Search billions of records on





AK GenWeb Logo
US GenWeb Logo
Photo by Robert Voors    


USIBELLI Emil Usibelli
(1893 - 1964)
Print Friendly Version

Emil Usibelli was born in 1983 in the northern Italian community of Val' Alta. Ind 1907, 14 year old Emil, his mother, three brothers and three sisters immigrated to America. His father had moved to Washington State several years earlier and sent for his family only when he had saved enough money to establish a home and pay for their passage. Because Emil worked to help support his family both before and after their move to the United States, he received only three years of formal schooling.

After moving to the Pacific Northwest, Emil worked in a variety of jobs. He worked as an underground miner in several coal mines in Washington and at a silver mine in Canada. He also worked as a logger and was employed with his brother John by Pacific Car & Foundry in Seattle.

The foundry made rail cars and paid workers by a piece rate. Emil often told the story that he and his brother John worked so well together that whenever the company had a new part to fabricate, the two brothers would frequently be the first assigned to the task. After the assembly had been completed, the company would establish the amount to be paid for each piece on the basis of the production rate established by the Usibelli brothers.

Emil saved his earnings and eventually owned the Renton Fuel Company, a coal bunker in Renton, Washington. However the depression years were difficult, and Emil as well as many others looked north for new opportunities.

In 1935, Emil moved to Alaska and found work as an underground coal miner at the Evans Jones Mine near Palmer. A year later he moved to Suntrana near Healy to work underground for the Healy River Coal Company. After being laid off as a result of injuries sustained in a mining accident, Emil started a contract logging operation to supply timbers to the underground coal mines at Suntrana.

During World War II, Ladd Air Field, in Fairbanks became an important base for transferring warplanes to the Soviet Union. In 1943 the U.S. Army Air Corps hired Emil Usibelli to conduct exploration work on military coal reserves east of Suntrana. Later that year, emil and friend T.E. Thad Sanford obtained a coal lease on these lands and a one-year contract with the Army to supply 10,000 tons of coal to Ladd Air Field. Not having the capital to develop an underground mine, Emil, as mine operator for the partnership, started operations using a small TD-40 bulldozer and a 193's vintage GMC logging truck. His surface mining methods were viewed with much skepticism by the competing underground mine operators, but the Usibelli-Sanford partnership met its contract obligation. Later Emil added International K6 and K8 trucks to haul coal and constructed a tipple to load rail cars.

In 1945, Emil introduced hydraulic stripping to increase production. Hydraulic stripping had long been used by many Alaskan placer miners to remove silt overburden from gold-bearing gravel. The sandstone beds overlying the coal seams, however, were too coarse to be removed by the hydraulic monitor. Emil used TD-18 bulldozers to push the sandstone to the nozzles, and sluice boxes with riffles were set up to catch small amounts of gold found in the Tertiary gravels. Emil and Thad let mine employees keep whatever gold was trapped in the riffles.

In 1948, Emil purchased Sanford's shares of the business and Usibelli Coal Mine, Inc., (UCM) was incorporated under the laws of the Territory of Alaska. In the early years of the business, supply contracts with the military were small and in some years, non-existent. Emil persevered and upgraded equipment and facilities while working to make his surface mining methods more efficient and cost effective. Still, Emil believed that a proper coal mine should include underground production. In 1956, he opened an adit near Suntrana which he named after his daughter Rosalie. UCM replaced hand labor with a continuous miner and mechanical loaders for Rosalie mine output, and improved production drift designs. Never-the-less, the underground mining at the Rosalie adit was still more expensive than the surface mine production pioneered years earlier by Emil Usibelli, and was eventually discontinued.

By the late 1950's, coal from UCM's surface operations exceeded coal output from all of the company's underground competitors. In 1961, UCM purchased the Suntrana coal mine, the successor to Healy River Coal Company. With the purchase, UCM became the predominant supplier to the Interior Alaskan military bases and, for the first time, to Fairbanks area utilities. In March of 1964, at the age of 70, Emil was killed in a mining accident at Healy, and his 25 year old son Joe returned from graduate school at Stanford to take over operation. At the time of Emil's death, Usibelli Coal Mine was supplying the bulk of Interior Alaska's coal for booth military and commercial markets.

Emil Usibelli was an avid hunter and bowler, and is remembered by his family and friends as having a good sense of humor, a fiery temper and a natural ability to do math in his head. They also note that he had an uncommon share ofd common sense and the confidence to take risks.

Emil Usibelli's family has had three generations active at the mine. After his death, Emil was succeeded by son Joe as president of UCM in 1964, and by his grandson Joe Junior in 1987. Until recently, grandson Mitch Usibelli was Vice President for Engineering, while grandchildren Anna, Cathy, and Rob worked at UCM in the 1980's.

Additionally, Emil's brother John was succeeded by two generations at the UCM operation in Healy. John worked as Superintendent of Operations for UCM from 1947 until his death in 1960. John's son Poland began operating equipment as a teenager in 1953 and retired in 1981. Roland's son John, a graduate of the University of Alaska School of Mineral Engineering in the early 1990's worked as a heavy equipment operator for UCM beginning in 1982.

Despite his business success, the lack of a formal education beyond third grade troubled Emil throughout his life, and he made a long-term commitment to enhance educational opportunities of the community by providing a major portion of the heating needs at Monroe Catholic Schools in Fairbanks.

Usibelli Coal Mine Inc. is still honoring Emil's commitment to furthering education more than thirty years later. UCM created an endowment in Emil Usibelli's name at the University of Alaska Fairbanks that provides incentive awards to exemplary UAF faculty and researchers. UCM annually funds a scholarship to the UAF honors program and Tri-Valley High School graduating seniors, is a major supporter of the Alaska Sealife Center, the Alaska Native Heritage Center, and through it's private foundation, funds over 20 educational programs throughout Alaska.

Fannie Sedlacek McKenzie Quigley



I'm putting this together backwards. Death to beginning...Perhaps because, I believe, Fannie Sedlacek McKenzie Quigley would have spent her life no other way.


(available Alaska...extracted)

She died Fairbanks Precinct ALASKA at Kantishan (Red Top) at her cabin.
Fannie Quigley, female, white, divorced. A member of the community for 38 years.
Her ex-husband was Joe Quigley. She was born 18 Mar 1871 and was 73 years 5 months 4 days old. Her occupation says Housewife.
She was born Wahoo Nebraska. All information about parents was listed unknown.
She died 22 Aug 1944 of cardio resparatory (sic)failure.
She was buried Birch Hill Cemetery 31 Aug 1944
(End of extraction.)

Picture from new book "Gold Rush Women" written by Claire Rudolf Murphy and Jane G. Haigh. Published by Alaska Northwest Books 1997. I bought a dozen of these books and gave 'em to all my cousins and a few who weren't...cause I liked the book.

She was not famous, or an outlaw, or a housewife. She was my great-great Aunt Fannie who was a legend in her own time.... yep really.



Famous Kantishna Woman Dies in Sleep After Long Career in North

One of Alaska's most colorful pioneers came to the end of her tread last week when Fannie Quigley died quietly and alone in her little house in the Kantishna where hundreds of park visitors, explorers, scientists, trappers and prospectors had visited her in the past 30- years since she settled there at the edge of McKinley National Park, a hundred miles from the railroad
Fannie was found dead Friday by her close friend and neighbor Johnny Busia, who accomplanied her body to Fairbanks yesterday and help make funderal arragements. Busia said he had last visited Quigley house on Tuesday and it appeared Fannie had died the evening after he returned home.

Busy As Usual
Busy as usual, Fannie was a starting to pile some wood when he was there Tuesday, Busia said. When he made his second call Friday she was on the couch dead, the wood unpiled and a cookstove fire in the kitchen stove but not lighted. He deduced that she had sat down to rest before cooking an evening meal and had died in her sleep.
This ended the 73 year career of Fannie Quigley, the midwestern girl who ran away from her Bohemian home at an early age, learned to speak English while working her way westward along the railroad, and took up the trail of (missing word) with the stampede to the Klondike in 1898.
Fannie was born in Wahoo, Nebraska, March 18 1871, in a settlement were little English was spoken but where she learned the art of gorgeous embrodery that helped her while away many a long winter hours in the north. Her journey westward was punctuated with several restaurant jobs and it was as a roadhouse operator that she was known in the Dawson country in '98. Many remember her place on No. #. Above on Hunker Creek and her marriage to Angus MacKenzie in 1901.
When gold started the stampede to Fairbanks shortly afterward, Fannie and her husband followed stopping firt at Chena where the original Tanana settlement was made, and following the population to Fairbanks.
In 1906 the new diggings in Kantishna attracted Fannie and she again pulled up stakes, this time for the last time. With Joe Quigley she staked claims on Clacier and Caribou creeks and later a piece on Eureka creek. Fannie and Joe were married after that and prospected, mined, trapped and hunted together until they weere divorced seven years ago. Joe now lives in Seattle.

Worked Like Man
In the Kantishna Fannie became a legend. Her abilities to work like a man, hunt, kill, skin, butcher, pack, and cache her own game, embroider like an artist and entertain like a queen, spread her fame in books and stories and brought many visitors to her place in the shadow of Mt. McKinley to see and talk with the little woman who stood hardly five feet tall in her rough men's clothes.
With no formal education, Fannie all her life kept studing, collecting facts, and ideas from newspapers, magazines, visitors, the radio, and her own observation of nature and people. Some of her game trophies have been preserved in museums and many of her sayings have been quoted by writers.

Expert Gardner
In addition to her spectacular abilities on the sled-trail and the game trail, Fannie was also an expert gardener, a grower of fine vegetables for good as well as the flowers for decortion. A selection of her finest pansies and toehr flowers she pressed in books and later reproduced in embrodery work on a beautiful table cloth on which she spent many years and which still was unfinished at her death
Fannie's ability as a seamstress got a real test many years ago when she got out her needle and made repairs on Joe Quigley's face after his nose was nearly torn off in the crack-lup that followed the first airplain landing on Moose Creek near their diggings. The story is told with gusto by Fannie's friends as they escort visitors to the little frame house that Fannie and Johnny Busia put up four years ago down the hill from the Red Topmine, where she lived with a big tomcat for a companion.
Fannie continued to live in the Kantishna by choice, long after the normal time to retire to the easier life in civilization. Her industrious habits, her success as a miner and her ability to live mostly off the country had long since assured her financial independence. One trip outside many years ago, and several jaunts to Fairbanks for supplies and medical attention, including one siege in the hospital with a broken leg, always found her glad to return home to the Kantishna where there was no need to lower her high, ringing voice to conversational tones or to forsake her outdoor garb.
Years ago Fannie wound up her business affairs, and her will reveals that she is survived by two sisters and three nieces. The sisters are Josie Criss of Marcola, Oregon and Mary McLain (article misspelled Great-Grandma's name, McCLEAN)of Anacortes Washington. The nieces are Mrs Smith and Maggie Miller of Marcola and Tessie Owen (article misspelled Grandma's name, OIEN) of Anacortes.
Funeral arrangements are being made by her attorney, E. B. Collins, and will be announced later.
(end of first obituary...dated...)

The Alaska Sportsman...

has published several articles about Fannie and Joe Quigley or at least mentioned them. Still in publication as the Alaska Magazine, this magazine is a treasure mine of pictures and stories.

. In a Regular Feature called "From Ketchikan to Barrow", published in July 1940, comes the following item...
Fannie Quigley of Friday Creek shot a moose from her back porch last winter. While lugging the meat up to the cabin she picked up a gold nugget worth sixty dollars. "Heck!" she said, "I seen the dern thing layin' there all the time--but I just didn't believe it. Friday Creek's been worked four times."

Family Group Sheet

. Father Vencel Sedlacek born 25 May 1845 Alt Lieben near Praha, Bohemia (this is questionable)
. Settled before 1870 Wahoo, Sanders, Nebraska.
. 1870 Census Vencil Sedlacek under name James age 25. His wife Josephine was 21 Josie was 2 and baby Frances was 6 months old
. 1880 Census Vencil was 36 his new wife, Mary, was 26. At home were Josie 12 "keeping house"; Fannie 10 "at school"; Mary 8; Joseph 6; Anna 2; and Victoria 1.
. 1885 Census Josie is 17 and laborer, Fannie 15, Mary 13, 'at home'. Vencil 2, Anna 1, and Theresa 6 months. Vencil was 'renting for a share'
. Jun 1880 Census living Elk Precinct Sanders Co, Nebraska
. Married about 1865 to Josephine born abt 1849 and died abt 1875
. Death 20 Mar 1921 Liberty Twp, Valley, Nebraska
. Burial 2 Apr 1921 Geranium Cem, Sargent, Valley, Nebraska

Children (Marriage of Josephine and Vencel):
1. Josephine Julia born 15 Mar 1866 Iowa. Died 24 May 1953 Redding, Shasta, CA. Married (1) Daniel Walker and (2) James William CRISS (m 29 Dec 1890)
2. Frances "Fannie" Sedlacek b 18 Mar 1871 at Wahoo, Sanders, Nebraska and Died Fairbanks Precinct, Alaska
3. Mary Katherine Selacek b 25 Mar 1874 Wahoo, Sanders, Nebraska died 3 May 1953 Langley, Island, WA. She married William Hugh McClean 17 Apr 1897


Return to Home Page



This page was last modified: Wednesday, 07-Nov-2012 17:55:12 MST  

Copyright 2009 to present for the benefit of the AKGenWeb Project.