Selling of garnets to visitors to Wrangell has been going on since the 1800s. Wrangell’s burgundy-colored garnets have been written about in newspapers, magazines, and books for about the same time period. They have always been a popular souvenir for visitors.
Sold as curios at various shops along Wrangell’s streets, the garnets were an interesting speciman to add to one’s curio cabinet. They have been donated to museums across the United States.
Many have filed claims to the area since the late 1800s thinking that they would strike it rich. They failed. No doubt because they found it hard work. Possibly the lure of gold in the north country pulled them away.
The group of women who owned the Alaska Garnet Mining and Manufacturing Co. set up a small shop on the dock during the summer to sell their garnets to cruise ship passengers.
And from there, children took up the garnet sales by meeting cruise ships and Alaska Marine Highway ferries when they called on the community. Over the years, the children of Wrangell have put themselves through college with the earnings that socked away in their savings accounts. Sure, they have used some of those funds to pay for school clothes and some cool gadgets along the way. And today, some of those children you see selling their garnets are grandchildren of the earlier garnet sales.
Much has been written about the children selling garnets over the years by travel writers. The story about Wrangell’s garnets is a well-known story. The history of the garnet ledge and its connection to the community and the Stikine River is a unique piece of history.
The community of Wrangell is very protective about the garnet ledge. It is, after all, the legacy of Fred Hanford who left the property to be held in trust for the children of Wrangell. From the locals, to the U.S. Forest Service, and even Alaska State Troopers, it is well-known that the property belongs to the children of Wrangell.