North To Alaska

North To Alaska

Roy Franklin Jones

The vast majority of my ancestors were from the American southeast, many, if not most, from the state of Georgia, hence the name of this blog. There are some exceptions, however, such as a branch of the Farlows that relocated to Texas in the 1870s. But recently I found a relative who lived about as far away from the southeast as one can get and still be within the territory of the United States.

One of my fourth great grandfathers was Wiley Green Weaver. He was born in South Carolina in 1807 and died in Wilkinson County, Georgia in 1904. I’m related to the Weavers through my maternal grandmother. Her grandfather was Wiley’s grandson. Wiley had a sister named Nancy Clarinda Weaver. Nancy was born in 1823, also in South Carolina, but by the time of her death in 1900 was living in the territory of North Dakota. But Nancy doesn’t end up being the relative living the farthest away from the southeast. That honor goes to her grandson, Roy Franklin Jones, one of my second cousins.

Roy served in the Aviation Section of the Army Signal Corps during the First World War and was discharged to the reserves as a Second Lieutenant, Junior Aviator. It was Roy’s love of flying that led to his greatest claim to fame.

In 1922 Roy became the first pilot to fly from the lower forty-eight states to Alaska when he piloted his plane, the “Northbird” from Seattle, Washington to Ketchikan, Alaska. Upon landing, he was greeted as a hero by the people of Ketchikan and later, started the first commercial airline to Alaska which he named “Northbird Aviation Company” after his plane. Unfortunately, the “Northbird” crashed a year later ending the company’s run as Alaska’s first airline but not before showing the importance of air transport for Alaska’s future.

Roy F. Jones continued to live in Ketchikan until 1928 and remains something of a local hero. The wooden prop of the “Northbird” is displayed in the Alaska Transportation Museum and a mountain outside Ketchikan is named in his honor.

In later life, Roy had a long career with the U.S. Customs Service. He died on February 17, 1974 and is buried in Vancouver, Washington.

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