School Days Delayed in Early Anchorage

When Land Office chief Andrew Christensen opened the auction for the townsite above Ship Creek on July 10, 1915, bidding became so brisk that prospective lot owners couldn’t hold down prices. After sales closed a week later, 655 lots had sold for almost $150,000 (more than $3.5 million in today’s dollars). Christensen claimed the sale […]

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Alaska history filled with law and order on high seas

A “floating court” of sorts evolved when justice was meted out from the decks of revenue cutters beginning in the late 1880s. And Capt. Michael A. Healy, commander in the U.S. Revenue Marine (precursor to the U.S. Coast Guard), became the first revenue cutter commander to make regular patrols into the harsh Arctic waters. He […]

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Juneau ‘Glory Hole’ yielded tons of Alaska gold

A gambler’s hunch compelled California mining magnate John Treadwell to purchase a claim near Juneau from “French Pete” for $400. That decision turned into the discovery of the famed “Glory Hole,” located on Douglas Island in Southeastern Alaska, in 1881. Treadwell Mine, which over time grew to use 900 stamps, became one of the largest […]

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Early Alaska railroader tunnels to Whittier

One of Anchorage’s earliest settlers carved a name for himself in the Last Frontier. Literally. Anton Anderson engineered the project that pierced through three miles of solid granite to open the Port of Whittier to the railbelt in Southcentral Alaska. Anderson began his Alaska Railroad career in 1915. “Tents without floors, pole bunks covered with […]

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Howard Rock’s light lives on

One of Alaska’s most respected men died this week in 1976. Howard Rock, editor of the Tundra Times newspaper, united Alaska’s Native people and helped lead them into the new world when crude oil and land claims dominated the news. In 1911, near the village of Tikigaq, Rock’s shaman grandmother predicted he would become a […]

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Seward’s Folly becomes U.S. Treasure

On April 9, 1867, by a margin of just one vote, the U.S. Senate voted to ratify the treaty to purchase Alaska from Russia. The purchase of the northern frontier was ridiculed by the press at the time and called “Seward’s folly,” “Seward’s icebox” and President Andrew Johnson’s “polar bear garden.” But its main architect, […]

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Russian settlement near Sitka attacked 1802

Scientists plan to travel to the Aleutian Chain of Alaska this summer to see if they can find evidence of a Russian attack on the Aleut people that happened 250 years ago. They will be looking for bullets and other artifacts that would confirm stories that have been passed down for generations. There have been […]

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Massive Earthquake Shakes Alaska in 1964

It began with a gentle roll on March 27, 1964. Then the ground surged. Waves, like those on water, rippled across the earth. Cracks up to 30 feet wide formed, and then snapped shut. People clutched light poles, parking meters and anything else they could grab to keep from being hurled to the ground. Few […]

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Exxon Valdez spills oil 25 years ago

One of the worst disasters of our lifetime happened 25 years ago this week in the pristine Prince William Sound. Under the command of Capt. Joseph Hazelwood, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground and spilled millions of gallons of crude into Alaska waters. Hazelwood placed a call to the U.S. Coast Guard at 12:27 […]

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First Anchorage Rendezvous brought loads of fur and fun

The streets of Anchorage came alive this past week with the 42nd Iditarod Trail race festivities and the 79th Fur Rendezvous. The Fur Rondy is a 10-day celebration, which includes winter sports, cultural activities and lots of fur auctions that delight all ages. Seventy-nine years ago a few fellows got together and decided it would […]

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Last surviving territorial governor dies at 94

The curtain closed on a chapter in Alaska history last week. Michael Anthony Stepovich, known as “Mike,” died on Friday – Valentine’s Day – at the age of 94. He was the last surviving territorial governor of Alaska. Born at St. Joseph Hospital in Fairbanks on March 12, 1919, Stepovich was the son of a […]

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The Voice of the Yukon

Robert Service would have been the first to call what he wrote verse – and he advised young men to “write verse, not poetry – the public wants verse.” Although this Englishman of Scottish ancestry spent most of his life in the New World in Canada, Alaskans adopted the poet of the Yukon, too. For […]

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First Anchorage mayor faced weighty issues

With all the recent talk about the nation’s leading lawmakers, and politics in general, I started thinking about the early movers and shakers in Alaska history. They had huge problems to deal with, too. For instance, Anchorage’s first mayor, elected on Nov. 29, 1920, bore the responsibility of governing a railroad town after five years […]

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