Story Time with Aunt Phil: Alaska's first governor
John H. Kinkead, who served as Nevada’s governor from 1879 to 1883, had witnessed the transfer of Alaska from Russian to American possession in October 1867. He then became the first U.S. official to hold office in Alaska when President Andrew Johnson appointed him postmaster. He also operated a trading post and served as Sitka’s unofficial mayor until 1872.
Well, along with the rest of his personal possessions, the new appointee arrived with a large supply of cases labeled “canned tomatoes.” But it turns out that the contents of those cans tasted exactly like Scotch whiskey and produced the same effect, according to a noted Presbyterian minister of the time.
Kinkead, and other early governors had little to do in their official capacities as Alaska’s first governors. They were instructed to inspect, report and enforce a handful of contradictory laws with no enforcement powers.
During his short tenure as Alaska’s main man, Kinkead broke his arm, had a stroke and managed to get into heated disagreements with renowned Presbyterian missionary Sheldon Jackson, who thought Kinkead was too close to those with mining interests.
It was rumored that Kinkead had a hand in getting Jackson arrested on trumped up charges to shut him up. Jackson was put in jail for obstructing a public highway with a fence and building used for a school that he’d built to educate Native children. Sources say Kinkead and other officials did not want the Natives to be educated.
The resulting scandal gained national attention and many blamed Alaska’s new governor for the incident.
After the false charges against Jackson were dismissed, Kinkead was politely asked by President Cleveland to return to Nevada. Kinkead submitted his letter of resignation on May 9, 1885, less than a year after taking office.