BERT RAY LIBE began his love affair with Alaska on a bright July morning in 1905, when he boarded the SS Valencia in San Francisco—along with over four hundred other men, a woman dressed as a man, and a teenage boy—headed for Seward, Alaska to seek employment with the Alaska Central Railroad Company. His mind was filled with visions of hunting adventures and gold-seeking opportunities in the rugged land of the north; his soul was infused with excitement.
Boarding that ship changed the course of Bert’s life forever!
Part 1 is a compilation of Bert’s own stories, memoirs of his Southcentral Alaska experiences that will feed your sense of adventure and touch your heart—written in third person using the moniker, Fuzzy, given to him by his shipmates because of his thick and unruly hair.
Part 2 is the “rest of the story,” full of history of the early years in Southeast Alaska and Ketchikan: the influx of the non-Natives, the persistence of the Alaska Natives to establish aboriginal title to their land and its resources, and the ongoing struggle to fend off those who were exploiting Alaska’s land and resources for their own gain.
Woven into Part 2 are many stories of the early pioneers who founded and built Ketchikan into Alaska’s “First City,” the first stop for all vessels coming into Southeast Alaska from the south; and also those who supported it through the years of the mining industry, the large fishing and lumber industries, and finally into the tourism industry. This also includes Bert’s Pioneering life as a craftsman homebuilder/contractor, business entrepreneur, and supporter of Ketchikan’s civic, fraternal, and social affairs. After arriving in Ketchikan in 1913 he married the younger daughter of Neil McIlravie, the first builder/contractor to arrive in Ketchikan in 1899 (and great-great uncle of the author), and carried on Neil’s legacy.
One full section (with many photos) is devoted to the development and operation (in the late 1930s) of the Blue Jay Mine on the Cleveland Peninsula, northwest of Ketchikan at Helm Bay—Bert’s dream of a lifetime! Bert was seated among the honored dignitaries at Alaska’s 1967 Alaska Centennial Celebration, in honor and recognition, as one of Ketchikan’s early pioneering citizens who contributed to the community for many years.