Fairbanks Alaska History
The history of Fairbank's first church
The following letter was found in
the First Presbyterian Church of Fairbanks archives. It was titled "Historical
Statement" and looks to have been written circa 1908. There is a lot of
Fairbanks history in this letter:
"Early in the winter of 1902-1903,
Rev. M. E. Koonce, PhD, who was the Presbyterian missionary of Rampart on
the Yukon, hearing of the new camp on the Tanana, made the journey hither
on foot, dragging his blankets and food on a handsled. He found a few cabins
at Chena and at Fairbanks, and judging that Chena would be the chief town,
he built a mission cabin there, preaching the first sermons ever heard in
the Tanana Valley. On his return to Rampart, he reported the prospects
of the new camp to Rev. S.Hall Young, D.D., General Missionary for Alaska.
Dr. Young forwarded his report to the Board of Home Missions and advised
Rev. Charles F. Ensign, then stationed at Eagle, to go at once to the Tanana,
and if advisable, erect a house of worship. Mr. Ensign accordingly made the
long trip over the snow, landing at Chena in March, 1903. He erected
a log building at Chena, to be used both as a church and hospital. He preached
both there and at Fairbanks but thought that Chena was bound to be the permanent
center of population. He left the camp in June of that year, returning to
Dr. Young started from Skagway June
18, 1903, intending to visit the Tanana, but meeting Mr. Ensign and Dr. Koonce
at Rampart, and receiving from them, and from returning miners, discouraging
reports of the new camp, he continued down the Yukon, visiting the missions
on Seward Peninsula and wintering at Council.
In the spring of 1904, hearing from Dr. Koonce of another visit made by
him to the Tanana in February of that year, during which time he held services
at Chena and Fairbanks, Dr. Young went to Nome and took the first available
boat up the Tanana.
In the mean time, Rev. Hue Frank had been commissioned by the Board of
Chena, and was on his way to the field. He arrived at Chena in the middle
of July 1904 and commenced work there. A week later, Dr. Young came to Fairbanks.
He secured the court house as an audience room and held services there every
Sunday, alternating morning and evening services with the Episcopalians.
He soon began to canvas the town for funds to erect a church and manse and
bought a lot on the south east corner of Cushman and Seventh Streets. The
congregation elected a temporary board of 5 trustees of who ____ Miller was chairman.
Building was commenced the middle of September and a small manse was first
put up and later a church, the latter being opened for the services the first
Sunday in November 1904. The cost of the church and manse was about $5,500.
Services were held every Sunday until the first Sunday of May 1905, when
the church was formally organized by Dr. Young, with the following charter
Mrs. S.H.Young from Presbyterian Church Skagway, Alaska
Fred Schaupp from M.E. Church Santa Rosa, California
Miss Florence Heilig from 1st Presbygerian Church Tacoma, Washington
Mrs. Minnie Eckert from Baptist Church N. Seattle, Washington
Carl Knutsen from Pemie Mission
F.W.French from 1st U. P. Church Seattle, Washington
Wm S.Washburn from Cougl Church Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin
Mrs. Margaret Brandt from Presbyterian Curch Dawson, Y.T.
Carl Schaupp from M.E. Church, Santa Rosa, California
Mrs. E.E.Kellogg from Baptist Church Everett, Washington
Miss Laurisse Thompason from M.E. Church Tacoma, Washington
Mrs. Henrietta Sharts from Presbyterian Church Lopez Island, Washingon
L.C.Lewis from 1st M.E. Church San Francisco, California
Mrs. C.J.Peterson from Cougl Church Nome,
A.A.Nelson from Cougl Church Nome, Alaska
Mrs. A.A.Nelson from Cougl Church Nome, Alaska
Mrs. Wacchter from M.E.Church Dawson,
Miss Wacchter from M.E.Church Dawson,
Geo. B.Wesch from Park Presbyterian Church Buffalo, New York
W.H. Mattheson from Presbyterian Church Dawson, Y.T.
Miss Martha Nelson from Lutheran Church Norway
Mrs. D.J.Fairburn from Presbyterian Church Seattle, Washington
Mrs. Van Curler Reid on Confession of Faith
Messers L.T. Lewis, Carl Knutsen and F.W.French were elected and ordained
elders. Mesers E.E.Kellog, J.H. Patten, John McDonald, H.C. Badger and F.E.
Barbour were elected trustees.
June 1st, 1906, Dr. Young left Fairbanks on his general missionary tour
and Rev. H.M.Frank took charge of the church. He continued in charge until
June 1907 when he left Alaska.
The Church stood vacant from June 1st to August 1st, 1907, when Dr. Young
returned and atook charge again. He reorganized the church services, S.S.,
and prayer meeting. During his second term a new parsonage was built and
the church building completed and improved.
Dr. Young continued his services until July 1908 when Rev. James H.Condit
suceeded him, coming from the pastorate of the Third Presbyterian Church
of Sioux City, Iowa.
The historical statement as recorded to this point, was prepared by Rev.
S. Hall Young D.D. and here transcribed by the undersigned, James H. Condit."