“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Ketchikan in Ketchikan Gateway Borough, Alaska — Northwest (North America)

Upon 'Thundering Wings'

Upon 'Thundering Wings' Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Duane and Tracy Marsteller, September 4, 2021
1. Upon 'Thundering Wings' Marker
Inscription.  “Thundering Wings” — the title of local master carver Nathan Jackson's magnificent cedar monument, depicts the Tlingit native origin of Ketchikan's name, as told by Chief Reynold Denny of the Beaver Clan:

“About three hundred years ago the Ketchikan Creek area belonged to the Ne X Adi (today the Saxman Bear Clan). The name of the chief was Chief Cu Kax. When the people of his tribe climbed Deer Mountain to the Look Out Point and looked down to the creek, they saw the image of an eagle with open wings sitting on a large rock at the head of the creek. They named it Keech Ka Xa haan (Keech-wings, Ka-spread, Xa haan-over). This was reduced to Keech Xaan. The white settlers came and, unable to say the name correctly, changed it to Ketchikan.”

Countless generations of Tlingits made their summer fish camps at the salmon-rich creek site. By the mid-1880s, this same natural wealth also attracted the first white settlers to the banks of “Fish Creek”, and inspired pioneer commerce.

Foremost were Mike Martin and George Clark — recognized today as Ketchikan's town co-founders. Michael E. Martin, an Irish-born Portland
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cooper, arrived August 15, 1885 aboard the steamer S.S. Ancon to work at the nearby Loring saltery. In late 1886, Ketchikan's modern development began when Capt. A.W. Berry reestablished the Cape Fox Packing Company cannery here from Boca De Quadra. Renamed the Tongass Packing Company, the new cannery was built near the present corner of Front and Dock streets. The cannery's foreman, George W. Clark, a Gloucester fisherman, acquired the site after the cannery burned in August 1889. In its place, Clark started a salmon saltery and opened a trading post and general store.

In 1890, Clark sold a half-interest to Mike Martin, establishing the firm of Clark & Martin. Ketchikan's total population then was just 40 people — 26 natives and 14 whites. The partners opened a second saltery at Boca De Quadra and sold fresh fish to the area's new canneries, and acquired substantial land properties deeded over by resident natives. Soon Ketchikan became important as a mining supply waystop for hordes of gold-hungry prospectors enroute to Canada's Cassiar District, and rich Alaskan Panhandle strikes at the future site of Juneau and Douglas during the 1880s. Thus, on March 4, 1892, the Ketchikan U.S. Post Office opened, with George Clark as postmaster.

During the Summer of 1897, news of the first Canadian Yukon gold shipments sparked the world-famous Klondike Gold
Upon 'Thundering Wings' Marker detail (original) image. Click for full size.
via Alaska State Library, Early Prints Collection
2. Upon 'Thundering Wings' Marker detail (original)
A.P. Swineford (wearing hat), owner of early Ketchikan newspaper the Mining Journal, stands in front of his office with an unidentified man. It is signed, "Yours Truly A.P. Swineford".
Rush stampede, and gold was first discovered near Ketchikan at Helm Bay, Thorne Arm, Dolomi and Hollis, with extensive copper ore found soon after. This brought on Ketchikan's first major settlement boom in 1898-99, which was dominated by a large exodus of Wrangell migrants from the north. The Wrangellites flocked here after cancellation of railroad plans from their town to the Canadian gold fields was made in favor of a more direct Skagway route. These turn-of-the-century settlers formed the core of Ketchikan's future as a city.

Out of step with the sudden whirlwind of progress that engulfed them, Clark & Martin went bankrupt amidst a flood of competing new mercantiles and falling demand for salted salmon. Forced sale of their assets included 160 acres of land to the Ketchikan Improvement Company for platting a townsite. On August 25, 1900, Ketchikan incorporated as Alaska's new Gateway City, with a population of 460 townspeople and about 800 total area residents. Mike Martin became Ketchikan's first mayor, but George Clark disappointed locals by moving on back to Nova Scotia by 1901, leaving Martin to carry the title of town father alone. A proud civic leader until he died in 1916, Mike Martin ran his famous Sideboard Saloon at Front & Dock, more as a welcoming post for Alaska's newcomers than a watering hole. Martin, the Irish son of Blarney who became “Father of Ketchikan”,
Upon 'Thundering Wings' Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Duane and Tracy Marsteller, September 4, 2021
3. Upon 'Thundering Wings' Marker
The "Thundering Wings" monument is on the left.
lies buried today at Ketchikan's Bayview Cemetery.

(Top, left) Early Ketchikan, Alaska — Circa 1897-98, was dominated by the Clark-Martin saltery, built in 1890 Tongass Historical Society (left photo); Alaska Historical Library(right photo)
(Top, right) M. E. Martin
(Middle, left) Clark & Martin store, circa 1895 Alaska Historical Library
(Middle, right) Founding Fathers Mike Martin, the “Father of Ketchikan,” is shown seated at center in this rare circa-1891 photo, beside Mrs. Frank McDonald. Standing behind are a few of Ketchikan's notable "Who's-Who” (L-R): carpenter James L. Campbell & daughter; boat-builder A.J. “Ott” Inman; James East; and cooper-turned-famous local prospector, James Bawden, who discovered the Hollis Cracker Jack Mine in 1900. Tongass Historical Society
(Bottom, left) Ketchikan's Who's-Who Alfred P. Swineford, longtime Michigan resident, was Alaska's governor from 1885 until 1889, and succeeded Mike Martin in 1901 as Ketchikan's second mayor. That same year, he started Ketchikan's first newspaper — the Mining Journal weekly, published from the Main Street building shown. Harriet Hunt/THS
(Bottom, right) Mining Journal - 1/26/01; Ketchikan's Front St. wharf,
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circa 1904 Harriet Hunt/THS
Erected by Historic Ketchikan, Inc.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Arts, Letters, MusicIndustry & CommerceNative AmericansSettlements & Settlers. A significant historical date for this entry is January 11, 1907.
Location. 55° 20.549′ N, 131° 38.912′ W. Marker is in Ketchikan, Alaska, in Ketchikan Gateway Borough. Marker is at the intersection of Front Street and Water Street, on the right when traveling south on Front Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 348 Front Street, Ketchikan AK 99901, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. From Planks to Pavement (here, next to this marker); Keeping the Catch! (here, next to this marker); The Gilmore Hotel (within shouting distance of this marker); Tongass Trading Company (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Star-crossed Square Riggers (about 500 feet away); Proud Canoes & Coastal Traders (about 500 feet away); When 'Steam was Queen' (about 500 feet away); Ketchikan Waterfront from Pennock Island, 1905 (about 600 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Ketchikan.
Also see . . .  Four Major Industries Built Ketchikan (PDF). Written and pictorial recap of the town's history, by Dave Kiffer for online news site Stories in the News. Posted May 6, 2009. (Submitted on September 15, 2021, by Duane and Tracy Marsteller of Murfreesboro, Tennessee.) 
Credits. This page was last revised on September 15, 2021. It was originally submitted on September 15, 2021, by Duane and Tracy Marsteller of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. This page has been viewed 165 times since then and 77 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on September 15, 2021, by Duane and Tracy Marsteller of Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

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Dec. 10, 2023