Parker, Abraham Lincoln
by Norma Strickland, great granddaughter
Lured by the gold, Abraham Lincoln Parker left Bull Run, Oregon, July 1897, leaving behind his wife and children. He boarded the Steamer Portland, which is now enshrined in history as the “Gold Ship of the Coast” (Pacific Coastal Liners, by Newell & Williamson). Once over the summit, Abe sent for his wife and children and together they set up a crude roadhouse and nursed the sick.
In 1907, Abe and his family moved to Skagway. He was given distinguished recognition for being the only man in town capable of moving the three-story, Golden North Hotel from its old site several blocks uptown to its present site downtown. At one time, Skagway boasted a population of 40,000 people. But in the declining days after the gold rush, the town dwindled to 800 people.
In 1914, the family moved to Douglas, Alaska, a thriving mining town. Abe built a two-story frame house for his wife and five children. Hard work and hard play was the name of the game. There were many stories of the toboggan rides that sweethearts and wives of the miners would take to go from Last Chance Basin, up the mountain, to the Glory Hole Mining Camp and dance till the wee hours of the morning.
When he wasn’t building houses, Abe did mining in Taylor Bay out of Juneau. Eventually he took a job in Excursion Inlet managing a sawmill. It wasn’t long before Abe climbed the mountain ridge that separated Excursion Inlet from Strawberry Point. He stood on the mountaintop and looked down at the beautiful valley, with its waving grasses and massive fields of blue lupine, clover, and wild sweet peas all in bloom. He fell in love with this huge expanse of flat lands located at the entrance to Glacier Bay. He rushed home and told Edith, “At last I have found a land where we can build a home and live and be free - I have found paradise.”
In 1916 Abe moved his family along with a scow, one horse, and a milk cow to Strawberry Point, now known as Gustavus. Soon he purchased an old sawmill from Yankee Cove, cutting lumber to build a two-story house. The mill soon became twin mills, the cow soon became 250 head of beef cattle. He purchased calves both from Juneau and the remaining cattle of a small homesteader that gave up and sold out.
During the 1930 Longshoremen’s strike in Juneau, the town was without food and meat. Abe killed off most of his herd and opened “Parker’s Baby Beef ” on Willoughby Avenue in Juneau. He also sold his fresh vegetables from their garden in Gustavus along with the wild strawberries that grew in abundance. These strawberries were quite small but packed with sweet flavor. Edith purchased from Sears some cultivated strawberries and crossed them with the wild ones. The outcome was golf ball sized strawberries packed with flavor.
The timing was right that Abe’s daughter May was able to attend and graduate from Juneau High School. So did her children, and their children, and their children. Abe’s son, Bert, ran the Parker Tug & Barge out of Juneau for many years. His stories were frightful, but he would barge from all over Southeast to Seattle all by himself on many occasions. Son Glenn had an incredible ability to build and invent anything just like his father. He built sawmills, tools, boats, houses, could fix any motor, and made skis for May’s nine children. Son Charles had the gold fever and lived for many years mining out of Juneau ~ in secret places.
Their love of this magnificent country along with their hard work and endurance were the beginnings of a family legacy. As a great granddaughter, I am proud to have this heritage and thank God each day that I am able to experience living among the mountains and streams that my great grandparents knew. Juneau is my home with Gustavus as my second love.
Abe died January 24, 1941, and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery. His wife followed two years later and is buried next to him.
WILLIAM CHARLES WHITE
In 1907, William C. and his two buddies, being footloose and fancy free, left San Francisco on a tramp steamer intending to travel around the world at the lowest cost possible. However, when they reached Nome it was late into the season, and the boat froze into the harbor. They were stuck there until the spring thaw.
In the meantime, they found work at a local restaurant and rented a cabin outside of town. In those days, the wood was kept in a shed a slight distance from the cabin. When snow blizzards came, the one designated to go get the wood had to tie a rope around his waist with the other end tied to the door handle so he could find his way back. One of the buddies went out for wood during such a storm and tied the rope to his waist, but the rope that was connected to the door handle slipped off and he froze to death twenty feet from the cabin. He couldn’t see his way back.
The remaining buddy saw this as a bad omen, and returned home on the first boat out. William C. remained in Deering and worked as a cook, sled dog operator, and trail chief. Soon he acquired a team of horses he was quite proud of. He spent seven years in the Kotzebue Sound area before heading south to Skagway. On his way, back he thought of his trip he had made with his mother over the Chilkoot Trail in 1897. It was in Skagway that William C. met Inez May Parker. They married in Douglas, on September 2, 1916. This was the first year that the Parker family was homesteading in Gustavus.
William C. and Inez May had nine children. Most of them were born in Juneau. Gustavus was good living, but very little money was coming in to the White house. William C. took jobs in Juneau working as a superintendent of Alaska Juneau owerhouse at Thane, three years as keeper of the State jail in Juneau, helped build the Juneau-Douglas Bridge and left to work on the Great Hoover Dam project in Nevada.
It was during the Depression of 1930, that William C. started his own mail delivery service in Juneau by packing a sack on his back and hand delivering the mail for the next ten years. He braved the snow, the rain, the heat and the gloom of night to swiftly complete his appointed rounds and when the first mail order catalogues arrived, he hired a small boy and his wagon to carry them.
William C. got his pay from subscribers who got tired of going to the Juneau Post Office to claim their mail. The merchants also paid him to deliver their bills to the people on his route. It didn’t take long for him to be nicknamed “Bill, the Bill Collector.” He was the first mailman in the Territory of Alaska, well known and loved for his ready wit and smile.
It wasn’t long before William C. was appointed as the territory’s first special delivery man and delivered one of the first letters to Postmaster General James Farley when he came to visit Alaska.
William C. and Inez May are buried next to the Parkers in the Evergreen Cemetery at the foot of beautiful Mt. Juneau.
GLORIA EDITH WHITE DEVERE MILLSAP
Granddaughter to Abraham Lincoln & Edith Parker, daughter of William Charles & Inez May White, Gloria was the third of nine children raised in Gustavus and Juneau. The family moved back and forth since there wasn’t steady work for her father in Gustavus. In her high school years, she worked during the summer selling strawberries at five cents a basket to earn enough money so she could attend school in Juneau. Gloria graduated from Juneau High School in 1941.
She married Vincent DeVere in the fall of 1941. Vincent worked for the Alaska Juneau Gold Mining Company in Juneau, commonly referred to as the AJ Mine. On January 13, 1942, he met his death in a fall in the Bulldoze Chamber 484, Slope 480, Perseverance. He was placing ladders to crawl onto to place dynamite, when he tripped and fell. It turns out that Vincent took over for Clancey Henkins* while he took a short break. It was an occurrence that put Gloria into a deep depression for several months.
Not long after, Gloria met and married Claude Millsap, who was serving on the Coast Guard cutter Aurora during WWII. The Aurora took the first convoy across the Gulf of Alaska to Kodiak and then to Dutch Harbor. Claude’s home was Los Angeles, California, which meant that for a period of years they moved back and forth from Juneau to LA. They had two daughters, Norma Jean and Linda Lou. In later years, Claude would become Juneau’s first Borough Chairman.
Gloria operated the Juneau Credit Service for 16 years. She was self taught, taking many classes out of state to learn the business of credit reporting and collecting. She maintained an impeccable reputation for compassion along with her success in collecting. She refused to take people to court, preferring instead to set up individual programs that allowed people the ability to pay back their debt. Many times fishermen would come in and plunk down $40,000 in cash to pay off their debts. Her persistence and hard work paid off and in 1977 she retired.
She lived out her years with her younger daughter, Linda, on Douglas Island, commonly known as West Juneau. The home was the first in the Channel Subdivision built in 1962. It is still the family home and residence of Linda Millsap. The trees that line the Channel were small and few, and a good view was had by all in the area. Now, the Channel is lined with evergreens and deciduous trees which block the view for most beyond the waterfront. Occasionally, a thoughtful soul will trim the trees so that those above can still look out and see some water and action of the Channel. There has always been a constant flow of ships that pull up to the docks, but prior to the 60’s, it was predominately geared to Coast Guard and fishing boats with a few cruise ships in the summer. Southeast has relied upon the floatplanes to get them into other communities. The Merchants Wharf has functioned as the loading and debarkation point for other Southeast communities. Many a resident and visitor have sat for many an hour in the old Alaska Coastal Building waiting for the fog to lift or the winds to subside before returning to home or going for a visit. This area is, and always has been, the hub and action point that those on Douglas Island enjoy watching.
Gloria purchased 40 acres of homesteaded property from her parents before their deaths and began the process of clearing the land for her summer home. With help, she finished the inside and outside of a house her brother had previously framed and enclosed. She then added to the property two sheds and a garage that she built herself, which still stand proudly today. Her dream was to porch in the front of the house, and in 1998, in her honor, a beautiful porch was built onto the entire front of the house and a portion of the back. I think she’s smiling.
She helped orchestrate the building of a church and accompanying home for the community of Gustavus. This turned out to be a family project with aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, children and grandchildren all helping. The skills and fortitude passed on by Abraham Lincoln Parker were evident in that project.
Gloria enjoyed excellent health all her life. Unknowingly, a slow killer of heart disease took her life in 1993. She is buried in the Evergreen Cemetery in the Parker section with Vincent DeVere nearby. She leaves two daughters and two grandsons, Matthew Ryan, and Ryan Patrick Strickland, whom she loved and cherished very much.
Her daughters Norma and Linda have had the blessing of living enriched lives in Juneau throughout the years. Their heritage from great grandparents on down, has demonstrated what it takes to have the courage to live in this great country. It takes ingenuity, creativity, boldness, thankfulness, generosity and wisdom. Both are still living on Douglas Island today.
*In 1961, Gloria’s daughter, Norma, graduated from high school with Clancy’s son, Dale Henkins. They are still both living on Douglas Island and are good friends today.
Gloria, Claude and Norma.