by Kenneth DeRoux
The DeRoux family has resided in Juneau for four generations, beginning in the mid-1920’s. However, the DeRoux roots in Alaska go back to 1897, and the Klondike Gold Rush. Augustus Nicholas DeRoux listed his birthplace as Jersey City, New Jersey, but as far as can be determined, he was probably born in France in 1868. He first arrived in Alaska in late July, 1897, at the age of 28, headed for the gold fields. He would have been among the first wave of stampeders who headed north from Seattle following the first news of the gold strike in the Klondike. He made it over the passes before winter and staked a gold mining claim on a tributary of Bonanza Creek, near Dawson City, on October 5, 1897. Presumably the claim didn’t pan out.
By 1899, he had established a metallurgic lab on Fourth Avenue in Skagway and was advertising his assay business. In 1900, he was hired to do assays for a company that was proposing a copper mine near the site of present-day Whitehorse. During this time he was also a consultant for the Engineer Mine in Atlin, B.C.
DeRoux left Alaska in 1901 for California and then Washington State, where the following year he married Ella Gassman. They resided at Cle Elum and Ellensburg. Ella had come to Washington from Germany with her family in 1888, at the age of two. In 1904, the DeRouxs had their first child, Elsie. Between then and 1924, they had six more children, all born in Washington: Anna, Frederick, Norman, August, Roy and Harold. DeRoux was listed in county records as a mining engineer and he also served as the clerk for the Kittitas County School District. A creek in that area of the Cascades is named after him.
In 1925, DeRoux was back in Atlin, B.C. and by 1928, he had relocated his family from Washington back to Douglas, Alaska. In 1928, he also located asbestos claims on Admiralty Island on Bear Creek. He developed the claims during the 1930’s, constructing several buildings and trying to interest investors in the mine. In various stories, the local newspaper referred to him as “Frenchy” and as “the Asbestos King.” DeRoux also had interests in gypsum claims on Chichagof Island, but was never able to develop them. During the summers, some of the family lived at the camp on Bear Creek working to develop the mine. The DeRouxs lived in apartments in the Goldstein Building in Juneau from 1935 to 1939, when it was gutted by a disastrous fire and they lost all their possessions. Later, the family home was on Gastineau Avenue. Augustus died in Juneau on January 17, 1945, at the age of 76. His wife, Ella, later moved to Palmer to live with her daughter Elsie. Ella DeRoux died in Seattle in 1960.
The DeRoux children married and some moved away, either to the Seattle area or north to Anchorage and Palmer. Both Harold and Roy remained in Juneau following their service in World War II, while their brother Norman, a fisherman, lived some of the time in Juneau. Harold married a local girl, Betty Rice, and Roy married Francis Cremin. Harold served in the Coast Guard, ran a private business and was on the Juneau City Council during the 1950’s. He and Betty had three sons, Kenneth, Richard and Daniel, who have continued to live in Juneau and have families of their own. Roy worked as a halibut fisherman in the 1950’s, and was also in the grocery business, at Case Lot Grocery and later at Erwin’s Market. He managed the first supermarket in the Mendenhall Valley, which is now the Airport Shopping Center, and was a partner in the development of the Mendenhall Mall. Roy and Francis’ daughter, Diane, makes her home on long-time family property at Smuggler’s Cove in Juneau.