Founded in 1911 when the Copper River and Northwestern Railway arrived, McCarthy was the rough-and-tumble side of the carefully controlled environment at the Kennecott copper mine. Here, 4 miles down the road, liquor and women were readily available. In addition, the CR&NWRy constructed a depot and maintenance facilities here.
While it owed its existence to the Kennecott Copper Company, McCarthy boomed during the stampede to the goldfields of Chisana in 1913, when it served as a point of entry. Stampeders who arrived in Alaska by ship could take the train to McCarthy, before setting out on the overland trek to Chisana, deep in one of the most rugged regions of Alaska.
At its peak in 1916, McCarthy had a population of thirteen hundred (compared to Kennecott's four hundred), but its population diminished during World War I. In 1931 the territorial school was closed, as it had only two students. After the closing of the Kennecott Mines in 1938, McCarthy continued its decline until the late 1970s, when it had only a dozen residents. Today McCarthy has an appealing collection of small log and wood-framed buildings. A number of unused and deteriorating buildings hint at the town's former size.
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