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Chisana

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The site of a 1913 gold stampede, Chisana once had four hundred log buildings; today there are about twenty. Deep in the Wrangell Mountains, Chisana's location remains remote, not connected by road to anywhere else.

In May 1913, Billy James, his wife, Matilda James, and Nels P. “North Pole” Nelson discovered placer gold on Bonanza Creek. When Nelson went to Dawson for supplies, he spread word of the strike, and that summer 5,000 people headed for Chisana. One of the last stampedes in Alaska, Chisana attracted those who had lost out in Nome, Fairbanks, Dawson, and a host of smaller strikes. Although creeks were staked for 25 miles around Chisana, only Glacier and Bonanza creeks proved productive. By 1920, only 148 people lived in Chisana, and in 1939, the post office closed.

In the buildings that remain, the grid outlines of the original townsite are still evident. Most of the extant buildings are residential, but they share certain characteristics with the government buildings discussed below. All were constructed of round logs, chinked with sod or moss, saddle notched or V notched at the corners. Roofs were constructed of sod laid on poles or planks and often covered with metal in later years. On the interior, walls were covered with canvas. The foundations usually consisted of sill logs laid directly on the ground; on some cabins the earth is bermed around them.

Access to Chisana is by plane or packhorse, so new building materials are rarely introduced. The town is without electricity, telephone, sewer, or water.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Alison K. Hoagland

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