Travelers of the Trail • Seeking Shelter and A Warm Meal
W. 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:
“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.
The 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.
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).
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),
The 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. ~•~