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Articles written by Laurel Downing Bill

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Reindeer herding introduced to Alaska

U.S. Revenue Cutter Service captains saw a need for supplemental food for Alaska's Native people in the Last Frontier during the late 1880s, as whale and seal populations had diminished. And since...

 

Floodwaters fill Fairbanks, August 1967

Water in the Chena River inched up ever higher during July 1967 when 3.34 inches of rain, instead of the normal 1.84 inches, fell on Fairbanks. The city's 30,000 residents weren't too worried, though....

 

Russian shipbuilding rises with the Phoenix

During July 1791, Alexander Baranof arrived at Kodiak Island to manage the fur exporting operation of Grigorri Ivanovich Shelikhov, who formed the North American Company. When he received orders to...

 

Painter makes points with Alaskans, and beyond

Among the memorials in the Anchorage Municipal Park Cemetery stands a small, pink marker adorned with a palette. It is the final resting place of Sydney Mortimer Laurence, one of Alaska's greatest art...

 

Ruby was once the Gem of the Yukon

One northern town became an integral part of Alaska's gold rush history after prospectors sifting through red rocks along a creek south of the Yukon River thought they had found rubies mixed with...

 

Many mentally ill became 'The Lost Alaskans'

Imagine being deemed insane through a jury trial, and then sent to the Lower 48 for treatment in the dead of winter before planes and automobiles were available to transport you south. That's what...

 

Border dispute heats up due to gold

There was no border established between the Great Land and Canada when the U.S. agreed to purchase Alaska from Russia for 2 cents an acre in March 1867. The lack of an agreed-upon boundary caused...

 

First Fur Rondies help beat the winter blues

In the mid 1930s, a few fellows got together and decided it would be great to put together a winter sports tournament for all of Anchorage's residents. Vern Johnson, Clyde Conover, Thomas Bevers and...

 

How did Juneau become Alaska's capital?

Juneau became the capital of the 49th state on Jan. 3, 1959, after U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the statehood act into law. It became the only state capital not accessible by road. But...

 

Statehood ignites land rights legal battle

More than four decades ago Congress enacted the Alaska Native Land Claims Settlement Act, which conveyed about 40 million acres to Alaska Native-owned corporations and settled aboriginal land claims....

 

Homer citizens save coupons for fire truck

Homer residents turned to Betty Crocker when they needed a firetruck in the late 1960s after learning about a promotion offered by General Mills. The nationally known company offered a program where...

 

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...

 

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