The James Expedition: Whitehorse Chronicles I

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Hundreds left on rafts going downriver or steamers going to Dawson City. In fall , the flood of miners leaving the Tanana Valley ended when major gold strikes were made north of Fairbanks. The gold was deeper than in the Klondike, and it had taken time to dig to it. By Christmas , there were between 1, and 1, miners in the valley.

Despite the food shortage, more buildings were constructed.


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The Northern Commercial Company built a store to replace Barnette's cabin, and Wickersham recorded a wide range of businesses, including houses and 1, people. The vote passed, and Barnette was sworn in as the city's first mayor on the next day. Barnette's first action as mayor was to write a letter to Washington, D.

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One of Barnette's brothers-in-law, James W. Hill, was given a year contract to provide electricity, drinking water, and steam heat to the city. Barnette opened the town's first bank on September 9, Low water on the Chena River prevented steamboats from reaching Fairbanks, so a railroad line was built from the Tanana River at Chena to Fairbanks and the mines north of town.

The river rose, flooding the town, and the bridge had to be dynamited to halt the flood. Joseph's , was built on the north bank of the Chena. Other schools were built on the north side of the Chena River, which was separate from town. In , the U.

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Army Signal Corps built a radio telegraph tower in town, replacing the cable telegraph system to Valdez and Seattle. Although he was found guilty of only one of 11 charges against him, Barnette had a poor reputation in Fairbanks. The accusations against Barnette were big news in a town that had little crime. Prostitution was restricted to a district separated from the rest of town by a wooden fence.

The "line," as it was known, operated until the s with the tacit approval of city authorities. As one miner recalled, not more than one man in carried a gun, and while fisticuffs were common, gunfights were not. Thousands more people lived in mining camps outside the city itself. Stores that sold to miners closed, as did those that supported the mines directly. A local judge later stated that the war "set Fairbanks back by 10 years" because it dried up construction and sent men overseas.


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Although Fairbanks was in decline, two major projects mitigated the worst effects of the post-gold rush slump: construction of the Alaska Railroad and the creation of the University of Alaska. In , L. Nadeau of the Northern Pacific Railroad predicted a railroad link to the ocean would allow gold miners to bring in heavy equipment and process large amounts of low-grade ore.

In , the Alaska Railroad purchased the Tanana Valley Railroad, which had suffered from the wartime economic problems. In , the town burned between 12, and 14, cords of wood, with the Northern Commercial Company owners of the power plant burning 8, cords alone. President Warren G.

History of Fairbanks, Alaska

Harding visited Fairbanks in as part of a trip to hammer in the ceremonial final spike of the railroad at Nenana. In , Wickersham gained approval of a bill funding the college from the 63rd United States Congress. On July 4, , acting "without the authority of law," he laid the cornerstone for the school. The site for the school was directly north of the U. The farm was a project by the U.

Department of Agriculture to explore the agricultural potential of Interior Alaska. Under the Homestead Act , many miners applied for grants of land from the federal government and established farms around the city.

A survey by the U. Geological Survey identified 94 homesteads within six miles of Fairbanks.

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Also listed were two tungsten mills and 16 gold mills. Agriculture in the area was spurred by food and fodder shortages during the winters of , , and Wickersham provided more funding for the experimental farm, the Tanana Valley Railroad provided free grain seed acquired from an experimental farm in Sweden, and William Fentress Thompson , editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner , wrote frequent editorials in favor of more farming.

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Farmers also created the Tanana Valley State Fair in to demonstrate their agricultural success. It is Alaska's oldest state fair and still operates today. A farmers' bank established in to provide loans for equipment purchases went out of business two years later, [87] and although the Alaska Railroad allowed for cheaper shipment of tractors and other agricultural equipment, it also permitted a steady supply of food shipments to Fairbanks. After the completion of the Alaska Railroad, it became economically feasible to bring in heavy equipment and build gold dredges to work the large amount of low-grade ore that remained after the Fairbanks Gold Rush.

This price increase encouraged mining and insulated Fairbanks from the Great Depression. In , Fairbanks' two-story school, built in , burned to the ground. On January 22, , the new school opened.

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Until , Fairbanks lacked paved streets. The town's dirt roads turned to dust in summer and thick mud in spring and fall, causing problems as Fairbanks' population grew in the s. Collins , proposed using a federal grant and city bonds to pave the roads, but he was turned down by voters.

The next year, he tried again and was successful. By , the first 0. About the time of the completion of the Alaska Railroad and the beginning of the dredging era in Fairbanks, Alaska's aviation industry began to take off. The first airplane flight in Alaska took place in Fairbanks on July 4, , when a barnstormer flew from a field south of town. The pilot subsequently tried to sell the aircraft, but had no takers. Given Alaska's limited road and rail infrastructure, the territorial government saw the advantages of aerial transport.

Between that year and , more than 20 airfields were built. By , Alaska had more than Wiley Post 's solo circumnavigation stopped in Fairbanks, as did Howard Hughes ' effort. Military flights also used Fairbanks as a base. In , the first flight from the continental United States to Alaska used Fairbanks as a base. In reality, the bombers flew photographic missions intended to scout locations for military airfields to be built in the territory. In his final public appearance, U.

Army General Billy Mitchell said, "I believe that, in the future, whoever holds Alaska will hold the world I think it is the most important strategic place in the world. In the first winter after the dedication, soldiers practiced flying and servicing aircraft in subzero weather conditions. More than 1, workers, [] most of whom were hired from outside Alaska, worked on the project through Fairbanks received word of the attack on Pearl Harbor via civilian shortwave radio operators who passed the news to the U. Army base. Ladd Field's cold-weather testing detachment was disbanded as its soldiers were used to bolster Alaska defenses at other locations.

During summer , more soldiers arrived in Fairbanks to replace those moved away from town. Fairbanks residents were drafted to work at Ladd Field because the U. Army believed Alaskans were best experienced in cold-weather work. Army was placed in wartime control of the Alaska Territory, all newspapers and letters to and from Fairbanks were censored. To alleviate shortages and supply the war effort, the U. Army and the Canadian government began construction of the Alaska Highway , which connected the Canadian road network to Alaska's Richardson Highway and Fairbanks.

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