July-August, 2020

The July-August, 2020 issue is now available to read online at Issuu, and print copies are available for adding to your library collection.

This July-August issue of Alaskan History Magazine features the following articles:

• Septima M. Collis, author of A Woman’s Trip to Alaska, about her historically informative voyage through Alaska’s Inside Passage in 1890.

• Gavriil Andreevich Sarychev, a Russian sea captain who mapped much of the Aleutians. 

• Pioneer Farmers of the Matanuska Valley, the hardy souls who blazed the way in agriculture for south central Alaska.

• SS Dora, the doughty little sailing ship which carried mail, freight and passengers through some of Alaska’s roughest waters for close to half a century.

• C. C. Georgeson, the Special Agent in charge of developing Alaska Agricultural Experiment Stations in Sitka, Kodiak, Rampart, Copper Center and elsewhere.

• Bicycles in Frontier Alaska, telling how two-wheeled adventurers rode in summer and winter, on local trips or journeying across the territory.

Special Feature in this issue: Gov. George Parks’ 1928 Airplane Tour of Alaska

Click here to order a print edition:

July-August, 2020

The July-August issue of Alaskan History Magazine, Volume 2, Number 4.


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Hudson Stuck’s Sled Bag

Ten Thousand Miles by Hudson StuckThe Episcopalian minister Hudson Stuck, known as the Archdeacon of the Yukon, published five books about his travels and adventures in Alaska, including Ten Thousand Miles with a Dog Sled, published in 1914.

In that book the photograph below appears, and a sled bag can be seen hanging from the handlebars. That sled bag is on permanent display at the University of Alaska Museum of the North in Fairbanks.

sledbag final

“Rough ice on the Yukon.”

The entire book is available to read online at Project Gutenberg, the photograph appears on page 335.

The catalog record for Hudson Stuck’s sled bag was shared with me by Patrick Dean, who is researching the history of the archdeacon’s life. That record includes a beautiful full-color image of the bag, along with details about it:

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Link to original. Photo credit: Barry J. McWayne, March 25, 2006.

07/28/04: Overall condition is good. Top of piece: Overall soiling, Decorated half – some stitches broken with beads missing, beads missing from edge, fading discoloration of yarn tassels, some tassels appear to be missing, Undecorated half – soiled, warble fly holes (near red cloth strip), fading and abrasion; Underside: some abrasions, stains (red, brown, black), general soil and grime.

culture of origin: Athabascan, Gwich’in [Angela Linn, 2020-06-19]

culture of use: non-Native 

description: Smoked moosehide; 52.7 cm (20 3/4″) x 47.6 cm (18 3/4″) widest point; heavy leather strap with metal buckle at top; front flap is 44.5 cm (17 1/2″) x 46.4 cm (18 1/4″); edged with red cotton material/white seed beads; beads on sides & bottom; some missing; inside of cloth edging is 2.54 cm (1″) strip of blue and white seed beads in triangle pattern; elaborate floral designs and large shield in center; has red cross with blue anchor on it. “HAEREO” at bottom of shield; 15 tassels of trade beads and wool around edge of flap; some missing. Carried on handlebars at back of sled.
materials: Moosehide, smoked Beads, glass Textile Metal
Used by Archdeacon Hudson Stuck (died 1920). Left at St. Stephan’s mission by Dr. Grafton Burke. There is a photograph showing this pouch in use on a sled in Stuck’s book (published 1914), Ten Thousand Miles With a Dogteam. *On perm. exhibit; Interior Gallery, beadwork. Removed from INT08, July 2004. *Selected for RBAAG. “HAEREO” is Latin and translates to “I Stick”, which was Hudson Stuck’s personal motto.

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Alaskan Roadhouses

Alaskan RoadhousesAlaskan Roadhouses: Shelter, Food and Lodging Along Alaska’s Roads and Trails, by Helen Hegener

This 284-page book presents historic photos of dozens of individual roadhouses, along with the colorful histories are first-hand accounts of those who stayed at the roadhouses while traveling the early trails and roads of Alaska, including the Reverend Samuel Hall Young, Frank G. Carpenter, Judge James Wickersham, Leonhard Seppala, Col. Walter L. Goodwin, and Matilda Clark Buller, who opened a roadhouse near Nome in 1901, at the height of the Nome Gold Rush.

The following description is from Jim Reardan’s book, Sam O. White, Alaskan: Tales of a Legendary Wildlife Agent and Bush Pilot [Graphic Arts Books, 2014]:

Teams at Tonsina Roadhouse on the Valdez-to-Fairbanks Trail

Teams at Tonsina Roadhouse on the Valdez-to-Fairbanks Trail

“A man named Ohlson ran the Lone Star Roadhouse between Minchumina and McGrath. He had been a dog team driver, trapper, and prospector until old age caught up with him. He then settled down to winters in his roadhouse on the Fairbanks-McGrath trail, where he cooked and cared for overnight travelers. His supplies arrived in the spring to be put on the only boat that would take them to Lake Minchumina. There they remained at Minchumina until October when a dog team could freight them to Lone Star over the trail. Hotcakes, bacon, coffee and two eggs (if you were man enough to take ’em before they took you) was $2.50. There was also moose and caribou stew, which was always good. At $2.50 per meal this was not at all out of line when considering the distance and transportation involved in getting the supplies there.”

Alaskan Roadhouses

"Alaskan Roadhouses, Shelter, Food, and Lodging Along Alaska's Roads and Trails," by Helen Hegener, published by Northern Light Media in 2016. 6" x 9", over 100 black/white photographs, 284 pages. $24.95 plus $5.00 for First Class shipping.


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Alaskan History Magazine News

M:J 2020 cover smallAlaskan History Magazine, published bimonthly by Northern Light Media, will continue publication in a digital format, available to read or download free, with print editions available as single issues. At this time subscriptions are not available.

For details, see the Alaskan History Magazine website.

The back issues are available to read free at the premier digital publications site, issuu.  Print issues can be ordered from Northern Light Media, $12.00 each postpaid.

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Small M:J cover

Alaskan History Magazine has been suspended for an indeterminate length of time. With only one year of publication, Alaskan History Magazine has been too fragile to survive the catastrophic impact of the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic. Back issues are still available. For more information click here.

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Leonhard Seppala House

SeppalaBanner4-2(1)An update on the Leonhard Seppala House in Nome:
Resized_20180612_224232The Leonhard Seppala House was named as one of the Ten Most Endangered Historic Properties for 2020 by the Alaska Association for Historic Preservation, Inc., which is dedicated to the preservation of Alaska’s prehistoric and historic resources through education, promotion and advocacy. Preservation of the built environment provides a vital link and visible reminder of the past, emphasizing the continuity and diversity of Alaska.

AAHP aids in historic preservation projects across Alaska and monitors and supports legislation to promote historic preservation, serving as a liaison between local, statewide, and national historic preservation groups.

Leonhard Seppala House Property Description: The building itself is fully intact but in need of total repair. Logs used for foundation are badly rotted and need replaced. Tin roof is over 50 years old and bend and peeled back and needs replaced. Doors have been off the building and entrance has been boarded shut with plywood as are the windows. So these will need to be redone. The clapboard side is original and shows sign of wear from being wind blown and OLD but useable to show originality of the facility. Interior needs total restoration and since no electric is there, it will need to be added, as will a bathroom, and everything brought up to code.
Screen Shot 2020-04-25 at 10.02.02 PMProperty history: This is the house that Leonhard Seppala lived in while he was in Nome Alaska during the 1925 Diptheria Epidemic that threated the population of Nome. It was also the house that Leonhard lived in while he owned Balto, Togo and Fritz; the dogs that ran the famed Serum Race to Nome.
Why is property endangered? It has been vacant for a decade and not well kept. It was set for demolition by the City of Nome due to it becoming a fire hazard and a place for homeless to hang out.
Screen Shot 2020-04-25 at 10.42.53 PMActivities under way to save property: In July of 2018, the owner of the building; Urtha Lenharr set up a non profit, raised some funds thru donations and Nome City Share funds to have the building moved to a safe location keeping it from demolition. It is now being assessed for material needed to rebuild the structure and bring it up to Nome City Codes for a small museum in honor of Seppala and his accomplishments. The building will need a full restoration and relocation when finished.It is our goal to do this project in phases.
• Phase one was to save the structure from being destroyed.
• Phase two is to assess what is needed to start restoration.
• Phase three is to start gathering State, Federal, Local, and Individual contributions together to see of we can afford materials.
• Next Phase would be to establish a volunteer base to start.
defaultLeonhard Seppela was born in Skibotn, Norway on September 14, 1877. Seppala was brought to Nome by one of the famous Three Swedes, who founded gold near Anvil Mountain; Jafet Linderberg. In June of 1900, Leohard arrived in Nome.Leonhard Seppala is known for his infamous leaders: Togo, Balto, and Fritz. When Diptheria hit the costal village of Nome in 1925 and there was no way to get the life saving serum by boat or plane, Sepp was instrumental in organizing the Serum Run to Nome by Dog Team. With planes not running the only way to get the medicine to Nome was by ship from Seattle to Seward and then rail it from Seward to Nenana. Twenty dog teams had established a route to race it across the Seward Peninsula to Nome. Although Sepps dog, Balto (with dog driver, Gunner Kassan) brought the serum down the streets of Nome and received all the credit, Sepps’s lead dog, Togo actually ran Leonhard’s team the furtherest and the fastest during the grueling relay.
To see all of the 2020 Endangered Historic Properties, visit the Alaska Association for Historic Preservation, Inc. at https://alaskapreservation.org/gallery/ten-most-endangered-historic-properties/2020-ten-most-endangered-historic-properties/
The Leonhard Seppala House file:
Seppala Business Card 1
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Rt. Rev. Peter Trimble Rowe


Peter Trimble Rowe 420

Peter Trimble Rowe
by Harris & Ewing.
Vintage bromide print, circa 1900s.

 The Right Reverend Peter Trimble Rowe D.D. (1856-1942), appointed first Missionary Bishop of the Espicopal Church in Alaska in 1895, crossed the Chilkoot Trail and tended the medical needs of the Klondike gold miners and the Native peoples, eventually founding hospitals, churches, and boarding schools throughout the territory.


Known as “the Trail Breaker,” Bishop Rowe traveled extensively across his vast diocese via dogsled in winter, in boats during the summer, and inspired his colleague, Hudson Stuck, Archdeacon of the Yukon, to publish three books dedicated in part to combating the exploitation of the Native peoples of Alaska.

Screen Shot 2020-05-05 at 4.02.46 PMA biography, The Man of Alaska: Peter Trimble Rowe (New York: Morehouse Gorham Co., 1945), was written by his friend, the Rt. Rev. Thomas Jenkins, who spent many years in Alaska under Bishop Rowe. The book covers the period of Alaska’s expansion, beginning with the Klondike gold rush in 1896 and ending around 1935. Rowe died in Victoria, British Columbia, in 1942.

Time magazine, December 4, 1939


“The Right Rev. Peter T. Rowe, Protestant Episcopal Bishop of Alaska, Who Protests Against the Treatment of the North Accorded by the Federal Government.” January 1, 1911. [Photographer unknown. Photo:  Alaska-Yukon Magazine, March, 1911.] 


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The Alabama Claims


Tzar Alexander II’s ratification of the Treaty

There is a wealth of Alaskan history in the old books and documents which are digitized and online, available to read, download, save to your Kindle or other device, or otherwise enjoy in multiple formats. The Library of Congress has an astonishing collection of historic documents, as expected, including Alaska-specific volumes such as the Treaty concerning the cession of the Russian possessions in North America by His Majesty the emperor of all the Russias to the United States of America (1867), a 1967 facsimile of the limited official edition of the original Treaty of Cession. You can read the text-only version over at the Yale Law Library, or in the Harvard Classics at Bartleby, and there’s a transcribed photo version at the Alaska State Library.


The signing of the Alaska Treaty of Cessation on March 30, 1867. L–R: Robert S. Chew, William H. Seward, William Hunter, Mr. Bodisco, Eduard de Stoeckl, Charles Sumner, and Frederick W. Seward.

The history behind the treaty was reported on the front page of newspapers across the U.S., such as this leading article from The New York Tribune for April 1, 1867 (top of the fifth column). The history is also well explained at Wikipedia: “The Alaska Purchase (Russian: Продажа Аляски, tr. Prodazha Alyaski, Sale of Alaska) was the United States’ acquisition of Alaska from the Russian Empire. Alaska was formally transferred to the United States on October 18, 1867, through a treaty ratified by the United States Senate and signed by President Andrew Johnson.”

The article continues with the history, public opinion about the purchase, the transfer ceremony, the aftermath, and much more, including their always-valuable references, further reading, and external links. While some people dismiss Wikipedia itself as a resource, I find the additional resources Wikipedia freely shares to be of utmost value, and the best reason to keep it among my bookmarked research sources. As an example, a linked reference under See Also led me to the “Alabama Claims, the US demands for British reparations after the Civil War, which Seward thought would lead to the cession of western Canada.”


Painting of the CSS Alabama

I’d heard the term before, but I didn’t know the history, so I was surprised to learn that our Secretary Seward had higher aims than just Alaska: “The Alabama Claims were a series of demands for damages sought by the government of the United States from the United Kingdom in 1869, for the attacks upon Union merchant ships by Confederate Navy commerce raiders built in British shipyards during the American Civil War. The claims focused chiefly on the most famous of these raiders, the CSS Alabama, which took more than sixty prizes before she was sunk off the French coast in 1864.”


Sen. Charles Sumner, MA

“Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, the chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, originally wanted to ask for $2 billion in damages, or alternatively, the ceding of Canada to the United States. When American Secretary of State William H. Seward negotiated the Alaska Purchase in 1867, he intended it as the first step in a comprehensive plan to gain control of the entire northwest Pacific Coast. Seward was a firm believer in “Manifest Destiny”, primarily for its commercial advantages to the United States. Seward expected the West Coast Province of British Columbia to seek annexation to the United States and thought Britain might accept this in exchange for the Alabama claims. Soon other U.S. politicians endorsed annexation, with the goal of annexing British Columbia, the central Canadian Red River Colony (later Manitoba), and eastern Nova Scotia, in exchange for dropping the damage claims.”


US Secretary of State William H. Seward

It’s all quite fascinating, and if you’ve read this far you should click here and read the entire article to learn why the claim was dropped without our annexing a large part of Canada. There are also many interesting links to references, a bibliography, and external links which lead to books, articles, newspaper accounts, and much more. One link took me to another particularly interesting online book, Great Britain and the American Civil War, and another to a detailed breakdown of the Alabama Claims and their “final and amicable settlement,” written in 1871.

In my opinion the best book about the entire affair is the 1900 book written by Thomas Willing Balch titled simply The Alabama Arbitration. It is available to read or download free at The Internet Archive.

There are also good articles at:

• History.com

•  Office of the Historian for the U.S. Department of State

JSTOR “The arbitration which led to this result has been described as one which, whether measured by the gravity of the questions at issue or by the enlightened statesmanship which conducted them to a peaceful determination, was justly regarded as the greatest the world had ever seen.” -JB Moore, History and Digest of the International Arbitrations to which the United States has been a Party (Washington, 1898)

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Alabama sinks the whaler Virginia 

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Togo’s Serum Run


Leonhard Seppala and Togo

As the worldwide fight against the coronavirus goes on we are reminded almost daily that pandemics and epidemics have happened before, and we have struggled through them with far fewer resources and much less medical and scientific knowledge than we have now. That is a very real comfort, and lends a bit of perspective to what we are facing. One such epidemic was a deadly diphtheria outbreak which raged across Alaska almost 100 years ago.

The gold rush town of Nome was still the largest town in the northern half of Alaska in 1925, with a population of around 1,500 souls. When the Bering Sea froze over the only link to the rest of the world was the Iditarod Trail, which ran 938 miles from the port of Seward, across several mountain ranges and through the vast Interior of the territory before reaching Nome. Mail and supplies were customarily transported by train to Nenana, and then freighted by dog team 675 miles from Nenana to Nome, a journey which normally took 25 days.


Nome, Alaska, 1925

In January, 1925, the town’s only doctor, Dr. Curtis Welch, witnessed a series of alarming deaths of his young patients, and on January 22 he sent the following telegram to Governor Scott Bone in Juneau, and to all the major towns in Alaska: “An epidemic of diphtheria is almost inevitable here STOP I am in urgent need of one million units of diphtheria antitoxin STOP Mail is only form of transportation STOP I have made application to Commissioner of Health of the Territories for antitoxin already STOP There are about 3000 white natives in the district.”


“Togo” L. Seppala’s Racing leader – Nome Serum Run

By January 24 there were two more fatalities, and at a meeting of the board of health that same day, superintendent Mark Summers of the Hammon Consolidated Gold Fields proposed a dogsled relay, using two fast teams. One would start at Nenana and the other at Nome, and they would meet at Nulato. The trip from Nenana to Nome normally took 30 days, although the record was nine. Welch calculated that the serum would only last six days under the brutal conditions of the trail. Summers’ employee, the Norwegian Leonhard Seppala, was chosen for the 630-mile round trip from Nome to Nulato and back. He had previously made the run from Nome to Nulato in a record-breaking four days, won the All-Alaska Sweepstakes three times, and had become something of a legend for his athletic ability and rapport with his Siberian huskies. His lead dog, the 12-year-old Togo, was equally famous for his leadership, intelligence, and ability to sense danger.

Nome Mayor Maynard proposed flying the antitoxin by aircraft, but the only planes operating in Alaska in 1925 were three vintage biplanes which were dismantled for the winter, had open cockpits, and had water-cooled engines that were unreliable in cold weather. While potentially quicker, the board of health rejected the aircraft option and voted unanimously for the dogsled relay. Seppala was notified that evening and immediately started preparations for the trip. While the first batch of serum was traveling to Nenana, Governor Bone gave final authorization to the dog relay, but ordered Edward Wetzler, the U.S. Post Office inspector, to arrange a relay of the best drivers and dogs across the Interior; the majority of the relay mushers selected were native Athabaskan U.S. mail carriers, widely acknowledged to be the best dog mushers in Alaska. The teams would travel day and night until they handed off the package to Seppala at Nulato.


Map of the Serum Run from The Cruelest Miles, by Gay and Laney Salisbury (W.W.Norton & Co., 2003)

The mail route from Nenana to Nome followed the Tanana River for 137 miles to the junction with the Yukon River, and then followed the Yukon for 230 miles to Kaltag. The route turned west, 90 miles over the Kaltag Portage to Unalakleet on the shore of Norton Sound, then continued for 208 miles northwest around the southern shore of the Seward Peninsula and 42 harrowing miles across the shifting ice of the Bering Sea, for a total distance of 675 miles.

The serum transfer points were Tolovana, Manley Hot Springs, Fish Lake, Tanana, Kallands, Nine Mile Cabin, Kokrines, Ruby, Whiskey Creek, Galena, Bishop Mountain, Nulato, Kaltag, Old Woman Shelter, Unalakleet, Shaktoolik, Golovin, Bluff, and Nome. And all along the trail were roadhouses which gave the drivers brief opportunity to warm the serum and themselves: the Tolovana Roadhouse, the Minto roadhouse, the Manley Roadhouse, the Eskimo Roadhouse at Isaac’s Point, Shaktoolik Roadhouse, Dexter’s Roadhouse, the Olson Roadhouse, the Solomon Roadhouse, the Bluff Roadhouse, the Port Safety Roadhouse. Links in a thin chain winding across northwestern Alaska, providing brief intervals of safety and protection to the mushers and their dogs.


Leonhard Seppala’s racing Siberian Husky team

The story of the 1925 Serum Run was detailed in a bestselling book by cousins Gay and Laney Salisbury, The Cruelest Miles (W.W. Norton & Co., 2003), but the most compelling recounting was given in a book which had been written 73 years earlier, by the famous Alaskan musher Leonhard Seppala, who carried the serum over the treacherous ice of Norton Sound. This is an excerpt from the final chapter of Seppala: Alaskan Dog Driver, by Elizabeth Ricker (Little, Brown & Co., 1930), which Seppala wrote as a tribute to his intrepid lead dog, Togo:

The Commissioner had asked me to get off without delay. He explained that such serum as they had was several years old, and with the epidemic steadily increasing they were in dire need of a new supply. I singled the dogs out one by one; naturally not one wanted to be left behind. Twenty were chosen. I planned to drop some of them off along the way, to be cared for at Eskimo igloos until the return trip, when we could substitute the fresh dogs for the tired ones. Also, if any of them showed any signs of weakness or sore feet, they would have a chance to rest up and be in good condition for the home stretch. I intended to leave twelve dogs by the way, arriving in Nulato with a team of eight. I should hardly need more, as I was told the package containing the serum was very light. With fresh reinforcement on the way back I should be able to drive day and night. Thus I picked out the twenty best dogs, though at the time all were on their best behavior, raising their paws politely and pleading to be taken. A dog named Fox was left as leader for the cull team, which was to continue hauling supplies during our absence and was composed of dogs too slow to be of much use in a fast run.

The people of Nome gave us a great send-off. They knew it was a long, hazardous trip, and they realized what a word of encouragement would mean. The first day we made about thirty-three miles, and from then on the team warmed up to the work and averaged fifty miles and over every day. We passed two villages where there were government schools for Eskimo children, and I told the teachers about the epidemic, advising them to close the school, to keep the children in quarantine, and away from people passing from Nome.


Dogteam crossing Norton Sound.

We were lucky in having favorable weather, and the trails were at their best. According to plan, some of the dogs were left along the way to be cared for while the rest of us pushed on. On the third day we arrived at Isaac’s Point, where we stopped with an Eskimo family, having covered a hundred and thirty miles since leaving Nome. The next day we started off for Shaktoolik, a native village on the south side of the Bay. It was late by the time we set out over the ice of Norton Bay. We could see it was blowing hard out on the Bay, and with the north wind at our backs we were sure to make good time. The team would deserve a good rest at the end of the day, and surely I should welcome it as well as the dogs. Having crossed the ice, and being just in sight of our destination for the day, we scented another dog team and struck out with a great spurt. As we came up I could see that the driver was busy refereeing a dog fight. With a word of greeting to the man, I was about to pass by when he called to me. In the wind, and with my parka hood up over my ears, I got only three words” “serum–turn back.”

I thought I must have misunderstood, but when I looked back over my shoulder I saw the other driver waving his arm. I called to Togo to “gee,” but he couldn’t. The other dogs were still on the spurt, and I had to run about a mile further on before I could slow the team down and turn them. We came to a stretch of hard snow, where I was able to get the dogs under control. Though they hated to, they followed Togo. When we reached the other team a package was tossed into my sled and the stranger handed me a paper which proved to be the instructions accompanying the serum. The young dogs in my team began acting disgracefully, wanting to pick a quarrel with the strange team. Their driver explained that after I had passed out of telephone communication the epidemic had increased so alarmingly that the officials had decided to speed the serum by short relays running night and day. Thus I had reached the serum after traveling only a hundred and seventy miles, instead of the three hundred for which I had originally planned.

We had had a hard day, covering forty-three miles with the wind at our backs. But the return was even harder. The gale was in our faces, the temperature was thirty below, and we had the forty-three miles to do over again in the dark. There was nothing for it but to face the music. The dogs did their best, and I drove as if we were in a race. The ice of Norton Sound is notoriously treacherous: it has a habit of shifting and breaking up, so that before travelers know it they have gone for miles on a loose ice-cake with open water on all sides, slowly but surely being blown out into the Bering Sea.

In spite of these unpleasant prospects, we managed to reach Isaac’s Point, and after a drive of nearly ninety miles the team were grateful for a brief rest in a comfortable kennel. They were wild for their rations of salmon and seal blubber. After they were fed I went into the igloo and read over the instructions. They called for the serum to be warmed up at each station. Accordingly I pulled the sled inside, and undid the fur and canvas wrapped around the package. I found the serum was sealed up in paper cartons, and as I saw nothing about breaking the seals I instructed the Eskimo to make the igloo good and hot and left the package exposed to the heat. As I looked it over and felt of it I was convinced that if it was a liquid it must have been frozen in the severe cold, though we had protected it as well as possible. I doubted if the heat could penetrate the paper cartons, but I had taken off the last wrapping which I was authorized to touch.

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.” I thanked him and followed his suggestion, taking a trail further in. At that, we came within a few feet of open water, as the trail over which we had traveled only the day before had broken off and drifted far out into the Bering Sea.

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Nome, Alaska

During the afternoon we pulled into Cheenik Village, where another driver was waiting with his relay team. We had traveled in all three hundred and forty miles in the interest of the serum. No other relay made more than fifty-three miles. After delivering the package to the driver at Cheenik, a tired driver and dogs all had a good rest until the next day, when we drove to Solomon and then on into Nome. When we arrived there the whole town seemed to be out to meet us. It was like the winner’s reception after a Sweepstakes race.

News of the diptheria had found its way to the outside papers, and in the States the teams were being followed from day to day by the press. They had become heroes while they were peacefully going on their way, totally unconscious that they were headliners in the press. The last relay team landed the serum in Nome at six o-clock on the morning of the second of February, 1925.

The Serum Drive was Togo’s last long run. In that drive he had worked the hardest and best. I appreciated this, and tried to take the best possible care of the old dog. Togo, in his sixteenth year, seemed content to rest on his laurels. He even posed without fuss for a photograph with his cups and trophies, perhaps imagining himself as he was in the old days. It seemed best to leave him where he could be pensioned and enjoy a well-earned rest. But it was a sad parting on a cold gray March morning when Togo raised a small paw to my knee as if questioning why he was not going along with me. For the first time in twelve years I hit the trail without Togo.


The 1925 serum run to Nome was also known as the Great Race of Mercy, was a 675 mile dog team relay of diphtheria antitoxin, accomplished by 20 mushers and about 150 sled dogs in only five and a half days, saving the community of Nome from a deadly epidemic. The race became both the most famous event in the history of mushing and the last hurrah for a unique means of transportation which had played a vital role in opening the vast northern territory of Alaska to the world.

Alaskan Sled Dog Tales

Alaskan Sled Dog Tales, True Stories of the Steadfast Companions of the North Country, by Helen Hegener, details the stories of mushers and their dog teams in early Alaska, the explorers, the scientists, the racers, and the long-distance drivers hauling freight, mail, passengers, and gold. Published in 2016 by Northern Light Media. 320 pages, 6′ x 9″ b/w format, includes maps, charts, bibliography, indexed. $24.95 plus $5.00 for First Class shipping.



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A People at Large


Copper-TintsThe following is a chapter from a slim book titled Copper-Tints: A Book of Cordova Sketches, by Katherine Wilson, illustrated by Eustace P. Ziegler, and published in 1923 by the Cordova Daily Times Press.

A People at Large

That more or less indefinite region north of the Yukon known as the Chandalar Country owes its name to one given by the early French-Canadian traders of the Hudson’s Bay Company to the singular native tribes that ranged there. Because these came from none knew where, recognizing no boundaries and taking to themselves no local designations, they were called gens de large––people at large. With peculiar fitness the name applies to all Alaskans, for in more ways than one we are a people at large. Coming from everywhere, we go vagrantly here and there, ranging over a great area. A vast country is ours, and in appropriating it to ourselves we recognize no local limitations. Perhaps this is nowhere more true than with us of the Copper River Delta and Prince William Sound. Here, midway of all adventurings into and out of the Territory, from contact and habit we think in terms of far places. And so, in our common concerns we speak an itinerant tongue.


by Eustace P. Ziegler, 1922

To us, all the world is divided into two parts: Alaska and Elsewhere. And in reference to either, one talks in none but generalities. That portion of the globe which in a definite and specific way stands for civilization must never be specifically named; far too remote and magical is it for that! Seattle, San Francisco, New York, are never referred to as such, but with grandiose cosmopolitanism as “The Outside.”

Similarly, the country to the north in any direction is “The Interior.” The Tanana, the Koyukuk, the Iditarod, the Kuskokwim or the Porcupine Country, each a remote and vasty section of the great Territory, is definitely enough, Inside. And so with Coast destinations. En route to Anchorage or Kodiak, Nushagak or St. Michaels, a difference of a thousand miles or two one way or the other calls for no special designation; one journeys nonchalantly “to The Westward.” Even a jaunt to Juneau or Ketchikan is “to the Panhandle.” Speaking judiciously, the terms may be varied by reference to the First, Second, or Fourth Division. But to particularize on their respective centers as Sitka, Nome or Fairbanks is to confess a perspective unworthy of any but a chechako!


by Eustace P. Ziegler, 1922

Long accustomed to measure his journeys by the hundred miles, his time by weeks and months, the real Alaskan is aware only of magnificent distances. Excursions by canoe and dog-team through regions noted only for their part in leading to the place he is bound for, have evolved in him but a passing interest in way-stations. It is a habit of years, which the coming of rapid transit and the consequent shrinking of space have failed to alter. A few hours’ trip by railway to Chitina, Strelna or Kennekott is invariably a run “up the Line,” while to continue to Gulkana or Paxson’s Roadhouse, even by automobile, is to go in ‘over The Trail.” By the same incorrigible vagrancy have the very railway stations been tagged, the place at which the trains stops to take on water or let off a lone prospector bound for his diggings being denoted no more specifically than as Mile 39, Mile 72, or Mile 115!

The truth is that there is an engaging picturesqueness about all this. Alaskan names are in themselves all compact of romance. Traces left by the geography of early navigators and the mixed jargon of sealers and whalers, the marks of the Muskovite and the Oriental, remain in the nomenclature of a land that was an Eldorado long before the Pilgrims stepped on Plymouth Rock. Always the Mecca of adventurers, the country is permeated with the tang of the Seven Seas. To this the modern Alaskan instinctively reacts, his own inordinate love of the wilderness plunging him naturally into the language of Vagabondia.


by Eustace P. Ziegler, 1922

How long will this continue, who knows? The land is fast taking on the meagerness of civilization. Into it is coming the settler with his stationary mind, his paucity of imagination. And so, in the not too distant future we may see certain transformations. We, too, may have our Smith’s Coves, our Jonesville Crossings, our Schaefer’s Creeks; our Christianias, New Warsaws. Already the signs appear. But for a little while yet the land is ours. And until progress claims it for its own, it is our delight in our speech of it to indulge the inborn romanticism of the pioneer.

~from Copper-Tints: A Book of Cordova Sketches, by Katherine Wilson, illustrated by Eustace P. Ziegler, and published in 1923 by the Cordova Daily Times Press.

The entire book can be read at this Google Books link.

More stories of northland history can be found in:

Alaska and the Klondike: Early Writings and Historic Photographs

"Alaska & the Klondike: Early Writings and Historic Photographs," compiled and edited by Helen Hegener, published in May, 2018 by Northern Light Media. 320 pages, over 100 b/w photos, ISBN-13: 978-1717401991. $24.95 plus $5.00 First Class shipping.



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