Title Reviewed:
Alaskan John G. Brady: Missionary, Businessman, Judge, and Governor, 1878–1918

Author Reviewed:
Ted C. Hinckley

Leland H. Carlson


Indiana Magazine of History, Volume 80, Issue 3, pp 285-286

Article Type:
Book Review

Download Source:

Alaskan John G. Brady: Missionary, Businessman, Judge, and Governor, 1878–1918. By Ted C. Hinckley. ([Columbus]: Ohio State University Press, for Miami University, 1982. Pp. xvii, 398. Illustrations, notes, bibliographic sources, index. $40.00.)

The life of John Green Brady, Alaska's fourth governor (1897–1906), illustrates the Horatio Alger theme—from the depths of poverty to the pinnacle of success. Son of an Irish immigrant, reared in the wretched slums of Manhattan, a runaway orphan at age eight, Brady was rescued by Theodore Roosevelt, Sr., and sent by the Children's Aid Society to Tipton, Indiana, where he was adopted by Judge John Green. At age twelve the boy entered public school and made admirable progress. Befriended by a Presbyterian clergyman and sponsored by a presbytery at Muncie, Brady spent three years at Waveland Academy in Montgomery County. In 1870 he entered Yale College, graduated in 1874, and completed his ministerial training in 1877 at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Brady never forgot his debt to Judge Green, to the schools and friends in Indiana, to Yale and Union.

Brady was strongly influenced by a prominent Presbyterian official and dedicated missionary, Sheldon Jackson, who persuaded him to become a pioneer Alaskan missionary. Arriving in Sitka in March, 1878, Brady learned the Tlingit language, established a school for the natives, and organized a Presbyterian church for Indians and Creoles of mixed blood. He visited various archipelago tribes, preached against witchcraft and shamanism, and fought the nefarious liquor dealers. In July, 1884, be became a United States commissioner and was admitted to the bar in May, 1885. His role as a municipal judge involved issuing warrants for arrest, administering oaths, imprisoning and discharging convicts, and doing his utmost to strengthen the Organic Act of 1884, which Senator Benjamin Harrison of Indiana and Jackson, who became general agent for education in Alaska the next year, shepherded through the Congress of the United States.

After spending nineteen years as a businessman, staunch advocate of Alaska's future, commissioner, and judge, Brady was appointed governor by President William McKinley in 1897. It was an ideal choice. Brady knew Alaska's needs, wrote informative reports and recommendations, traveled extensively, was an excellent speaker in clubs and churches, entertained visitors and officials, and cultivated the friendship of his fellow Hoosier, Senator Albert J. Beveridge of Indiana, whose Committee on Territories aided Alaskan legislation. Governor Brady guided the territory through the crisis years of the Klondike rush and the Nome stampede. Above all, he demonstrated a genuine love for the natives and was sincerely committed to the best interests of Alaska.

Ted C. Hinckley has written a superb biography—built solidly on primary sources—of a significant governor whose nine-year term of office was longer than that of any other incumbent except that of Ernest Gruening (1938–1953).

University of Southern California, Los Angeles Leland H. Carlson

Published by the Indiana University Department of History.