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.



  1. Dear Grampa Stan,
    I am so grateful that you have gone to the trouble to post the photos of the Jonesville min in AK. I never got to know my wonderful father because he was murdered there by one of the prisoners from a local prison that they had working there due to the shortage of men after WWII. My Father, Milton Ervin Thompson, was a Christian and soft-spoken gentleman- they hired him to be a supervisor over a crew of men. He was pushed down a coal chute and buried alive. I was born just 6 days later on June 30th 1946. I really do crave information about the mine during those years (1945-1946). I can't find anything about the prisoners they "hired". The man who murdered my father was in prison for life for a previous murder so he had nothing to lose to kill my father who greatly enraged the man because he couldn't be 'ruffled' or upset (although he was truly fearful of the brute according to his letters to my mother - of which none have survived). Several of the mine executives attended his funeral on June 24th in Seattle at Stokes Funeral Home. So I wonder if Jim Stephen's family has any of his journals or writings or know anything about my father's death or the practice of the mine to employ prisoners. Thank you for anything you can find out for me.
    God Bless You
    Joy Thompson

    1. Joy,

      On the right side of the blog there are all the rest of the pictures I have of the Jonesville Mine, but you need to scroll down. We have a lot more of the Steven's pictures that have no identification. If you have a picture of your father, I could look for him in the pictures, and I could post it here on this blog, and maybe someone could send you more information.

  2. Hello Stan,

    I've been searching for photographs of the Jonesville mine for a book I'm working on. With every search I try, I find the photos on your blog are inevitably the best. Thank you for such a fascinating site.

    I'm writing to ask for permission to use some of your photos of the Jonesville mine in my forthcoming book about the Matanuska Valley. You can see the book I'm working on, which is nearing completion, at my website for this title. I have a short chapter on the Jonesville mine, and I need three photos to complete it.

    Thanks for considering my request, and thank you again for your good writing!

    Kind regards,
    Helen Hegener
    Wasilla, Alaska
    Northern Light Media

  3. Ah, the website did not publish, so here it is again: http://matanuskavalley.wordpress.com

  4. I'm looking for a list of the men who died in the 1937 explosion/fire at Jonesville.

  5. Coleen, I have the names of the miners killed at Jonesville in 1937, however I don't know how to "forward" same....
    Phil Doherty

  6. Dear grandson of Stan Stark,

    I have just uncovered the first 2 pages of your account of your grandfather's work in Sutton, AK. I am a member of Alpine Historical Society which manages the Alpine Historical Park in Sutton highlighting coal mining in the area. Your photos and account of the 1940's local mining are fascinating. If possible, I would like to have the total account (9 pages) and copies of the photos for the Park's display. Thank you for recording some of Jim Stephens involvement in Sutton. At the park there is a Hall of Fame which features many miners. Neither Jim Stephens or his father are included in the display. Can you send me any information you have gleamed on them from writing this account?

    Please send me your name so I can contact you directly.

    Sincerely, Nancy Dryden

    1. Hello, Sorry I never answered. I believe the total account is available from the right sidebar. You may use any pictures and the stories as written. stanstark73@gmal.com.