Union Bay Cannery, Ernest Sound

Union Bay Cannery, Ernest Sound

by | Aug 21, 2019

The Union Bay Cannery was located at the mouth of Cannery Creek, on the eastern shore of Union Bay about 3 miles (4.8 km) northeast of Meyers Chuck, and 34 miles (55 km) northwest of Ketchikan, Alaska. Union Bay is located on the east side of Lemesurier Point at the southern entrance to Ernest Sound.

In 1916, a cannery was established at Union Bay by the Union Bay Fisheries Company. From 1916 to 1945, local fishermen sold their catch to the Union Bay Cannery, which in turn, sold in bulk to Japan. A floating clam cannery and a herring reduction plant were also present during this time at Meyers Chuck, a small community on the west side of Lemesurier Point. A post office, store, machine shop, barbershop, bakery, and bar developed there to support residents. By 1939, 107 residents lived year-round in Meyers Chuck. When fish runs began to decline in the 1940s, many people left the community to join the armed forces or to work at war-time production jobs in the Lower 48. The Union Bay Cannery burned down in 1947, but Meyers Chuck persists as a community and was withdrawn from the Tongass National Forest in the 1960s.

Li Gongpu was a prominent Chinese poet and scholar who traveled in the United States in 1922 to study fine arts and literature. In 1928, Li Gongpu wanted to document what life was like in Alaskan canneries for Chinese workers and the cannery he chose was at Union Bay. His descriptions are probably the only first-hand Chinese account of cannery work in Alaska before World War II, and certainly the most sophisticated. Li commented on the beauty of the cannery location and wrote about the ethnic diversity of the workers who came from China, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Mexico, Italy, Switzerland, and undocumented workers from unknown places. He also commented objectively on the biases of the times, observing the interaction among workers and how social status was based on how their own countries were perceived in the world. He would later return to China where in 1946 his outspoken activism resulted in assassination by the Kuomintang, the Chinese government secret service. Read more here and here. Explore more of Union Bay cannery here:

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