Courtnay, Robert M.

1877-1938 | Accountant

Robert Marion Courtnay was born in Jacksonville, Jackson County, Oregon on December 31, 1877, the son of William F. and Lucinda Coyle Courtnay. He grew up in Jackson and in Walla Walla and Tacoma, Washington.

In the fall of 1898, Courtnay joined the stampede to the Klondike, and with his brother, Grant, mined on Bonanza Creek and on other creeks in the vicinity of Dawson, Yukon. He went to the Klondike with a load of hogs, but when the barge carrying the hogs sank on Lake Laberge (north of Whitehorse, Yukon), he survived, but the hogs drowned.[1]

After the Klondike gold rush, Courtnay became an agent for the Northern Commercial Company at Circle, Alaska. In 1905, he went to Fairbanks after the discovery of gold in the Tanana Valley in 1902 on creeks flowing into the Chena River near its confluence with the Tanana River.[2] In 1907, he and A.A. Shonbeck, a prominent Anchorage businessman, bought the mercantile business of R.H. Miller & Company on Cleary Creek, and operated the store there and a second one at Chatanika until 1911.[3]

On November 1, 1905, Courtnay married Martha Mae Glascock in King County, Washington.  Martha was born on April 12, 1879 in Susanville, California. Their son, Ralph Wallace Courtnay, was born in Fairbanks on June 29, 1908, and a daughter, Lois, about 1919. Ralph suffered from Addison's disease, and the family moved in search of a climate more suitable for him. In 1920, Martha Courtnay moved to Seattle with the children, Ralph and Lois.[4]

In 1926, the Courtnay family moved to Anchorage, where Robert Courtnay was employed as an accountant alternately by the J. B. Gottstein Company, the Lucky Shot Mine, and the Alaska Road Commission. He was in charge of the Anchorage office of the firm, J.C. Cooper Company, certified accountants, at the time of his death in 1938. The company maintained an office in Anchorage and in Juneau.

In 1934, son Ralph Wallace Courtnay met and married Vanny Jones, a fifth-grade schoolteacher and a daughter of Evan and Bronwen Jones, another Anchorage pioneer couple. For a time, Ralph and Vanny ran the Northern Commercial Company stores in Takotna and Bethel, but eventually they came back to Anchorage where Ralph was employed as an agent for Star Airways and later Pacific Northern Airlines. They had two children, Ralph W., Jr., born in 1939, and Bronwen, born in 1944.

Robert Marion Courtnay died on May 27, 1938 in Anchorage following a brief illness from bronchial pneumonia. He is buried in the Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery. Martha Glascock Courtnay died on February 21, 1943 in Seattle. She is buried at the Acacia Memorial Park and Funeral Home in Lake Forest Park, King County, Washington.[5]

Their son, Ralph W. Courtnay, Sr., died in 1948 and his wife, Vanny Jones Courtnay, who later remarried, spent the rest of her life in Alaska. She died in 1996 after living for ten years in the Anchorage Pioneer Home. Ralph and Vanny Courtnay are both buried at the Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery.



[1] John P. Bagoy, Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1935 (Anchorage: Publications Consultants, 2001), 37-38.

[2] “Pioneer of North Is Called,” Alaska Miner (Fairbanks, Alaska), May 31, 1938, 8, (accessed July 24, 2016); and Stephen Haycox, Alaska: An American Colony (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2002), 207-208.

[3] “Pioneer of North Is Called,” Alaska Miner (Fairbanks, Alaska), May 31, 1938, 8.

[4] Robert Marion Courtnay and Martha Mae Glascock, Washington, Marriage Records, 1865-2004 [database on-line], (accessed July 24, 2016); and John P. Bagoy, Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1935, 38.

[5] Robert Marion Courtnay, U.S., Find a Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line], (accessed July 24, 2016); and Martha Mae Courtnay, U.S., Find a Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line], (accessed July 24, 2016).


This biographical sketch of Robert Courtnay is based on an essay which originally appeared in John Bagoy's Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1935 (Anchorage, AK: Publications Consultants, 2001), 37-38. See also the Ralph Courtnay file in the Bagoy Family Pioneer Files (2004.11), Box 2, Atwood Resource Center, Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, Anchorage, AK.  Photographs courtesy of the Courtnay family.  Edited by Mina Jacobs, 2012.  Note:  edited and revised by Bruce Parham, July 24, 2016.

Preferred citation: Bruce Parham, ed., “Courtnay, Robert M.,” 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,