Driftwood Claims

In September 1915, the Chena River was running very high through Fairbanks cresting at a level of 9’6” on the Home bar. The water was bankfull and flooding was imminent but flooding was the least of city residents’ worries. The big concern was all the debris coming downriver to form a huge logjam against the old wooden Turner St. bridge.

Fairbanks Daily Times- September 15, 1915


As a result of the flood, Carl Behring, a woodcutter of the upper Chena river, is a heavy loser, more than 150 cords of wood having been washed away from his place. The wood was piled near the river and when the water raised late Monday night, it took the whole pile downstream, the owner not being able to save any of it.

That the loss of one is the gain of another was demonstrated yesterday when a big force of men started at an early hour, just above the bridge, to haul away the driftwood. Practically the whole force of Samson Hardware company was on hand and salvaged many cords of wood. A number of teamsters were busy also, hauling away the four-foot wood and the logs which were taken from the river.

There were many people who secured enough wood to last them all winter, while other secured enough to last them for some months. At one time there were no less than forty men salvaging the wood and logs.

Fairbanks Daily Times- September 15, 1915


Early yesterday morning, R. M. Brown posted a notice on the bridge, stating that he had staked and claimed all timber lying above the bridge in the river. He was willing to give half to anybody who would haul it away, but a number of claim jumpers got busy and hauled the better part of the wood away. Mr. Brown wanted Judge Buckley to issue an injunction restraining the jumpers from hauling away the wood which he claimed, but the “cote” was too busy to bother with such trivial cases, where only a few hundred cords were at stake.

Note: In the end, the logjam damaged the bridge and it had to be replaced. One has to wonder where the wood came from to do that after all those saw logs had been scavenged. This event would equate to today’s bulk fuel storage losing almost all of its fuel to those who salvaged it while the rest of the residents went without until more could be brought in. R. M Brown, aka “Waterfront Brown” was the local bill collector and also a Charter member of Igloo No. 4. This waterlogged History Nugget has been proudly brought to you by Men’s Igloo No. 4 and Women’s Igloo No. 8 of the Pioneers of Alaska.

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