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William Harrison Bard

W. H. BARD is a pioneer lawyer of Nome, a prominent member of the bar of • Northwestern Alaska, and has the distinction of having been the fourth mayor, under municipal organization, of the city. He was 45 years old February 13, 1905, and is a native of Genesee, Illinois. His parents moved to Iowa during his infancy, and his father enlisted in the Union army and was killed at the battle of Gettysburg. In 1868 the family moved to Nebraska where Mr. Bard resided until he was sixteen years old. He then went to the Black Hills, and served two years as courier of the U. S. scouts under Captain Jack. In '78 he went to Denver, and worked at the freighting business, driving one of the first mule teams from Denver to Leadville. Later he mined near Georgetown, and was the discoverer of the Little Florence Silver Mine which he sold for $3,000. Six weeks after the sale, the property was resold for $60,000. With the money from the sale of the mine he went to Europe, and acquired $3,000 worth of knowledge and experience.

Returning to Chicago he found employment in a music store, and applied himself by attending night school to the acquisition of a better education than the opportunities of a frontier life afforded. He studied law in Danville, 111., in the office of Judge J. W. Lawrence, subsequently attending Ann Arbor, and was graduated from the law department of that institution. He practiced law in Chicago for a time, being the junior member of the law firm of Briggs, Martin, May & Bard. Through an operation for tonsillitis he was unable to speak above a whisper for more than a year, and was forced to temporarily abandon his pracice. During this affliction he went to Cumberland, Maryland, and founded the Kennedy Manufacturing Co., wholesale grocers, but recovering the use of his voice he went back into the practice of law, opening offices in Pittsburg, Pa., and devoting his time entirely to the specially of insurance law.

In 1897 the reports of the new Eldorado in the Yukon Territory revivified the germs of the gold fever, which had been dormant for near a quarter of a century; and as the first money of any importance that he made came from the sale of a mine he resolved to go to the Klondike. He accordingly started west again and went north over the White Pass, reaching Dawson that year. Being one of the first lawyers in Dawson he was permitted to practice by the Dominion Government, but devoted most of his time to mining. He was the first discoverer of gold in the benches of Lower Bonanza, and jwned an interest in eight claims opposite 46 below, left limit of this stream. The jroperty was very valuable, but being undeveloped its value was unknown. The owners A the property got into a wrangle and Mr. Bard sold his interest for $8,000. Half a million dollars was afterward taken out of these claims.

The favorable reports received from the Nome, camp induced him to join the stampeders to the new diggings. Arriving in Nome September 30, 1899, he opened a law office in the Muther building, in a room about as big as a dry goods box, furnished with a crude table and stools made out of boxes, and began the practice of law. His library consisted of the Criminal Code and the Code of Oregon. He filled the position of acting U. S. Attorney under District Attorney Frederichs, of Juneau, and discharged the duties of this office until the arrival of District Attorney Joe. Wood, July 15, 1900. During his incumbency he prosecuted 11 criminal cases before U. S. Commissioner Rawson, the only court here at that time.

Since his arrival in Nome Mr. Bard has been interested in mining. In the spring of 1902 he made a trip with Bob Warren over the snow from Nome to the Koyukuk River. In December, 1902, Mr. Bard, accompanied by Barney Rolands, went to Norton Bay by dog team to look after some quartz property of the Corson Mining Company.

On the trail between Solomon and Cheruk Road-house he encountered the worst blizzard he ever experienced. Nothing was distinguishable a rod away. They were apparently in a cloud of snow, driven by a furious gale, and the weather biting cold, fifty degrees below zero. After three hours painstaking effort to follow the telephone poles of the Long Distance Telephone line they came to a road-house and found shelter. During this trip and while endeavoring to avoid the rough ice near shore in the vicinity of Bluff, they got onto new ice recently formed over several fathoms of water. An ominous cracking and bending of the ice warned them to get near the shore and be satisfied with a rough trail. These incidents give one a glimpse at some of the conditions encountered in winter travel in this part of Alaska.

Mr. Bard was elected to the common council at the municipal election in 1903, and in September of that year was unanimously selected by his associates to preside over the deliberations of that body, and discharge the duties of mayor of Nome. During his incumbency the council took the first steps toward securing a patent for a townsite, constructed a city hall and added to the equipment of the fire department. The first two of these measures were objects of special efforts by the mayor, being regarded by him of paramount importance and value to the citizens of Nome. Mr. Bard, both as a lawyer and as the leading official of the municipality, took an active part in getting the measure before Congress permitting municipalities to handle misdemeanors. As the Alaska Code provided penalties for misdemeanors, it was not unusual in the earlier history of Nome for a person to be arrested and fined under the city ordinance and re-arrested and fined for the same offence by the federal authorities. The object of those who pro- posed the measure which was adopted as an amendment to the code in 1904, was to prevent the Federal Government from interfering in misdemeanor cases over which the municipality had jurisdiction.

W. H. Bard and Miss Gussie Saunders were married in Dawson in 1898. Mrs. Bard is a native of Tampico, Illinois, which is only twenty miles from the town where Mr. Bard was born, but they never knew each other until they met in Dawson. They have one child, Edgar Burton Bard, now in his third year.

In 1888 Mr. Bard joined in Cumberland, Maryland, the following orders: Masons, Knights of Pythias, I. O. O. F., and Chosen Friends. As a Mason he has taken the Knight Templar and the Mystic Shrine. He is a member of Nome Camp, Arctic Brotherhood, and has served two terms as Worthy President of Nome Aerie, No. 75, F. O. E., being at this writing District Deputy Grand President of the order at Nome. His membership in numerous societies gives one a glimpse at a leading trait of Mr. Bard's character. A phrenologist would say that his bump of Friendship is unusually large. Having fought since boyhood the battle of life unaided, and having spent the greater part of his years in the West and North, regions where the stream of charity broadens and deepens, he has acquired or developed the independence and self-reliance characteristic of a western environment, and has cultivated the belief that there is infinitely more good than evil in the human race.  

Source: Nome and Seward Peninsula by R. S. Harrison. Seattle: The Metropolitan Press, 1905.

 

 



 


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