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There are stories behind the familiar names of local places

Posted: December 14, 2011 - 1:00am

Place names, the names of geographic features can be a stimulating search into our history, even here in Juneau.

For example, Douglas Island was named by Capt. George Vancouver in 1794 to honor Bishop John Douglas of Salisbury, England, the editor of Captain Cook’s final journal. Then William Dall named Marmion Island on the southern tip of Douglas Island from a narrative poem by Sir Walter Scott. Marmion was the home of the Douglas clan. Hence, we have Douglas Island, Salsibury Point, Point Bishop and Marmion Island.

Then we have Stroller White Mountain, Willoughby Avenue, several places named Vanderbilt, Auke Bay, Coghlan Island and Fritz Cove. Where did all these names come from?

For those interested in place names, I highly recommend a book that I consider one of the best books ever published about Alaska. It is “A Dictionary of Alaska Place Names,” by Donald Orth, Geological Survey Professional Paper 567, first published in 1967 and available in Juneau libraries.

A primary source is “The Alaska Travel Journal of Archibald Menzies, 1793-1794” with an introduction and annotation by Wallace M. Olson and a list of the botanical collections by John F. Thilenius, University of Alaska Press, 1993. Menzies was in the longboat that visited the Juneau area twice in 1794.

Wallace Olson

Auke Bay

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