This week we introduce a new column in the Capital City Weekly: “Southeast in Sepia.” (Thanks to Randi Spray for thinking of the name.)
Southeast in Sepia will focus on the fascinating and varied histories of Southeast Alaska as related by historians around the region.
Those of you who’ve been reading the Capital City Weekly for a while will remember Pat Roppel’s more than 100 published articles on the history of Southeast Alaska, knowledge gained from her own explorations of dilapidated canneries, abandoned mine sites, and (for the historian) treasure-filed beaches. Roppel died in January of 2015, but her articles, historical treasures, live on in the Capital City Weekly archives and her books. It’s our hope that this series will continue that legacy of shining light onto histories both well known and forgotten.
Karl Gurcke of Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park starts us off this first week with a column about the deadly April 3, 1898 avalanche on the Chilkoot Trail. It killed more than 50 people — though newspaper tallies, and lists of the dead, varied wildly at the time. A letter from John Morgan, who survived one avalanche only to be caught and perish in another, brings the scene to vivid life, as do photos provided by the Alaska Historical Library.
History lives every day in each of us. It shapes the stories we tell ourselves, which shape the people we become. These histories aren’t just fascinating because of the things we can learn about the people that came before us — struggles, disasters, hopes, crimes, battles, dreams — but for what they can tell us about ourselves.
I hope you look forward to this series as much as I do.
— Mary Catharine Martin, Capital City Weekly managing editor