BY JEANNETTE BELSHEE REITZ
BERT RAY LIBE began his love affair with Alaska—the Great Land—on a bright July morning in 1905, when he boarded the SS Valencia in San Francisco for Seward, Alaska, to seek employment with the Alaska Central Railroad Company. Boarding that ship changed the course of Bert’s life forever!
Visions of HUNTING ADVENTURES and GOLD-SEEKING OPPORTUNITIES in the rugged land of the Last Frontier filled Bert’s head, and after a few weeks he quit working for the company and began planning his journeys.
A compilation of Bert’s own stories ~ memoirs of his SOUTHCENTRAL ALASKA experiences from the Kenai Peninsula to the benches of Denali (Mt. McKinley), that will feed your sense of adventure and touch your heart.
Fuzzy (Bert’s Alaska nickname) and Hugo’s camp at the mouth of Lake Creek; Fuzzy is at center left mending a broken oar.
The rest of the story, full of history of the early years in SOUTHEAST ALASKA and KETCHIKAN: the influx of the non-Natives, the persistence of the Alaska Natives to establish aboriginal title to their land and its resources, and the ongoing struggle to fend off those who were exploiting Alaska’s land and resources for their own gain.
Woven into Part 2 is BERT’S PIONEERING LIFE as a craftsman homebuilder/contractor, business entrepreneur, and supporter of Ketchikan’s civic, fraternal, and social affairs—continuing the legacy of his father-in-law (and great, great uncle of the author), Neil McIlravie, the first builder/contractor to arrive in Ketchikan in 1899.
Bert and Patsy hunting in southern Southeast Alaska. The Clara D was a 46-foot converted halibut boat that Bert used for hunting and fishing trips, pleasure outings with friends and family, and as a mine tender during the development and operation of the Blue Jay Mine. He became well known in the area during the late 20s into the mid-50s for his ability to move buildings from remote areas to the Ketchikan area—towing them 40 miles or more on large rafts behind the Clara D, and placing them intact on new foundations.
Author and her parents, 1995, resting by the warehouse on the beach before the 1600 foot climb to the top of the mine site—over 50 years after they were last there! Just behind us was a surprise windfall area of trees that challenged us for the first part of our journey.
Author with her children and grandchildren at the mine site, summer 2015, after climbing to the top of the site. The old ball mill from the mill building is in the center of the photo, corroded and surrounded by the rainforest vegetation.
Launched at the Ketchikan Public Library in May 2016, this 453-page book with 121 photos may be purchased in person at Ketchikan’s PARNASSUS Books and Gifts, 105 Stedman St., next to the Chief Johnson totem pole, for $24.95.
This book is also available for purchase on this website by following the paypal link below.
Cost is $24.95 + $8.00 USPS media shipping within the continental United States. Additional postage required for purchases outside the U.S.