2 Replies Latest reply on Nov 1, 2016 5:54 AM by Luci J Baker Johnson

    Federal Prisoners that were transpoted from various points in Alaska (Juneau, Douglas, Fairbanks, Kobuk) to McNeil Island, WA in the years 1909-1912.

    Luci J Baker Johnson Adventurer

      Federal Prisoners that were transported from various points in Alaska (Juneau, Douglas, Fairbanks, Kobuk) to McNeil Island, WA in the years 1909-1912.

       

      The Ninth District Court granted appellate jurisdiction over federal district courts in California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. I have four men who were convicted in the District of Alaska courts (divisions #1 and #4) in the years 1909 and 1912. I believe the judges that pronounced the sentences were Judge E.E. Cushman and Judge Peter Overfield. The sentence was 'so many years' at McNeil Island Penitentiary.

       

      My question is this -- what was the mode of transportation that they would have taken to get from the four places (Juneau, Douglas, Fairbanks, and Kobuk) in Alaska to McNeil Island, in Washington state. This would have taken place BEFORE Alaska became a U.S. Territory (which happened in August 1912). I've found one newspaper reference to the transport of one prisoner via the 'Orr stage' (see below). However I don't know the routes of the 'stage' and where it would have taken them [to]. How many days would the journey have taken?

       

      The Alaska Citizen (Monday, February 5, 1912) reported "On the Orr stage leaving Monday morning for the Outside there were seven passengers: Mr. & Mrs. William Casey (who are going to their California home); Deputy Marshal P.G. Charles and Val Diebold [guard] (in charge of three prisoners; Prisoners – Borisa M. Rakeoceviche and Joe Berry headed for McNeil’s Island and Melvin Seversen, who is to be taken to Mt. Tabor Sanatorium."

       

      Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

       

      Luci Baker Johnson

        • Re: Federal Prisoners that were transpoted from various points in Alaska (Juneau, Douglas, Fairbanks, Kobuk) to McNeil Island, WA in the years 1909-1912.
          Ann Abney Scout

          Hi Luci -

           

          This answer comes from one of our archivists who is familiar with Alaska records:

           

          "...regarding the stage, the Orr stage was owned by Ed S. Orr, and carried both freight and passengers up and down Richardson Highway. The trip in the winter, interestingly, was easier once mud and rivers froze over. The stages had snow runners on them, making it significantly easier. Combine a dog sled and a horse cart in your head, and that's about right. There should be a fair number of pictures up in VILDA [Alaska Digital Archives], if you want to see them. I recall that the superintendent's cabin up in Chitna is now a HABS [Historic American Buildings Survey] site or it was at least up for nomination.

           

          Third, as for the prisoner transport.... It depended on the time of year, where transport originated from, etc. There also was typically not one source of transport. Given the logistics, a prisoner could have left town by sled to the water point, taken a boat, gotten off the boat, got back on a coach, and then to the actual point of departure to get on another boat to head down to McNeil. The overarching theme of Alaska, in all things, is that we make that stuff up as we go along -- whatever that stuff happens to be. Logistics are ruled by weather conditions and cost. Either of those things can derail a whole plan if something changes at the last minute, which often happens. If one is bringing a prisoner out of Bethel for example, how one would bring in the summertime is very different than the late fall, when ice may or may not be a factor. It would not be unheard of simply to leave a prisoner either in a local prison for 6 months or simply let him go on his own recognizance with a due date to be back for transport, if the cost of ice navigation was too great, but inland hadn't frozen over enough. Coaches take a greater risk with half-frozen mud and unpredictable creeks, so the cost goes up drastically. Once those are frozen over to solid sheets of ice, the cost goes down, but the time to make the trip goes up because of unpredictable weather, and the stop-points charging fees related to that weather. There are no simple answers in Alaska."

           

          Hope that helps somewhat!

            • Re: Federal Prisoners that were transpoted from various points in Alaska (Juneau, Douglas, Fairbanks, Kobuk) to McNeil Island, WA in the years 1909-1912.
              Luci J Baker Johnson Adventurer

              Thank you for sharing this information. Ironically enough, I did come across the Historic Structure Report that you mentioned. It's really very good and has a great deal of information contained. I've included images of the first two pages (of 102 pages) of that document. I also appreciate the contextual information you provide. My hope is to find some kind of federal records that document the four journeys. I know that the US Marshal would have been the one to arrange for the trip(s). I'm also in communication with the Department of Justice to see if records might exist for the payment of services to the stage / rail / boat / etc.

               

              What I do know are the date and place of each sentence and the date they arrived at McNeil Island, WA  and the number of days between the sentence and delivery to McNeil: 

               

              Stroud was sentenced (Juneau) August 23, 1909 and arrived at McNeil on August 30, 1909.  [22 days - summer

              Faletta was sentenced (Juneau) on January 17, 1912  and arrived at McNeil on January 26, 1912.  [9 days - winter]

              Rekecvich was sentenced (Fairbanks) on December 18, 1911 and arrived at McNeil on February 15, 1912. (59 days - winter]

              Meynaud was sentenced (Nome) on May 9, 1912 and arrived at McNeil on June 21, 1912. [43 days - summer]

               

              Ed S. Orr Nomination.jpg

              Ed S Orr Nomination - details.jpg