Seventy-Fifth Anniversary

Presbytery of Yukon


Musical program presented by the Utkeagvik (Barrow) Choir

Nelson Ahvakana and Mrs. Gordon (Win) Corbett


Mrs. Bert (Mable) Bingle, center, receives a presbyterial gift from Mrs. Eva Reese.


The Rev. Hal N. Banks (left) and unidentified friends.


Mrs. Norma Hoyt, historian, and the Rev. Ralph Weeks at "The History Table"


The Rev. R. Rolland Armstrong

Excerpts from the spring issue of the Alaska Presbyterian, 1974, editor: Phyllis Eileen (Davis) Banks; editorial consultant: the Rev. Hal N. Banks

 This is the 75th anniversary of the organization of the Presbytery of the Yukon and this issue is dedicated completely to that anniversary. Every Presbyterian in Alaska is deeply indebted to Mable Bingle for her untiring efforts in keeping scrapbooks and records during hers and Bert's 40 years in Alaska. In addition, she compiled from Presbytery minutes two volumes of history. One is from 1899 to 1929 and the other from 1929 to 1950. It was also her reminder that started the planning for the 75th anniversary. The Reverend Ralph Weeks is compiling the history from 1950 to the present and Patricia Von Bargen is retyping the original two volumes and will type the latest. These will be available later in the year. A committee has been meeting for the past several weeks to do planning for a year-round celebration. The Moderator of General Assembly, Dr. Clinton Marsh, will be in Anchorage on March 14, 1974 to speak at First Presbyterian Church. On Friday, March 15 he will be at the opening of Spring Presbytery at Immanuel Presbyterian Church.

Each church has been asked to design a banner representative of it and they will be on display. For those churches, hospitals and stations no longer existing as such, poster-type banners have been made and will also be on display. Also in the plans is a picnic on July 16, 1974, at the site of the organization in Eagle, Alaska.

I hope you enjoy this historical issue as much as I have in its preparation. 

A note to the Presbytery of Alaska:

We promise to devote an entire issue to your special anniversary. Will it be 100 years in 1984?

In accordance with the following action of the last General Assembly the following brethren vis. Rev. S. Hall Young, DD, Rev. J.W. Kirk and Rev. M.E. Koonce met at Eagle, Alaska on the Yukon River July 16, 1899 at 12 o'clock and constituted the Presbytery of the Yukon. The action of the General Assembly authorizing the Presbytery is communicated in a document with the seal of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the USA, and signed by the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly and is as follows: 

This certifies that the General Assembly in session at Minneapolis, Minnesota, May 16, 1899 ordered the erection of a Presbytery in the Yukon Valley, and instructed the Rev. S. Hall Young, Horatio R. Marsh, MD, M. Egbert Koonce, Ph.D., James M. Kirk, Samuel R. Spriggs and Harry Corser, to meet in such place and at such time as may suit their convenience as said Presbytery; that the Rev. S. Hall Young act as Moderator until a Moderator be elected; that in his absence the oldest minister present act as Moderator; that the Presbytery be known as the Presbytery of the Yukon; and that it be enrolled in the Synod of Washington.

Accordingly the brethren were called to order at 12 o'clock noon on July 16, 1899 by Rev. S. Hall Young, DD, and the Presbytery was constituted with prayer. Rev. James W. Kirk was appointed temporary clerk ... The following resolutions were adopted: that the Stated Clerk be instructed to forward to the brethren concerned and to the Synod the regrets of Presbytery that the long distance and absence of reliable mail facilities had prevented the notification of the other members of Presbytery of the time and place of meeting ... Also to inform the Synod that owing to distance and expense of travel it will be unable to send commissioners to their meeting this year (1899). The time of the next meeting was fixed for the fourth Thursday of next July at Rampart, (1900). 

... Action was also taken endorsing the application of Rev. Young and Koonce to the Board of Publication and Sunday School Work for chapel hymnals for use in their respective fields. In view of the great distance of the members of Presbytery from each other, action was passed granting authority to each member to organize churches in their respective fields at such time as they may deem most expedient. 

Rev. M.E. Koonce was appointed a Committee on arrangements for the next meeting of Presbytery.

A cordial note of thanks was extended to the good people of Eagle for their hospitable entertainment during the session of the Presbytery. 

Minutes read and approved.

Presbytery adjourned at 6:00 p.m., being dismissed with prayer and benediction by the Moderator.

M. Egbert Koonce, Stated Clerk. 

Examined and approved in certified copy, by Synod of Washington, in itís meeting at Tacoma, WA, October 6, 1900. Signed by G.W. Giboney, Moderator.


From the Autobiography

Of Dr. S. Hall Young

 "My farewell shall be brief. In looking back over my 80 years they seem but a span ... What this great Territory has proved herself to be, and the promise of her future greatness loom high above all other places or circumstances that my life has touched... 

"Were time to roll backward and the finger of Providence to point ... and His voice to command, 'Choose your place and career from all the opportunities of the world' my answer would be prompt 'Alaska!'"


 In 1935, Mr. and Mrs. (James Wollaston) Kirk wrote a book of their experiences and entitled it Pioneer Life in the Yukon Valley Alaska. Mrs. Kirk wrote the first part and he wrote the second. Following are excerpts from it: 

"From Philadelphia to Seattle the traveler must cover upwards of 3000 miles. At Seattle we embarked on a Pacific Coast Steamer for Skagway in southeast Alaska, 1000 miles. On arrival the Chilkoot Pass to Lake Bennett was found to be closed while a railway in construction over the adjacent White Pass would be in operation in two weeks. This delay afforded us the opportunity to remain on the Steamer, and with the tourists visit the famous Muir Glacier, whose ice wall rises abruptly 300 feet above the bay. It was on this occasion that an enormous iceberg detached itself and our Steamer had a most thrilling and narrow escape from an overwhelming destruction ... On our return to Skagway we paid 25 cents a mile for our railway trip over the White Pass to Lake Bennett, 40 miles, and the last 22 miles, over the international boundary into Canada, our ride was on an open flat car creeping along the unballasted track. At Bennett a transfer was made to a Steamer bound for Miles Canyon, 100 miles below the Lake, where transfer was made to a Steamer bound for Miles Canyon, 100 miles below the Lake, where transfer was made by a tram car drawn on a wooden track by horse power, to a connecting steamer below the canyon. We chose to walk the six miles along the brink and enjoy the wonderful scenery. The connecting Steamer carried us some hundreds of miles down the Yukon to Dawson, seat of the Klondike gold mining, where our fifth and last transfer was made to an American Steamer. In sailing this last 100 miles, on recrossing the international boundary we reached Eagle... 

Mr. Kirk continues, "We are here to stay and make the best of it, and the first move is to secure our cabin and get settled before the snow blows. I shall have to be my own carpenter, for labor costs $10 a day; lumber, green and unplaned, is $100 per thousand feet at the mill down that steep hill by the creek, and the boards must be carried up on our backs, nails are twenty-five cents a pound, and building logs $2 each, not delivered. The only horse in the place is hired at $5 per hour. A dog team is of little service in summer." 

Their host comments that flour is $14 per 100 pounds, condensed milk and cream 50 cents a can and canned butter $1 a pound. Homemade bread is 25 cents a loaf... 

They brought with them a piano and when the packing box was opened, evening brought visitors and "the delight in the instrument was freely expressed. Memories of home caused more than one sunbrowned man to blink away the tears when familiar tunes were played ... " 

About one of their services: "A collection was taken up and I tallied the count. We had no silver plates or plush lined baskets, but secured a pressed tin wash basin and the result was one caribou skin (tanned), two pairs of moccasins, one tablespoon, one dinner plate, two plugs of tobacco and four broken plugs, fifty-eight bunches of sulfur matches, and $10.25 in cash ... "

Mrs. Kirk continues: "The meeting of the Yukon Presbytery was held at Nome in the summer of 1900 ... a round trip of more than 3000 miles. If all sent well it would take less than four weeks ... she did not know that three months would pass e'er she saw him ... The smallpox quarantine delayed him at Nome ... "

From Mr. Kirk: "This sort of life and work is called by some pioneering. Call it by what name you will, it is a life that costs in energy, in faith, in cash ... Perhaps no person more nearly fulfills 'sowing beside all waters' than the Yukon minister -- or sees less of the fruits of his labors."


Comity Agreement

 The Trail Blazer was published, Bert Bingle told me, by Mr. Robert Atwood and himself. This is an excerpt from the October 1942 issue: 

"One of the most important influences in church work in Alaska is what is known as the Comity Agreement. 

"This agreement was drawn by the major Protestant denominations in an endeavor to make it possible for each of them to build strong organizations without de-overlapping (sic). 

"Alaska is so large and the population is so sparse that it would lead to chaos if all the churches did their work without coordination of effort. It was apparent early in the twentieth century that all denominations would benefit if proper plans were drawn.

"In the Comity Agreement, these churches divided Alaska into sections and each denomination was assigned a part of the territory in which it agreed to concentrate its work ...

"The Presbyterian Church was given the Alaska Railroad Belt from Portage Junction on the south to Fairbanks on the north. It was also assigned the vast Arctic rim in the far north, St. Lawrence Island, Cape Prince of Wales and the city of Cordova ... " p.e.b.


In 1929, Presbytery did not concur with the suggestion that the Board of National Missions work for Alaska be turned over to the Synod of Washington. One of the arguments: "Even the argument from geographical connection is not valid in so far as Yukon Presbytery is concerned since much of its territory is as remote, or more so, than many of our foreign fields and is of such an exceptional character that it could fully as well be attached to the Presbytery of New York in so far as its administration is concerned." ...

In 1929 the per capita assessment was 30 cents per member ... Concern was expressed over the salary situation of our Missionaries in Alaska. Living expense in Alaska from 50 percent to 75 percent higher than on the West Coast ... "We are pleased to note the appointment of a well-trained Eskimo, PERCY IPALOOK, to take up the work at Wales." ... 

In 1937: "the roads between Palmer and Anchorage being too dangerous for travel, the presbytery staged an excursion on The Alaska Railroad." ... 

From DR. J. EARL JACKMAN: "... The general basic minimum salary standard of $1500 a year and furnished manse, with provision for participation in the Service Pension Plan and one month vacation, will apply for full time service for all ordained ministers with college and seminary training. This basic standard will be supplemented by an added differential of $300 to $500 for the difference in the cost of living in various parts of Alaska." (1944) ... " 

MR. BINGLE reported the sickness of MISS EMMA STAUFFER at Wales.

The Presbytery of Yukon went on record for the development of a Presbyterian College in the Matanuska Valley and the development of this venture be put into the hands of the Christian Education Committee. This investigation was to be conducted by MR. ALFSEN." ... 

1947: "Record breaking weather in the interior, or 50 degrees below zero for 25 days, did not allow the ministers in Fairbanks area and the Highway area to travel to Anchorage. " 

February 4, 1947: "THE REV. R.R. ARMSTRONG was to contact as many ministers in Alaska Presbytery to sound them out on their thoughts about a Synod of Alaska." 

"The Westminster Fellowship of the Presbytery was organized during King's Lake Youth Camp in 1948."

Requests were to be sent to the ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES, to GOVERNOR GRUENING, asking him to review powers of the Highway Patrol as to law enforcement of liquor laws ... Letters were read from JUDGES DIMOND, FOLTA, and PRATT, the EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT TO GOVERNOR GRUENING, and the '49 Star' in response to our letters regarding the law enforcement in Alaska ...

THE REV. BERT BINGLE, DD, was chosen for the task of ministering on the Alaska Highway and made his first trip there in October of 1942, visiting army and civilian construction crews. In addition he ministered to Indians, CAA personnel, highway maintenance crews, roadhouse proprietors and pioneer families..."


Presbytery of Yukon


 Barrow: Charles White, Nelson Ahvakana

Wainwright: Samuel Simmonds

Kaktovik: Clerk Riley Tikluk

Anaktuvuk Pass: Clerk Rachel Sikvayugak

Gambell: Sigurd Kristiansen

Savoonga: Alice Green

Fairbanks First: Gene Straatmeyer, Rex Okakok

College: David Crockett

Delta Junction: Clerk Ray Hopple

Palmer: Henry Guinotte

Wasilla: Nicholas Brewer

Anchorage First: Thomas R. Teply, James Watt

Immanuel: Hal N. Banks

Trinity: Thomas Handley, Thomas Whitehead

Jewel Lake: Dick Morrison


Others in Presbytery

Fairbanks: Philip Gilbert

Anchorage: Robert Porter, Ralph Weeks

Talkeetna: Joseph Walstad

Prosser, WA: Alwin Gall, H.R.

Sangli, India: John F. Seibert

San Diego, CA: Louis Grafton, H.R.

San Antonio, TX: Harry Galey

Tennessee: Edward Holborrow, H.R.

Dean Hickok


Officers of the Presbytery 

Moderator: Phil Van Veldhuisen

First vice moderator: Don Pollock

Second vice moderator: Rex Okakok

Stated clerk: Nicholas Brewer

Permanent clerk and treasurer: Winston Laughlin

Associate synod executive: Gordon Corbett


Presbytery of Alaska


Yakutat: Dana Knapp

Skagway: Clerk E. Waneta Coring

Haines: R. Robert Cameron

Klukwan: Elder Dick Hotch

Auke Bay: Kenneth Smith

Northern Lights: Herman Beyer, John Shaffer

Petersburg: Randolf McCluggage

Wrangell: Mrs. E.R. Sharnboich

Ketchikan: Kenneth Green

Metlakatla: Fred Morasky

Craig: Aaron Carland

Hydaburg: Aaron Carland

Kake: Elder Clarence Jackson

Angoon: Cyrus Peck, lay preacher

Hoonah: Joseph Bettridge

Sitka: Neil Munro


Others in Presbytery


Juneau: William Pritchard, Jr. H.R.

Fred Koschmann

Al Wakefield

Ward Murray, MV Anna Jackman

Kake: Arthur Johnson, H.R.

Sitka: Sheldon Jackson College: President Robert Uddenberg

William Zeiger

Dr. Charles Bovee

Fairbanks: Dr. Walter Soboleff, H.R.

C. Sumpter Logan, Lexington, KY


Officers of Presbytery 

Moderator: Elder Laurence Doig

Vice moderator: Aaron Carland

Stated clerk: Kenneth Green

Permanent clerk: Bill Hartmann

Treasurer: John Holic

Associate synod executive: Gordon Corbett

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