The University of North Carolina Herbarium has
catalogued half a dozen specimens – all ferns & fern allies – collected
by Elsie Whitney. As cataloguing
continues it is likely that more will be found in NCU’s collection. Other
herbaria that hold Elsie G. Whitney’s specimens include US and NYS.
Elsie J. Gibson was born 15
March 1885 in Vermont to Albert Milan Gibson (b. Ryegate, Caledonia, Vermont
24 May 1849; died in Mt. Sunapee, Merrimack, New Hampshire 24 March 1918) and
Etta Ruth Brown (b. Ryegate, Caledonia, Vermont 3 July 1856; d. in Haverhill,
Grafton, New Hampshire 9 November 1933).
Elsie’s siblings were Ralph George Gibson (1877 – 1938), Albert
Wooster Gibson (1880 -- 1954), John Scott Gibson (1882 – 1961), Sarah
Elizabeth Gibson (1886 – 1949), Anna Laurene Gibson (1891 – 1979). (1)
Elsie Gibson married Alvin
Goodnow Whitney on July 28, 1912 in Washington, D.C. Alvin Whitney (2 March
1883 – 19 June 1960) was born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, educated at
Dartmouth College, and became the Assistant Director of the New York State
Within three months of
their marriage, Elsie and Alvin moved to St. Paul Island, one of the Pribilof
Islands of Alaska. They were employed
by the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries and took part in a biological survey of the
Islands. W. L. McAtee of the Bureau of
Biological Survey notes, “The material upon which the present report is based
was collected by Alvin G. and Elsie G. Whitney from October, 1912 to July,
1914, and by G. Dallas Hanna in 1914, 1915, 1916, and 1917. The collectors were employed on the
Pribilof Islands during these years by the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries and
thanks are due to the Chief of that Bureau for turning over their collections
of invertebrates to the Biological Survey… All type specimens mentioned in
the following reports as well as the bulk of the remaining material will be
deposited in the U.S. National Museum.” (2)
During their stay on St.
Paul Island, the Whitneys were the whistle-blowers in a scandal involving
U.S. Government employees and the native people on the island. (See below for text of “Pribilof Orgies Stir
Federal Anger” published by The New
York Times in 1914.)
Elsie graduated with an
A.B. from Syracuse University, and earned her M.A. in Botany at the University
of Michigan in 1929.
In 1928 the Whitneys moved
to Albany, New York, where they both worked at the New York State Museum,
Alvin as Assistant Director of the Museum and Elsie as the Asst. State
Botanist. Elsie G. Whitney served as
the Secretary for the American Fern Society during the 1930’s and
21 July, 1914. The New York Times.
Pribilof Orgies Stir
Federal Anger: Debauchery of Women
Included in Shocking Charges Affecting Government Employes [sic]. GIVE ALCOHOL TO NATIVES. Diary of Government Teacher Makes Charges
of Immorality – Employes Practically Prisoners. Special
to The New York Times.
WASHINGTON, July 20. Secretary
Redfield of the Department of Commerce has submitted all the original
complaints in the Pribilof Islands scandal to Attorney General McReynolds for
action. The papers include the formal
accusations made against various Government agents on the islands by Mr. and
Mrs. Alvin G. Whitney, Government school teachers on St. Paul Island, one of
the Pribilof group. The Whitneys
charge gross immorality, seduction of the native women by Government agents,
flagrant law violation in furnishing intoxicating liquors to the natives, and
illegal killing of fur seal pups.
Since July 6 Deputy
Commissioner E. Lester Jones of the United States Bureau of Fisheries has
been on St. Paul Island making an investigation of the case under directions
from Secretary Redfield. Four
Government vessels, the revenue cutters Tahoma
and McCulloch, the cruiser Buffalo of the navy, and the steamship
Albatross of the Fish Commission,
are being employed in connection with the investigation.
The five Government agents
against whom charges have been brought technically are prisoners on St. Paul
Island. While investigation continues
orders have been given to permit no one to leave the islands.
Four executive departments
of the Government are co-operating in the investigation of the scandal. The chief investigation is being made under
the auspices of the Department of Commerce by Deputy Commissioner Jones, who
is assisted by E.M. Ball. Federal
inspector of Fisheries, and H.C. Hassatt, who represents the Fisheries
Service on St. Paul Island. The
Department of Justice has been asked to look after the criminal prosecutions
which it is expected will follow the investigation. The Navy Department, through Secretary
Daniels, has assured Secretary Redfield that steps have been taken to
investigate the charges against P.L. McClenny, the navy radio operator on St.
Paul Island, one of the officials against whom charges have been made.
Daniels Will Remove Operator.
Secretary Daniels has
decided to replace McClenny with another naval radio operator and will assign
a man of family to the post. The
Treasury Department, through the Chief of Revenue Cutter Service, has
instructed Capt. Reynolds of the Alaskan fur seal patrol service to refuse
transportation to any one from the Pribilof Islands while the investigation
The original complaint
against Agent P.R.E. Hatton, L.N. Tongue, the storekeeper, McClenny, and
others was made on May 1 by Mr. and Mrs. Whitney to F.M. Chamberlain,
Naturalist in the Fisheries Service, and was forwarded to the Department of
licentiousness, and other vices,” says the Whitney complaint, “have been
rampant in the community under the drunken leadership of Hatton and
Tongue. These men, who at once assumed
authority upon your departure from the island, have so conducted affairs as
to make the station an impossible place for decent white men to live, to say
nothing of white women, who are in constant peril.
“The station work is
disorganized and neglected, and the native community further demoralized and
increasingly unruly. As a basis for my
charges of gross immorality on the part of Government officials and its
pernicious effect upon the native community I offer the following facts which
were recorded daily as they happened by school teachers and physicians.”
Alcohol and Waters for Natives.
Mr. Whitney in his
complaint then gives in the form of a narrative from a diary a shocking
account of conditions on the island.
The diary covers events from July, 1913 to May 17, 1914. Some of the entries in this diary, which
forms part of the formal complaint against the Government agents on the
island, are as follows:
July and August, 1913. – From the time that Mr. Hatton came to St. Paul
Island from St. George Island (July 28) to take up his duties as agent and
caretaker a strong mixture of alcohol and water was passed out to the natives
at every opportunity until the stock of alcohol was practically
consumed. Hatton and Tongue took
direct charge of this during the time the natives were landing cargo from the
supply ship and gave out this drink twice a day regularly. The alcohol thus used was requisitioned for
Aug. 12, 1913. – Hatton,
Tongue, and Dr. McGovern went out to the revenue cutter Manning in the evening in a launch and gambled with the Captain
and other officers until 6 A.M., when the ship was on the point of getting
under way. The native crew was compelled to stay at the ship and wait all
Aug. 19 to 22, 1913. – The
yacht Adventuress arrived Aug. 19
with Roy C. Andrews and the yachting and hunting party he accompanied. Hatton, Tongue, and Dr. McGovern spent
practically all their time during three days entertaining the party on shore
or visiting on board the yacht. Their
entertainment was invariably gambling and drinking day and night. During this interval Mr. Andrews and I were
occupying our time with photographic work.
Aug. 22, 1913. – When Mr.
Andrews and Mr. Hatton went out to the yacht in the evening to bring the
former’s outfit ashore the native engineer was so drunk as to be useless and
came near sinking the launch. The
weather was stormy and dark and the sea rough. The delay of the party in returning caused
great apprehension on shore and finally a rescuing party prepared to set
out. At this juncture Dr. McGovern who
was drunk got into a quarrel with the native boatman and ended up in a fist
fight with the Russian priest.
Sept. 3, 1913. – A native
woman was carousing with Dr. McGovern at the dispensary all night. At 1:30 A.M. he came to the company house
and got more liquor.
Sept. 30, 1913. – A dance
was held at night at the native shop.
Several natives were drunk there.
Oct. 1, 1913. -- In conversation with Dr. McGovern he
declared that Hope, chief of the Naval Radio Station, habitually had Auzenia
Diakanof, a native girl, at the station for immoral purposes, that her mother
had complained to Hope about the matter, and he had there upon promised to
marry her. Dr. McGovern also asserted
that one day recently he went to the Radio Station and found Hope and is
paramour drinking in the operating room.
Oct. 19, 1913. – At 3 P.M.,
occurred the celebration of the marriage of C. H. Hope, in charge of the
Radio Station at St. Paul Island, to Auzenia Diakanof, a young native woman,
according to the rites of the Russian Church.
Nov. 23 to 29, 1913. – This
was foxing week when most of the native men were away from the village
trapping. The white men embraced this
opportunity to seduce native women, as I afterward learned. When the hunters returned at the end of the
week there was a grand celebration, practically the whole community being
Threats for Native Men.
These are only a few of the
entries in the diary that forms part of the complaint against the Government
agents on the island. The diary tells
of the alleged relationship of the Government agents with the wives of
natives, designating them by name, and it is alleged that when husbands of
the native women complained, threat of deportation and other punishment were
made if they did not remain silent.
Attached to the complaint are affidavits from some of the native
After Mr. and Mrs. Whitney
had forwarded their original report, Hatton on June 2 telegraphed his
resignation to the Government. At the
same time Dr. Henry Esmond, a physician in the Federal Fisheries Service on
the island, resigned. Mr. Whitney
learned of this and he at one sent this radio message to Secretary
Redfield: Earnestly request immediate
inquiry into existing conditions on St. Paul Island on account several
employes preparing to leave. I request
that all island officials be held pending investigation.
Deputy Commissioner Jones
happened to be in Alaskan waters making an investigation of the halibut
industry. He was instructed on June 11
to proceed immediately in the Albatross
to the Pribilof Islands to investigate the scandal. This telegram was sent to Whitney: Do not allow any employe to leave pending
On June 12 the resignations
were refused and this radio message was sent to Hatton: Hatton.
St. Paul Island. Alaska, (wireless via North Head, Wash.): Your resignation not accepted pending
investigation by Deputy Commissioner Jones, due at islands about July
17. Do not leave prior to his arrival
or allow any employe to do so. SMITH,
Commissioner of Fisheries.
After the arrival of Deputy
Commissioner Jones, Secretary Redfield two weeks ago informed Dr. Hugh M.
Smith, the Federal Commissioner of Fisheries, that the entire force on the
islands would have to be removed. In a
communication to Dr. Smith, Secretary Redfield said: “Take any course within
the law which will put an end to what seems to be the shocking conditions
upon the islands.”
1. http://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/users/b/r/u/Barbara-J-Bruce/PDFGENE6.pdf accessed on 9 November 2011.
2. http://www.fwspubs.org/doi/pdf/10.3996/nafa.46.0002 McAtee, W. L. (1923 ) Biological Survey of the Pribilof Islands,
Alaska. Part II. Insects, Arachnids,
and Chilopods of Pribilof Islands, Alaska.
IN North American Fauna #46. Washington, D.C. : Government Printing Office.
3. http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=F60915FC3F5412738DDDA80A94DF405B848DF1D3 accessed on 9 November 2011.