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Frederick Mears family papers

Guide to the Frederick Mears family papers

Collection number: HMC-1063.
Mears, Betty.
Mears, Frederick.
Mears, Jennifer.
Richards, Marilyn.
Title: Frederick Mears family papers.
Dates: 1878-1941.
Volume of collection: 1.1 cubic feet.
Language of materials: Collection materials are in English.
Collection summary: Papers and photographs of the Alaska Railroad’s chief engineer and family.

Biographical history:
Colonel Frederick Mears was principal engineer of the Alaska Railroad. Mears took advanced engineering courses at the US Infantry and Cavalry School, located at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and became a cavalry officer in the US Army.  In May 1906, Mears went to work relocating portions of the Panama Railroad. In 1907, Mears received a promotion to first lieutenant.  That same year he married Jennifer (also known as Jennie, Jane, or Johnnie) Wainwright at Fort Clark, Texas. Together they went back to Panama and started their family. In April 1914, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Mears to the Alaska Engineering Commission. With Mears’s help Ship Creek’s tent city was moved and transformed in the town of Anchorage with 4000 permanent residents. When World War I broke out and Mears left Alaska and returned to Leavenworth to where he took command of the United States Army 31st Railway Engineers regiment. He then went on to France to build the railroad system for the Allied forces. After Word War I, Colonel Mears and his family returned to Alaska; he was appointed Chief Engineer to help complete the railroad. In 1923 Colonel Mears resigned from the Army and the Alaska Engineering Commission and, with his family, left Anchorage for Seattle to start with the Great Northern Railroad. Colonel Mears died on 1939 January 11 at the age of 60.

Collection description:
This collection was created and collected by Colonel Mears and his family and contains personal and official papers, such as letters, poetry, cards, and collected newspaper clippings regarding Colonel Mears’ work on the Alaska Railroad. A majority of the collection is photographs.  There are photographs of tent city, the construction on the Alaska Railroad and Panama Canal, and life in early 20th century Anchorage.  In addition, there are photographs of Mears growing up, his parents, and the Mears family’s life in Alaska, Panama, and Leavenworth, Kansas.

Arrangement: The collection is divided by type of record: papers, photographs, and oversized materials.  Oversized materials include a family photo album, a large picture of the Mears girls at a young age and Fredrick Mears’ army commission as the Lieutenant of the Corps of Engineers.

Digitized copies: Selected items have been digitized and can be viewed on Alaska’s Digital Archives. For information about obtaining copies please contact Archives and Special Collections.

Rights note: Archives and Special Collections owns copyright to material in the collection created by the Mears family.

Preferred citation: Frederick Mears family papers, Archives and Special Collections, Consortium Library, University of Alaska Anchorage.

Works used in preparation of inventory:
Crittenden, Katharine Carson. Get Mears! Frederick Mears: Builder of the Alaska Railroad. Portland, Oregon: Binford & Mort Publishing, 2002.

Custodial note: The Mears family papers were originally loaned to Katherine Carson Crittenden for her research on the Mears’s family history.  In a 2006 Marilyn Richards, granddaughter of Colonel Mears, wrote a letter to Katherine Carson Crittenden giving Crittenden permission to transfer the Mears family paper to Archives and Special Collections.

Acquisition note: The Frederick Mears family papers were donated to Archives and Special Collections by Katherine Carson Crittenden in 2009.

Processing information: The collection arrived with the Katherine Carson Crittenden papers. The Mears family papers were separated and made into its own collection. This collection was described by Lesley Ann Wallace in 2010.

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