Parks and Recreation Image


Juneau-Douglas City Museum


Skuse, Charles James

by Sarah Lupro
UID=1037


Charles James Skuse was born in 1844, in County Cork, Ireland. He had worked as a cabin boy on several sailing ships and made several trips to America before settling in Rochester, New York. He had only a grade school education but studied law and served two terms as county judge in Rochester. He married Florence W. Waters, and they resided at Butte, Nebraska, until a hard winter wiped out the cattle herd they were raising. He and several neighbors went to Seattle, Washington, got a dory and came to Alaska prospecting. They sailed into the Cook Inlet area, crossed Kodiak Island, but were unable to find gold. The group separated, and Charles came to Juneau where he decided to stay.

In 1896, he returned to Nebraska and brought back to Juneau his wife, Florence and son, George. Three additional children, Charles, Florence and Donald were born in Juneau. John, the oldest son, died young before the family left Nebraska.

Charles Senior was a master carpenter and worked on the Methodist Church, which was built at the corner of 4th and Seward Streets. However, he preferred to prospect for gold and trap and was often away from Juneau for weeks and months at a time. Charles James was buried in 1917, in Juneau at the Evergreen Cemetery.

George Skuse spent his entire life in Juneau only taking short fishing and hunting trips. He became the caregiver of Charles after their mother left Juneau in 1906, taking Florence and Donald with her. George and Charles’ father was often gone from home for long periods of time; and George made sure Charles was taken care of and worked to see that Charles got a high school education, which he himself did not have. At one time when the boys were young they were cleaning a loaded gun, which discharged and hit Charles in the leg. Their father refused to take Charles to the doctor and left shortly on a prospecting trip. Charles became very ill; and as there was no one to take care of him, George took him to the Ladies of South Franklin who saved his leg and probably his life. The boys knew these ladies because they delivered newspapers to them and also were paid to gather firewood for them. George not only took care of Charles he later was the caretaker of his stepmother and her children for years. George loved to fish (had two boats, the Jerry and the Kim), and he spent many winters on the Taku River trapping.

Charles L. Skuse was born in Juneau February 15, 1898, on Starr Hill. He was the last surviving member of the Juneau High School class of 1916, when he died in 1990. Charles wanted to continue his education as he wanted to be a teacher, but he and George had too many responsibilities and too little money. He shared the financial responsibility for his stepmother and her children for years. Charles worked as assayer at the Chichagof Mine for six years and the Alaska Juneau Mine for thirty seven years, the last years as mill superintendent.

When his mother, sister and brother left on a steamship in 1906, Charles and George went to the dock with them. Charles refused to leave the dock even when the boat was long out of sight. Being just seven years old he was sure they would return shortly. George had to go down after dark and make him come home. Their mother promised to write and send for them as soon as she could; however, they never heard from her again. It wasn’t until after her death in 1926, that they learned their father had intercepted all of her letters and the money she sent several times for their fare to Seattle.

Charles married Isabel Duncan in 1940, at her home in Ontario, Canada. They returned to Juneau residing at the family home at the top of Franklin Street until his death December 9, 1990. They celebrated their 50th anniversary in the summer of 1990. After his death, Isabel brought out the poetry that Charles had written her every year at Christmas time for 35 years.(He quit writing when George became ill and died.) The poems clearly show the love he had for Isabel, their animals and life in general. Isabel died in Juneau in 1991. Isabel and Charles are buried beside George at the Alaska Memorial Park.

Florence Skuse was born in Juneau, and several years after her mother took her and Donald to Washington state, Florence died.

Donald Wesley Skuse was born in Juneau in 1905, lived in Washington State, part of the time in Seattle. When he was 18, he returned to Juneau and his brothers. He delivered milk for the Juneau Dairies and worked for the C. W. Carter Mortuary. When Charles Carter retired, he sold the mortuary business and property to Donald Wesley.

Donald Wesley married Helen M. Carter in Juneau. They had one son, Don, born at Juneau in 1929. Don lived most of his life in California where he died in 1992. Don married Dorothy Sands and they had no children. Dorothy lives in California.

Donald W. Skuse’s second marriage was in 1937, to Lillian Howson of Ontario, Canada. They made their home in Juneau for many years. Donald sold the mortuary business when he and Lillian retired to Victoria, British Columbia, where Donald Wesley died in 1986. They had no children. His wife, Lillian, lives in Victoria.