Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program

Autumn view on the road to McCarthyThis project contains oral history interviews and photographs from Native and non-Native people who live near or have been associated with Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in south-central Alaska. The region has a long history of human use including the Ahtna and Upper Tanana Athabascan people in the interior who lived a traditional subsistence lifestyle of moving with the seasons to hunt and fish, and the Eyak and Tlingit living in larger villages on the coast. Non-Natives entered the Copper Basin region beginning in the 1780s, expanding their activities from trapping and trading to mining in the Wrangell Mountains. The most notable mine is at Kennecott where copper was hauled out by railroad to the coastal community of Cordova from 1911 to 1938. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park was first established as a national monument in 1978, and gained full National Park status in 1980 with passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.

In the early 1990's, the National Park Service wanted to better document local history by recording stories from local residents about their lives and experiences related to the Park, its establishment, and subsistence living in the area. The Park Service funded the Oral History Program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks to conduct interviews with residents of Chitina, Copper Center, Gakona, Glennallen, Kennecott, Kenny Lake, Nabesna, Valdez, Yakutat, and with National Park Service employees.

Copper River salmon and roe drying on a fish rack

Additional interviews were conducted from 1998 to 2002 in Chisana, Chistochina, Chitina, Copper Center, Gulkana, Tazlina, and Yakutat.

Finally, in 2013 and 2014 interviews were conducted in the Alaska Highway communities of Dot Lake, Healy Lake, Northway, Tanacross, Tetlin, and Tok, after the Park Service determined that they have customary and traditional ties to the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park area. 

 

People

Elaine Abraham Elaine Abraham

Elaine Abraham was born and raised in Yakutat, Alaska, where she now resides. Her father was a traditional Tlingit chief and Elaine was raised in the traditional Tlingit manner. After earning a nursing degree and working for several years in Arizona, she returned to Alaska as the first Tlingit registered nurse. She served at hospitals in Juneau, Sitka - Mt. Edgecumbe, and in Bethel during a diphtheria epidemic. She assisted in the opening of the Alaska Native Health Service Hospital in... Read More

Roger Allin Roger Allin

Roger Allin worked for the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park identifying management areas. He was a fisheries biologist and lived in Alaska for a number of years. Because of his knowledge and because he enjoyed showing people these areas, he was often called upon to take VIP's to different parts of Alaska. At the time of his 1993 interview for the Wrangell-St. Elias Project Jukebox, Roger was living in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Lucille Brenwick Lucille Brenwick

Lucille Brenwick grew up in Copper Center, Alaska and went to the BIA Chemawa boarding school in Oregon. She met her first husband in Seattle, Washington when he was in the Navy, and then lived with him in different places around the Lower 48 as his job moved him around the country. She became homesick and returned to the Copper River Basin area without her husband.  Once she came back to Alaska, she married Leonard Brenwick, and ran the trading post in Tazlina for a while. 

Millie Buck Millie Buck

Millie Buck was from Chitina, Alaska and was an active member of the Chitina Native Corporation. Her mother, Margaret Eskilida, lived in Chitina. Millie was raised in the Chitina area and grew up practicing subsistence activities with her family when she was a young girl. Millie was well known as a pioneer in the bilingual and multi-cultural areas of education and contributed a great deal to the research, teaching, and publishing of Native language... Read More

Mary Ellen Duggan Clark Mary Ellen Duggan Clark

Mary Ellen Duggan Clark moved to Kennecott, Alaska when she was six years old with her family when her father went to work at the copper mine. Her father was a mining engineer, so after living at the Latouche Copper Mine (near the mouth of Prince Williams Sound) they moved to Kennecott. She lived there from 1924 to 1933 and went to school there from first grade until ninth grade.  Mary Ellen passed away in 2003.

LeNora Conkle LeNora Conkle

LeNora Conkle and her husband, Bud, came to Alaska after WWII, when he got out of the military. He learned to fly and then got into the guiding business at Tanada Lake. She home schooled their son, Collin who is now a commercial pilot in Fairbanks. They lived off of Mile 58 on the Tok Highway in what eventually became part of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. Bud Conkle wrote the book Trail of the Eagle, Hunting Alaska with Master Guide Bud Conkle. For more information about... Read More

Roy David, Sr. Roy David, Sr.

Roy David, Sr. was born in 1937 at camp at Midway Lake, about eleven miles from the village of Tetlin, Alaska. His parents were Titus and Jessie David, and he is the fourth of six children (Kathyrn, Adam, Bentley, Roy, Lydia, Walter). He grew up in Tetlin, living a traditional subsistence lifestyle of hunting, trapping, fishing, and gardening. After leaving the community for work, Roy moved back in 1961 and has continued to live there. He has worked on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, as an... Read More

Ellen Demit Ellen Demit

Ellen Demit was born on May 13, 1913 to Eva and Julius John in the old village of Chena, Alaska, which is now encompassed by the city of Fairbanks. At three months of age, Ellen was adopted by Chief Luke and his wife, Anne, from Goodpaster, Alaska. This type of adoption was a common cultural practice. Following the death of his wife, Chief Luke allowed then three year old Ellen to be adopted again, this time by Selene and Old Blind Jimmy of Healy Lake. Ellen married Frank Felix of... Read More

Kirk Ellis Kirk Ellis

Kirk was a small child when his parents moved to the remote location at Mile 42 of the Nabesna Road in the Wrangell Mountains in 1957 to begin a guiding business. His parents, Bill and Lorene, struggled for many years to make a living, keep a home, and home school Kirk and his two brothers, Cole and Lynn. Kirk learned the fundamental skills necessary for bush life by following his parents' example. The children were given strict rules and a perimeter beyond which they could not venture in... Read More

Cole Ellis Cole Ellis

Cole Ellis grew up at the end of the Nebesna Road with his parents, Lorene and Bill, and his brothers Terry, Lynn and Kirk. He was involved in guiding and air taxiing in the Wrangell-St. Elias area. Kirk and Cole are full partners with their dad in guiding out of Devil's Mountain Lodge. When Wrangell-St. Elias was established by President Carter's invocation of the Historic Monuments Act in 1979, people like the Ellis' with long-standing ties to the area were greatly affected. A new... Read More

Lorene Ellis Lorene Ellis

Lorene Ellis and her husband, Bill moved the family from Texas to Alaska in 1954 and in 1957, they purchased Devil's Mountain Lodge from the well-known big game guide, Henry Boyden. The Ellis' raised their family in this remote location, which lies at the end of the Nabesna Road, some 42 miles into the Wrangell Mountains. Bill became a bush pilot and, with Lorene's help, established a successful guiding business. They had four sons Terry, Lynn, Cole, and Kirk who were all involved in guiding... Read More

Dr. Andy Embick Dr. Andy Embick

Andy Embick grew up in Salem, Oregon and attended Pomona College in Pomona, California. He studied at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. He graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1977. After a year with the Indian Health Service in Nevada and Arizona, Dr. Embick joined Dr. Bernard Gerard at the Valdez Medical Clinic. Andy was well-known in Alaska and beyond, as an accomplished climber, skier, and kayaker. He climbed some exceedingly difficult routes in the Alaska Range and pioneered almost all... Read More

Margaret Eskilida Margaret Eskilida

Margaret "Maggie" Eskilida was born April 12, 1910 in Lower Tonsina, Alaska. Maggie’s parents were the late John Sr. and Miriam Billum. She was raised in Lower Tonsina and the Chitina area. Maggie worked as a midwife in her younger days. Maggie moved to Anchorage in 1954, where she worked for Alaska Native Services (ANS), first in housekeeping and then as a dietitian in the kitchen. She worked there for ten years. She moved with her family to Glennallen after the 1964 Earthquake, where she... Read More

Bill Etchells Bill Etchells

Bill Etchells lives at about Mile 8.5 on the Edgerton Road and is known as one of the hardest working homesteaders. He does some of his farming with horses. Originally from Connecticut, Bill first came into the Wrangell mountains in the early 1960's as a guide. At that time, he would walk the horses into the mountains, crossing the Copper River near Chitina. He used an airplane to bring in the clients. Today, he boards horses and lives a pretty frugal subsistence lifestyle alone. When his... Read More

Fred Ewan Fred Ewan

Fred Ewan lives in Gulkana, Alaska. He was born at Crosswinds Lake, about 30 miles from his home. He was married to Stella in 1938 and they had two children. He built his home in 1952 and lived a subsistence lifestyle by trapping and trading until he taught himself to read and write. He worked for the Alaska Road Commission and helped to build the local airport.

Lena Farkas Lena Farkas

As a child, Tlingit was the first language in Farkas' home, and Lena is an excellent Tlingit speaker and translator. Lena Farkas has taught Tlingit language in the Yakutat City Schools and continues to volunteer her time to help the Yakutat Tlingit Tribe with their Songs and Dance, Cultural Camp and Tlingit Language Club for children. She continues to practice her subsistence lifestyle and shares her knowledge about Native medicines and Yakutat Clan history and protocol. She is a lifetime... Read More

Howard Fix Howard Fix

Howard Fix was born in Virginia and moved to Northway, Alaska in 1964.  He worked in construction, helping build numerous homes in the area as well as the local school.  Howard currently lives in Northway with his wife, Jane Fix.

Oscar Frank Oscar Frank

Oscar Frank was Peter Frank's son. He grew up in Yakutat, Alaska and knew a great deal about the history of the Tlingit people. 

Jim Hannah Jim Hannah

Jim Hannah worked for the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park for many years. He was first detailed to Alaska in 1980, where he took on a tough assignment. President Carter had invoked the Historic Monuments Act and had designated over thirty million acres for preservation as National Monuments. Jim, who had grown up with a love of hunting, fishing, and the outdoors, was assigned to help explain the new Park Service mandate in Alaska to angry and worried local residents in the recently created... Read More

Deborah Vickery House Deborah Vickery House

Deborah Vickery House grew up in Kennecott, Alaska with her sister, Jane Vickery Wilson, when the Kennecott mine and mill were in operation. The family moved there in 1918 when she was two years old, and lived there until 1931. Their father was the cost accountant for the town, which means he determined how much ore per ton it cost the mine to produce. When they left the mine, the family moved to Seattle so the girls could finish school. After growing up in Kennecott, Deborah found it... Read More

Jean Huddleston Jean Huddleston

Jean Huddleston grew up at the historic Copper Center Roadhouse in Copper Center, Alaska, which was operated by her parents, George and Catherine Ashby. Her brother, Randall, took over the family business and Jean was pleased that the roadhouse was beginning to flourish again with a growing tourist industry. The Copper Center Roadhouse burned down in 2012 due to faulty wiring, but Jean's... Read More

Jerry Isaac Jerry Isaac

Jerry Isaac was born and raised in Tanacross, Alaska. He is a leader in the Athabascan Native community of interior Alaska. He served on the Tanacross Village Council for a number of years and was its President; he is a member of the board of the Alaska Federation of Natives, and he was President of Tanana Chiefs Conference based in Fairbanks, Alaska from 2006-2013. He also is Alaska Area Vice-President for the National Congress of American Indians.

Harry Johns, Sr. Harry Johns, Sr.

Chief Harry Johns was the traditional chief of the Ahtna People. He was born on the Klutina Lake Trail enroute to Copper Center. Chief Johns work career began when he was nine years old and he was hired to haul water for the Copper Center Lodge and as a stock boy and wood cutter. In 1929, when he was 20, he was hired by the Territorial Government Railroad Commission and eventually retired from the State of Alaska Department of Highways. In 1975, at the time of his retirement, Governor Jay... Read More

Ruth Johns Ruth Johns

Ruth Johns was married to Chief Harry Johns for 64 years and they lived in Copper Center, Alaska. Her father grew up in Copper Center and her mother came from Upper Tonsina. She married her husband in the 1940's, and they raised 8 children. She got her teaching certificate in 1975 from Juneau after going to the University of Alaska Fairbanks and used to teach in the schools. Ruth taught the Ahtna language, bead work, and traditional ways of life in the Copper Center school.

Alfred Jonathan Alfred Jonathan

Alfred Jonathan is an Athabascan elder from Tanacross, Alaska. He was born in 1943 in the old village of Tanacross, which was across the river from the current village. The village was relocated and rebuilt on higher ground to be better protected from flooding. Alfred grew up in a large family with twelve sibings; at age sixteen he went to live with his grandmother, Annie Moses, who was originally from Mentasta. He attended the Bureau of Indian Affairs school in Tanacross and went to Tok... Read More

Mildred Jonathan Mildred Jonathan

Mildred Jonathan is an Athabascan elder from Tanacross, Alaska. She was born to Kenneth and Ellen Thomas in the old village of Tanacross, which was across the river from the current village. The village was relocated and rebuilt on higher ground to be better protected from flooding. Mildred grew up in a traditional subsistence lifestyle, where she learned to sew and bead at a young age and also went hunting and trapping with her father. Since Mildred's mother was originally from Mansfield,... Read More

Paul Kirsteatter Paul Kirsteatter

Paul Kirsteatter was born in 1922 in Illinois and became acquainted with Alaska during his World War II service in the Air Force.  After his discharge in 1945, Paul returned to Alaska in 1946 where he met his wife, Margaret Jacob, who was from Healy Lake. They settled in Healy Lake in 1947, shortly after the epidemic which significantly reduced the village’s population.  Paul and Margaret lived at Healy Lake during a time when many people had moved away from the community. They lived in both... Read More

Fred Kirsteatter Fred Kirsteatter

Fred Kirsteatter was born in Healy Lake, Alaska in 1953 to Paul and Margaret Kirsteatter. He was the last child born in the old Healy Lake village. Fred was raised in a subsistence lifestyle and learned traditional Native values and ways from his mother. Fred collected lithic artifacts and brought them to the attention of archaeologist, Robert McKennan and others. These artifacts and later investigations documented the long antiquity of the Healy Lake community. After being homeschooled as a... Read More

Art Koeninger Art Koeninger

In 1993, when Art Koeninger was interviewed, he lived in a small apartment above his store, Spirit Mountain Artworks in Chitina, Alaska. The art store, which features primarily work by Alaskan artists, is in a restored building that was once a tinsmith's shop. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places and Art has received federal grant support for its preservation. Art was active with Chitina's... Read More

Yvonne Konnerup Lahti Yvonne Konnerup Lahti

Yvonne Konnerup Lahti was six years old when her family moved to Kennecott, Alaska. Her father worked as a clerk in the store for the six years the family lived there. When the children were ready for high school, Yvonne's mother and siblings moved to Seattle while her father continued to work in Alaska. She got her master's degree from Western Washington and taught school for many years in Washington.

Jean McGavock Lamb Jean McGavock Lamb

Jean McGavock Lamb and her brother, James McGavock, were raised in Kennecott, Alaska. She was born in Seattle, Washington, but was brought to Alaska when she was a few months old. She lived there for the first six years of her life. Their father was a master mechanic who worked for the Kennecott Mine. When the family left in 1937, they moved to Denver, Colorado. At the time of her 1990 interview, Jean was living in Utah.

Eric Larson Eric Larson

Eric Larson came to Alaska with his uncle and was introduced to the Chisana area in Alaska. He's married to Nancy Larson. He did some mining, hunting and guiding in the Chisana area, which wasn't a national park until later. His mother-in-law lived there year round and they visited quite often. Eric and Nancy live in Fairbanks, Alaska, where they have a large barn and horses.

John Latham John Latham

John Latham was born in California in 1940 and his early love of hunting began with deer, waterfowl, and upland game hunting. Further interest in big game led to elk, deer and antelope hunting in the varied terrain of Arizona, Colorado, and Wyoming. A hunting trip to Alaska in 1966 decided John's move and he became a resident the following year. John and Fran Latham have been running a family-operated guiding and outfitting business for... Read More

Fran Latham Fran Latham

John and Fran Latham have been running a family-operated guiding and outfitting business for over 30 years. Fran operates the accommodation portion of their business at the comfortable Blue Heron Inn. They also offer vacation rentals overlooking Yakutat Bay and the Wrangell St. Elias Mountain Range as well as bed & breakfast accommodations with private entrances and private baths.

Sam Lightwood Sam Lightwood

Sam Lightwood was born in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. He spent his youth in Pennsylvania, graduating in 1950 from Millersville Teachers College with a BS in Elementary Education. He joined his brother in Alaska, working as a Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) teacher. In 1960, Sam and Marian Lightwood got married and lived in Girdwood for a year before moving to Kenny Lake, Alaska to stake their homestead claim at 6 1/2 Mile Edgerton Road. Together they faced the challenge of Alaska homesteading... Read More

Nellie Lord Nellie Lord

Nellie Lord helped with the coordination of the Yakutat interviews for the Wrangell-St. Elias Project Jukebox. She grew up living a subsistence lifestyle in Yakutat, Alaska, but went to school at Mount Edgecumbe in Sitka, Alaska.

Cecil Martin Cecil Martin

Cecil Martin is from Dot Lake, Alaska. His grandfather, Gene Henry, was born at Batzulnetas on the upper Copper River in 1911, and married a woman from Tanacross. So, Cecil's mother, Marie Dennis, was born and raised in Tanacross. Cecil remembers his grandfather hunting, trapping and fishing through out the upper Cooper River, upper Tanana River, Tanacross, Mansfield, and Dot Lake region. Cecil grew up in both Dot Lake and Tanacross, where he has hunted, trapped, and fished. He has continued... Read More

James McGavock James McGavock

James McGavock was born September 21, 1924, in Seattle, Washington, the son of James and Jean Scobie McGavock. Jim and his sister, Jean McGavock Lamb, were raised in Kennecott, Alaska and were always called "A Kennecott Kid". They were educated in a one room school in Kennecott while their father worked as a master mechanic for the mine. Jim graduated from high school in Denver, Colorado. On September 4, 1953, he married Elese Marie Doxey, in Ogden, Utah. Jim worked for Hill Air Force Base... Read More

Cleo McMahan Cleo McMahan

Cleo McMahan was born on a farm in Kansas in 1912 and he came to Alaska in 1939 on the SS Yukon. He started flying while living in Fairbanks in the early 1940's. He married his wife Daphne in the 1940's and they homesteaded on Meier's Lake in the Copper River Basin near Gakona, Alaska. They came into Gakona in the winter so the kids could go to school, but in the summer Cleo worked as a big game guide, bush pilot, and bounty hunter. He trapped year round and loved flying. His... Read More

Sy Neeley Sy Neeley

Sy Neeley was born in Washington, but moved to Alaska with his family when he was a small child. They traveled around because his father worked for the Alaska Road Commission. He came to the Copper River Valley in 1942, a time he remembers as bustling with road construction and pioneering developments that coincided with preparations for defense in World War II. Always interested in things mechanical, Sy recalls that with so much machinery and frantic activity, the area was for him a boyhood... Read More

Mary Ann Paquette Mary Ann Paquette

Mary Ann Paquette grew up in Yakutat, Alaska and has memories of the community from long ago. She helped comment on the Kayamori photo collection for the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Project Jukebox.

Virginia Pete Virginia Pete

Virginia Pete grew up at Dry Creek and moved to Tazlina, Alaska after the United States Army forced the village to move from Dry Creek. Virginia has taught the Ahtna language since the 1970’s and continues to be a language consultant for the Ahtna Hertiage Foundation in Glennallen. She, along with other Ahtna elders, assisted Dr. James Kari in writing the Ahtna Dictionary, which was published in 1990. She was a bilingual teacher for the Copper River School District in the 1980’s teaching... Read More

JoAnn Polston JoAnn Polston

JoAnn Polston is the daughter of Stella Healy. She was born in 1958 at the Native hospital in Tanana, Alaska. Although she spent much of her childhood until the age of five in the lower forty-eight states with her mother and step-father (Lee Saylor), she also has many memories of summers at Healy Lake. Soon after the family returned to Alaska, JoAnn's grandmother, Jeany Healy, came to live with their family until her death in 1986, thereby increasing JoAnn's bonds with her own history and... Read More

Urban Rahoi Urban Rahoi

Originally from upper Michigan, Urban Rahoi came to Alaska in 1947. He learned to fly in 1934 and joined the United States Air Force in 1942 where he flew B-17's during World War II. He is a pilot, big game hunting guide, lodge owner, and Fairbanks business man. Urban has been a licensed hunting guide in Alaska since 1950, and in the early 1950's he built Ptarmigan Lake Lodge in the Wrangell-St. Elias mountains near the Canada/Alaska border. He has used this as a base of operations for his... Read More

George Ramos George Ramos

George Ramos was born and raised in Yakutat, where he currently resides. He is of the Yéil (Raven) moiety and the L”uknax.ádi (Coho) clan, and is a speaker of Lingít, the Tlingit language. Mr. Ramos is a life member of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and a member of the Alaska Sea Otter and Sea Lion Commission. He was trained in Tlingit traditions, ceremonies and subsistence skills by his maternal uncle. He is the group leader for the Mt. St. Elias Dancers from Yakutat.

Inger Jensen Ricci Inger Jensen Ricci

Inger Jensen Ricci was born at the hospital in Kennecott, Alaska in 1918 because her father was a carpenter at the mine. She lived there until 1932 when she moved to Seattle to go to high school. After high school, she went to business school in Seattle. She got married in 1938 in Cordova and was offered a job back at the mine as a typist. She was the only person to have been raised in Kennecott and also to work there. She hoped to be able to raise her family there but that dream was crushed... Read More

Patrick Saylor Patrick Saylor

Patrick Saylor was born in 1966 in Fairbanks, Alaska. He is the older of two sons born to Stella Healy Saylor and Lee Saylor. Pat's genealogical links run deep in both the Healy Lake/Joseph and the Mansfield/Ketchumstuk bands as well as the Upper Ahtna. Although he greatly prefers to be engaged in subsistence activities full time, Patrick has been politically active since he was seventeen years old.  He has fought and won many battles for his people of the Upper Tanana region of interior... Read More

Lee Saylor Lee Saylor

Lee Saylor was born in 1941 and grew up in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. At age eighteen, he joined the Army, and came to Alaska in 1964 where he was stationed at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks and Fort Greely near Delta Junction. He married Stella Healy from Healy Lake, Alaska in 1966. They had two sons, Patrick and Benjamin Saylor and he became step-father to Stella's daughter, JoAnn. Lee worked as an instrument man on survey crews for the Alaska Department of Transportation for over... Read More

Bud Seltenreich Bud Seltenreich

Bud Seltenreich's family came to Alaska during the Chisana gold rush and ended up homesteading near the site of the Nizina Bridge. Bud was born in 1915 at the hospital in Kennecott, Alaska. His parents had a laundry service and operated a restaurant in McCarthy during the time the Kennecott Mine was functioning. He worked for Gillam Airlines and the McCarthy Garage as a mechanic and also worked for the Alaska Road Commission. He bought a plane with his two brothers in 1930 and they had one... Read More

Ruby Sinyon Ruby Sinyon

Ruby is from Chistochina. She grew up living a subsistence lifestyle and traveled from summer camp, to fall camp to spring camp. She got married and lived near Chistochina in a cabin. Her husband would leave for months at a time to trap and earn money for the family. He became sick and died leaving Ruby to fend for herself and her children. She worked at the school in Chistochina for 20 years. She also taught language for AHTNA, sold her crafts and helped to dry moose meat for her family.... Read More

Georgia Strunk Georgia Strunk

Georgia Struck was born in Nebraska in 1913. She and her husband, Ed, moved to Alaska after the second world war where her husband worked as a salesman traveling all over Alaska selling goods. They owned several business in Anchorage but after the 1964 earthquake they moved to Glennallen with their 9 children. They owned and operated the Craker Barrel Store in Glennallen. She lived next door to her business in what she claimed was the oldest house in town. She and her husband supplied... Read More

George Sullivan George Sullivan

George's father came to Alaska during the goldrush along the Chilkoot Trail. George was born in Portland, Oregon in 1922 because his grandmother was sick in Oregon and there was no doctor in Valdez who could deliver him. He came back to Valdez with his mother on a steamship when he was 6 weeks old. He worked at the Kennekott Mine when he was 15 years old in 1937 on the tram at the top of the mill building. He caught the buckets of ore (weighing 750 pounds) and dumped them to start the... Read More

Henra Sundt Henra Sundt

Henra Sundt came to Alaska in (1928?) and moved to Gakona, where she married Arne Sundt, who mined near Slate Creek. Together they began to operate the Gakona Lodge and Trading Post. A Norwegian immigrant, Henra had to teach herself English while acquiring the diverse skills needed to live in this harsh environment. Her husband's untimely death in 1949 thrust her into the position of working alone to raise her children and run the roadhouse, which she did with great success until she sold it... Read More

Ted Swem Ted Swem, Sr.

Born in 1917 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Ted Swem came to Alaska in 1962. Working for the National Park Service in Washington, D.C, Ted was key to development of new national park areas in Alaska in the 1970s. He was Chairman of the Alaska Planning Group for the Department of Interior, and his work set the stage for enactment of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. Ted received his Bachelor of Science in Forestry from Iowa State University in Ames, and completed one year of... Read More

Michael Swisher Michael Swisher

Michael and his wife, Helen, lived on the old Edgerton Road, and they raised some grain. They also kept bees for the honey. They had some rental places on their land. Michael left his job at Boeing in Seattle to homestead in Alaska and chose this area because of the good farming. Michael kept temperature records and reported them to the weather service. He was also an amateur radio operator and talked with people all over the world. Like many other homesteaders he did a variety of different... Read More

Tom Teasdale Tom Teasdale

Tom Teasdale was born and raised in Montana.  He joined the military after high school and served for twenty-four years.  In 1979, Tom retired from the military and moved to Northway, Alaska with his wife Jean and his children to be the pastor of the community’s Church of God.  He continues to serve as the pastor for the Northway Alaska Church of God, as well as the Conservation Coordinator for the the Northway Village Council.   

Joseph Virgin Joseph Virgin

Joe came up to Alaska to serve the Central Alaska Missions. Joe and his wife, Peg, served in Gulkana, Ellamar, Kenny Lake, Chistochina, and Glennallen. Joe was working at the electric company when he was interviewed in 1993 and Peg volunteered at the medical center. Joe was a pilot who had a grass strip at mile 140 in Nelchina, Alaska.

Fred Williams Fred Williams

Fred and his wife, Hallie moved to the Copper Basin from Wyoming in 1963 with their four children. He worked as a fisheries biologist for 24 years. Fred is a member of the Historical Society, a Copper Valley Museum Volunteer and also volunteers at Copper Valley Visitors Center. He is now retired from Alaska Fish and Game but still sits on the Copper Valley Electric Association board after 40... Read More

Catherine Wilson

Catherine Wilson lives in Tok, Alaska. She has family connections with the community of Northway, Alaska. She has lived a subsistence lifestyle of hunting, fishing, and trapping in the surrounding countryside. She is married to Lavell Wilson.

Jack Wilson Jack Wilson

Jack Wilson first visited Alaska in 1951 from Colorado and then moved there a year later. He was a WWII pilot, flew for Mudhole Smith in Cordova, and then had his own air taxi and guide business in the Glennallen/Gulkana area. He was well-known for landing scientific and climbing expeditions on the glaciers of the Wrangell Mountains. He wrote two books about his experiences; "Glacier Wings and Tales" and "The Quest for Dall Sheep".

Jane Vickery Wilson Jane Vickery Wilson

Jane Vickery Wilson grew up in Kennecott, Alaska with her sister, Deborah Vickery House, when the Kennecot mine and mill were in operation. Her family moved to Kennecott in 1918 when she was three years old, and lived there until 1931. Their father was the cost accountant for the town, which means he determined how much ore per ton it cost the mine to produce. When they left the mine, the family moved to Seattle so the girls could finish school. Jane lived in Juneau for a few years and met... Read More

Lavell Wilson Lavell Wilson

Lavell Wilson was born in Freewater, Oregon in 1937 and moved to Northway, Alaska with his family as a child.  He currently lives in Tok, Alaska with his wife, Catherine Wilson. Lavell has lived a subsistence lifestyle in Northway and the surrounding area.

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