Fairbanks, Alaska was founded in 1901 when E. T Barnette was dropped off on the bank of the Chena River and established his trading post there. Felix Pedro (Felice Pedroni) struck gold nearby, and soon Fairbanks became a boomtown.
Like most Gold Rush towns, Fairbanks had its mix of cultures. Aboriginal and Russian descendants interacted with recent arrivals. Citified businessmen worked with scruffy miners. And the location held challenges. Winter temperatures plummeted far below zero. Spring break-up ice tore out the bridge several years in a row.
As happened in many towns with wooden structures, fire destroyed much of the town in 1906. Congressional delegate and judge James Wickersham coordinated federal support for rebuilding Fairbanks. The population rallied and the town grew.
Founder and mayor E. T. Barnette created some complications too, when he bought neighboring mining claims through surrogates and some of his men jumped claims that others had worked on legitimately. When word got out that he had a criminal background, things really heated up.
Many of these historical facts are woven into the story of my next novel, Golden Days. Stay tuned to hear more about that as we get closer to the release date, November 12th!
There are several great sources of information on Fairbanks history. I recommend Terrence Cole’s Crooked Past: The History of a Frontier Mining Camp: Fairbanks. Alaska (published by University of Alaska Press, 1984) if you’d like to read more about this fascinating town.
Photo of Wickersham House via Wikicommons (Wickersham House NRHP ref #79003757, Fairbanks, AK author Durkeeco)