“….During the summer of 1908… and during construction days of the Copper River & Northwestern Railway… the Red Dragon Clubhouse was designed to provide a social home for those men who, without family ties in Alaska, had been called by the lure of the North and by the hope of gain and adventure and who found the open saloon and gambling house the only place where they could meet their fellows. The Red Dragon was enthusiastically received by hundreds of men…” (“Dedicate Episcopal Church Tomorrow,” The Cordova Daily Times, August 9, 1919, p. 8″)
Built in less than one month! “Work on the building began on June 22 with July 14, 1908 its opening day. It was the second building completed in the new Cordova townsite, finished just four days after the Northern Saloon which no longer exists. The saloon’s owner had outbid Rev. E.P. Newton for a pile of scarce lumber, thereby winning the race to be first.” (The Red Dragon and St. George’s: Glimpses Into Cordova’s Past, by Nicki J. Nielsen, pg. 3)
Widely varied activities In its first month, the Red Dragon hosted a performance by Chief Joseph and 24 natives of Eyak village, there was “Children’s Day” and “Ladies Day,” as well as religious services. By the spring of 1909, a very active Women’s Guild was organizing Ice Cream Socials, vocal recitations and dances, including lessons. And, the clubhouse remained open 7 days a week for those seeking books, magazines, a billiard table or a piano to play.
Energetic lay missionary Eustace Ziegler arrived in January 1909 to serve this remote Episcopal mission. The son of an Episcopal priest, “Zieg,” as he came to be known, was a man of many talents and an artist at his core. He had trained at the Detroit Museum of Art and held a variety of jobs in Michigan before his move to Alaska. Many Ziegler drawings were printed in the Alaskan Churchman, a monthly publication of the Episcopal Church (of which he also became Editor), and also The Spirit of Missions.
Marriage and ordination Ziegler met the love of his life on a trip to Valdez. Mary Neville Boyle, lived in Valdez with her brother, a doctor, and worked as a clerk at the post office. They were married in Cordova in February 1911 and a month later, Ziegler was ordained as a Deacon by Bishop Rowe, taking the first step toward following in his father’s and brother’s footsteps. Mary shared in missionary activities, taking a special interest in working with women and children from the native village.
Zieg continued serving the huge geographic and diverse parish which stretched up the Copper River to the Kennecott Copper Mines and the many small communities and villages along the 186-mile railroad line. In 1917, he wrote “Big parishes are another pleasure. Mine is 196 miles wide from the Red Dragon to Kennecott. There is great variety in 196 miles of Alaska, so we minister to great varieties of men, women and institutions. Salmon canneries, clam canneries, miners, prospectors, fishermen, sailors. What funds of nature nature to learn from, what variety of tale, anecdote and experience… ” (from Nielsen’s The Red Dragon and St. George’s, pg. 14)