In an old, black-and-white photo of a newspaper clipping of the Cordova Times (date unknown, but likely before 1980), Chugach Shareholder George Flemming can be seen reminiscing with Paul Pappas in Cordova in the Alaskan Bar. Flemming made the trip to Cordova from Knight Island aboard the M/V Comet. Bob Andersen, the owner of the vessel, persuaded Flemming to make the visit, and it was a rare occasion. At the time the photo was taken, Flemming had not been to Cordova in more than 20 years, and his last visit to Cordova, two decades before, had been brief. “I spend a weekend here,” Flemming recalled. His current visit was even shorter; he left a day and a half after arriving.

Flemming was born and raised in Prince William Sound (PWS), spending the entirety of his life in the Sound’s remote islands. He never left Alaska, and he never ventured further than towns like Cordova. Asked about Anchorage, Flemming said he’d never been there. “Nor do I have a desired to go,” he stated.

John F.C. Johnson, Chugach’s Vice President of Cultural Resources, has fond memories of George. “I first met him in the early ’80s when I was collecting oral histories and surveying historical sites in PWS,” John remembered. “He had a long white beard and worn fisherman hands, and his eyesight was failing, but he could still tell great stories from the good old days.”

John went on to recall some of Flemming’s history and his family connections to the Chugach region. “In his older years, George was a watchman at an old herring saltry in Thumb Cove on the southern end of Knight Island. He was born in 1903 and died in 1983 and was laid to rest in old Chenega. His mother was Pauline Chemivisky who was from Nuchek.”

The 1900 U.S. Census for Chenega Village and the 1910 U.S. Census for Flemming Island note that George’s father was Geo W. B. Flemming who was born in 1852 in New York and came to Alaska in 1888. Geo’s father was from Italy and his mother was from Scotland. His profession was ship carpenter/boat builder and fox farmer. In 1910, Geo was 57 years old and had a homestead and fox farm on Flemming Island, a two-mile long island located eight miles southeast of old Chenega. He had the three children: Ella D., Henry and George.

The following excerpt can be found in Fox Farming: 1917-1941 “History of Prince William Sound, Alaska” by author Jim Lethcoe, and this short passage demonstrates the resiliency that George Flemming had and how his knowledge and experiences allowed him to overcome the adversities that were commonplace in Southcentral Alaska in the early 1900s:

George Flemming and his Native companion almost lost their lives in Prince William Sound. They would travel in small row boats most of the time. They set out in early February of 1916 from Flemming Island to deliver a pair of breeding foxes to the fox farm on Green Island. As they rowed up Montague Strait, an unexpected winter storm hit. There small boat was swept towards Montague island where they were shipwrecked without food or fire. For a month they survived until they found an old boat on the beach which they repaired. They rowed and sailed to Powder Point where most thought they were dead.

The majority of the photos of George Flemming and his family that accompany this story were provided by his niece Kathryn Harrison who lives at The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, in Oregon, and are being shared with her permission. Any reproduction or use of these photos must be secured by permission from Chugach Alaska Corporation.

Kathryn Harrison is 96 years old, and she is very eager to learn more about the places and people where her uncle lived. If have information or photos you’d like to share please, contact John Johnson by email at jjohnson@chugach.com or by phone at (907) 229-2179.

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