Friday, August 19, 2011

The Buffalo Mine near Palmer Alaska

.......................All this says on the back is :"10-52 - Buffalo Mine" Standing in the back, first from left  is James R Stephens. .. In the front kneeling second from right  "Fred "
Jim Stephens :"My first camp washing
 of mine clothes." (Possibly at Jonesville?)
    The following quote is from a court case involving the Buffalo Mine:

"During World War II the United States Army seized Buffalo's coal mine near Palmer, Alaska and commenced making substantial physical changes in the property for the purpose of increasing production. Before the project was finished, the war ended and the army returned the property to Buffalo, but in an inoperable condition. Buffalo lacked money to complete the work and was unable to borrow it. All activity ceased and the mine became flooded."

"Fred & Marge, Buffalo Mine"
"Fred 1952"

   Buell A Nesbett and some other investors formed a company and planned on restoring the mine. They borrowed money and immediately began construction, repairing and refurbishing the mine using the borrowed money, but they had miscalculated and didn't have enough. They tried to borrow more, but the lending company refused. The company went under and could not pay its debts.

There was nothing written on the back, but this is Edna.
"Marge, Buffalo Mine, Near Palmer, AK"

   I think that the Stephens were working for the Buffalo mine during the time it was trying to reconstruct the mine, and then were laid off when It stopped construction. My evidence for the layoff is from the caption on the last picture, below.

  These pictures may have been taken on an excursion the women took up to the Buffalo Mine to see the men. It appears that the men were working, while the women were having fun.

 Jim Stephens: "Ben Hamsrick and myself, Buffalo Mine 10-52."
"Marge at Buffalo Mine, 1953"
Edna Poore (Stephens) 1953

The two pictures of Marge and Edna in the ore cart are a match, so I have dated the second one of Edna the same as the one of Marge which was dated on the back. Edna's picture had nothing written on the back. If they had a date I typed it under the picture.

"Edna Poore, Jim (the cook) Betty McDonald" Has Kodak date Nov 10, 1952

Has Kodak date, Oct 8, 1952

   These two color photos were not developed on the same date, but close. They appear to me to be pictures of the mine, but possibly the Jonesville mine. So I am assuming that Edna worked at one of the mines, and that she met Jim while working there.

"At foot of Bailey Hill, Palmer"

   These two black and white photos (above and below) appear to me to be at the same place.  The one below, of Jim and the 1951 mercury, were taken down the road of the one above.

   The one on the right has "Hillside cabins. Unprepossing view, isn't it?" written on the back, then the caption was written  that I typed under the picture.
"Herman stays next door to me. The neighbor's kid sneaked into the picture. 51 Mercury."

   I liked the 51 Mercury in this one, so I formatted it larger. It is actually the same size as the one of the cabins above, which is about the actual size of all of these black and white photo's.

Kodak date: Week of Dec 20, 1954
   Notice the siding on the cabins. It is like a roofing material, but actually looks like bricks. It came in rolls like rolled roofing. It could be nailed around a building to act as both siding and insulation. In Cutten, in Humboldt County California where I saw this material as a boy, sometimes there was nothing on the walls except this asphalt rolled siding. It also had small brown rocks embeded into it like roofing.

    The picture on the right of Jim and Edna has the following on the back typed by Jim Stephens which identifies the lay off time:

   "Winter of the first three months we were married, and    every day a holiday, as at the time I had just been laid off."

Just after the layoff Edna and James were married.

   I think the pictures tell that story, even dating the layoff and closing of the construction. It seems to fit with the dates of the court cases, which always are delayed.  At present I have little more information about the mine nor the Stephens except what is in the captions of the pictures.

   The Stephens lived the rest of their lives in Palmer, Alaska.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Jonesville Mine, Sutton, Alaska

James Stephens: "The top bunkhouse wherein I dwell. An X denotes my room."
   I went back to work today (15 August, 2011). I'm only teaching two periods now, partially retired, but it felt good to be back teaching. I used to go back to the bakery and work in the summers. It used to feel good to be back. I think about the bakery where I worked on and off from 1958 until 1982, twenty-four years. I even dream about it occasionally. The place where a man spends so much of his life is important to him.

"The bldg. to the right, in full view" Blacksmith Shop. Jonesville."
   I have had trouble figuring out why I should post or write about these mine pictures, but that is the reason. They were important to Jim Stephens. We have hundreds of the Stephens' pictures, and nothing is written on the backs of most of them, but the mine pictures....... they are almost all written on and explained.
"A few Shacks of the original camp. Young married people live in them."

   There are two sets of pictures, the Buffalo Mine in the early 1950's, and the Jonesville mine in the 1940's. I think he worked at first at the Jonesville mine, and it appears that Edna also worked for one of those two mine companies, probably the Buffalo Mine, and even Jim Stephens' father, James Andrew Stephens worked at one of the mines. I have said that I think the Stephens were a coal mining family, from Wales, so there may be more of the family that worked in the Alaska mines. This is a discovery story, so we will see what is discovered as I write.

   Evan Jones started the Jonesville mine at Sutton, Alaska, sometime in the 1920's and it continued operating until about 1967. It's my guess that Jim Stephens went to work for the Jonesville mine when he was released from the army,  in about 1946. The pictures in this earliest time period appear to explain to someone about the mine. It is possible that he sent them to Edna, explaining on the back what each building was. There are also some colored pictures that may have been Edna's, or may have been given to the family. They will go in the next post about the Buffalo mine. These have little written on the back, but appear to me to be mine pictures also.
"Super's house."  All these pictues also have "Jonesville" written on them.

    There was a serious disaster at the Jonesville Mine in 1937 that killed 14 miners. It would deter a young man from wanting to work there today, but to a soldier just returning from the much more serious disasters and death of World War II, it probably seemed like little risk. Probably just having a job was great. People in those days did not have any income, little if any government unemployment and little government welfare. When the war was over soldiers were sent home with no more pay and had to figure out how to deal with life on their own.
"Entrance to the mine. Jonesville."

"Looking down into Timber yard. Jonesville."
   James Roland Stephens enlisted in the army 22 Dec 1942 in Vigo, Indiana. His enlistment papers say he was 25, single with dependents (that's another mystery which I just now discovered) as a private in the Warrant Officers branch of the army, and that he had experience as a bookkeeper and cashier.  When the war was over he had probably already investigated different areas in Alaska on leaves and decided what he wanted to do. He may have already met Edna whose name at that time was Edna Poore.

"View of Mine Bldg's standing from my Bunkhouse. Jonesville."
   Edna had married Flodia V Poore in 1925. I don't know yet what happened to him. He may have been killed in the war, or they may have divorced. I have not yet found a record of him. This information I found on a slip of paper that Grandma Moody, Edna's mother,  had written. It was a type-written list of her children, their birth dates, their spouses and the number of children. Jim Stephens was not on the list, so it was probably written before their marriage.


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

War In Alaska: The Pieces of the Puzzle Fit Together

   Puzzles sometimes fit together in unexpected places from unexpected sources. We just returned from a trip to our great-grandson's blessing in Provo, Utah, by way of our granddaughter's home near Preston, Idaho, Dorothy's sister's home in Minden, Nevada, and our granddaughter's basketball game in Healdsburg, California. Two thousand three hundred and thirty-eight miles. How does that fit together with Edna and Jim Stephens' Photo Box?

    I didn't think it did, but Edna Augustine's husband, Augie, (Dorothy's sister Edna, in Minden,  Nevada) kept talking to me about Shemya, one of the Aleutian Islands, where Augie spent time during his career in maintenance of U.S. government buildings on that island. Augie showed me a series of books about World War II in Alaska, the only state ever to be occupied by a foreign power.

Japan invaded, captured and held some of those Aleutian Islands and (I think) were preparing to attack the coast of Canada or the US.

The twelve men manning the weather station on Kiska
   The Japanese first bombed Dutch Harbor on Unalaska Island, one of the Aleutian Islands, then landed an amphibious assault on Adak, a much smaller and further west island.

   On the 6th of June, 1942, the Japanese landed 500 Marines on Kiska, another of the Aleutian Islands. There were 12 men who were manning an American weather station. Ten were captured by the Japanese.

   On the 7th of June, 1942, the Japanese invaded Attu, another of the Aleutian Islands. Living there were 45 native Aleut Indians, some Blue Fox, and two Americans, Charles Jones and his wife Etta. Etta and the Aleut's were captured, taken to Japan,  and Mr. Jones lost his life.

"Me, with jeep,  Adak, World War II. Jimmy Stephens"
   Also in June, 1942 several places along the coast of North America were attacked by a Japanese submarine, even as far south as Astoria, Oregon.

   On these Aleutian islands  the Japanese had at least 5000 soldiers by November, 1942, displacing around 70 local people, but the invasion so worried the U.S. Government leaders, that they blacked out the news of the invasion to the "lower 48."

"Me on Adak, 1944"
   I had never heard of this invasion until Augie told me about it, and probably most Americans didn't, and don't, know that we were actually occupied by a foreign power. My parents never spoke of it, even though my Uncle Clayton was an "official aircraft spotter" during the war.

   It was not easy to dislodge the Japanese. At least 100 missions were flown against the islands.  While some of the Japanese were evacuated by ship, those on the island of Attu were left to defend themselves.  They finally ended up in a terribly bloody battle where there were 3829 American casualties, and more than 2351 Japanese dead. The U.S. command had earlier realized that they just couldn't take that island first, so they first captured Adak. It was during a raging storm, but after the capture on August 30, 1942, Adak became a U.S. Naval Station.

  There it was........  "Adak!" the word I couldn't figure out on the back of the picture of the "Dapper Guy" in an earlier post, which I will repeat for you. You'll see the front of the picture below on the left.

"Bill Hagan and I. Adak 44-46
   "but this apparent military photo below has writing on the back, so guess what it says: "Bill Hagan and I. ......(??word??) 44-46" That didn't help much."

   That was  the word! James Stephens was stationed on Adak, an island in the Aleutian chain, but I couldn't figure out the word until I had some history. 

Thanks Augie.