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U.S. Government Buildings

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1913–1914

Although earlier gold miners in Alaska established their own self-governing mining districts, by the time of the Chisana strike the U.S. government had a clear role. A civil code adopted in 1900 provided that the U.S. district judges could appoint commissioners as needed. The commissioner, who served as justice of the peace, recorder, probate judge, and coroner, was assigned to a specific area, often in response to a gold rush and influx of population. Accordingly, U.S. District Judge Robert Jennings appointed Anthony J. Dimond as U.S. commissioner in Chisana in 1913. Dimond left Chisana the next summer but went on to a distinguished political career, including service as Alaska's delegate to Congress, 1933–1934.

Dimond and his successors built several log buildings in which to carry out their duties: a two-story courthouse, a residence, and men's and women's jails. The two-story courthouse does not survive, but the one-story log cabin known as the court may have dated from 1913–1914. The men's jail does not survive, but the women's does. This modest log cabin is a reminder that women were present in gold-rush towns and were not necessarily law abiding. The commissioner's residence is typical of other log cabins in Chisana; in fact, the three government buildings are hardly distinguishable from each other, despite their different purposes.

As buildings significant to this gold-rush town, the three were restored by the National Park Service in 1989–1990. Chisana is located within Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park, and is evidence that the parklands are not as pristine as they seem. At one time, five thousand eager prospectors were sifting the streambeds for gold.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Alison K. Hoagland
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Citation

Alison K. Hoagland, "U.S. Government Buildings", [Chisana, Alaska], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/AK-01-SC121.

Print Source

Buildings of Alaska, Alison K. Hoagland. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993, 153-153.

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