By Clark Fair
Photo by Clark Fair, Redoubt Reporter. A pair of hikers high on L V Ray Peak in the 1990s take a break while enjoying the view. Below is the curving surface of upper Crescent Lake, with a glimpse of Kenai Lake through the saddle between Madson Mountain, left, and Right Mountain. Carter Lake lies at the base of LV Ray Peak, to the right of the hikers and out of the picture.
As the Sterling and Seward highways wind through mountain passes between the city of Seward and the central Kenai Peninsula, they pass two especially impressive, rocky and impassive triangular peaks that loom above the blacktop and surrounding countryside. These two peaks, Cecil Rhode Mountain at Mile 48 of the Sterling Highway and L V Ray Peak at Mile 32 of the Seward Highway, both rise to more than 4,000 feet but commemorate very different men.
L V Ray Peak
Hikers climbing the Carter Lake Trail near the Trail Lake Fish Hatchery will notice the dark gray pointed summit of LV Ray Peak aiming heavenward just south of the highway. Connected by a ridgeline to Madson Mountain, which towers over Moose Pass, L V Ray tops out at 4,840 feet and is named for LeRoy Vincent Ray — a Seward lawyer and mining investor who was the city mayor three times and the Senate president of the first Alaska Territorial Legislature.
Ray, commonly known as L.V., was born in Brookline, Mass., in 1878. After studying for the bar under several attorneys and spending a year working in Ketchikan, the 28-year-old Ray arrived in Seward for the first time in January 1906. The town was booming with industry — shipping, fishing, mining and the Alaska Railroad — and there was more to come after the opening of the Iditarod Trail and the establishment of the Chugach National Forest in the next few years.
With industry also came a burgeoning population and a commercial center, and Ray fit right in. He opened a law office in 1906 in the Harriman bank building downtown, and the very next year he was appointed assistant U.S. attorney for the Third Judicial Division. After being stationed for a time in Seward, he was transferred to Valdez, where he met and married young Hazel Sheldon in 1908.
According to historian John P. Bagoy, Sheldon, who had been born in Seattle and had lived in Alaska since she was 11 years old in 1900, was working as a Valdez telephone operator when she met L.V. After his job prompted a few brief moves, L.V. brought his bride back to Seward to live in 1910.
Ray’s daughter, Patricia Williams, now 102 and living in Anchorage, described her dark-haired father as “fine-looking” and “well-liked.”
“He was a very private person, well-educated and dignified. I would say that people came to him rather than he to them,” she said.
In Seward, she said, L.V. Ray was “a person to be admired, and there weren’t the feelings about attorneys then that there are now.”
Two years after the Rays moved to Seward, Alaska became a territory, and in March 1913 L.V. took his place as Senate president. The first act of this first Alaska Legislature was to grant women in the territory the right to vote. (By comparison, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified seven years later, would provide all U.S. citizens the right to vote.)
That was hardly the only big event during Ray’s days in Seward, however.
In July 1923, during one of Ray’s terms as mayor, the president of the United States came to town. Warren G. Harding, who was touring the western United States, western Canada and Alaska, cruised into Seward aboard the naval transport, the U.S.S. Henderson. Continue reading