Parks and Recreation Image


Juneau-Douglas City Museum


Messerschmidt/Shaw

by Katherine Elizabeth (Messerschmidt) Shaw
UID=951


My father, Gustav Henry Messerschmidt, born in Aurich, Wurttenburg, Germany, September 24, 1872, came to America about 1887. First living in Philadelphia he worked in the H. J. Heinz apple factory. A couple of years later, he took a freighter around Cape Horn to San Francisco. His sister who had come to America earlier and was married lived there. In San Francisco, he learned the bakery trade. He worked as a baker and subsequently moved to the gold mining town of Placerville, California, where he opened a bakery. Free silver came in and the gold mining deteriorated so he left the area. He moved up to Tacoma, Washington, bought property there expecting to stay, and went to work in a bakery.

He then hired out as a baker to come to Alaska to work for a Mr. Ernst Beihl who had a bakery on the border between Douglas City and the mining community of Treadwell. He had arrived on the steamer Cottage City in November 1898. In the spring of 1899, about the first of May, he opened his own bakery on Main Street in Juneau, the location about half way between First and Second Street (just south of the old Empire building).

In late June, my mother arrived from San Francisco. She was acquainted with Gusí sister there and she came to Juneau to work as a clerk in his bakery, which he named the San Francisco Bakery. On September 21, 1899, they were married and lived above the bakery shop. They became the parents of nine children. Ida was born there July 1900. He then moved his shop to Seward Street, the location about at the lower end of the present Goldstein Building. It was a small frame building and George was born there in September 1901. In 1902, Gus bought the Second Street property from Louie LaPointe (the present location of the Messerschmidt Building). He later moved that building on the lot as he had plans for the 1914 concrete building.

At that time, 1902, he bought the house at 525 Main Street between Fifth and Sixth Streets which is still standing today. Henry was born there in 1903 and William in 1904. When he got the bake shop built on the back part of the Second Street property (that building is still there today behind the 1914 building) he moved his family to the wooden building that had the retail store in front and the family lived upstairs. Frances was born in that building in 1907. In 1909, my twin sister and I were born upstairs over the bake shop building. The family had grown to where we had four bedrooms and a storeroom up there. My twin sister, Elizabeth, died with whooping cough at age 2 months. In 1912, my sister Rosina was born, the first to be born in a hospital (St. Annís). The year 1914 saw the construction of the building that says across the front, ďMesserschmidt Building 1914.Ē The youngest in the family arrived in August 1915, born also in St. Annís Hospital. She died with pneumonia in 1916.

My mother, Gertrude Rosina Hermle, was born in Gosheim, Wurttenburg, Germany, on March 10, 1873, and came to San Francisco via train across country with her brother and sister to join a sister and brother who had arrived earlier.

My husband, George Francis Shaw, was born October 23, 1902, and came to Alaska in September 1920, with his sister and brother-in-law Herman and Alta Porter and their two small daughters. George Shaw worked as a waiter first at the Perseverance Mine and later as a waiter at the Thane Mine. He also worked on a job taking the machinery out of the Amalga Mine in the Eagle River area and worked on the mail boat Chichagof and then went to work for the Alaska Electric Light and Power Company in 1925 and was with them until his death in 1949.

George and I were married in 1927. We had six children all born in St. Annís Hospital, attended St. Annís School and graduated from Juneau High School. Three boys and three girls, two of which live in Alaska. George Jr. the oldest lives with his wife and five children in Kenai. Albert, who recently lost his wife Viola, has two sons who were born also at St. Annís. Al still lives in Juneau. My brothers George, Henry and William and I have spent our entire lives in Juneau.


Gertrude Rosina Hermle and Gustav Henry Messerschmidt wedding, Juneau, Alaska, 1899.