by Jane Ninnis Johnson
Edwin Ninnis was born in Cornwall, England, in 1866. He married Bessie Daniels who was born in New Jersey. They settled in Virginia City, California, with their children, Melville, Thelma and Edwin Elroy. Mr. Ninnis, a hardrock miner, had worked at mines in Mexico and became severely ill and his recovery took over a year. In 1906, the brother of Bessie Ninnis, Jim Daniels, a foreman in one of the Treadwell Mines, encouraged his sister and brother-in-law to move to Douglas to work in the mines. When they first arrived, the family lived near the Douglas city limits and the dairy farm which was located where Gastineau School is now, and later moved to Treadwell. Jim Daniels married Lillian Werner who was a teacher at Treadwell. Their son Melton and wife Esther Daniels built the Snow White Laundry which was located where the police station was located for many years. Elroy attended a one room school in Treadwell and in 1916, a new two room schoolhouse. With the loss of jobs after the Treadwell cave-in, the Ed Ninnis family later relocated to California, returning in the early 20’s to Juneau, when he was associated with the A.J. Mine. Mr. Ninnis died at San Diego of a long illness in August, 1929.
Melville Ninnis served with the Naval Submarine Service during WWI. He later was stationed at Curry working as an electrician for the Alaska Railroad, where he met Evelyn Ely, who was a paymistress for the railroad. They were married on March 1, 1924, and later moved to Longview, Washington, where they had a farm. They had two children, Thelma Elaine and Bob.
Thelma Ninnis graduated from high school in 1914, and attended Bellingham Normal School where she earned her teacher’s certificate. She returned to Treadwell and taught at Perseverance. The first year, 1918, she departed from her parent’s home at Treadwell each Sunday afternoon, and took a ferry to Thane, then rode in a mine car through the entire mine to Perseverance where she lived in a tent for the school week. On Friday afternoon, she returned to Treadwell in the same manner. The following school year she lived in a newly constructed boardinghouse at Perseverance. Her family recalls her telling of the time a pregnant woman shared a mine car with her and went into premature labor. Miss Ninnis, a very proper young lady, was terrified.
On June 19, 1920, at Springfield, Oregon, Thelma Barragar—top: James and Harriet; bottom: Fred and Betty Barragar. married Albert (Bert) Ladum, who had worked in the office at Perseverance Mine. He later worked for the Wholesale Fruit Co. in Seattle. They had two sons, Ed and Larry. After Bert died in 1947, Thelma went back to Bellingham and obtained her degree in education, returning to teaching for two years in Washington and then back in Juneau where she taught first grade until she retired.
Elroy graduated from high school in 1920, in California, but soon returned to Juneau, and lived as a young bachelor in 1925 at the Juneau Fire Hall, next to the Arctic Brotherhood building on Main. He worked for a short time for the A.J. Mine, until he was asked to leave, shortly after accidentally setting fire to one of the towers! In July, 1926, Elroy purchased the Lakin Auto Service and renamed it the Juneau Motor Company. A 1926 Empire advertisement notes the company’s specialties, “Car washing, waxing and motor cleaning, service by Lucas.”
On May 28, 1935, construction began on a modern, two story garage building, built by Frank McCafferty, to be leased to Elroy and the Juneau Motor Company. Until that time the company had been housed on the Juneau Commercial Dock. The grand opening, held from 1 to 10 p.m., took place on October 13, 1935, the same day as the dedication of the Douglas Bridge. Door prizes were awarded to both women and men-$5.00 to the lucky lady and a new tire for the gentleman winner. Elroy continued as proprietor of Juneau Motors until his death. He was active with the Territorial Sportsmen and strongly supported the Golden North Salmon Derby as well as the Juneau Volunteer Fire Department and was a member of Mt. Juneau Masonic Lodge #147.
James Barragar and Ruby Jane Lind were married December 28, 1904, in Skagway by Dean Charles Rice, who later served at the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Juneau. Moving to Dawson, Mr. Barragar worked for the White Pass and Yukon Railroad as an accountant. They had four children, James E. and Harriet born in Dawson, and Fred and Elizabeth born in Portland, Oregon. The family later moved to Juneau where James worked for Alaska Electric Light and Power Co. He enjoyed the Elk’s Club, and its bowling alleys and was a manager of the Elk’s baseball team. Jane died in Seattle in 1942, and James in 1946.
Jim Barragar worked for the Alaska Electric Light and Power Co. and later moved to Seattle to work for Boeing. Fred was married to Charlotte Polet, whose family owned an Italian restaurant in Seattle, and whose cousin was Antonio Polet, a Nome merchant and trader. Fred worked for his brother-in-law Elroy Ninnis at Juneau Motors.
Harriet attended the Juneau schools and after graduation attended Cornish School of Arts in Seattle. She later worked in local banks and Territorial offices. She married Lyn (Tuck) Tucker, from Texas. He had been raised in a Military school and was a highly decorated veteran of WWI. He also worked for Elroy. Harriet and Tuck lived in a home at Indian Cove in the summers and spent winters in town at various apartments. In 1954, they moved to Florida and ultimately made their home in Wickenburg, Arizona.
Elizabeth (Betty) graduated from Juneau High School in 1931, and attended the University of Oregon. During high school she was active in sports, and played basketball against her daughter’s future mother-in-law, Roberta Fraser. Betty and Elroy Ninnis were married on December 26, 1932, in Everett, Washington. They had a son, Edwin Elroy (Joe) and a daughter, Jane Allison (DeeDee). The family lived at 517 Sixth Street, in the same house where Betty had lived with her parents as a young girl. Betty died in November, 1960. Elroy later married Mary Young. He died at Juneau in October, 1963. Mary now resides in California with her daughter.
Joe Ninnis was born in 1934, at Seattle. An outstanding basketball player, he was on the first Juneau High team to win the All Alaska trophy. After graduating, he attended the University of Alaska. He played Gold Medal Tournament ball for the Imps and the Arctic Knights and in 1955, was selected for the first All Tourney Team. In 1991, he was inducted into the Gold Medal Hall of Fame. Joe served with the US Coast Guard, from 1956 to 1960. On return from the Coast Guard he began work for his father, Elroy. After the 1965 Juneau Motors fire, he was instrumental in the reconstruction of the building. After his father’s death, he became president of the company continuing until the sale of the business to Evergreen Motors in 1984, at the time of the building condemnation by the city to make way for a new capitol building. Joe married Janet Gunderson of Utah in 1979, in Hawaii. They especially enjoyed golf and bowling and traveled to many countries. Joe died on November 4, 1998, and Jan died on November 14, 2000.
Jane (DeeDee) was born in Seattle in 1939. She attended the Juneau schools and was active with the J-High drill team and as a cheerleader during her high school days, graduating from J-D High in 1957. She attended the University of Washington and Montana State. She and Bob Johnson, son of Leonard and Roberta Johnson of Douglas, were married in 1960. They have four children, Elizabeth, Heidi, Sara and Arne, and eight grandchildren, all living in Juneau. Bob was a partner in Standard Airport Products. In 1963, after the death of Elroy Ninnis, he began work at Juneau Motors, and later moved next door to Capitol Motor Supply as owner and manager until his retirement in 1998. They enjoy their retirement at their cabin on Taku River, in Sierra Vista, Arizona, and in Douglas.
Elroy and Joe Ninnis, 1935.
Barragar-top: James and Harriet; bottom: Fred and Betty Barragar.
Harriet and Betty Barrager.