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William and Effie Williams, Part 1

I interviewed William Williams with his wife Effie in their home on the afternoon of November 20, 1992 in the living room area of their house in Allakaket. Although there were some interruptions during the taping, we talked about a wide range of interesting topics. The tape began with Effie telling about her background and growing up. She described what it was like to live with Big Susie and Tilly, the two older women who raised her during her early years. She also recalled the year she spent at the Mission when Miss Thompson and Miss Boyce were the missionaries. After a year at the Mission she returned to her birth parents whom she didn't really know. Her mother had given Effie away because other children in the family had died. It was a common belief that when children died, if the next one born was given away and adopted by others, subsequent children would live. As she grew up, Effie remembers baby-sitting for her siblings. Effie also talked about getting married at 16. Effie has long been active in the Episcopal Church. In the l950s a photograph she took of the church in Allakaket won a national Episcopal church photo contest. She talked about the changes that have taken place over the years in the mission that is now the village church. She noted with sadness that fewer people attend services in contrast to the old days when everyone went to church. She mentioned Delbert Vent, Lydia Bergman, and Jenny William as leaders in the church today. She recalled with sadness the loss of Joe William, Jr., the Native priest who served the community for seventeen years. He died about four years ago. She lamented that when she was young, the elders taught us to go to church. Now the youth don't listen.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 93-15-15

Project: Gates of the Arctic National Park
Date of Interview: Nov 20, 1992
Narrator(s): William Williams, Effie Williams
Interviewer(s): Wendy Arundale
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
National Park Service
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.

After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.


1) Effie's background and growing up

2) Returning to live with her real parents

3) Changes in the Mission

4) William's background and growing up

5) Hauling freight

6) People traveling to Kobuk and back

7) Early mail and travel routes

8) The accidental death of Steven Bergman

9) Development of air transportation

10) Sam White, the game warden

Click play, then use Sections or Transcript to navigate the interview.

After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.


Section 1: born -- June 15, 1919\ Allakaket\ mother -- Lilly\ father -- Ned\ Old Bergman\ church -- Allakaket\ uncle -- Leo, first house\ uncle -- Susie's dad\ adoption -- Effie to Tilly\ grandmother -- died when Effie was seven or eight\ mission -- uncle put Effie in\ South Fork Henry\ sickness -- Dennis' brother, Dick\ James\ tuberculosis\ missionaries\ Thompson, Miss\ Boyce, Miss\ mission -- stayed one winter|

Section 2: parents -- did not know about them\ sister -- Marie Henzie's mother\ father -- teased all the time\ siblings -- Simon, Olivia, Elizabeth\ babysitting\ spring camp\ mother -- gave Effie away because other children died\ Hughes\ marriage -- age sixteen\ marriage -- arranged\ arrangement -- uncles and grandfathers|

Section 3: Mission -- changes\ services -- few attend today\ old days -- everybody went to church\ Vent, Delbert -- church leader today\ Bergman, Lydia\ Williams, Jenny\ Episcopal Native priest\ William, Joe Jr.\ priest -- seventeen years\ youth -- don't listen\ elders -- taught us to go to church\ Fairbanks -- church\ Fairbanks Hotel\ St. Francis Church|

Section 4: born -- 1916\ Hughes\ Rock Island Point -- eight miles below Hughes\ father -- mining camp, two years\ Utopia\ father -- gave William away\ South Fork people\ Isaac, Alfred -- father\ Isaac, Julia -- mother\ adoption -- by Big William\ Bettles -- with white people\ adopted mother -- died when eight or nine\ camp\ Bettles\ South Fork\ Williams, Jenny -- parents there\ village -- moved\ Bettles -- no Indians\ Sukik, Bessie -- sister\ Sukik, Big Charlie\ Point Barrow -- married to Bessie\ Eskimo -- taught language\ Effie's dad -- Ned\ William, Joe -- brother\ sister -- Bessie\ school -- one month in 1927|

Section 5: freight -- hauling, age 14-15\ Bettles\ Wiseman\ Caterpillar\ Sam, Lucien\ William, Janie\ Henry, Matthew -- Huslia\ Tyson, Frank\ Edward, Johnny\ Jack, Charlie\ Wiseman -- four or five teams\ Hope, Putu\ Putu's son\ Beaver\ Hope, Putu -- have grandchildren up here\ Beaver People -- friendly\ Eskimo -- mixing with Indians\ Hope, Sam\ Hope, Ludie -- auntie\ Hughes\ Pitot, Albert -- moved married to Ludie, captain on steamboat\ Kobuk -- Hope came from\ Selawik -- people around Alatna came from\ Sam, Selawik\ children -- Ronnie, Harding, Jerry|

Section 6: Old Henzie -- made trip\ Henzie, Moses -- grandfather was Old Henzie\ Kobuk\ Hog River\ Bifelt, Fred\ Moses, Chief -- used to live there\ Kotzebue\ Kotzebue -- Native name for \ grandfather -- Chief Moses; Alfred Isaac's uncle\ Isaac -- father's father\ South Fork -- used as last name\ Moses, Tony and Beetus; cousins\ Moses, Henry|

Section 7: mail run -- one per month\ dog team\ Tanana\ trading post -- Tanana\ mail run -- local hire\ Kokrine, Andrew -- half Russian\ Kokrine -- Tony, Bergman, Andrew Jr.\ Kennedy, Mary and Philip\ South Fork Trail\ New Portage trail -- Bettles\ Wiseman -- hard trail\ dogs -- hard on, bleeding paws\ breaking trail -- person ahead of dogs\ Pitka, Charlie -- second mail runner\ airplane -- took over mail 1930, twice monthly\ route -- Fairbanks, Tanana, Allakaket, Bettles, Wiseman\ weather -- sometimes no delivery for a month\ Bettles -- miners\ emergency landings\ Dubin, Sam -- Bettles store\ Bergman, Steven -- died\ Bergman, Lubuck -- brother|

Section 8: Bettles -- hauling freight\ wood cutting\ restaurant\ road house\ fall -- cut wood\ gas lamp -- filled up\ Dubin, Sam\ fire -- they burned, boy died\ Norwegian -- was in store at fire\ William, William -- was at Bettles\ South Fork -- just returned from trapping there\ Dubin, Sam -- badly burned, flown out\ Miller, Freddy -- pilot who came for Dubin\ Dubin -- returned to run store\ Dubin, Cora -- wife\ Fairbanks -- Dubin died there|

Section 9: WWII -- 1941\ Civil Aviation Administration -- built residence\ Old Bettles\ tower -- 160 feet\ Nome\ Kotzebue\ Point Barrow\ Galena -- Air Force\ Federal Aviation Administration -- CAA became\ Eielson, Ben -- got lost, dropped note; where is Fairbanks\ assistance -- people formed line to point way\ Bonanza Creek -- trapping\ airplane -- surprised by first\ flying machine -- thought they layed on board\ airplanes -- regular after 1926\ Wien Alaska Airline\ schedule -- depended on filling payload with people or freight\ plane -- slow back then\ gas -- doesn't take much for small one\ White, Sam -- Fish and Wildlife\ beaver\ marten\ tagging -- worked for White, $2 per day\ Wild River Lake\ Yukon sled -- hard to haul|

Section 10: White, Sam -- told lots of stories about childhood\ WWI -- was in that war\ injuries -- White had bullet scars\ game warden -- learned himself, sent to Alaska, one of the best\ Yukon\ Koyukuk -- worked all over\ white people -- tried to chase Indians off their trapline\ Kuskokwim -- three whites chased Indians away, killed moose to feed dogs\ White, Sam -- snuck into their camp, cuffed them, killed their dogs\ airplane -- flew around\ Wien Alaska Airlines -- worked for\ William -- worked for White|