UA Journey

1963-1971 Dorthy Wrede

Fairbanks-born pioneer Dorothy Geis Wrede was appointed to the University of Allaska Board of Regents by Gov. William Egan for a full eight-year term in 1963.

 

Dorothy watched the growth of the university from its beginning in 1917. One of its first five students roomed and boarded with her family due to a lack of dormitory space.

Her mother, Mrs. Robert Geis, was born in Owensboro, Ky. in 1872, the eldest of seven girls. She came to Circle City from Seattle, Washington in 1901 to settle her father Joseph Dahl’s estate. Joseph perished when the SS Islander, loaded with miners going home from the goldfields of interior Alaska, hit an iceberg out of Skagway (Titantic-style) on August 14, 1901.

In Circle City, Minnie met and married Robert Geis, a hotel, saloon and mining man. Robert had gone to St. Michael from Chicago, Ill., in 1897 under the employment of the North American Transportation and Trading Company to set up a power plant. Later he went upriver to Circle City and prospected in the surrounding hills and had claims on Deadwood Creek.

Robert and Minnie moved to Fairbanks in August, 1903, and secured one of the best lots in town at the corner of First Avenue and Cushman Street, where the Marriott hotel is today; it was a fine building. (You can see the archive picture of the building in the entranceway of Wedgewood Resort.) He established himself as a dry goods merchant and was known as "Shorty" Geis. He also was in partnership with Charles Thompson with the Tanana Club; Shorty also operated a card room. He was also a champion bonspiel curler when curling was done on the Chena River ice.

Bob owned mining claims on Engineer Creek, was on the Fairbanks City Council and was on the first beautification committee. He also set up the first junior baseball league in Fairbanks.

Dorothy was born in Fairbanks in 1910 weighing over 10 pounds. She was one of four of the Geis children—Charles, Charlotte and Josephine. Josephine later became Mrs. Patrick Cohen Porter of Anchorage and Charlotte became Mrs. R. H. Stevenson. Charles and his wife Ruth lived in Seattle and Casa Grande, Ariz.

Dorothy attended grade school in Fairbanks. Her father died in Fairbanks in 1916 of pneumonia. After a few years, her mother moved to Seattle with the children. Dorothy went through Lincoln High School and first worked in a credit office and later worked for the Alaska Steamship company for many years.

While there, Bob Bartlett, who later became a Senior Senator from Alaska and a lifelong friend of the Geis family, introduced Ray H. Wrede to Dorothy. They were married in 1939 and came north and operated the Circle Hot Springs Resort.

Ray was born in 1908 in Owatonna, Minnesota. He had come to Circle City with his brother Everett in a small boat from Whitehorse to build a log cabin for a Seattle pharmacist in the hills near where the Berry Dredge company mined. He mined for gold with E.L. "Bob" Bartlett’s father Edward on Independence Creek. He later mined with John Frasca along Independence Creek. Wrede Brothers Mining Company (Everett, Fritz, Bill and Ray) mined on Deadwood Creek and Independence Creek.

The couple lived in the Circle area and continued to mine for gold until 1947. They moved to Fairbanks and started a dry cleaning business known as College Cleaners. Ray was joined by his brother, Bill and Bill Hering in the business. College Cleaners opened its doors on October 1, 1947. His brothers, Fritz and Everett, continued working the mining claims near Circle Hot Springs in the Circle Mining District.

Mrs. Geis, living in Seattle for many years, came north in 1944 to make her home with Dorothy and Ray; later she moved to the home of Dorothy’s sister, Josephine Cohen, in Anchorage. She passed away at the Cohen home on February 24, 1947.

When Dorothy was appointed regent in 1963 the Wredes' daughter, Patricia was attending the University of Alaska Fairbanks; Pat graduated with a B.A. in zoology and minors in art and anthropology in 1964. Their younger daughter, Jeanette, attended junior high and high school in Fairbanks. Jeanette has been working for Alaska Airlines since 1969.

Ray Wrede died at the wheel of his car in October 10, 1965 of a heart attack. He was on his way to pick up his friend, John Frasca.

After Ray's death, Dorothy worked as secretary for the First Presbyterian Church for several years. She continued to make her home in Fairbanks.

She was crowned queen regent by the Pioneers of Alaska for the annual Golden Days Fairbanks festival. She later married her king regent, Alden Wilbur, whom she had known since grade school.

    Dorothy passed away on November 27, 1995 at age 85.