Assembly backs request to name two Seward mountains

This photo from the Resurrection Bay Historical Society and submitted to the Kenai Peninsula Borough shows Mary Lowell, one of the original homesteaders in Seward. Two local Seward residents have proposed naming two peaks on the east side of Resurrection Bay, one of which would be named for Mary Lowell. (Photo courtesy the Resurrection Bay Historical Society/Kenai Peninsula Borough)

Two mountain peaks east of Seward may soon bear names honoring the city’s past.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly approved a resolution supporting naming two mountains across Resurrection Bay from the city of Seward. The proposal came from two Seward residents and mountaineers, Daniel Michaud and Harold Faust.

The two have been heavily researching the history of the area and gathering support for naming two currently nameless peaks, Faust said in a presentation during the assembly’s Lands Committee meeting Tuesday.

“As it turns out, there are many fine mountains and a lot of them don’t have any names,” he said. ”It can get confusing, so we’ve got a habit of creating names for some of our exploring.”

Faust and Michaud said they regularly take off into the mountains to go exploring, climbing unnamed peaks. One of the proposed names is Mt. Mary, for a peak to the south of Mt. Alice; the other is Santa Ana Peak, a little south of the proposed Mt. Mary.

The Mt. Mary name came from the historical figure of Mary Lowell, a pioneer woman in the early 19th century in Seward. She was the mother of Alice Lowell, whom Mt. Alice is named for, and of Eva Lowell, whom Mt. Eva is named for, Faust said. If the name goes through, three peaks in a row would bear the names of Lowell women.

“It has historical significance, it’s not in reference to anyone else,” Faust said. “Mary’s name, I feel, would be quite appropriate to put on that (peak).”

The Lowells were some of the earliest American settlers of the Seward area. Captain Frank Lowell arrived with Mary and their children to Resurrection Bay in the 1890s, followed by the first settlers to build the railroad in 1903. The community of Lowell Point, Lowell Creek and Lowell Canyon all bear the family’s name. Mount Marathon was originally called Lowell Mountain until it was renamed in conection with the famous footrace there, according to information Faust submitted to the assembly with the petition.

Mary herself was of Alutiiq and Russian descent and originally from English Bay, now called Port Graham, on the south side of Kachemak Bay in Cook Inlet. She met and married Frank Lowell there and the family moved to Resurrection Bay after heavy ash fall and tsunamis as a result of an eruption of Mt. Augustine Volcano in Kamishak Bay, according to historical information Faust submitted to the assembly. Frank eventually left the family and went to explore Kodiak in 1893, but Mary stayed in Resurrection Bay to raise the family until she died in 1906.

The other, Santa Ana Peak, would be named for a steamer ship that arrived in Seward in 1903 century, bearing many of the original residents to build the railroad. Other peaks, including the Resurrection Peaks, Phoenix Peak and Mount Ascension, reference the historic Russian contacts, according to documents Michaud submitted.

Given that, naming the mountain for the Santa Ana seemed appropriate, Michaud told the assembly.

“The owner of that ship was Captain Caine, where we get our name of Caines Head,” he said. “The (Santa Ana) name came from that.”

Though the assembly gave the resolution its stamp of approval without much discussion Tuesday, it’s not the last step for the proposed mountain name. From here, the proposal goes to the Alaska Historical Commission, which must approve it and forward the request to the U.S. Board of Geographic Names for final approval. There are a number of stipulations that set guidelines for names— for example, a feature can’t be named after a person unless the person has been dead for at least five years, and the proposed name for the feature has to be generally recognized and accepted by the community.

Michaud told the assembly that naming the peaks could make navigation and possibly rescue easier.

“It’s amazing how many of the peaks on the Kenai Peninsula are not named,” he said. “When you’re talking to anyone in reference to exploring or trying to locate somebody … we have no way of identifying (some landmarks), other than (a name like) Peak 438. Unless you know that, (it can be hard to find).”

Reach Elizabeth Earl at eearl@peninsulaclarion.com.

This photo submitted to the Kenai Peninsula Borough shows the Santa Ana, one of the steamers that brought the early residents of Seward to Resurrection Bay. Two local Seward residents have proposed naming two mountain peaks east of Resurrection Bay, one of which would be named for the Santa Ana. (Photo coutesy Kenai Peninsula Borough)

This November 2016 photo shows the mountains across Resurrection Bay from the city of Seward, Alaska. Two Seward residents have proposed naming two of the peaks in the mountains east of Seward with the area’s history in mind. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion, file)

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