Dorothy C. "Dottie" Cochran 1918-2000
(As I remember
by Coleen Mielke 2022
Chugiak, Alaska was only about 3
years old when my parents homesteaded there in 1950. It was a rough and
rugged community, with more than a handful of colorful characters, as you
One of those "hard to miss" people was a woman named Dorothy Cecilia
"Dottie" (Peckham) Cochran, born 1918 in New London, Connecticut; she
came to Alaska in 1953.
Even as a child I knew Dottie was "different". She spoke with a
loud voice; she talked like a man; she walked like a man; she wore men's
clothes; her short dark hair was heavily greased and combed straight back
and she swore like a sailor. At social gatherings, you could always find
her over in the corner talking loudly to a group of men about "guy stuff"
like construction or truck repair.
With that image in mind, I was startled recently when someone
shared photos of Dottie in her early days. She was beautiful.
"Dottie" Peckham about
Eldon French Family Photo Collection
Dottie was married to Oliver Edward
"Corky" Cochran, a U.S.Army SSGT who served in WWII. Their first year
in Alaska must have been a rough one, because not long after they arrived,
Corky petitioned the Alaska courts to have Dottie declared insane. The
judge agreed and she was sent to Morningside Mental Hospital
in Oregon. One week later, the court reversed its decision and Dottie came
back to Alaska.
Dottie had quite an imagination. She told everyone that she had worked
as a surgical and psychiatric nurse. I made extensive searches for any
kind of nursing license for her, but never found one. The closest connection
I could find, was that she worked as a maid in a Connecticut hospital in
the spring of 1940.
Peckham in about 1940
Eldon French Family Photo Collection
When people in Chugiak jokingly questioned
Dottie about her gender, she would laugh loudly and offer to "drop her
drawers" and prove that she was indeed a female. She loved embarrassing
men by overtly flirting with them; it didn't matter if they were young
or old, married or single; she loved entertaining a crowd and nothing was
too bawdy for Dottie.
If you lived in Chugiak in the 1950's,
you probably have your own Dottie Cochran story to tell. The earliest
one I can remember was the time my father did some excavation work
at the Cochran's homestead. Dottie offered to pay him with "personal favors"
(at least that's the way my mother politely explained it to me). My prudish
father was mortified, but I'm sure Dottie got a big kick out of it.
A friend told me another classic "Dottie story": In the winter
of 1956, her husband received a phone call from a friend who was worried
about a woman screaming for help in the woods near his house; he asked
the friend to come quickly and bring a gun, just in case. Upon arrival,
they found Dottie and her husband (naked and very drunk) chasing each other
around in the woods, threatening to kill each other.
Another story was about a man who went to the Cochran's house
to borrow their home brew equipment. As the man was carrying the large
ceramic crock out to his car, Dottie (knowing the man had his hands full),
grabbed his genitals and hung on, much to his horror... and her
Most men in the area knew better than to find themselves alone
with Dottie. Those that had no choice (like the fuel oil delivery man),
told stories about her asking him to "look at the beautiful view from her
bedroom window", an offer he refused, but it never stopped her from making
the repeated invitation.
On 4/15/1961, Dottie and her husband were on one of their
drinking binges with another couple named Leroy and Rose Rogers.
That afternoon, Dottie's husband took Mrs. Rogers back to her house,
leaving Dottie and Leroy alone at the Cochran's. While they were gone,
Dottie shot and killed Leroy Ransome Rogers.
years, I heard different "versions" of why she killed Leroy. One scenario
was that she was angry because he passed out on the couch and Dottie wasn't
ready for the "party" to end yet. She decided to wake him up by shooting
him in the arm.
Another version, published in the newspaper, that said
Leroy had beaten Dottie because she stole his money, so she shot him
in self defense.
According to the actual court records, the police suspected
a different scenario when they found Mr. Rogers sitting in an easy chair
with his legs crossed, as if he had simply fallen asleep, a cigarette
still between his fingers. He was dead, shot twice, once in the shoulder
and once in the chest with a 30.06 rifle; Dottie told police she did
not remember pulling the trigger. She was charged with
first degree murder, but her lawyer (Wendell Kay) managed to get
the charges reduced to manslaughter and she served her sentence at Morningside
Mental Hospital in Oregon.
husband, Corky Cochran, died in 1981, Dottie's drinking problems increased
until the doctors gave her a stern warning about her health and she
sobered up. After that, she was known to call the fire department for
help, telling them that she was "in a bad way". They would take her
to Anchorage in an ambulance, and as soon as she got there, she would instantly
"recover". After a few of these false alarms, the fire department had
a serious talk with Dottie and she stopped calling them.
In her final
years, Dottie was cared for by a hospice nurse who said that Dottie
continued to say that she had worked as a nurse at Morningside
Mental Institution and that she was responsible for giving Humphrey
Bogart's sister electroshock therapy............sounds like a classic
"Dottie Cochran story", for sure.
Rest in Peace Dottie Cochran, you were
one of Chugiak's colorful pioneers.
Dottie Cochran 1987
Mongeau Family Photo Collection
Edward "Corky" Cochran 1909 - 1981
Dorothy Cecelia "Dottie" (Peckham) Cochran 1918 - 2000