OCTOBER 25, 1918


Born in 1893, Walter’s mother reared him traditionally until his mid-teens. At age 16, Harper attended Tortella School, an Episcopal boarding school in Nenana, Alaska, where he met Hudson Stuck, Episcopal archdeacon of the Yukon. Stuck hired Walter as his interpreter, guide, and dog driver. He also encouraged him to continue with his formal education. In 1913, Stuck invited Harper to be part of his expedition to climb Denali. On June 7, at 1:30 p.m., Walter led the party in reaching the summit.  The expedition returned on June 20, over 3 months after it had left. Encouraged by Stuck, Harper gained his education and was admitted to medical school in Philadelphia. Married in September 1918, he and his bride boarded the SS Princess Sophia on October 23 going from Skagway to Seattle. Unfortunately, the ship ran aground on Vanderbilt Reef, broke apart and sank killing all 268 passengers and 75 crew, a total of 343 persons lost. The Harpers were buried in Juneau.

Denali National Park and Reserve, 1/29/2017.  Retrieved 7/17/2019, https://www.facebook.com/DenaliNPS/posts/walter-harper-was-an-alaska-native-mountain-climber-and-guide-who-at-age-21-in-1/1504116596280121/  
Photo:  Author unknown.  Date: 1913.  Public Domain.

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