Joe Snow went to Bremerton in 1937 to do defense work. There, he and his wife, Gertrude (Jorgenson) Snow, lost their little daughter, Sharon. They had another child, Mike. After their divorce, Gertrude and Mike returned to Juneau where she married Ken Millard. After World War II naval service in the Pacific, Joe married Saxon Heath of Ketchikan and they moved back to Juneau. They had three children. Damon, Sandy (Fleek), and Linda Snow, all reared in Juneau. They later divorced. Joe worked as an administrator for the U.S. Veterans Administration, retiring with 33 years of service. He was an avid baseball player and fan. He died in Juneau on April 2, 1998.

Corrine Jenne graduated from Juneau High School in 1935. She was an accomplished violinist, having taken lessons from Willis Nowell, a noted local musician. She attended Mills College where she continued her violin studies and graduated in 1939. After further teaching courses at Western Washington College, she was hired to teach music at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, until the music department was terminated by WW II. She then went to work for Pan American Airways, the only woman to work for the airlines in the Alaska Sector. After the war, she married David Kenway, an aircraft mechanic. The couple had two children, David and Virginia. Separating in 1948, Virginia returned to Juneau where she and the children lived in the family home on Seventh Street and she continued her music instruction practice. She worked for the post office from the early 1950’s until her retirement in 1981. She was a founding member of the Juneau Symphony and held the position of first violin. She was also active in many civic organizations. She entered the Juneau Pioneer Home in 1995 and died there December 7, 1996. Her son David lives in Juneau and daughter Virginia Donalson lives in California.

Charles “Bud” Jenne graduated from Juneau High School in 1937, and from the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. He went into the Army Medical Corps, spent time in Texas as a rifle instructor, and when on assignment in Washington, D.C. met a nurse, Ruth Whelan, whom he married in 1948. They returned to Juneau, where he worked in heavy construction, then moved to Ketchikan in 1965. He died in Ketchikan on February 21, 1981, of a sudden heart attack. Bud and Ruth had four children; son Paul, and daughters Deirdre Bandow of Ketchikan, Maureen Jenne of Eugene, Oregon, and Kathleen McKinney of Kirkland, Washington, where Ruth Jenne now resides.

Phyllis graduated from Juneau High School in 1938, (along with her cousin Lyman Snow) and attended the University of Washington. She was a violinist and took part in school performances. Upon her return to Juneau, she married Howard McClellan who was in the ACS sector of the Army. She worked for Pacific Northern Airways and after the war, the couple returned to Howard’s home area. They were divorced soon after and she returned to Juneau, where she continued to work for PNA, in both Juneau and Anchorage. She had no children and died of cancer in the early 1960’s.