My Dear Mother
Dr. James Taylor White's letters home from the U. S. Revenue Cutter Bear, 1894, by Gary C. Stein
In February 1894 Treasury Secretary John G. Carlisle authorized Captain Michael A. Healy to employ Seattle physician James Taylor White as surgeon for the upcoming Arctic cruise of the U.S. Revenue Cutter Bear. This was White’s third cruise to Alaska for the department’s Revenue-Cutter Service, a predecessor of the U.S. Coast Guard. In 1894 White participated in missionary Sheldon Jackson’s three-year-old project transporting domesticated Siberian reindeer to Alaska to prevent supposed starvation among Alaska’s Native population.
White was an astute observer. Not only a physician, he was an avid naturalist and amateur ethnographer. Everything he saw interested him. While his 1894 diary thoroughly describes people and places he encountered, there is a briefer source offering another perspective of that summer on the Bear. His personal correspondence is in the Alaska and Polar Regions Collection and Archives at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He wrote extensively to his mother, Ione Taylor White, throughout his 1894 cruise describing not only what he saw but his personal opinions as well, some of which material never entered his diary.
White boarded the Bear at San Francisco in mid-April. At the end of that month the cutter sailed to Seattle for coal and then stood north for Sitka, arriving at Alaska’s capital on May 11. By early June the Bear had cruised along Prince William Sound to Kodiak Island.
My dear Mother:
We left St. Paul [harbor], Kadiak Island yesterday. … After having been in smooth water so long it rather upsets one to be suddenly plunging into a rough sea. Strange to say it affects me very little and I have noticed, as well as others, that it has little or no effect on my appetite. I have been warned that if the mess bill is high this year it will be my fault—a good fault it strikes me. … My eating however has been of some use. When I left Seattle I weighed 132 pounds—think of it? The fact startled me and made me think I was going into a rapid decline, but I feel better now. I was weighed in St. Paul and balanced the scales at 140 pounds. If I increase eight pounds in one month what will I do in seven? Just pause a moment and imagine your little sonny weighing 188 pounds—thus:
The trip has been delightful and peaceable. On the whole we have a nice set of officers and no trouble has been experienced, though it is rather too early to talk much. If all is as well when we get through the Arctic part of the trip as now I will be thankful, for that is when it tries one to the utmost. Mrs. H— [Mary Jane Healy, the Captain’s wife] is very pleasant to all and I think influences the Capt. more than he or anyone else imagines. [Furrier Julian] Liebes, our passenger, … is a very pleasant fellow, and the three of us, Mrs. H., Liebes, and I, play cards a good deal, and in that way pass many pleasant hours. But as I said before it is too early to comment so will wait ‘till later on.
We remained several days at Orca Station [cannery] on Cordova Bay, and a dreary time it was. … Capt. and Mrs. H— remained one night at the canneries and a party left for the mouth of the Copper River but I did not go. I was sorry at the time but glad afterwards. They went up on one of the little stern-wheel fish boats expecting to see a great deal new and interesting but were sorely disappointed. ... They stopped at a fish station and took on about 3,000 salmon and then ran on a sand bar and remained there several hours. When the tide allowed them to float again it was time to be back to the ship.
I got desperate one day and went ashore to explore for clams. … I came back feeling better, soaking wet and with a half bushel of mussels. … We began eating salmon as soon as we reached the cannery and have been eating it ever since. … Salmon once in a while is a very fine dish and at first was a very acceptable substitute for salt beef and canned food, but to have it served for breakfast, fried, and for lunch in croquettes (?) and then for dinner, baked, day after day gets monotonous.
On the 25th of May we ran down to Port Etches near the mouth of [Prince William] Sound. … Port Etches is called by the natives Nutchik and was, many years ago, an important Russian settlement, having a fort and a stockaded village, but the fort and stockade have disappeared as well as the Russians, and nothing now remains except a trading post and a dirty little village of natives. It is very picturesquely located on a little landlocked harbor with the ever-present mountains on all sides. I found a great deal of sickness there both among the men and women, and the agent said they were dying off rapidly.
Leaving Nutchik we followed down the Kenai Peninsula. … On the 28th of May we entered Cook Inlet and once more enjoyed smooth water. … The first village we stopped at was Munina, or more properly speaking Nulchik. The population, only fifty-two all told, consists entirely of Russians. … It was a pretty little village situated partly on a bluff and partly on the bank of a small stream. The houses are all built of logs and are well kept, being clean and habitable inside, and the people are entirely different from those usually seen up here, many being blondes with blue eyes. They are all hunters and many bear, moose, and caribou are killed each winter, and too they raise for their own use potatoes, cabbages, and turnips.
The soil is sandy and rich, and the climate is similar to New England. At Kchkmak, near the entrance to the Inlet, the thermometer has been seen as high as 98º F in summer and rarely goes below -8º F in winter. … Usually the winters are not long nor very severe, though considerable snow falls. Someday this will be a farming region, as wheat and oats have been raised with good success. The people here have quite a band of small Siberian cattle which looked as fat and round as some of these little Shetland ponies we see. One man too very proudly showed us his hen house and a lot of eggs and butter.
The next day we continued up to Kenai, called by the Russians Fort St. Nicholas. … Here they were working the ground getting ready to plant, though the severe winter just past has made everything very backwards. It was warm and pleasant ashore, and it seemed nice to stretch one’s legs on green grass again after so much snow. About two miles beyond here is a village of Kenai Indians, and I was surprised to see how clean they not only kept themselves, but their house—such a marked contrast to the average native village.
We were more fortunate going down the Inlet as the day was fairly clear, and we had a good view of the mountains. … There are two active volcanoes nearby, but they did not appear particularly so that day. Iliamna was quietly smoking, while the Redoubt was fast asleep. Another high mountain is an extinct volcano and occupies the whole of Augustine Island. A few years ago it was in violent eruption and the whole island was cracked from top to bottom.
Just as we came into Shellikoff straits we overhauled a little schooner [the Jayhawker], not much larger than a good-sized sailboat. The master said he was sick and wanted the doctor. On going aboard I found the dirtiest, most filthy [boat] I ever saw. She had a crew of one man, the master, a boy of about eleven years, and a dog, age not known. … He told a pitiful tale of how he had left Juneau for a mine he had located and had been blown to sea some 300 miles and had finally brought up here. He was without food and altogether (including his sad story of hardship) presented a most miserable appearance. This so softened our hearts that we gave him food and medicine and sent him on his way rejoicing. And as we left the little schooner astern, we, each one, patted ourselves on the back and said, “How nice it is to be charitable and kind to the poor and afflicted.” When we got to St. Paul, we found the rascal was wanted in both Sitka and St. Paul for smuggling whiskey to the Indians. Such is life.
On May 31st we anchored off Karluk. There is no harbor here, just a wide-open roadstead. There is an old native village here with its Greek Church and, too, a government school, but the place has lately become very important on account of the immense number of salmon caught in the Karluk river. It is only about ten miles long and about seventy-five feet wide, but is said to be the greatest salmon stream in the world, supplying as it does seven large canneries. Last year there were more than 3,500,000 fish taken here.
Going down between Afognak and Kadiak Islands the scenery is very pretty but in a more quiet way than we had been having. The passage is very crooked, winding in and out among islands and rocks. There are no high snow-covered mountains and massive glaciers, but small hills densely wooded with dark green pine and spruce. We stopped off the town of Afognak for a couple of hours, but I did not go on shore as there was nothing to see in particular. Just the same as all the other towns in this section, a trading post, a mission, and a small collection of dirty log houses and barabaras.
We reached St. Paul [harbor] that evening, and I was preparing to make myself comfortable for the night when I was sent over to Wood Island on some errand. The night was very cold, and the rain came down in torrents and by the time I got back to the ship I was soaked through & almost frozen. Wood Island is where the old Russian Ice Co. had its plant and used to supply San Francisco with ice before the railroads opened up the mountain lakes about Truckee. When I was here before  their icehouse and stables were still standing, but they have now disappeared.
St. Paul is quite a large place, having a population of some 600. It is the headquarters of two large trading companies besides being the rendezvous for all the little schooners employed in fishing, trading, and prospecting. There is lots of prospecting going on in Alaska, and a number of excellent claims have been located, but the lack of transportation prevents their being worked to any great extent.
We arrived at Unga on the 6th but did not stay very long. I found a few people onshore who wanted assistance, but aside from this there was nothing to do. There is a government school here and a Baptist mission and a trading post, and at one time this was an important station, but trade has fallen off greatly. In the afternoon we went over to Sand Point. This is a great rendezvous for the sealing schooners, there being seven in there now. They all have Indian crews from Victoria, … and such a howling and noise they keep up you never heard. Some of the officers went hunting, and as I did not they brought back a lot of ptarmigan. In the eve we had quite an exciting race between the two cutters, Mr. White [2nd Lieutenant Chester M. White] in one boat & Mr. Dodge in the other. A dispute arose at the finish and they are to settle it in Unalaska.
This part of the letter should be dated at Belkoffski, June 8, where we are now. … Coming over we came through a group of little islands most of which are nothing more than bare rocks. Unfortunately, it was very foggy and we could see very little, but once the fog raised in one direction giving us a glimpse of Mt. Shishaldin and Mt. Pavlof, both active volcanoes.
Belkoffski is a little town of about 250 people, situated at the foot of a high mountain on the mainland. There is no harbor here but an open roadstead, and from the water presents a very pretty picture. Unlike most of the other places, the houses here are painted blue, green, red and other brilliant colors giving it quite a holiday appearance. At one time Belkoffski was famous for the great number of sea otter skins caught, but now they are few and far between. The people spend most of their time making and drinking quass and trying to get the [Alaska Commercial] company to feed them.
Dutch Harbor Alaska.
June 11th ‘94
My dear Mother:
Just a few finishing lines to this as I will send it on the Bark Jno Wooster, and they will mail it on Puget Sound. We had a very disagreeable trip from Belkoffski here, the first real bad weather since leaving Sitka. It was very thick and blowing a small sized gale and after being in smooth water so long it rather up[s]et our livers. We came through Unimak Pass like a racehorse but could not see a point of land until we were well into Bering Sea, and then the fog raised a little and gave us a glimpse of Akoutan volcano. Then it shut down thick again, and we stood off and on all night and at daylight came into Unalaska.
Dutch Harbor is the headquarters of the new trading company [North American Transportation and Trading Company], and as it is their interests we are to look after we stay here. It is only a couple of miles from Unalaska, so we spend most of our time there. I went over yesterday to attend some of the school children, and I am going in today to patch up a broken head.
Just when we leave here for the Arctic I don’t know but presume it will be about the 16th inst. We have received no mail so far and if the mail steamer is not on time, we will not receive any until next September. Not knowing how things are there I can but hope and wish that all of you are well and that my letters when received will speak of good and happy times.
Today is beautiful, bright and warm. We are taking on coal and everything is dirty and upset. To be continued in my next----
I remain, well and contented your affectionate Son
July 19, ‘94
My dear Mother:
Since leaving Port Clarence on the 10th inst. we have done nothing but keep under the lea of the land and let the wind blow over us, and at times it has blown pretty hard. We first went to South Head [Siberia] to take back some natives who had been employed at the Teller Reindeer Station (the official name) as herders. Each one was paid about $100.00 in trade goods for the year’s work. Then we went up St. Lawrence Bay and anchored off the village of Noclit, behind a little sand island in about the same spot where the “Rogers” wintered and was burned in 1881. This is a good place for ducks, and it was to get some of them we came up here, so the Captain said. In about two hours five of us got 48 birds, most of them being eider ducks as big as a brant goose. Since then we have been living on ducks, and mighty fine they are after so much salt “pok,” salt “junk,” and canned stuffs.
From there we came up to East Cape, but a heavy northerly wind drove the ice down hard, so we anchored to the southard about ten miles near a camp of deermen. For several days it blew very hard, and nobody went ashore though the natives came off at times. One night when a lot of them were on board a school of walrus came by, and then the greatest confusion began. Everybody wanted a shot at the animals, but they kept away from the vessels and only the natives had a chance at them. They went out in their boats forming a big circle and gradually drawing closer finally shot one and brought him aboard. The Capt. had it skinned and salted (the skin) and is going to give it to some museum, I believe. We gave the carcass to the natives and kept the liver, which is excellent eating, being like young calves’ liver.
Finally, the wind changed to the south and moved the ice north, so we went around East Cape and anchored in the Arctic Ocean off the village of Whalen. We came here to buy deer but have not had very good success. The chief man, Tenerskin, owns nearly all the deer and he won’t part with them, at least will not sell them, but to show his importance, made us a present of five. Of course, the Captain in return made him a present, which paid for the deer. They never give you anything without expecting something of equal value in return. One man, Frank, sold us two deer, and I believe more have been promised. Frank spent three years in San Francisco once, washing dishes in a restaurant and can speak very good English, and is a smart fellow, rapidly gaining wealth and power.
But again, we have had to lay here doing nothing, for the wind has been blowing a gale from the southard, preventing our taking off deer. One day a party of us went ashore, and while some of them went hunting I wandered about the village picking up any little thing I could. As a rule these people are very hospitable and like you to visit them. And as for wrecked men thrown among them, they are always taken the best care of. This is not saying I would like to live among them, but I really do enjoy being among them for a little while.
Trade of any kind has been exceedingly scarce. I have seen very few furs and no good ones. Two white bear and a few white fox has been all so far, and as for curios, there is such a demand for them I stand little chance of getting anything very nice. Between Mrs. H—, Mr. Liebes (our passenger, and of course a privileged character) and the several new officers who have never been here before, it is a scramble to see who shall have first say. The natives are not blockheads, and take advantage of this; consequently the prices for everything are put away up. As for first say, the after end of the ship [senior officers] gets there just the same and the wardroom when it can. I tell this so the girls won’t be disappointed if I don’t bring back a few coats, capes, muffs, etc. etc. I may have a chance yet.
Yesterday, the Capt. sent a party, in charge of Mr. White, to Cape Serdze about 100 miles west of here, to buy deer so it would not take so long when we come to get them. The party consisted of two white men and eight natives in an omyak (native boat) and they expect to be gone about a month. I wanted to go very much but could not. It would have been an excellent chance to study the natives in their home life, but Capt. H. thought I would be of more use here.
Whalen is a good-sized village of Chukchee deer men (there are two classes, the deer men & Mazinkas or those who live by hunting walrus, seal etc.). Their houses are built of a number of poles bound like ribs and fastened at the top. These are covered with walrus hide, neatly sewed together, and when finished appear like a hemi-sphere with the flat side resting on the ground. A flap of hide answers for a door and on one or more sides is a piece of translucent skin to admit the light. Inside, in the center, is an open fire on which all do the cooking. On one side are the beds, made of reindeer skins and walled in with deer skin curtains, and the rest of the house is a general storeroom. Two families usually live in one house.
I could not find out if they had any marriage ceremony or not, but polygamy does exist, optional with the man. As one man said: “Maby sometime, wyenne no good, no can sew good, no make um good boot, alle same dam bad, then catchum ‘nother wyenne. Two wyenne no good, alle time fight. One time me go Cape Serdze, me wyenne stop East Cape. Me catchum ‘nother wyenne Cape Serdze, come East Cape stop. Bymeby me sleep, wyenne here, wyenne here (pointing to either side of him). Me no sleep, alle time fight.” And he went through motions as though he was scratching somebody’s eyes out. He got rid of one wife by saying he was going to the Diomede Island. So, taking his last love he left, but instead he came to Whalen. The first wife went to Diomede and can’t get back, so he is now happy with one wife, and says he won’t get any more. Sometimes a man without a wife will steal (elope we call it) someone else’s, but if caught a fight ensues and the best man takes the prize. So far as I have seen the women are treated very well, unlike our Indians, and the children are treated particularly well. Now and then considerable affection is manifested between the younger couples.
They have a very summary way of getting rid of all those unable to take care of themselves. When they become a burden to the others, someone kills them. This is done by a friend usually appointed by the invalid and is one of the greatest marks of friendship. The dead are then sewed up in skins and dragged to the place of burial by dogs. Here the body is covered over with stones and left to the tender mercies of wolves, foxes, and the half-tame dogs.
Of their religion I could find out little. They apparently believe in a spirit life and the existence of a good spirit and a bad spirit. One writer says it is mere devil worship, for they make offerings to the evil spirit to appease his wrath, but the good spirit doesn’t need any as he does them no harm. That is the base of most aboriginal worship.
July 26th ‘94
We are now back again at Port Clarence and are anchored off the Reindeer Station. Early in the morning of the 22d we left Whalen for the westward. We had finally gotten on board 16 deer, all the natives would sell, after much talking and hard work. … About 1 o’clock on the same day we anchored off the village of Tsha-tshong (that’s as near as I can get it) some 75 miles west of East Cape. Here we picked up Mr. White and party. He had bought some deer for us and was about to proceed to the west of Cape Serdze for more.
Tsha-tshong is a village of deer men containing about ten huts. … The natives had a herd of 500 or more deer and were very loathe to part with them. This was the first place I have seen any demonstration of feeling at the taking away of deer. As we began to load the deer into the boat the women set up a wail and shed real tears. The village was the dirtiest I have seen and the inhabitants about the same. While the deer were being caught, I walked about a mile along a high bluff to take a look at their place of worship. This consisted of piles of rocks and designs made on the ground with places for fires and offerings, but their uses I could not find out, and the natives either could not understand me or would not tell me about them.
After taking on 22 deer we got out as the heavy Arctic ice was making down fast. A few walrus were seen and one shot, and except bumping into ice nothing more of interest took place until we anchored here.
Point Hope Alaska
Aug 1st ‘94
On the 27th of July we left Port Clarence for our regular cruise into the Arctic and are now in our own territory. The 27th was … clear, warm and still, so the Capt. had drill at general quarters. Could an old admiral of the Navy have seen us he would have turned up his nose in scorn, and indeed it must have been a ludicrous sight. The officers had a mixed uniform, half navy & half whaler, fur pants and boots and navy blouse, cap, and sword. Although the men have been drilled a good deal, they are anywhere but perfect, and for two hours they had a circus on deck. The wardroom was given to me as a sick bay and the dining table turned into an operating table, all instruments being spread out ready for use. While the men were being shot on deck I instructed some how to carry and care for the wounded.
After lunch we got underway and … stood into Kotzebue Sound. The next day (28) … we coasted close to shore and passed many winter villages, now deserted. That eve we anchored near Cape Espenberg, and some of us went on shore to hunt. When we got in I found things more interesting than hunting game so started off by myself. … A range of sand dunes make the beach, then comes a wide stretch of marsh, then another range of sand dunes, and then a series of lakes. Beyond this is a range of good-sized hills, the Mulgrave Hills. In the first sand dunes I found scattered about the remains of underground houses that had been empty a long time. The flora was varied, containing many plants I had not seen before, among them being the cranberry. These last covered acres and were now in a green state. The beach was strewn with shells, many very pretty ones. So altogether I had lots to amuse me. We returned to the ship about 12 midnight and got underway immediately, proceeding up the Sound to Cape Blossom, where we expected to find some good trade.
About 5.30 the next morning I was awakened by the engine making a big noise and a general excitement on deck, and looking out … I saw the vessel was not moving. It turned out afterwards that we had run onto a sand bar, and for a while it looked as though we were there to stay. All day we stuck fast. and it was not until eight o’clock that evening that we got off. During the day a good many natives came off and quite a trade was kept up, but such a high price was asked that we received very little for our trade goods. We all supposed that this would be our last chance to trade as the whalers are ahead of us, so we got rid of about everything, but when we got here and found a lot more furs, cheaper than the others, we kicked ourselves (as well as we could). Now I am completely out of everything and all I have been able to get, besides a few curios, are two cub brown bear, and one cub black bear, one lynx, one white fox, and four red fox. Just what they are good for I don’t know, but I have them and that’s all. To sell them I can just about get back my money put into trade goods.
Leaving Kotzebue Sound, we coasted up in pretty bad weather, but when we reached here on the 31st July it cleared up again. Of course, I have been ashore and rummaged about the old graveyard, and in addition to my other amusements I have been trying to sketch. If I can tell what they represent when I get back, I will show them to you.
Port Clarence Alaska
My dear Mother
We have been to Point Barrow and back and have experienced during that time plenty of fine weather. … Our stay there was shortened by the sudden coming in of the ice, and for two days we were in the midst of it.—more ice than I ever saw before. At several places along the coast we stopped, and of course I took every opportunity to go ashore. Several times we went hunting but without much success except at Point Hope, where I succeeded in getting a big bunch of plover.
One day, at C. Sabine, I was actually driven aboard the ship by the mosquitoes. The day was very warm and tramping over the marshy tundra is not the easiest. I could have stood this, but the mosquitoes most drove me crazy. Some of the others looked as though they had the measles, and my hands and face were so sore I could hardly touch them. Even my scalp was too sore to use a comb on. On our return to East Cape we picked up Mr. White who had then been a month with the natives buying deer. He had had quite an experience and is not sorry he went, and I only wish I had been with him.
The ice was so bad we could not reach Cape Serdze again, so we came here stopping on our way at the Diomede Islands.
I have thought of a scheme and if you will let me, I will carry it out and make a stake. It is this: Dr. Jackson wants someone to buy deer for him. Mr. White and I will come up next year and establish headquarters at Cape Serdze, Siberia; get somebody like Liebes or Foster to stake us fur trading and whaling and try a year or two. With any luck at all we can make big money. Two men at Pt. Barrow made this year about $20,000.00. Just think about it a little bit, and when I come back, we will talk it over.
St. Lawrence Is Aug. 27 ‘94
We are here fixing up the quarters for the schoolteacher [Vene Gambell and his wife, Nellie] and trying to get the house as comfortable as possible. Just think of a man bringing up a young wife to live here on a barren island, miles away from any white man and with just enough grub to live on. That’s some of Jackson’s work and mismanagement.
We left Port Clarence on the 22d and that evening stopped at C. Prince of Wales to deliver some stuff at the station there. There is a big village there with a government school, but the natives, unlike the others, are a bad lot and last year they killed the teacher [missionary Harrison Thornton]. But from many accounts it was partly his fault. The teacher’s [W. T. Lopp] baby was sick, so I went in to attend it. This is a nasty place to land, being a long shallow beach with several lines of breakers through which we have to go. I went in one of the native’s skin boats or omyaks and after I had filled my boots full of water, I made up my mind they are not the best of surfmen. From there we started for here and caught the heaviest blow we have had since leaving Sitka, giving us all a good shaking up and stirring our livers about pretty lively. We had been in smooth water so long that we had lost our sea legs.
Bering Sea 100 mi from Unalaska
Sept 20 ‘94
My dear Mother:
This letter has been written by fits and starts as the mood may be. Since the last date at St. Lawrence Island we have made a good many miles, having been to Cape Serdze and back. After leaving the Carpenter at St Lawrence Island to complete the mission house, we started north to buy deer and finish up our Arctic business. … Fortunately, we found the west coast quite free of ice and went some 15 mi. west of C. Serdze. … Here we met a lot of deer men and purchased a load of live deer besides a good many dead ones for food. Tame deer meat is fine, resembling nice spring lamb about as much as anything. The natives were slaughtering quantities of deer and in one place I saw over a hundred carcasses on the ground. Our trip back was not quite so smooth as the ice had worked south, and for a while (all one night) our getting out looked rather dubious. But we did and reached Port Clarence safely where we unloaded the deer and cleaned ship generally.
From Port Clarence we went to St Michaels where we lay a couple of days and then back to St. Lawrence Is. and all this time having fine weather. … A breathing spell off St Paul and a short stop off St George brings us here.
Sept 21 ‘94
My dear Mother:
We arrived here this AM and received some of our mail. Unfortunately some of it was sent to the Mackenzie river and will now freeze. Since coming in everything is upside down and otherwise. We have a lot of freight to be taken out and 30 passengers to transfer besides a lot of red tape to go through. Worst of all we have to dress in uniform—no Mazinka [Arctic Native] clothing allowed.
As for myself I am really in excellent health; without any exaggeration, and weighed yesterday just 141 pounds, somewhat weather-stained and rather fuzzy about the face, but otherwise appear about as usual.
In many respects the cruise has been a very pleasant one and I have enjoyed it beyond my expectations. Have received several invitations to “come and spend a winter with us” from both whalers and missionaries, and personally would not object a little bit.
I am very glad to hear you are all well and have not been too lonesome all summer. So far there is no news as to the time of our starting south, but there are all kinds of rumors–all the way from November 1st to Jan 1st. With me it is more time, more pay.
With much love to all—some of which I collected in the Arctic and enclose in this letter—I remain affectionately
Between September and November the Bear continued its patrol around Unalaska and the Pribilof Islands. On November 1 the cutter left for San Francisco, arriving on November 14. White was discharged the following day, and it would be another six years before he returned to Alaska, this time on the Revenue Steamer Nunivak that patrolled the Yukon River in 1900. ~•~
Gary C. Stein received his Ph.D. from the University of New Mexico in 1975 with fields in Western American History and U.S. History to 1860, specializing in Native American History. He has worked as a research historian for the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, the Alaska Department of Natural Resources in Anchorage, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington D.C. His personal research interests gravitated toward the history of the Revenue-Cutter Service in Alaska. He has retired to Florissant, Missouri and is hard at work writing up all the research material he gathered in Alaska more than 40 years ago.