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Juneau-Douglas City Museum


MacSpadden, Molly & Janice (Lowe)

by Shiela MacSappen Zagars
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Morrell Lewis “Molly” was born in Garrison, Montana, in 1903, to parents Floyd Fulton and Bertha (vonHauck) McSpadden. He joined two older brothers, Floyd Everett and Chester Hauck. Soon after his birth, Morrell’s father, a conductor with the Great Northern Railroad, was transferred to Missoula. A younger sister, Bertha May, was born there in 1905. In 1911, a baby brother, Orville completed the family. When Molly was ten years old, his father died leaving his mother with five children to support. With the help of a pension from the railroad, Bertha was able to keep her family together and the children in school.

Molly graduated from Missoula High School in 1921, and received an athletic scholarship to the U. of Montana in Missoula. In the fall of 1923, Molly decided not to return to school. His older brother, Chester, was already living in Juneau at that time, and earlier, had suggested that Molly join him and look for work in the local mine. Chester was building a house in Juneau on the corner of 12th and B Streets and had offered him a place to stay in exchange for help with the construction. His brother’s offer of lodging and the favorable prospect for work in Juneau convinced Molly that he should head north. He booked passage on the SS Victoria and spent his first Christmas away from home on board the ship arriving in Juneau on December 27, 1923.

Molly was able to find work with the A-J Gold Mine Co. soon after he arrived, working as a blaster and driller. His weekends and evenings were spent helping Chester finish his house for the first several months in Juneau, but after Chester’s wife Ann and daughters, Alice and Barbara, arrived in the following spring and settled into their new home, Molly had some leisure time to participate in local sports activities. In the fall of 1924, he played basketball for the Collegians Team in the newly organized City Basketball League. In the summer, he played baseball. In Juneau during the late 20’s and early 30’s, baseball was the major sport in town and they played baseball from May to August. The City baseball park was located where the U.S. Federal Building is today and the bleachers were always full. Molly played for several teams over the years. His brother Chester also played baseball and they looked so much alike, there was often confusion as to who was who on the ball field.

Towards the end of 1926, Molly purchased a piece of land on Auke Lake (near the present day U. of Alaska Southeast) and spent the next few years of his spare time building one of the early log cabins on the Lake. Ham and Helen Campen and Tom and Sandy Selby were neighbors.

In 1928, Molly married Janice Lillian Lowe, a local high school teacher from Council, Idaho. Their first home was in the Spickett Apartments on Fifth and Franklin Street. Two years later, their first child, Sheila, was born and the family moved to the nearly completed cabin at Auke Lake. Molly had bought a Model A Ford with rumble seat for transportation over the narrow dirt road connecting Juneau to Auke Lake.

The summer of 1933, a fire broke out in the cabin destroying most of their belongings and leaving the cabin unlivable. They found temporary lodgings while Molly and friends worked on weekends clearing the damaged areas the fire had caused. The family later moved to one of Trevor Davis’ houses on Sixth Street.

After nearly eleven years with the A-J Mine, in 1935, Molly took a job with the Union Oil Company at their dock on the Thane Road and a house across the road came with the job. At that time, Union Oil and Standard Oil docks were both located on the Thane Road in the area between Devil’s Gulch and the present day City waste water treatment plant. Molly and Janice’s second daughter, Molly Jo, was born that summer.

One morning in February 1937, Molly looked out the kitchen window and saw smoke and flames coming from buildings across the channel. It looked like half of the City of Douglas was burning. He and another Union Oil employee took his river boat across the channel to help with efforts to control the fire. By the time the fire was out, twenty businesses and twenty residences had been destroyed.

Several years after the fire in Douglas, both the Union Oil and the Standard Oil Companies had to abandon their Thane docks as the sand and tailing from the A-J Mine were filling in the waterfront making it difficult for their barges to get to the dock to unload. The Standard Oil moved to Willoughby Avenue and the new Union Oil facility had an apartment on the second floor of the warehouse for the foreman so Molly moved his family there in 1939.

In 1942, the Japanese landed troops and occupied the Aleutian Islands. Many local wives and children were sent south to temporarily stay with relatives. Molly gave Janice the choice of either going south or moving to the cabin they had been building south of Juneau as the family simply could not continue to live on the fuel dock. She chose to move to the cabin which needed a lot of work to make it livable so Molly moved the family to the Bishop Apartments on 5th and Franklin temporarily. It took most of the summer of 1942 to finish the cabin, before they settled into what became known as the “duPont” cabin for the duration of the war. Molly took the girls to school in his riverboat or, if the weather was too bad, he took them only as far as the Harry Lucas cabin at Sheep Creek and from there they would walk across the Sheep Creek footbridge to catch the Thane school bus.

Towards the end of the war, Molly purchased Jim Cole’s property on Calhoun Avenue and the family moved back to town. Within a few years, he tore the old house down and built a new home on the property. He worked for the Territorial Department of Game for several years before going to work for the Juneau Cold Storage in 1946. Molly started his own construction company in the late 40’s. Among some of his projects were one of the early breakwaters for the Sitka Boat Harbor, mine tunnels in Funter Bay and dams and fish ladders for the Afognak Island fishery program.

In 1953, he was elected to the Alaska Territorial Legislature and served in the House of Representatives for two years. Molly was elected mayor of Juneau and served for two terms from 1955-59. Molly and Janice and their son-in-law Richard Zagars purchased the Feero Building at the corner of Third and Franklin Street in 1957. The building consisted of apartments upstairs and offices downstairs including the Alaska Airlines Ticket Office and the Alaska Sportsman Magazine. Molly and Janice moved into one of the apartments soon after the purchase and he started working on the remodeling that he and Dick had planned. It was while he was working on the building that he had a massive heart attack and died in 1961.

Molly was a member and past master of Mt. Juneau Masonic Lodge and a member of the Juneau Elks Lodge and the Pioneers of Alaska.


M.L. (Molly) MacSpadden, 1947.