Resurrected diary tells of the tribulations at Treadwell

Discovery of grandfather's notes on mining in Douglas shows operation's high death rate

Posted: Monday, January 09, 2006

Ten years ago, Barry Kibler, now a 66-year-old retired truck driver in Carmichael, Calif., inherited his grandfather's diaries, detailing two trips he made to work at the Treadwell Mine in Douglas in 1903 and 1904. Kibler found them interesting but put them into a drawer, where they sat for almost seven years.

Kibler took them out again after he and his wife took a cruise through Juneau in 2002. He toured the A-J Mine, hopped the city bus to Douglas for a short tour of the Treadwell Mine and had an inspiring conversation with a woman at a Ketchikan bookstore.

"I told her about the diaries and she said, 'You should get them published,'" Kibler said. "I had no idea of the significance of the Treadwell Mine for all those years. I had my wife look it up on the Internet and there was tons of information."

Kibler has spent the last few years transcribing "The Treadwell Diaries By Edwin Warren, 1903-1904" from the two packed half-inch thick books into computer documents. Kibler has a few letters out to publishers and has also considered selling the manuscripts on an Internet site such as eBay. He's provided a copy of the manuscript to the University of Alaska and also contacted the Juneau-Douglas City Museum.

"I find the mining incidents and the details about the things going on in the mine to be pretty interesting," Kibler said. "He was very good at explaining nature. The diaries were never written for the purpose of publishing, but 100 years later they have some historical value."

Warren was a deeply religious man. He grew up in Pacific Grove, Calif., a community originally settled by Methodists.

He was just out of high school when he set out for his first trip to Alaska, in the summer of 1903. He was working to help save money for his tuition at Stanford but, as a devoted ornithologist, his main interest was studying Alaska birds. He was also acquainted with a Rev. Jackson, who worked at the Endeavors Mission in Juneau.

Warren rode his "wheel," now an antique bicycle - known at the time as a pennyfarthing - with a large wheel in the front and a small one in the rear, the 150 miles from Pacific Grove to Sacramento. He continued by train to Vancouver, then took the Princess May steamer to Douglas.

"He explains the trip along the way, and the scenery when he passed by the mission in San Jose and went through Livermore and saw the California poppies," Kibler said. "I've been in that area myself and now it's a modern freeway. Back then, it was probably a dirt road."

The manuscript of the first trip is broken into 10 chapters, covering July 28 to Oct. 1, 1903. Warren, like many miners, was overpowered by the mine's gases on the first day and fainted. August was a particularly brutal month. Three men died on Aug. 5, and another two were killed on Aug. 17. The lack of safety provisions sparked a near-riot on Aug. 6 and many men quit during the month.

"There were people getting killed in there left and right, and he would explain how they got killed," Kibler said. "A cable broke on a hoist and the whole thing fell clear to the bottom, things like that. A lot of miners were also killed by falling rocks."

After his trips to Juneau in 1903 and 1904, Warren finished his studies at Stanford. He eventually owned a dairy in Menlo Park, Calif., near Palo Alto, and ran a 300-acre rice ranch in northern California. Warren died in the early 1970s at the age of 92.

• Korry Keeker can be reached at

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