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Articles written by Laurel Downing Bill

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Immigrant puts the right foot forward

One of Anchorage's now-closed department stores can trace its roots to the Gold Rush days of the Klondike when a young Swede hunkered down with pick and ax and chipped out a small fortune. John W....

 

Crime syndicate and the Keystone Canyon affair

Prospectors searching for gold in the Wrangell mountains during the early 1900s found a mountain of copper instead. That discovery brought the famous Guggenheim-Morgan Syndicate into the history of...

 

Klondike discovery launched a gold rush

George Washington Carmack and his two inseparable friends, "Skookum" Jim Mason and Tagish Charlie, had wandered up and down the Yukon for several years before their gold discovery electrified the...

 

Horses cross raging waters in riverboat

Hair-raising experiences, hardships and back-breaking toil were common to the lives of those who struggled to take from Nature her wealth of precious minerals. Few emerged victorious, thousands...

 

Settlers' early days in the Mat-Su Valley

Long before the Matanuska Valley became one of the fastest-growing communities in the nation, Russians tried to establish agricultural settlements on its fertile soil. They taught the Dena'ina how to...

 

Seaworthy captain full of adventures

When news reached Seattle of gold discoveries in Cook Inlet in 1896, every available vessel was pressed into service. With ships scarce, those heading north were filled to capacity with prospectors...

 

World War 2 brings military to Anchorage

Six years before World War II broke out, Anthony J. Dimond, Alaska's delegate to Congress, started asking for military planes, airfields, army garrisons and a highway to link the Lower 48 to Alaska. W...

 

Riches eluded John Bremner, but not fame

In the Koyukuk country, two rivers and a lake are named after a grizzled old Scottish prospector who explored the Copper River Valley. Not much is known of John Bremner's life before he arrived in...

 

Clarence Berry, Klondike's luckiest man

A few years before Lady Luck showered riches on Clarence Berry, the "luckiest man in the Klondike" didn't have enough money to pay his room rent. Caught in the panic of 1893, he was broke. He...

 

Famous painter was Cordova's preacher

It was a cold, snowy, windy January day in 1909 when a short, slightly built 22-year-old disembarked from the Yakutan in Prince William Sound. Eustace Paul Ziegler arrived in the boom town of Cordova...

 

Alaska's first law officer knew crime well

Alaska's first law officer in the Interior knew a thing or two about the criminal element. Frank Canton, appointed deputy marshal for Circle in winter 1898, had served with distinction as a peace...

 

This is your 100th birthday, Anchorage!

Technically speaking, Anchorage was born in November 1920. According to information gleaned by the League of Women Voters many years ago, it was eligible to become a first-class city because it had a...

 

Sourdough governor understands Alaskans

Alaska's governor from 1933 to 1939 believed that more people and more roads would help the territory achieve statehood. And John Weir Troy, who came to Alaska during the gold rush in 1897, thought a...

 

Alaska targets criminals running amok

Criminals dabbling in everything from prostitution to bootlegging to gambling flourished in the Alaska territory during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Believing that gold miners and other citizens...

 

Newspapers spread the word of Yukon gold

Glowing reports, like the following excerpt from the Aug. 8, 1897, edition of the New York World newspaper, helped fuel the stampede for gold along the Yukon River. "Mr. J. O. Hestwod, one of the...

 

Territorial days bring liquor smugglers

When the U. S. Army took over responsibility for administering Alaska in 1867, law enforcement found it had its hands full trying to stem the flow of liquor into the territory. Up until alcohol...

 

Japanese invade Aleutian Islands in June, 1942

The remote islands of the Aleutian Chain, home to the Unangan people for more than 8,000 years, endured the first invasion on American soil since the War of 1812. On June 6, 1942, at around 10:30...

 

The last dog sled mail service

The establishment of airplane competition didn't stop Chester Noongwook of St. Lawrence Island from continuing his dog sled mail service run until 1963. His was the last mail delivery of its kind in...

 

Alaska produces its first homegrown movie

Movies about Alaska, mostly based on books by Jack London and Rex Beach, thrilled audiences during the early 1900s. But all motion pictures were filmed outside of Alaska. So when a group of Oregon...

 

Anchorage booming into a 'Baghdad on the Tundra'

By the early 1950s, the tent city at the mouth of Ship Creek had turned into a bustling, modern city. Clifford Cernick wrote that Anchorage was much like Baghdad in an article that appeared in the...

 

Chickaloon coal drive helps to establish Anchorage

In the early 1900s, coal was being shipped from as far away as Cardiff, Wales, to the U.S. Navy's coal station at Sitka. Some thought that the coal deposits at Chickaloon in the Matanuska Valley...

 

Alaska establishes the "borough" unit

More than 60 years ago, the framers of Alaska's Constitution found one of their most difficult problems to be the intermediate government between municipalities and the state. Their solution was the...

 

Dancehall girls mine prospectors

During the Klondike Gold Rush, Dawson's dancehall girls offered prospectors a welcome diversion from their grueling, lonely days of digging in the sub-arctic tundra. "The sourdoughs lay on their...

 

First Alaska Territorial Legislature convenes in 1913

Americans have been casting ballots on the first Tuesday in November since the mid-1840s. Why November and why Tuesdays? The answer goes back to our founding fathers when agriculture was prominent. Co...

 

Myth surrounds Alaska purchase

One hundred and fifty-two years ago, a ceremony held in Sitka transferred Alaska from Russia to the United States. The agreed-upon purchase price of $7.2 million had been paid earlier in the year. It...

 

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