Bayview: Who's buried there?
By June Allen
April 29, 2002
Any resident venturing downtown during the height of the cruise ship tourist season is bound to see our visitors' shirts, coats or rain gear displaying those round red stickers that say "I visited Dolly's House." People hear about Dolly before they get here and many of them tour her little house/museum on Creek Street, where they're given those red stickers. And yes, lady-of the evening Dolly Arthur (her "stage" name) is buried at Bayview, under her real name, Thelma Copeland. She died in 1975. There has been speculation about whether or not she was a relative of Miss Cora Copeland, who upon her marriage became Mrs. Mike Martin, wife of the city's founder, first mayor, and jovial saloon keeper who was his own best customer. A relative? Who knows.
Sadly, Dolly is buried in a different section from the gravesite of her one true love, a man who everyone new as Lefty. Her dear Lefty, whose name was Horace LeRoy Schoells, was a longshoreman. He liked a drink now and then, he loved to dance, he loved the ladies - and he broke Dolly's heart time after time. She called him "a grand old chippie." He called her "Mama." And she always forgave him, and once bought him a brand new green Packard. He died of a heart attack in 1956 and Dolly mourned him for the rest of her life. Even in her mourning, Dolly was first a businesswoman, she tried at his death to be named his common-law wife - so she could draw his social security. It didn't work.
Dolly was a good friend of Black Mary, the madame who owned the Star dance hall and brothel at No. 5 Creek Street. In fact, Dolly worked for Black Mary from 1919 when she first came to town until she made enough money a year later to buy her own place at No. 24. Black Mary, real name Mary Thomas, is also buried at Bayview. She died in 1925, a year after she sold the notorious Star. She was found dead in her tiny creekside house on the long-since-razed Barney Way, sitting in a chair with a roll of money she was counting in her hand.
Annie Watkins, who died in 1966, is also buried at Bayview. Annie was an African American woman who owned the house of ill repute at #4 Creek Street, now housing the Good Fortune Restaurant. Annie was popular with the other ladies of the evening and she still carried the speech of her native Arkansas. Once, shortly after the Creek was closed to prostitution, Annie was accused of making a "date" with a self-appointed undercover investigator. She appeared in court on the charge and said, "Judge, I is just 'morphradited' to be here!" After her death many of her belongings in No. 4 were missing. There was nothing left to leave to her two adult children in Arkansas.
Elizabeth Nesphus, also known as Betty King the Dog Lady (rumored to have had a shady past), rests in peace at Bayview. She died at an advanced age in 1970. Betty King Alley is named in her honor. In her later years her tiny home in the Alley between Front and Main became Ketchikan's unofficial dog pound - since the city didn't have a real one.
Alice Fortin, also known by her nickname of "Frenchy," kept an after-hours joint in her own apartment upstairs over what is now the bank building at the corner of Main and Mission. The original building she lived in was torn down to make way for the new structure. Frenchy died in 1966. There is a story that back in the '40s or '50s locally famous artist Bill Gabler had a non-flying pet duck, a wild Mallard he'd found with a broken wing and nursed back to health. He would take the duck up to Frenchy's rooms, fill her bathtub with cold water, set the happy duck into it and add a shot glass of whiskey to float atop. The story goes that a drunken duck was quite a sight to see! (There's a Francis William Gabler who died in '63 listed in the cemetery records. I wonder if that was the talented Bill? Does anyone know?)
Less notorious folk
But Bayview Cemetery also boasts burials of much less-notorious folk. Oldtime prospector and loner Joe Mahoney, who died in 1940, is buried there. He's the one after whom Mahoney Mountain and Mahoney Creek are named. But who was Frank Silvis, who died in 1931. Were upper and lower Silvis Lakes named for him? And who was he?
Everyone knows the Chief Johnson totem pole across from the federal building. The chief's name was George Johnson and his little house remained next to the pole until the entire neighborhood was razed for the Alaska Centennial library/museum building. The city unfortunately wasn't into historic preservation back then in 1967. But both the chief and his wife, who was identified with no first name and was just called Mrs. Chief Johnson, are buried in Bayview. She died in 1937 and he in 1938, within months of one another. They both were probably 90 or more. Both had worked in canneries almost to the end.
Two other couples married for many, many years died within a short time of each other. In 1990, diminutive Paul Hansen and his tiny wife Nettie died with weeks of each other. They were the longtime owners of the Paul N. Hansen building that was later the victim of a cruise ship mishap. The piling under the waterfront building was damaged and the rest twisted out of shape. Destroyed was the store, by the then called Sockeye Sam's and the apartment above that had been the home of the Hansen's for many years. Their ashes rest side by side at Bayview.
The other couple were Henry and Marie Henn, who died within days of each other in 1995. Both were approaching 100. Henry, originally a Californian, remembered the San Francisco earthquake of 1906!
Very strange was the occasion of the deaths of Martin Bugge and his wife Emma (although other documents say her name was Anna). It was a rainy July 4 in 1943. Mrs. Bugge was in the hospital with a lingering and fatal illness. Mr. Bugge woke up that early Independence Day morning and strolled out on the slippery wooden walkway that connected their home to the stairway Edmond Street. Somehow he slipped, fell and tumbled down the embankment to a cluster of salmonberry bushes at the base of the street. He died of his injuries and his body wasn't discovered until hours later when a family member tried to find him to tell him of his wife's death. The rear walkway of the Bugge home and the rear walkway of the hospital were within a few feet of each other! And they died within hours, possibly even minutes of each other. The popular Bugge Beach south of town was Bugge's original gold claim.
At the bottom of that stairway Edmond Street is the former home of Miss Agnes Edmond, who arrived in Ketchikan as an Episcopalian missionary in 1898. She was the first single white woman in Ketchikan. Some records say she later went into real estate business. In any case, she became ill in 1924 and sailed south where she suffered an appendectomy and died. Her body was brought back to Ketchikan by her sister and buried at Bayview. Her gravestone is perhaps the most elaborate in the cemetery.
Also buried at Bayview are August Tobin, who died in 1938, and his wife Emma Tobin, who died three years later. They were the parents of Emery Tobin, the founder of the Alaska Sportsman magazine now the nationally famous Alaska Magazine. Emery's father August left New England in 1897 to head for Gold Rush Alaska to make his fortune, promising to be back shortly. Twenty years later Mrs. Tobin gave up waiting and came to Ketchikan to be with her son Emery. Later the weary prospector joined her in Ketchikan to spend their final years. Emery and his wife Cora are not buried at Bayview. Their ashes were scattered near Eddystone Rock in Misty Fjords.
There are many, many other "notables" whose names reminded me of bygone days! There was the red-haired Knickerbocker café owner Jean Gain who grubstaked many a newcomer at midcentury; the fondly remembered cab driver Allen "Booger Red" Churchill; the lovable Doctors Ralph Carr and Louis Salazar; many Brindles of that famous Wards Cove cannery family; grocer and school board member E.B. Houghtaling, after whom Houghtaling school was named a year after his death in 1960; and Honorato "Tommy" Bingle of the memorable and colorful Flamingo Café on Stedman Street; master carver Jones Yeltatzie who carved the beautiful king salmon on the bank of Ketchikan Creek near the library building.
Many of the graves up there are unmarked. There are no gravestones with catchy slogans or rhymes like the well known ones in New England and other East Coast cemeteries. Our Bayview is simply the final resting place of mostly good solid Ketchikan folk who made our town what it is, and what we love.
Digital photo by Gigi Pilcher.