Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.
Alaska Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan
Following the 1867 purchase of Alaska by the United States, the United States established a military post, Fort Wrangell, on Wrangell Island, which had been a center for the Russian fur trade since the early 19th century. The fort soon became the center of a community serving gold prospectors. The city of Wrangell continued to grow and eventually hosted a robust fishing and canning industries.
The Alaska collection consists of three letters written by an Alaskan fisherman to his brother describing life in Alaska during the late 19th century. The author, who signed himself "Will," wrote the three letters to his brother Sam, from Fort Wrangle, Alaska (now Wrangell). Will's letters relate to life in Alaska during the early days of its settlement, with a particular focus on employment and on local Indians. Will, who owned a boat and fished for salmon, described his work and provided a picture of his life in the sparsely settled country. He focused on several aspects of life in Alaska, including the natural terrain and his encounters with local Indians, whom he believed to be immoral: "[in] some cases when the squaws are broke they are mighty glad to put in a night with a fellow & get two bits or some beans & bacon in the morning" (February 16, 1889). Will also repeatedly discussed the salmon industry and employment, including his occupation assisting the local marshal.