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Articles written by Laurel Downing Bill

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Cannons in Sitka link to Russian occupation

Four small cannons in Sitka, which started out in Unalaska, stand in testimony to Alaska's occupation by Russia and the subsequent transfer of Alaska to America 150 years ago. The Northern Commercial...

 

Yukon Press shares news of 1898 Circle City

Enterprising newsmen published the first issue of the Yukon Press in March 1898. The 14-page effort shared the news of the day from St. Michael to the upper Yukon. With the discovery of gold along...

 

Painting pachyderm starts Alaska Zoo

A pachyderm named Annabelle, who became prolific with a paintbrush and easel, is responsible for the creation of the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage. It all started when Jack Snyder saw a tongue-in-cheek...

 

Lefty led boys of summer to several titles

Baseball has long been a staple of summers in Alaska. And when Anchorage baseball fans wanted a semi-pro team in 1969, they knew they could count on George "Lefty" Van Brunt to coach the boys of...

 

From sapling to the state's tallest flagpole

A small spruce that peered skyward in a dense forest on Prince of Wales Island in the mid-1700s found its way to Anchorage when Alaska became America's 49th state. This Southeast Alaska sapling held...

 

Gold brings post office to Circle City

While the Southeast town of Sitka claims the first U.S. Post Office established in America's new possession of Alaska in 1867, Circle City – located on the banks of the Yukon River – holds the...

 

Lights along Alaska's coast

The discovery of rich gold deposits in the upper Yukon River in the late 1890s brought a massive rise in the number of ships plying Alaska waters. Especially in Lynn Canal, a part of the Inside...

 

Seward's gift to America was widely ridiculed

"Russia has sold us a sucked orange," the New York World proclaimed after the U.S. government announced it was to purchase Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million in the spring of 1867. And most...

 

Archbishop ignores the warning signs

When Archbishop of Vancouver Island Charles John Seghers journeyed down the Yukon River in November 1886, he had no way of knowing he would never return to civilization. The Catholic priest, who...

 

January brings Christmas for some Alaskans

While many Alaskans celebrated Christmas on December 25, others from the Pribilof Islands to Nikiski to Sitka observe Christmas in January. That's because they observe the Russian Orthodox Church...

 

When dinosaurs roamed Alaska's landscape

My two-year-old grandson is crazy about dinosaurs. So much so that we decorated his birthday cake with small brontosaurus, nanosaurus and T-rex replicas. He received an abundance of dinosaur-themed gi...

 

Remembering the Klondike's other Kate

Anyone interested in the Klondike gold-rush era has heard of the infamous Klondike Kate, a dancehall gal who mesmerized miners with her moves. Kathleen Rockwell earned quite the reputation for her...

 

Totem poles educate millions in Louisiana during 1904 expo

When John Green Brady, governor of the District of Alaska, was asked to create an exhibit to publicize the Great Land for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis in 1904, he decided to showcase...

 

Arctic Brotherhood was born on the high seas

What Alaska connection do England's King Edward VII, Al Capone's chief legal counsel, Albert Fink, and American presidents Warren G. Harding, Theodore Roosevelt and William McKinley have in common? Th...

 

The first Miss Alaska was a favorite

Dubbed The Arctic Venus by newspapers across the globe, Helmar Liederman turned many heads as she strutted her stuff in 1922 during the Inter-City Beauty Contest – forerunner of the Miss America Pag...

 

Conman topples Alaska governor

Many have heard tales touting the shenanigans of conmen like Jefferson "Soapy" Smith and a man named Hendrickson, better known as the "Blue Parka Bandit." But neither of them caused the demise of an...

 

Alaska's archaeological sites explored

Theories about how and when Alaska became inhabited with people ebb and flow like the state's rivers. Archeologists pretty much agree that Alaska's mainland was physically and ecologically a part of A...

 

Baseball played in the arctic in 1894

As the days get longer and winter begins to wane, it's safe to assume that the boys of summer are preparing for another awesome season of baseball – a mainstay in Alaska for generations. Before Anch...

 

Troublemakers earned a one-way ticket south

An abundance of gamblers, con men and thieves made their way north following the discovery of gold in the Klondike in the late 1890s. And with no official lawmen to take care of evildoers, miners...

 

Alaskans live through 'hell on earth'

The second-largest earthquake in recorded history struck at 5:36 p.m. Anchorage time. Measuring 8.4 on the Richter scale, experts later upgraded it to 9.2 on the Mw (moment magnitude) scale as the...

 

Alaska Native Brotherhood organizes in 1912

After decades of oppression by Russian fur traders, and then American interests, the Natives of Southeast Alaska decided it was time to organize into a united voice to change the way people perceived...

 

Alaska pioneer brings automobiles north

One of Alaska's early pioneers, who died 33 years ago this month at age 99, left his mark on early Alaska transportation. Robert E. "Bobby" Sheldon built the territory's first automobile, drove the...

 

Sled dogs figure into Alaska history

Sled dogs have a long and illustrious history in the North Country, from the early days of Native settlements to the gold-rush booms during the 1890-1900s. Natives of Alaska, northern Canada,...

 

Radios served as lifelines for bush Alaska

Before the Internet and cell service became synonymous with instant communication, Alaska's remote villages relied on a military network of telephone-telegraph radiophone stations to relay messages....

 

Disaster strikes steamliner Princess Sophia

One of the last ships scheduled to leave Southeast Alaska in the fall of 1918 met with disaster only a few days into her voyage. On October 23, Canadian Pacific Railway steamship Princess Sophia...

 

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