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Famously Harris

Outpouring of information uncovers more than one 'Fred Harris'

Posted: October 26, 2012 - 12:00am
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Fredrick "Fred" Harris poses in front of a bear skin rug with his rifle on the front porch of his family home in 1949. Harris was the grandson of Juneau co-founder Richard T. Harris, Sr. Fred's father was William John Harris.   Barbara Schultze Photograph Collection, Courtesy of the Alaska State Library Historical Collections, ASL-PCA-475
Barbara Schultze Photograph Collection, Courtesy of the Alaska State Library Historical Collections, ASL-PCA-475
Fredrick "Fred" Harris poses in front of a bear skin rug with his rifle on the front porch of his family home in 1949. Harris was the grandson of Juneau co-founder Richard T. Harris, Sr. Fred's father was William John Harris.

Editor's note: This story is evolving and information presented in the print version was somewhat incorrect due to limited information at the time; this version reflects the correct information as it is acquired from community members. Thank you for your understanding. 

It all started with a cutline. There, in the digitized black and white image was a man, kneeling next to a bear skin rug. His rifle rested a few inches away on the light deck planking in front of what looked like a typcial Southeast home. 

The description under the image read "Fred Harris, hunting guide, Juneau, 1949." 

But, that was it. 

"Who was Fred Harris?" I wondered. "Was that his home?"

Subsequent photos showed this same Harris with a woman, about his age. Was she his wife? I couldn't be certain. Another photo showed the same bear skin rug, on the same deck, but this time it was a baby, between nine and 11 months, posing with the bear. His hands were on its head. 

The name "Harris" in Juneau conjures images of one well-known miner, who co-founded Juneau and unleashed the hunt for gold in areas like Silverbow Basin and Treadwell.

Could the Fred Harris in the photo be tied to this famous namesake?

The following is what I discovered:

The year was 1879. Richard Tighe Harris, an Irishman, along with Joe Juneau, a French Canadian, were tasked with prospecting the Taku and Gastineau Channel areas by George Pilz, a mining engineer working in Sitka at the time. 

The pair of prospectors struck gold in Gold Creek and Harris returned to Sitka to draft up mining laws and sketch out the original townsite of Juneau. He dubbed it Harrisburgh, though the name was later changed to Juneau.

Harris married a young Tlingit woman, Kitty, from Hoonah in 1880 and together they had four children, two of which survived to adulthood — William John and Richard Tighe, Jr.

Richard Tighe Harris, Jr. married Inez Ashby and together the pair had seven children: William, Thomas (1917), Irene, Liela, Mary, Charlotte and Richard. William died in an accident at the age of seven, Mary died out of state in 1948, Charlotte was lost to whooping cough and measles as an infant and Richard died in 1998, in Juneau. Richard Harris, Jr., became a musician and carpenter, and lived in Juneau for most of his life.

The life of William John Harris, the brother of Richard T. Harris Jr., has been lost slightly to the passing of time. Records indicate that, like his brother, he too had a large family in Juneau. Margaret Harris, was his wife, and  together they had 10 children: Richard (Dicky), Frederick, Margaret, Robert “Casey” (B. 1917), Martha, Sophia, Bernice “Bunny”, William John, Mildred, Robert “Casey” (B. 1936). William John Harris worked as a guide and as a sign-painter in Juneau for many years.

Frederick (Fred) B. Harris, took after his father is some respects and he worked as a hunting guide. He was later a draftsmen, surveyor and road engineer for the Territorial Road Commission/Federal Highways. According to his daughter, he was married to Dorothy Irene Welch, originally from Webster, Wisconsin on Christmas Day in 1945. The couple were happily married and had six children and four of them still live in Alaska. The oldest is Margaret (Peggy), followed by twin brothers, Kenneth and Frederick, Kathaleen (died young), and Hugh and James, a second set of twins. 

Frederick B. Harris died May 23, 2000, at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage. He was born Jan. 13, 1915, in Juneau where he lived until he moved to Anchorage in the 1970s.

Dorothy Harris moved to Juneau in 1943 where she worked as a telephone operator for a few years. After getting married to Frederick B. Harris, Dorothy became a stay at home mom. In 1972 she moved to Anchorage where she lived until her death in May. 

Fred Harris, the grandson of Richard Tighe Harris, was never married to Ellen Green, as previously indicated. That was another Frederick Harris who may have been from Hoonah and was possibly a relative of Kitty (Harris).

A Frank Harris appears in volume one of Gastineau Channel Memories. This Harris moved to Juneau in 1914 and is of no known relation to the aforementioned Harris family. 

• Do you have more information about the Harris family? Tell us. Email Outdoors Editor Abby Lowell at abby.lowell@juneauempire.com.

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