Month: June 2017

Alaskan legends: Joe and Fannie Quigley

Alaskan legends: Joe and Fannie Quigley

joedog rhubarb
Joe Quigley at his cabin, carrying rhubarb. UAF-1980-46-566

Joe Buffington Quigley was born in Kitanning, Pennsylvania in 1869, and became one of the early Alaskan pioneers. He told Ranger Grant Pearson [3] that he had entered Alaska by crossing the pass from Dawson on his 22nd birthday (May 9, 1891), and was later one of the first white men to cross the Chilkoot Pass.

Joe Quigley was my grandmother’s father’s brother, and thus, my great (2) uncle Our family is proud that Joe and Fanny are part of our history.

Joe had been mining in the north for nearly 10 years along the Forty Mile River before the Klondike stampede.  He returned to Dawson, and found the claims mostly taken. Instead, he prospected along the Copper River and joined the rush to Tanana and prospected near Fairbanks.

He then moved on to prospecting at Kantishna, inside today’s Denali Park, near Mount McKinley in 1905. Perhaps it was on a return to Fairbanks to file a claim that he became seriously ill with typhoid and was nursed back to health by Fanny MacKenzie who had been working as a cook and housekeeper In Fairbanks.

Fannie Sedlacek

Fannie in her garden – UAF-1980-46-215

Francis Sedlacek (always called Fannie) was born in Wahoo, Nebraska in 1870 to Bohemian immigrants Vencil and Josephine Sedlacek [1].  They had 3 daughters and a baby boy when Josephine died. Vencil quickly remarried Mary Tomes and they had 2 more children. Farming did not go well for Vencil because of the variable weather, and he lost his farm and began renting land. The family was very poor and lived in a dugout, more primitive than the sod hut Laura Ingalls described.

When they were old enough, Fannie and her older sister were sent to “work out,” to bring in some more income. It was at this point that Fannie at age 16 left home and began working along the construction of the Burlington Railroad, probably as a waitress or cook’s helper.
Since she was working for the food catering company, there are no records of exactly where she actually worked from 1886 to 1898, although for the most part it was following the railroad west. When she left home, she had had barely 2 years of schooling and was not only illiterate, but spoke only Czech, so letters and postcards to her sisters came much later.

Fannie became an official prospector when she was issued a Free Miner’s Certificate in 1899 for Hunker Creek near Dawson. She was also working at a nearby roadhouse, probably as a cook.  She followed some of the smaller gold rushes out of the area and soon realized she would do better selling meals. She set up a tent and a portable stove, hung out a “Meals for Sale” sign, and sold meals to the miners for a dollar, realizing that miners had no time to make meals after long days looking for gold.

Surprisingly, after the claims petered out, she returned to Dawson (Yukon territory) and married the handsome Canadian, Angus McKenzie in October, 1900. They set up a roadhouse near Hunker Creek providing meals, liquor and possibly some lodging. This marriage was punctuated with liquor soaked fights, one of which landed the two of them in court in December of 1901. By the end of 1902, Fannie had had enough, and walked out on McKenzie in January of 1903, and walked 700 miles to Rampart, Alaska in the dead of winter, and eventually down to Chena and Fairbanks.

fannie map
Drawing by Karen Farrell, from Searching for Fannie Quigley[1] showing Fannie’s trek from Dawson.

Fannie spent nearly 3 years in and around Fairbanks, probably working as a cook or housekeeper, but she staked her first claim in March, 1904 on Alder Creek. We assume this is where she first met Joe.

Fannie and Joe

Fannie moved to Glacier City in the Kantishna area in 1905, with her Meals for Sale tent , but by 1906 had  moved in with Joe Quigley in Glacier Creek. She filed 26 claims in the area as “F McKenzie” or “Mrs McKenzie.” There is no evidence that she ever divorced Angus nor that he had died: there does not seem to be any death record for him. While he was in the Fairbanks area soon after Fannie was, he seems to have disappeared. She did operate a roadhouse called “Mother McKenzie’s Cabin” in 1913 and registered her claims under the name of McKenzie. She and Joe were formally married in 1918.

Cabins on Quigley Ridge – UAF-1980-46-253

Soon after their marriage, they moved to a ridge in Kantishna that is still called Quigley Ridge. They constructed 4 cabins, one for themselves, one for guests, and one for storage. The last one may have been for their dogs, who provided their only transportation.

Garden and cabin UAF-1980-46-283a

Fannie dug a large garden and raised vegetables despite Alaska’s having only 10 frost-free weeks a year. The summer days were very long, however. Pictures seem to show raised beds and a sort of a canvas cover to lengthen the season. She raised “all kinds of berries,” lettuce, cauliflower, celery, rhubarb, onions potatoes, cucumbers and even some tomatoes. She became an excellent hunter and trapper, providing all their meat and enough to serve fine dinners to guests.

She picked gallons of wild blueberries and cranberries as well. Most fascinating was that an abandoned miner’s tunnel behind their cabins was under the permafrost and she used it as a refrigerator and freezer. Park Ranger Grant Pearson [4] described her larder as containing “sides of caribou, moose, bear, skinned and cleaned rabbits, porcupines, ptarmigan, and shelves of dozens of pies, cakes, bread, rolls and doughnuts, all frozen hard as rocks.” He said she had a 5 year jump on Clarence Birdseye, who was supposed to have discovered quick freezing. She also had a closed room with a series of doors that kept it at about 40 degrees where she kept all her vegetables. She was noted for her pies and the flakey piecrusts that she made from lard rendered from bear fat. They only imported sugar and flour and some eggs. Everything else they ate came from Fannie (and Joe’s) hunting and their garden.

Fannie and dogs
Fannie with dog team. DENA 29-7.4

One of the great stories Fanny told was the time she spotted a moose, but was pretty far from her cabin [8]. It would be dark soon, and if she shot the moose and went home, animals would have gotten it by morning. She didn’t have any sleeping gear with her, so she shot the moose, gutted it, and climbed inside to spend the night. In the morning, the blood had frozen and she said she “had a heck of a time” chipping her way out. But she did get that moose home.  This is one of those almost “tall tales” you hear from hunters, and historian Jane Haigh [1] is skeptical of it. But with the added detail of being frozen inside the moose, it seems pretty likely to be true.  This story was used by Edna Ferber, in her book Ice Palace. This story was also confirmed by my grandmother who had heard it through the family.

Joe’s mining moved to Quigley Ridge and while they continued to find small amounts of gold to pay their yearly expenses, he also discovered a vein of galena (silver and lead) and quartz. Over the years he studied mineralogy during the winter. He set up an assaying outfit and was able to assay the ore he and his friends had dug. We also know that  he and Fannie visited Quigley relatives in Oakmont, PA in 1922, as shown in the photo at the bottom of this article.

In 1930, Joe was seriously injured in a mining tunnel collapse. He was working so far from their cabin that Fannie brought him supplies every few days. He had crawled to the front of the tunnel and Fannie helped him to his tent, built a fire in the stove and fed him soup. Fannie discovered he had broken his hip and a shoulder, and she went for help.

Meanwhile, the stove in Joe’s tent exploded. Fanny had accidentally used wood shavings instead of wood chips in her hurry, and Joe watched the fire approach his bed. Fortunately, there were two trails of shavings and they met and burned themselves out. He never told Fanny.

A neighbor, Johnny Busia, hiked 40 miles to a telephone so he could summon a plane and a doctor. The plane arrived on June 1 and took Joe to the Fairbanks hospital, where he remained until September 24. When he returned he was partially disabled. He couldn’t raise his arms over his head and one leg was longer than the other:  he couldn’t do much mining. This is when he began development work, seeking to find mining companies to sell their mines to.

Joe finally succeeded (“struck it medium rich”) selling his Red Top Mine near Eureka in 1937, for $100,000 plus royalties. The mine provided gold and silver ore and quartz. The mining company began bringing in equipment and it was running from 1939-1942.

Joe and Fannie spent less and less time together during this development period, and in April 1937, they decided to split the proceeds and divorce. (There is no record of this divorce that I can find, even in the newspapers.)


When Joe left Alaska, It has been said that he moved to Seattle and married a nurse named Julia [1] who had cared for him in Fairbanks. But all evidence seems to show that this is a myth.  I can find no record of his marriage, nor do either of them appear in the 1940 census. Nor is there any article in the gossipy Alaskan press announcing the marriage. Further, no articles about Joe after that date mention a wife. Haigh’s book [1] attributes this marriage story to Grant Pearson, who had become Park Superintendent, but neither of his articles in Alaskan Sportsman nor his book mentions a wife [2, 3, 4].

In fact, it appears that Joe did not remarry, but first travelled south to Hot Springs, Arkansas [10] and spent some of the 1937-38 winter using the warm waters to help heal his mining injuries. After some travel, he returned to Fairbanks, but left for Seattle for the winter on September 20, 1938.

He returned to Fairbanks in 1939 by steamship on April 15 to celebrate his 70th birthday on May 8 [12], and gave a presentation on all the old miners he had run into in his travels.  Joe had not been sitting still, but had driven 17,000 miles all over the US in 1937-8, spending time in Florida, California and Mexico City.

In the winter of 1938-9, he drove another 14,000 miles, visiting Chicago, Detroit, the East Coast, Key West, Nevada and Arizona.

While in Alaska in 1939, he took up some prospecting, leaving in September , and returning in June, 1940, when he discussed [13] all the mining opportunities he’d seen in Oregon. He returned in June of 1941 [14]. The reporter noted that he had almost entirely recovered from his injury, and looked better than he had in years. Joe left Fairbanks for Seattle on Aug 12, 1941 [15] and is not mentioned further in the papers.

In Grant Pearson’s article, he mentions visiting Joe in Fairbanks in 1945 [3] and while Grant asked if he planned to return to Alaska, his eyes lit up, but said he didn’t plan to do so. Joe was mentioned in the 1952 paper [16] as one of seven remaining members of the Pioneers of Alaska, who had arrived before 1899.

Joe died in Seattle in 1958 at the age of 89. As far as I know, none of his eastern family knew he was living there. The obituary in the Seattle Times mentions two relatives: Vernon Quigley of Portland and Mrs Joseph Morgan of Long Beach, CA.


fannie porch
Fannie on cabin porch. DENA 5462 Denali National Park and Preserve Museum Collection.

Fannie remained in her beloved Kantishna, with a view of Mt McKinley, but the mining company built her a new frame house near the Moose Creek airstrip, so she wouldn’t be disturbed by the mining activity. This allowed her to get to Fairbanks more easily using the mining company’s flights. In 1938, we read that she spent the winter in the Pioneer Hotel in Fairbanks. The newspaper [ 11] indicates that a pilot had ferried supplies to Kantishna for her, and that she would return to her home in about a week.

In August of 1944, neighbor Johnny Busia noticed that there was no smoke coming from Fannie’s house. She had died that night. The newspaper described her at her funeral as “the droll, spunky and tenacious little pioneer, so well known and loved throughout Alaska.”  [17]

Joe and Fanny were well known because they entertained guests regularly, including Jack London and other writers. Joe was best known for his mining and mineralogy expertise as well as his personal kindness, and Fanny for her hunting and wilderness cooking skills. Together they made the area around Denali Park and Mt McKinley so attractive to visitors that it became a significant tourist attraction. Joe was also an excellent photographer, developing and printing his own photos, and many of his photos can be found in the Fannie Quigley Collection [9] at the University of Alaska.

Joe and Minnie
Joe and Fannie, in 1922, visiting in Oakmont, PA. (From G.B. Cooper.)


  1. Jane G Haigh, Searching for Fannie Quigley, Ohio University Press, 2007
  2. Grant Pearson, “Fannie Quigley, Frontierswoman” Alaskan Sportsman, August, 1947.
  3. Grant Pearson, “Joe Quigley, Sourdough,” Alaskan Sportsman, March, 1950
  4. Grant Pearson with Philip Newill, My Life of High Adventure, Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ:
  5. “Fannie Quigley,” National Park Service, Denali.
  6. “Kantishna Gold,” National Park Service, Denali,
  7. “Denali,” National Park Service, Denali,
  8. “Fannie Quigley, An Alaskan Folk Hero,” Last Frontier, Oct 2, 2014. (essentially copied from Pearson’s article in ref 2)
  9. “The Fannie Quigley Collection,” University of Alaska,
  10. The Alaska Miner, Sept 20, 1938, page 24.
  11. The Alaska Miner, Feb 15, 1938, page 7..
  12. Fairbanks Daily News Miner, May 8, 1939, page 2.
  13. Fairbanks Daily News Miner, June 21, 1940, page 7.
  14. Fairbanks Daily News Miner, June 10, 1941, page 5.
  15. Fairbanks Daily News Miner, Aug 12 , 1941, page 4.
  16. Fairbanks Daily News Miner, Nov 13, 1952 page 6.
  17. Fairbanks Daily News Miner, Sept 2, 1964, page 6.


African chicken peanut stew

African chicken peanut stew

Here is a really easy chicken stew made with peanut butter and peanuts. You might find this strange and you won’t believe that some people actually do some of these diets in the eastern countries thinking it is an american tradition. If you have a pressure cooker like the Instant Pot, the cooking time is only 30 minutes. It’s probably 60-90 minutes in a covered pot. The original recipe on the Simply Recipes site serves 6-8. We cut that in half and easily had enough for 4. And in an Instant Pot, it is very little work.

  • 1 to 1.5 lb chicken thighs
  • 3 Tb olive
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, sliced. (you needn’t peel it as it almost dissolves anyway.)
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large sweet potato, cut into chunks
  • ½ small can (7 oz) crushed tomatoes
  • 12 oz chicken stock (add more if not using pressure cooker)
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • ½ cup roasted peanuts
  • 5 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp cayenne
  • Salt and black pepper
  • ¼ cup cilantro (omit if you don’t like it)

saute chcken

  1. Brown the chicken pieces in olive oil in the Instant Pot, set to sauté. You can remove the skin or not, as you wish. It will come off later when you cut up the cooked chicken. Do this in a couple of batches if need be. Remove and drain.
  2. Sauté the onions until they soften, and add the ginger and garlic. After 1-2 minute, add the sweet potatoes and mix together.


  1. Add the chicken broth, crushed tomatoes, peanut butter, peanuts, coriander and cayenne. Stir to combine, and add the chicken back into the pot. Add salt as needed.
  2. Cook the stew under pressure (manual setting) for 30 minutes.
  3. Release the pressure (quick release is fine), cut the chicken off the bones and discard the skins. Return the chicken to the pot.


  1. Add as much black pepper as you’d like to make it peppery. Stir in the cilantro if you must.
  2. Serve over steamed rice.
Home gardening myths

Home gardening myths

There are so many ideas for improving your home garden that have grown up over the years, that it is difficult to keep them straight. And quite a few come from pretty reputable sources as Harter Landscaping who are specialized in this kind of work.

Soil inoculants

For example, I first heard about adding soil inoculant (nitrogen fixing bacteria) to the soil from Jim Crockett’s PBS program some years ago. The idea was that since legumes like peas and beans would utilize these bacteria to promote growth, but you still need to be careful for other minerals that grows around as the asbesto, is better to get a professional service as Asbestos Pros to remove it for the sake of the plants.


Well, you will find extension sites like this one at Penn State describing the use of soil inoculants, but they are clearly talking about full scale agriculture, not a home garden. But, according to Linda Chalker-Scott, who runs the Garden Professor’s Blog “There is absolutely no science behind using it in nonagricultural situations,” and that you should save your money. She notes that there are no studies that show such soil inoculation is useful in the home garden. Scott is also an Extension Professor at Washington State University, and the author of several gardening books.

Copper deters slugs?

Slug on pennies

Any number of writers have suggested that copper, even copper pennies can be used to deter slugs. They usually cite some unlikely sort of galvanic shock the slugs receive crawling over copper. This just plain doesn’t happen. In this article, you will see why that is silly, as well as a movie showing it doesn’t work. And the amount of actual copper in a U.S. penny is negligible in any case.

This probably came from the idea of using sharp copper edging along beds, which would cut slugs who tried to climb over it. That will work, but copper is expensive. And sharp edging would do, though, as well as using diatomaceous earth, which contains fossilized remains of diatoms, a top of hard shelled algae. Be sure to get the grade designed for your garden, not for swimming pools.

Frankly, the best way to deter slugs in large garden beds is still metaldehyde, but it is dangerous to pets. In such situations, iron phosphate is also effective. But I would like to give that big cage and my pet needs that so bad so that the slugs would not reach it.

Saucers of beer will draw slugs to them and drown them, but unfortunately, they actually attract slugs, and have to be emptied daily. When you need efficient and affordable removalists in Sydney, visit andy the guy for more information.

A final solution for slugs is to keep some ducks. They apparently love slugs.

Marigolds deter nematodes

marigoldsIf I have a square bed with some space in the middle, I often stick a couple of marigolds there. It’s colorful enough, but the idea that it might deter nematodes or other bugs is only true when you plant them ahead of time. About 2 months earlier. This clearly only would work in long growing season regions like Florida. Marigold roots secrete alpha-terthienyl into the soil, which will kill nematodes when you plant your main crop. Otherwise, you are just decorating your garden and that is not such a bad idea.

In some cases, marigolds can become slug magnets, and the slugs will strip the marigolds. This is not very helpful.

Companion planting

The idea that planting various crops near each other, called “intercropping” seems intuitively appealing, but you will discover than there is simply no science behind it. As Linda Chalker-Scott describes on her Horticultural Myths page, there is little science behind companion plantings.

The “Three Sisters” planting associated with native Americans planted corn, beans and squash together, so that the bean vine climbs the corn and the squash fills in the ground space. This only works because the three plants have similar growing requirements and don’t out-compete each other for nourishment.

Beyond that one case, much of the writing on companion plantings borders on pseudo-science and the occult, she notes, and “traditional lists of plant associations have entertainment, not scientific value.”

Trap cropping is a special case of intercropping, where you plant a crop a couple of weeks ahead of your main crop, so that it attracts the pests away from your cash crop, you can also hire a wasp exterminator cincinnati if you feel you have problems controlling pests from your garden. In the linked paper, the researchers note that planting Blue Hubbard squash ahead of your main squash or cucurbit crop. This will attract the squash vine borers and cucumber beetles to the trap crop, and you can then plant your squash or cucurbit seeds. This probably is not relevant to home gardening, though.

Bone Meal

Bone meal  (according to Dr Chalker-Scott)  is primarily calcium and phosphorus, which are usually available in garden soils in sufficient quantity. So when you plant your spring bulbs, you might as well skip buying the bone meal. The only thing it might do is induce your dog to dig them up.

Compost tea

You make a compost tea by mixing compost with water, letting it soak and then straining through cheesecloth or the like and using it in your garden. You may recognize that this description is very vague and thus the results are quite variable. While there is some research suggesting that compost teas may deliver soluble nitrogen as fertilizer, creating such a tea really requires a laboratory rather than home brewing. And there is a significant danger of human pathogens in the resulting solution. I recommend having the best watering system there is, click over here if you want to get the best quality of water as possible, and don’t worry if there is any water damage at your house you can contact water damage restoration phoenix, they will take care of it.

Papers on the Horticultural Myths page suggest that compost teas

There are any number of other myths debunked on the Horticultural myths page and in the books below. They are fun to read.


  1. Linda Chalker-Scott, How Plants Work
  2. Linda Chalker-Scott, The Informed Gardener Blooms Again
  3. Jeff Gillman, The Truth About Garden Remedies
  4. Jeff Gillman, The Truth About Organic Gardening
  5. Jeff Gillman and Meleah Maynard, Decoding Gardening Advice
  6. Horticultural Myths
  7. The Garden Professor’s Blog
‘Lettice and Lovage” opens at Westport Playhouse

‘Lettice and Lovage” opens at Westport Playhouse

Peter Schaffer’s 1987 comedy, “Lettice and Lovage” opened last Saturday at the Westport Country Playhouse to a rapturous audience reception.  Directed by Mark Lamos, the play is about Lettice (actually her name is Laetetia) played by Kandis Chappell, who makes up fascinating and hilarious, but outrageously fictional “facts” about the stately British home where she gives house tours. Eventually her supervisor Lotte Schoen (Mia Dillon) finds out and sacks her.

Feeling guilty about firing her, Lotte comes to see Lettice with a recommendation for a new job she might like narrating a tour boat. They share an aperitif Lettice has made of vodka, brandy and lovage, (an aromatic herb with seeds that are similar to fennel seeds) and begin a tipsy friendship despite the huge difference in their personalities.  Lotte is straight-laced and bureaucratic, while Lettice is flamboyant and theatrical.

The comic virtue of Shaffer’s work lies in Lettice’s bizarre historical reimaginings as well as his elegant and beautiful language.

5_WCP_Lettice&Lovage_PaxtonWhitehead_MiaDillon_KandisChappell_byCRosegg_334aFollowing the development of their friendship as well their cleverly barbed exchanges make up much of the fun of this piece, but following intermission we meet the lawyer Mr Bardolph, played by the redoubtable Paxton Whitehead, who tried to tell Lettice this she is in a great deal of trouble and could end up in prison if she doesn’t cooperate with him and preparing her defense.  How this turn of events came about and the hilarious way it is resolved make up the highly entertaining finale to this delightful evening.

In playing Lettice, Kandis Chappell is very funny, very theatrical and extremely entertaining, and dominates the stage throughout. The role, originally written for Maggie Smith, is a challenge to any actress, bringing out the characters over-the-top theatricality without herself going over the top. In this, Chappell succeeds admirably, and the audience more than demonstrated their affection for her performance.

Mia Dillon as Lotte, plays sensibility against Chappell’s theatricality and is quite affecting when she finally reveals her history and the reasons for her hatred of terrible architecture.

Sarah Manton plays Lotte’s secretary with great aplomb against the stormy forces of Lettice and Lotte’s first confrontation.

Sometimes, theater has its own internal theatricality and Patricia Connolly who was supposed to play Lettice was taken ill just a week before the show’s opening and Kandis Chappel flew in from San Diego to take over the role on very short notice, arriving Tuesday, when previews normally begin. The Tuesday and Wednesday previews were cancelled and the first preview was Thursday, and the official opening just last Saturday.

In the opening scene, we see Lettice giving several versions of her fantasy version of history to a group of tourists, portrayed by local actors  Kara Hankard of Glastonbury, Travis James of Weston, Richard Mancini of Stratford, Michele S. Mueller of Rocky Hill, Robert Peterpaul of Darien, Hermon Telyan of Wilton, and Danielle Anna White of Ridgefield.

Despite the simplicity of the story, the sets created by John Arnone are stunning. The first British house scene is a huge wall of portraits and heraldry, and Lotte’s office is a small unit set that rolls on as the wall is flown out. But the major piece of the set is Lettice’s basement flat, which is cluttered and elaborate, and is  enhance by an entire brick building flat behind it and a stairway down to her flat’s entrance level.

“Lettice and Lovage” runs through June 17, and you won’t find a more entertaining evening than this.