• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
2m 18s

Story Time with Aunt Phil: Founding Fairbanks

By Laurel Downing Bill 11:10 AM July 17, 2017

During the gold-rush heyday, communities like Girdwood, Hope and Circle City teemed with thousands of hopeful fortune seekers. But as stampeders’ desires for golden riches turned into the reality of lost dreams, most gold-rush boomtowns dwindled into little more than faded memories.

A discovery in July 1902 birthed a gold rush town that has stood the test of time, however. Fairbanks can trace its roots to one merchant, Elbridge Truman Barnette, a man who wanted to position himself as a supplier of goods to those who sought their fortunes.

But, the Golden Heart City, located on the Chena River, didn’t begin as a well-thought-out plan from a previous gold discovery. It began as a wilderness trading post set up in the wrong place at the wrong time of year.

Barnette heard of plans to build an “all-American route” railroad to reach the Klondike gold fields from Valdez to Fort Egbert at Eagle on the Yukon River. He knew that the railroad builders would have to construct a bridge to get across the river at Tanana Crossing – Tanacross – where the Interior’s main trail met the Tanana River.

He also knew that the way to riches was to sell supplies to workers and miners. Barnette decided to set up a trading post and asked Charles W. Adams, captain of the 150-foot steamer Lavelle Young, to get him as close to Tanacross as possible.

Adams told Barnette he didn’t know of any steamboat that had gone up the Tanana because of its impassable rapids. But the captain negotiated a contract that included a clause stating Barnette, his wife, Isabelle, his workers and all their freight would be put off at the farthest point the boat could reach – wherever that point might be.

Due to low water, they made it about 200 miles shy of Tanacross. Barnette then convinced the captain to go up the Chena. But it wasn’t long before shallow water stopped progress again.

In late August 1901, the captain unloaded the group and all their supplies along the south bank. Prospectors – who’d seen the steamer chug up the Chena – paid the camp a visit. Felix Pedro and Tom Gilmore told Barnette they had found “prospects” on several nearby creeks.

So Barnette went ahead and built his trading post on a one-acre site on the riverbank between modern-day Barnette and Cushman streets. By the next July, Pedro had discovered a large quantity of gold on a small creek 12 miles north of Barnette’s trading post. The rest is history, as we say. Fairbanks grew out of that gold discovery and a trader who wanted to go to Tanacross.

Latest Stories

  • News

    Mat-Su Borough requests ownership of more than 500 acres of state tidelands

    by Steffi Lee on Jul 21, 22:12

    This past winter, when Japanese-based company Resources Energy Inc. pulled out of its plans to build a liquified natural gas plant at the Port MacKenzie, the bad news came as a shock. But Mat-Su Borough officials aren’t giving up. “We are in many discussions, but we haven’t nailed anything down just yet,” Borough manager John […]

  • News

    Inside the Gates: PTSD service dog guards the Guardian Angels

    by Bonney Bowman on Jul 21, 22:06

    Every job has its stresses, but for the Pararescuemen of the Alaska Air National Guard 212th Rescue Squadron, their job is life and death. They have a special tool they use to cope with the worst days: a PTSD service dog. The dog, a chocolate lab, is named TOML. The acronym stands for “That Others […]

  • Lifestyle

    Rule change over feathers allows Alaskan Native artists to sprout wings

    by Dave Leval on Jul 21, 19:52

    Perry Eaton works on his latest art work. “The Spirit of the Halibut” is the latest mask made by the Kodiak native in his Mountain View studio. Eaton is Alutiiq. The feathers are one of the key parts to this project. “The majority of them are turkey feathers,” Eaton said, as he explained the feathers […]

  • Politics

    Alaska’s credit rating is now third worst in the nation. What does that mean?

    by Liz Raines on Jul 21, 19:45

    Alaska Lawmakers have yet to pass a long-term budget plan. Without one, Alaska went from having the highest credit rating in the nation to the third worst — in just 18 months. Moody’s was the most recent company to downgrade Alaska’s mark, from AAA in March of 2015 to Aa-3 last week, according to a press […]

  • Lifestyle

    Linkin Park singer died by hanging, coroner confirms

    by CBS News/Associated Press on Jul 21, 17:26

    LOS ANGELES — The L.A. County coroner confirmed Friday that Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington died by hanging. Coroner’s office spokesman Ed Winter said the 41-year-old rocker hanged himself from a bedroom door in his home near Los Angeles. Bennington was found dead Thursday. Winter said a half-empty bottle of alcohol was found in the […]

  • Lifestyle

    Rise in drug-addicted babies prompts judge’s controversial solution

    by CBS News on Jul 21, 17:23

    America’s opioid crisis is expanding to a new class of victims—unborn children. Infants are being born with symptoms of withdrawal, also known as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, or NAS. In the last decade, states like Tennessee have seen a ten-fold rise in the number of babies born with NAS. One judge in White County, Tennessee is […]

  • ‘Don’t [expletive] shoot’: Wife convicted of murder witnessed by parrot

    by Associated Press on Jul 21, 17:19

    WHITE CLOUD, Mich. – A jury has convicted a western Michigan woman of first-degree murder in the shooting death of her husband in a crime apparently witnessed by the man’s pet parrot. The Newaygo County jury deliberated about eight hours before finding 49-year-old Glenna Duram guilty Wednesday of killing 46-year-old Martin Duram. He was shot […]

  • News

    Decade after fatal accident, ice divers back on USCGC Healy

    by Heather Hintze on Jul 21, 17:02

    As the nation’s only Arctic icebreaker, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy is familiar with Alaska’s icy waters. Dive instructor Geri Cabrera is about to be, too. “I was fortunate to dive down in Antarctica with the Polar Star. So, coming up here to the North Pole is a check in the box for me. […]