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Juneau-Douglas City Museum


Carter, Charles W.

by Sarah Lupro
UID=1038


Charles W. Carter was born in Ontario, Canada, in 1870. He left home at the age of 17. He worked in Calgary, Alberta; then in Vancouver, British Columbia; Portland, Oregon; and finally San Francisco, California. When news of the Klondike gold strike reached San Francisco, he headed for Seattle. He took passage on one of the ships headed north and landed on the beach at Skagway in August of 1897.

He worked first at backpacking and then on a pack train, traveling over the Skagway and Dyea trails, particularly the White Pass Trail. One of his stories tells of being away from town the day Soapy Smith was killed. He had taken a tug and barge to Haines to pick up a bunch of mules. When the railroad was completed to Lake Bennett and packers no longer needed, he tried his luck prospecting for gold in the Atlin area. He moved south to Juneau in 1899, where he worked as a hotel clerk, bartender and delivery man and did assessment work on claims at Silver Bow Basin. Charles was a member of the Juneau Volunteer Fire Department from 1899 until 1916.

In 1901, he accepted a contract to deliver the U.S. mail between St. Michaels and Katmai. Charles left Juneau by steamship in September of 1901 for Seattle where he boarded the S.S. Roanoak on September 30th on the last northbound trip of the year. The ship arrived on October 15, at St. Michaels where he purchased a dog team and supplies. It was necessary to wait until December for favorable conditions to start the 1100 mile trip to deliver and pick up the mail. The wait was time spent learning the art of driving and caring for a dog team. Warming weather brought heavy snow and thawing that required him to break trail for the dogs, making the travel slow. It became hazardous crossing lakes and rivers that should have been frozen solid. A dog purchased enroute eveloped rabies and infected several others of the team. All of the infected dogs had to be destroyed, and the shortage of dogs meant travel became even slower. After delivering and picking up the mail he finished the contract on March 3 in Katmai. The ship that was to pick up him and his dog team did not stop although there were several parties waiting on the beach. It was April 13th, before a schooner stopped and took them to Kodiak. There Charles and dogs departed on the southbound S.S. New Port which delivered him to Juneau on May l, 1902.

On May 18, 1902, Charlie (as he became known to his friends) married Alphonsine Lovely in Juneau. Because her father, Henry Lovely, did not approve of Charlie, they were married by the Douglas Justice of thePeace and left on a steamship a few hours later. They spent several weeks in Seattle before returning to Juneau. They reared three daughters, Lavina, Shannon Helen and Leanora. All three born in Juneau.

After his marriage, Charlie worked for the Ross-Higgins Company General Merchandise Store, The B. M. Behrends Company, C. W. Young Company and the Gastineau Mining Company at Thane. He was acting U.S. Postmaster from 1924 to 1926. Charlie learned the undertaking business while working for the C. W. Young Company. At the urging of Mrs. B. M. Behrends, wife of the local banker, he purchased the Sully Undertaking Parlor after the death of H. V. Sully. In 1926, he purchased a house at 4th and Franklin, which in 1932, he remodeled adding a chapel for funeral services. Here he conducted the mortuary business until it was sold to Donald W. Skuse in 1950.

Charlie was very active and held numerous local and state positions in the Elks Club, Rotary Club, the Juneau Chamber of Commerce, Odd Fellows and Rebekahs, and the Pioneers of Alaska even after his retirement. He was a member of the Board of Trustees for the Sitka Pioneer Home for many years. He served several terms on the Juneau City Council between 1907 and 1911 and was mayor in 1913. He worked to bring air mail service to Alaska and also for the construction of the Community Building in order to bring the U. S. Coast Guard’s Alaska headquarters to Juneau.

Charlie loved to tell stories of his early days in Alaska and with a twinkle in the eye, relished telling “tall tales” to the unsuspecting right up until his death in 1961. In 1938, Charlie wrote, “We pioneers who are now residents of Alaska, failed to make that fortune so much desired forty years ago. However, our very failures might have been a blessing in disguise. We remained and established homes. Personally, I know that I will never be wealthy as computed in dollars and cents, but I feel that Alaska has treated me kindly. I came here with nothing except ambition and a desire to be an honest man. Now I own my home, have a wife, three children and four grandchildren. My bills for September 1938 are all paid and I have $2.25 in my pocket, which belongs to me. Who dare say that I am not a rich man!”

Lavina May Carter was born in 1903, and died at Juneau in 1960. She married Kenneth Kimbrough; and they had two sons, Charles K. and Robert C., who was drowned in Gold Creek in 1930. Charles K. Linehan (name had been legally changed) became a doctor and married Alene Rohrbaugh. They raised five boys, Allan, Keith, Bruce, Lauren and Clifford. Charles and Alene lived in Astoria, Oregon, where he practiced until his retirement. Lavina’s second marriage was to Jesse O. Bonsall. Their daughter, Sarah J., married Charles H. Lupro, and they raised four children, Robert, Ellen, Vicki and Caroline. Sarah and Charles H. (Harry) live in Juneau.

Shannon Helen Carter was born in 1909. She married Donald W. Skuse; and they had one son, Don. He married Dorothy Sand, and they had no children. Don lived most of his life in California where he died in 1992. Dorothy Sands Carter lives in California. Shannon Helen’s second marriage was to Charles A. Carter; and they raised two daughters, Adrienne and Candida. Shannon died in California in 1967.

Leanora Ellen Carter was born in 1912 and married Clifton (Cliff) K. Tisdale with whom she had one son, Ted. They spent most of their married life in Juneau. Cliff died in 1964, at Juneau, and Leanora died in 1976, at Port Angeles, Washington. Ted married Barbara Philpott; and they have three sons, Ted, Ken and Dan. Ted and Barbara live in Fairbanks.