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Lee Saylor, Interview 2, Part 1

Lee Saylor was interviewed on June 5, 2013 by Karen Brewster at his home in North Pole, Alaska. In this first part of a two part interview, Lee talks about the history of the people of Healy Lake, who was related to whom, and how people in the Upper Tanana region were connected with each other and moved around from place to place. He also mentions miners, trading posts, and schools in the area.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2013-14-01_PT.1

Project: Wrangell-St.Elias National Park
Date of Interview: Jun 5, 2013
Narrator(s): Lee Saylor
Interviewer(s): Karen Brewster
Transcriber: Joan O'Leary
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
National Park Service
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.

After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.


Personal background, coming to Alaska, work history

Healy family background

History of Healy Lake and Old Chief Healy

Seasonal and migratory subsistence patterns

Old Chief Healy's fish camp on the Healy River and whitefish fishing

Area traditionally used by people of Healy Lake

Story about Old Chief Healy hunting with his muzzleloader gun

Jeany Healy's family background

Traditional marriage

Connections between the villages in the region and their histories

Jeany Healy's sisters and their marriages and families

Mary Healy, and being a strong woman

Joseph family

Old and new village of Healy Lake

Healy Lake people and miners

Paul Healy family

Click play, then use Sections or Transcript to navigate the interview.

After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.


KAREN BREWSTER: That -- to say that today is June 5, 2013 and this is Karen Brewster and I'm here with Lee Saylor at his home in North Pole, Alaska and this is for the Wrangell-St. Elias Project Jukebox.

And we're going to be talking about the history of Healy Lake. So, Lee thank you very much for being willing to talk to me today. Uhm.

First thing I want to do is just ask you a little bit about yourself. Tell me when and where you were born, a little bit about your background and where you come from.

LEE SAYLOR: Okay. I'm actually a Pennsylvania Dutchman. I come from a -- an old family in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and been in Alaska since 1964.

And was with my first wife Stella Healy since beginning in 1966 but she died in ’72.

And I listened to the old people in Healy Lake. Well, for years.

KAREN BREWSTER: So what brought you to Alaska in the first place?


LEE SAYLOR: Yeah, I was stationed at Fort Wainwright and was TDY at Fort Greely and --


LEE SAYLOR: Temporary Duty. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, okay.

LEE SAYLOR: So, yeah, at -- met my first wife in Delta Junction and then later was in Fairbanks.

KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh. And then you moved to Healy Lake and lived there?

LEE SAYLOR: Well, just, you know, for periods of time in the summer. The first time I actually lived there for a while was after the ’67 flood in Fairbanks. I was working for the highway department.

KAREN BREWSTER: What were you doing for them?

LEE SAYLOR: Surveying. I was actually an instrument man on the survey crew.

KAREN BREWSTER: What does that mean? What does an instrument man do?

LEE SAYLOR: The transit -- the transit and theodolite. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.

LEE SAYLOR: And later I worked for the highway department and DOT for over thirty years and ended up running the survey crews in the northern part of the state.

Did road surveys and airport surveys and some times, you know, boundaries on material sources and maintenance camps and so forth?

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, so it sounds like you have been all over Alaska then?

LEE SAYLOR: Yes, all over north of the range and the Valdez, Cordova, Copper River area.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, so you got -- I'd say the Alaska Highway was already there when you got here?

LEE SAYLOR: Oh sure, but the Parks Highway wasn’t, but we did survey through Nenana Canyon.

I think it was ’71, ’72, around there that the Parks Highway was finally connected.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, that sounds about right. LEE SAYLOR: Uh-huh.

KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. So I've some questions about -- well, we will wait before -- so you married Stella Healy?

LEE SAYLOR: Yes. KAREN BREWSTER: So can you tell me a little about that family genealogy of hers.

LEE SAYLOR: Well, sure. Stella’s dad was Johnny Healy and he died at Little Gerstle in 1960 or 1947, yeah.

And I never knew Johnny Healy.

And Stella was the last surviving child of Jeany and Johnny Healy and all of her other -- their other kids died before 1950.

KAREN BREWSTER: Did they die in the big epidemic?

LEE SAYLOR: The epidemic in 1943 -- actually the only one that died in their kids was Louie. The rest survived that and died between then and ’47. KAREN BREWSTER: Huh.

LEE SAYLOR: And Arthur Healy -- You know, before Stella he was the only one that actually married. He married Chief Walter Isaac’s daughter, Laura, from Tanacross.

They had two kids -- both who died whenthey're little and then she died of TB. And Arthur got a draft notice and when he went into Fairbanks,

they found he had TB and he was rejected from the Army.

And that was, you know, after his wife and kids had died and he survived 'til 1944. I've got a little notebook of -- from Arthur that kind of -- from about ’41 to ’44.

KAREN BREWSTER: Sort of like a journal of his?

LEE SAYLOR: Yeah, a little -- just little pocket notebook. KAREN BREWSTER: I'm just going to move this. LEE SAYLOR: Sure. KAREN BREWSTER: Because I don’t -- you're playing with it comes out on the microphone. LEE SAYLOR: Okay.

KAREN BREWSTER: And so -- so Jeany and Johnny Healy, who were their kids?

LEE SAYLOR: Okay, yeah, John -- John Healy of -- my father-in-law Arthur was their oldest son and he married Laura Isaac.

Chief Walter Isaac’s daughter from Tanacross. And they had a boy and a girl that both -- both died just little.

I know the girl was named Cora , and, you know, Cora Isaac, Oscar’s daughter was named after that little girl. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh.

LEE SAYLOR: She's still alive. Well, she's younger than I'm.

KAREN BREWSTER: And then so they had Arthur. They had Stella.

LEE SAYLOR: And then they had Sara, Bessie, Laura, Marilyn, Louie, and Esau and then there was some -- a couple that just died as babies and I don’t know.

KAREN BREWSTER: How do you spell Esau, do you know?

LEE SAYLOR: E-S-A-U. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay, that's what I thought, okay.

And so I've seen the name Paddy Healy.

LEE SAYLOR: Pat, yeah, Patrick Healy that my son was named after. That was John Healy’s brother.


LEE SAYLOR: Now -- and they called him Paddy.



LEE SAYLOR: And then there was -- younger brother, Paul. He had a different mother.

Chief Healy’s first wife was supposedly from the Ketchumstuk area and she was close -- closely related with my second wife Rita’s people. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.

LEE SAYLOR: With Rita’s -- well, Rita’s mother’s people and she was the Diik'aagiyu clan.

KAREN BREWSTER: Okay, so John and Paddy Healy their father was Old Chief -- LEE SAYLOR: Chief -- Chief Healy, yes. KAREN BREWSTER: Chief Healy, okay.

LEE SAYLOR: And their mother -- the only name I've heard from her is Beliish. I don’t think she had an English name at all.

KAREN BREWSTER: Say her name again. LEE SAYLOR: Voleash.

KAREN BREWSTER: Voleash, okay. I've no idea how I'm going to spell that. LEE SAYLOR: And I’m not --

KAREN BREWSTER: We'll have the translator tell me.

LEE SAYLOR: I don’t know how to write Athabascan and some of the sounds are just not in English.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Okay. So, can you tell me a little bit about the history of Healy Lake and those people?

LEE SAYLOR: Well, it -- it really comes to two families.

One is the Old Chief Healy and Old Chief Healy’s dad. And we'll go back to Old Chief Healy’s dad.


LEE SAYLOR: He had two wives and the Chief Healy and I don’t know of any siblings that survived besides Blind Jimmy and old Chief Healy.

I'm not aware of that, but that was from two different wives he had at the same time.

KAREN BREWSTER: So Blind Jimmy was the son of the second wife? LEE SAYLOR: Yes. Uh-huh. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.

LEE SAYLOR: And the first wife was -- Old Chief Healy’s mother was obviously Naltsiin clan because he was Naltsiin.

And the Blind Jimmy I think was -- was Diik'aagiyu.

KAREN BREWSTER: Is the clan goes -- down through the mother?

LEE SAYLOR: Yes. As I said, I'm pretty sure Blind Jimmy wasn’t because his wife Selene was Naltsiin and in those days the clans you didn’t marry in your same clan.

KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh. Okay. So, there were two families. It was sort of Old Chief Healy’s family and then Blind Jimmy’s?

LEE SAYLOR: Well, Blind Jimmy’s they were the same family, but it was two wives. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

LEE SAYLOR: And sometimes, you know, an important chief would have as many as five or six.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, to be able to support two wives and that many children he must have been an accomplished hunter and --?

LEE SAYLOR: And also, you know, trading and dealing, they did that.

And now on the second wife’s side, her grandpa’s dad it's, it's the way her mom Nancy told me says, "Yeah, my grandpa he was a bad man. He had wives all over the place -- in Canada, in Eagle, and Ketchumstuk and --"

KAREN BREWSTER: As you say, if he can support that many people, he must have been good at something.

LEE SAYLOR: Uh-huh. KAREN BREWSTER: That certainly would --

LEE SAYLOR: Or just a good talker.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Well, that's also a little surprising.

Many people think the resources in Interior Alaska, you know, we don’t have a wealth of resources (telephone ringing).

Yeah, before the phone rang I was asking about the availability of resources, you know, to be somebody who can support multiple wives you think they have to be able to have enough food and Interior Alaska is not always known for --

LEE SAYLOR: Okay, but they move around. There'd be fish camp and people -- the old-timers planned ahead.

They'd dry enough fish. They'd dry meat.

They'd store berries and whitefish. They'd make what they call za'nuk (phonetic).

They'd dig a pit and then line it with birch bark and lay the fish down then grass, fish, grass and then cover it up with dirt and that would ferment.

But the same family they might have a fish camp and then a caribou corral.

And to catch or to get moose they'd often snare them.


LEE SAYLOR: Yeah. They'd snare them and then finish them off with a spear or an axe.

KAREN BREWSTER: Huh. Yeah, I know about old time bow and arrow, but I didn’t know that a snare would be used for something -- LEE SAYLOR: Oh, yes. KAREN BREWSTER: As big as a moose, yeah.

LEE SAYLOR: Just like that’s one Julius Paul made right there.

KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh. Yeah, those are beautiful.

Well, yeah, I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about sort of the migratory nature of the people and not only Healy Lake, Tanacross, Mansfield --

LEE SAYLOR: Sure. KAREN BREWSTER: Ketchumstuk, all of that area.

LEE SAYLOR: Yeah, if you stayed in one place, you'd eat everything up and even, you know, when so-called permanent village like the Healy Lake Village or Tanacross

off times you'd go there and there'd be no one there, because everyone was off at a fish camp or they're off at a hunting camp and that's even 30, 40 years ago that was -- you'd find that sometimes.

KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh. So when you came into those communities in the 60’s, people were still doing a lot of that seasonally moving around?

LEE SAYLOR: Yeah, it seems like since then it's been -- it's been a lot less. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh.

LEE SAYLOR: I've been to places where the -- just at the time no one had any money, they're just eating bannock and whitefish and dried meat.

KAREN BREWSTER: You mentioned before we were on tape about in Healy Lake there was a fish camp up the Healy River.

LEE SAYLOR: Yeah, that was Old Chief Healy’s. It was really a little village and called it K’aay kęę’ and kęę’ is a village.

It's a semi-permanent village.

And if you translate it, it's Groundhog Village.

KAREN BREWSTER: And so would they occupy that during specific times of year?

LEE SAYLOR: They'd occupy it in the late summer when the whitefish were really coming through there.

And also it was used as a caribou camp to hunt caribou from. And it was just downstream from there there's a lot of lakes and potholes and the ducks nest pretty heavily there.

Healy Lake there's whitefish come through in May and go up the Healy River and they stay up there and spawn and they come back through in September and

you drop a net in -- Well, you'll catch whitefish, pike and sucker any time of year in a gill net, but in September

there's whitefish coming and it will just sometimes sink the whole net.

KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. I know in other places people are really anxious to get the fish when they're full of eggs? LEE SAYLOR: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Is that --

LEE SAYLOR: So that was up Healy River too and in George Creek in November the whitefish come out of the lake and spawn in the creek and they're full of eggs right then.

KAREN BREWSTER: So that's a preferred fishing time?

LEE SAYLOR: Yeah, that was at George Creek which was part of Healy Lake territory. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

LEE SAYLOR: There -- well Frank Luke stayed there a long time and before that Chief Joe was trying to make a little village, but

George Creek was always a bad luck place. It wasn’t consistent fish runs.

KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. LEE SAYLOR: And right now the --

Besides, too many ghosts at George Creek.

KAREN BREWSTER: What do you mean?

LEE SAYLOR: Well, so many -- that one village just -- that was there in late 1800’s it died off and

I know Margaret Kirstetter told me about that time when after she was orphaned and was over there with her mom’s uncle Chief Joe.

I guess he was treating her like a slave and she didn’t move fast enough and he knocked her with a piece of firewood. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, no.

LEE SAYLOR: And she ran over to that old village and there was still houses and stuff set there and she hid there.

So, I know that at that time that there were still houses there.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, not very good memories for people. LEE SAYLOR: Uh-huh.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. So, the Healy Lake people you said they had a territory, kind of. Where was it that they roamed?

LEE SAYLOR: Well, they'd go up the Healy River over into the middle fork of the Forty Mile. They'd use George Lake, George Creek, Sam Lake.

Actually, the way I always was told that, you know, the Mansfield and Healy Lake considered Billy Creek as kind of the bound -- territory boundary.

It wasn’t a hard fast boundary, but that was --

KAREN BREWSTER: So,they were pretty -- I mean I was thinking Mansfield and Joseph and Ketchumstuk and Healy they were all very close together. I'd think the people would have --

LEE SAYLOR: Well, yeah, they married back and forth. They were related and even up Tetlin, Northway, Mentasta.

KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh. But they still kind of kept their traditional boundaries for hunting?

LEE SAYLOR: Yes. And sure it's families from other place would move over and over into there and with their permission and then --

I mean, Jeany Healy, when she was just little, she remembers staying in -- or I don’t know if she remembers. She was told that they were in Kechumstuk for a while, maybe half a year.

KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh. And then they moved some place else?

LEE SAYLOR: Uh-huh. Now back to Old Chief Healy’s dad and I think he was also referred to as Ch’itay Theeg (literally "old man corpse") same as Old Chief Healy, but there were stories about him.

They said he was very frugal or they said stingy,

but he had that muzzleloader and when he'd go hunting he'd just put a half charge in it

and then a lead ball. At that time you bought lead and cast the ball.

And he'd sneak right up on a moose or whatever he was going to do and just shoot it and then run in with his knife and spear and finish it.


LEE SAYLOR: He didn’t put enough charge to really --

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, you were just saying about the killing of a moose.

LEE SAYLOR: And he'd go in and kill it that way. Then he'd dig the lead bullet out and recast it.

KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, you could do that, huh?

LEE SAYLOR: Sure. And if he missed, they say he'd search and search until he'd find that bullet and -- you know, all over the ground. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

LEE SAYLOR: There's a story that Old Chief Healy and that Little White Man, you know, Katba,

(Old Sam's brother) one time when they got a hold of his muzzleloader and they put a big charge of powder in and reloaded it,

and then he got up to look for moose and he sees one and he goes up a tree.

And he was looking and, you know, take careful aim at this moose and he's going to just knock it down.

Instead when he shot they said the moose went down just like that and he went flying out of the tree and

said the moose was -- didn’t have to go dispatch it. I guess it killed that, but he was sore for days and just mad. Didn’t know who messed with his muzzleloader.

So that's just a story about him.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, and what was his name?

LEE SAYLOR: Well, they called him the same as Old Chief Healy -- Ch’itay Theeg.

KAREN BREWSTER: Sort of Old Chief Healy, Sr. LEE SAYLOR: What?

KAREN BREWSTER: He was sort of like Old Chief Healy, Sr. LEE SAYLOR: Yes. Uh-huh. Just like that and --

And then the other side of things were, you know, Jeany Healy and her sisters came from was -- their dad was Old Sam.

KAREN BREWSTER: Wait, so Jeany Healy’s --

LEE SAYLOR: Yeah, her dad -- just called Old Sam and I'm not sure if they gave him a first name.

KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. Yeah, I'm getting -- Jeany is Stella’s mother.

LEE SAYLOR: Yes, that was Johnny Healy’s wife. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.

LEE SAYLOR: And she -- none of her brothers survived to grow up, but she had four sisters that, you know, had kids I'd say.

KAREN BREWSTER: So, who were her four sisters?

LEE SAYLOR: They were Lucy, Eva, Lena and Agnes and then there was another sister Maggie,

and she was with John Healy originally, you know, John -- KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, okay.

LEE SAYLOR: And she died of TB and before she died she told John Healy not to go get another woman, but wait 'til her sister Jeany grew up old enough.

And that's -- that was the arrangement.

KAREN BREWSTER: All right. That works out well?

LEE SAYLOR: Yes, it worked out well. And then her older sister Agnes she married to Mansfield -- married Gus Jacobs, which was my second wife’s, Rita’s, grandmother’s brother.

So, she married Gus Jacobs and had two girls there.

And then Gus died right in the late teens and Agnes went back to Healy Lake and she ended up marrying with Paddy Healy -- with Patrick Healy.


LEE SAYLOR: And that was -- that took care of the -- and the two daughters were Alice and Margaret.

KAREN BREWSTER: Is that Margaret Kirstetter?


LEE SAYLOR: And the other Alice Joe cause she married Alec Joe and their son David is still -- he's in Fairbanks.

KAREN BREWSTER: You mentioned his name to me on the phone.


LEE SAYLOR: And he's, you know, his memory is going pretty bad.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, so Jeany’s father was Old Sam. LEE SAYLOR: Yes.

KAREN BREWSTER: Who was her mother?

LEE SAYLOR: Now that was -- was known as Belle and there's a story behind the name Belle and she -- her brother was Chief Joe that --.

KAREN BREWSTER: Belle’s brother?

LEE SAYLOR: Yeah, Belle’s brother is Chief Joe and, you know, he had the settlement at George Creek for a while and also he lived at Salcha for --

he was Salcha’s representative at the Tanana Chiefs Conference with Judge Wickersham.

KAREN BREWSTER: You mean, the famous picture of --

LEE SAYLOR: Yeah, but he was not actually from Salcha. His dialect was not, you know, the Salchaket, Chena, Nenana dialect.

KAREN BREWSTER: He was from down by Healy Lake or George Creek?

LEE SAYLOR: Yes, both of them were and although they had a lot of Salchaket connections because -- Belle and Chief Joe and there was one other girl.

Their mom had married downriver maybe I’m not sure at Salchaket or even further down. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh.

LEE SAYLOR: But her husband died and she wasn’t being treated good, so she brought her kids and came back to Healy Lake and --

And she married Katba, the old Little White Man. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, okay.

LEE SAYLOR: And then Belle, she married Sam which was Katba's younger brother.

So the mother and the daughter married two brothers.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, it's confusing a little bit.

LEE SAYLOR: No, it's just like when there're so many, you know, people died young that there was widows and -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. LEE SAYLOR: And they remarried and --

KAREN BREWSTER: Then often marriage probably was for reasons other than necessarily falling in love. It kept the family line going or the chief or the power structure.

LEE SAYLOR: And oft times well the marriage was -- when they were young, the marriage was often arranged with --

I mean, just the way it was and someone would get married the guy would work for the inlaws for a year. I guess they wanted to observe him.

KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh. He had to prove himself. LEE SAYLOR: Yeah.


KAREN BREWSTER: Make sure he was a good addition to the family.

LEE SAYLOR: Yeah, they wouldn’t have a bum to support.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, and it's interesting you mentioned that she married somebody in Salchaket and by today’s standards Healy Lake to Salcha seems like a really long way.


KAREN BREWSTER: But in that time period it seemed like people moved around so much that to walk 200 miles wasn’t so far.

LEE SAYLOR: Well, the Salcha -- there was Goodpaster Village. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh.

LEE SAYLOR: And that was, you know, the same language as Salchaket, but when the mission was put at Salchaket, the Goodpaster people just came down the Salchaket. And their --

KAREN BREWSTER: And you were telling me the same sort of happened at Tanacross?

LEE SAYLOR: With Kechumstuk, yeah, well Ketch -- Tanacross, yeah, the people stayed at Mansfield some year round,

oh right up into the 1950’s I think before the last people just -- that Mansfield became a fish camp instead of the fairly permanent village.

KAREN BREWSTER: So is it still used as a fish camp?


LEE SAYLOR: People live up there, where they got houses up there. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh.

LEE SAYLOR: And they let that little bridge and dipnet station on Mansfield Creek. It fell in and

let me see I got to think when it -- I just don’t know.

When I go to Mansfield it would be there and then one time it wasn’t and no one ever replaced it.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right, but so what’s the story about Tanacross -- that that wasn’t really a community until the mission was there or -- ?

LEE SAYLOR: That’s -- well it was a telegraph station on the Army telegraph system and when that was abandoned,

oh around -- once the radios came in that telegraph line was -- the Army quit maintaining it.

And in 1912 the Episcopal Church bought those buildings I guess from the Army and sent that Reverend Benninger.

He -- him and these two ladies were sent up there to run the mission and the mission school and people would walk down from Mansfield to attend things.

I’ve got a bunch of copies of the old Alaska Churchman that -- KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh.

LEE SAYLOR: -- gives the account of that founding there.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. Right. And then Kechumstuk what happened to that community?

LEE SAYLOR: Sickness. In the 1920’s it was --

well, my second wife’s grandparents on her mother’s side that was Sam Abraham and,

well her grandma was named Belle -- but Belle Charlie.

They must have lost eight, ten kids over the years and it was only those last two girls that, you know, survived to grow up.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, you were saying so the last ones to be born at Kechumstuk?

LEE SAYLOR: Yeah, that was Agnes -- Agnes Abraham. She was --

but there were others that were born in Kechumstuk. You know, Dean Wilson’s wife, Ada, was actually born in Kechumstuk,

but that was her dad David Teega (phonetic) and Elsie Solomon

I think they were just up there, you know, for trapping. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh.

LEE SAYLOR: But she was probably the last one born in Kechumstuk.

KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh. So Agnes Abraham and what her sister?

LEE SAYLOR: Well, her sister Nancy. KAREN BREWSTER: Nancy.

LEE SAYLOR: Yeah, that was my mother-in-law.

KAREN BREWSTER: That was Rita’s -- ?

LEE SAYLOR: Yeah, and she died two years ago.

KAREN BREWSTER: And she was born up there also -- Nancy was?

LEE SAYLOR: No, she -- her sister Agnes was and well Agnes died in 1988.

But Agnes was born there and -- I mean Nancy right after they moved from Kechumstuk she was born in Mansfield. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.

LEE SAYLOR: Although this isn't Healy Lake, this is digressing a little bit.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, but it's all related. LEE SAYLOR: Yes, it is

KAREN BREWSTER: Because this project is about all of these different communities -- LEE SAYLOR: Uh-huh.

KAREN BREWSTER: In this region and you know so much about all of these different facets I wanted to ask you about the bigger picture. LEE SAYLOR: Right. KAREN BREWSTER: Besides just -- LEE SAYLOR: Uh-huh.

KAREN BREWSTER: -- Healy Lake because it's all related and I'm going to go talk to people in those other communities, too.

LEE SAYLOR: Yeah, one -- one that you should talk to about Healy Lake is Ruth Woods. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh.

LEE SAYLOR: And I'll get into -- we were talking about, you know, Jeany Healy’s sisters. I discovered her sister Agnes.

Jeany told me about when her sister and Gus Jacob threw a potlatch in Mansfield and it was in the winter.

And she was just maybe ten years old, and they went there by dog sled.

And she was saying about on this steep trail they had to all hop off and hold the sled to keep it from sliding down the hill,

but they got to Mansfield and to the potlatch.

But Jeany’s next youngest sister Lucy -- KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh.

LEE SAYLOR: She married Frank Luke who was actually born in Goodpaster Village.

And then their next youngest sister. Eva, she married Frank Luke’s younger brother, Abraham.

And Abraham was born at Salchaket.

KAREN BREWSTER: And they were brothers so -- LEE SAYLOR: Yes.

KAREN BREWSTER: That shows that that family moved around, too.

LEE SAYLOR: Well, that family and I can -- I'll tell how that came to be.

Johnny and Paddy’s sister Mary -- also she was nicknamed Xutnah, and from what Jeany tells me Mary Healy she could handle herself just like a man. She'd hunt.

She'd fish and she outlived three husbands.


LEE SAYLOR: But her first husband was -- his last name was Charlie and I'm not sure where he was from but after he died she got with Old Sol from Kechumstuk

and he moved into Healy Lake with her, but he didn’t last long -- a couple years and he was dead.

And then she arranged a marriage with Old Luke from down at Salcha and his wife Annie had just died and Annie was the one that originally adopted Ellen Demit out of Chena.


LEE SAYLOR: And Annie died and Old Luke with his two sons and the adopted daughter Ellen went up to Healy Lake

and he got married with Mary Healy.

KAREN BREWSTER: Then Ellen was sort of raised by Old Jimmy, I thought?

LEE SAYLOR: Yes, that's when, you know, the Old Luke and those two boys they couldn’t take care of her right and so they adopted her to Selene and Blind Jimmy. KAREN BREWSTER: Blind Jimmy, okay.

LEE SAYLOR: Anyway, then what Frank told me on this is that his dad and Mary they --

they went down to the old Goodpaster Village. It was all abandoned. The houses just sitting there and

when he was down there he got -- he got sick

and came back to, you know, Healy River and he died there, but he was taken back down to Goodpaster and buried. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh.

LEE SAYLOR: And at that time Mary Healy just had one daughter, Emma. Here, could we knock off a minute.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yes. So you mentioned that Mary Healy was so good at doing hunting and things. LEE SAYLOR: Right.

KAREN BREWSTER: And reading Ellen Demit’s story sounds like she got pretty good at that also, so was that common for women to do those things?

LEE SAYLOR: It -- I’m not saying it was common, but it wasn’t unheard of.

I even heard stories of -- of in the old days and with some bands the women would actually be the chief. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh.

LEE SAYLOR: That happened in the old days.

But yeah, Mary Healy I guess after Old Luke died she at least didn’t get any permanent man with her for quite a while.

But now I was talking about, you know, Belle Sam and Chief Joe. They had another sister who I really don’t know her -- the name, but I’m not sure she even had an English name.

But she married back downriver to someone called -- named Joseph, and they had two boys Joe and John.

And Joseph he got killed in a caribou stampede by a caribou corral up on the Middle Fork at Boat Bottom.

That's, you know, right in that little pass between Healy River and Middle Fork.

KAREN BREWSTER: That's called Boat Bottom.

LEE SAYLOR: You know, that place called Boat Bottom. The two men that were killed in that stampede were buried right up there.

But they had those two boys and then after that -- I don’t know if before or after Joseph got killed,

but his wife died and those two boys were raised by their grandma.

And Joe Joseph he went upriver with the mission boat. He was working for them and Jeany Healy tells me that Joe Joseph and Silas Henry they stopped in there at her dad’s place.

She must have been about eleven years old at the time and that they said they were going upriver to look for women to marry and down there everyone was related to them.

And so Joe Joseph he ended up marrying my wife’s grandpa’s sister Selene and then his --

You know, Kenny Thomas that just died, his wife Ellen was one of Joe Joseph’s daughters. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.

LEE SAYLOR: And the other one Martha is married to Oscar Isaac, and Jerry Isaac is, you know, her son.

KAREN BREWSTER: Okay, so it's that connection.

LEE SAYLOR: Yeah. Now the other son he was John Joseph, and it sounded like him and Jeany Healy were pretty close.

She always referred to him as my brother John, but it was really first cousin on the mother’s side which was called the same way.

But John Joseph married Celia Tommy from Nenana, and moved up to George Creek with his Uncle Chief Joe.

And Celia died and was buried at George Creek in that old cemetery there.

And then John Joseph went and stayed at Healy Lake, and he married Emma, that Mary Healy’s daughter.

And they had six kids.

And then John Joseph was there at Big Delta working for Rika Wallen at the roadhouse. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh.

LEE SAYLOR: And it sounds like he had a heat stroke or something and died on the way to Fairbanks.

And he was buried in the Clay Street Cemetery.

And then Emma, well then she's staying with her mom, but Emma, Mary Healy and all six kids died in ’43, and they were buried up in the cemetery not even a cross on their grave.

Just scrape -- the people were that sick just scraped the shallow grave , put them in there.

KAREN BREWSTER: And that cemetery's at Healy Lake? LEE SAYLOR: Yes. It's right up on the hill behind the old village. Then there's one right beside it, too.

Actually I think I got a picture of that.

I got Emma and her kids somewhere. Here. Right there. Mary Healy and Emma and oh, I said five, there're six of them.

KAREN BREWSTER: Can you hold it up -- LEE SAYLOR: Sure. KAREN BREWSTER: -- for a second.

That’s great. Yeah, that's the one that I think is in the archives. That's a great picture and that's in 19 what -- what’s the date?

LEE SAYLOR: Around 1940-41.

KAREN BREWSTER: So just before they all -- the epidemic. LEE SAYLOR: Uh-huh.

KAREN BREWSTER: Are you -- I got it, thank you.

So I know there's traditional village of Healy Lake and then there's a now more recent -- there're two locations for Healy Lake?

LEE SAYLOR: Yes, and I'll go back to what that point where the old village is.

You know, that was a traditional camp, but not that permanent. People would stay there. They had tent houses and --

and the really Lower Lake Healy Village was where the Healy River hit the Tanana,

and where it was kind of bottleneck for the fish would really go through there.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. I thought Healy Lake went into -- I mean Healy River went into Healy Lake?

LEE SAYLOR: And then the lower Healy -- the upper Healy River is an Indian called the Ts’aadleey Ndiig (literally "least cisco whitefish river"), and the lower Healy River from the lake to the Tanana is Mendees Cheeg. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, okay.

LEE SAYLOR: But it was down on the Mendees Cheeg that the original lower village was and on that point that's now called Sand Point.

And around the corner is where Newton put his trading post.

But there in like in 1910 most of the people were down there on the lower Healy River.


LEE SAYLOR: Yeah, the Mendees Cheeg. And the trading post was there and then some miners they found gold on Canyon Creek that flows into Healy Lake.

It proved to be poor workings and a lot of water to contend with and when this stampede strike went that was abandoned.

But the miners there they -- Old Chief Healy did not like miners, and he also didn’t like people just hanging around the trading post and drinking moonshine and so forth.

And so just some time right after World War I that's when that village Chief Healy moved the people right to that village on the point.

You know, the permanent location and kind of abandoned that stuff near the trading post. And so they had a little seven mile trail to walk to the trading post or else take a boat.

KAREN BREWSTER: And you had started to say one of those locations was sort of where the river constricted and where it was good for fishing.

LEE SAYLOR: Yeah, where they'd actually had, you know, the bridge and the dipnet station across there.

KAREN BREWSTER: And that was by the location that had been by the trading post?

LEE SAYLOR: It was -- the trading post was actually on the Tanana around that one point, but that's where the --

about a mile from the trading post is where most of the people were living.

KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh. Well, it sounds like Old Chief Healy was a smart man to move people away from that trading post.

LEE SAYLOR: Yeah, he took them away from that and then later --

Well, I guess I told you about that Martha -- that Hugh Ross had married Martha and then Paul Healy had married her and her mom was named Old Annie.

And they -- the Healy people kind of shunned her. She had -- that Martha was half and it was one of those miners from up the Canyon Creek that was Martha’s dad.

And that Emil Hammer had took over the trading post from John Newton and that Annie she took up with Emil Hammer.

And at that time they were I think a still was operating behind that trading post.

KAREN BREWSTER: Now who was -- what was Roy -- what was -- Hoss -- Hass, what did you just say before? LEE SAYLOR: Oh --

KAREN BREWSTER: Who was he -- Martha’s --

LEE SAYLOR: Martha that -- oh, Hugh Ross.

KAREN BREWSTER: Hugh Ross. LEE SAYLOR: Yeah, Hugh Ross was -- Martha was with Hugh Ross.

KAREN BREWSTER: And Hugh Ross was the miner?

LEE SAYLOR: No, he -- this was later that -- KAREN BREWSTER: Oh.

LEE SAYLOR: Martha’s dad was some unknown miner. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, I see.

LEE SAYLOR: As I said, her mom Annie was a widow and supposedly a first cousin of Chief Healy,

but -- after that he had nothing to do with her. I even heard a story that when he found out she was messing with the miners, he really slapped her around. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh.

LEE SAYLOR: And so whether that's so or not it's old time Healy Lake gossip.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. Well, so who was Hugh Ross? He was somebody --

LEE SAYLOR: He was a Scotsman. Kind of a guide and a woodcutter and he had a house at Little Gerstle. It's right at the mouth of Little Gerstle.

And Johnny Healy bought that house from him later when he left the country.

KAREN BREWSTER: You said he froze his lungs so he had to leave the country?

LEE SAYLOR: Yeah, his -- what I heard is he -- you know, that Scotsman thought he was pretty tough and didn’t dress for the weather sometimes and that he left the country.

And then after that Martha she married with Paul Healy and Paul Healy -- she had two children and then she died.

And Paul Healy was, you know, trying to raise them but it was really Jeany and Johnny that was taking care of them, and that was Minnie and Charlie those two kids.

And then when most of the -- you know, they wanted a school at Healy Lake and John Healy thought if they moved over to the highway they'd get a school. So most people went over to Little Gerstle.

And that was in 1946.

And Paul Healy died there at Little Gerstle.

Well, so did Johnny Healy a year later. But there was the two children, Minnie and Charlie, and they were sent out to Wrangell Institute. And Charlie died there.

KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, that’s too bad.

LEE SAYLOR: And Minnie she came back and was at Dot Lake because by that time the school started at Dot Lake.

And she had -- Minnie had, you know, four children. The oldest one, Gary Healy, because she wasn’t married or anything and kept her name, and Gary Healy lives north of town right now. He retired from the University power plant. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh.

LEE SAYLOR: And then had three other kids, and Ray and Mike Fifer. They're, you know they've lived at Healy Lake off and on. I think Ray's living over there right now.

That they were the other side of Old Chief Healy’s issue with -- from his second wife.

And her name was Josie and that was Old Sam and the Little White Man’s sister. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, okay.

LEE SAYLOR: There's a story about Josie, too. Before she married Old Chief Healy she had two kids, a boy and a girl and they drowned in -- in that lower Healy River.

I guess they think they were trying to catch ducks and fell in and it was, you know, cold in the spring and they found them drowned.