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History of American Towns--Nome, Alaska, in the beginning,gold rush

Updated on June 23, 2015

Historic sign

   The annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, which finishes in Nome, commemorates the 1925 serum run.
The annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, which finishes in Nome, commemorates the 1925 serum run. | Source

Gold rush

The History of Nome starts with the gold rush. Gold was first discovered in Alaska in 1880 near Juneau. In 1896 gold was found in the Klondike region of the Yukon Territory and that started the gold rush. It continued until the last major gold strike in 1902.

There are two stories as to how Nome got its name. The most prevalent is that the name came from Cape Nome about twelve miles away. A British mapmaker copied an annotation of a British officer that indicated no name. The note was misconstrued to C.Nome or Cape Nome

The other story is that the city founder Jafet Lindeberg might have given the name after a Nome Valley in Norway.

Whatever the truth the name stuck because in 1899 local miners and merchants voted to change the name to Anvil City but the United States Post Office refused to change it.

Note on sources.

 Data for this hub has come from “The Complete Siberian Husky” by Lorna B. Demidoff and Michael Jennings. This book gives not only a history of Siberian Huskies but one of Alaska as well.

 Wikipedia article on Nome, Alaska.

Tent City

Library of Congress Picture
Library of Congress Picture | Source

Boomtown

 It was in 1899 that Nome became a boomtown when prospector at Daniels Creek found gold. It became a tent city to accommodate all the new population. Dog teams were essential for transportation as winter ice blocked access to the sea. There were probably more dogs there than any other place in the world.

 Anyone who has read or seen Jack London’s Call of the Wild probably has a pretty good picture of what things were like back then. According to the cited book on Huskies the inflated cost of a boomtown and careless living left a lot of miners less than prosperous. “Often the richest man in town was the ‘swamper’ whose duty, or privilege, it was to sweep the sawdust, rich with gold dust…from the barroom floor.”

Dogs

 Therefore dogs became valuable and treasured possessions and much conversation and stories, even tall tales were told about their dogs.

At that time the dogs were as varied as the people in that place. And were usually large strong and prone to fight.

Gunnar Kasen and dog Balto

Source

Robert Sorlie and the Idiarod team near Nome

Creative commons attribution share alike 2.0 generic licens. author Flicr user Ra 64
Creative commons attribution share alike 2.0 generic licens. author Flicr user Ra 64

The All Alaska Sweepstakes

 Allan “Scotty” Allan proposed a race to prove who had the best dog team. The Nome Kennel Club was formed in 1907 and drafted rules which included that the dogs all be registered with the club, drivers had to be members, any number of dogs could be on a team but they all had to come back.

A course was laid out from Nome to Candle and back—408 miles with varied conditions-sea ice, tundra, mountains, timber, glaciers, and a valley almost always in a blizzard.

In 1908 a Russian fur trader, William Goosak introduced what is now the Siberian Husky. A do totally different from those they were used to seeing. Siberians are compact, small and docile compared to the fierce large and angry dogs used locally.

They entered the race and the Huskies came in third due to the driver making strategic errors.

North to Alaska

The Great Race of Mercy became The Iditarod

 In 1925 diphtheria broke out in Nome and there was no way to get serum to them except by dog sled. The nearest supply of serum was in Anchorage, which is 955 miles away. It could be transported to Nenana, 297 miles north of Anchorage. No planes were available so the only means of transporting was by dog team 658 miles. In the best weather it took the U.S. Mail teams 25 days to cover that distance in the conditions that prevailed in winter.

 Gunnar Kasson who reached Nome on February 2, 1925 drove the last relay team. The 658-mile trip was made in five and a half days.

The lead dog Balto is honored with a staue in Central Park, N.Y.

This race made the Siberian Husky the most popular race dog and the Iditarod Race is a regular event to celebrate it.

 

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    • Robwrite profile image

      Rob 6 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

      I never knew how the Iditarod got started. Thanks for the information.

    • dahoglund profile image
      Author

      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks for commenting. I believe the modern race is longer actually than the first one was, but it is to commemorate the heroic delivery of medical supplies.

    • Coolmon2009 profile image

      Coolmon2009 6 years ago from Texas, USA

      I have heard of Nome, but knew very little about it. I enjoyed this introduction to the history of this city.

    • dahoglund profile image
      Author

      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks for commenting.I decided to limit it to the early years because it would have gotten very long otherwise.

    • Tom Whitworth profile image

      Tom Whitworth 6 years ago from Moundsville, WV

      dahoglund,

      Thank you for an interesting Hub on the history of Nome.

    • dahoglund profile image
      Author

      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thank you for commenting.

    • profile image

      randslam 6 years ago

      I believe it was Disney who made the animated feature starring none other than Balto as the protagonist. It's a wonderful film for kids and shows the importance of the medical supplies that arrived to save so many lives during this early time.

    • dahoglund profile image
      Author

      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks for the comment and the additional information.

    • Storytellersrus profile image

      Barbara 6 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      da, interesting indeed! I love the Norwegian naming of Nome the best, lol. I also love the movie about Balto- it was a favorite with my children. A friend of mine married a four time winner of the Iditarod, Susan Butcher. Sadly, she died of cancer in 2006, leaving him to raise their two towheads on his own. I always think of them when I read about Nome. Thanks, da.

    • dahoglund profile image
      Author

      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks for reading and commenting.It's sad about your friend. I'm a two time cancer survivor myself and had a father die of it, so I am aware of how bad it can be.

    • creativeone59 profile image

      benny Faye Douglass 6 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

      Thank you for some interesting facts on Nome Alaska, I enjoyed reading it. Godspeed. creativeone59

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I think most people have heard about the Iditorod but may never have heard about its origins. Very interesting! Rating this useful.

      Sorry to hear that you have had to battle cancer but happy to hear that you are a survivor. 2 friends have just been diagnosed with the disease. It seems rampant these days.

    • dahoglund profile image
      Author

      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      creativeone59

      Thanks you for your visit and kind comments.

    • dahoglund profile image
      Author

      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Peggy W

      Thanks for your comments.When I grew up nobody talked about cancer for some reason. With longer life spans more of us will get it I think.

      I may have been inclined to write this hub partly because we just got a young Husky.

    • profile image

      Kinghorn 6 years ago

      Nice! The horses of the Gold Rush deserve a tribute too. It is said that many deliberately jumped to their deaths when mistreated and overcome with exhaustion.

    • dahoglund profile image
      Author

      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Bill,

      It's good to hear from you again. I had not heard anything about horses connected to Alaska or for that matter anything out of the ordinary concerning the gold rush but I'll look into it.If you have any references, let me know.

    • profile image

      Evangelina 6 years ago

      i like the info but theres more history to that town than the average person would know. What really happen on oct.1,2000..Is there some truth to that?

    • dahoglund profile image
      Author

      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Sorry I can't answer your question.Answers.com gives some additional websites that might help.

      http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=200909...

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 6 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Alaska has always fascinated me. I had no idea how the Iditorod got it's start.

      Great information. Thanks

    • dahoglund profile image
      Author

      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks for reading and commenting. Alaska has its own kind of romaticism.

    • 2patricias profile image

      2patricias 6 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      Pat writes: I have always wanted to visit Alaska! (Tricia prefers warm and sunny places). I have read about the history of the gold rush, but this is the first time I have heard about the delivery of medical supplies by dog sled.

      Huskies are sometimes owned as pets here in England, and it seems not quite right to have such a dog in a place where it hardly ever snows. (Although as I type it is white outside.)

    • dahoglund profile image
      Author

      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I believe there are warm periods in parts of Alaska. We have a mostly Siberian Husky we took as a rescue dog. She is young and still a bit frisky for an old couple like us but my wife is in love with the breed. I have read that Huskys do fairly well in warm climates as their insulated coats serve to keep heat out as well as cold.

      Thanks ror reading and commenting.

    • AskAshlie3433 profile image

      AskAshlie3433 6 years ago from WEST VIRGINIA

      I actually worked at a prison in Eloy, Arizona that housed Alaskan inmates. They would tell me that the big companies pay them yearlt for working on their land. Usually, thousands of follars or up to a thousand. Anywho, good job as always. Your such great talent.

    • dahoglund profile image
      Author

      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thank you again.Working at a prison should be a source of interesting ideas.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Revisiting this hub to ask how your Husky dog is settling in to your family life? They are certainly beautiful dogs. Are they as friendly as labs or more like German Shephards?

    • dahoglund profile image
      Author

      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Our Siberian mix is getting adjusted. She was/is a rescue dog and we don not know her real background. she is what they term"Shy" and afraid of lots of things. she is gradually becoming more confident, I think. I have never had a Lab and our friend who do have them tend to spoil them. However, Husky type dogs are a bit more stand offish. Many years ago we had a White German Shepherd which was very protective of the children but generally friendly. She is the dog named Sheila in the stories I wrote about my children and dogs. Shane was her offspring when she got too friendly with a white northern breed, probably a Malamute. Our dog prior to the one we have now was a Husky/Shepherd mix and quite friendly. Huskies do not have the protective instincts of a Shepherd. The Husky part liked to roam and could be gone in a flash.Huskies have a reputation for being too friendly and thus an easy target for those who steal dogs.

      I'm not being very helpful here since we seem to have a work in progress.

    • profile image

      Bell 4 years ago

      I am from Nome Alaska, and I do half to say I enjoy the land, and the activities and events we have in the summer, they are a lot of fun to participate in:)

    • dahoglund profile image
      Author

      Don A. Hoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Bell, thanks for reading and leaving a comment.

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