George M. Ashford
GEORGE M. ASHFORD is one of the pioneers of Northern Alaska. He is a civil
engineer and surveyor, and was the first man
of his profession to arrive in Nome. He was one of
the unfortunate stampeders to the Kotzebue Sound
country in 1898. At the time of the excitement
caused by the report of the discovery of gold in this
region he and twenty-seven others bought a schooner,
in which they made the trip to the Arctic country.
Mr. Ashford spent the winter of 1898 and 1899 on
the Kobuk River, a short distance below Squirrel
River. In the spring of 1899, the news of the Anvil
strike having previously reached the Arctic slope, he
started over the ice with two companions for Nome.
They hauled their sleds and accomplished the long
and arduous journey, full of peril and hardships, in
a month's time. They left the Kobuk and started
across Kotzebue Sound on May 1. This season
was unusually late, and while crossing the ice of Kotzebue Sound they encountered extremely severe
weather. On the third day out Dr. De France, one of their traveling companions,
became exhausted and froze to death. They were ten days on the ice before they
reached Cape Espenberg.
After reaching the coast of Bering Sea and crossing Port Clarence Bay the season was pretty well advanced, it being the latter part of May, and the ice over the
sea in many places was rotten and unsafe. At a place above Sinuk River two men,
who were traveling with a dog team and following Mr. Ashford s party, narrowly
escaped being drowned. The dog team, sledge and all of their supplies were lost
by the breaking of the ice.
Mr. Ashford says that when he arrived within forty miles of Nome he saw evidence of the "pencil and hatchet" miners. At this early date the beach for this
distance west of Nome was staked. He arrived at Nome May 31 and found a
bustling, thriving mining camp. His most serious regret was that he did not have his
transit with him. as there was a pressing demand for the services of a surveyor and
much work that he could have done if he had had his instruments.
During the early part of this season Mr. Ashford became associated with J. M.
Davidson, and they did the first work of surveying and engineering that was ever done
on Seward Peninsula. Mr. Ashford was one of the engineers of the Miocene Ditch
Company, and has since been connected with most of the important ditch enterprises
of this region.
Mr. Ashford was born near Lisbon, Ohio, January 2, 1868. When he was
eight years old his family moved to Iowa, and he was educated in the public schools of
that state, and was subsequently graduated from the Iowa State College in the class
of '92 with the degree of B. C. E. His first work as an engineer was with the
Carnegie Steel Co. of Pittsburg, Pa. For a period of three or four years he was an
engineer for the Pittsburg Bridge Co., engaged in the drafting and construction
department of that company's extensive work. He was sent to North Carolina as an
engineer in connection with the construction of George W. Vanderbilt's mansion at
Biltmore. The positions he filled required technical knowledge and practical experience, but the gold fever was latent in his blood, and when the report of rich discoveries in Alaska reached him, the malady rapidly developed. The vicissitudes
of life in the Northland have not entirely destroyed the germs that caused the gold fever
in Mr. Ashford's system, as he is still identified with the country. His competency as an
engineer and his high standing in his profession enable him to find very profitable
employment, and he has mining interests from which he may yet realize the dreams he had before
starting to this frozen land.
Mr. Ashford possesses unostentatious merit, and is capable, trustworthy and
honorable in all of his relations with his fellow men.
Source: Nome and Seward Peninsula by R. S.
Harrison. Seattle: The Metropolitan Press, 1905.