McNeil Island Prison

During territorial days, US Federal Marshals in Alaska made regular trips South, first delivering prisoners to McNeil Island Prison in Washington, then taking patients to Morningside Hospital. Warren Gohl is part of a group attempting to locate the graves of Alaska Natives who died while serving sentences at McNeil Island.  Please leave a comment if you have any information or ideas for Warren

From Warren Gohl

McNeil Island Prison circa 1890I  act in collaboration with the 13th Heritage Foundation which represents the 12 Alaskan Native Corporations in the lower 48 States and Hawaii. The foundation has initiated a  project:  “The Search”. This project has as its sole purpose  the discovery of the grave sites of  22 Alaskan Natives  sent to the Federal prison at McNeil Island, Pierce County, Washington between 1872 and 1951 (dates approximate), where they passed away  while serving their Federal prison sentences. Their passing at McNeil Island prison has been  confirmed through record reserarch at the National Archives, Sand Point, Seattle in 2011. However, their McNeil Island gravesite locations remain unknown in spite of considerable inquiry to agencies of the State of Washington who assumed control of the former Federal prison and co-located properties on McNeil Island following closure of the Federal prison in 1981. The 13th Heritage Foundation seeks the physical  location of the Alaskan Native grave sites in question so as to begin closure to the Alaskan Native families who lost track of their loved ones upon their incarceration under Federal custody and subsequent demise. Any guidance, assistance, advice, etc. you may provide is of great importance, no matter how seemingly insignificant.

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12 Comments

  1. Posted February 1, 2012 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    To my knowledge Native Alaskans were buried with other prisoners in the prisoner cemetery on McNeil. There are #115 numbered prisoner graves in the cemetery but the records as to whose remains they may contain have all been lost, as they were from the early BOP years, prior to DOC and DSHS proprietorial leasing of McNeil. Active searching is on going for any records or artifacts of all unknown prisoner burials, Native Alaskan or otherwise.

  2. warren gohl
    Posted February 2, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for information. Last week I received first report that one Native Alaskan, a James Fadaoff, was buried in the prisoner cemetery. Oddly, he does not appear on offical record as admitted to USP, McNeil. I am providing the entire list of decendents for grave marker matchup to the orginator of the above reoprt. There are past reports Alaskan Native prisoner remains on McNeil disinterred and placed in containers at a utitlity/tool shed by the apple orchard when the golf course was built. Attempts to access this building to verify not conclusive. I don’t know if the active searches going as you mentioned are others than the one I participate in. For this “Search” project I represent the 13th Heritage Foundation for Alaskan Natives, Seattle. The “Search” is to help Alaskan Native families learned the fate of loved ones lost track of at McNeil. Any help, no matter how small, is greatly appreciated.

  3. Marti Murray
    Posted February 3, 2012 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

    If anyone would like me to search my databank for information on Alaskans who died outside the state while in hospitals or prisons, please send me what info you have and I will check my records. I have genealogical data on about 260,000 individuals either of Aleut or Alutiiq descent or who are related to these individuals by marriage or adoption.

    For instance, this may connect to Warren Gohl’s posting: James O. FADAOFF, born 21 Jan 1933 Woody Is., AK and died 24 Apr 1969 in Pierce Co., WA. More details available.

  4. Sue
    Posted February 6, 2012 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    I do a lot of genealogical research on Alaska Native families. Is the list available of those who were sent to McNeil Island? Thank you.

  5. warren gohl
    Posted March 18, 2012 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Yes, the list is avaiable. Please inquire so we can discuss. there is no cost involved.

  6. Ryan perkins
    Posted June 10, 2014 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

    I have been there. Mowed the cemetary grounds every other week for 3 yrs. during 2001-2003. I remember it clearly and i recall that all the grave markers were weathered and unreadable. It is located on west part of island towards the apple orchard. i cannot give exact number of graves but i can say its quite a few. i myself am an alaskan native (tlingit) from 13th regional corporation, and hope this helps .

  7. Posted March 20, 2015 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    I found my dad’s brother died on 07/03/1937 @ Steilicoom. WA. He was a prisoner brought there in 1932. Found this on ancestry.com. We had always wondered about him. Burial unknown. Jonathon Kayogok. Nunivak Island.

  8. Coleen Mielke
    Posted April 12, 2015 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    Jim “Qualth” Hanson (Tlingit Indian) was convicted of 1st degree murder in Skagway on 5/28/1900 and sentenced to hang, although the sentence was commuted to life in prison by President McKinley on 11/16/1900. Hanson died at McNeil Island on 8/13/1905 at the young age of 30 or 31. I would like to know what he died of and where he is buried. Can you help me?

  9. Coleen Mielke
    Posted April 12, 2015 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    Addition to message just sent 4/12/2015: Jim Hanson’s McNeil Island prisoner # was 1226. He was received at McNeil Island 2/5/1901 and died there 8/13/1905. Luckily I found his photo in the McNeil Island prisoner photo bank, but I sure would like to know how he died and where he might be buried.

  10. Coleen Mielke
    Posted April 18, 2015 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    I’m back. Since my last comment, I’ve found mention that Jim Hanson was buried “on the prison farm”. Does that make any sense? I’ve also discovered that 5 other Alaska Natives (convicted in the same murder) were sent to McNeil Island and ALL SIX died of tuberculosis. How sad.

  11. Coleen Mielke
    Posted April 19, 2015 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    A Spokesman Review (newspaper) article dated 8/18/1905 says that one of Jim Hanson’s “partners in crime” was an Indian named Benjamin Kapsukdake. The article said Jim Hanson and Benjamin Kapsukdake died of tuberculosis the same week. I’ve have NEVER heard this new name (Kupsukdake). Does he show up in your records?

  12. Posted July 2, 2017 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    Hello,
    How can I get a list of Alaskans, please?
    Thanks!
    Mike

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