July 1, 2010 |


The City of Haines was born amid a surge of economic growth and civic activity, according to records at the Sheldon Museum.

In the years after white settlement in 1879, the community grew slowly as a Presbyterian mission and a trading post. At a meeting in 1898, residents agreed to the name Haines, and to the width of streets and size of lots.

But by Jan. 6, 1910, when eligible voters -- a group that excluded women and Alaska Natives -- voted overwhelmingly to form the City of Haines, the town looked rife with opportunity.

There were mines at Porcupine, Rainy Hollow and Cahoon Creek, canneries in Chilkoot and Chilkat inlets, an operating Army post at Fort Seward and talk of a railroad from Pyramid Harbor to the Interior.

"The season just passed was the most prosperous one ever known in Haines. More people passed through the town, there was greater activity in the adjacent mining country, many prospectors have been looking over the still undeveloped regions, while a number of new residents have come here to stay," Ben Barnett, business manager of The Haines Pioneer Press, editorialized on Oct. 29, 1909.

The Press – the town’s first commercial newspaper – was launched in June, three months after businessmen started the Haines Chamber of Commerce.

Newspaper reports in the fall of 1909 included that Charles Anway had sold 200 quarts of strawberries in Skagway and Haines. There were plans for "another" cannery at Chilkoot Inlet that would process crabs, venison and berries, and the Arctic Development Company had been formed for the purpose of "constructing and maintaining telephone and telegraph lines and power and lighting plants about Haines."

Further, the Alaska Iron Co. planned to build a 1,100-foot wharf, 300 yards north of an existing one spanned from the foot of Main Street.

The new newspaper’s pages advertised a bowling alley on Front Street, a steam laundry, the J.M. Blankenberg Photo Studio, several hotels and dry goods stores, two stage lines to the Porcupine mining district, and a sawmill and planing mill that could produce 25,000 feet of product daily.

The town’s first motion picture was shown in 1910 -- although Main Street’s movie theater wasn’t built for another eight years.

"We don’t have a lot of information from that time, but there was a lot going on. It was definitely economic boom times," said C.J. Jones, former curator at the Sheldon Museum.

In the six months after formation of the Chamber of Commerce, members voted to: establish a town cleanup effort, invite U.S. President Howard Taft to visit the town, petition the Alaska Road Commission for a bridge across the "Kloheena" River, request daily mail service between town and Skagway, and hire a lawyer to pursue incorporation of a municipality.

The chamber touted Haines as offering "unequaled openings to the capitalist, home-seeker and laborer… A rich field for exploration and development at our very door – mining, fishing, lumbering, agriculture."

In view of potential interest from Interior mining companies, the Press described Haines as the "natural gateway to Porcupine, Rainy Hollow, White River and the Tanana Valley," boasting "unlimited fields of copper, iron, gold, silver, marble and coal."

A front-page story in the Dec. 17, 1909 Pioneer Press referenced a million-dollar deal involving English financiers buying a Yukon copper mine and planning a railroad there.

Meanwhile, Falcon Joslin, president of Tanana Mines Railway, proposed the Alsek & Yukon line that would deliver ore by rail to tidewater at Haines.

In an editorial titled, "Railroad Talk Is Not Hot Air," newspaper manager Barnett wrote: "Haines will certainly be the seaport of a great railroad. The resources of the country between Haines and the Tanana Valley warrant such a road."

The newspaper reported that the Canadian federal government had given Joslin a charter for a right-of-way.

But plans for railroads between Haines and the Interior fizzled, in part because of the desireability of an all-Alaska line.

A 45-mile private railroad was built in the Tanana Valley. It – and sections of privately built rail line between Seward and Anchorage – were purchased and joined after the U.S. government took over the project and created the Alaska Railroad, from Seward to Fairbanks. It was completed in 1923.

The Haines Pioneer Press published its final edition in 1913.