PRINCE OF WALES ISLAND (Historic Alaska Information)
The most valuable island of Alaska (excepting Douglass) is the Prince of Wales Island. It should not be confused with the small island of Wales near by on the Canadian side of the boundary line.
It contains almost three thousand square miles, and for a hundred miles it shelters the peaceful Clarence Straits from the storms of the ocean. On every side it is indented with most excellent harbors, the homes for centuries of numerous natives, and ports of safety and rendezvous for fur traders from the days of Perez and Cook.
Historic, Shakan, Klawak, Howkan, Sukkwan, Klinkan and other noted native Haidah towns are each marked by a row of totems at the tide line, and a row of shacks back of them. A picture of any one would be a picture of every one.
The native man at one time proudly carved his totems, potlatch bouls and canoes, hideously painted his face and house in the most brilliant colors, and frantically combatted the imaginary devils of every ill. The native squaw deftly worked into the garments the family or tribe badges, totems or traditions, and performed the menial duties of slave for the whole family. How different now! The days of the savage customs, sea otter and fur trader are over; the missionary, church, cannery, post office, general store and miner have taken their places.
A visit to or sight of these one-time homes and totems ol a flourishing people is circumstantial evidence, convincing beyond a reasonable doubt, that the native race will ere long have disappeared.
Many of the old villages arc entirely deserted; all are largely so. The old chiefs have died; new ones have not been chosen: dances and potlatches are infrequent; tribal laws are broken and abandoned; diseases of pulmonary and rheumatic natures are prevalent. These are a few of the signs of the demise of the Mongolian-Indian race on the Pacific.
On the west side of the island is a large number of smaller islands of little knoun importance, the largest of which is Dalls Island. A low pass only about 150 feet high crosses the island connecting Hetta Inlet on the west with Cholmondelay Sound on the east.
The apex of the range of mountains is reached at the summit of Copper Mountain. 3,800 feet above the sea.
Glacial marks appear everywhere, but no glaciers are known in the memory of men: beautiful small lakes are numerous at all altitudes; long arms of the sea, safe and convenient for transportation; warm winds from the ocean current and numerous Indian villages, are interesting subjects, no detailed history or description of which has ever been written, although the field is a very inviting one. The island is rich in mineral and stone; copper has been the most valuable -it is a low grade copper-iron sulphide. Many of the mines are worked no more than is necessary to hold them; others are abandoned from time to time, or made fraudulently to appear valuable for the purpose of million-dollar capitalizations, the stock of which is sold to "confidential" friends or gullable "suckers." as was done to my knowledge by the Grindall Mining Company.
Niblack, Copper Mountain, Hadley, Jumbo and other Prince of Wales properties are well known on this coast. They have certainly had their ups and downs. The Mamie Mines are connected with the Hadley Smelter by 6.000 feet of ariel way, and the Stevenson Mine is connected with the Mamie by a 1.000-foot or more tram, and boats from other mines bring oar. On the whole the project is a very large one, and after litigation and trouble. I was much pleased to see it opened up again in 1908.
Marble, pure white, light blue and blue veined, is found at many locations in this district, and some of the mines or quarries, such as the Alaska Marble Company, near Shakan, are producing beautiful blocks of commercial marble. The time is not far distant when the coast can be supplied from these quarries. A variety of grades and kinds of granite and building stone can be easily found, but we have no market for them yet.