Spiked Railway

114 years ago, a momentous event in the history of the Tanana Valley took place at the site where the Daily News Miner building sits today:

Dawson Daily News August 7, 1905


Fairbanks-Chena Railroad is Completed
Pushing to Creeks

Fairbanks, July 17- In the presence of a large crowd the golden spike was driven in the Tanana Mines railroad this afternoon, and marks the completion of the first part of the railroad system which is soon to cover the important points in the Tanana valley.

Everything went according to program. The company had chartered the steamer Coal Oil Johnny, which carried the crowds across the river. The Fairbanks people were supplemented by an excursion from Chena, among whom were seen the familiar faces of Mayor Harrais, Mrs. Rapp, Rev. and Mrs. Frank, Dr. Danforth, Mr. and Mrs. Kirkpatrick and a large number of others.

General E. M Carr made the opening remarks. He presented to Judge Wickersham a memorial spike upon which was stamped the date of the beginning and completion of the railroad between Chena and Fairbanks. It was the first spike driven in the road by the workmen.

Judge Wickersham replied briefly. There was such a dense crowd that it was impossible for many to get near the speaker’s stand, but most of the words uttered by his honor were heard. He spoke eloquently of the many new opportunities opened to the Tanana for its more rapid development through the means of a railroad.

After he had ceased, Mrs. E. T. Barnette, wife of Captain Barnette, the founder of Fairbanks, was the center of interest. It was her duty to drive the golden spike, a spike of genuine gold made from the dust of the Tanana mines and melted and fashioned by the assay office of the Washington-Alaska bank. As soon as Mrs. Barnette had driven the spike three cheers were given for the railroad, and they were given with a will. A large number of those present took advantage of the free excursion to Chena and return. The train makes the trip one way in about forty minutes.

Note: The actual speech given by Judge Wickersham was also published in the newspapers of the time. The spike was made from 42 ounces of pure gold from the Tanana mines. A few days after the event, Falcon Joslin had the golden spike engraved with the words “Driven by Mrs. E. T. Barnette,” and then he gave it to her to keep. Its location is unknown today. The spike presented to Judge Wickersham is kept by the State Museum as part of the Wickersham Collection.

The Friends of the Tanana Valley Railroad performed a reenactment of the 1905 Golden Spike Ceremony on July 19, 2019, at Pioneer Park in Fairbanks. Isabelle Barnette drove the golden spike, Judge Wickersham gave his great speech and a party for the 120th birthday of  Engine No. 1 was given.

This 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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