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 Eagle

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 members:

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, Alaska   
A.A.Nelson from Cougl Church Nome, Alaska
Mrs. A.A.Nelson from Cougl Church Nome, Alaska
Mrs. Wacchter from M.E.Church  Dawson, Y.T.
Miss Wacchter from M.E.Church  Dawson, Y.T.
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."

* Note from Coleen: words in RED might have errors due to very small handwriting.


coleen _mielke@hotmail.com