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Ray Bell
Ray Bell

Ray Bell was interviewed on October 31, 1991 by Dan O'Neill and William Schneider at the Bell's log home in Central, Alaska. During the interview, Ray's wife, Arlene, occasionally contributed some comments and clarifications from the other room. At the interviewers' urging, she moved into the living room and sat next to Ray so she could be better heard on the recording. Dan O'Neill previously had interviewed Richard Smith, Ray and Arlene's son, at his camp at Forty Mile (from Circle) on August 4, 1991 (ORAL HISTORY 91-22-09). Ray and Arlene built their log house in Central before going up to the Yukon to "live on the river." The house in Central is a large log cabin, 22 by 24, partitioned into bedrooms, living room and kitchen areas. Pictures are prominent, some of family members and, most notably, a picture of their son, Richard Smith, at his Forty Mile camp. There is also a painting which resembles their house at Woodchopper. It wasn't made at Woodchopper, but so closely resembled their cabin there that they obtained it. In this interview, Ray talks about his experiences living and raising a family on the Yukon River at Forty Mile (from Circle) and at Woodchopper, and working at the mine at Coal Creek.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 91-22-41

Project: Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve
Date of Interview: Oct 31, 1991
Narrator(s): Ray Bell
Interviewer(s): Dan O'Neill, Bill Schneider
People Present: Arlene Bell
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
National Park Service
Alternate Transcripts
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1) Personal background and coming to Alaska

2) Moving out on to the Yukon River

3) Living at Forty mile (from Circle), at Woodchopper, and Coal Creek.

4) Their son, Richard Smith, his cabins at Forty Mile (from Circle), and Ray's hope that the National Park Service will not force Richard off the site

5) Ray's interest in living in the country

6) Teaching the boys at home

7) People living out in the Yukon-Charley region when Ray and Arlene and their family were out on the river

8) Transportation along the Yukon River

9) Other people living in the Yukon-Charley Rivers region

10) Raising a family, correspondence school, pleasures of living out in the country

11) Using cottonwood logs for cabin construction, and how they put up their firewood

12) Working at Coal Creek and some of the old timers that worked there

13) The future of trapping and subsistence lifestyles

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Section 1: Bell, Ray\ homesteading - Central\ Bell, Arlene\ Smith, David\ Smith, Richard\ Smith, John\ Smith, Paul\ Smith, Bob\ homesteading - site selection\ cabin construction - log peeling|

Section 2: Bell, Ray\ Hutchinson, Dick - Circle\ Bertoson, Gordon\ Bertoson cabin - fire story\ cabin construction - Ray Bell|

Section 3: Forty mile (from Circle)\ cabins - Forty mile (from Circle)\ Vogler, Joe\ cabins - Woodchopper\ Bell, Ray - Coal Creek\ Coal Creek\ Nathaniel, Steve\ Bertoson, Gordon\ Forty mile (from Circle) camp - continuum of use\ Roman, Walter\ trails - Bertoson, Gordon\ trapping\ Straub, Bill - Twenty-eight mile\ trespass - Bureau of Land Management\ Bureau of Land Management - trespass\ Rampart Dam - land withdrawals\ protests - quotes\ government agencies - harassment\ Bell, Ray - Woodchopper|

Section 4: Smith, Richard\ Smith, David\ cabins - Forty mile (from Circle)\ National Park Service - Slaven's Roadhouse\ cabin permits - NPS\ National Park Service - presence on river\ Coal Creek - NPS presence\ National Park Service - "takeover" of sites\ cabins - Smith, Richard|

Section 5: Bell, Ray\ trapping\ fishing - commercial\ Warren, Frank\ fish processing - canning\ fish processing - kippering\ government agencies - regulations\ Bush living - income\ trapping - income\ bush living - floods\ trapping - selling furs\ seasonal round - Bell, Ray\ trapping - marten\ trapping - dogs\ trapping - snowmachine|

Section 6: Bell, Arlene\ bush living - correspondence school\ Gelvin, Ed\ airplanes - Gelvin, Ed\ bush living - mail\ Coal Creek - radio telephone\ bush living - communications|

Section 7: old timers\ Black, Red - Kandik River\ Coal Creek - Swedes\ Kelly, Carolyn - Sam Creek\ Kelly, Sam\ bush living - visiting\ Gelvin, Ed - supply transport\ bush living - supplies\ river travel - hazards|

Section 8: Yukon River - hazards\ river travel - traditional knowledge\ Wilson, Errol\ trapping - trails\ trails - trapping\ Yukon Quest - impact on travel\ trails - Forty mile (from Circle) - Slaven's|

Section 9: Schroeder, Bill - story\ McDonald, Gordon\ cabins - Forty mile (from Circle)\ Bertoson, Gordon\ Northern Commercial Company - Fort Yukon\ cabins - Six mile\ Fleming, Jim\ bush living - personalities\ Flat - Fleming, Jim|

Section 10: Bell, Arlene\ Bell, Ray\ cabins - Central\ bush living - correspondence school\ land - aesthetics\ bush living - physical requirements\ Smith, Richard\ subsistence - lifestyle\ Smith, David\ bush living - income\ land ownership|

Section 11: cabin construction - cottonwood\ cottonwood - advantages as building material\ cabin construction - log peeling\ wood cutting - firewood\ firewood - selection\ firewood - philosophy\ Roberts, Sandy - story\ quote - Roberts, Sandy|

Section 12: Bayless, Joe\ Wolff, Ernie\ Coal Creek - jobs\ Bell, Ray\ dozer operators - Coal Creek\ Coal Creek - construction\ Coal Creek - ownership\ Coal Creek - economics\ N.C. Machinery Company - Fairbanks\ dredge - operation\ Coal Creek - "clean-up"\ dredge - costs\ Coal Creek - gold production\ dredge - mechanics|

Section 13: National Park Service - impact\ subsistence lifestyle - importance\ Smith, Richard\ Yukon-Charley - subsistence\ Yukon-Charley - visitors\ river people - importance\ National Park Service - concept of preservation\ Bureau of Land Management - philosophy\ bush living - scavenging materials\ "caught a bridge" - story\ reiteration of man's value in nature\ "caught a bridge" - story\ building materials - river\ scavenging - Yukon River\ lifestyle - fear of eviction\ continuum of use - cabins\ cabin permits|