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Home  >  Digital Archives  >  People of the North  >  Pioneers
Emery Valentine, Juneau Pioneer
By Tricia Brown Page 1 of 2   Next ยป

Emery Valentine was one of Juneau's leading citizens when the community was just taking shape.  He landed in Alaska in May 1886, just six years after Chief Kowee of the Auk Tribe directed miners Richard Harris and Joe Juneau to the riches of Gold Creek.

A jeweler, city councilman, and later mayor, Valentine also is credited with organizing the Juneau Volunteer Fire Department and later donating a special wagon to make the fledgling department more effective. Proud to be among the first in Juneau, Valentine already was a member of the Alaska Pioneers' Association in 1887. His portrait is among 170 images in a photomontage of the '87 Alaska Pioneers' Association created by photographer W. H. Case in 1908.

Born in Dowagiac, Michigan, in December 1859, Valentine was the son of a French man and an Ohio-born woman. The family headed west and settled in mining towns, where young Valentine thrived on retail opportunities of the frontier. In 1880, Valentine was 21 years old and living in Central City, Colorado, with his divorced mother, Feebe, 54, and brother, Ettie, 19. After operating stores in Colorado and Butte City, Montana, Valentine arrived in Alaska in the spring of 1886.

Valentine married four times, divorcing three wives and losing one to death. One of his ex-wives, Katie, arrived from Butte City, Montana, in October 1886, six months after her husband. By March 1900, they had divorced and Valentine was living at 573 Seward Street, next door to photographer Lloyd Valentine Winter of the Winter & Pond Studio. That fall, on October 19, 1900, Valentine remarried, this time to a Maude A. Gough. When that marriage soured is unknown, but he apparently divorced and remarried within a few years. His next wife, Jennie Valentine, died on October 8, 1905, and was buried at Juneau's Evergreen Cemetery.

The business of "E. Valentine Jeweler" was formalized when Valentine purchased a lot from city co-founder Joe Juneau. Eager to enter politics, the jeweler served on the city council in 1902 for one term. Juneau was designated Alaska's capital city in 1906, and two years later, Valentine was elected mayor, running as a Republican. He served in that office from 1908-12 and again from 1917-19, during which he was instrumental in establishing Juneau's first water system. On behalf of the city, he also obtained the People's Dock at the south end of town. Also during his tenure as mayor, he had a hand in developing tourism and dealt with catastrophic events such as the sinking of the SS Sophia along the Inside Passage, and the arrival of the USS Vicksburg, sent to aid victims of the Spanish Influenza pandemic of 1918-19. Meanwhile, his buildings, the Valentine Building at 112 Seward Street and the Seward Building at 145 S. Franklin Street, which now houses Dockside Jewelers, are reminders of the entrepreneur who helped shape what would become the capital of Alaska.

Later in his life, Valentine received the prestigious Order of the Rising Sun for his work as the Japanese vice-consul, promoting foreign relations. The award, initiated on April 10, 1875, by Emperor Meiji, recognizes services to Japan, both military and civilian, by Japanese citizens and foreigners alike.

At his death in September 1930, Valentine was buried in Juneau's Evergreen Cemetery, next to his wife Jennie Valentine.

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Gallery of Images
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Emory [Emery] Valentine in firefighter's uniform, ca. 1890
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Juneau, Alaska, Mt. Juneau, Jan. 1924
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Front St., Juneau, Alaska, ca. 1910
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Juneau Volunteer Fire Department
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Emery Valentine as vice-consul for Japan

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