Markley, Dorothy

1911-2006 | Accounting Clerk, Alaska Railroad

Dorothy Vera Steele Johnson Markley was born in Bowler, Montana on May 23, 1911 to Marie and Charles Steele. After her father's death in 1912, Dorothy and her widowed mother moved to Red Lodge, Montana, where Mrs. Steele worked for a local doctor for room and board and two dollars per week salary.

Marie Steele's two brothers, Charles and Roy Ketchum, came to Alaska in 1914 and almost immediately obtained employment at the Gold Bullion mine in Knik. They sent for their sister to join them, and she arrived in 1915. She went to work in the Gitchell Roadhouse as cook and housemaid and by 1916, was able to bring her daughter, Dorothy, to Knik. Dorothy Steele's grandmother packed her up, put name tags on her clothes, and shipped the four-year-old child off to Alaska. Railroad and steamship employees saw that the young passenger safely arrived in Knik.

Dorothy Steele's mother, Marie Steele, married Oscar Miller, and the family moved briefly to Anchorage, Alaska then to Eska, Alaska, where Miller was one of over a hundred civilian miners at work digging coal for the U.S. Navy Alaska Coal Commission. A major deposit of 500,000 tons of minable coal had been found at Wishbone Hill, a mountain in the King River district approximately fifty miles east of Anchorage, with Chickaloon Creek at its eastern end and Eska Creek on the west. There was a brief attempt by the U.S. Navy to mine coal in Alaska to supply its Pacific fleet, but the whole effort was shut down in the spring of 1922. Despite the high quality of the coal, it was difficult to mine. The cost of mining and shipping the coal from Alaska was too high. The Navy decided it could not depend on Alaska coal to fuel its ships and converted its fleet to oil-burning engines.[1] After the Navy plant shut down, the Millers returned to Anchorage. They first lived in a tarpaper shack, until a house could be built for them at 7th Avenue and F Street.

Dorothy Steele attended Anchorage schools, played violin in the school orchestra and in local dance bands. She graduated from Anchorage High School in 1929 and got a job as an accounting clerk with the Alaska Railroad. She married Edward Johnson in 1930, then lost her job as the result of an unwritten rule that a married woman could not work for the city or the railroad. The couple had a son, Edward, in 1931, and moved to Oregon looking for better jobs. Dorothy Steele Johnson returned to Anchorage with her son in 1933. She wanted to work for the railroad, but the rule applying to married women still stood, so she obtained a divorce.

After her divorce, Dorothy Steele Johnson lost control of the right side of her head and neck and lost hearing in her left ear as a result of an unsuccessful mastoid operation. She continued to work for the Alaska Railroad, and saved enough money to buy a lot on 7th Avenue between F and G Streets in Anchorage. She contracted with Herman Johnson to build her home, the total cost of which was $4,500.

In 1941, Dorothy Steele Johnson met and married Jacob "Jake" Markley.[2] After his discharge from the U.S. Army, Markley pursued his trade as a carpenter by building several homes in Anchorage. By that time, she was working at the Z.J. Loussac Library, then located at 5th Avenue and F Street, Anchorage. She and Jacob Markley enjoyed the outdoors, and went moose hunting every fall. They owned property at Judd Lake, where they ran trap lines for beaver, muskrat, and mink.

In 1992, after Jacob Markley began losing sight in one eye, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He and Dorothy Markley moved into the Anchorage Pioneer Home in 1994. Dorothy Markley's mother, Marie Steele Miller, died in 1994 at the age of 103. Jake Markley also died that year at the age eighty one.

Dorothy Steele Johnson Markley died at the Anchorage Pioneer Home on August 10, 2006, of complications from a fall.[3] She was ninety-five. Dorothy and Jacob Markley are buried at the Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery. 


[1] Stephen Haycox, “The Orchestra at Chickaloon, Alaska,” A Warm Past: Travels in Alaska History: 50 Essays by Stephen Haycox (Anchorage: Press North Inc., 1988), 130-132.

[2] Obituary, “Jacob Brandt Markley” (1907-1996), Anchorage Daily News, August 13, 1996, in U.S., Find a Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line], (accessed August 14, 2016).

[3] Death notice, Dorothy Markley, Anchorage Daily News, August 16, 2006, B-9; and Dorothy Vera Markley, U.S., Find a Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line], (accessed August 14, 2016).


No biographical sketch of Dorothy Steele Johnson Markley was published in John Bagoy’s Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1935 (Anchorage, AK: Publications Consultants, 2001). See also the Markley family file, Bagoy Family Pioneer Files (2004.11), Box 5, Atwood Resource Center, Anchorage, AK.  Edited by Mina Jacobs, 2012.  Note:  slightly revised and edited by Bruce Parham, August 14, 2016.

Preferred citation: Mina Jacobs, ed., "Markley, Dorothy," Cook Inlet Historical Society, Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1940,

Major support for Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1940, provided by: Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, Atwood Foundation, Cook Inlet Historical Society, and the Rasmuson Foundation. This educational resource is provided by the Cook Inlet Historical Society, a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt association. Contact us at the Cook Inlet Historical Society, by mail at Cook Inlet Historical Society, Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, 625 C Street, Anchorage, AK 99501 or through the Cook Inlet Historical Society website,