John F. Malony, Sr.
(1857 - 191S9)
John F. Malony
Photo by M. Brady, Alaska Historical Society
B. M. Behrend, himself a pioneer business man and banker in Juneau, Alaska, said of John Malony:
“Mr. Malony did remarkable things toward promoting enterprises in this section of Alaska. He has probably done more for Juneau than any other man.”The Alaska Daily Empire noted that John was a fighter but also
” …that there was probably no man in Juneau who had more close friends and none anywhere who had closer friends.”A very few people had a somewhat different opinion especially in regards to dealings that John had with his former partner Jack Dalton, the Alaska Pathfinder. At times any associate of Dalton who was prone to violent solutions was suspect. But memories were short in early-day Juneau.1
John Malony was born to Francis and Mary (sic)nee Donahue Malony in Shieldsville Township, Rice County in the Faribault region of Minnesota in 1857. Francis and his wife were Protestant immigrants from Ireland. Before moving inland the Malonys first settled in St. Johns, New Brunswick, Canada, sometime before 1841. Francis supported John at Shattuck School in Faribault and St. John’s college at St. Cloud, Minnesota. After college John Malony read law with sometime Minnesota Attorney General Gordon E. Coles in Faribault, and passed the bar in Minnesota.2
At about this time a new western territory, Montana, was beginning to boom, especially at the Anaconda mine at Butte. In 1881, the Haggin-Tevis-Hearst syndicate bought the Anaconda from Marcus Daly then watched as a fair silver mine became a copper bonanza in 1884. There was a shortage of lawyers and Malony’s timing was excellent; he arrived in Montana about as the territory was beginning to explode. He moved from Minnesota to Glendive, Montana in July 1881 and moved upwards immediately. In September 1882 he was appointed Probate Judge by the governor of Montana. In November 1882 he was elected to the legislature, and a year later was elected to the Montana Constitutional Convention in 1884, representing Dawson County.3
With this meteoric rise in both his personal fortunes and that of Montana why did Malony leave Montana? Evidently he made at least one enemy—an enemy who shot Malony while John was speaking. The physical effect to his left arm was lasting. Perhaps more important was the fixating mental effect: From that time forward Malony studied and collected material on political assassinations as of the U.S. Presidents Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley. Another event of uncertain significance is a marriage and the birth of a son, Joseph presumably in Montana. In any event Malony sometime before 1895 left Montana and moved to Alaska with Joseph but without wife, a defect soon remedied. He met attractive Cora Cleveland formerly of Bryan, Ohio and Bellingham, Washington. Cora, some twenty-five years younger than John, had an independent streak of her own, establishing a hat shop when she moved to Juneau in 1895. John and Cora wed in Juneau and on December 29,1899. Cora gave birth to John Jr.4
A Sitka acquaintance, John Dalton, became one of Malony’s most important associates especially before about 1910 In 1893, Malony defended Dalton in the shooting death of Dennis McGinnis. The Jury returned a not-guilty and quite controversial verdict, which quite a few believed was reached after some creative jury tampering but definitely effective work for the defense by Malony.
Observing the pre-Klondike gold play in the Circle and 40-Mile Districts and consequent need for reliable freighting in the Yukon area in Alaska Malony and Dalton formed a partnership for the Dalton Trail Company along with E. B. Hanley, Fred Norvell, and Henry Bratnober in 1895. The timing of the venture, with the related Dalton Pony Express Co. which had some merit in 1895 deemed major importance after the discovery of the Klondike in 1897. Malony worked with Dalton on improvements to the trail and both men traveled to the east coast in a search for capital to improve the trail—or construct a railroad. The need for a trail proved to be short lived as other parties obtained funding for the White Pass and Yukon Railway and one railway was sufficient.6
Henry Bratnober (left) and Jack Dalton on the Dalton Trail.
Photo from John Mulligan Files
One of John’s first Alaska mining transactions was in Juneau where John and four others located placer claims on so-called Chicken Ridge in 1890; the area was subsequently developed as one of Juneau’s premier residential areas. Another venture was the Porcupine gold field, just off the trail alignment near Haines. The field was rich, but the area was subject to flash floods which more than once wiped out the operation. Malony and partners Dalton and E. B. Hanley probably did better with their Porcupine Trading Company organized for general merchandizing, transportation, purchase and sale of mining claims, and timber lands and mills.7
Malony maintained and interest in mining until his death, but not too seriously. He was a part owner of the Gould and Curry claims in Sheep Creek basin in Juneau, and with Hanley the owner of five claims in the Rainy Hollow area in British Columbia, just across the Alaska-B.C. border. In the year of his death Malony was still interested enough in mining to maintain a 1/6 interest in a claim in the Windham Bay area south of Juneau. Malony also invested in a more reliable Alaska industry—fishing. John had interest in the highly productive fishery at Anan Creek near Petersburg and in a cannery at Point Ward near Wrangell.8
Malony’s extensive involvement with Juneau’s private and civil affairs began about 1900 when John served on the first Juneau City Council. He was elected Mayor in 1907. A major civic improvement, in conjunction with the large mines of Juneau, was the Alaska Electric Light and Power Company. E. D. Margrie was brought in as Manager by the Treadwell Company and Margrie installed the first arc and incandescent lighting system at the Treadwell. The administrative officers of the company were John F. Malony, President, and J. P. Corbus, Treasurer. Under their leadership, new steam and hydro power generators were installed by the company in 1914 delivering power at from 5-10 cents per KW. Only the Kennecott town site in the Chitina Valley of south-central Alaska was electrified to the same extent in Alaska as Juneau at that time. Malony also developed a portfolio of commercial and residential properties, including the Gold Belt residential development and the Malony Block of downtown commercial space with the Malony building.
A residence was built in downtown Juneau for Bart Thane’s Alaska Gastineau mine. Much to the chagrin of Cora Malony, who hoped to live in the house, it was sold. The residence is still occupied and is now known as the Wickersham house.9
Malony’s health began to fail about 1915 and he moved to California although maintaining his business affairs in Alaska until his death. He died in early June 1919 in Palo Alto, California. He was survived by his widow Cora Cleveland Malony who died in 1967 at the age of 85 years and three children, Joseph, Mary, and John, Jr. His long time associate and Alaska pioneer John Dalton died in 1944.10
J.B. Corbus, Treasurer of the Alaska Electric Light and Power Company. Circa 1907
From David Stone Collection
Malony was survived by Cora and three children, Joseph from his first marriage and Mary and John F. Malony Jr. from the marriage with Cora. He left no natural grandchildren but Mary adopted and raised seven children.
Malony’s great heritage to Juneau and southeast Alaska is recalled by Juneau pioneer families, among them the Corbus’s—still involved with Alaska Electric Light and Power Company—and the Paul Johnsons, friends of John F. Malony, Jr.
Written by Charles C. Hawley, January 10, 2013
I acknowledge the assistance from Paul Johnson and Jimmy Pat Cory who raised by Mary also that from the staff of the Alaska State Library of course absolving them of any errors or misinterpretations. The Induction of John Malony was first and strongly suggested by founding AMHF Board member, the late David G. Stone, to whom this biographic sketch is dedicated.
The photograph of John Malony is from the 1908 collection assembled by W.H. Case and now in the Alaska Pioneers Association collection, Alaska State Library, PCA 165, Photograph 67.
Hyde, Charles K., Copper for America: The United States Copper Industry from Colonial Times to the 1990s. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1998.
Kirchhoff, M.J. Jack Dalton: The Alaska Pathfinder. Juneau Alaska Cedar Press. 2007.
Malony, John F. Sr., Alaska State Library, Historical Collections, MS 40, esp. Folder 1, others as noted.
1 On B. M. Behrends assessment of Malony in obituary article, Alaska Daily Empire, June 2, 1919.
2 General background material on Malony: Alaska State Library (ASL), Introduction to Malony collection, MS 40, 1857-1915
3 On synchronous activity in Montana mining and Malony’s activity in Montana: Ibid, and Charles K. Hyde, Copper in America, 83-84.
4 On assassination attempt on Malony in Montana and effect on Malony, mainly family sources—Paul Johnson; also on meeting of Malony and Dalton in Sitka and possibly earlier Montana. See especially Kirchhoff, Dalton, 62.
5 On Malony and Dalton-McGinnis trial, Kirchhoff , ibid,60-62.
6 On partners in Dalton trail and formation: ASL, MS 40, folders 4-6
7 On Porcupine Gold District, ibid, folders 10 and 13.
8 On Miscellaneous gold claims, ibid, folders 11, 12, 14, and 15. On Ward Point cannery and Anan fishery near Wrangell, mostly oral communication Paul Johnson.
9 On Alaska Light and Power Company: 1915 Development issue, Alaska Daily Empire, also ASL MS-40, folder 20b article by Kay Kennedy.
10 See 1: On Cora’ death California and Alaska newspapers.