We had a couple errands we hoped to do while in Sitka. I knew that Adolph Landaas had gone to Alaska in1904 toward the end of the Gold Rush era and had done some prospecting. He worked as a clerk for one mine and also worked a placer mine for a while. He lived for several years in Fairbanks but spent his last years at the Pioneer Retirement Home in Sitka and is buried in the Pioneer Cemetery in Sitka.
Adolph and Sogne Landaas, ca 1910s
[Al Johnson Photographer, Fairbanks, Alaska]
While he was living in Fairbanks, Adolph married Sogne Pedersdatter Bogge. We do not have the exact date but can place it to between 1907 when Sogne arrived from Norway and 1918 when Adolph registered for the World War I draft and stated he was married. Al Johnson of Fairbanks took their wedding picture. Sogne died in 1922. They did not have any children and Adolph never remarried and remained in Fairbanks until he moved to Sitka in 1948. We hoped to visit the Pioneer Home and also the cemetery.
Prospector statue in front of Pioneer Home, Sitka, Alaska
As it turned out there was a free shuttle bus from the dock that dropped us off within a couple of blocks of the Pioneer Home and it was an easy walk from there. The Pioneer Home was established in the 1930s to provide housing for retired prospectors. Originally only men resided in the home later quarters were added for women. Today it is still a retirement home.
One of our errands in Sitka was to locate the statue of the Prospector that stands in front of the Pioneer Home. Alonzo Victor Lewis, my friend’s grandfather, made this statue.* She had found and visited many of the statues he made and although she told us this one was in Sitka, she had not seen it. We promised to take pictures and email them back to her. When our dads were young, and the statue was in the process of being built, they climbed up on it and put their initials on the backpack. When I told the staff at the Home about it they told me not to try and climb up there to see if I could find proof of this family lore. It is bigger than life size at about 13 feet tall and 3 feet wide and appears even taller because it is on this rocky base. There was no way I would climb up there but it was funny to think about doing it anyway.
Hand drawn map with highlighted route to the cemetery from the Pioneer Home
This sign was the only indication that we were on the cemetery grounds
A few markers had been partially cleared off by volunteers but the section we were looking for had not been touched yet. The prospect of spending our shore time scraping off multiple stones loomed large. However, I think Uncle Adolph wanted us to find him because the first stone we could see poking out of the grass had part of the right corner exposed and we could make out the numbers 195. He died in 1958 so we pushed the grass, dirt and moss off the rest of that corner and found the complete number, 1958. Suppressing some excitement for fear this could not possibly be the grave we removed more on the left corner to find 1875. That was the correct birth year. I turned to Bob and said, “You don’t suppose this is him, do you?” Bob found a stick and started removing the rest of the debris. Unbelievably, it was Adolph Landaas.
Bob clearing off Adolph Landaas’s grave
Another cousin visited in 1994 and the cemetery looked like this at that time.
And, yes, there was enough time left to walk down to the totem poles in the National Historical Park and take some photos, do a little window shopping and small purchasing, get a couple of postcards, and get back to the ship without mishap.
Three of several of the beautiful totem poles at the Sitka National Historical Park are shown in the picture. There were trails through the forest and poles along the pathways.
The ship waiting for returning passengers
Part 2 of this Thursday postcard will be posted next week.
* See Thursday postcard 405, part 2