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Gordon Bertoson, Part 1
Gordon Bertoson

Gordon Bertoson was interviewed on November 1, 1991 by Dan O'Neill and William Schneider in Central, Alaska. In this first part of a two part interview, Gordon describes living in Central/Circle, on the Yukon and Kandik Rivers, and at a base camp at Forty Mile (mouth of Eureka Creek). He talks about the seasonal round of activities, including trapping, mining, hunting and fishing, and traveling by dog team and boat. He also discusses some of the old timers he knew in the area and the old system of dog team mail delivery and freighting. In addition, he gives some of his opinions on the "young people" who moved into the Yukon River country in the 1960s and '70s.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 91-22-53

Project: Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve
Date of Interview: Nov 1, 1991
Narrator(s): Gordon Bertoson
Interviewer(s): Dan O'Neill, Bill Schneider
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
National Park Service
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.
There is no slideshow for this person.

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1) Early experiences in Alaska

2) Moving out to the Central area, and Phil Berail and the cabins at Forty Mile (from Circle)

3) When he went up to Forty Mile (from Circle) on the river steamers and then, in 1960, to live

4) Going up on the Kandik River to trap.

5) Trapping out of the cabin at Forty Mile (from Circle)

6) Dog mushing

7) President John F. Kennedy's assasination, and the 1964 Alaska Earthquake

8) The seasonal round and the subsistence lifestyle

9) Other people who were living out in the country

10) Going up the Nation River in the summer

11) The camp at Forty Mile (from Circle)

12) Old timers, hand mining, and good fish camps

13) Mail carriers and dog teams along the Yukon River

14) Freighting with dogs and horses

15) Freighting and roadhouses

16) Fairbanks during World War II, and the boat shop in Fort Yukon in 1946

17) The cabins at Forty Mile (from Circle), and their continued use

18) The people who moved out along the Yukon River in the 1970s

19) Fire, and its effect on trapping, and floods in the Kandik River country

20) Other old timers and activities along the Yukon River

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Section 1: Bertoson, Gordon\ Ketchikan\ mining - Ketchikan\ wood cutting - firewood\ firewood - prices\ sawmills - fires\ Great Depression - impact\ canneries - 1930's wages\ Fairbanks - jobs\ trapping - Bertoson, Gordon\ eagles - killing and selling\ seals - killing and selling|

Section 2: Bertoson, Gordon\ Central - mining\ mining - Eagle Creek\ mining - necessity of plentiful water\ Central Roadhouse\ Bonanza Creek\ trapping - Birch Creek\ Forty mile (from Circle) camp\ Berail, Phil\ Coal Creek\ "skookum"\ North Country Challenge\ Patty, Ernest Sr.\ Nathaniel, Johnny\ Roman, Walter|

Section 3: river steamers - Yukon\ Bertoson, Gordon\ Berail, Phil\ cabins - Forty mile (from Circle)\ cabins - Jump Off\ Jump Off - fish wheels\ fish wheels - Bertoson, Gordon|

Section 4: Kandik River - trapping\ trapping - Kandik River\ cabins - Kandik River\ marten\ Kandik Cabin - story\ Johnson Gorge\ "niggerheads"\ winter travel - Yukon River\ cabins - Andrew Creek\ Bertoson, Gordon - story\ Andrew-Weber Creek - trail\ Eureka Creek - trails\ trails - trapping\ Three Mile Creek - trails\ trapping - sustained yield\ marten\ beaver|

Section 5: Andrew Creek\ Eureka Creek\ Three Mile Creek\ cabins - Eureka Creek\ Little Black River\ winter camping\ tent camping - winter\ "long fire"\ sleeping bags - wool and down\ Woods sleeping bags - four star|

Section 6: dogs - freighting\ sled dogs - size\ sled dogs - Malemutes\ dog mushing - harnessing configuration\ toboggans - Bertoson, Gordon\ sleds - harnessing configuration|

Section 7: bush living - radio news\ bush living - experiencing "world" events\ earthquake - story\ winter travel - river ice|

Section 8: seasonal round - Bertoson, Gordon\ fall travel - boats\ supplies - Circle\ cache groceries\ "outfits"\ caching fish\ fish - caching\ travel - hunting\ hunting moose\ Weber Creek\ Weber Creek - salt lick\ Woodchopper\ salt licks - Yukon River\ woodhauling - spring\ canning - moose\ spring - canning meat\ meat processing\ trapping - duration of stay|

Section 9: Coal Creek\ Bell, Ray - Coal Creek\ Welch, Jack - Woodchopper Roadhouse\ river steamers\ miners\ trappers\ Woodchopper Roadhouse - comparison with Central Roadhouse\ Slaven's Roadhouse\ Slaven's Roadhouse - logs\ cabin construction - scavenged materials\ river steamers - Woodchopper tie up\ Woodchopper - river steamers\ floods, Yukon\ bush living - floods\ flood - story\ cabins - Forty mile (from Circle)\ Bell, Ray\ Weber Creek\ cabin fire - story\ cabin sites - staking\ cabin sites - ownership|

Section 10: Bertoson, Gordon\ summer travel - Nation River\ Nation River - summer travel\ hunting - Kandik\ Kandik - hunting\ visiting - summer\ bush living - visiting|

Section 11: Forty mile (from Circle) - Bertoson, Gordon\ "airtight stoves" - operation\ cabin fire - story\ Bell, Ray\ fishing - subsistence\ cabins - Forty mile (from Circle)\ smokehouse\ fish house\ screen - use\ Smith, Richard\ cabin sites - selection|

Section 12: MacGregor, George\ mining - Coal Creek\ mining claims - selling\ fishing - subsistence\ Kidd, Charlie\ cabins - MacGregor, George\ fishing - MacGregor cabin\ fishing - Biederman's Camp\ fish wheels - Biederman\ fish racks - log\ tram - fish\ dog cooker\ cabins - Biederman's Camp\ Biederman, Ed\ mining - lower Coal Creek\ hand mining - "pup"\ old timers\ gold rush\ Erickson, Gus\ Anderson\ mining camps - ages of miners\ Berry Company\ Berry Dredge - Mastodon Creek\ World War II - impact on gold mining|

Section 13: mail carriers - Yukon River\ Biederman, Ed\ Wells, Curly\ Fort Yukon-Circle - mail route\ trails - mail\ Circle - mail trail\ O'Leary, Morris\ Circle-Fairbanks - mail run\ Roman, Walter\ Thorenson, Bert\ mail run - horses\ Eagle Summit - mail trail\ horses - attrition\ mail run - dogs\ dog teams - size\ dogs - size\ mail run - weight limit\ winter travel - breaking trail\ trail breaking - dogs\ dogs - malemute\ trail breaking - snowshoes|

Section 14: MacGregor, George - story about dogs\ dogs - Airedales\ Airedales - sled dogs\ Airedales - attributes\ Malemutes - attributes\ dogs - disposition\ dogs - training\ dogs - breeding\ Bertoson, Gordon\ harnesses - training\ dogs - size\ dog racing - historical impact on breeding\ trapping - dog teams\ winter travel - distances\ traplines - distances\ travel - dogs\ sleds - freighting\ Kantishna River - dogs\ Lake, Johnny|

Section 15: mining - Birch Creek\ Birch Creek-Circle - routes\ horses - freighting\ freighting - horses\ Rasmuson, Nels - Circle\ Circle - stables\ saloon\ wood hauling - horses\ sawmills - Jump Off\ "the jump off"\ roadhouse - "some woman built"\ roadhouse - horse corral\ trails - Central area\ cabins - Jump Off\ Rasmuson, Nels - father-in-law|

Section 16: Fairbanks - 1941\ Northwest Command - 1945\ Fort Yukon - boat shop\ engine work\ Wells, Curly - Fort Yukon\ inboard motors\ forge\ lathe\ Old Crow\ trapping - Crazy Mountains\ "Crazies"\ cabin construction - Bertoson, Gordon\ cabins - Crazy Mountains|

Section 17: Nathaniel, John\ Roman, Walter\ Berail, Phil\ Bertoson, Gordon\ Bell, Ray\ Smith Richard\ cabins - Forty mile (from Circle)\ cabin construction - frame\ cabin sites - ownership\ cabin sites - continuum of use\ trapping - Bertoson, Gordon\ fish wheel accident - story\ O'Leary, George\ Jump Off\ bush living - aging|

Section 18: river people - marijuana\ river people - moose meat\ lifestyle - future of\ moose population\ "hunted off"\ forest fires - Forty mile (from Circle) area|

Section 19: forest fires - impact\ fires - effect on trapping\ Kandik River - fires\ marten - population response to fire\ trapping - marten\ World War II - impact\ Beck, George - Washington Creek\ Bertoson, Gordon - Kandik River\ Native trappers - Kandik\ Kandik River - trapping\ Solomon, Paul - Fort Yukon\ Grinnell, Willard - "Sleepy"\ "Eagle Milk Kid" - Grinnell, Willard\ Grinnell, Willard - story\ Gundrem, Morris\ cabins - Kandik River\ cabin construction - size\ Kandik cabin - story\ bush living - break-up\ bush living - floods|

Section 20: Nation River - Nelson, Chris\ cabins - Nation River\ blacksmith shop - Nelson, Chris\ Nelson, Chris - Eagle\ Nation Townsite - buildings\ mining - Fourth of July Creek\ Fourth of July Creek - access\ Washington Creek - coal mining\ coal mining\ mining - coal\ river steamers - coal fuel\ tracks - coal mine\ locomotives - steam\ tractors - steam\ steam-powered equipment\ Welch, Jack\ Slaven, Frank|