All Alaska Sweepstakes

3. All Alaska SweepstakesThe historic All Alaska Sweepstakes is the oldest organized distance sled dog race in the world, with records kept by the Nome Kennel Club dating back to the first race in 1908. The race, which was held from 1908 to 1917, and commemorated with 75th and 100th anniversary races in 1983 and 2008, is the subject of All Alaska Sweepstakes: History of the Great Sled Dog Race, by Helen Hegener. Hundreds of beautiful photos by Jan DeNapoli, Joe May, Donna Quante and others tell the story of the sixteen Alaskan mushers who entered their teams in the 2008 commemorative running. Each musher was hoping to have their name engraved on the Sweepstakes trophy beside the great mushing legends “Scotty” Allan and Leonhard Seppala. And, of course, they were racing for the richest purse ever offered for a sled dog race: $100,000.00 winner-take-all!

1983posterThe route from Nome, on the south side of the Seward Peninsula, to the small community of Candle on the north side and return, is 408 miles, following the telegraph lines which linked camps, villages and gold mining settlements on the Peninsula. This route’s established communication lines allowed those betting on the outcome to track the race more easily from the comfort of saloons like the famed Board of Trade in Nome, where the Nome Kennel Club had been founded.

A.A. “Scotty” Allan describes the route to Candle in his classic book Gold, Men and Dogs (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1931): “It was selected because the trail to it from Nome goes over all kinds of country, from sea ice to high mountains, with rivers, tundra, timber, glaciers, and everything else in the way of mental and physical hardships en route. We knew there wouldn’t be any doubt about the excellence of a dog or driver that covered it.”

With colorful drivers like “Scotty” Allan and Leonhard Seppala, who each won the race three times, the All Alaska Sweepstakes was an eagerly anticipated annual event until the gold mining dropped off and Nome’s population dwindled, along with local interest in sled dog racing. In 1983 the Nome Kennel Club sponsored the 75th Anniversary race, and Rick Swenson took home the $25,000.00 purse. Then, in 2008, for the 100th Anniversary of the event, the Nome Kennel Club offered the richest purse ever for a sled dog race: $100,000.00 winner-take-all.

Jeff King in Council. Photo by Jan DeNapoli.

Jeff King in Council. Photo by Jan DeNapoli.

All Alaska Sweepstakes, History of the Great Sled Dog Race begins with a look at the colorful history of the race, tracing its gold rush roots and highlighting the stories of intrepid mushers like Leonhard Seppala and “Scotty” Allan, “Iron Man” Johnson and Fox Maule Ramsay, and the heroic dogs like Baldy, Togo, and Fritz. For the Centennial Race some of Alaska’s best-known mushers entered: Lance Mackey, Jeff King, Mitch Seavey, Sonny Lindner, Ramy Brooks, Jim Lanier, Cim Smyth, Aaron Burmeister, Ed Iten, Hugh Neff, and Mike Santos. And then there were the mushers who entered simply to be a part of the history of the race: Kirsten Bey, Cari Miller, Fred Moe Napoka, Connor Thomas, and Jeff Darling, whose musher profile noted that he’d entered “for the historical value and a chance to see some countryside he might not otherwise be able to see by dogteam.”

AAS mapThe photo-rich, full color book covers the race from the preliminary festivities such as the crowning of the Sweepstakes Queen, Janice Doherty, and the mushers’ bib drawing, to the historically-themed finisher’s banquet and the awards, not only of the beautiful championship trophy, but also the Alec “Scotty” Allan Humanitarian Award, and the Percy Blatchford “Spirit of the Race” award. Descriptive commentaries by Race Marshal and Lead Judge Al Crane; leaderboard designer and champion musher Jodi Bailey; and dedicated race fan Marcia Claesson, who shared how the race was tracked by mushing enthusiasts from around the world, add depth and perspective to the exciting narrative of this iconic race.

“One of the pilots in Candle asked me if I’d seen any wolves, and I said no, and he said there was a big pack of wolves headed this way. I was about two hours out of Candle on my way to Gold Run and I see all these green eyes about fifty feet off the trail, a hundred yards ahead of me. So I had my headlight on bright and I’m looking at these eyes… My .44 was in my sled so I unzipped my sled bag and I’m looking, there’s a lot of sets of eyes looking at me…” ~ musher Aaron Burmeister sharing tales of the trail at the Finish Banquet.

Sweepstakes Buy NowAll Alaska Sweepstakes, History of the Great Sled Dog Race. Softcover 8.5″x 11″, published in 2013 by Northern Light Media. ISBN 978-0-9843977-0-9 • 160 pages, over 350 photos. $29.00 plus $5.00 shipping from Northern Light Media, PO Box 298023, Wasilla, Alaska 99629. For credit cards and PayPal please click here.

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Sled Dog Tales

COVER Alaskan Sled Dog Tales

“These trustworthy creatures could be relied upon to do the heavy work, while remaining—as Hegener eloquently reminds us—our most treasured friends.” David Fox, Anchorage Press

Alaskan Sled Dog Tales, by Helen Hegener. $24.95 plus $5.00 shipping & handling. 320 pages, 6′ x 9″ b/w format, includes maps, charts, bibliography, indexed. Click this link to order.

Alaskan Sled Dog Tales shares the important history of sled dogs in Alaska, highlighting legendary mushers such as Leonhard Seppala, Scotty Allan, and ‘Iron Man” Johnson, and explaining how sled dogs were an integral part of early explorations, the gold rush era, and historic events such as the 1925 Serum Run to Nome.

True stories include Alaskan mail carrier Eli Smith’s epic trip to Washington, D.C., Alaska Nellie’s daring rescue of a lost mail carrier, the Rev. Samuel Hall Young’s 1913 trip over the Iditarod Trail, and Territorial Judge James Wickersham’s 1901 dogsled trip down the frozen Yukon River from Eagle to Rampart. Fascinating stories of Alaska’s history as seen from the runners of a dogsled!

Alaskan Sled Dog Tales, by Helen Hegener. $24.95 plus $5.00 shipping & handling. 320 pages, 6′ x 9″ b/w format, includes maps, charts, bibliography, indexed. Click this link to order.


“Relying upon material written from the late 1890s through the early ‘30s, [Hegener] catalogues how sled dogs provided Alaskan residents the ability to traverse enormous distances, deliver critical supplies and maintain communication from within and outside Alaska. The episodes she recounts are stirring, filled with human and animal bravery. Some are simply mind-boggling, filling the reader with awe and enormous respect for dog and driver alike.” David Fox, in the Anchorage Press

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Alaska & The Klondike

CoverFinalAlaska & the Klondike, Early Writings and Historic Photographs, compiled and edited by Helen Hegener, and published in 2018 by Northern Light Media, is an anthology of selected writings from a dozen northland classics  by early explorers and travelers in the territories of Alaska and Canada’s Yukon at the turn of the 20th century.
Complete chapters from books such as Ten Thousand Miles with a Dog Sled, The Land of Tomorrow, and Along Alaska’s Great River offer first-hand accounts of the authors’ adventures in charting an unknown country, exploring a wondrous land, searching for gold, delivering freight and mail, and administering medical and religious services by dog team, at a time when the land was young.
Wonderful black and white drawings and photographs, often by the authors themselves, accompany the writings of Frederick Schwatka, Hudson Stuck, Robert Service, Josiah Edward Spurr, Arthur Treadwell Walden and many others as they tell of adventures, explorations, fortunes won and lost, and the magnificent promise of our great northern lands.
Selected excerpts are from the following books:
 • Golden Alaska, by Ernest Ingersoll
 • The Land of Tomorrow, by William B. Stephenson, Jr.
 • The Spell of the Yukon & Other Verses, by Robert Service
 • The Ascent of Denali, by Hudson Stuck
 • From Paris to New York by Land, by Harry DeWindt
 • Through the Yukon Gold Diggings, by Josiah Edward Spurr
 • A Woman Who Went––To Alaska, by May Kellogg Sullivan
 • The Land of Nome, by Lanier McKee
 • Ten Thousand Miles with a Dog Sled, by Hudson Stuck
 • Along Alaska’s Great River, by Frederick Schwatka
 • Alaska: Our Northern Wonderland, by Frank Carpenter
 • A Dog-Puncher on the Yukon, by Arthur Treadwell Walden
Alaskan author Helen Hegener has compiled an engaging journey through the literary history of Alaska and the Klondike, and an introduction to some of the most compelling books ever written about the North.
Alaska & the Klondike, Early Writings and Historic Photographs, compiled and edited by Helen Hegener, published May 10, 2018 by Northern Light Media. $24.95 (plus shipping), 320 pages, over 100 b/w photos, ISBN-13: 978-1717401991. Click here to order.
Kindle Edition now available. $5.99 (Kindle MatchBook $2.99)
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Alaska Railroad 1902-1923

ARR CoverThe Alaska Railroad: 1902-1923 , subtitled Blazing an Iron Trail Across The Last Frontier, is the story of the construction of the Alaska Railroad and its predecessors, from 1902, when pioneer real estate promoter John Ballaine built the Alaska Central Railroad north from Seward; through 1923, when President Warren G. Harding drove the Alaska Railroad’s ceremonial Golden Spike at Nenana.

Bartlett Glacier postcard b:wThis 400-page book is a wide-ranging look at the many ways in which the railroad played a major role in Alaska’s growth and development. From dynamiting the railbed out of the rocky cliffs along Turnagain Arm, to spanning the deep chasm of Hurricane Gulch, and from crossing the endless miles of muskeg swamp to bridging the mighty waters of the Tanana River, the story is told through historic documents, photographs, and publications.

Screen Shot 2017-05-18 at 12.15.19 PMThis is more than the just  the story of constructing the railroad, this is also the story of how the U. S. Government built towns and cities across the territory, including Seward, Anchorage, Palmer, Wasilla, Talkeetna, Nenana, and Fairbanks. It’s the story of coal mining in Alaska, from the Guggenheim Syndicate’s notorious attempted monopoly of Alaska’s resources, to the government’s own private coal mine to service the U.S. Naval fleet in the Pacific. It’s the story of steamboat travel on Alaskan rivers, and how the railroad’s own fleet of steamers and gas-powered “tunnel boats” came to dominate the watery transportation corridors. It’s the story of the role a fledgling conservation movement played in dividing a major political party. And it’s the story of how steam shovels which dug the Panama Canal were brought north to claw at Alaskan hillsides.

Screen Shot 2017-05-18 at 12.28.15 PMThe 500-mile long Alaska Railroad runs from the seaport town of Seward, on the Kenai Peninsula, to Fairbanks, the Golden Heart of Alaska. Along the way it crosses two formidable mountain ranges, several broad and daunting rivers, and numerous deep gorges and canyons. It winds along the tidewater edge of Turnagain Arm, past Bartlett and Spencer Glaciers, and skirts the highest point on the North American continent, the Great One, Denali. From running its own opulent luxury hotel—literally in the middle of nowhere—to developing the telephone, water, and sewer systems of Anchorage, the history of the railroad is largely the history of Alaska. Take a ride on the northernmost U. S. railroad, and gain an unusual perspective on a richly fascinating period in America’s past.   ~•~

ARR CoverThe Alaska Railroad: 1902-1923, Blazing an Iron Trail Across The Last Frontier, by Helen Hegener, published in May, 2017 by Northern Light Media. 400 pages, over 100 b/w historic photos, maps, bibliography, indexed. The book can be ordered for $24.95 plus $5.00 postage, by clicking here.


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Joe Redington, Sr.

imageedit_99_2822321794“When I went out to the villages (in the 1950′s) where there were beautiful dogs once, a snow machine was sitting in front of a house and no dogs. It wasn’t good. I didn’t like that. I’ve seen snow machines break down and fellows freeze to death out there in the wilderness. But dogs will always keep you warm and they’ll always get you there.” ~Joe Redington, Sr., in “I’d Swap My Old Skidoo for You,” by Nan Elliot (Brimm & Heald, 1989) 

Joe Redington, Sr., known as the “Father of the Iditarod,” was born on February 1, 1917, in a tent on the banks of the Cimarron River, north of Kingfisher, Oklahoma, on the famous Chisholm Trail. It was a fitting start for a man who would later spend his life traveling the trails of a far distant land. 

imageedit_31_9647115163Joe Redington came to Alaska in 1948, settling on a homestead near Knik, south of Wasilla, with his family. He learned about sled dogs and how to handle a dog team from his new neighbors, mail and freight team driver Sharon Fleckenstein and Lee Ellexson, one of the last dog team mail drivers on the Iditarod Trail. He and his wife Grace had at one time been the operators of the Happy River Roadhouse in Rainy Pass. Ellexson had traveled thousands of miles with a dog team, and his stirring ‘tales of the trail’ captivated the newcomer.

Ellexson sold Joe a few dogs, and in less than a year Redington had created Knik Kennels and was feeding his own 40 huskies. He became a proficient enough dog driver to contract rescue and recovery missions for the U.S. Air Force between 1949 and 1957, using his dog teams to reach the sites of aircraft crashes. Harnessing teams of 25 to 30 dogs, Redington hauled hundreds of servicemen and millions of dollars’ worth of salvaged parts from remote areas of Alaska. 

imageedit_59_3104246169A boat-building project took Joe to the village of Unalakleet, where he observed hundreds of huskies sitting idly around while snowmachines roared everywhere, the obvious transportation mode of choice. This alarmed Joe, and set him to thinking seriously about a one-thousand-mile race following the historic Iditarod Trail. Joe Redington promised that there would be a long-distance race to Nome by 1973, with the unheard-of purse of $50,000. Several major obstacles stood in his way, such as trail-clearing and fund-raising, but the biggest obstacle was his fellow race enthusiasts.  

Undaunted by the skeptics, Redington continued making plans for his race. He wrote up incorporation papers for the Iditarod Trail Committee, or ITC, forerunner of today’s race-governing body of the same name, and his wife Vi and two schoolteacher friends, Tom Johnson and Gleo Huyck – became the first officers of the new organization. 

imageedit_83_3081490922As Joe and his new Iditarod Trail Committee set to work, the base of opponents and naysayers grew, and chief among them were some of the mushing world’s most prominent racers. There were claims that no dog could run 1,000 miles, and that no musher could cover that distance either. The old-timers on the trail had traveled at a slower pace, and traded dogs and entire teams when necessary, and there was a network of close-set cabins and roadhouses to support them which no longer existed. Attempting to travel the entire distance with one team of dogs was considered foolhardy by many, ill-advised and reckless at best. 

imageedit_102_9606488615And then, quietly at first, a few advocates emerged and said it wasn’t such a far-fetched notion, and as evidence they pointed to mushers like Hudson Stuck, the Yukon River missionary whose classic book, Ten Thousand Miles with a Dog Sled, related seemingly non-stop travels to the farthest reaches of Alaska. Others had utilized dog teams on long distance trips, explorers like Ernest de Koven Leffingwell, who mapped the Arctic coastline, and Olaus Murie, the federal wildlife biologist who ran dog teams throughout Alaska for more than 30 years. Dr. Joseph Romig was known as “the dog-team doctor” for his extensive remote travels, and Father Bernard Hubbard, “the Glacier Priest,” who led an expedition 1,600 miles down the frozen Yukon River, visiting missions along the way. 

The Alaska Native elders chimed in with their stories and experiences; they were recognized experts on raising and training sled dogs and they knew the dogs could travel that distance. Well-known and respected mushers like George Attla of Huslia, Ken Chase of Anvik, and Dick Mackey of Wasilla signed on for the challenge, and other mushers began declaring their interest. Attla’s joining the race was significant, because at the time he was a reigning champion in the mushing world, enjoying something akin to rock star status in the sport. 

imageedit_104_7767233431Joe Redington Sr.’s dream race became a reality which continues to enchant mushers and fans alike every March. The year after founding the race, in 1974, Joe Redington would enter and run the race along with his sons Raymie and Joee. Raymie would place seventh, followed by his brother Joee in ninth place and Joe Sr. arriving in eleventh place. That would be a banner moment for the 57-year-old founder of the race. 

Edited from the forthcoming book, The First Iditarod, Mushers’ Tales from the 1973 Race, a revision of the 2015 book by Helen Hegener, published by Northern Light Media. 190 pages. Format 6″ x 9,″ with over 60 illustrations and photos. $24.95 plus $5.00 shipping and handling to U.S. addresses only. Additional postage required for foreign orders. Mailing first copies December 15th. Click here to order yours now.

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The Call of the Wild


An excerpt from Jack London’s The Call of the Wild (Macmillan, 1903), the fictional account of events in the life of the great sled dog Buck who, at this point in the story, ran in the traces of a courier for the Canadian Government, bearing important dispatches:

“…they pulled into Dawson one dreary afternoon… Here were many men, and countless dogs, and Buck found them all at work. It seemed the ordained order of things that dogs should work. All day they swung up and down the main street in long teams, and in the night their jingling bells still went by. They hauled cabin logs and firewood, freighted up to the mines, and did all manner of work that horses did in the Santa Clara Valley. Here and there Buck met Southland dogs, but in the main they were the wild wolf husky breed. Every night, regularly, at nine, at twelve, at three, they lifted a nocturnal song, a weird and eerie chant, in which it was Buck’s delight to join. With the aurora borealis flaming coldly overhead, or the stars leaping in the frost dance, and the land numb and frozen under its pall of snow, this song of the huskies might have been the defiance of life, only it was pitched in minor key, with long-drawn wailings and half-sobs, and was more the pleading of life, the articulate travail of existence.”

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Title screen, see full video below.

“On January 28, 1925, newspapers and radio stations broke a terrifying story — diphtheria had broken out in Nome, Alaska, separated from the rest of the world for seven months by a frozen ocean. With aviation still in its infancy and one of the harshest winters on record, only ancient means — dogsled — could save the town. In minus 60 degrees, over 20 men and at least 150 dogs, among them the famous Balto, set out to relay the antitoxin across 674 miles of Alaskan wilderness to save the town. An ageless adventure that has captured the imagination of children and adults throughout the world for almost a century, the story has become known as the greatest dog story ever told.”


The 1925 Serum Run is a legend, a heroic testament to the human spirit, and to the indomitable achievements of the dogs of the far north. But beyond the legend lies a tale that is far more complicated, filled with irony, tragedy, and myth.


The documentary Icebound, narrated by Sir Patrick Stewart, took director and producer Daniel Anker eight years to film and involved hundreds of people — researchers, crew members, scholars, archivists, mushers, and citizens throughout the state of Alaska, particularly in the villages of Nenana, Galena, Unalakleet and the town of Nome. The film premiered in Anchorage’s Bear Tooth Theater in December, 2013, and was presented as part of the 2013 Anchorage International Film Festival.

After the Bear Tooth showing the film was described in an article for Alaska Dispatch by Megan Edge: “While ‘Icebound’ takes a tone that’s more dismal than some of the more kid-friendly retellings that have been produced in the years since the epidemic, it doesn’t lack for good storytelling. The film presents the facts in a straightforward manner, focusing on ghastly details and little-known facts.”

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“Wild Bill” Shannon

A 2016 article I wrote for Alaska Dispatch focused on the ’25 Serum Run commemorative running, and an eerie incident involving the first Serum Run musher, “Wild Bill” Shannon. “Even before the train came to a complete stop, conductor Frank Knight jumped onto the platform with the 20-pound package of serum and ran over to Shannon.” The article is available with my original photos at this link.


Leonhard Seppala and Togo

I also wrote about the three-time All Alaska Sweepstakes champion Leonhard Seppala’s crucial role in the Serum Run, and the heroic achievements of his peerless lead dog Togo, in 2015.

When I had allowed as much time as we could spare I came out to the dogs and began putting them back on the line. An old Eskimo stood by as we hitched up, and observing the increase in the wind he cautioned me: “Maybe ice not much good. Maybe breaking off and go out. Old trail plenty no good. Maybe you go more closer shore.”

The video Icebound is available on YouTube:


Filmmaker Daniel Anker died of pneumonia in 2014, at the age of 50.


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Alaska Road Commission


Crossing Thompson Pass on the Valdez-Fairbanks Road

In the early part of the twentieth century Alaska was criss-crossed with trails such as the Seward-Iditarod-Nome Mail Trail, which later became simply the Iditarod Trail, in fact a broad and wide-reaching network of trails which provide access to many towns and villages in southwestern Alaska. As traffic increased on these trails a network of roadhouses were built by enterprising souls, offering a place to rest and recuperate from the harsh rigors of the trail.

On the eastern side of the territory the Trans-Alaska Military Trail and Wagon Road became the Valdez-Eagle Trail, which spawned the Valdez-Fairbanks Trail which then became the Richardson Highway, the first actual road of any length in Alaska. In 1905 the U.S. Congress approved legislation establishing a commission to oversee construction of this and other roads, and the Board of Road Commissioners for Alaska, generally referred to as the Alaska Road Commission, or ARC, became part of the War Department, by order of the Secretary of War, William Howard Taft. The Board was comprised of three members: The chairman or president of the board, in charge of all operations, an engineer officer responsible for the fieldwork, and a secretary officer who ran the office and paid for work done.

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Within two years the Commission had upgraded 200 miles of existing trails, built 40 miles of road, flagged 247 miles of winter trails on the Seward Peninsula, and cleared 285 miles of new trail. By 1922 these numbers had grown to 1,101 miles of wagon road including 600 miles of gravel surfaced roads, 756 miles of winter sled roads, 3,721 miles of permanent trail and 712 miles of temporary flagged trail. The Commission did not favor use of these trails by trucks or automobiles, declaring in 1914 that it made “no pretense of having built roads adapted for automobile travel….”

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Alaska Road Commission truck number 23 stuck in mud on the road between Sourdough and Gulkana, July 1919. [Bill Frame Photograph Collection, 1912-1940. ASL-PCA-228]

In 1932 the Alaska Road Commission was transferred to the Department of the Interior, which promptly imposed registration and license fee requirements on all vehicles in Alaska. In 1956 it was absorbed by the Bureau of Public Roads, then a division of the Commerce Department, which later evolved into the Federal Highway Administration. When Alaska gained statehood in 1959 the State of Alaska assumed road building and maintenance responsibility for 3,100 miles of roads, and in 1960 what had once been the Alaska Road Commission morphed a final time into the Alaska State Highway Department. One of its first projects was construction of a new Fairbanks to Anchorage road, the George Parks Highway. ~•~

Alaskan Roadhouses

Excerpted from Alaskan Roadhouses, Finding Shelter, Meals, and Lodging Along Alaska’s Roads and Trails, by Helen Hegener (Northern Light Media, 2015)


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Roadhouse Registers

Travelers of the Trail • Seeking Shelter and A Warm Meal

19. First team Nome to SewardW. A. Dikeman and Charles Peterson reported by Iditarod Nugget as “First Mushers Over the Iditarod Trail: Taking 45 Days from Seward to Otter, they meet several others on the trail including Harry Johnson and Bob Griffis.” (Iditarod Nugget, December 28, 1910)

An excerpt from Recreational Resources of the Alaska Highway and Other Roads in Alaska, published December, 1944 by the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service:


Woodchopper Roadhouse, built ca. 1910

“The Alaska roadhouse is an institution which must be encountered familiarly to be appreciated. There the term does not connote in the least the type of use or misuse which has come to be associated with it in the States. Alaska roadhouses are functional necessities to travel through country populated sparsely or not at all. They are inns or taverns in the honest, Colonial sense, providing food and shelter for the traveler today as they did for his predecessor a generation ago, but now supplying oil and gasoline for the motor car instead of the hay and grain required by its equine forerunner. More, they often serve as trading posts for tributary populations, whether Native or white, sources of supply for pack trains, prospectors, and trappers, the first link in the chain of processes through which the raw pelt becomes milady’s stole. They are post offices as well as general stores, often linking enough functions to become real communities in themselves. 

“The earlier roadhouses were apt to be sprawling, one-storied, log-buildings, with sod roofs perhaps strangely fitted together. Later came structures of two or even three stories, some of squared logs, others of frame construction, sometimes incongruous with their wilderness settings. In planning for the accommodation of recreational travelers, it would seem a fitting tribute to the part which these buildings have played in the development of Alaska, to adopt the better principles which they have exemplified, with such modern adaptations as would add to the comfort of the visitor without sacrificing atmosphere and precedent.”

Upon entering a roadhouse, travelers would sign their names to the roadhouse guest register, signaling their intent to stay and providing an accounting for the proprietor and the inevitable taxman. Recording the daily, monthly and annual business income and expenditures of a roadhouse was part of a manager’s duties, and some kept carefully detailed records while others merely entered the briefest necessary accounting facts.

wpeF7The Alaska and Polar Regions Collections at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, includes photocopies of guest registers from two roadhouses which were located in Knik, on Knik Arm near Anchorage, on the northeastern tip of Cook Inlet.

Knik was on the original Iditarod Trail, which saw heavy traffic during the heyday of the Iditarod gold rush, as dog teams hauled thousands of pounds of freight and supplies to the diggings west of the Alaska Range, and miners and businessmen sent their gold back out over the same route.

39. 3:4 million gold at Knik 1912

Pioneer Roadhouse, Knik, 1912

The register for the Pioneer Roadhouse at Knik covers the time period from December 16, 1910 through December 28, 1913, when the proprietor was F. B. Cannon. At the end of the register are entries for November 1 through December 4, May 8, and September of unknown years, as well as February, 1930 and January through February, 1931.

The register for the nearby Knik Roadhouse covers the period from April 1, 1909 through October 5, 1918. The proprietors were Mrs. J. C. Murray (April through November, 1909 and again after August 14, 1911) and Mr. and Mrs. J. B. Smith (December 29, 1909 through June, 1911).


Manley Roadhouse circa 1908

The Manley-Hot Springs Resort Records consist of photocopies of six ledgers dating from 1907 to 1911, relating to Frank Manley’s Hot Springs Resort at Manley Hot Springs. These include one daily log of occurrences at the resort (February to June, 1909); one ledger (1906) and one time book (1907-1908, 1911) relating to Manley’s other business enterprises in the Manley Hot Springs region; and a small book of accounts outstanding (1901-1902) that may relate to Manley’s affairs elsewhere in Alaska. The resort ledgers include a hotel register for 1907-1908, three double-entry account books (1907-1911),

screen-shot-2015-09-13-at-2-01-29-pmThe resort ledgers include a hotel register for 1907-1908, three double-entry account books (1907-1911), a mess account (1907-1909), and a trial balance for 1910-1911. In addition to providing insights into the resort’s expenses, income, and operations and Frank Manley’s involvement in local mining, the various ledgers list many individuals whose names are not found in such common reference works as Polk’s Alaska-Yukon Gazetteer and Business Directory.

Also in the collections are registers and accounting records from the Ferry Roadhouse (1928-1959) located at Ferry, Alaska, approximately 39 miles south of Nenana; and the Kobe Roadhouse (1927-1949); also known as the Rex Roadhouse, at Rex, Alaska, approximately 48 miles south of Nenana. ~•~


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Ernest de Koven Leffingwell

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Ernest de Koven Leffingwell was a joint commander, with Ejnar Mikkelsen, of the 1906-1908 Anglo-American Polar Expedition, which established that, contrary to long-held myths and stories, there was no land north of Alaska.

Self-described as “the forgotten explorer,” as his efforts went largely unrecognized in his own time, Leffingwell is credited for later mapping about 150 miles of the Arctic coastline, between Point Barrow and Herschel Island, along with the adjacent Brooks Range, between 1906 and 1914.

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Leffingwell, Mikkelsen, and the members of their expedition became stranded on the coast of the Arctic Ocean when their schooner, the Duchess of Bedford, became ice-locked near Flaxman Island, 250 miles east of Pt. Barrow, the northernmost point of Alaska. While Leffingwell, Mikkelsen, and the ship’s physician, Dr. G.P. Howe, were exploring the coastline in March and April, 1907, the sailors in the expedition used wood from their badly-damaged ship to build a rough but serviceable cabin and other structures on Flaxman Island. For the next several years, Leffingwell stayed at the camp intermittently and conducted mapping projects with Inupiat guides, traveling by dog team in the winter and following the coastline in a small boat during the summer months

Leffingwell’s cabin and several other buildings on Flaxman Island still stand, and a sign was placed on them in 1971 by geologist C. G. Mull for the Alaska Division of Parks which states: “From this base camp geologist Ernest D.K. Leffingwell almost singlehandedly mapped Alaska’s Arctic coast during the years 1907-1914. He also identified the Sadlerochit – main reservoir of the Prudhoe Bay field.” In 1978 Leffingwell’s camp was listed as a National Historic Landmark.

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Leffingwell’s writings include many original journals and related papers from his expeditions. In 1909 he contributed to a book, Conquering the Arctic Ice, authored by his friend and expedition co-commander, Ejnar Mikkelsen (Philadelphia: G. W. Jacobs); in 1915 he wrote an article, “A Communication from Leffingwell,” for the University of Chicago Magazine; and in 1919 he authored a 247-page Professional Paper on the Canning River Region for the U.S. Geological Survey.

In Conquering the Arctic Ice Mikkelsen described buying dogs for the two-month exploratory expedition which he, Leffingwell, and Dr. Howe undertook in the spring of 1907: “Another serious question to be settled was that of the dogs, as several more of our pack had died, and some of those we had bought were useless. We had to get more and were willing to pay any price for them. We began at once to look about us for dogs in the possession of the Eskimos which we knew would stand us in good stead for the ones lost, but we had to pay exorbitant prices for them. For example, one which we bought from Kanara was paid for with two sacks of flour, 25 lbs. beans, 6 lbs. coffee, 20 lbs. dried potatoes, 12 lbs. cocoa, one shot-gun, 250 rounds of ammunition, and one broken-down tent; and another bought from Uxra with two sacks of flour, one sack of cornmeal, 5 lbs. coffee, 20 lbs. dried potatoes, 25 lbs. sugar, 4 lbs. prunes, 4 lbs. malted milk, 200 rounds of cartridges, and one hatchet file. The prices, as said above, were exorbitant, but the dogs were good, and what was more, we needed them.”

Joe Henderson is a dog musher and arctic traveler who has explored the remote regions of Alaska over the past 30 years with his intrepid team of twenty-two Alaskan Malamutes. During the winters of 2006-2008, Joe and his Malamutes made a series of unprecedented solo expeditions in the Brooks Range and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Pulling three sleds in tandem with two tons of supplies, Joe and the team mushed entirely unsupported for up to five months at a time without seeing another human being.

Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 2.25.41 PMHenderson’s expedition was a tribute to the “forgotten explorer,” Ernest de Koven Leffingwell. Traveling with Leffingwell’s journals as a guide, Joe covered much of the same country, camped in many of the same localities, and experienced some of the same weather and ground conditions that Leffingwell had a century before. On the third year of the expedition, Joe found Leffingwell’s cabin during a whiteout blizzard.

Joe kept a detailed journal of his travels, and he wrote a three-part series of articles for Mushing magazine which appeared in three issues from 2006 to 2008. An excerpt: “It always amazes me how much ground Leffingwell covered. Leffingwell, along with some local Inupiat assistants, had spent six winters and nine summers surveying, mapping and studying Alaska’s arctic environment. He traveled by dogteam or small boat over 4,500 miles, drew a sketch map of the entire coast between Point Barrow and the Canadian border, triangulated 150 miles of coast, and mapped the geographic features of 4,000 square miles of mainland. He also named several geologic formations, including the one that is the source of oil at the Prudhoe Bay oilfield. He journeyed 20,000 miles by ship, and he mentioned pitching camp 380 times! These are just a few of his extraordinary accomplishments.” [Joe Henderson, Retracing Leffingwell, Mushing Magazine, Nov/Dec, 2008]

Ernest de Koven Leffingwell was awarded the Patron’s Medal by the Royal Geographical Society and the Charles P. Daly Medal by the American Geographical Society, both in 1922. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree by Trinity College in 1923. Leffingwell Fork, a stream on Alaska’s North Slope, Leffingwell Crags in Canada’s Northwest Territories, and Leffingwell Nunatak in Greenland are named for him. When he died in 1971, he was believed to have been the oldest surviving polar explorer. ~•~

oie_26184625vRrFCP9HThis story is excerpted from Alaskan Sled Dog Tales, by Helen Hegener (Northern Light Media, 2016).

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