OPEN AIR CONCERT – From left, musicians Ross Venneberg, Brian Neal, Wade Demmert and Roger Schmidt perform an outdoor brass concert for residents of the Pioneers Home Monday. The professional musicians, who are hunkered down in Sitka, are regulars at the annual Holiday Brass Concert. The Pioneers Home has been closed to visitors during the pandemic. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

GILNETTINGS: A Sitka Story: Widow and Her 7 Children

Special to the Sentinel

This is a story about a Widow and Seven children, early life struggles and determination to get out of the lower depths of the economic system.

The family was very poor and dwelled in a small, two-room house that was deteriorated and lacked modern conveniences. 

Family names aren’t used in this column but middle names are utilized and authentic. This is non-fiction. 

The father is not mentioned as he faded out of the family in a tragic boating accident with two brothers-in-law and an uncle just north of town. Surviving children at the time were Arthur, Allen, Evelyn, Ken, Jacque and Mary. The latter was born two months after the loss of the father. Margaret was his half-sister.

Two weeks after services for the father, the mother appointed Allen as the leader of the family and Evelyn as the head of the household who was very much the boss of what happened in the house. Allen was eight at the time and Evelyn six. Each wept with the burden placed on their shoulders. The tasks and responsibilities were enormous.

 Putting food and gathering appeared to be easy but weather conditions, made the tasks difficult. It got worse as the mother sold the family’s round-bottom skiff for $35 and the 30.06 rifle. Money was needed to pay the bills. Without these two things the family could not perform the task of food gathering.

Two major tasks were cutting firewood and packing fresh water to the home. The fresh water was used for all purposes back then. Food gathering consisted of duck, deer, seal and pheasant hunting. For consumption, family members preferred duck over chicken and turkey. Other foods gathered: clams, cockles, crab, abalone, gumboots, sea weed, sea ribbons, herring, herring eggs, cod and flounder. Most of the food gathered was preserved by drying, smoking and salting. Berry picking was done by the girls and women.

Sitka Fire Department in 1936 Memorial Day parade. (Photo provided)

 Allen hollered at his mother, “Come take a look at this,” and the mother came out and saw Ken and Jacque (two little guys) sound asleep under the porch completely exhausted from chopping wood. Neither was required to do chores but felt help was needed. 

Tragedy appeared to be stalking the family and all seemed hopeless and lost. But better times and days were ahead. At the time life and the future did not look good. The year was 1943, when the mother was gone forever in a mysterious and controversial ending. The case was not solved.

A few days after the mother’s service, Clarence Rands offered a job to Allen. Allen took the offer, assistant to Mr. Rands, owner of a building contracting business. The business was before the Market Center and Sea Mart. The Rands family owned a music store on Lincoln Street. 

When Allen picked up his check on pay day, it was for $239. Allen was shocked. It was the most money he had seen and never stopped being grateful to Mr. Rands. Mr. Rands sold Market Center to Lloyd Hames, years later.

Eventually the family was split in order to make survival easier. At the time, the family did not realize that it would never be together again despite plans for reunions in the years that followed.

With the assistance of Sam Troutman, principal of the old BIA school on Katlian Street, Evelyn was the first to depart for Wrangell Institute. She spoke to the family and told them to snap out of it. “There is to be no crying or self-pity. We must move on or we will be stuck in the gutter.” She was ten years of age at the time. Sitka business man Art Franklin was also at the airplane float and grabbed Arthur and Allen gave them advice along with a lecture.

Sitka village in early 1930s prior to building of Conway Dock. (Photo provided)

Ken, Jacque, and Mary were the next to leave for a distant cousin in Wrangell. Many tears were shed as the plane taxied from the plane float. 

The appointments turned out to be good training for the rigors that were coming down the road.

In the years that followed, family members all agreed that dinner was a favorite time in the home, where they learned about life, and Proverbs. Education was always the most important subject. The mother had a fourth grade education and the father completed second grade.

A few years ago, family members remembered clearly some of the subjects talked about in the supper meetings conducted by the mother. Before long, a high school education may not be enough to get by. You may be poor and that’s where you will always be if you do not get busy and work hard; you may be poor but you must always be clean and neat. 

This family produced two lawyers, an evangelist, teachers, executives, and engineers, and most grandchildren have earned college degrees. Allen, Evelyn, Ken and Margaret attended Mt. Edgecumbe High School. Margaret did not graduate. Of the seven survivors, Allen is the only one who made his home in Sitka. 

What can be learned from this story? Work hard and never give up. Knocked down is not a problem; getting up is, and setting goals.

Allen applied for admission to Wrangell Institute, was accepted and withdrew when he learned transportation had to be paid. Years later he learned that Art Franklin paid for the ticket, as Art had done when the family lost the mother. Sam Troutman was the only one to know of Franklin’s generosity. Troutman informed Ken after the passing of Franklin. Mr. Franklin must be smiling as he looks down and Clarence Rands was close by. Whatever happened to the two “Little Guys,” mentioned at the outset of this story? They both became engineers.



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Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 7-7-20)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 11:15 p.m. Tuesday.

New cases as of Sunday: 19

Total statewide – 1,184

Total (cumulative) deaths – 17

Active cases in Sitka – 8 (3 resident; 5 non-resident)

Recovered cases in Sitka – 12 (10 resident; 2 non-resident)

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 78.

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.



Welcome to the Sitka Sentinel's web page. In order to make the Sentinel's news more easily available during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have taken down the paywall to access articles on this page. Just click on an article headline to read the story. 

March 23, 2020



For the duration of the COVID-19 disaster emergency declared by federal, state and local authorities, the Sentinel is taking additional measures to reduce virus exposure to its employees and contractors as well as to the public, while continuing to publish a daily news report for Sitka.

To the extent possible, Sentinel news and sales staff will be working from home. For the protection of our carriers, home delivery of the newspaper will be stopped effective Tuesday, March 24.

The Sentinel will continue to publish on its website Access to the website will be free to all users. The Sentinel will also produce a print edition Monday through Friday. It will be available to all readers without charge, at locations throughout town.

Initially, these locations are those where the Sentinel's newspaper vending machines are already in place. The coin mechanisms will be disabled or the doors removed to permit easy access. The Sentinel will work with the stores where the paper is usually sold, to designate a place inside or outside the store where the free edition can be made available.  

Home delivery subscriptions are on hold, and after the end of the disaster emergency, subscriptions will be extended at no charge for the number of days that there was no home delivery.

The Sentinel will make its print edition available to the public as early in the day as possible. with all personnel taking precautions to prevent spread of the virus.

The Sentinel is calling upon its customers to observe the COVID-19 emergency precautions already in place, particularly in maintaining a six-foot social distance from others at newspaper distribution sites.

Following is the statement issued by the Sentinel on March 16, stating the Sentinel's emergency procedures, which remain in effect.

The Sentinel office at 112 Barracks Street is closed to the public. We encourage people to use the phone, email or the U.S. Postal Service as much as possible.There is a slot in the front door of the office for ads, news items and payment checks. Emails may be sent to  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and the phone number is (907) 747-3219.                                                                          

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