First Alaska Legislators Treked to Juneau

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TLHR Jan 10 Tues First Legislators Trek to Juneau 1 of 2

Alaska legislators and staff often brag about their trip to Juneau. You know, driving at 20 below and not seeing another car all day. Or running into a stretch of whiteout where they don’t see anything past the windshield wipers.

Alaska’s First Territorial Legislature 1913. Photo courtesy Alaska Digital Archives.

But that’s nothing compared to what Alaska’s first territorial legislators went through to get to Juneau.

The first territorial legislature met in 1913. It’s said that the hardest part of the session was the trek from outlying areas to Juneau. The average lawmaker traveling more than 2500 miles round trip. While in 1913 EVERYONE would have had trouble getting into Juneau, think of the poor guys from, say, Nome who had to first get to Fairbanks, then to Anchorage, then on to Juneau.

The website akhistorycourse.org, which is a site owned by the Alaska Humanities Forum, explains it this way…

Three of the legislators-to-be left Nome by dog team in early January. They crossed Norton Sound to Unalakleet and traveled the Yukon River and then the Tanana River to Fairbanks. They covered 700 to 900 miles just to reach Fairbanks. One senator walked from roadhouse to roadhouse along the winter trail to Fairbanks. From there they went 360 miles by horse-drawn sleigh to Valdez, a journey that took a week, and caught a steamer to Juneau. They arrived the day before the Legislature began.

As you can imagine, the first legislative session didn’t begin in mid-January as it does now.

They began their work on March 3, 1913, meeting in the Elks Building. The next day, 3,000 miles away in Washington, D.C., Woodrow Wilson was sworn in as the 27th president of the United States.

Thanks to akhistorycourse.org for today’s information. It’s a great site to visit, with lots of interesting bits of Alaska trivia.

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Resources:

Alaska History and Cultural Studies (akhistorycourse.org) has scads of interesting information about Alaska’s history and early days of state government.

http://www.akhistorycourse.org/articles/article.php?artID=135

VILDA is the repository for the Alaska’s digital archives. If you go to the site, plan to be there a long time, as there are countless interesting photos, videos and mp3 audio selections.

http://vilda.alaska.edu/