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Alaska's capital and currently its third city in population, is located on Gastineau Channel at Latitude 58 degrees 18 feet North, Longitude 134 degrees 24 feet west. The townsite was staked October 18, 1880, and settled in December of that year. The town had two names, Harrisburg and Rockwell, before December 1881, when it was named for Joseph Juneau. In the original record of the townsite location the name is spelled Harrisburgh. It is generally believed that Richard Harris, one of the two locators, named it for himself. In 1900 he wrote, however, that he named it for the capital of Pennsylvania. (See Harris Street.) On February 10, 1881, the miners at the new camp held a meeting "for the purpose of renaming Harrisburg." The name "Rockwell" received 18 votes, "Juneau received 15, and "Harrisburg" only one. In the meanwhile, two applications for a post office had been filed in Washington. One was sent by Wm. Gouveneur Morris, Special Customs Agent for Alaska, who asked that the post office be named Pilzburg for George Pilz, the mining engineer who had helped grubstake Joe Juneau and Richard Harris. The Post Office Department granted the second application which asked for the post office of Harrisburg and the office was established on April 8, 1881, with Edward DeGroff as postmaster. The town was scarcely five months old and already it had two names. The miners, to be safe, used both in their mining records, usually calling it "Rockwell" also known as "Harrisburg." Charles Henry Rockwell, for whom it received one of its names, was born at Chatam, Massachusetts, April 29, 1840. He entered the Navy in 1862 and took part in numerous engagements during the Civil War, receiving several promotions. In 1879 he was a lieutenant commander when he came to Alaska on the U.S.S. Jamestown. Early in 1881 he was sent to the new mining camp on Gastineau Channel with a detachment of 22 men to keep order and was active in establishing the town. The downtown area was laid out and platted by one of the Navy men, Master Gustave C. Hanus. In addition, Rockwell took up several mining claims and retained mining interests here for several years. He left Alaska in 1882, reached the rank of captain in 1899, and retired as a rear admiral in 1902. He died at his home in Chatham, Mass., in 1908. A brief biography of Richard T. Harris, the other man for which the town was first named, can be found under Harris Street. The town continued with its dual name until December 14, 1881, when, at another miners' meeting, it was moved that those present ballot on a new name. There were 72 ballots cast, of which 47 went to "Juneau City," 21 to "Harrisburg" and 4 to "Rockwell." Richard Harris moved to call another meeting for the express purpose of naming the town but lost on a vote of 23-43. The postmaster was requested to notify the Department of the action of the meeting and must have done so promptly for on January 10, 1882, the post office was officially designated Juneau. The Department dropped the "City" but local usage retained it for many years and one of the early newspapers was the Juneau City Mining Record. As the center of a mining district that extended to Windham Bay on the South, Berners Bay on the north, and Admiralty Island on the west, Juneau had a steady growth, reaching a population of 1253 in 1890 and 1864 in 1900. In 1910 it slumped to 1644 but it climbed back to 3058 in 1920, 4043 in 1929, 5729 in 1936, and 5956 in 1950. Joseph Juneau, for whom the town was finally named, was born in Canada near the city of Quebec in 1826. His family soon afterward moved to Wisconsin where an uncle, Solomon Juneau, had established himself in the fur trade. This uncle built the first log cabin on the site of Milwaukee. A park in Milwaukee was named for him and so was the city of Juneau, Wisconsin. Young Juneau grew up hunting and trapping in Wisconsin and in 1849 followed the gold trail to California. He engaged in mining and later acquired a ranch near Oakland where he raised horses. He gave that up to go prospecting again in Oregon, Idaho, and Montana, and is said to have moved north to the Omineca in 1870 and the Cassiar in 1875. In 1879 Joe Juneau was working in a store at Wrangell when Richard Harris arrived there from the Cassiar. The two acquired a canoe and prospected along the coast. One account says they first visited Gastineau Channel that year. They eventually reached Sitka, where Juneau staked a number of claims at Silver Bay and both men worked for George Pilz, who was attempting to develop a mine. Pilz and others grubstaked Juneau and Harris and sent them on a prospecting trip in the summer of 1880. They found gold at Silver Bow Basin and staked the beach as a townsite. Joe Juneau mined on Gold Creek for several years, getting rid of his gold dust about as fast as he took it from the ground. In the spring 1895 he went to Circle City and made a few thousands of dollars there. He went to San Francisco in the fall of 1896 and returned north to Juneau early in 1897, but soon left for the Klondike. In March, 1899, he died of pneumonia at Dawson. His remains were later returned to Juneau and he was buried in the Evergreen Cemetery on August 16, 1903.




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